1914: The Big, Bad A’s

The Athletics

The Athletics

One hundred years ago this month one of the greatest upsets in World Series history occurred, the Philadelphia Athletics lost to the Boston Braves. No one expected to the Braves to win the National League pennant, let alone win the World Series. They were a bunch of cast-offs and losers who’d been put together from out of the trashcan, but they’d won the whole thing. They are, to this day, known as the “Miracle Braves.” I want to take a look at both the teams and the Series (and BTW Kevin at Baseball Revisited has just completed running a simulation of the Series on his site–see Blogroll at right) over the next few days. Because they lost, let’s start with the team that gets very little press in the entire endeavor, the big, bad Philadelphia A’s.

Connie Mack’s Athletics were defending world champions. In fact, they’d won three of the last four World Series (losing out to the Red Sox in 1912). To this point it was the most consistent of American League teams winning pennants in 1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, and the current pennant. They won 99 games in 1914 taking the pennant by 8.5 games over the Red Sox. If you look at their positional wins above average, they were above average in all positions except right field. They led the AL in runs, hits, homers, average, slugging, OBP, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. The hitters consisted of the $100,00 infield of Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank “Home Run” Baker from first around the horn to third. Collins led the league in runs scored, while Baker was the home run champion. McInnis was second in RBIs with 95 (it’s a league with Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker so you’re not going to lead the AL in much with them around). The outfield consisted of Rube Oldring, Amos Strunk, and Eddie Murphy (obviously not the comedian). All hit between .277 and .272 and were decent fielders for the era. Wally Schang was now Mack’s primary catcher. He hit .287 with a 137 OPS+ and managed to catch 45% of opponents base stealers, which was dead on league average.

The pitching was beginning to wither a bit. The team finished first in no major category (except wins, obviously) but was second in shutouts and strikeouts. It was fourth in hits and third in runs allowed (fourth in earned runs). Stalwarts Eddie Plank and Chief Bender were aging (Plank was 38), Jack Coombs was gone, and an entire group of younger pitchers were trying to make their mark. Bob Shawkey, Bullet Joe Bush, Weldon Wycoffe, and Herb Pennock were all in their early 20s (Pennock was 20) and Rube Bressler was only 19. Bush and Bender were technically the aces with 17 wins each. If the A’s had a problem it was with the staff.

They were overwhelming favorites to win. The National League hadn’t won a World Series since Honus Wagner’s Pirates in 1909 and the Braves were an absolute fluke. No one expected what was coming, except maybe the Braves.





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6 Responses to “1914: The Big, Bad A’s”

  1. glenrussellslater Says:

    “Eddie Plank”. Always liked that name, for some reason. “Gettysburg Eddie Plank”.

    When there was a pitcher named Eric Plunk who came into the majors, I automatically thought of Eddie Plank. Same type of name. And Eric Plunk broke in with the Athletics, which is fitting.

    V, are you going to write about the very exciting 1931 World Series, with the Gashouse Gang and the heroics of the Wild Horse of the Osage, Pepper Martin, beating those Philadelphia A’s?


    • verdun2 Says:

      At some point maybe, but right now I’m looking into the ’14 series. And BTW I’ve always thought Plunk was such a great name for a pitcher.

    • wkkortas Says:

      As an aside…there is a great, great, great book by Paul Hemphill which includes an article about Bruce Kison’s performance in the ’71 Series; I think it’s Too Old To Cry, but I could be wrong on that.

  2. wkkortas Says:

    You know, Wally Schang had a hell of a carerr–guy played for six pennant winners, and in the context of his era, he put up some pretty good offensive numbers. I’m not trying to start a bandwagon, understand, but there are catchers in Cooperstown that don’t have as much to sell as Waly does.

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