February begins Black History Month in the US. I normally take the month and use it for a yearly journey into whatever I’ve found concerning the Negro Leagues or other versions of black baseball. I also use the first post of each month to introduce the newest members of My Own Little Hall of Fame, which is a look at how a Hall of Fame begun in 1901 rather than the 1930s might have looked. It seems I’m able to combine both this year.
Charles “Kid” Nichols served as the primary pitcher for National League championship teams in 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897, and 1898. With the National League Boston franchise he won over 350 games, leading the league in wins three times. He won 30 or more games on seven occasions.
Samuel “Sam” Thompson was an outfielder for both Detroit and Philadelphia of the National League. Between 1885 and 1898 he led the league in batting and triples once, in doubles and home runs twice, and in hits three times. In 1894 he hit .415.
George Stovey was a colored pitcher who played in both segregated and integrated leagues between 1886 and 1897. A left-hander, he was considered the premier colored pitcher of his era.
Now the commentary:
1. Again I have used the word “colored” to describe a black ballplayer. From what I can tell, the word “Negro” doesn’t come into common usage in newspapers and digests until the end of World War I, or about 1920 (about the same time Rube Foster founds the Negro National League). That being the case, I will make my change over for the 1920 class, if it is necessary.
2. I am well aware that there is no chance of Stovey making a 1912 Hall of Fame and that if there was he could have been elected earlier. I choose to include Negro League players despite the normal custom in 1912 so he gets in. I purposefully left him until 1912 so I could include him during Black History Month. It should be another 10 or so years before the big names that began 20th Century black baseball arrive on the Hall list. Then there will be a lot all at once.
3. Nichols was one of the easiest calls I had to make. You can decide who you want to declare the best pitcher of the 19th Century, but whoever you decide, Nichols will have to be in the debate.
4. Thompson had all those numbers the early 20th Century baseball types loved, lots of hits, high average, and lots of extra base hits. He also had a bunch of RBIs, but it’s still a difficult number to pin down so I left it off.
5. Next year Jake Beckley and Bobby Lowe are the most significant players eligible for the Class of 1913. Among contributors John T. Brush arrives on the scene. There are no significant pitchers arriving in 1913. I’ve decided to cut the list of holdovers to either 10 or 20 in any given year. If you can’t make my top 20 everyday players, top 10 contributors, or top 10 pitchers you have no business being considered for a Hall of Fame.
6. Everyday players now on the list for 1913 are: Jake Beckley, Cupid Childs, Lave Cross, Gene DeMontreville, Patsy Donovan, Jack Doyle, Hugh Duffy, George Gore, Paul Hines, Dummy Hoy, Bill Lange, Arlie Latham, Andy Leonard, Hermann Long, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarthy, John McGraw, Cal McVey, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren. A total of 22. I have to either add 2 to the Class of 1913 or drop 2 from the list.
7. For pitchers I have the following: Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz, Brickyard Kennedy, Bobby Mathews, Tony Mullane, Gus Weyhing, and Will White. A total of 7. None will have to be taken off for 1913.
8. The contributors, with Brush added, are: Brush (owner), Jim Creighton (who may have been the 1st professional and may have invented the fastball/ or maybe not), Candy Cummings (early pitcher who may, or may not, have invented the curve), Bob Ferguson (early 3rd baseman, manager, and umpire), John “Bud” Hillerich (of Louisville Slugger), Lip Pike (early power hitter), Henry C. Pulliam (NL President), Al Reach (player, owner, Reach Guide), Chris von der Ahe (owner), William R. Wheaton (wrote oldest set of rules available–1837). To reach 10 I dropped Henry Chalmers, of Chalmers Motors, who provided the first MVP Awards. As far as I can tell he didn’t do much else with baseball, so I cut him loose.
9. I’ve figured out how to handle the John McGraw problem mentioned in previous posts. Will let you know more next time.