By all Wikipedia accounts, eyeglasses were invented several hundred years ago by the Chinese or Italians. By all MLB accounts, the Chicago White Sox played their first professional game in 1901.
So, for some reason, it took the organization 34 years before it employed a player who used corrective lenses. Jack Salveson would only pitch for part of the 1935 season for the Sox — going 1-2 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.53 WHIP spread over 20 appearances and 66.2 innings. That’d be the last season he’d pitch in for awhile, and it’s a shame how unlucky he was (62% strand rate).
Still, that wouldn’t be the last baseball heard from him. He resurfaced eight years later in 1943 with Cleveland and pitched parts of that season and then parts of the 1945 season. For the Indians, he would post a 3.46 ERA and 1.32 WHIP over 130 innings.
While his professional career was pedestrian – he put together quite the Crash Davis-esque minor league numbers. Over 18 seasons, Salveson won 224 games, pitched 3,526 IPs, and threw 124 complete games. He really compiled the innings and apparently did so efficiently. According to his obituary, “when he was in form, most of his games were under two hours and once he finished his business in an hour and 20 minutes.” There is no evidence that he wore garters while mastering his craft.
As for Gene Nelson, he’d have a far more productive (if not memorable) career than Salveson. Throughout his 13-year career, he was a part of three trades, most notably for flip-sider Shane Rawley and Donnie Hill. Oddly enough ’85 would be his most productive season and one of only two seasons that he would start more than nine games. Nelson would finish up a career as a useful World Series winning reliever with a lifetime line of 4.13 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 6.1 WAR and 1.37 WHIP.
Still, the most interesting aspect of Nelson’s career is his 1985 Topps, which gives us the curious tale of minor-league wunderkind Jack Salveson who introduced the Chicago White Sox to eyeglasses.
For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.