News From Left Field

Pud Galvin

Remembering Pud Galvin, Baseball’s First 300-Game Winner and First PED User

June 04, 2009 04:25 PM
by Denis Cummings
Today Randy Johnson could become just the 24th pitcher to win 300 career games, a milestone first reached in 1888 by Pud Galvin, regarded as the first player to use a performance-enhancing drug.

Johnson Pitching for 300th Win Today

After last night’s start against the Nationals was rained out, Giants pitcher Randy Johnson will, weather permitting, take the mound today with the chance to win his 300th game. The 45-year old lefty would become the 24th pitcher to reach the milestone, and in the opinion of some, he could be the last to ever do so.

Starting pitchers today pitch less than ever before, restricted by five-man rotations and pitch counts, thus limiting their ability to accumulate wins, writes the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea. “With the way pitching is being used nowadays, I think it probably lessens the chance of it,” said Rangers executive Nolan Ryan, who won 324 games in his career.

The most realistic candidates to reach 300, including Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and C.C. Sabathia, are less than halfway there, as it will likely be at least another 10 years before another pitcher reaches the milestone.

Every pitcher with 300 wins is in the Hall of Fame except for the three who are not yet eligible: Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Tom Glavine. The list of 300-win pitchers includes some of baseball’s most famous names, but the first man to reach the 300-win plateau remains largely forgotten.

Pittsburgh Allegheneys pitcher Jim “Pud” Galvin won his 300th game in 1888, most likely in a Sept. 4 victory against Indianapolis, according to Baseball Almanac. He stands sixth on the all-time wins list behind baseball legends Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson and Warren Spahn.

The 5-foot-8 righty—according to, the shortest pitcher to reach 300 wins, standing more than a foot shorter than the 6-foot-10 Johnson—would look out of place in today’s game, but he shares an interesting connection to the players of today’s steroid era: Galvin, according to author Roger I. Abrams, was baseball’s first performance-enhancing drug user.

Background: The story of Pud Galvin

James Francis “Pud” Galvin was a short, stocky pitcher who played in various major leagues from 1879 to 1892, primarily for the Buffalo Bisons and Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Galvin received the nickname “Pud” because “his pitching process supposedly turned opposing batters into pudding,” writes the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Playing on mostly mediocre teams Galvin racked up 364 wins—the most of any pitcher to pitch exclusively in the 19th century—and 310 losses in his 15-year career, with 646 complete games, second only to Cy Young.

But Galvin is perhaps more famous for his use of Brown-Sequard elixir, which contained testosterone drained from animal gonads, in 1889. According to an 1889 article in The New York Times, the elixir was thought to “increase the strength of the human organism, presumably in old men, not by structural change but by nutritive modification; that the alterations in muscular structure are not essentially allied to old age may disappear and a consequent recovery of old age may supervene.”

“Galvin, in other words, may have been baseball’s first known ‘juicer,’” writes The Associated Press’ Paul Farhi, pointing out that Galvin was “enhancing his performance—or trying to—through something other than raw skill and training, in this case by shooting up testosterone derived from guinea pigs and dogs.”

Unlike the reaction to today’s users of performance-enhancing drugs, few in baseball or in the media disapproved of Galvin’s use of the elixir. On the contrary, his drug use was praised in an 1889 article in The Washington Post, which was uncovered in 2006 by Northeastern law professor Roger Abrams, author of “The Dark Side of the Diamond: Gambling, Violence, Drugs and Alcoholism in the National Pastime.”

“If there still be doubting Thomases who concede no virtue of the elixir, they are respectfully referred to Galvin’s record in yesterday’s Boston-Pittsburgh game,” wrote the Post. “It is the best proof yet furnished of the value of the discovery.”

Abrams also uncovered a second article in the New Haven Register that gave a ringing endorsement of the elixir. Abrams quoted the story to the Miami Herald: “The discovery of a true elixir of youth by which the aged can restore their vitality and renew their bodily vigor would be a great thing for baseball. We hope the discovery is of such a nature that it can be applied to rejuvenate provincial clubs.”

Today, the widespread use of steroids by players in the past two decades is considered a black mark on the game and an insult to players of the past. Known or suspected steroid users have had the reputations tarnished, so much so that 354-game winner Roger Clemens isn’t a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Despite the indignation over baseball’s steroid era, Abrams tells AP that steroid use is part of a long history dating back to Galvin. “You certainly can never say this is a purely modern phenomenon because it’s gone on as long as there were sports. … There’s something innate about our desire to improve our performance by whatever means are available,” he said.

Reference: Johnson and Galvin career stats


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