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Art Nehf Went the Distance—To World Series
October 26, 2016
Big League Star: Left handed pitcher Art Nehf, a 1914 electrical engineering graduate, won 184 games in 15 major-league seasons. He is the last major league pitcher to win back-to-back clinching games in the World Series (1921 and 1922).
It would seem natural for Rose-Hulman alumni to reach career summits in such fields as engineering, science, and business. However, it might be surprising to learn that one of our graduates stood tall on the pitcher’s mound at the highest levels of professional baseball.
After a successful college career in his hometown of Terre Haute, 1914 electrical engineering graduate Art Nehf became one of major league baseball’s most dependable pitchers early in the 20th century, winning 184 games and two world championships during a 15-year career. He is the last pitcher to win back-to-back clinching games in the World Series (1921 and 1922), and set a record by being the first pitcher to have three hits as a batter in a World Series game.
That’s the same game in which Nehf, pitching for the New York Giants, defeated legendary Hall of Famer Walter Johnson over 12 innings in the opening game of the 1924 World Series.
Nehf also had an epic battle against another Hall of Famer, legendary New York Yankees’ ace Waite Hoyt, over three games of the 1921 World Series. Nehf surrendered only nine hits in the first two games but lost both, as the Giants could only muster one run. However, pitching on two days of rest, he held the Yankees to four hits in his third straight complete-game performance. He preserved the decisive 1-0 series-winning victory by getting pinch-hitter Babe Ruth to ground out in the bottom of the ninth inning. In three games of the 1921 series Nehf allowed only six runs and 13 hits over 26 innings.
“If courage is the test of heroism, then Art Nehf…is the pitching hero of the World Series,” wrote The Sporting News about Nehf’s World Series performance.
Nehf overcame his short 5-foot-9 stature with pin-point pitching accuracy, a wicked curve ball, and underhand and sidearm left-handed delivery motions that he altered to baffle batters while pitching for the Boston Braves (1915–1919), Giants (1919–1926), Cincinnati Reds (1926–1927), and the Chicago Cubs (1927–1929). He had only 640 walks and 844 strikeouts over 2,707 career innings, and in one season completed 28 of the 31 games he started—remarkable statistics in any baseball era.
Hoyt recalled Nehf as “one of the best control pitchers I ever saw. He was a precise and careful fellow and very tough,” and legendary Giants manager John McGraw once said that “Nehf is one of the finest, gamest pitchers the game has ever known.”
Nehf pitched in five World Series, splitting his eight decisions, and had a 2.16 earned run average over 79 innings (among the top-10 all-time) while holding opposing hitters to a dazzling .174 batting average. His last big-league performance came as a relief pitcher as the Chicago Cubs lost the 1929 series to the Philadelphia A’s.
Nehf’s athletic accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed. Rose-Hulman’s baseball field was named in Nehf’s name in the 1960s and he was an inaugural class inductee in the institute’s Athletic Hall of Fame.