The Whales

March 30, 2015
The Chicago Whales of 1915

The Chicago Whales of 1915

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the final season of the Federal League. It lasted all of two seasons before collapsing. Oh, there was a lawsuit (and it was major because it established baseball’s anti-trust exemption and brought Kennesaw Mountain Landis to the attention of team owners), but when it was all over to league was still gone. In memory of that long lost league, let’s take a look at the final Federal League champ. They were the Chicago Whales.

Opening day for the Whales was 10 April 1915. They were home in Weeghman Park against St. Louis and picked up a 3-1 win. In some ways it was the critical game of the season. In the final standings Chicago was 86-66 with a winning percentage of .566. St. Louis finished second 87-67 with a winning percentage of .565. In those days missed games didn’t have to be made up later in the season whether or not they impacted the pennant race or not. If Chicago lost game one their winning percentage would be .559 and St. Louis would move to .571 and take the pennant. And they tell me games in April don’t matter.

But because the season doesn’t end after one game, the Whales had to keep winning. They tallied a winning record in every month except August (12-19) and finished the season winning three of their last four games (including the last one). They were remarkably consistent. In the first half of the season they went 43-32 and 43-34 in the last half. They played at least .500 ball against every team in the league, going exactly .500 against three teams, including runner-up St. Louis. They also finished 44-32 at home and 42-34 on the road, a remarkably similar record. They finished fourth in hitting (.257), second in slugging, third in OBP, and second in total bases (by two bases). They led the league in home runs and RBIs, were second in both hits and runs. Their pitchers were third in the league in ERA, second in hits allowed, third in runs allowed, fourth in strikeouts, and third in walks allowed. In WHIP they are second. In one of my favorite stats, they are third in the FL in number of men left on base. They let ‘em on, they don’t let ‘em score.

The team was managed by Hall of Famer Joe Tinker. He played in 31 games, but mostly stayed in the dugout. Catcher Art Wilson hit .305 with seven home runs (second on the team), and an OPS+ of 164 (second in the league). He caught a staff that included Mordecai Brown, a Hall of Famer, who was at the end of his career. Brown went 17-8 with a 2.09 ERA (ERA+ 135), which was good for third in the league, and 95 strikeouts (tied for third on the team). The ace was George McConnell whose 25-10 record led the league in both wins and winning percentage.  His 2.20 ERA was fourth in the FL with his 151 strikeouts being third. Claude Hendrix won 16 games and Mike Pendergast had 14. All four of them had more innings pitched than hits given up and more strikeouts than walks. Brown’s 1.071 WHIP led the team.

The infield (first around to third) was Fred Beck, Rollie Zeider, Jimmy Smith, and Harry Fritz. Fritz’s .250 led the infield in batting and he followed up by leading the infield in slugging and OBP. Beck’s five homers led the infield and Zeider’s 16 stolen bases were tops in the infield (if Tinker had played full-time with the same percentages he had in part time work, he would have led in batting, slugging, and OBP).

The outfield hit better. Dutch Zwilling played center and led both the team and the Feds in RBIs (94). He also led his team and finished second in the FL in homers (13). He hit .286, slugged .442, had an OBP of .366, giving him an OPS of .808 (OPS+ of 142). Les Mann and Max Flack flanked him. Mann hit .306 with a 138 OPS+, while Flack led the team with 37 stolen bases and it .314.

The bench was large for the era. Twelve men played at least 11 games for the Whales (not all were on the team at the same time). William Fischer played the most with 105 games, He was the backup catcher and hit .329 (good for second in the league) and had 50 RBIs, good for third on the team. Joining with Wilson he gave the Whales the best combo of hitting catchers in the FL. Charlie Hanford and Jack Ferrell played 70 games, Bill Jackson 50, and Tex Wisterzil got into 49 games. None of them hit .250 and only Jackson had a home run. Hanford’s ten stolen bases led the bench.

With the folding of the Feds at the end of the season, the team was gone. The players went different ways. For the Hall of Fame players Brown and Tinker (and for Zwilling too), they hung on one more year then retired. Others went to the minors, many to other major league teams where they got a shot with the National or American League. None became big stars. But, as many of you know, they did give baseball a lasting legacy. Weeghman Park was a pretty good stadium and now it was empty. The Cubs, needing new digs, moved in. It was later rechristened Wrigley Field and is still in use.

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Carl Hubbell

March 26, 2015
Carl Hubbell

Carl Hubbell

1. Carl Hubbell was born in Carthage, Missouri 22 June 1903 but grew up in Meeker, Oklahoma.

2. He became an excellent local pitcher with good seasons in the both the Oklahoma State League and the Western League. That got a tryout with the Detroit Tigers in 1926. Manager Ty Cobb wasn’t all that impressed and sent him to the minors, proving Cobb was a great hitter, but not a great judge of talent (He was specifically worried about how much Hubbell threw the screwball).

3. After 1926 and 1927 in the minors, the New York Giants picked him up in 1928. The Giants were led my John McGraw who remembered his best pitcher, Christy Mathewson, threw a screwball. Hubbell went 10-6 with an ERA of 2.83 and a 1.113 WHIP.

4. He quickly became the Giants ace winning twenty or more games five consecutive years and picking up 18 wins two other times. He earned the nicknames “King Carl” and “The Meal Ticket.” He personally liked the latter over the former.

5. In 1933 he led the National League in wins, ERA, and shutouts. He also led the league in the modern stats of ERA+ and WHIP. His team won the World Series, with Hubbell gaining two wins in the Series. He was chosen NL MVP.

6. In both 1936 and 1937 he led the Giants to the World Series. They lost both with Hubbell going 2-2. He became the first pitcher to win the MVP twice. Hal Newhouser is the only other pitcher to do so (Walter Johnson won a Chalmers Award and a League Award, both early versions of the modern MVP).

7. In 1934 he had what has become his most famous moment. In the second All-Star game when he struck out five consecutive Hall of Famers (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin). Fifty years later, Hubbell threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the 1984 All-Star game.  He threw a screwball.

8. He retired at the end of the 1943 season. His record was 253-154 (.622 winning percentage) with 3461 hits given up, 725 men walked, 1677 strikeouts, and 36 shutouts in 3590 innings pitched. His ERA was 2.98 with an ERA+ of 130 and a WHIP of 1.166. His BaseballReference.com version of WAR is 67.8. He is also the first NL player whose number (11) was retired by his team.

9. After retirement, Hubbell was made director of player development. He held the job through 1977, when he suffered a stroke. In that period he helped sign and develop such Giants players as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal.

10. Recovered from the stroke, he became a scout for the Giants after retiring as player development director. He held that job for the rest of his life. When he died he was the last member of the New York Giants still serving with the team.

11. He was killed in a car accident 21 November 1988 in Scottsdale, Arizona (on the same day 30 years earlier, teammate Mel Ott was also killed in an auto accident). He is buried in his hometown of Meeker, Oklahoma. The town maintains the Carl Hubbell Museum which has a small exhibit about Hubbell.

12. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947.

Hubbell's final resting place

Hubbell’s final resting place

 

On The Road Again

March 23, 2015
This is supposed to be a picture of the 1884 St. Paul Apostles

This is supposed to be a picture of the 1884 St. Paul Apostles

When Willie Nelson penned “On the Road Again” he saw it as a joy to get moving and live a life he loved. OK for Willie I guess, but I never figured out how he could leave Dyan Cannon for that other broad in the flick. But for the St. Paul Apostles it was a different story. It was all on the road and it wasn’t particularly successful.

In 1884, Minnesota was part of a bustling minor league area of the upper Midwest. The primary league was the Northwest League and it was, as was true of a lot of leagues, in financial trouble. By August most of the teams folded, but the team in St. Paul hung on. The team was called the Apostles, but was sometimes known as the White Caps or the Saints. No one’s quite sure which, if any, were official.

The year 1884 saw the formation of the Union Association, a one year wonder of a major league. It was, for the entire season, on shaky financial ground and teams folded and were formed during the season. A few of the franchises, notably the one in St. Louis, were stable, but others not so much. By September the league was in trouble and looking for teams to help flush out a schedule. St. Paul was looking for a league to play in. It was an obvious match, almost a match made in heaven (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

On 27 September 1884, the Apostles (or White Caps, or Saints, or God knows what else) played their first major league game against the Cincinnati team in Cincinnati. They lost 6-1. On the 30th and the 1st of October they played two more games against Cincy, both games in Cincinnati. They lost 6-1 again and 7-0. The 2nd of October was a travel day which took them to St. Louis for a two game series against the Maroons, the league leader. They lost the first game 8-5, then on 5 October 1884 they won their first game by beating the Maroons 1-0. From there it was on to Kansas City for a three game set. The Apostles reached their apex on 8 October when they defeated Kansas City 9-5 to run their record to 2-4. It was downhill from there. They dropped the next game at Kansas City 7-2, then fashioned a 4-4 tie on 12 October. The next day they closed out their season back in St. Louis taking at 6-2 for a final record of 2-6-1. They ended the season 39.5 games out of first. The Union Association folded at the end of the season and the Apostles were through with Major League play.

But did you notice something about the games? They’re all road games. The Apostles are the only team in Major League history to never play a home game. Not a single home game. Not one. It’s a strange record not likely to ever be broken.

So now you’re bound to be asking, “Just exactly who are these guys?” Glad you asked. The team consisted of 11 players. The manager was Andrew Thompson. It was his only year as a Major League manager so he finished his career with a 2-6-1 record, a .250 winning percentage, and not one home win to his credit. Here’s the roster for you to check out.
Charlie Ganzel–was the primary catcher. He played several years in the Majors (1885-97) hitting .259 with 10 home runs and helped the Beaneaters to a National League pennant.

Steve Dunn–played first. It was his only season in the Major Leagues. His .250 led the Apostles in hitting and is the franchise record.

Emery “Moxie” Hengel–played second.  He played a few games for Chicago’s Union Association team before joining St. Paul. In 1885 he played seven games for Buffalo in the National League.

Joe Werrick–was the shortstop. His .074 average was the team low and is also the franchise record for futility. He did get into several games for Louisville in the American Association in 1886-1888. His hitting improved. He managed to hit ,285 in 1887 and had 7 home runs with 99 RBIs.

Bill O’Brien–was the third baseman. He had a solid big league career from 1887 through 1890. He hit .256 for a career and led the NL in home runs with 19 for Washington in 1887. He hit 13 for the entire rest of his career. He pitched in one game for the Apostles and got the win (that ties the franchise record for wins).

John “Scrappy” Carroll–outfielder. He played a little in 1885 for Buffalo and then resurfaced in 1887 when he played 57 games for Cleveland in the American Association.

Bill Barnes–played outfield. It was his only season in the Major Leagues.

John Tilley–was an outfielder. He’d played 15 games for the Cleveland Blues of the NL in 1882 and hit all of .082. He showed up again in 1884 with Toledo in the American Association hitting .179 in 17 games. He joined the Apostles after leaving Toledo and never played another Major League game.

Lou Galvin–pitched in three games going 0-2 with an ERA of .288. He struck out 17 and walked 10. It was his only Major League duty. As far as I can determine, he isn’t related to Hall of Fame pitcher Pud Galvin.

Jim Brown–pitched and played outfield. He began the season with Altoona in the Union Association, then went to the Giants. He ended up with St. Paul and went 1-4, tying O’Brien for the franchise record in wins. He struck out 20 and walked 14 (both franchise records). He shows up in the Majors again in 1886 with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. He went 1-4 in his last big league season.

Pat Dealy–caught and played outfield. He moved on from St. Paul to play both 1885 and 1886 with Boston in the National League, playing all over the diamond (but mostly as a catcher). He played third and caught for Washington in 1887, then in 1890 showed up as a utility player for Syracuse of the American Association.

With no home games St. Paul has to be one of the more unusual teams to ever play in the Majors. It’s nine total games are among the lowest in history. I wonder if it had any home fans following them in the papers. That was, after all, about the only way a home town fan could follow them without leaving town.

A Rose by Any Other Name

March 19, 2015

Well, I see that Pete Rose has petitioned the new Commissioner for reinstatement to baseball. For those who’ve forgotten, Rose was banned for life back in the late 20th Century (Geez, has it actually been long enough to be in another century?) because he allegedly bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Later on, in his book, he admitted it was true.

There are a lot of comments on the matter, but I’m going to suggest you go to Bleeding Royal Blue at

https://mudshvlst.wordpress.com

It’s a site that normally looks over the goings on of the Kansas City Royals. But he’s just done an article titled “Every Rose has a Thorn.” He sums up nicely the case against Rose being reinstated and, upon reinstatement, being eligible for the Hall of Fame. Go read it. I’d like to say I wrote it, but I didn’t. Wish I had. It sums up very nicely the opposition to Rose. Check it out.

1924: The Con Job

March 17, 2015

(A DISCLAIMER: I don’t know how this happened, but the post concerning the 3 games held in New York posted out of order. It is currently four posts below this one and appears to be the first post in the set on the 1924 World Series. I have no idea how this happened; nor do I know how to fix it. If you’re interested, take a second to scroll down and read it. It is titled, “1924: The Senators Steal One.” Sorry, team.)

Needing two wins, the Washington Senators got the last two games of the 1924 World Series at home. If they could sweep, they would win Washington its first ever World’s Championship. New York needed one of the two to return the title to the Big Apple.

Game 6

Washington Player-Manager Bucky Harris

Washington Player-Manager Bucky Harris

Game 6 was played 9 October 1924 with the Senators needing a win to force a game seven. Tom Zachary, game 2 winner, was sent to the mound by Washington to insure that happened. Art Nehf opposed him. In the top of the first, Fred Lindstrom led off with a bunt that failed. Frankie Frisch then doubled. When he tried to advance to third on a Ross Youngs tapper back to the mound, Zachary gunned him down at third while Youngs advanced to second. A Highpockets Kelly single to center scored Youngs with the first run. The score remained 1-0 into the bottom of the fifth. Roger Peckinpaugh led off the Senators half of the inning with a single. A bunt sacrifice sent him to second. A Zachary grounder sent him to third. With two outs Earl McNeely walked, then stole second. With two outs and two on, Washington’s player-manager Bucky Harris singled to drive in both runs. Through the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth, New York managed one single was the score stayed 2-1 into the ninth. With one out in the ninth, Highpockets Kelly singled, but a ground out forced pinch runner Billy Southworth at second. Needing one out to force a game seven, Zachary fanned Hack Wilson to end the game. Zachary was great in game six. He gave up a single run in the first inning, then shutout the Giants. He gave up seven hits, walked none, and struck out three. Harris’ single provided all the runs he needed. Nehf wasn’t bad, even though he lost. He went seven innings (Rosy Ryan pitched the eighth) giving up only two runs, four hits, and four walks. He also struck out four. It set up game seven.

Game 7

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Game seven of the 1924 World Series became one of the most famous of all World Series games. It was played 10 October in Washington and its outcome was caused, in part, by one of the great con jobs in Series history. Senators manager believed that Giants player Bill Terry had trouble hitting left-handed pitching so he announced that righty Curly Ogden, who hadn’t pitched all Series, would start game seven. New York manager John McGraw responded by inserting Terry into the lineup (he hit fifth) over normal left fielder Irish Meusel (the regular five hitter). Terry went to first and Highpockets Kelly, the usual first baseman took Meusel’s place in left. It turned out to be a great con.

Ogden pitched to two men, striking out the first and walking the second. In came George Mogridge, who would normally have pitched game seven. Mogridge was left-handed and McGraw chose not to pull Terry in the first inning. Washington broke on top in the fourth when Harris homered to left. The run held up until the sixth when Ross Youngs walked and a Kelly single sent him to third. McGraw sent Meusel in to hit for Terry. Harris replaced Mogridge with relief ace Firpo Marberry. Marberry immediately gave up a sacrifice fly that tied the score and a Hack Wilson single sent Kelly to third. An error by first baseman Joe Judge brought in Kelly with the lead run. Then another error, this one by shortstop Ossie Bluege, gave the Giants a third run. New York hurler Virgil Barnes kept the Senators at bay until the eighth when a double, a single and a walk loaded the bases. With two outs, Harris singled to left tying up the game at 3-3. During the eighth, Washington pinch hit for Marberry. Needing a new pitcher, they went to Walter Johnson, who was 0-2 so far for the Series. Johnson had a great career, had a very good season, but he was 36 and pitching on one day’s rest (he’d lost game five). But he was Walter Johnson and he did what Walter Johnson normally did. Through the ninth, the tenth, the eleventh, and the twelfth inning, he shut down New York. He gave up three hits and walked three, but he also struck out five. He was in trouble in every inning but the tenth, but no Giants scored. Of course no Senator scored either. By the bottom of the twelfth he was tired. With an out, Muddy Ruel lifted a foul ball that catcher Hank Gowdy dropped. Given a second chance, Ruel doubled. Johnson was up. He hit one to short, but a misplay put him on. Up came leadoff hitter Earl McNeely. He dropped a roller to third. As third baseman Fred Lindstrom came in to field it and make a play on Ruel who was heading to third, the ball hit a pebble and bounced over Lindstrom’s head for a double. Ruel was slow, but he was quick enough to score and give Washington its first and only championship. Johnson finally had his Series win.

It was an excellent Series, arguably the best of the 1920s. The Giants actually outhit the Senators .261 to .246. Both teams had nine doubles and Washington out homered New York five to four. The Giants put up 27 runs to the Senators 26. But only 18 of Washington’s runs were earned as opposed to 23 New York earned runs. Individually, Goslin hit .344 with three home runs and seven RBIs. Harris had the other two homers and also seven RBIs while hitting .333. McNeely, Judge, and Goslin all scored four runs, while Harris led the team with five. For the Giants it was more of a mixed bag. No one hit more than one home run and both Kelly and Lindstrom had four RBIs. Kelly scored seven runs, but no one else had more than four (Gowdy).

Pitching-wise Zachary was terrific, going 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA but only three strikeouts. Marberry didn’t do well. He picked up a couple of saves, but took a loss and blew a save situation. On the other hand his ERA was a tiny 1.13. And Walter Johnson finally got a win. He went 1-2 with an ERA of 3.00 and 20 strikeouts. For the Giants Bentley took two losses, but pitched the best game for the team to give him a 1-2 record and a team high 10 strikeouts. Ryan pitched well in critical situations.

It marked a couple of milestones. It was John McGraw’s last World Series. The Giants would make it back to the Series in 1933 (against the Senators again), but Bill Terry would be the manager. George Mogridge won a game on the road. In all their history, the Senators/Twins would win only one more road game in their history (and Johnson would get it). Marberry picked up the only Senators/Twins road save ever. And the Giants? Well, in game seven they started seven Hall of Famers (all but the battery) and managed to lose. It happens.

 

1924: Derailing the Big Train

March 11, 2015

The first two games of the 1924 World Series were in Washington, D.C. There had never been playoff baseball in Washington. Even the President showed up.

Game 1

Bill Terry

Bill Terry

Game one, 4 October 1924, saw the Giants send Art Nehf to the mound to face D.C.’s ace Walter Johnson. Neither man pitched all that well, but it became a great game anyway. New York struck first when George “High Pockets” Kelly slammed a Johnson pitch into the left field seats to lead off the second inning. In the top of the fourth, Bill Terry drove a Johnson pitch to almost the same spot. The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Earl McNeely doubled, went to third on a ground out, and scored Sam Rice’s grounder to second. The score remained 2-1 into the bottom of the ninth. Two outs from losing game one, Ossie Bluege singled, then tied the game when Roger Peckinpaugh doubled. The tenth and eleventh innings were scoreless with both teams getting men as far as second, but being unable to get a key hit. That changed in the 12th. Giants catcher Hank Gowdy walked, went to second on a single by pitcher Nehf, then on to third when McNeely threw the ball away trying to catch Nehf off first. A walk to pinch hitter Jake Bentley loaded the bases. Frankie Frisch then grounded to shortstop Peckinpaugh. He flicked the ball to second baseman and manager Bucky Harris who then gunned down Gowdy trying to score, leaving the force at second intact. That let Nehf go to third and Bentley on to second (and Frisch was safe at first). Billy Southworth pinch ran for Bentley. A single by Ross Youngs brought home Nehf with the go ahead run and a Kelly sacrifice fly brought home Southworth. With the score now 4-2, the Senators rallied when Mule Shirley reached second on an error and, one out later, scored on a Harris single. Nehf got the next two men and the game ended 4-3.

The big heroes for the Giants were Terry with a home run, Kelly with a homer and a sacrifice fly that scored the winning run, and Nehf who pitched a complete game, and scored a run. He gave up 10 hits and walked five, but only gave up three runs, two of them earned (the first two), while striking out three. Johnson didn’t pitch all that well. He gave up four earned runs on 14 hits, two home runs, and six walks. He did, however, strike out 12.

Game 2

Goose Goslin

Goose Goslin

Game two occurred 5 October 1924 and was in many ways as exciting as game one. Tom Zachary took the hill for the Senators while game one pinch hitter Jake Bentley started for New York. Washington jumped on Bentley immediately, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. With two outs and Sam Rice on second, Goose Goslin parked a two-run homer to right center for a 2-0 Senators lead. They picked up another run in the fifth when Bucky Harris put one over the fence in left for a 3-0 lead. It held up until the top of the seventh, when a walk and a single put runners on first and third with no outs. Hack Wilson hit into a double play that scored High Pockets Kelly with the Giants first run. They got two more in the ninth (just as Washington had done the day before) with a walk, a long single with one out that scored the runner on first, and a single after a second out that tied the game. For the first time in the Series, a new pitcher entered the game when Zachary gave way to Firpo Marberry, who promptly fanned Travis Jackson to end the inning with the scored tied 3-3. In the bottom of the ninth Joe Judge walked, went to second on a single, and scored the winning run when Roger Peckinpaugh doubled to left. Bentley pitched well, giving up four runs on six hits while walking four and striking out three. Two of the hits were home runs. For Washington there were a lot of heroes. Goslin and Harris had homers, and Zachary went eight and two-thirds giving up three runs on six hits and three walks. Under the rules of the day, Zachary was the winning pitcher while Marberry picked up a save (a stat that hadn’t been invented yet).

So after two games the Series was knotted at 1-1. It now became a best of five Series as both teams did what they needed (the Giants won a game on the road and the Senators weren’t swept). New York held home field advantage.

1924: McGraw’s Last Throw

March 9, 2015
Travis Jackson

Travis Jackson

After three consecutive National League pennants and two World Series victories (1921 and 1922), the New York Giants rolled to their fourth straight pennant in 1924. It was still John McGraw’s team, but it was a vastly different team from his Deadball teams. Those relied to pitching and timely hitting. This was a team that hit well and the pitching was a notch down from those 1904-1913 teams. It was also McGraw’s final pennant winner.

The infield consisted of five Hall of Famers and one pretty good player. George “High Pockets” Kelly held down first. He led the team with 21 home runs and 136 RBIs. The RBI total led the NL and the homers ranked fourth. He was being challenged at first by second year player Bill Terry. Kelly was, in 1924, still the better player, but McGraw was keen on installing Terry in the lineup. Frankie Frisch played second, hit .328, stole 22 bases, had 198 hits (third in the NL), and scored a league leading 121 runs. The shortstop was 20-year old Travis Jackson, currently in his third year with the Giants. He managed to hit .300 (.302) for the first time in 1924, hit 11 home runs (good for second on the team), and played a good short. At 34, Heinie Groh was the old man on the team, and the only one not later enshrined in Cooperstown. He was famous for the odd shape of his bat (“Bottlebat”), but also played a good third while hitting .281. He was hurt during the season, which allowed the Giants to bring up 18-year old Fred Lindstrom who hit only .253 in 1924, but was considered a coming star. He would figure in one of the most famous plays of the World Series.

Five men, two of them in the Hall of Fame, manned the outfield. The Hall of Famers were Ross Youngs and Hack Wilson. Youngs was the regular right fielder. His .356 led the team in hitting. His 10 home runs were third and his 112 runs scored were second on the team. He would have two years left before being felled by Bright’s Disease. Wilson did much of the center field work. He was not yet the fearsome power hitter he became in the late 1920s at Chicago. He tied Youngs with 10 homers and hit .295. Emil “Irish” Meusel (the brother of Yankees left fielder Bob Meusel) was the primary left fielder. He hit .310 with 102 RBIs. Billy Southworth (who also made the Hall of Fame, but this time as a manager) and Jimmy O’Connell spelled the other three. O’Connell hit .317 and Southworth .256. Neither showed much power.

McGraw used two catchers during the season. Hank Gowdy, who did less during the regular season, did almost all the catching in the World Series. His partner was Frank Snyder. Neither had much power (Snyder had five homers, Gowdy four) and Snyder hit .302 to Gowdy’s .325. Both were right-handed hitters so they weren’t used in a platoon situation.

They caught a staff that was weaker than the old Giants pitching staffs. There was no Mathewson or McGinnity or even a Marquard on the staff (there may have been a Red Ames or two). Six men pitched double figure games: right-handers Virgil Barnes, Hugh McQuillan, Wayland Dean, Mule Watson, and lefties Jack Bentley and Art Nehf. Bentley and Barnes both won 16 games, while Dean actually had a losing record (6-12). Barnes, Bentley, Dean, and Watson all gave up more hits than they had innings pitched while both Dean and Watson walked more men than they struck out. For the Senators Firpo Marberry had 15 saves. The entire Giants staff had 19 with Rosy Ryan leading with five. If it came to the staff and the bullpen, Washington had a distinct advantage.

The 1924 Series was held over seven consecutive days (no day off) with the Senators getting games one, two, six, and seven at home. The papers of the day (at least the ones I’ve found) felt it was going to be Washington pitching against New York hitting. It turned out to be a great series with an unforgettable game seven.

 

1924: First in War; First in Peace

March 5, 2015
Firpo Marberry about 1924

Firpo Marberry about 1924

There are a lot of World Series games that are considered classics. Game 5 of 1956 (Larsen’s perfect game), game 7 of 1991 (Jack Morris vs. the Braves), game 7 of 1965 (Koufax on short rest), game 8 of 1912 (BoSox vs. Giants) all come to mind. But a lot of World Series’ taken as a whole aren’t particularly memorable. One of the better, and one of the more obscure, was the 1924 World Series.

The American League representative in the 1924 World Series was the Washington Senators. Yep, the famous mantra “First in War; First in Peace; and Last in the American League” had broken down. For the first time ever, a team from Washington was a pennant winner. In the entire history of the National League going back to 1876, no Washington franchise had finished first. In the entire history of the American League going back only to 1901, the Senators had never finished first. In the National Association and the Union Association and the Player’s League and the American Associations (professional leagues of the 19th Century) no Washington franchise had ever finished first. The Series became famous for that fact alone.

In the midst of the first big run by the Babe Ruth led New York Yankees, the Senators finished first in 1924 by two games over the Yanks and six over third place Detroit. It was a pitching heavy team. Catcher Muddy Ruel hit .283 with no home runs, but did a decent job catching a powerful staff. Most powerful was all-time great Walter Johnson. Johnson was 36 and late in his career. For the season he went 23-7 with 158 strikeouts to go with 77 walks, an ERA of .272 and an ERA+ of 149. He led the AL in wins, winning percentage, strikeouts, shutouts (6), ERA, ERA+, WHIP (1.116) and posted a 6.8 WAR (BaseballReference.com version). After the season ended he would win the MVP award. Tom Zachary was 15-9 with an ERA of 2.75 and an ERA+ of 148 (WAR of 4.7). George Mogridge was 16-11, but gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. The rest of the starters were 20-20. But owner Clark Griffith was an old pitcher and had spent much of his later active years in the bullpen. He knew the value of a good bullpen man and had cornered one of the first great relief men. Firpo Marberry was 11.-12 with a 3.09 ERA in 50 games. He had 15 saves, which, along with the 50 games, led the league. The 15 saves were also a Major League record (to be fair, no one knew that as the “save” stat had yet to be invented).

The infield consisted of Joe Judge, Bucky Harris, Roger Peckinpaugh, and Ossie Bluege from first around to third. Harris served as manager (and later went to the Hall of Fame as a manager) and hit .268. His 20 stolen bases were second on the team. He was all of 27. Judge was 30 and had been around since 1915 (in 1916 he replaced Black Sox player Chick Gandil at first). He was in a stretch where he was regularly hitting over .300 (.324 in 1924). His WAR was 3.9 (he had a 4.0 a couple of times) one of the highest of his career. He hit for little power. Peckinpaugh was a minor star.  He’d come over from the Yankees in 1922 and played a good shortstop. He usually hit in the .260s to .280 range with some speed and little power (He would win the 1925 AL MVP Award). Bluege was the kid. He was 23, in his third season, and getting better each year. He hit .280 and put up an OPS of .711.

The outfield had Nemo Leibold in center. At least he played the most games there. Leibold was one of the “Clean Sox” of 1919. He’d been in a platoon system (with Shano Collins) in right field then and came to the Senators in 1923. He hit .293 in 1924 (his next to last season) and had a WAR of 1.0. The corners of the outfield showcased two future Hall of Fame members. Goose Goslin was in left. He hit .344 for the season, led the team in home runs (12) and triples (17). His 129 RBIs led the American League. He had an OPS+ of 143 and a WAR of 6.4. Sam Rice held down right field. He started with the Senators in 1915 and had been a consistent star. He hit .334 in 1924, led the AL in hits with 216, led his team with 24 stolen bases and posted a 114 OPS+ with a 4.4 WAR.

As with a lot of teams in the 1920s, the Washington bench was thin Wid Mathews and Earl McNeely both hit .300 as backup outfielders while Doc Prothro spelled Bluege at third. For the Series, McNeely would do most of the work in center field, spelling Leibold. Those were the only players with 35 or more games played. For the Series, infielder Tommy Taylor, who got into only 26 games in 1924 (his only year in the Majors), would also play a big role. No bench player hit even a single home run (Johnson had one giving the entire bench plus staff exactly one homer for the season).

It was a good team, a  surprise team. They weren’t expected to win the AL pennant and were slight underdogs in the World Series. They would draw the New York Giants, a team competing in its fourth consecutive World Series.

 

1924: The Senators Steal One

March 4, 2015

With the World Series tied one game to one, the 1924 Series moved to New York for games three, four, and five. If either team could sweep, the Series would end. A two to one split would send it back to D.C. for a finale.

Game 3

Rosy Ryan

Rosy Ryan

On 6 October the first New York game of the 1924 World Series saw the Giants bring Hugh McQuillan to the mound. Washington countered with Firpo Marberry. It was a strange choice for player-manager Bucky Harris because Marberry had spent most of the season as a relief specialist. It was a mistake early. The Giants got to Marberry for two runs in the second and one more in the third before Harris had to pull him. With one out and two on in the bottom of the second singled to score Bill Terry and send Travis Jackson to third. With two outs, Marberry uncorked a wild pitch that brought home Jackson with the second run. In the third with two on and nobody out, Hack Wilson hit into a run scoring double play that made the score 3-0. It was the end for Marberry. The Senators got on the board in the fourth with a walk to Sam Rice, an out, a double, another walk, and a sacrifice. Then with the bases loaded, Rosy Ryan replaced McQuillan. He immediately walked backup catcher Ben Tate to bring in a second run, but got a fly to end the inning and maintain a 3-2 lead. Ryan managed to restore a two run lead in the next inning when he slugged a homer to right field off new Washington pitcher Allen Russell. In the sixth the Giants got another off Russell with an error by Ralph Miller, playing third for primary third baseman Ossie Bluege, a bunt, and a Fred Lindstrom double. It made the score 5-2. Washington finally got to Ryan in the eighth when a single, a walk, and another single yielded one run. New York got it right back in the bottom of the eighth with a single, a stolen base, another single, and a ground out by Ryan that plated Hank Gowdy. As he was tiring, Ryan was replaced in the ninth. Three singles and an out loaded the bases for Bluege, who was playing shortstop in the game. He walked to force in a run, then got a foul out and a grounder to end the game. For the Giants the big hero was Ryan.  He pitched 4.2 innings with seven hits and three walks, but gave up only two runs, struck out two, and had a home run and two RBIs. Marberry went back to the bullpen for Washington.

Game 4

George Mogridge, the only Senators/Twins pitcher not named Johnson to win a World Series road game

George Mogridge, the only Senators/Twins pitcher not named Johnson to win a World Series road game

Down two games to one, Washington sent 16 game winner George Mogridge to the mound in game four. New York countered with Virgil Barnes. The Giants struck first with a run in the first on a walk, a ground out, and an error. It held up until the top of the third. With two out and two on Goose Goslin stroked his second homer of the Series to put the Senators up 3-1. They tacked on two more in the fifth on consecutive singles, a Barnes wild pitch, and a Goslin single. New York made it 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth when a double by Highpockets Kelly and back-to-back groundouts plated a single run. In the top of the eighth singles by Goslin, Joe Judge, and Ossie Bluege scored both Goslin and Judge. With the score 7-2, New York came up in the bottom of the eighth. Ross Youngs walked and a Hack Wilson double scored him. In the ninth, the Giants got another run on a single, a two-base error, and another single, this one by Fred Lindstrom. Marberry, who’d entered the game with one out in the eighth, managed to slam the door for his second save. To this day, he is the only Senators/Twins franchise pitcher to record a World Series save in the other team’s park. But the big heroes were Goslin who had hour hits, one a home run, and four RBIs in four plate appearances, and Mogridge who went 7.1 innings, gave up three runs, two earned, and three hits, while striking out two and walking five.

The World Series was now tied 2-2. It had become a best of three with home field now moving to Washington. It was now also certain that the Series would return to the nation’s capital.

Game 5

Jack Bentley

Jack Bentley

Game 5 saw Walter Johnson square off against Jack Bentley. The Giants won 6-2 as Johnson gave up six runs on 13 hits. Bentley himself popped a home run and had two RBIs. Fred Lindstrom also had two RBIs, while Hank Gowdy scored four runs. For the Senators only Goose Goslin performed well. He hit a home run while Joe Judge scored the other run. It put the Giants up 3-2 going back to Washington. As an aside, it was the last World Series game John McGraw ever managed in New York. At least he went out a winner at home.

 

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1913

March 3, 2015

With Black History Month over, it’s time to return to my more mundane ravings. Here’s a look at My Own Little Hall of Fame and the Class of 1913. Remember, this is a look at how the Hall of Fame would differ if it began in 1901 and the writers of the era were dealing only with the info available to them in 1913 (and other years) rather than the info available in the mid-1930s or currently.

 

Jake Beckley

Jake Beckley

Jacob “Eagle Eye” Beckley was a southpaw first baseman who played for five teams over a 20 year career lasting from 1888 through 1907. He is the all time leader in triples. His 2934 hits and 473 doubles are both second among retired Major League players.

Hugh Duffy

Hugh Duffy

Winner of two batting titles, including a century high .440 among Major Leaguers, Hugh Duffy led the league in home runs and hits twice, and in doubles once. He helped his team to five National League pennants and an 1892 win in the split season postseason series.

John J. McGraw

John J. McGraw

John Joseph McGraw was a starring third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s. Twice he led the National League in both runs and walks. He helped lead his team to three National League pennants and the 1896 Temple Cup victory. He later managed the National League New York Giants to five pennants and one World Series championship.

Now the commentary:

1. Beckley was an easy choice based on my premise that we’re doing this in 1913 with info available then. He has those big raw number stats that impressed writers and fans of the 1913 era. By this point he no longer leads the Major Leagues in triples (he’s now fourth). The comment about hits and doubles is worded funny because Honus Wagner was getting close to retirement and eventually passed Beckley in both. I didn’t feel like taking the time to see if he’d done so by 1913 (I presume he had in hits, but not sure about doubles) so I made a stipulation that was true, but possibly misleading.

2. Hugh Duffy was also an easy choice for pretty much the same reasons. He was a major player on five teams that won the NL pennant and his 1894 average was known (although there was some dispute about the exact number). In one of their articles, the guys at the wonderful Hall of Miller and Eric (who, ironically, just eliminated Beckley from their hall–they use modern stats I’m not allowed to use) pointed out that hitting .400, like hitting 61 home runs or getting an extraordinary number of strikeouts, tends to come very close to a period when there is a significant change in the game (like creating the mound or juicing the ball ala 1930 or expansion in 1960). In Duffy’s case that’s certainly true. His two batting titles occur in 1893 and 1894 (the move to a mound occurred in 1893) so his titles can be seen as a direct result of the move to 60’6″. I don’t think the writers of the era saw that as a problem. At least I can’t find one who says “Duffy benefitted from a new rule and his numbers are tainted” or some such comment. So I ignored that as a factor in his election. This issue will pop up again with Nap LaJoie, whose 1901 average is way out of line with the rest of his career (which is very, very good) and occurs with the first year of the American League.

3. And now, McGraw. As a player McGraw is, at best, a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. His numbers are fine, but they are fine for a very short period of time. So the counting numbers (hits, runs, walks, etc.) aren’t all that high and most of the percentages we use today weren’t around yet (batting average being an obvious exception). But as Kortas pointed out when I mentioned my John McGraw problem it is the Hall of Fame and in the period 1905-1913 there are only a few people in baseball more famous than John McGraw. His team was the toast of New York. They’d been in three consecutive World Series’ (and lost them all). Outside guys with names like Cobb, Wagner, Mathewson he was easily the most well-known man in the sport. It seemed that eventually the writers would compound the playing numbers with the managing and notoriety and put McGraw in the 1901 version of the Hall of Fame. The end of the 1913 pennant run seemed like a good time to do it.

4. I’ve noticed that the statistical information available is becoming more stable. By that I mean you can start finding the same types of stats (AB, H, R, etc.) each time. Also, the numbers associated with those statistics are beginning to firm up. There are still differences in the numbers, but the differences are getting closer and something like a consensus is starting. It makes it a bit easier to determine who makes the list.

5. New everyday players arriving on the 1914 list include both Joe Kelley and Jimmy Collins. Collins was considered, at the time, one of the two or three top third basemen ever, which will certainly enhance his chances. Kelley seems to be much less well known, not as highly thought of as others. I’m not sure yet what will happen with him. That pushes my holdover list to 21 and either someone will have to be added to the Hall or at least one player must be dropped.

6. Among pitchers Joe McGinnity is added to the 1914 list while Thomas Lynch, an umpire and later President of the National League, joins the contributors list. Adding Lynch will give me 11 contributors and someone either makes the Hall of gets dropped. Currently I’m leaning toward not adding a contributor in 1914, putting Lynch in the holdover pool, and dropping Bud Hillerich, the Louisville Slugger guy. Lynch will be the first umpire that I’ve found out enough about (mostly because of his NL Presidency) to make him seem a viable candidate. Will let you know.

 

 


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