Edward Joseph Pfeffer was born in Seymour, Illinois on March 4th, 1888. Pfeffer was the youngest of seven sons, all of whom were athletic. Pfeffer would most closely follow in the footsteps of his brother Francis Xavier, who switched from Football to Baseball during his athletic career at the University of Illinois. Francis reportedly bore a striking resemblance to the boxer Jim Jeffries, and was given the nickname “Jeff” as a result. Edward Joseph, standing at 6’2” and weighing 210 pounds or more, was the spitting image of his older brother. As a result, Francis became known as “Big Jeff”, and Edward Joseph inherited the original nickname of “Jeff”.
Pfeffer would get his start playing baseball at St. Bede’s Academy in Peru, Illinois in 1907. Shortly afterward in 1909, Pfeffer would begin his professional baseball career playing in Fort Wayne Indiana. He emerged as a decent competitor early on, despite being frequently traded,
Young “Jeff” got his professional start in Fort Wayne in 1909, but was soon turned over to LaCrosse, Wis., where he made a fine record, and was recalled to Fort Wayne in 1910. The Central league swatters fell on him pretty hard, and he lost more games than he won that year. Nevertheless he got a trial with the St. Louis Browns in 1911, but was turned back to Fort Wayne, and that fall he was sold to Denver.
Pfeffer’s career would begin to shoot upward in 1913, when he would win 25 games for Grand Rapids before being traded to Brooklyn,
Up to that time young Pfeffer hadn’t shown much promise, but in 1913 the promise was made good. He suddenly developed surprising and sensational class, and in 1913 he won 25 games for Grand Rapids, losing only eight. Toward the close of the season he was sold to Brooklyn, and got a chance to display his wares under the main tent… … Mighty few twirlers in baseball history have come within shouting distance of the first year major league record hung up by Edward “Jeff” Pfeffer.
Pfeffer would continue to put out this performance as pitcher for the Brooklyn Robins, driving them to number one in the league in the 1916 season.
After the 1917 season, Pfeffer announced his plans to join the Navy; no doubt as a result of the United States’ entry into World War I, and the wave of patriotism that accompanied it. Pfeffer would instead join the Navy Auxiliary and continue to play professional baseball,
After the season ended, Pfeffer announced plans to join the Navy. Brooklyn owner Charles Ebbets took money from a fund he had sent up for dependents of ballplayers in the military and bought Pfeffer an engraved wristwatch, as a token of gratitude for his baseball and Navy service. However, Ebbets was chagrined to see Pfeffer in the Hot Springs camp in 1918, in uniform (Brooklyn’s, that is) and proudly displaying the watch. As it turned out, Pfeffer had opted for a more convenient post in the Naval Auxiliary Reserves. In the end, the pitcher’s unit was activated, and he only pitched in one game in 1918, a 2-0 shutout over the eventual pennant-winning Cubs.
Pfeffer would immediately return to playing professional Baseball after his service in the First World War, continuing his winning streak as if he had never left, “Two men who came back with bells on after training with Uncle Sam were Leon J. Cadore, of the army, and Edward Joseph Pfeffer, of the navy… [Pfeffer] spent only one afternoon with the Superbas, donning his old uniform July 19 at the home of the Cubs in Chicago… Pfeffer winning over ‘Shuffling Phil’ Douglas, 2 to 0.” Pfeffer would continue to play professional baseball until 1927, retiring with the minor league team the Toledo Mud Hens. Pfeffer would continue to work in the realm of professional baseball as an umpire for several years, before retiring to his native Illinois to live on a farm and manage a restaurant.
Edward Joseph Pfeffer, known as “Jeff” in the world of professional baseball that he so loved, lived a life of eating, drinking, sleeping, and breathing baseball. That he would put a pause on the livelihood that he loved to serve in the Navy during his country’s time of need in the First World War showcases his patriotism. In the end, Pfeffer was able to stand astride the world of professional baseball as a giant, while at the same time rendering service to his country; leaving his legacy as that of a hero to the world of sports and the United States military.
“Pitchers Back From Training Camps On Furloughs Did Splendid Hurling.” The Courier. December 29, 1918.