Posts Tagged ‘1908 National League’

1908: The End of September

September 30, 2018

Detroit’s Ty Cobb

Back in 1908, the last day of September didn’t end the baseball regular season. There were still games to play, a couple of them important, a couple of them famous. So where did the leagues stand at the end of the ninth month?

In the American League, which is frequently, and unjustly, overshadowed by the National League in 1908 the pennant was undecided. Detroit, the defending champions, had five games remaining and a half game lead on Cleveland, who had only three to go. Third place Chicago was a game and a half back also with three games to play. With five games to go, the Browns were four and a half games out and technically still alive for a tie (they were four games back in the loss column). Any of the four had a chance to claim at least a share of the pennant. Key remaining games sent Chicago against Cleveland and Detroit went to St. Louis.

The National League was equally muddled. The New York Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates were tied (the Giants were percentage points ahead) with the Chicago Cubs a half game back. New York had five games remaining, the Pirates three, and the Cubs five. The Cubs games were against Cincinnati and then a season closing game against the Pirates. Pittsburgh had the one game against Chicago after games with St. Louis. The Giants finished up against Philadelphia, Boston (today’s Braves), and Brooklyn. Hovering over it all was the tied game of 23 September between the Giants and Cubs. If it mattered for the standings, it would be replayed in the Polo Grounds in New York 8 October.

1908: The End of May

May 31, 2018

Continuing on with something like a detailed look at the 1908 Major League season, here’s a few notes on where things stood at the end of May.

Honus Wagner

The National League

By the close of May, 1908, the National League began to settle down into those teams that were going to do well and the have-nots. Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh had winning records. Boston, Brooklyn, and St. Louis didn’t. The Cubs were in first, 3.5 games ahead of New York, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. The Pirates were a bit further back at four games.

It was Honus Wagner’s year. In 1908 he would put together the greatest year by WAR of any hitter prior to the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York. By the end of May Wagner was at .311 (.840 OPS) with nine steals. He’d end the year at .354/.957 and 53 steals. He obviously got better as the season when on.

The American League

T Cobb (see, he could smile)

The American League

The junior circuit saw huge changes in May. At the end of April, Detroit, the defending AL champs, were in last place. By the end of May the Tigers had clawed their way into second place, percentage points behind New York. The Browns, Athletics, and Naps (Cleveland) were all over .500 and fifth place Cleveland was only 1.5 games out of first. The White Sox had a losing record (17-19), but were only three games back, with seventh place Washington only a half game further back. Only the Red Sox were more than five games out of the lead (they were 6.5 back).

Much of Detroit’s turn around was attributed to Ty Cobb, who’d gotten his average back over .300 (.302). Of further note, Washington was holding close despite Walter Johnson not yet having pitched. His first game was 11 June.

Next month there are a couple of specifics I want to get into, but this should give you some sense of what’s going on 110 years ago.

1908: The Second Division of the Senior Circuit

March 20, 2018

Bill Dahlen (with the Giants)

Now a brief look at the teams in the lower half of the National League (according to the 1907 standings) prior to Opening Day in 1908.

I’d like to say something good about the teams in Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Boston, and St. Louis, but there’s not a lot positive to be said about any of them. Brooklyn finished in fifth place, 40 games out. St. Louis brought up the rear 55.5 games back (and with 101 losses). It was harder to lose 100 games in 1907 simply because they played less games than (154), but the Cards gutted it up and took on the challenge and succeeded.

A measure of the desperation of the bottom tier of the league was Boston trumpeting the addition of Bill Dahlen to their roster. The Doves (and there’s a baseball name for the ages, the Fightin’ Doves) were right, he had a terrific year, putting up 5.2 WAR. But Dahlen was 38 and pinning your hopes on a geezer wasn’t the smartest idea in sports. I looked over the 1907 Doves pitching rotation in 1907. Never heard of any of them. I looked over the 1908 Doves pitching rotation. A few different pitchers, but never heard of any of them either. In 1908 they added Hall of Famer Joe Kelly in the outfield. He came out of retirement to play, got into 73 games, hit .259, and went back into retirement.  They also had, in 1907, Al Bridwell and Fred Tenney. Both would feature prominently in the 1908 pennant race. Unfortunately for Boston, they would do it with the Giants.

Cincinnati’s big player was pitcher Bob Ewing (apparently not related to the Ewing’s of “Dallas”).  He gave them 6.2 WAR with a losing record. They did have Hall of Famer Miller Huggins at second, but Huggins is in the Hall of Fame for his managerial skills (although he was a decent ball player). Hans Lobert moved from third to short in 1908. At least I’d heard of him. He put up decent numbers in 1907 and would do so again in 1908.

Brooklyn had Nap Rucker and not much else. He’d pitched well in 1907 and would continue doing so through 1913. He ended up with 134 wins and 134 loses, the very definition of a mediocre pitcher.

Going into 1908, no one except a few die-hard fans expected much out of the bottom dwellers in the National League. They would be right. As a group they finished fewer games out in 1908 (St. Louis was still last but only 50 games back), but most of that had to do with the teams at the top not putting up quite as many wins as they had in 1907.




1908:The First Division of the Senior Circuit

March 15, 2018

John Titus from his Wikipedia page

Following up a look at the American League going into 1908, here’s a look at the National League. Please note that the standings here reflect the end of the 1907 season.

Chicago: The Cubs were defending World Series champions going into 1908 (a phrase repeated exactly once since 1908). This was the famous Tinker to Evers to Chance infield (although the poem that made them famous came later) with Harry Steinfeldt at third. As you might guess, the Cubs stood pat mostly for 1908. Heinie Zimmerman would make more of an impact in ’08 than in ’07, and Orval Overall would slip behind Mordecai Brown in pitching, but the Cubs in 1908 seemed to understand the old admonition “if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.”

Pittsburgh: The Pirates finished 1907 in second place, 17 games back. That made for a good team that needed to make a few changes. They shifted first basemen (and got older doing so) and brought Tommy Leach from the outfield to third base. That alone meant changes in the outfield. Chief Wilson replaced Goat Anderson (and I don’t know how he got the nickname “Goat”) and Roy Thomas took Leach’s place. What remained the same were player-manager Fred Clarke and simply the best shortstop in the game, Honus Wagner. In 1908, he would have a season for the ages. Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe were still around from the 1903 World Series pitching staff.

Philadelphia: The Phillies finished third in 1907. You probably ought to think about that for a second. It didn’t happen often. They were 4.5 games behind the Pirates with an outfield of Sherry McGee, Roy Thomas (who, as noted above was in Pittsburgh in 1908), and John Titus who should probably be better remembered. The rest of the starters remained the same. The major change on the mound saw George McQuillan go from five starts to 42.

New York: John McGraw’s Giants were a formidable team in 1907 and again in 1908. As usual for a McGraw team it was built on speed, pitching, and good fielding (for the era). Gone were Bill Dahlen and Dan McGann, replaced by McGraw favorite Al Bridwell and Fred Tenney. Tenney, the first baseman, had a 19-year-old back up named Fred Merkle who would manage to get into 38 games. In 1908 Mike Donlan decided to play instead of go on the vaudeville circuit and was the major outfield addition. On the mound there was Christy Mathewson. He’d been great in 1907 and no one expected a falling off in 1908. Behind him Joe McGinnity was 37 and fading.

A lot of the names above are utterly obscure today, but in 1908 they had meaning. The National League was still considered the stronger league in 1908 and a lot of those guys were the reason why. Next time, the bottom feeders in the NL.