Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Terrapins’

The International Man of Mystery

March 25, 2014
Jack Quinn while with Brooklyn

Jack Quinn while with Brooklyn

Some really good players have short, intense careers. Others have long careers that were never sterling. Then there’s Jack Quinn, who had a long career with sterling moments and a lot of questions about his initial years.

Jack Quinn was born somewhere under some name and that’s about all historians can agree upon. A number of sites have him born in Stevfurov, Austria (now Slovakia). Others have him born in Jeanesville, Pennsylvania or Mahoney City, Pa. Another bunch show his birthplace as Wilkes Barre, Pa. Still others pick St. Clair, Pennsylvania. The year varies between 1883 and 1885. Finally, there’s the question of his name. He shows up as Jan Pajkos, as John Quinn Picas, and as John Picas Quinn. His Wikipedia page picks the Slovakia site and 1883 as does Baseball Reference.com. His SABR biography accepts Slovakia and 1883 but chances his birthdate from 1 July to 5 July. It also indicates that the first four editions of Baseball Encyclopedia give four difference places and four different dates. So I’ll start by saying I have no idea when or where he was born, but 1883 in Slovakia seems to be the building consensus, so it works for me. For what it’s worth, he was elected, in 2006, to the Polish-American Hall of Fame, which might do a job on “Quinn” as his original last name, but who knows.

Where ever he was born and when ever, he came out of the Pennsylvania coal country a pitcher on local semi-pro teams. By 1907 he was in the minors as a spit-balling pitcher with good control, an excellent spitter, and a good enough fastball to pick up interest among the big league scouts. In 1909 he made his debut with the New York Highlanders (now the Yankees), winning the game and going 9-5 for the season. The next year he was 18-12, then fell off for the 1911 and 1912 seasons. He spent 1913 with the Braves then went to the Federal League for both 1914 and 1915. With the Baltimore Terrapins he went 26-14 and then 9-22, the 22 leading the Feds in losses for 1915.

With the folding of the Federal League, Quinn went back to the minors for 1916 and 1917. In 1918 he went back to the Majors, settling in with the White Sox where he went 5-1 over six games. But there was a question as to who retained his rights. New York claimed that although Quinn pitched for the Federal League, his American League rights were retained by his last “real Major League” team, them. League President Ban Johnson agreed and Quinn went back to the Yankees for 1919. He remained there though 1921. He did well in 1919 and 1920, but by 1922 he was 37 (more or less) and spent much of that season in the bullpen. He got into the 1921 World Series, taking the loss in relief in-game three. After the Series he was traded to the Red Sox for a couple of younger arms.

He stayed with Boston into 1925, serving about equal time as a starter and a reliever. He went 45-54 with 14 saves. Midway through the season he was sold to the Athletics for the waiver price and remained in Philadelphia through 1930. He was now 41 (give or take). He had good years with the A’s going 18-7 in 1928 at age 45 (again more or less). In 1929 he got into his second World Series, starting game four. He was 46 (we think), the oldest man to start a World Series game. He was shelled, but the A’s won when the team  scored 10 runs in the seventh inning to pull out a 10-8 victory. He spent 1930 mostly as a reliever and  pitched only two innings in Philly’s World Series victory. Now at 47 (I guess)  he became the oldest man to ever relieve in a World Series game. For what it’s worth, Jim Kaat was 43 when he relieved in the 1982 World Series. Some believe that, because Quinn’s age is in dispute, he (Kaat) is the oldest man to pitch in a World Series.

Released at the end of the Series, Quinn caught on with the Dodgers in 1931. He stayed two years working almost entirely as a reliever (he started one game). He led the National League in saves in both 1931 and 1932 (as the save statistic wasn’t invented until much later, he never knew that). His 1931 total of 15 was an NL record that lasted until 1948. He was released after the 1932 season and signed with Cincinnati. He got into 14 games then was let go. He was 49 (give or take) and through. At his retirement, he had 57 saves, second to Firpo Marberry. He pitched a little in the minors as late as 1935. He was (depending on who you believe) 51. He died in April 1946.

Over a career lasting 23 years (at least we agree on the number of years he pitched) Quinn went 247-218 (a .531 winning percentage), struck out 1329, walked 860, gave up 4238 hits and 1837 runs in 3920 innings pitched. His ERA is an unexceptional 3.29, but his ERA+ is 114. In World Series play he is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA. As a hitter, his average is all of a buck-84, but he did have eight home runs and 113 RBIs. His Baseball Reference.com version of pitching WAR is 59.

Quinn is one of the more unusual players ever. Not only did he pitch for 23 years, a major feat in itself, he was never a particularly great pitcher. In an era when wins were the most important statistic, he had 20 once (26 in 1914) and that in a marginal upstart league. He had 18 wins twice (eight years apart) and eight years with a losing record (although one of those years he went 0-1). Does that sound like a man who would have a 23 year career? He was, however, a pretty fair reliever (just over half his games pitched are relief appearances), but that wasn’t the same as it is today in the age of the “closer”. Is he someone the Hall of Fame has overlooked? Not in my opinion, but I supposed someone could make a case for him.

 

1910: Chief

May 12, 2010

Today marks the centennial of Chief Bender’s one and only no-hitter. He beat Cleveland 4-0 (Cleveland was involved in both 1910 no hitters with Addie Joss winning in April) with 1903 World Series hero Bill Dinneen taking the loss. Dinneen had thrown his own no-hitter in 1905. Of the three major pitchers who were the centerpieces of the 1910-1914 Athletics dynasty (Eddie Plank, Jack Coombs being the others), only Bender tossed a no-no.

Charles Albert Bender was born in Minnesota in 1884. He was a Ojibwa tribal member who attended both Carlisle Indian School (before Jim Thorpe arrived) and Dickinson College, both in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He seems to have been an OK student and was a gifted pitcher. In 1903 Connie Mack brought him to the Philadelphia A’s where he became the third pitcher and leading right-hander  behind southpaw aces Eddie Plank and Rube Waddell. He pitched in the 1905 World Series, taking both a win and a loss. The win was Philly’s only victory in the series. By 1910 he was well established as one of Philadelphia’s aces. He was also a Connie Mack favorite, who was generally chosen to pitch critical games. In 1910, he will start two World Series games, splitting them. In 1911, he will start three going 2-1. With Coombs disabled in 1913, Bender will be the ace and win two games in the series. In 1914, lost his only start in the Miracle Braves sweep.

With the advent of the Federal League in 1914,  Mack began dismantling his team. Bender jumped to the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League where he had a terrible year, going 4-16 giving up more hits than innings pitched. With the collapse of the Feds, Bender ended up back in Philadelphia, but this time with the National League Phillies. He went 15-9 with other good numbers too. He retired then, went into war work for World War I, then coached for the White Sox in the 1920s. He got into one game in 1925, giving up a run in one inning with a walk and a hit, then was through for good. He returned to The A’s and coached, scouted, and manged at the minor league level through 1950, when both he and Mack retired. In 1953 he was elected to the Hall of Fame and died the next year.

For his career, including the Federal League year, Bender was 210-128 (a .621 winning percentage) with 1711 strikeouts in 3017 innings,  712 walks, and an ERA of 2.46. In World Series play he pitched ten games going 6-4 with 64 hits,59 strikeouts, and 85.1 innings pitched. Certainly a good enough career.

In one way it’s an even better career. Because Bender was an American Indian he faced the standard racial prejudices of his day every time he took the mound. Phil Sheridan of “The only good indian is a dead indian” fame had only been dead for 15 years prior to Bender’s rookie campaign. He faced problems from the stands and from the opposing players. One symbol of it was his nickname, “Chief.” It was common in the period for any American Indian player to have that nickname and frequently it was meant derogatorily. Mack, sensitive to Bender’s problem and his initial feelings about the name, refered to him as “Albert”, his middle name. Bender seems to have at a point late in his career finally embraced the name (or at least quite despising it) and used it as a badge of honor against a hostile world. One of his favorite responses to heckling from the stands was to refer to the hecklers as “Foreigners.”

His teammates and most of the Philly fans liked him (Considering the way they treat their own players today, what happened to Philly fandom in the last 100 years???). He was considered a good teammate and friend, a player the other players liked to be around both on and off the job. Mack trusted him with scouting and developing minor league players after Bender’s retirement. It wasn’t easy being an American Indian in 1910, but among his friends, coaches, and teammates Bender was respected and liked.

By this point, he’s been almost forgotten. Unlike the black community’s embrace of Jackie Robinson, the American Indian Movement never picked up on him as someone to remember and that’s a real shame. They probably should have done so. He’s worth it as both ballplayer and man.