Brew Crew

Kangaroo Davy Jones, an origianal Brewer

Way back in 1901, Ban Johnson set up the American League as a rival to the National League. Of course you know that it worked. But not exactly everything worked. One of the more innovative things Johnson did was set up a team in Milwaukee. That was one of the things that didn’t work.

The 1901 Brewers were a group of free agents, league jumpers, has beens, and never were types. Most of them you’ve never heard of, even once. A couple were footnote players, one was a star.

The star was Hugh Duffy. He was the player-manager. He was also 34 and over-the-hill. He did well enough in 1901, hitting .302 with 45 RBIs, and an OPS of .780 (good for second on the team).  His outfield mates were a pair of never was types. Bill Hallman was 25, a rookie, and a player who managed to play parts of four seasons, only two of them back-to-back (1906 and 1907). Irv Waldron was also a rookie. He hit .297 for Milwaukee, was sent to Washington where he hit .322 (for a  season average of .311), then disappears from the Majors for good. He played as late as 1911 in the minors, but never got back to the big leagues. He was with Milwaukee just prior to the American League stepping up in 1901 and seems to have been a carry over from the minor league days. He does reasonably well in the post 1901 minors so I have no idea why he never got back to the Majors.

The infield consisted of (from first around to third) John Anderson who had a career year hitting .330 with an OPS of .836 and 95 RBIs, Billy Gilbert, Wid Conroy, and Jimmy Burke. None of those three hit above .270 (Gilbert) or had an OPS above .666 (Conroy).

The catcher was Bill Maloney. He hit .293 with no power, no speed, no home runs, few runs, less RBIs, and only seven walks for the season.

The bench consisted of a bunch of players (it was a long roster for 1901) that went on to nothing. The exception here is Davy Jones (obviously not the singer). He ended up with Detroit and became the third (and later fourth) outfielder on the Ty Cobb/Sam Crawford Tigers that went to three consecutive World Series’.

The pitching consisted of five right-handers and one southpaw who started all of four games. None was particularly effective. Ned Garvin led the team with a 3.46 ERA (which is huge in the Deadball Era), 122 strikeouts, and an ERA+ of 104. For all that he was 8-20. Bill Reidy at 16-20 was the “ace”. It was also the only year Reidy had more than seven wins.

So what did this get them? Last place (you had that figured, right?). They ended up dead last in an eight team league in runs, hits, triples, average, slugging, OPS, total bases, and even in hit by pitch. They managed to climb out of the cellar by being seventh in on base percentage. On the mound they were last in complete games (a bigger deal in 1901 than today), shut outs, and earned runs given up. They were next-to-last in runs, hits, and walks. By compensation, they did finish third in total strikeouts.

All that also got them terrible crowds. Even in Milwaukee, a town without Major League baseball since 1891 (There had been three teams in Milwaukee in the 19th Century. None of them lasted more than a year.) this team failed to draw well. But Ban Johnson had a solution to the problem. He shifted the franchise to St. Louis in 1902 where they became the Browns. Right now they are in contention for both the American League East title and the wildcard because after a stint in St. Louis they moved on to Baltimore where they are currently the Orioles. That’s a long way in both miles and quality from the original Brewers.


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3 Responses to “Brew Crew”

  1. William Miller Says:

    I always forget that this version of the Orioles’ pedigree goes back that far. Nice synopsis of a largely forgotten time and place.

  2. footinthebucket Says:

    I was on the Brewers in Police Boys Club baseball in 1970. Neither my father nor I had ever HEARD of the Brewers. As a kid, naturally, I was hoping to be on the Mets or the Pirates or the Cardinals or SOMETHING “cool”. When the call came and the guy at P.B.C. told my father that I was going to be on the “Brewers”, I was confused. (It was a strange decision on the part of P.B.C. to name a team the “Brewers” in their first year of existence.) My father was confused, too, although he knew the meaning of the word “brewer.” But as a nine-year-old kid, I didn’t even know what a “brewer” WAS. (See my post for more on that.)

    Anyway, much like the Brewers in 1970, we finished in last place. (We lost every game; my buddy Alan Sochard was on the lowly Dodgers in 1970, and they at least won ONE game.) We must have had decent pitching, though, because I used to sit in center field during the game, watching the game through the webbing of my good ol’ Bobby Shantz glove.

    I enjoyed your article, “V”. About the original Brewers eventually becoming the Browns, it’s a shame for St. Louis fans (and all fans of the southwest and other areas that were in Cardinal/Browns “territory”) that the Orioles started to win almost immediately after they left St. Louis. The Browns were awful, as we all know, except for that one world series against the Cardinals during the War. By the mid-60s, the Orioles (formerly the Browns) were among the prestige teams in the majors, and they continued to be all the way through the early 80s. (1989 must have been quite a shock to fans in Baltimore, who weren’t used to such a thing!!!!)


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