Almost Yesterday: Elam Vangilder Makes it Big in the Big Leagues
It seems like Almost Yesterday that Elam Vangilder was playing baseball in the major leagues. “Big Elam,” was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on April 23, 1896, and began playing baseball at an early age.
Following service in World War I, Vangilder returned home, picked up his bat and glove and tried out with the St. Louis Browns. He was assigned to Tulsa of the Class A Western League and there on August 20, 1919, the 23 year old pitcher earned recognition by stopping the 69 game hitting streak of Joe Wilhoit of the Wichita Witches, who had the longest hitting streak in the history of professional baseball.
One month later Vangilder was wearing the uniform of the major league St. Louis Browns, and there in Sportsman’s Park Vangilder became one of the most dominant major league pitchers of the 1920s.
His greatest year was 1922 when the Browns battled the New York Yankees for the American League Pennant, losing out on the very last day of the season. It was Vangilder who kept the Browns in the race as he won 19 games, lost 13, maintained a 3.42 earned run average, and for a pitcher, established an unusually high batting average of .344, including eleven home runs. It was a superb achievement.
Vangilder was in the major leagues eleven years and although he never played in a World Series, or an All-star Game, he compiled an excellent statistical profile.
Upon retirement “Big Elam” returned home to Cape Girardeau and when he died in 1977, at age 81, he was buried in Fairmount Cemetery, just above home plate at the Notre Dame High School baseball diamond.