1. Dazzy Vance
Dazzy Vance was a trail blazer of sorts. Now it’s common for pitchers to get at least four days’ rest with typical five-man rotations. But when Vance first starting pitching in the majors in 1915, the norm was a four-man rotation with each pitcher getting only three days' rest.
Vance’s arm couldn’t hold up to that kind of stress and he would barely make it into the big leagues when he began his career. Throughout his 20s, he pitched just 33 innings in the majors. His fortunes turned around in the Southern League, where his manager allowed him four days’ rest between starts. He was called up by the Dodgers in 1922 and recorded a league-leading 134 strikeouts as a 31-year-old rookie. It was his first of seven consecutive strikeout titles.
In 1924 Vance won the NL MVP award, striking out twice as many batters as his nearest competitor. He didn’t begin to decline until into his 40s but pitched until he was 44 and even won a World Series with the Cardinals at age 43. Late bloomer, yes. And a Hall of Famer, too.