Archive for April, 2010

Opening Day, 1910: New York (AL)

April 18, 2010

 

Hal Chase

Considering what the American League team in New York has meant to the AL since 1920, it’s a little surprising to note that the Highlanders (they were to become the Yankees in the next decade) were not a significant factor in the league. They were formed in 1903 when the Baltimore franchise relocated to New York. They finished in the first division in ’03 and second in the league in ’04 (1.5 games out), then slid back in 1905, made second again in 1906, then fell back, finishing last in 1908. By 1909 they were back to fifth.

It was a team in some turmoil. Manager George Stallings (the “Miracle Man” of 1914) had a fairly solid infield, but there were problems in the rest of the positions. Hal Chase, Frank La Porte, Jack Knight, and Jimmy Austin held down the infield from first over to third in 1909 and all were back for 1910. but the infield bench was different. Gone was Kid Elberfeld. Earle Gardner, Roxy Roach, and Eddie Foster now handled the backup duties for the team.

The 1909 outfield was gone. Willie Keeler, Ray Demmitt, and Clyde Engle were replaced by Harry Wolter, Charlie Hemphill, and Birdie Cree. In 1909 Cree had been the fourth outfielder, but the others were new. Bert Daniels was now the outfielder sitting on the bench.

Ed Sweeney, the ’09 backup catcher, moved to the starting role in 1910 with Fred Mitchell the backup. Former starter Red Kleinow developed a sore arm and was traded after getting into only six games. Neither catcher would manage to hit .220.

The pitching underwent something of a makeover. Joe Lake, Jack Warhop, Lew Brockett, Jack Quinn, Joe Doyle, Tom Hughes, and Rube Manning had done the bulk of the starting for the Highlanders in 1909. Quinn, Warhop, and Hughes were back. Manning was now a bullpen man and Doyle lasted exactly three games before a trade. In their place were Russ Ford and Jim “Hippo” Vaughn.

Well, it wasn’t a bad team, in fact it would show significant rise in 1910. But it had one serious flaw. By 1910 manager Stallings was already voicing concerns about the reliability of first baseman Chase. There were allegations that Chase was taking money to lose games, that he was spreading gambling money to other players in return for shoddy play in critical games. There were allegations that he was playing just well enough to look reasonably good in losing efforts. There was no proof, and certainly nowhere for Stallings to go with his complaints but to the ownership who had an interest in protecting Chase who was a definite fan favorite (Judge Landis was 10 years in the future).  All this made for major clubhouse problems. It would take until 1919-1920 to garner the evidence to ban Chase. Until then he would be a cancer on the club, and any club for which he played.

Next: Cleveland

Opening Day, 1910: Chicago (AL)

April 17, 2010

Ed Walsh

This is going to sound a little redundant, but Chicago was, like Boston, Philadelphia, and Detroit, one of the mainstays of the American League since its start. The White Stockings won the first AL pennant in 1901, then pulled off arguably the greatest World Series upset ever by knocking off the 1906 Chicago Cubs in six games. They remained close in both 1907 and 1908, but had dropped back to 20 games out in 1909. That set up wholesale changes in the team.

Out went the entire infield. In came four new players. Rookies Chick Gandil  and Rollie Zeider were now at first and second. Former bench player Billy Purtell took over third base, and another rookie, Lena Blackburn of baseball mud fame, was at short. Former starters Frank Isbell and Lee Tannehill were still around, but relegated to the bench.

The outfield was mostly new. Right fielder Patsy Dougherty remained. Newcomers were rookies Shano Collins and Pat Meloan at the other two spots. Collins was to remain until 1920.

The catcher remained Freddie Payne. Backups were Bruno Block and Billy Sullivan. Sullivan was the manager in 1909, replaced in the offseason by old-time outfielder Hugh Duffy. Sullivan stayed with the team the entire year, playing in 45 games. I’ve no idea how he and Duffy got along and if there was tension between them. If there was, no idea how it rubbed off on the rest of the team.

Little of the 1906 team remained among the hitters (only Sullivan, Isbell, and Dougherty), but the pitching staff was led by two veterans of the pennant winning team. Doc White (he was a practicing dentist in the offseason) was 11-9 in 1909, played 40 games in the outfield, and pinch hit. In 1910 he was expected to do better on the mound and keep up with the other aspects of his game (for 1910 he played 14 games in the outfield and hit .196). The other veteran was Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. He was 40-15 in 1908 and it took a toll on his arm. In 1909 he dropped to 15-11. He was still not fully recovered by 1910. Frank Smith and Jim Scott were holdovers from 1909 and Fred Olmstead, who had pitched n eight games the year before, became a starter.

The White Stockings were dropping fast in the standings. They moved to get younger, but it would take time for the rookies to become regulars. the pitching staff was a mixture of veterans and new guys and anchored by a man with a sore arm. Hugh Duffy would have his work cut out for him in 1910.

Opening Day, 1910: Boston (AL)

April 16, 2010

Tris Speaker

New manager Patsy Donovan (former manager Fred Lake was now with the other Boston team) had a good enough team he could stand pat for the most part. There were two changes from the 1909 starting roster that finished 9.5 games out of first. Both were significant.

The infield had one of them. Jake Stahl remained at first base, Heinie Wagner at short, and Harry Lord at third. The new guy was Larry Gardner, a good fielding second baseman who would turn into a very good hitter for Boston. His arm was good enough that in the latter part of his career he would shift to third and Boston wouldn’t skip a beat.

The other big change was in the outfield. Duffy Lewis took over left field from Harry Niles. Tris Speaker remained the center fielder and the three hitter. Harry Hooper, who was the fourth outfielder in 1909 took on the right field post and led off. There was a time when fans, pundits, and historians refered to this trio as the greatest outfield ever. You don’t hear that much today, but it’s been recent enough that I recall a few old timers using that kind of talk about Lewis, Speaker, Hooper. Both Speaker and Hooper ultimately made the Hall of Fame.

The catcher was Bill Carrigan. He wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but was a premier defensive specialist of his day. That seems to be a common theme of the era. The best teams have catchers who are good backstops and any hitting is gravy.

There were major trades during the 1910 season that really strengthened the Boston bench, but they began the season with Niles as the backup outfielder, Tom Madden the backup catcher, and a bunch of guys who didn’t get into 20 games as the infield.

The pitching staff was also fairly stable. The 1909 staff of Frank Arellanes, Eddie Cicotte, Smoky Joe Wood, and Charlie Chech was intact except for Chech. Ray Collins, Charley Hall, Ed Karger, and Charlie Smith were new and expected to solidify the mound. The problem was that most of them were inexperienced. Collins was a rookie in 1909, getting into only 12 games. Hall had pitched only 11 games the year before. The ones with experience weren’t very good. Smith came over from Washington where he hadn’t been very good. Karger was a career National Leaguer who hadn’t been particularly distinguished.

So Boston was improved, but the pitching was a question. If it reached its potential, then the team could move up. If not, well, it was going to be a long year.

Next: the White Sox

Opening Day, 1910: Philadelphia (AL)

April 15, 2010

 

J. Franklin "Home Run" Baker

The Philadelphia Athletics were a premier American League team from the formation of the league in 1901. In 1902 they won the second pennant. In 1905 they played in the second World Series, losing in five games. Between 1906 and 1909 manager Connie Mack retooled his team so that it finished only 3.5 games behind Detroit in 1909. In 1910 the team was poised to take that 3.5 game jump.

As a contender in 1909, the A’s did little roster change in 1910. The heart of the team was its infield and its pitching staff. The infield consisted of Harry Davis at first, Eddie Collins at second, Jack Barry at short, and Frank Baker at third (“Home Run” Baker would come in 1911). Both Collins and Baker were destined for the Hall of Fame. The back up consisted of Simon Nicholls and eighteen year old phenom Stuffy McInnis (who would replace Davis at first in 1911). The quality and endurance of the infield was such that neither man played more than 21 games.

The outfield wasn’t as good as the infield, but there was quality there also. Former second baseman Danny Murphy was in right field and led the team in home runs in 1909 (with all of 5). Rube Oldring was a speedy center fielder who didn’t have much of an arm, and the left fielder was Topsy Hartsel, who at age 35 was getting old.Hartsel had replaced equally aged Bob Ganley. Heinie Heitmuller and Scotty Barr provided backup.

The catcher situation was fairly fluid. Mack, an ex-catcher, seems to have been aware of the way catching wore on a player and subsequently his catchers didn’t spend a lot of time behind the plate. In 1909 Ira Thomas caught for 84 games, Paddy Livingston for 64, and Jack Lapp for 19.  In 1910 Lapp took over as the primary catcher, but only caught three more games than Thomas. Livingston became the third catcher.

A great key to Mack teams was his pitching staff. He had a good one in 1910. Back from the previous year were future Hall of Famers Eddie Plank, on his way to a career 300 wins, and Chief Bender.  Harry Krause won 18 games in 1909 and Cy Morgan came from Boson during the 1909 season to win 16 games. Both were still available, as was Jimmy Dygert the primary bullpen man. Jack Coombs had been around since 1906 and had steadily risen in the A’s rotation. The new season was to be his breakout year.

So by 1910, the A’s were ready to challenge Detroit. With a solid infield, a good outfield, and excellent pitching they could do so. With a bit of luck they could pick up the 3.5 games they needed to hoist Philadelphia’s third pennant.

Next: the Red Sox

Opening Day, 1910: Detroit

April 14, 2010

Sam Crawford

Today marks the actual opening day of the 1910 season. One hundred years ago baseball began its season anew. And Detroit was the returning American League Champion.

The Tigers were three-time defending AL champions. Unfortunately they were also three-time losing World Series participants. As you would probably guess, the three-time defending champion hadn’t made many changes on its roster as the 1910 season opened. Manager Hughie Jennings had a good team and little reason to make major changes.

The infield consisted of Tom Jones at first and Jim Delahanty at second. Both came to Detroit late in the 1909 season and helped the Tigers to a 3.5 game margin over Philadelphia. Donie Bush remained at shortstop and George Moriarty was the third baseman. Bush led off and led the AL in walks in 1909. Frankly he wasn’t much of a shortstop, but was considered adequate, especially when his batting was taken into consideration.

The catchers platooned. That was a rarity in 1910. Oscar Stanage hit left-handed and Boss Schmidt, a switch hitter, swung mostly from the right. Neither were considered exceptional catchers or superior hitters, but got the job done.

You should start seeing a pattern emerge here. The team is adequate, not special. In defending a pennant adequate can lead to loss.

The heart of the team was the outfield. Longtime left fielder Matty McIntyre saw his production slip in 1909 and became, in 1910, the fourth outfielder. Davy Jones, former backup outfielder, took over the job in left. The key to the outfield lay in the other two positions manned by Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. Cobb was coming off a triple crown year. He also led the AL in runs, stolen bases, and slugging. He was fearless and fearsome on the bases, generally disliked as  person, but widely admired for his baseball abilities. Crawford was in many way the anti-Cobb. He was quiet, will liked, a team player. He was also very, very good. In 1909 he led the AL in doubles.  With the two of them hitting three and four in the lineup, Detroit was formidable.

The bench consisted of McIntyre, the platooned catcher of the day, Charley O’Leary, Hack Simmons, and Chick Lathers. All were backup infielders with Lathers doing more pinch-hitting than either of the others.

The pitching staff saw one major change during the offseason. Sailor Stroud was a rookie. The rest of the staff consisted of George Mullin (who won 29 games in 1909), Bill Donovan, Ed Willett, Ed Summers, and Ed Killian (what is it with all the Ed’s?). All had pitched reasonably well in 1909 with Willett posting 22 wins.

But the Tigers had  problems. They were aging and the pitching staff was in many ways a reflection of their hitting. None of the pitchers had particularly good hits to innings pitched ratios or walks to strikeout ratios. In fact none of them were significant strikeout pitchers. Millen led the team with 124, good for 11th in the AL. The hitters, beyond Cobb and Crawford, weren’t anything special. All of them would hit over .250 for the season, but there was little pop. Beyond Cobb and Crawford none of them had more than six triples (which is a bigger deal in 1910 than in 2010). With the growing abilities of other teams, especially Philadelphia, the Tigers went into 1910 defending champs, but vulnerable.

Next: the Athletics

Opening Day, 1910: Boston (NL)

April 13, 2010

Peaches Graham

There’s no way to sugarcoat this, Boston in 1909 was a Truly Awful Team. That’s how I describe a team that finishes under a .300 winning percentage. Boston ended the season 45-108 (a .294 winning percentage), 65.5 games out of first and 9.5 out of seventh.

As you would expect, the Doves underwent wholesale change during the offseason. During the 1909 season manager Frank Bowerman had a winning percentage of .290 and was fired with 77 games remaining. New manager Harry Smith did better. His winning percentage was .299. So out he went too. In came Fred Lake. Lake was the former manager at the other Boston team (the Red Sox) and had finished third (I have no idea what possessed him to switch teams. As far as I can tell he wasn’t fired.).

The 1909 outfield had been Roy Thomas in left field and leading off, Beals Becker in right hitting second, and center fielder Ginger Beaumont hitting fourth. In 1910 they were all gone (to Philadelphia, the Giants, and the Cubs), replaced by Bill Collins in left and leading off, Fred Beck in center who hit seventh, and clean up hitter and right fielder Doc Miller (who would actually arrive in Boston about a month into the season).

Catching was holdover Peaches Graham, the eighth hitter. In trying to find a good picture to post with this comment, Graham’s was the best I could do. That alone should tell you the quality of what Boston was putting on the field in 1910.

The infield had two holdovers. Second baseman Dave Sheen remained but moved from the three hole in the lineup to fifth, and Bill Sweeney, the 1909 third baseman and five hitter, moved to shortstop and now hit sixth. The new third baseman was Buck Herzog who hit second. First base saw Bud Sharpe, the new three hitter, take over. (He was traded during the season.) 

The pitching was a mess. Al Mattern, Lew Richie, Kirby White, Cecil Ferguson, Buster Brown, and Tom Tuckey were the 1909 pitchers who started 10 or more games. Only Richie managed to pitch .500 (he went 7-7) and he came over in a trade from Philadelphia. Ferguson managed to go 5-23 and lead the NL in losses.  By 1910 Mattern, Ferguson, White, Richie, and Brown were all back. They were joined by Cliff Curtis (who started nine in 1909). Billy Burke became the major bullpen pitcher.  

I wish I could say something positive about this team. The only thing I can think of is that they will get above .300 in 1910 (.346) and end up only 50.5 games out of first. It’s a long road to redemption in the form of Gene Stallings and the 1914 Miracle Braves.

Next: the Tigers

Opening Day, 1910: St. Louis (NL)

April 12, 2010

Miller Huggins (1910)

I asked myself one day which National League team had the worst overall record in the Deadball Era. Answer: the St. Louis Cardinals. Considering what they’ve meant to baseball since, I find that a lot strange. By the start of the 1910 season, the last time they’d seen the first division was 1901. In 1909 they finished 56 games out of first.

In 1909 they picked up a new manager, Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan. He immediately inserted himself as the backup catcher and almost as quickly came into conflict with most of his players. He was from the Giants, had been Christy Mathewson’s catcher, and was a student of John McGraw. The Cardinals weren’t very Giantlike and it created problems for Bresnahan.

The team, as befits a seventh place finisher, underwent major changes going into the 1910 season. Half the starters were new. Ed Konetchy was still at first and hitting cleanup, but Miller Huggins was over from Cincinnati to play second and leadoff. Arnie Howser was now the shortstop and eight hitter, with Mike Mowrey, a previous backup, taking over at third and hitting seventh.

The outfield consisted of holdovers Rube Ellis in left and Steve Evans in right, They hit second and fifth. The new guys was Rebel Oakes, like Huggins, from Cincinnati. He took the three hole. And the regular catcher was seven hitter Ed Phelps.

The bench was Bresnahan catching, Rudy Hulwitt the backup middle infielder, Frank Betcher another backup infielder, and Ody Abbott as the fourth outfielder. It wasn’t much of a bench,, Bresnahan being the only one to manage .250 during the season.

The pitching staff of 1909 consisted of six guys who failed to break even on the mound. Fred Beebe, Johnny Lush, Slim Sallee, Bob Harmon, Charlie Rhodes, and Les Backman are all pretty obscure, and there’s a reason for that. Only Sallee would ever do much. By 1910 Beebe was gone, replaced by Vic Willis who came to St. Louis from pennant winning Pittsburgh. Eddie Higgins, 1909’s bullpen man, managed only two games in 1910 and was ultimately replaced by committee. There just wasn’t much of an improvement for the staff over the offseason.

There was very little reason for hope in St. Louis as the 1910 season began. The changes were insignificant, but at least the average age of the pitchers had gone from  23 to 26, so the added maturity might be a blessing. Also Huggins appeared to be a real player and Bresnahan’s fire was encouraging. But when you’ve just finished 56 games out, you need more than maturity and fire. You need talent.

Next: Boston

Opening Day, 1910: Brooklyn

April 11, 2010

Zack Wheat

The Superbas were anything but superb in this era. They hadn’t finished out of the second division since 1902, had ended up dead last in 1905, and had not progressed beyond sixth by 1909. Not only were they not “The Boys of Summer”, it’s doubtful they were even the boys of winter.

Brooklyn finished the 1909 season in sixth place, 55.5 games out of first and 19 games out of fifth place. That meant major revision in the team. It started at the top, with manager-right fielder Harry Lumley losing his managerial job. He remained a part time right fielder, and I wonder how much tension existed between Lumley and new manager Bill Dahlen. Dahlen was 40 and something of a John McGraw clone. He won a World Series with New York in 1905. He was tough, fiery, intolerant of fools, and had never managed before.

The positional starters underwent major change in 1910. The day before the season began, Brooklyn picked up a new center fielder, Bill Davidson. He led off the first game, which must have been a trifle odd, even for Brooklyn. Rookie Jake Daubert was the new first baseman and hit second. Former first baseman Tim Jordan was still around but only got into five games in 1910 because of injuries. In 1909 a rookie named Zack Wheat got into 26 games. This season he would begin a Hall of Fame career by hitting third and holding down the left field spot. Second baseman Jerry Hummel, a bench player the year before,  took the clean up hole. Jack Dalton took former manager Lumley’s slot in rght field and hit fifth. Hold over third baseman Ed Lennox was in sixth and new guy Tony Smith was at short and hit seventh. Bill Bergen remained as catcher and eight hitter. Many of the old starters got bench roles. As mentioned, former first baseman Tim Jordan was hurt. Former manager Lumley got into only eight games, and 1909 shortstop Tommy McMillan was traded after 23 games. Ex-leadoff man Al Burch became the fourth outfielder. Gone entirely was ex-second baseman Whitey Alperman. Tex Erwin was the new backup catcher with Otto Miller getting spot duty as the third catcher. Pryor McElveen remained the backup middle infielder with Hap Smith doing a lot of pinch hitting.

The Superbas pitching in 1909 was nothing special. George Bell was 16-15 and everyone else, except Doc Scanlan (8-7) had a losing record.  At least all of them had more innings pitched than hits allowed. For 1910, Bell was back, so was potential ace Nap Rucker, along with Scanlan. Cy Barger who was over from the Yankees and Elmer Knetzer, a rookie who had pitched five games in ’09,  rounded out the starters. Gone was former starter Harry McIntire, and the final starter in 1909, Kaiser Wilhelm, was now the main man in the bullpen.

Brooklyn was in turmoil in 1910. They had done little to actually improve the team. Prospects of lifting in the standings were minimal. Having said that, new guys Daubert, and especially Wheat, held out prospects of a coming rise, but it was going to take a while.

Next: ST. Louis

Opening Day, 1910: Philadelphia (NL)

April 10, 2010

Sherry Magee

The Phillies led the second division of the National League at the end of 1909. They were going the wrong way. It was their lowest finish over the last four years. Had I been told that and nothing else, I would have expected major changes in their lineup. I would have been wrong.

The Phils made one significat change between 1909 and 1910, their manager. Out was Bill Murray, in came Red Dooin. Dooin was the team catcher. He wasn’t much of a hitter, although not really bad either (which defines mediocre). Although not at Johnny Kling’s level, he was considered a fine defensive backstop. As a manager he was untested. He would stay through 1914.

Although the people in the lineup didn’t change, the batting order changed a lot. John Titus, the right fielder, moved from third to leadoff. Second baseman Otto Knabe went from sixth to second. Johnny Bates stayed in center field, but went from second to third in the batting order. Left fielder Sherry Magee remained in the cleanup spot. Former leadoff hitter third baseman Eddie Grant dropped to fifth in the order, and former five hitter and first baseman Kitty Bransfield took over the six hole. The other two spots in the lineup remained the same with shortstop Mickey Doolan hitting seventh and catcher-manager Dooin batting eighth.

The bench did make some changes. Backup first baseman and pinch hitter Joe Ward remained, but Pat Moran came over from Chicago to hold down the backup catching duties, and rookie Jimmy Walsh became a jack-of-all-trades by becoming both the primary backup middle infielder and fourth outfielder. Roy Thomas spelled him in the outfield on a handful of occasions.

The pitching staff also underwent some change. The main starters in ’09 were Earl Moore, Lew Moren, George McQuillan, Frank Corriden, Harry Coveleski, and Tully Sparks. Moore was 18-12  and led the league in walks. Both Moren and Corriden had winning records, something McQuillan, Coveleski, and Sparks couldn’t say. In 1910 Moore, Moren, and McQuillen were back (Sparks was around too, but only got into three games). Replacing Coveleski and Corriden were Bob Ewing who came over from Cincinnati and rookie Eddie Stack.

So there wasn’t much improvement on the Phillies roster in 1910. If they were going to overcome a 36.5 game 1901 deficit and win, their old guys wre going to have to do it. Maybe a new manager and a couple of new pitchers would do the trick. Of course maybe someone already there would get hot (see Magee).

Next: Brooklyn

Another Shout Out

April 9, 2010

Under my blogroll is a mention of the blog b-roll, Normally the girl there wirtes about movies or waxes eloquent on American Idol (gag!). This time there are consecutive blogs on baseball movies. Go check her out and get her take on baseball movies. Beware she’s a Red Sox fan, a Yankee hater, and passionate about both (it took a certain amount of courage to remind her she left Pride of the Yankees off her list). Anyway, enjoy. Besides, she, like all of us, could use the hits.