Time for my monthly addition to My Own Little Hall of Fame. This time it’s the Class of 1904. Without further nonsense, here’s the list followed, as usual, by the commentary.
One of the true “Fathers of Baseball.” New York sportswriter who popularized baseball through his columns and coverage in newspapers. He is credited with inventing the box score as well as a number of other statistics.
James “Pud” Galvin
Most wins of any pitcher. Most innings pitched of any pitcher. Had a long career with both Buffalo and Pittsburgh while playing in three different Major Leagues. Never pitched from a mound.
“Orator” Jim O’Rourke
Hit .310 over a 21 year career extending from 1872 through 1893. Member of three National Association champions and of the 1877 and 1978 Boston National League pennant winners. Won the 1884 National League batting title. Member of the 1888 and 1889 National League pennant winning New York Giants, hitting .306 with two home runs in postseason play.
Won over 300 games, most with the Giants. Had 40 wins once, 30 three times, with 345 strikeouts in 1884. Won pennants with the Giants in both 1888 and 1889.
James “Deacon” White
First great professional catcher. In 1871, he had the first hit in an all professional league. Later in his career he moved to third base. Won batting titles in both the National Association and the National League. His teams won three National Association pennants and an equal number of National League pennants.
And now the commentary.
1. How much did baseball writers know about Henry Chadwick’s work in 1904? I was surprised at how well he was known. Of course he was still alive in 1904, so that helped. But a lot of sports writer’s seemed to know about the box score. About the other stats I’m not as sure.
2. What took so long on Galvin? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, it seems that Galvin’s accomplishments had fallen off the face of the earth. Here’s a guy with more wins and innings pitched than any other 19th Century pitcher and he seems to be overlooked. Much as you find few people today who place Cy Young (who has more wins than any other pitcher) at the top of the pitching pecking order, preferring Walter Johnson or Lefty Grove or Rogers Clemens or someone else, Galvin (who has the most wins of a 19th Century pitcher) seems to find few writers who extolled his greatness. So I’m comfortable with holding him until 1904.
3. Deacon White lived until 1939 and was still active in 1904 as a manager and coach for a variety of minor league teams. I was surprised how much I found about him (although there was a lot more on other players). In various places he’s credited with catching innovations that are also credited to others. I decided to ignore those. Interestingly, the “first hit in an all professional league” honor didn’t seem to be all that well-known. As early as 1904 there seems to have been at least a bit of mixed feeling about calling the National Association a “Major League”.
4. So, who did you agonize over most? Well, I didn’t actually “agonize”, but I thought longest and hardest about O’Rourke and Welch. O’Rourke is one of those players that I’ve always felt was overrated, but when I looked at his hits, games, total bases, doubles, and membership on pennant winning teams, I decided he would probably have made it (possibly even earlier than 1904). He was still active in baseball in 1904 (he was a coach), even playing in a game for the Giants (the last one of the season). He hadn’t played in MLB since 1893 so I decided that if the election occurred in January (as it does presently) O’Rourke would remain retired when the election was held. As mentioned above, he was a coach for the Giants, but also had extensive ties to the minors, and was well enough known and liked that I could see him sliding into a 1904 version of the Hall of Fame. Besides, it gave me a chance to allow a living (as of 1904) member of the Hall of Fame to actually appear in a Big League game.
5. But Welch was different. He was distinctly the weaker of the two great Giants pitchers (Tim Keefe being the other). There were a lot of pitchers from the 19th Century that were probably as good but played for weaker teams. I looked at some of the more modern stats to see if I was just imagining it, but had to dismiss them as they were unavailable for 1904 era voters. Ultimately, I decided that era voters would probably be dazzled enough by the 300 wins that he’d get in without a lot a problem. I just wish I was more comfortable with his inclusion. BTW he was also still alive in 1904.
6. Where’s Delahanty? Ed Delahanty died in 1903 in a fall from the train bridge. Being dead there was no chance of him playing in 1904 (Is that the most obvious statement I ever made or what?) so he could be eligible for election. I thought about it seriously because I knew whatever I decided would impact what I do in 1910 with Addie Joss. The circumstances of Delahanty’s death were such that one could argue that the death was avoidable and thus he shouldn’t be given a waiver. On the other hand it was an era of sports reporting that tended to gloss over a player’s failings so I don’t know if the circumstances were universally known to regular fans. Realizing that most writers (the actual voters) would know the circumstances, I decided to hold him until he is otherwise eligible in 1909. Not sure it’s the right choice, but I have to make one. Without wanting to totally commit to it, my guess is that I’ll let Joss get in early since his death was of natural causes (he had tubercular meningitis), assuming he gets in at all let alone on the first try.
7. The 1905 class is going to be interesting. There are few just “have to” people left to put in and none of them come eligible in 1905. So I’m going to concentrate on the American Association (which doesn’t mean only Association players are getting in). For almost all their post-demise history, the two Associations (National and later American) were ignored by the later writers. To make it worse, the AA was considered much the weaker league so that hitting .320 in the AA didn’t mean quite the same thing to contemporaries as hitting .320 in the NL (this will greatly affect Pete Browning). I’m going to have to try to find out if there’s a way to figure out what the likely voters in 1905 thought of the players in the AA (by today, the only players with significant time in the AA enshrined in Cooperstown are Bid McPhee and Tommy McCarthy). By 1905 it had been over a decade since the AA had played a game and I don’t know how much the writers who would have voted in 1905 knew about the Association. By something like 1915 it would have been 25 years since the Association played and many of the writers would never have seen an Association game. It seems to me that getting AA players in to a 1901 era Hall of Fame would have to come fairly quickly or time alone would dim the chances of the players. That convoluted enough for you?