Coveleskie always said it was the spitball that made him a major-league pitcher. He had a three-hit shutout in his debut with the A’s in 1912, but was returned to the minors for seasoning and learned the spitter while with Portland (PCL), shortly before being acquired by the Indians.
Despite the spitter’s eccentricity, Coveleskie (as the name was spelled during his playing days) was a control pitcher who averaged one walk every 3.86 innings over fourteen years. His spitball broke three ways – down, out, and down and out – and he said he always could control its movement by the placement of his fingers on the ball. It was his bread and butter pitch, although he sometimes went two or three innings without throwing it and had the usual fastball and curve to mix things up.
He was equally sparing with strikeouts (981 lifetime). Because of his control many batters swung at his first pitch. A number of times he got out of an inning with three pitches, and on one occasion he went seven innings when every pitch was a strike, a foul, or a hit. He claimed success in fanning Ruth and in reducing Cobb’s effectiveness by feeding him fastballs inside.
Overall, he had 39 shutouts, a streak of 13 wins in 1925 when he was 36 years old, and six consecutive seasons pitching more than 276 innings. His best years were with Cleveland, particularly the championship year of 1920 when he won three splendid five-hitters against Brooklyn in the Series. He allowed a total of two runs and two walks, struck out eight, and had an ERA of 0.67. After two under-.500 seasons, Cleveland traded him to Washington for two nonentities. His .800 (20-5) winning percentage and 2.84 ERA led the AL as the 1925 Senators repeated as AL champions. He lost two, however, in the Series against the Pirates.
A quiet, modest man, Covey was the youngest and most successful of five ball-playing brothers. Harry, the “Giant Killer” of 1908, was the only other one to reach the majors.