Posts Tagged ‘Art Devlin’

1908: Game of Games

October 8, 2018

Joe Tinker

With the regular season over, the National League pennant was still undecided. The Chicago Cubs and New York Giants had identical records, but there was still one game to make up, the so-called ‘Merkle Game.” The baseball world had never seen anything like it. There were fans clamoring for tickets even after the game began. There were stories in the newspapers about possible aspect of the game. The bettors were out in force. There was an eclipse of the sun, brimstone fell from heaven. Well, maybe not an eclipse or brimstone, but to read the accounts of the day, it was close.

The game started well for New York. In the bottom of the first Cubs starter Jack Pfiester plunked Fred Tenney (playing first for New York, the position Fred Merkle played in the famous 23 September game), then walked Buck Herzog. A pick-off removed Herzog, but “Turkey” Mike Donlin doubled to score Tenney and a walk to Cy Seymour sent Pfiester to the showers. In came Cubs ace Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown. He managed to shut down the Giants without either Donlin or Seymour scoring.

Giants ace Christy Mathewson started for New York and got through the first two innings without damage. In the top of the third, Chicago shortstop Joe Tinker, who’d hit Mathewson reasonably well during the season (and had homered in the “Merkle Game.”) tripled to lead off the inning. A Johnny Kling single brought him home to tie the game. With two outs, Johnny Evers walked. Then a double by Frank “Wildfire” Schulte scored Kling and a two-run double by manager Frank Chance cleared the bases.

With the score now 4-1, Brown cruised through the sixth. In the bottom of the seventh, New York staged a mini-rally. With Art Devlin on base, Tenney lofted a long sacrifice to score the second Giants run. It was all for the Giants, as Brown held them scoreless in both the eighth and ninth innings to secure the victory and the pennant for the Cubs.

There were recriminations in New York and celebration in Chicago. For the Cubs it sent them to their third consecutive World Series. They’d won in 1907 and lost in 1906. For the Giants it was the end of a famous season. They would wait two more years before returning to the top of the National League in 1911.

 

1908: Merkle

September 18, 2018

Fred Merkle in 1908

You knew when you read that I would be taking some time to talk about the 1908 season that it would eventually come down to Fred Merkle, didn’t you? The “Merkle Boner” is among the most famous of all baseball plays, probably the single most famous Deadball Era play. So without hesitation, let’s get on with it.

At the end of the day on 22 September 1908, the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs were in a virtual tie atop the National League. The Giants were percentage points ahead (.635 to .629) by virtue of having played seven fewer games. They were three up in the loss column, but the Cubs had eight games to play while they had 15 more. The next game for both would be an afternoon game at the Polo Grounds the next day.

Fred Tenney

The Giants’ regular first baseman Fred Tenney was having back trouble and was forced to sit the 23 September game. In his place John McGraw inserted Fred Merkle. Our man Merkle came up in 1907, played a little, was again on the team in 1908. He had not started a game all season and at that point had all of 41 at bats for the year. He was, considered an excellent fielder, an acceptable hitter, and a player worth having. He was also 19 years of age.

The Cubs sent Jack Pfiester to the mound and the Giants replied with ace Christy Mathewson. Pfiester would finish the season at 17-6, while Mathewson would go 37-11. The first four innings were scoreless. In the top of the fifth, Chicago shortstop Joe Tinker, who had a habit of hitting Mathewson well, stroked his fifth home run of the season (he ended up with six). The Giants struck back in the bottom of the sixth when a Mike Donlin single scored Buck Herzog with the tying run. The score remained 1-1 through the top of the ninth. By that point Merkle was 0-2 with a walk.

With one out Art Devlin singled, but was erased on a Moose McCormick grounder. Now with two outs, Merkle sliced a single that put McCormick on third and himself on first. Up came Al Bridwell who drove a pitch into center field scoring McCormick and giving the Giants a one game lead in the NL.

Except that it didn’t. Merkle, halfway to second and seeing McCormick score, turned and trotted toward the club house without ever touching second base. The rules (it’s 4.09) state that, with two outs, no run can score if the final out of the inning is a force play. Merkle was forced to run to second, so a force play was in order.

Johnny Evers

At this point, history leaves off and legend takes over. There a several versions of what happened next. All agree that Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed that Merkle failed to touch second. He called for Cubs center fielder Circus Solly Hofman to throw him the ball. At this point there is great disagreement. The stories indicate that there was some interference with the throw. Most sources say that Giants base coach Joseph McGinnity intercepted the ball and threw it into the stands. Other sources say a fan (fans were on the field by this point) grabbed the ball and either tossed it into the stands or pocketed it. Whatever happened, Evers and other Cubs went after the ball. There seems to have been some sort of scuffle and Evers eventually emerged at second with a ball. Whether it was “the ball” or not is in open dispute. Wherever the ball came from, Evers was on second holding it and arguing that Merkle was out and that the run didn’t count. Umpire Hank O’Day agreed and called Merkle out. With fans all over the field and darkness approaching, he also called the game a tie.

Hank O’Day

New York exploded. McGraw was furious with the umpires, not with Merkle. Team President John T. Brush complained to the National League President. The Cubs prepared for the next game. The ramifications of the game would continue for the remainder of the season. They would effect both teams and, unexpectedly, help determine the fate of not only a pennant, but a life.

 

 

 

1908: 4 July

July 5, 2018

Hooks Wiltse

I know I’m a day late, but I was busy yesterday. The fourth of July in 1908 saw one of the strangest games played in the season. It was the no-hitter that was almost a perfect game.

On 4 July 1908 the New York Giants were home against the Philadelphia Phillies for a Sunday double-header. In game one the Giants starter George “Hooks” Wiltse matched zeroes with Phillies hurler George McQuillan. Both were doing well. McQuillan was pitching a shutout through eight innings. He’d given up a handful of hits, walked none, and struck out one. But Wiltse was great that day. Through eight innings he’d struck out one, walked none, and allowed no hits, not a single one. He had a perfect game going into the top of the ninth.

He got shortstop Ernie Courtney (Courtney had replaced starter Mickey Doolin earlier in the game) to start the inning, then retired catcher Red Dooin (note it’s Dooin, not Doolin, as in Mickey) for the second out. That brought up pitcher McQuillan. The Phils apparently left McQuillan in to bat because the game was still scoreless. Wiltse threw a pitch, then another and another running the count to 2-2. The next pitch, one pitch from a perfect game plunked McQuillan to end the perfect game. One batter later Wiltse retired third baseman Eddie Grant to keep the no-hitter intact.

The Giants failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, necessitating extra innings. With the no-hitter still operative, Wiltse set down Philadelphia in order. In the bottom of the tenth, Art Devlin singled and a Spike Shannon single moved him along. Shortstop Al Bridwell then singled to plate Devlin with the winning run. For the game Wiltse (who moved his record to 10-8) gave up no hits, no walks, no runs, and one hit batsman. McQuillan gave up 1 run on 10 hits and no walks. The win put New York a game an a half behind National League leading Chicago and a half game behind second place Pittsburgh in the standings. Chicago played Pittsburgh that day and won 9-3. They held Honus Wagner to a walk in five trips to the plate.

Wiltse would go on to post a 23-14 record in 1908 with an ERA of 2.24 (ERA+108) with 118 strikeouts, 6.8 WAR, and nine hit batsmen. None of the nine was as significant as McQuillan on 4 July.

Tom, Dick, and Larry: Larry

May 26, 2010

Larry Doyle

Like a number of players from the Deadball Era, Larry Doyle came out of the mines. His mines were in Breese, Illinois. He hated the mines, loved baseball, was better at the latter than the former and after a couple of years in the minors ended up in New York with the Giants in 1907.

Doyle was a third baseman in the minors and the Giants had a third baseman (Art Devlin). What they needed was a second baseman, so Doyle was handed the job. He was awful. Eventually he got better, but was never considered a first-rate second baseman. He seems to have never gotten the knack of coming in properly for a slow roller  and many of his errors were of the glove, not arm, kind.

What he could do well was hit. He moved quickly into the two hole in the Giants order and spent most of the next ten years as a reliable two hitter. He had good bat control, speed, and a good eye, all critical in a bunt oriented one-run-at-a-time offense. He led the National League in triples once (1911), in hits twice, and in doubles once. In 1915 he won the batting crown. In 1912 he won the NL’s Chalmers Award, the 19-teens version of the MVP award, setting career highs in both average and RBIs. His reward was a Chalmers automobile, which he managed to wreck in 1913 causing him to miss several games toward the end of the season.

During his tenure with the Giants, the team won the NL pennant in 1911-1913, but lost all three World Series’ to the American League team. In the 1911 Series Doyle led the team in hits (7) and average (.304). In 1912 his Series performance was much worse, and got even worse in 1913 when he managed to hit only .150 with three hits.

Doyle stayed with the Giants through 1915, managing to room with Christy Mathewson for most of the period. The two men became good friends and were very good at coming up with joint investments, which left Doyle with a nice nest egg for his early retirement years. He also became great friends with first baseman Fred Merkle and always supported him against detractors after the base running blunder of 1908.

In 1916 Doyle was traded to the Cubs with nine games left in the season (the Giants got Heinie Zimmerman). He stayed with Chicago through 1917, then came back to New York for the final three years of his career, retiring after the 1920 season. After his playing days he worked with the Giants as a minor league manager, scout, and sometime coach. He managed to go through most of his money and by 1942 was in bad shape both economically in healthwise. He got tuberculosis and ended up, with help from the NL, in the same sanitarium where his old roommate Mathewson had lived his last years. He outlived the sanitarium. It closed in 1954. He died at home in 1974.

For much of his career, Doyle was the finest second baseman in the National League, rivalled only by Johnny Evers (both Eddie Collins and Nap LaJoie in the American League were better). For his career he hit .290, slugged .408, had an on base percentage of .357 (765 ops) with 2654 total bases. He averaged 21 stolen bases a season (which includes two seasons when he did not play 100 games). He wasn’t much of a second baseman. HIs career .949 fielding average isn’t very good, even by the standards of the era (although there are worse).

Doyle was one of those players who is absolutely necessary for a team to do well, but who is not the big star on the team. He won an MVP but was usually lost behind the great names of the era. He was the best at his position in his league, but the other league was stronger at the spot. There are a lot of those types in baseball history.

Opening Day, 1910: New York (NL)

April 8, 2010

John J. McGraw

In 1908 the Giants lost the National League pennant on the last day of the season (the so called “Merkle Game”). They slipped in 1909, finishing third, 12 games out of second. John McGraw, never content with anything but first place, began retooling his team for the 1910 pennant run.

He did it by going with a group of bench players who replaced the more established players in the field. In doing so he dropped the average age of his postion players from 28 to 26 years of age, the youngest in the league (actually tied wth Cincinnati).  Gone were first baseman Fred Tenney, center fielder Bill O’Hara, and left fielder Moose McCormick. In their place came new first baseman and seven hitter Fred Merkle (of “Bonehead” infamy), Fred Snodgrass in center and hitting third, and Josh Devore the left fielder and new lead off man.

Staying in the starting line up were two hitter and second baseman Larry Doyle (the 1909 league leader in hits), shortstop and five hitter Al Bridwell, Art Devlin the third baseman and six hitter, and right fielder Red Murray who hit clean up. The 1909 backup catcher had been Chief Meyers. He now took over the starting spot, and the eight hole. Former starter Admiral Schlei slid onto the bench. Holdover Cy Symour and newcomer Beals Becker (from National League rival Boston) were the substitute outfielders, while Art Fletcher and Tilly Shafer remained backup infielders.

The pitching staff was the heart of a McGraw team. Christy Mathewson was the ace. He led the NL in winning percentage and ERA in 1909. Hooks Wiltse, Red Ames, and Bugs Raymond remained from the ’09 team. Reliever Doc Crandall stayed in the bullpen, and newcomer Rube Marquard was on the roster as a spot starter.

As usual for the Giants of the era, the team was built around pitching, defense, and speed. It was younger, faster, and hit better. Most New Yorkers expected it to compete for a pennant and a return to the World Series, the Giants’ first since 1905.

Next: Cincinnati