By popular demand (and by popular demand, I mean the demand of one of our favorite readers, aFrankAngle – thanks Frank!), our baseball-related name for the week is that of Frederick “Firpo” Marberry. I can’t get over his nickname – Firpo! Firpo? Firpo?! Firp-oh? It’s just an excellent name, no matter how you slice it. He also has an interesting role in the annals of baseball history.
You see, Firpo is not a very well-known player, yet was vital to the development of modern relief pitching. Firpo Marberry was the game’s first prominent relief pitcher, whose heyday (his career lasted from 1923 to 1936) came during a time in which starting pitchers were expected to last through the entire game. But Marberry made his living as a man who could come in and get his team out of a tight jam, after the starter began to lose his effectiveness.
Marberry has been retroactively credited (since relief pitching statistics weren’t commonly recorded at the time) as being the first pitcher to record 20 saves in a season, the first to earn 100 career saves, and is the only pitcher to lead the Major Leagues in saves five times, to go along with many other accolades. He truly was a pioneer of relief pitching.
But he was also famous for his ever-present scowl, which was so menacing that it was known to frighten opposing batters. Firpo threw virtually nothing but fastballs, and to add to the intimidation factor, catcher Muddy Ruel (what a name!) would catch all of Firpo’s warm-up pitches in the middle of his glove to maximize the sound of the fastballs. His scowl and demeanor (which also included stomping around the mound and throwing and kicking dirt) led to him being nicknamed “Firpo”, as his antics reminded observers of famed Latin American boxer Luis Firpo. Marberry’s tenacious spirit continued into retirement, as he continued to pitch in old-timers games despite having lost his left (non-pitching) arm in a horrific car accident.
But despite the awesomeness that is the nickname “Firpo,” Marberry thoroughly disliked it. What a shame that is. I think most people would sell at least one kidney to be called Firpo.