Urban James Shocker (1890-1928), born Urbain Jacques Shockor, was a pitcher for the Yankees and St. Louis Browns. He was one hell of a pitcher too. Finishing his career with a 187-117 record with a 3.17 ERA, the electrifying right-hander hurled four straight 20-win seasons in the 1920s, a remarkable feat.
However, perhaps his greatest claim to fame (aside from his fantastic name) is that he was the last Yankee pitcher to legally throw a spitball. A dangerous pitch, the spitter was outlawed in 1920, but seventeen pitchers were grandfathered in and allowed to throw the spitter until they retired. Shocker was one of these men. Burleigh Arland “Ol’ Stubblebeard” Grimes was another. In fact, Ol’ Stubblebeard was the last spitballer to retire, which he did in 1934.
Shortly after being released by the Yankees in 1928, Shocker entered a baseball tournament in Denver. He pitched in one game on August 6 and caught pneumonia soon after. Unfortunately, the illness, combined with heart disease, would kill him the next month.
But you gotta give Shocker credit for his awesome pitching career, as well as for the fact that he undoubtedly lived up to his name. Living in an era in which a large percentage of the population still lived in rural areas, Shocker was indeed an Urban kind of guy. You see, Urban was born in Cleveland and died in Denver.
Shocking, isn’t it?