by Martín Abresch
A ground-ball pitcher who didn’t get a chance to start regularly until he was 32, Charlie Cruickshank won 14+ games for five straight years and finished his career with 134 wins and over 2,000 innings pitched.
Hailing from London, Ontario, Cruickshank crossed the border and signed with the New York Knickerbockers in 1926. He never got a chance to play with them, and one year later they traded him to the Buffalo Beavers for washed-up pitcher Howdy Couch in 1927. Buffalo gave him a chance to start 16 games in 1928, and the 22 year old went 5-10 with a 5.14 ERA. A lack of control held him back: he walked 78 in 117 innings. Buffalo finished in last place, going 59-99.
In the offseason, Cruickshank was traded again. Buffalo sent him and pitcher Yip Ying Ping to the Chicago Traders for first baseman Orange Koon. The Traders were building a strong rotation. Moose Austin (226 career wins) had emerged as the staff ace, and by 1931 the Traders added Puritan Ballou (249 career wins), George Culver (171 career wins), and Phil Cartlidge (199 career wins). Starts were hard to come by for Cruickshank. The Traders won the Championship in 1932, but Cruickshank was not on the playoff roster.
In 1935, Cruickshank emerged as a valuable swing man, pitching mostly from the bullpen but spot-starting as needed. He went 10-4 with 11 saves, pitching in 49 games and starting seven. He continued in this role until 1938, when George Culver was traded to St. Louis, opening up a spot in the rotation. Cruickshank started 35 games and went 15-8 with a 3.86 ERA. Also in 1938, on May 27 against Buffalo, he had his finest day at the plate, hitting a grand slam.
In the five seasons from 1938 to 1942, he went 79-46. His best season was 1941, when he finished third in the league with 19 wins and gave up just four home runs in 244 innings. He was on the playoff roster when Chicago won the Championship in 1942—a team now led by young stars Joe Shannon, Aart McDonald, and Melbourne Trench. After 1942, Cruickshank’s pitching declined rapidly. Just two years later, in 1944, he led the league in losses, going 2-18 with a 6.51 ERA. He hung around and pitched four games in 1945 before hanging it up at season’s end.
Charlie Cruickshank finished his career with 134-107 record and a 4.03 ERA, good for a 105 ERA+. He started 274 of his 404 games, pitching 2,135 innings. He made three All-Star games (1935-36, 1941), and he won two World Championships (Chicago Traders 1932 and 1942).