Piatt referred to by many as the “Iron Man” –
By Mark Carpenter –
In these days of pitch counts and very few complete game, no hurler seems to ever have the chance to be referred to as an “Iron Man.” Cal Ripken, Jr. was the last man to earn that moniker and that was not for his performance on the mound, but at the turn of the 20th century, a young man from Adams County’s own Blue Creek earned the “Iron Man” title by his work 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate.
Piatt pitched in the major leagues from 1898 to 1903 as a left-handed hurler for the Philadelphia Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Beaneaters. He compiled an overall record of 86-79 in the majors and was a 20-game winner with Philadelphia in his first two-seasons, going 24-14 and 23-15, but the “Iron Man” distinction came from another feat in 1903 while pitching for Boston. Doing something that would be unheard of in today’s game, Piatt pitched two complete games in one day and ironically, lost both games, both to the St. Louis Cardinals by scores of 1-0 and 5-3.
In his book, “Simpler Times: Baseball Stories from a Small Town”, Dale Taylor described Piatt like this: “”Iron Man is what they called Blue Creek, Ohio’s Wiley Piatt. The name was earned the hard way, too. On June 25, 1903, Piatt pitched two back-to-back complete games for Boston. Even before Wiley Piatt became known as baseball’s “Iron Man” he exhibited all the ingredients necessary to earn the reputation. In both 1898 and 1899 he won over 20 games while pitching for Philadelphia. In an era when many never completed grade school, Wiley Piatt graduated from Ohio University and taught school in the northwestern Scioto community of Otway and in neighboring Adams County. Other Blue Creek area products like Austin McHenry and John Purdin would later carry on the community’s baseball tradition.”
In the March 9, 1944 edition of The People’s Defender, Piatt, at the time 69 years old, is profiled in an article that originally appeared in the Dayton Daily News.
“When baseball fans crowd around a hot stove in the winter months and start talking baseball, the conversation invariably turns to Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth. And that is to be expected, since they are the fellows who earned the headline and whose names have become synonymous with baseball lore, but working away in the sheet metal shop at Wright Field is a man who played with the best of them.
He is Wiley Piatt, a chunky fellow with white hair that gleams in the sun like the metal he works with. And he has seen more summer and winters than he cares to remember.
Wiley isn’t the talkative type. They paid off on accomplishments, not conversation, in his day but when you get him going, stories of 20 wins a season roll from his tongue like water from a duck’s back.
Piatt first saw the light of day in West Union, Ohio and he didn’t hit the road in search of greener fields to conquer until 1897, after the left-handed youngster had made life miserable for about every independent team that dared challenge the Adams County diamond stars.
In his first fling at major league ball, after a quick stop in Dayton, Piatt went to the mound 39 times and came away the winner in 24 of his appearances, a performance unheard of among present-day rookies or veterans.”
The article later continued: “Wiley never had much of a fastball, but he had more control than most pitchers in these days dare to think about. It was his control that enabled him to set down men like LaJoie, Crawford, and Honus Wagner.
Wiley doesn’t get a chance to see the pros play these days, but his mind hasn’t turned away from the game that gave him his greatest thrills. Almost every Sunday, when the bright sun is beaming down on the ground, Piatt walks from his home at 3629 McCall Street to the Soldier’s Home to watch the amateurs, and he works and sweats right along with the youngsters every time they try to pitch themselves out of a tough spot.”
Besides his pitching prowess, Piatt was also pretty good with the bat, hitting .239 in his career, which would be considered a good-hitting pitcher in today’s game. He never hit one out of the park, but did bang out eight doubles and five triples, while driving in 48 runs in his career at the plate.
Piatt died on Sept. 20, 1946 at the age of 72 and was buried in Augusta, Ky. His gravesite was later moved to the cemetery in Lynx.