Though he only spent parts of three seasons in a Detroit Tigers uniform, Bobo Newsom made his share of headlines while with the team – some of them good, some of them bad, and some of them just bizarre.
Newsom was a true southern boy, hailing from Harstville, South Carolina. As a young ballplayer he realized he had a fastball that he could whip past enemy hitters. He wasn’t afraid to let it all hang out, often times throwing so hard that his cap would fall off as he hurled the ball toward the plate. He was also a boastful sort, exclaiming, “Ol’ Bobo is pitching today and you can mark it down in the win column.” He was often correct – earning more than 200 victories in the majors. But he’s also one of two 200-game winners to lose more games than he won. Newsom was tagged with 222 losses in his 18 seasons.
With his talented right arm, Newsom was coveted by many major league clubs and he ended up playing for almost all of them in his long career. Bobo’s suitcase was covered with stickers by the time he was done traveling the big league circuit. In 1939 the Tigers acquired Newsom in a mid-season deal with the St. Louis Browns, rescuing the pitcher from another dismal team. In Detroit, Bobo was finally surrounded by talented players. He went 17-10 after being acquired by Detroit, giving him 20 wins on the year with the Browns and Bengals. The next season he tore through Al lineups, going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA to lead the Tigers to the pennant. Finally in the World Series spotlight, Newsom stepped up to the pressure, tossing two masterful victories over the Redlegs to win Games One and Five even though his father gad died days earlier. He pitched on one-days rest in Game Seven and allowed just two runs, but lost the game 2-1.
Newsom was probably the most superstitious players of his era. Like Rube Waddell and other pitchers before him, Newsom couldn’t stand to have any scraps of paper or debris near the mound during a game he pitched. Opposing teams would rip up paper and toss it out of their pockets when leaving the field just to agitate him. On his way toward the mound, Bobo would scoop up a handful of dirt on the foul side of the first base line and another handful on the inside. He insisted that the resin bag rest in the exact same location behind the mound, and he’d often pick it up, toss it down, and pick it up and toss it down again, until it was just where he intended it to be. As was custom in that era, Newsom left his glove on the field between innings, making sure to situate it in the exact same spot. He also forbid anyone to touch his glove. Once, when a teammate tried to hand his glove to Newsom, Bobo freaked out and refused to touch the glove until another player put it back where it had been resting in the infield grass.
For all his superstition, Newsom was a shrewd businessman. He negotiated tough deals with management, which was another reason he pitched for nine different teams (and five times with the Senators). It was this shrewdness that led to Bobo’s exile from Detroit in one of the most bizarre incidents in baseball history.
Bobo didn’t pitch nearly as well in 1941, losing 20 games after having won 21 the previous season. In the off-season the Tigers mailed him a contract that called for him to make $21,000 in 1942. Quite a bit of money for that time, but a $24,000 pay cut from Bobo’s 1941 salary. The right-hander was incensed. He sent Detroit General Manager Jack Zeller a package that contained a loaf of bread, a block of cheese, a butcher knife, and a pair of scissors. Bobo’s enclosed letter read in part:
“Take the knife and slice the bread and the contract. What is left you can cut up with the scissors. The cheese will give you an idea of what I think of you.”
Needless to say, Zeller and the Tigers weren’t impressed with Bobo’s use of the postal service. He was sold to the Washington Senators for $40,000 during spring training, a nice little profit for Zeller and the Tigers and a slap in the face to Ol’ Bobo. Newsom went on to win 78 more games in the majors, but he’d lose 100 more as well. He never again enjoyed the success or fame he’d had in a Tiger uniform, though he did pitch well down the stretch for the Yankees in 1947, even starting a World Series game for that club. But even then Bobo’s big mouth and colorful ways bit him in the ass. After the season when the club awarded World Series shares, they gave Newsom just a 2/3 share. When he went to a jeweler to get his World Championship ring he said, “Just make it 2/3 the size of the rest, that’s all the Yanks think of Ol’ Bobo.”
One reply on “Bobo Newsom: One of the Most Colorful Detroit Tigers of All-Time“
OR THE YANKEES 35 TIMEI THINK IT IS TIME THAT THE 95% OF SPORTS FANS IN AMERICA WERE INTRODUCED TO A MAN THEY PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF!
WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD LIVING IN CHATTANOOGA TN., I WAS WITNESS TO A BIG, COLORFUL,HARDTHROWING, RUBBERARMED RIGHT HANDER PITCH & WIN A SUNDAY DOUBLE HEADER. THAT WAS ONLY ONCE OF A HALF DOZEN TIMES HE WENT TO THE MOUND TWICE ON SUNDAYS.
HE WAS 44-45 YRS OLD AT THE TIME & HAD GOTTEN HEAVY,BUT HE WAS BEATING MEN LESS THAN HALF HIS AGE!! ITWAS 95 DEGREES & HIS UNIFORM WAS WRINGING WET, BUT HE COMPETED HARDER THAN ANY MAN I HAVE EVER SEEN! HE CURSED & STARED DOWN EVERY MAN WHO GOT A HIT OFF HIM.
HIS NAME WAS LEWIS (BOBO) NEWSOM & HE PITCHED IN BOTH THE MAJORS & AA FOR 26 YEARS ACCUMULATING STATS THAT VERY FEW IN THE HOF CAN MATCH. HE PITCHED MOST OF HIS BIG LEAGUE CAREER AS THE #1 PITCHER ON THE STAFF OF 2ND DIVISION CLUBS ACCUMULATING A RECORD OF 211-222. I THINK IT PROBABLE THAT IF HE HAD PITCHED FS A YEAR,(RATHER THAN PITCHING AGAINST THEM 6-7 TIMES EACH SEASON), HE WOULD ALREADY BE IN THE HALL WITH 300+ VICTORIES.
HE LED THE A.L. WITH GAMES STARTED 4 TIMES & GAMES COMPLETED TWICE. IN FACT HE LED ALSO IN LOSSES 4 TIMES,(A TESTAMENT TO THE FACT HE WAS TROTTED OUT THERE 35-40 TIMES EACH SEASON) WITH 2ND RATE BALL CLUBS.
HE ALSO LED THE TIGERS TO THE A.L. PENNANT IN 1940 GOING 21-5 & STARTED 3 GAMES IN THE SERIES (2-1) PITCHING 26 INNINGS WITH A 1.38 ERA.
BETWEEN THE MAJORS & MINORS, HE PITCHED 26 YEARS, WON 357 GAMES, PITCHED IN 985 GAMES, 6000 INNINGS,..HAD 20 SEASONS OF .500 OR BETTER,…. IN THE BIGS HE WON 20 GAMES 3 TIMES,WAS AN ALL STAR 4 TIMES,& HAD AN ERA UNDER 4. HE WENT 2-1 IN HIS LAST APPEARENCES IN THE MAJORS AT 46 YEARS OLD.
ROLLIE FINGERS IS IN THE HALL WITH A BELOW .500 RECORD & STATS TOTALLY INFERIOR TO BOBO.WE ALSO RECOGNIZE THE NEGRO LEAGUE BLACK BALL PLAYERS FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS TO BASEBALL EVEN THOUGH NONE OF THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS WERE IN THE MAJORS. IT IS “the baseball hall of fame”…NOT NECESSARILY THE BIG LEAGUE HALL OF FAME!!
WITH ALL THE NEGATIVE SPORTS STORIES WE SEE IN SPORTS TODAY, THIS MANS STORY WOULD BE A POSITIVE,…..IN FACT IF YOU, ESPN, & SOME OF YOUR SPORTS WRITING FRIENDS GOT BEHIND IT, I BELIEVE WE WOULD SOON SEE AN INJUSTICE CORRECTED & BOBO PUT POSTUMOUSLY WHERE BE BELONGS….”IN THE HALL”.
AS A SPORTS FAN, I WOULD CERTAINLY BUY A NEWSPAPER (OR BOOK).WITH ARTICLES THAT TELL THE STORY OF THIS OVERLOOKED FIERY COMPETITOR. BILL JARVIS
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