Posts Tagged ‘1919 World Series’

Bedford Bill

September 12, 2016
Bill Rariden, with Cincinnati

Bill Rariden, with Cincinnati

I’ve spent a little time telling you about the players on my fantasy team. First I give you a short introduction to Vin Campbell. Then I did a little piece on Johnny Lush. I don’t intend to do every player, but I did find a few more that I consider interesting so I plan on passing along some information on a handful more. This time it’s my backup catcher.

William Rariden came out of Bedford, Indiana (hence the “Bedford Bill” nickname) to the Major Leagues. He was born there in February 1888. His father, like Campbell’s, was a doctor and Bill Rariden grew up in a middle class environment. He was good at baseball and in 1907 made the Class B minor league team in Canton, Ohio. He remained there through 1908, although the team changed leagues, and found himself was purchased by the Boston National League team, the Doves (now the Atlanta Braves) in August of 1909. He remained in Boston through 1913.

He wasn’t much of a hitter (his highest batting average while in Boston was .236 in 1913) but he was an excellent defensive catcher for the era. In 1914 he jumped to the newly formed Federal League joining Benny Kauff as a mainstay of the pennant winning Indianapolis team. He remained with the Feds until the league folded after the 1915 season. While there he established himself as the finest defensive catcher in the new league.

With the folding of the Feds, Rariden was picked up by the New York Giants and settled in as their primary catcher. His career year (other than the Federal League years) was 1917 when he hit .271 and helped the Giants to their first pennant since 1913 and a World Series date with the Chicago White Sox.  Rariden was superb in the World Series, hitting .385 with two runs scored on five hits (all singles), but became primarily known for a fielding gaffe that turned into a key play in the Series. In game six with Eddie Collins (who happens to also be on my fantasy team) on third, Happy Felsch hit a come backer to Giants pitcher Rube Benton. With Collins down the line, Benton threw to Giants third baseman Heinie Zimmerman. Collins dashed home, Zimmerman tossed to Rariden, Collins stopped and ran back toward third. Rariden pursued him close to third then flipped the ball to Zimmerman. Collins, seeing the ball go back to third and noting Rariden was away from home and the pitcher was standing on the mound instead of at home, dashed back toward home, raced passed Rariden and came home with Zimmerman chasing him to no avail. It was the first run in the critical game and the play became the most talked about play of the Series.

Rariden played one more year, 1918, at New York, didn’t have much of a year, and was traded in February 1919 to the Cincinnati Reds. As the primary backup catcher, he got into another World Series, again against the White Sox. He got into five games, picking up four hits and two RBIs as the Reds won the Series in eight games against the infamous Black Sox.

He played one more season, 1920, hitting .248, and participating in the last triple header in Major League history. The games occurred at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh on 2 October. Rariden played in game three. After the season the Reds let him go. He played a couple of years in the minors, one as a player-manager, and retired. He lived on a farm in Bedford, then opened a service station in town. He died in August 1942.

For his career, Bill Rariden had a triple slash line of .237/.320/.298/.618 with 682 hits in 982 games (including the Federal League years). He scored 272 runs, had 105 doubles, seven home runs, and 274 RBIs (not a lot of players get that runs to RBI ratio). He had an OPS+ of 81 and 8.7 WAR. During his Federal League years he led the league in several catching categories including both caught stealing and stolen bases allowed (you don’t see that very often).

Bill Rariden spent 12 years in the Major Leagues (including the Feds). During that time he played 982 games, or about 82 a season. That’s not a big number, but not a bad number for a catcher of the era. All in all, he was a fairly typical catcher for the Deadball Era.

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The Betrayal: A Review

May 17, 2016
The Betrayal cover

The Betrayal cover

There are a multitude of books concerning various aspects of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal. Asinof’s Eight Men Out is probably the most famous. By now it’s dated, new information is available, and frankly some of the stuff is made up. One of the better attempts at understanding the scandal is The Betrayal by Charles Fountain.

Fountain is a professor of journalism at Northeastern and has written other baseball books, notably a work on Grantland Rice. He turns his attention in his new work (published in 2016) to 1919 and the World Series. He begins by reminding us that much of what actually happened is unknowable and thus much of what we accept as received wisdom and truth is actually mere speculation. Because that’s true, Fountain does not worry about the exactitude of detail in explaining the scandal.

He looks, rather, at the way the era unfolded in baseball. He sees it as an era of rampant corruption within the sport with gamblers having an inordinate amount of influence on the game. There’s an entire chapter on Hal Chase using him as an example of how easy and commonplace throwing a ball game had become. Fountain points out that owners, writers, and even many fans knew about Chase and that none of them did anything to stop either him or the other players involved in gambling.

There’s another chapter on Judge Landis explaining why he was chosen as Commissioner as well as how the entire idea of a Commissioner came into being. The Charles Comiskey-Ban Johnson feud takes center stage for much of the book, as does the inability of the National Commission to stop the corruption. As an aside, I’m generally a fan of August Herrmann, President of the Reds and head of the Commission, but he comes off terribly in the book. And Fountain’s arguments are persuasive enough to make me reconsider my view of Herrmann. Fountain also dwells in some detail on how much influence Ban Johnson had on baseball and how much the owners, particularly the National League owners and a minority of the American League owners (led by Comiskey) wanted to curtail his role.

Fountain does not spare the baseball writers of the era either. He finds them complicit in the corruption. Most knew what was happening but for a variety of reasons (fear of firing, fear of losing access to the players and parks, etc.) failed to write about it. The few that did, found their stories suppressed by editors who didn’t want to anger the owners. Because it is the owners, along with the gamblers, who come off worst in the book. The author does not single out Comiskey in particular, but indicts the group as venal, uncaring, and concerned with image so much that they are unwilling utterly to rock the baseball boat. But Fountain doesn’t let the players off entirely. They knew what they were doing and willingly went along with the fix.

All in all this is an excellent study of the Black Sox Scandal. The book is worth the read by students of the sport, the scandal, and even the era in America. It’s available a number of places. I got my copy at Barnes and Noble for $27.95.

 

Joe Jackson: Do the Stats Free or Convict Him?

September 28, 2011

Now that we’ve all had time to look over Joe Jackson’s batting statistics for the 1919 World Series, it’s time to ask what do they mean? Well, they mean a lot of things and the single most important thing they mean is that you cannot use Jackson’s World Series stats to prove he either was or wasn’t “throwing” the Series.  Had Jackson gone 0 for 21 in the games the White Sox lost, it would still not prove he was tanking. Players have bad games. Eddie Collins had a miserable Series in 1919 and no one believes he was trying to “throw” the Series.  Had Jackson gone 21 for 21 in the same games it would not prove he was playing on the up and up (the type of hits and their results would have to be factored in).  In fact, Jackson’s 1919 World Series stats are a perfect example of why a sole reliance on statistics is an awful way to research baseball. So if you expect me to say that these statistics prove definitely that Jackson was an angel or a slug you’re going to be wasting your time. Having said all that, there are some things we can note about the stats.

1. Let’s start with three small stats: walks, strikeouts, stolen bases. And I emphasize these are small stats (a total of four occurences). Jackson walks once in the Series, in a game the Sox win. It’s game six and he leads off the inning and does not score. For the season he walks 60 times (about 12% of his at bats–and, yes I know a walk doesn’t count as an at bat). That’s not much but is third on the team. The stolen base attempt comes in game 3 after a lead off single. He’s thrown out at second and the stolen base is unsuccessful. By this point in his career Jackson was no longer a prolific base stealer, having stolen only nine all season. For the entire regular season Jackson strikes out 10 times in 516 at bats. He strikes out twice, both in games the Sox lose (once looking, once swinging). The first is the sixth inning of game 2 against Slim Sallee who struck out 24 men all season. This is the one looking. The swinging strikeout is in the eighth inning of game 5 against Jimmy Ring who struck out 61 all season. Both strikeouts in losing efforts. The stolen base attempt, however, is in a winning game and is the only evidence of aggression on the base paths Jackson shows all Series. But it’s a failure. But it’s a failure in a game the Sox were trying to win so maybe we shouldn’t make too much of it one way or the other. The strikeouts worry me more. In point of fact are the only one of these three stats that do worry me. In 516 at bats Jackson strikes out 10 times during the season (as stated above). In 21 at bats in five games he strikeouts twice. And it’s not like Walter Johnson is gunning him down. Sallee and Ring were not major strikeout artists of the era, especially Sallee. Had the strikeouts come against Reds pitcher Hod Eller they might be more expected. Eller struck out 137 men during the season, second in the National League. Is this evidence of “throwing” games? No, but when you equal 20% of your yearly strikeouts in five games, people should notice. But it’s also a very small sample and that fact should not be ignored.

2. Jackson has four extra base hits (3 doubles, one home run), all in games the Sox lose. On first glance that sounds like evidence Jackson was playing it straight in the games Chicago lost. Let’s look at the hits one by one.  The first occurs in game one when he leads off the second inning with a double. He does not score. Well, with the next three batters in the line up being in on the “fix” (Happy Felsch, Chick  Gandil, Swede Risberg in order) he’s fairly safe leading off with a double knowing that there are three outs directly behind him. In fact, Jackson is in a perfect place to do well while “throwing” a game. He hits just in front of three consecutive players actively trying to “fix” the game. He can get on base, knowing the other three guys won’t let you score, at least not very often.  The second double occurs in exactly the same circumstances in game 4. This time he’s bunted to third (a fairly safe play that moves a runner up but doesn’t score him) then two consecutive outs ends the threat. The other double and the home run occur in game 8, the final game. With the score already 5-0, Jackson hits his home run with no one on base. The final double occurs in the eighth inning with an out and men on. The hit scores two runs, but the score when Jackson comes to bat is already 10-1. So here are four extra base hits, but they are reasonably unproductive hits, two leading off an inning with three acknowledged conspirators following in the inning and two coming when the final game is already out of hand. Do these prove Jackson was “throwing” games? As I said above, the stats alone can never prove that, but they worry me a lot, a whole lot.

3. Jackson has three runs and three RBIs in games the team loses, which isn’t a bad number in five games. There are a couple of problems with this theory, however. All three of the RBIs and two of the runs occur in game 8. If you look above at the comment on the extra base hits in reference to game 8 you’ll see how they played out. The only run not in the game 8 blowout was in game 1 and in that circumstance he reached base on a two base error, hardly an endorsement for those claiming he wasn’t throwing games.

So I’ll remind you once again that the statistical record for the 1919 World Series cannot free Jackson of guilt in trying to “throw” the World Series. They also cannot convict Jackson of “throwing” the World Series. They are at best ambivalent. Much more damning are the confession and the money. The confession, without reference to how it disappeared, is at best tainted by the way in which it was obtained. They money is different. There’s no question he took it. Do I think Jackson participated in “fixing” the 1919 World Series? Yes, I do. Do the statistics prove it? No, they don’t, but they also don’t disprove it.

Joe Jackson: The Wins

September 26, 2011

Continuing the theme from the last post, here’s a look at Jackson’s performance in the three games the White Sox won during the 1919 World Series:

Game 3

Jackson when 2-3 with a run scored. In the he singled to left, went to third on an error and scored on a single. In the second inning he was out at first on a bunt. In the sixth inning he led off with a single and was out on a caught stealing. In the eighth he was on deck when the final out was made.

Game 6

Jackson went 2-4 with a run, and RBI, and a walk. In the first inning he popped to third to end the inning. In the fourth inning he fouled out to the catcher for the second out. In the sixth inning he singled to drive in a  run, then scored on a double. In the eighth inning he led off with a walk and didn’t score. In the tenth inning he had a bunt single sending a runner to third. That runner scored the winning run later in the inning. Jackson was doubled up to end the inning.

Game 7

Jackson was 2-4 with two RBIs. In the first inning he singled to left knocking in a run. In the third inning his second single to left scored another run. In the fifth inning he got on by an error when the second baseman booted the ball. Jackson failed to score. In the seventh inning he grounded out.

Following the same format as the last post, here’s Jackson’s stat line for the three games the Sox won: ab-11, hits-6, runs-2, doubles-0, triples-0, home runs-0, RBIs-3, walks-1, strikeouts-0, average-.545, slugging-.545, OBP-583, OPS-1128. Again I make no comment on the stats at this point. I hope to try to make at least a little sense out of both sets in another post.

1910: Shoeless Joe

July 30, 2010

Joe Jackson at Cleveland

On this date one hundred years ago, the Philadelphia Athletics sent Joe Jackson (“Shoeless Joe”) to Cleveland. Jackson was signed by Connie Mack in 1908. He played a handful of games in both 1908 and 1909, decided he hated Philadelphia, the big cities, and the travel, so he returned to South Carolina and did not report in 1910. By the end of July, Mack gave up on him and sent his contract to Cleveland. Jackson reported to Cleveland, got into 20 games and hit .387 with a home run, four stolen bases, and 29 hits. This time he stayed around and became a star. In fairness to Jackson, he was only 18 in 1908.

I’ve made a point of staying away from posts dealing specifically with Jackson for a reason. He is one of the most polarizing figures in baseball history. Only Pete Rose and Barry Bonds rival him as a controversial player. I feel my job here is to inform, not confront. You want confrontation, go visit a political blog. Lots to “confront” about. Having said that, it’s time to deal with Shoeless Joe.

Let me start by saying I’d have given everything I ever had, including my first-born, to have been Moonlight Graham and gotten into just one Major League game. Jackson got that chance and threw it away. I have, therefore, little sympathy for him. He was a star, the idol of millions (whether one of them ever said “Say it ain’t so, Joe” or not), a great ballplayer and he decided he wanted more money. Well, Joe, so do I, but I’m not willing to compromise certain principles for it. Now I know there are a lot of defenses of Jackson. Let’s take a look at some of them:

1. He was underpaid. So what? I’m underpaid. My wife is underpaid. My first-born (who I was willing to give up a paragraph or two ago) is underpaid. Most of you reading this are underpaid. Does that make it OK to, in Jackson’s case, throw the World Series? Surely not.

2. He was too stupid to know what he was doing. Oh, really? What did he think they were giving him the bribe money for, his looks? Besides unlettered and stupid are two different things. There’s ample evidence that Jackson was illiterate, but also evidence he wasn’t stupid. He had a meal routine that belies stupidity. He always ate with a teammate. If the waitress came to him first he’d tell her he hadn’t decided yet and to get everybody else’s order and come back. He’d then listen to what they ordered and get one of the same things. If he wasn’t first, his response was “I’ll have what he’s having.” That’s not a stupid man there. In fact that’s rather clever.

3. Comiskey was a jerk. Got me there; Comiskey was a jerk. But Comiskey isn’t the one throwing games. Comiskey’s human qualities are not in question here, Jackson’s are. And to my mind, Jackson is as big a jerk as Comiskey and two wrongs don’t make either man right, or less of a jerk.

4. Jackson played OK in the series. That’s sort of right. But if you break down his series by at bats you see he doesn’t come through in crucial situations. His home run, as a simple example, is after the final game is already lost. He drives in six runs, but all in games the Sox win or in meaningless situations (like the home run). I’ll give you that Gandil and Cicotte and Williams are greater villains in losing games, but that doesn’t make Jackson any kind of hero.

So there, I’ve said my piece. Obviously I don’t like Jackson and have no wish to see him in Cooperstown. I accept that some other people do. It’s a free country. They’re entitled to be wrong.

1919: A Comparison

December 5, 2009

My son recently asked me why the White Sox were overwhelming picks to win the 1919 World Series. I told him that among other things the National League had managed to win exactly one World Series in 10 years (1914) which could leave people to assume the American League was simply superior. I still think that’s true, but a look at the players reveals that man for man it also could be interpreted as favoring the Sox.

Taking a look at only the hitters (maybe I’ll do the pitchers later) I decided to concentrate on 3 numbers: batting average, slugging percentage, and RBIs. I wanted to go with the traditional triple crown stats, but in the deadball era of 1919 the home run was not a significant weapon, so substituted slugging percentage as a way to cover extra base hits. Below are direct comparisons (RBI’s first, then average, then slugging) between the position players. I’ve lumped the corner outfielders together because the Sox platooned in right field and the Reds left fielders were about evenly split in games because Sherry Magee got hurt and batted only twice in the World Series.

1st Base: Daubert (44/276/350), Gandil (60/290/393) Advantage Sox.

2nd Base: Rath (29/264/298), E. Collins (80/319/450) Collins by a wide margin.

3rd Base: Groh (63/310/431), Weaver (75/296/401). Close either way. Weaver was considered a superior fielder.

Shortstop: Kopf (56/270/326), Risberg (38/256/345). Kopf over Risberg.

Center Field: Roush (71/321/431), Felsch (86/275/428) Closer than I originally thought. Roush won the NL batting title, but Felsch has more RBIs and the slugging percentage is a wash.

Catcher: Wingo (27/276/371), Schalk (34/282/320). Schalk by a little. Schalk was also considered much the superior catcher.

Corner Outfield: Duncan (17/244/411), Bressler (17/206/309), Magee (21/215/264),  Neale (54/242/316); Jackson (96/351/506), S. Collins (16/279/363), Leibold (26/302/353). As a whole the Sox are better, but if I had to pick only 3, I’d take Jackson, Leibold, and Neale. For the Series, Neale and Duncan did all the outfield work .

So in most positions the White Sox seem to be superior. There are just enough places where the Reds are as good or better that it could have been an interesting Series, providing of course that it was on the up and up. It wasn’t.

1919: The Other Guys

December 3, 2009

If you follow baseball, you know 1919 is the “Fixed  Series”. The “Black Sox” decided to take money from gamblers and let the Reds win the World Series. For most of the time since, the discussion focused on the “8 Men Out”. Take a minute now and consider the “White Sox” and what happened to them.

Kid Gleason-former pitcher and infielder who was a freshman manager in 1919. Managed the ChiSox through 1923.  Contemporary accounts say the fixed Series eventually killed him. Maybe. He died in 1933.

Dickie Kerr-pitcher who won 2 games in the Series, then was banned from baseball because he competed in games against other banned players and was done by 1925. His career record: 53-35.

Red Faber-pitcher who was hurt during the season and unavailable for the Series. Others have wondered if it would have been as easy to fix the Series had he been healthy. We’ll never know. Played until 1933 and ended with a record of 254-212. Elected to the Hall of fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1964.

Eddie Collins–2nd baseman who had a Hall of Fame career, hitting .300 in 4 decades (he went 1 for 2 in 1930, his final season). Career .300 hitter, 6th in career stolen bases, part of 4 Series winning teams. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939. Generally rated as one of the 5 greatest 2nd basemen to ever play.

Ray Schalk–catcher who was considered the finest fielding catcher of the era. Not much of a hitter, but known for his work with pitchers. Elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1955. One of the committee’s more controversial choices.

Nemo Leibold-left-handed hitting part of a platoon in Right Field. Played until 1925 and won a World Series with the 1924 Washington Senators (by that point he was in Center Field). Career .266 hitter with only 4 home runs and 133 stolen bases.

Shano Collins-the right-handed hitting part of the Right Field platoon. Not related to Eddie Collins. Played until 1925, then managed the Red Sox in 1931-32 (they finished 6th, then last). Career .264 hitter with 22 home runs and 225 stolen bases.

Considering that the two full time players and the major pitcher not in on the fix (E. Collins, Schalk, and Faber) all made the Hall of Fame, I’ve always wondered what would have happpened Hall of Fame-wise had the Sox not platooned in Right Field.