Archive for January, 2010

When Their Sox were still White

January 31, 2010

The Chicago White Sox team of the last half of the second decade of the 20th Century is known primarily for one thing, the Black Sox scandal. But prior to 1919 they were a pretty good team and when they played well and with a will to win they could be superb. Two years before the 1919 World Series, the Sox kept their hose white.

The 1916 ChiSox had finished two games behind Boston in 1916. Over the off-season they changed first basemen and shortstops but kept the heart of the team intact. In 1917 they overcame the two games and finished first in the American League by 9 games. The starters were the same as the 1919 team with Chick Gandil at first, Hall of Famer Eddie Collins at second, Swede Risberg at short and Buck Weaver completing the infield at third. The outfield had Joe Jackson in left, Happy Felsch in center and the platoon system of Nemo Leibold (the lety) and Shano Collins (the righty) in right. Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk completed the position players. Jackson and Felsch hit 300 as did pinch hitter Eddie Murphy. In fact, Felsch had a great Deadball era year. He hit .308, slugged .403, was second in the league with 102 RBIs, third in the league with 177 hits and led the team in runs scored, tied with Collins at 91. That total was good for fourth in the AL.

The pitching consisted of Eddie Cicotte with 28 wins, Lefty Williams with 17, Hall of Famer Red Faber getting 16, and Reb Russell with 15. Dan Danforth started 9 of 51 games and led the AL with 11 saves (a stat that hadn’t been invented yet). Cicotte also led the league in innings pitched (347) and ERA (1.53) and his 150 strikeouts trailed only Walter Johnson’s 188.

They faced the New York Giants in the World Series. The Series went 6 games with the Giants taking 3 and 4 in New York. Eddie Collins was the hitting star batting .409 with 9 hits, and four runs scored. The most famous run occured in game 5’s eighth inning. With one out and Collins on first, Joe Jackson singled sending Collins to third. When the Giants left home uncovered, Collins raced home with an insurance run.

The pitching hero was Faber who won three games (2, 5, and 6) while losing one (4). He pitched 27 innings giving up 21 hits, 3 walks, and posting a 2.53 ERA. Cicotte had both the other win and the other loss.

The next season with Eddie Collis and Risberg in the military and Jackson, Felsch, and William all off doing war work, they slipped back to 6th.   Manager Pants Rowland was tossed and Kid Gleason took over as the new skipper. That set up the 1919 season when the regulars returned and the fix was in.

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Cubs Win

January 30, 2010

Most of us are familiar with the futility that is the Chicago Cubs. They haven’t made a World Series since 1945, didn’t make any kind of playoff between 1945 and 1984, can’t win the big one. But once upon a time (yeah, I know it’s a fairy tale opening, but some of you will think this is a fairy tale) the Cubs were good and even won the World Series.

Between 1906 and 1910 the Cubs were the best team in the National League. They went to the World Series 4 times, winning- yes, I said winning-twice (The Series they missed was 1909). In 1906 they lost to their crosstown rivals the White Sox and lost in 1910 to the bulding Philadelphia Athletics dynasty. In between they won.

The 1907 team won the pennant by 17 games over Pittsburgh. It faced off against a Ty Cobb led Detroit Tigers team that won 92 games. Game one of the Series was a 12 inning tie called because of darkness. At the time, players win/loss shares were determined by gate receipts for all games played. There was talk that the teams had deliberately tied in order to raise the Series cut each player got. The rule was changed later to give the players a cut of only the first 4 games played, thus making this a significant Series despite the outcome. After game one, the Cubs blew by the Tigers in 4 straight posting a 257 batting average (to 209 for the Tigers) and on 0.75 ERA (to 2.15 for Detroit).  The Cubs hitting star was third baseman Harry Steinfeld who hit .471 with 8 hits and the only team triple.

The next season saw a rematch of the Series as Chicago topped New York in one of the most famous pennant races ever, winning on the last day of the season in a make up game (the so-called “Merkle game”), while Detroit also ended up on top by a half game in another terrific pennant race.  The Tigers did better in this Series, they won game three. The Cubs picked up their second consecutive World Series title (and last so far) with a .293 batting average (to .203 for Detroit) and an ERA of 2.60 (to the Tigers’ 3.68).

In 1909, the Cubs lost the pennant to Pittsburgh by 6.5 games. In 1910 they won the National League again, this time by 13 games over the New York Giants, but lost the Series to the A’s in 5 games. The run was over and it took until 1918 for the Cubs to make it back to first place.

It was an era of small rosters and little turnover, so much of the team that won the two World Series’ was the same. The infield constisted of (this time from third around to first in honor of Franklin Adams) Harry Steinfeldt, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance. The outfield was Frank “Wildfire” Schulte, Jimmy Slagle, and Jimmy Sheckard, with Johnny Kling behind the plate.  The same starting eight began most of the games in both seasons. The bench (all players with 40 or more games played) consisted of outfielder Solly Hofman, catcher Pat Moran, and first baeman-outfielder Del Howard in 1907 and Hofman, Howard, Moran, and new guy Heinie Zimmerman in 1908.

It’s not an overly impressive set of hitters (Chance, Evers, and Tinker are the only Hall of Famers). It’s not bad, just not impressive.  Only Evers managed to hit 300 (exactly 300 in 1908), and Schulte’s .386 in 1907 is the highest slugging percentage. Only Steinfeldt in 1907 managed as many as 70 RBIs. Those aren’t bad numbers for Deadball baseball, but a lot of players did a lot better.

Their fielding, despite the poem, was middle of the pack, although Kling is generally considered the finest fielding catcher of the day. What  they really could do was pitch and pitch well. Hall of Famer Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown was the ace of the staff winning 20 and 29 games in the two seasons with ERAs of 1.39 and 1.47. He struck out 240 men in the two seasons combined, which isn’t  a bad number for the era. Orval Overall (ain’t that a great name?) won 23 and 15 games and contributed 308 strikeouts, which is great for the era. Ed Reulbach won 17 and 24 games, while the team lefty Jack Pfeister won 15 and 12 games. In 1907 Carl Lundgren added 18 wins.

I have no idea how to explain the Cubs futility since. They’ve certainly had better players. If I were putting together an all-time, all-Cubs team Brown is probably the only one of these guys to make it, but they did do something that none of the teams with the better players managed to do–they won.

Good Bye, Bobby

January 29, 2010

I missed the news the other day that Bobby Bragan died. He was 92 and an old ballplayer. He was also a hero of mine.

Bragan was from Alabama and got to the majors in 1940 as a shortstop with the Phillies. He played 597 games over 7 seasons, the last four years with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He spent most of his time as a backup shortstop and catcher. For a career he hit .240 with 15 home runs and 172 RBIs. He was one of the Dodgers players who signed the infamous petition to keep Jackie Robinson off the Dodgers prior to the 1947 season. After his playing days ended he served as a manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956 and 1957, for the Cleveland Indians in 1958, and for the Braves (both in Milwaukee and Atlanta) from 1963-1966. He had a .481 winning percentage as a manager and never finished above 5th. 

“Hold it,” I hear you say, “this guy was a marginal player, a failed manager, a racist, and he’s a hero of yours? What gives?”  Let me tell you.

I once heard an interview with the Dodgers radio play-by-play man Red Barber, also a Southerner, in which he acknowledged his racism in 1946 and then commented that in terms of race Jackie Robinson “matured” him. Bragan was never that eloquent, but I think he might have agreed with the sentiment. Within a few weeks of Robinson’s arrival in Brooklyn, Bragan had changed his mind about Robinson. He saw him as a superior player, as a good person, saw the abuse the man took, and saw Robinson’s response to it. Somewhere along the line, Bragan had an epiphany and decided that he was wrong and that Robinson, and by extension black Americans, was OK. He became one of Robinson’s best friends on the Dodgers, later served as an honorary pallbearer at Robinson’s funeral. I’ve seen a picture of Bragan and Rachel Robinson embracing. As a manager he became known as a sympathetic ear and something of a mentor to black and Latin ballplayers, most specifically Roberto Clemente. He solidly backed Hank Aaron in the rush to the home run record.

Most of us, me included, have a lot of trouble finding an internal flaw. We tend to ignore them and when confronted with one fall back on “it’s not my fault” or “who, me?” or some such response. Bragan didn’t.  He confronted his racism head on, saw it’s evil, and changed his ways. Then he became a supporter of that which he’d previously despised. Quite a change for anyone. That makes him a hero of mine. Rest in peace, Bobby.

The Worst Baseball Team Ever

January 28, 2010

OK, the title is a bit strong. You shoulda seen some of the Little League teams I was on. But for the Major Leagues this is really easy. Welcome to 18 May 1912.

Ty Cobb, being Ty Cobb, was in trouble in May 1912. He’d gone into the stands and beaten up a fan. This was the kind of behavior Ban Johnson, president of the American League couldn’t stand. He was trying to build a sport that could appeal to the “better angels of our nature” (with apologies to Abe Lincoln) and Cobb was something of a demon. So Cobb had to go. Johnson tossed him out indefinitely. In a move that surprised everyone, the Tigers players exploded. Basically none of them like Cobb, but he was one of the boys, he was their best player, and well, heck, you just can’t do that to one of us. So the Tigers struck. They refused to play until Cobb was reinstated. No one, frankly, believed them so the scheduled game for 18 May was on against the Philadelphia Athletics, reigning world’s champs.

The A’s showed up, the Tigers showed up, then the Tigers marched off the field and refused to play. Rather than forfeit, Detroit manager Hughie Jennings decided to play with what has to be the worst team ever. Anticipating the team might really refuse to play, Jennings had gotten together a group of “players” to take the field if his team refused to play.  His team refused to play. So on came the replacements. The new guys were a mix of old coaches, young college and high school guys, and a couple of failed major league wanna be types.

The two coaches were Joe Sugden, aged 41, at first base and Deacon McGuire, aged 48, as the catcher. I don’t want to say McGuire was old, but his rookie year was 1884 at Toledo where he backed up Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first black player in a Major League. The guy caught Tony Mullane, for God’s sake.

The new guys were Jim McGarr, age 24, at second; Pat Meaney, age 20, at short; Jack Smith, age 19, at third; Hap Ward, age 20, in right;, Dan McGarvey, age 25, in left;  the youngest of the lot 18 year old Bill Leinhauser replacing Cobb was in center; and 23 year old Allan Travers took the mound.

There were couple of failed players on the team. The star of the team turned out to be 30 year old Ed Irvin would play both third and spell McGuire behind the plate (Did you really think a 48 year old could last as a catcher?). Billy Maharg got a turn at third, he was 29.

How’d they do? They got killed. Final score was 24-2. Travers pitched the entire game giving up 26 hits and ending with a 15.76 ERA. They got two hits, both triples by Irvin who ended his short career with a .667 batting average, a 2.000 slugging percentage, and a 2667 OPS. McGuire and Sugden scored the two runs.

The next day A’s owner/manager Connie Mack agreed to postpone the game. Ban Johnson met with the players, threatened them with banishment (sorry, couldn’t pass up the ban/banishment joke). Cobb called on his teammates to rejoin the game, and the farce ended with the one game. The Tigers went on to finish 6th (in an 8 team field). The game didn’t cost them much, they finished 6 games out of 5th.

Most of the replacement “players” went back to obscurity. Two of them did manage a certain amount of fame, or infamy depending on your definition. Maharg ended up one of the major players in the Black Sox scandal in 1919 and got himself banned from baseball (like he was ever going to play again). Travers did much better. He was a college man, finished his studies, and became a Jesuit priest. It’s tough to say which was his higher calling, priest or pitcher.

The Nap LaJoie Traveling Show

January 27, 2010

Nap LaJoie

Way back in baseball’s Stone Age, Napoleon LaJoie was a premier second baseman. For a few years he may have been one of its premier players. He was so good that teams went to court to get him and so good that cities named their teams after him.

Let me start by saying I have no idea how he pronounced his last name. I’ve heard it La-Ja-Way, La-Jay, La-Joy (I think I’ve got the Napoleon part down). Wikipedia says he used La-Ja-Way but gives no source for that. Anybody know?

 LaJoie first entered the Major Leagues in 1896, actually league- there was only one. With the Philadelphia Phillies he led the league in slugging percentage, total bases, doubles, and RBIs at various times. Basically, he was a heck of a player.

In 1901, Ban Johnson renamed his Western League the American League and went head to head with the National League. One of his brightest assets was LaJoie who jumped from the Phillies to their cross-town rivals, the Athletics. The Phillies sued (and you thought lawsuits were new). The A’s won. The Phillies appealed. The A’s lost. LaJoie ended up at Cleveland and was not allowed to travel to or through the state of Pennsylvania (Got all that?). Essentially the Phillies claimed LaJoie was theirs, a state court agreed, and if he entered the borders of Pennsylvania he was liable for arrest, fine, and worst of all he would have to play for the Phillies. By 1903, they had it all worked out. LaJoie stayed at Cleveland through 1914. Between 1905 and 1909 he was player-manager and from 1905 through 1914 the team was known as the Cleveland Naps in his honor. He went back to the Athletics in 1915 (see, old lawsuits do eventuallly die) and retired at the conclusion of the A’s horrendous 1916 season (worth a post in itself). He made the Hall of Fame in 1937.

If you don’t study Stone Age baseball you’re probably wondering what all the fuss was about. In 1901, Nap LaJoie won the American League’s triple crown. He hit .422, still an American League record, slugged .635, led in hits with 229, doubles with 48, home runs with fourteen, total bases with 345, runs at 145, and RBIs at 125. He tied for first in home run percentage and was eighth in triples. Now I heard someone once downgrade the season saying that the American League was a “marginal” big league in 1901, so don’t get too excited about the statistics. Maybe. But, you know what, nobody else feasted on this “weak” league like LaJoie; in fact, no one else was even close. the next two highest batting averages were .347 and .345.  Next in total bases were 279 and 274. In hits it’s 190 and 187. LaJoie’s not just ahead of these guys, he’s way ahead of them. By 1903, this “marginal” league managed to win the first ever World Series (got better real quick, didn’t it?). LaJoie won the batting and slugging titles that season and again the next. I’ll give you a bit of inflation for 1901, but not much.  LaJoie simply had an outstanding year.

In 1910, he was involved in a major controversy over the batting title. Several years ago a bunch of baseball historians discovered an error in Ty Cobb’s 1910 totals. Turns out, they claim, that LaJoie should have won the batting title. Major League Baseball has never recognized that chainge. The furor at the time was so great that the Chalmers automobile people, who had promised a car to the batting title winner, gave both men a car (this led eventually to the Chalmers Award, the first MVP award).

Between 1901 and 1906, LaJoie was a great player. He produced a lot of runs, got a lot of hits, and had an excellent slugging percentage. After down years in 1907 through 1909 he came back in 1910. My guess is that managing a team named for you can really wear on you quickly. He maintained a high degree of excellence though 1913, then finished out with three down seasons. He died in 1959 acknowledged as one of the half dozen or so greatest second basemen ever.

The Feds

January 26, 2010

We tend to think of baseball as a monolithic entity of 2 leagues forever unchanging. Ain’t so, team. As late as 1914 there was a major challenge to the established National and American Leagues. It was called the Federal League.

James Gilmore ran the Federal League, a minor league, in 1914. He decided that the US could use a third major league so he went out, found backing from a number of major financial players of the day like Charles Weeghman, and announced the new league would compete on an equal basis with the established leagues. There were teams in Chicago, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Additionally, Gilmore said he would scrap the reserve clause (that’s the part of the baseball contract that bound a player to a team at the team’s discretion) and significantly raise salaries.

A bunch of players immeditely bolted to the Feds. Most were marginal players looking for a higher salary, or weaker players looking for playing time. Most major players simply agreed to stay with their current clubs for substantial raises. Ty Cobb did this, so did Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson. Others like Eddie Collins and Joe Jackson got trades because their old teams couldn’t afford the looming salary increases.

A third type of player went to the Federal League. These were older guys hanging on for one last chance at glory and/or a paycheck. Players like Three Finger Brown, Joe Tinker, and Eddie Plank ended up playing in the Federal League. Most of them had short rises in their career numbers, but never became stars of the new league.

The stars were new guys. Benny Kauff became the biggest Federal League star. In 1914 he led the league in batting, stole 75 bases, and his team (Indianapolis) won the pennant. The next season at Brooklyn he again led the league in both categories and was second in home runs. Kauff’s a good way to gauge the quality of play in the new league. In 2 years with the Feds he hit 370 and 342, stole 130 bases, had 376 hits, scored 212 runs, and hit a total of 20 home runs. For the entire rest of his career he hit 281, stole 104 bases, had 585 hits, scored 309 runs, and hit 29 home runs. He was 25 when he left the Feds and played until he was banned at age 30 in 1920. So most of his good numbers come from the 2 seasons away from the NL and AL (He played 5 of 569 games for the Yankees and the rest for the Giants.). Those stats are fairly common. Pitchers like Cy Falkenburg do the same thing.

The Federal League folded after the 1915 season (Chicago won the last pennant). It just wasn’t making enough money to continue offering the salaries it was offering and the fan base wasn’t growing. Indianapolis won the first pennant and promptly folded for lack of fans. There was a lawsuit (you knew the lawyers would get involved, didn’t you?), resolved by, of all people, Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Two Federal League owners got NL or AL teams (the Cubs and the Browns) and baseball returned to its normal 2 league set up.

But the Federal League had a legacy, quite a substantial one actually. The driving up of salaries and the subsequent collapse of paychecks is  considered, in some quarters, a major factor in the gambling scandals that were to hit baseball in the next 5 years, culminating with the Black Sox. It did produce one great player. Edd Roush was a centerfielder who got a cup of coffee with the White Sox in 1913 (he went 1 for 10). He went to the Feds, did well, and ended up in the National League. In 1919 he won the batting title at Cincinnati and led them into the World Series. He also led the NL in doubles once and triples once. For a career he hit 323 with a 446 sluging percentage and made the Hall of Fame in 1962. The lawsuit that ended the Federal League became the mainstay of Major League baseball’s contractual program into the 1970s. It’s the decision that ultimately led to the Supreme Court declaring that the unique nature of baseball made it immune to anti-trust laws and effectively made the players slaves to their teams.

Finally, the Chicago Federal League team (they were called the Whales) built a brand new stadium for its team. When they folded, well, there was this nice new stadium available and, you see the Cubs were playing in an outdated park, and, well, you know, it’s there and everything. The Cubs moved into the Whales park and later renamed it Wrigley Field.   They still use it.

Miracles, 1914 Style

January 25, 2010

If ever there was a year full of miracles it was 1914. In June a bunch of half-trained adolescents killed a married couple in Sarajevo and all hell broke loose in the form of the First World War. The early part of the war gave us The Angel of Mons (a miraculous winged vision that led a lost British unit to safety), the Miracle at Tannenberg (when a vastly outnumbered German army destroyed a Russian army), and the Miracle of the Marne (when the French stopped the advancing Germans within sight of Paris). By December 1914, a lot of men simply saw it as a miracle that they were still alive.

Baseball had its own miracle, the 1914 Boston (now Atlanta) Braves. The Braves were a dominant force in the National League at the end of the 19th Century, but fell on hard times in the early 20th. Betwen 1910 and 1912 they finished dead last each year. By 1913 they climbed to 5th under new manager George Stallings.  Stallings was a former catcher who played 7 games in the 1890s managing to bat an even 100 for his career. He took over a floundering franchise and by 18 July 1914 it looked like the team wasn’t going to stop floundering anytime soon. They were dead last again in the league 13.5 games out of first. According to legend that’s when Stallings installed a platoon system, picked up a handful of has-beens and never-was types, and the team took off. The Braves won 34 of their last 44 games, swept past the New York Giants and won the pennant by 10.5 games. In roughly half a season they made up 24 games.

If that wasn’t shocking enough, they went into the World Series against the defending World Champion Philadelphia Athletics and swept the series. Game one was a blowout (7-1),  but the others were close (1-0, 5-4, and 3-1).  The Braves outhit the A’s 244 to 172 and had the only home run (catcher Hank Gowdy, who also led all hitters with a 545 average, led the series with 3 runs scored and tied for the RBI lead with 3). The team ERA was 1.15 versus the A’s ERA of 3.41.

OK, so who are these people? Most of them were role players in their own day, and thus don’t become household names passed down through the roughly century since they played. From first around to third, the infield was Butch Schmidt, Johnny Evers (a Hall of Famer primarily known for his work with the Cubs), Rabbit Maranville (also a Hall of Famer), and Charle Deal. The outfield, where most of the platooning took place was Possum Whitted, Les Mann, Joe Connolly, Josh Devore, and Ted Cather (the latter two came over in midseason and helped the run to the top). Hank Gowdy caught with Bert Whaling as his backup. The only other players to notch 50 or more games was Red Smith, another late season add on who spelled Deal at 3rd and Oscar Dugey who seems to have been the primary pinch hitter. The main pichers were Dick Rudolph, Bill James (as far as I can tell, no relation to the modern stats man), and Lefty Tyler. Dick Crutcher was the main bullpen man.

So what happened to make them winners? First, Stallings gets credit for the platoon system. Second, a number of mid-season additions provided a spark that led the team to victory. The pitchers developed. As a staff they allowed the 2nd fewest runs in the league. Rudolph was 14-13 the year before. In 1914 he went 26-10 and lowered his ERA by a half run. James came out of nowhere. He’d played 2 mediocre years previously. The blog “The On Deck Circle”  just did a wonderful piece on One Year Wonders (check it out).  He used only the last 20 years to define his people, but if he’d gone back 100, he might have chosen James. He ended with a losing record for his career (and was banned in the gambling scandal that blew up after 1919). Fourth, the hitters were better than an initial look at their stats might show. They were second in the league in OBP, third in slugging, and second in OPS. They were also 2nd in the league in runs. Additionally, the Chalmers Award, an early MVP award, was given for the final time in 1914. The NL winner? Braves second baseman Johnny Evers. I’m not sure why. He hits 279, third on the team, is fourth in stolen bases, 6th in slugging and 5th in RBIs.  He does lead the team in runs. Fielding stats show him a decent, but not spectacular 2nd baseman. I presume there is a leadership factor involved that I don’t know about (but am willing to learn about if anyone knows).

All those things taken together can lead to a pennant. For the 1914 Braves it did. They’ve been the “Miracle Braves” since.

A Rose by any other name

January 24, 2010

Back in the day Bad Bill Shakespeare (sounds like a linebacker, doesn’t it?) got it right about roses. But he didn’t get it universal. Some things by another name just stink. Take ballparks for example. I hate “naming rights.”

Gimme good old names. Names of teams like Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium. Names of owners or prominent people  like Wrigley Field, Hubert Humphrey Metrodome, or Ebbets Field. Names of areas like Camden Yards, Fenway Park, or West Side Grounds. I’ll even take simple things like The Ballpark at Arlington. But naming rights? Gag a maggot.

Tell me you really like to hear about the great game at Cellular One Field, or Enron (without reference to Enron’s later problems)? Wouldn’t you, rather, like to hear about the great game at Yankee Stadium? Quallcom? What the heck is a Quall and what does it have to do with baseball? Busch Stadium? Damned right, Busch Stadium. The family owned the team. Somehow in this case a little hubris is better than Southwestern Bell Park or Northeastern Wagestunter Field.

Come on, guys, I know you make a lot of money but get rid of the dopey names. Give us real baseball names like Comiskey Park or Forbes Field, or even Three Rivers Stadium. I have visions, and they are apocalyptic, of Fly By Night Financial Field in Brooklyn replacing Ebbets Field. Now Abe Stark Tailor’s Field, I’ll give ya that one.

Matty vs the Elephants

January 22, 2010

In 1905 the World Series resumed after a one year hiatus. The New York Giants won the National League pennant in 1904 but refused to play a postseason series against what Giants manager John McGraw called “an upstart league.” Public outcry was such that the next year the World Series resumed.

The Giants won the NL pennant by 9 games over the Pirates so McGraw was going to have to play whether he wanted to or not. His team was pitching heavy with Joe McGinnity and Red Ames both winning 22 games and Christy Mathewson winning the pitching triple crown (wins, strikeouts, ERA). The hitting wasn’t all that great. The infield consisted of (from 1st around to 3rd) Dan McGann, Billy Gilbert, Bill Dahlen, and Art Devlin. The outfield was George Browne, Mike Donlin, and Sam Mertes, with Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan doing the catching. Backups Sam Strang and Frank Bowerman were the only other players to net 50 or more games. Never heard of most of them, right? (Although if you get a chance to see the Buster Keaton silent movie The General Donlin plays one of the Union commanders.)  Like I said, pitching heavy.

They faced off against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, sometimes nicknamed the “White Elephants” (another story for another post) who won the AL pennant by 2 games over the White Sox. The A’s were also pitching heavy with Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank, Andy Coakley, and Chief Bender all winning 16 or more games. Waddell, like Mathewson, won the American League pitching triple crown. Again, not a great hitting team. The infield (again 1st to 3rd) was Harry Davis, Danny Murphy, Jack Knight, and Lave Cross. The outfield was Socks Seibold, Danny Hoffman, and Topsy Hartsel,with all-name-team catcher Ossee Schreckengost behind the plate. Monte Cross, Briscoe Lord, Mike Powers, and Harry Barton were the entire bench (no one else played even one inning in the field for the A’s). Again, never heard of them, right?

Looking at the rosters it appeared the 1905 World Series would be dominated by pitching. There was one down note to that premise. Just before the Series began, A’s ace Rube Waddell was injured in a freak injury on the train returning from a game. The Sports Encylopedia: Baseball lists the injury as a shoulder separation, but there were rumors it was faked and Waddell had been paid to miss the Series, thus turning the odds towards the Giants. There is no evidence that I can find that substantiates this rumor, so I’m discounting it now, but can be persuaded if evidence is found.

 It turned out to be the greatest Series-wide pitching performance ever. The Giants won in 5 games with the A’s taking game 2 by a score of 3-0 behind Chief Bender. In the game the A’s got 3 unearned runs off “Ironman” McGinnity. It was a unique event in the Series. In the 4 Giants wins the A’s scored exactly zero runs. McGinnity won game 4 1-0 and Mathewson won the other three.

Mathewson’s totals are unquestionably the finest totals in World Series history. He pitched 3 complete games (27 innings), giving up no runs (not even an unearned run) for a 0.00 ERA, with 14 hits, 1 walk, and 18 strikouts. In fact, you can argue that the Giants pitching (Mathewson, McGinnity, and Red Ames for 1 whole inning) had the single greatest World Series for any staff. In the Series the Giants ERA was 0.00 with only 25 hits, 25 strikeouts, and only 5 walks. They didn’t give out Series MVP’s back then, but Mathewson surely would have won it.

Worth Reading

January 21, 2010

I do a lot of reading. Sometimes it’s baseball related, sometimes it isn’t. Got a book that you should find worthwhile: Deadball Stars of the National League. The book is edited by Tom Simon and is a SABR production. The publisher is Brassey’s Inc. and the publication date is 2004. 

This book is a series of baseball biographies of various National League players in the period 1900-1920. Most bios are only a couple of pages long and concentrate on the baseball aspects of the individual’s career. The book is sorted by team in order of winning percentage for the era. That alone is a wonderful step. When you look at the quality of the players discussed you begin to see why the Giants are first and the Cardinals last.

That’s one of the great virtues of the book. A sceond is the depth of players rviewed. Despite the title, they’re not all “stars”, at least not to the contemporary mind. There’s Mathewson, McGraw, McGinnity, Chance, and Brown. There’s also Ivy Olson, Bill Sweeney, and Mike Mowrey. So you get a sense of the types of men who populated the deadball era of baseball. Additionally, most of the team owners are detailed and the first section of biographies is a set of National League executives and umpires, giving the reader even more feel for the men (and one woman in St. Louis owner Helene Robison Britton) of the age.

None of the bios is hard to read, so take some time and read this book. (A disclaimer–I get no funds from the book). Think you’ll enjoy it.