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The Yankees’ pitcher who went out dealing

Charlie Devens did about as much as you can possibly in his final ever game.

League Championship Series - New York Yankees v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

If you took a poll of professional athletes, many of them would probably say the perfect way to end their career would be something like John Elway. The Broncos’ quarterback won a Super Bowl and MVP in his final ever game. Another good way would be like Derek Jeter. He famously had a walk-off hit in his final home game after a long and storied career with the Yankees.

The end of Charlie Devens’ career is interesting, although it’s hardly what someone’s ideal ending would be.

A multi-sport athlete out of Harvard, the Yankees signed Devens to a $20,000 bonus in June 1932—significant for the time. The pitcher was seen as a bit of a phenom and made his major-league debut in September of that same year. He impressed, allowing just two runs in a complete-game win over the Red Sox. Despite that, he was not included on the roster for the postseason as the Yankees went on to win the World Series.

Devens started the following season in the minors before rejoining the Yankees in July. He made 14 appearances in the majors that season, splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. His first couple appearances in 1933 went well, but on August 16th, he gave up five runs in two innings. Over the rest of the season, he put up a below average 4.80 ERA, putting his overall season total at 4.35.

That likely caused him to again start the next season in the minors. Devens didn’t have the best of times with the Newark Bears, putting up a 4.15 ERA and a 1.669 WHIP. However, he once again got the call to come back to the Yankees late in the 1934 season.

After being eliminated from contention a few days earlier, the Yankees gave Devens the start on September 26th against the Athletics. They ostensibly just needed someone to eat some innings in a game that didn’t matter for either side. Boy did he.

Devens started out his day with four scoreless innings, during which the Yankees opened up a 2-0 lead. Philadelphia eventually answered back with two runs of their own in the fifth, evening the score. He bounced back by putting up zeros in the sixth and seventh, but then the game got interesting in the eighth.

The Yankees took the lead on a George Selkirk home run in the top of the eighth. Devens came out for the bottom half of the inning, but quickly got in some trouble. He allowed a single and a walk to the first two batters of the inning. The first of those batters, Bob Johnson, then attempted to steal third. At some point on the play, shortstop Frankie Crosetti made an error, allowing Johnson to score to tie the game. Just as importantly, it also put the tying run 90 feet away. However, Devens responded by getting three-straight outs, including a fielder’s choice which nailed Jimmie Foxx at home.

The game went into extra innings after that, and the Yankees stuck with Devens. After the error in the eighth, he proceeded to retire 12 of the final 15 batters he faced. Of the three who reached base, one of was issued an intentional walk and the other two hit singles. Only one of those three runners reached scoring position. The Yankees took a lead in the top of the 11th, and Devens finished it off to give them a 4-3 win.

His final line on the game was 11 innings pitched, three runs (two earned) allowed on nine hits and four walks. Besides that, he also walked three times in the game. Devens wouldn’t make another appearance that season as the Yankees finished in second in the AL.

Devens didn’t appear in the majors again in his career. He also completely disappeared from minor league statistics as well. That’s because he gave up baseball after the 1934 season, at just 24 years old, to return to the Boston area and join his family’s banking business.

His decision to return to that was probably for financial reasons, but it’s fun to think that he just left baseball because he had to pitch 11 innings in a meaningless baseball game.


Armour, Mark L. Joe Cronin: a Life in Baseball. University of Nebraska Press, 2014.

Ruscoe, Michael. Baseball: a Treasury of Art and Literature. Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 1995.