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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 885

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This is the grave of Kid Nichols.

Born in 1869 in Madison, Wisconsin, Charles Nichols grew up as a working class kid, the son of a butcher. The family moved to Kansas City when he was young. He became a star baseball player in the early years of the sport. In particular, he became a stud pitcher by the time he was a teenager. He signed with the minor league Kansas City team in the Western League 1887 and spent the next three pitching for minor league teams in KC, Memphis, and Omaha, becoming dominant.

This led the Boston Beaneasters to sign Nichols before the 1890 season. He was immediately dominant, going 27-19 in his first season, leading the league in strikeout to walk ratio and shutouts, with 7. Like a lot of these early pitchers who threw ridiculous numbers of innings, he was more a pitch to contact guy, only striking out 222 batters in 424 innings. Simply reducing the number of pitchers per inning compared to the present can lead to a lot more innings thrown. For the next decade, Nichols was one of the best pitchers in the major leagues and perhaps the best pitcher of the 1890s. He had seven years of 30 plus wins and 10 years in a row of 20 plus wins. Wins meant more back then too, since pitchers usually threw the whole game instead of the 5 innings of the present. According to the Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement statistic, Nichols passed 10 WAR an absurd four times with his best year his rookie campaign, with an astounding 12.9 WAR. 1893, 1897, and 1898 were his other truly great years, but really, he was awesome all the way through 1899. He had a touch of pop as well, with 16 home runs over his career, though little contact. Not bad for a pitcher.

Things slipped a bit in 1900 and though he was still pretty good in 1901, he decided to retire, buying a minor league club in 1901. In some ways, this is a bummer, because his overall career numbers would be even better had he kept going. In 1904, the St. Louis Cardinals convinced Nichols to come back and he had one more very good year, going 21-13 and putting up a 6 WAR. But things fell apart the next year and the Cardinals cut him. The Philadelphia Phillies picked him up and he gave them some OK starts before imploding in a few starts in 1906, at which point he retired.

In his entire career, Kid Nichols was never replaced by a relief pitcher. Not one time. Every game he started, he finished. He was a reliever himself a few times. Still, this is an insane thing for a guy with 562 career starts.

After he retired, Nichols went into the movie distribution business in the Midwest and became a regional champion bowler. In 1949, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Nichols died in 1953 of cancer. He was 83 years old.

Kid Nichols is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri.

This is the 5th grave post from the 64 graves I visited on my recent trip to the south central part of the U.S. If you would like this series to visit other great pitchers, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. According to Baseball Reference’s JAWS stat, Nichols is the 4th best pitcher of all time. Cy Young, who is 2nd, is in Peoli, Ohio, and Grover Cleveland Alexander is in Saint Paul, Nebraska. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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