Willie Mitchell: the greatest pitcher in MSU history that you (probably) never knew about

The 1909 Mississippi A&M Maroons, with Mitchell pictured front row, first from the left - photo courtesy of the Mississippi State University Libraries, University Archives

Mitchell was easily one of the best pitchers to play at MSU and in college, but he played long before our time.

MSU's baseball history is a rich one to say the least. From Palmeiro to Renfroe, State has experienced a level of success on the diamond, both individually and as a team, that few other Division 1 universities have enjoyed.

But what you may not know is that Mississippi State's success in baseball isn't limited to recent history. Some of the earliest teams on record as playing for Mississippi A&M -- even before famous coach Dudy Noble came along -- were outstanding clubs, featuring multiple talented players that you and I know nothing about.

One of those guys was Willie Mitchell -- a 1905-1909 letter winner with the Aggies, and one of the best pitchers you've never heard of from MSU's history.

In 1909, Mitchell pitched the first perfect game in State's school history, which was also the first in the SEC. He struck out an astounding 26 (!) batters against the LSU Tigers in the second game of a twinbill, powering MSU to a 1-0 victory. Mitchell's 6-1 record that season helped lead the '09 team to a 22-4 record.

His stat line for the season: 6-1, 97 K's, 56 1/3 innings pitched, 1 - no hitter, 2 - one hitters, 1 - six hitter. Oh, and did I mention the fact that he was just 20 in 1909 when he produced these stats?

Mitchell

As far as I can tell, his 26 strikeouts still stands as an NCAA record -- a record that he shares with at minimum a guy named Buddy Schultz of the 1971 Miami of Ohio squad. That record probably isn't recognized officially because it's such an early record, but still, it's a highly impressive feat by any pitcher at any level.

After college, Willie would go on to play for San Antonio in the Texas league. There, he registered a record of 13-9, but was most known for pitching a no-hitter against Shreveport that season, as well as a 20-strikeout effort against Galveston. His contract was bought shortly after that by the Cleveland Naps (now Indians), where he would go on to pitch for six seasons. Over an 11-year career, Mitchell totaled 83 wins in the big leagues, striking out nearly 1,000 batters (921) with a career ERA of 2.88.

The Pleasant Grove, Mississippi native passed away in 1973 at the age of 84 at his home in Sardis, Mississippi.

NCAA records stats courtesy the NCAA baseball record book, 2012 (pg. 3). MSU stats courtesy the MSU baseball media guide. Professional stats for Mitchell courtesy baseball-reference.com and the Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia. Second Mitchell photo via Wikipedia Commons.

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