Historical Markers
Eddie Plank Historical Marker
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Eddie Plank

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
intersection of Carlisle Street and West Lincoln Avenue

Dedication Date:
August 31, 2000

Behind the Marker

Eddie Plank is a real baseball anomaly: a Hall of Fame pitcher and a 300-game winner who played little baseball growing up and never pitched a game until college. But when he graduated from Gettysburg College in 1901, he walked directly into major league baseball as a 25-year-old rookie for Connie Mack's rookie team, the Philadelphia Athletics, in the rookie year of the American League.

When he retired seventeen years later, Plank's 326 victories made him the winningest left-hand pitcher in major league history, a distinction he held until Warren Spahn overtook him in 1961. Only one other lefty pitcher, Steve Carlton, has passed him since. But the pitching career that most parallels Plank's probably belongs to a righty, fellow Pennsylvanian markerChristy "Matty" Mathewson. Both thoughtful and introspective men by nature, Plank and Matty were five years apart in age and grew up just 150 miles away from each other - Plank in Gettysburg, Matty in Factoryville. Both went to college and graduated.
A portrait of Eddie Plank in uniform after just throwing the ball.
Eddie Plank in uniform after throwing the ball
They broke into the Majors a year apart, faced each other in three World Series, and retired a year apart. Each played for dominant managers on dominant teams, and each won more than 300 games. But while Matty was the picture of power and grace on the mound, Plank was a fidgety compendium of well-planned tics and twitches, deliberately designed to annoy hitters by destroying their timing.

Unfortunately for Mack's gate receipts, Plank's slowness on the mound also irked paying customers. His psychological antics so lengthened games that many grandstand regulars simply skipped his turn in the rotation to make sure they could catch their train home for dinner. Ironically, he threw relatively few pitches compared to his contemporaries and rarely tossed over to first. "There are just so many pitches in this old arm," he insisted, "and I don't believe in wasting them." He didn't waste many on April 12, 1909; when Mack tapped him with the honor of starting the first game ever at markerShibe Park, he easily dispatched the Red Sox 8-1.

Born Edward Stewart Plank in Gettysburg in 1875, he only left town to play ball. And no matter where the game took him, Gettysburg was always the home to which he returned. Educated at Gettysburg Academy and Gettysburg College, he as a young man worked part-time leading tours of the historic Gettysburg battlefield.

Along with Hall of Fame teammates markerChief Bender and markerRube Waddell, Plank formed the nucleus of the great A's staff of the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1909, Mack honored him with the first start at Shibe Park, and he remained the workhorse of the pennant-winning dynasty of 1910, 1911, 1913, and 1914. He registered seven 20-game seasons in his fourteen seasons with the A's, won 26 games twice, logged fifteen consecutive years with an ERA below 2.90, and recorded 69 shutouts, fifth on the all-time list. Rather than overpowering batters, he puzzled them, keeping them off-stride by smartly changing speeds and cleverly working the corners of the plate.

In 1915, Mack reluctantly let Plank jump to the outlaw Federal League for a better contract. He pitched well for the upstart St. Louis Terriers that year. When the league folded at the end of the season, Plank stayed in St. Louis for two so-so campaigns with the Browns before retiring and coming home to Gettysburg to farm his land and run a car dealership. Not surprisingly, his nickname was "Gettysburg Eddie."
He died of a stroke in Gettysburg in 1926.

Plank was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946, the same year as Waddell, his former teammate. Thus, the yin and yang of Mack's early lefties appropriately entered Cooperstown as a team.
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