by Martín Abresch
Stonge was born in a small town in western Maine named Albany. The town no longer exists, having been disincorporated in 1937, and its former location now lies within the boundaries of the White Mountains National Forest. He grew up on the farm and spent much of his young adulthood making hay.
The National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs formed in 1876, and a 29-year-old Stonge joined Chicago’s newly formed team, the Chicago Haymakers. He started all 70 games for Chicago and won the Pitching Triple Crown, leading the league with his 46 wins, 1.87 ERA, and 80 strikeouts. A local sportswriter seized on the fact that the team’s two biggest stars, Stonge and batting title winner Tim Mary, grew up on the farm. He dubbed the team the “Haymakers.” The name stuck, and the Chicago Haymakers won the first ever league title.
Stonge won 47 games in 1877 and Chicago repeated as Champions. In 1878, Chicago and New York went into the final game of the season tied for first. New York won their game, but Chicago was upset, 4-3, by Providence. The righty Stonge and New York’s lefty ace Tom Sanders became great rivals. Either one or the other led the league in wins in each of the league’s first eight seasons. Their two teams combined to win the first seven league titles.
In 1879, Stonge won the Pitching Triple Crown a second time, leading the league with his 37 wins, 1.67 ERA, and 211 strikeouts. Chicago and Philadelphia came into their final series tied. The Keystones won the first game, but the Haymakers won the last two to win their third Championship. In 1880, Chicago and New York came into their final series tied, but New York won the first two games and the title. In 1881, Stonge again led the league in wins (36), and Chicago easily won their fourth Championship.
In 1883, Stonge started the first playoff game in baseball history. Chicago and Buffalo finished the season tied with 65 wins. The Haymakers and Colts played a 99th game to decide the championship. Stonge squared off against Buffalo ace Eli Taylor. The pair tied for the league lead in wins with 29. Taylor pitched better, but the Haymakers rallied late and forced extra innings. In the 10th, catcher Bob Weaver homered off of a backup hurler to give Buffalo their first Championship.
On June 10, 1884, George Stonge became the first pitcher in history to win 300 games. Chicago again finished the series tied for most wins, and they again played a playoff game. This time they faced their great rivals, New York. The Haymakers lost in a rout, 12-2.
Stonge’s pitching declined in 1885, and Chicago decided to part ways with the 39-year-old in the following off-season. He signed with the newly formed Indianapolis Indians, where he went a dismal 9-35. In October of 1886, he retired.
George Stonge led the league in wins (1876-77, 1879, 1881, 1883), games started (1876-77, 1879, 1881-84), innings pitched (1876-77, 1879, 1881-84), strikeouts (1876-1879), WHIP (1876-79, 1883), BB/9 (1883), ERA (1876, 1879), and WAR (1876-79). He won Player of the Week 24 times and Pitcher of the Month 18 times. He played on four Championship teams (Chicago 1876-77, 1879, 1881). For his career, he went 349-225 with a 2.27 ERA with 1,694 strikeouts against 302 walks.
In 1948, voters unanimously elected George Stone to the Hall of Fame.