Fritz Ostermueller was a 5’11” left-handed pitcher from Quincy, Il. Born September 15th, 1907, the southpaw made his pro debut with the Quincy Redbirds in the “B” level Indiana-Iowa-Illinois League in 1926, going 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA over 36 innings. His 1927 was split between the “C” level Wheeling Stogies of the Middle Atlantic League (1-1) and the Redbirds (7-8, 4.87). 1928 would see him play C ball with the Topeka Jayhawks, going 12-12, 4.05 in the Western Association. He followed that in 1929 with the Shawnee Robins (20-12, 2.74), also in the Western Association.
In 1930, Ostermueller joined the St Louis Cardinals minor league organization, splitting the year between the St. Joseph Saints (2-10, 7.01) of the “A” level Western League and the Rochester Red Wings (2-2, 6.21) in the “AA” level International League. He went 15-9 in 1931 with the Greensboro Patriots in the “C” level Piedmont League. He spent most of 1932 back with Greensboro (21-9, 3.35), making two appearances with the Red Wings. He posted a 16-7 with Rochester in 1933, with a 2.44 ERA, finally showing that he could compete at a higher level.
In 1934, Ostermueller made his Major League debut with the Boston Red Sox. He would end up going 59-65 with a 4.38 ERA over the next seven seasons. He later appeared in three seasons with the St. Louis Browns (3-6, 4.34), and in parts of two with the Brooklyn Dodgers (3-2, 3.26). On June 1st, 1944, the Pirates purchased his contract from Brooklyn. Ostermueller took the mound for the first time as a Pirate at the age of 36. In his first game, he pitched 8.1 innings, allowing two earned (and four total) runs in earning a 9-4 win over the New York Giants. His best game of the season didn’t count, ending in a 1-1 tie after 10 innings. He held the Cardinals to two hits, striking out four and pitching the whole contest. He ended up with an 11-7 record with Pittsburgh (13-8 overall), with a 2.73 ERA. He also hit .250 in 83 plate appearances, with two doubles and six RBI. Under Frankie Frisch, the Pirates posted a 90-63 record, in second place and 14.5 games behind the Cardinals for the pennant.
1945 would see Ostermueller limited to 11 starts (he finished four). He went 5-4 with a 4.57 ERA. He also went 9-for-28 from the plate with four RBI. His best game of the season was his only shutout, in the second game of a doubleheader on September 13th. He allowed six hits and struck out two in a 2-0 win over the Boston Braves. Pittsburgh finished in fourth, 16 games behind the pennant winning Chicago Cubs.
In 1946, Ostermueller went 13-10, finishing 16 of his 25 rotation starts with a 2.84 ERA. He pitched two shutouts and collected a career best 1.288 WHIP. He went 21-for-64 for a career best .328 batting average, with three doubles. In game one of a doubleheader on August 2nd, he pitched nine shutout innings, allowing only a walk and two hits in a 6-0 win over the Giants. Pittsburgh posted a 63-91 record, finishing seventh in the NL, 34 games behind the Cardinals.
Ostermueller kept at it in 1947, going 12-10 with a 3.84 ERA. He completed 12 of 24 starts, pitching three shutouts in the process. On May 10th, he pitched a six hitter, striking out four in a 3-0 win over St. Louis. Later, in the back side of a doubleheader on July 6th, he pitched another six hitter, striking out three Cubs in a 10-0 victory over Chicago. Pittsburgh finished the season tied for last in the NL with the Philadelphia Phillies with a 62-92 record. The duo was 32 games behind pennant winning Brooklyn.
1948 would be Ostermueller’s last Major League season. He posted an 8-11 record, starting 22 games and completing 10 with two shutouts and a 4.42 ERA. On June 15th, he pitched a complete game three hitter, striking out two Giants in a 2-0 win over New York. At 83-71, the Pirates were good enough for the fourth place money, 8.5 games behind the first place Braves. Ostermuller announced his retirement after the season.
Ostermueller’s pitching alone would not have had him this far up the list. If I had only counted pitching, he would have been around number 75, just in front of Howie Camnitz. He was, however, an excellent batsman, which added 1.4 wins above replacement during his time with the Bucs.
All-Time Statline: Five seasons, 49-42, 3.48 ERA, 118 games, 106 starts, 56 CG, nine shutouts, one save, 796 innings pitched, 792 hits allowed, walked 267, struck out 275, 1.330 WHIP, 15.6 wins above replacement.