Eppa “Jephtha” Rixey (1891-1963) didn’t want to be a pro ballplayer. Like most people who don’t want to be pro ballplayers, he ended up in baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Eppa’s story is an interesting one. While playing ball at the University of Virginia, Jephtha was spotted by umpire Cy Rigler, who tried to get Rixey to sign with the Phillies. Rixey declined, saying he wanted to be a chemist, but Rigler insisted, and Rixey eventually accepted the deal. The National League created a rule prohibiting umpires from signing players. But who cares – Jephtha was in the door.
Rixey, whose uncles were John Franklin Rixey, a congressman, and Presley Marion Rixey, Surgeon General of the US Navy, proceeded to amass the most wins for any left-handed pitcher at the time of his retirement. Rixey finished his career with a 266-251 record and a 3.15 ERA. Rixey was a tough competitor on the field (and was known for destroying locker rooms or disappearing for a few days after a loss), but an amiable Southern gentleman off of it. Fun fact – he was once traded two guys by the names of Jimmy Ring and Greasy Neale. The only time a Jephtha was ever traded for a Greasy, to my knowledge.
For those of you who are curious, the nickname Jephtha was apparently created by Cincinnati sportswriter Bill Phelon. Although I have no idea why. In a somewhat odd observation, Eppa commented that the nickname “sounds like a cross between a Greek letter fraternity and a college yell.”
Although Eppa’s record wasn’t that stellar (he holds the Major League record for losses by a left-hander), the Veteran’s Committee voted to elect Jephtha to the Hall of Fame in 1963. Upon his election, he quipped, “they’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel, aren’t they?”
You go, Eppa Rixey!