Posts Tagged ‘Bid McPhee’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1905

July 1, 2014

It’s time for my monthly addition to My Own Little Hall of Fame. For those of you who’ve forgotten, this is my attempt to determine what the Hall of Fame would look like if it were formed in 1901 rather than in the 1930s. My primary contention is that a number of players who’ve gotten little consideration for the modern Hall would have been added if the Hall were created earlier. So here’s the Class of 1905.

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond

Thomas “Tommy” Bond pitched from 1874 through 1884 winning 234 games leading his league in strikeouts wins, and ERA twice each. He also led the National League in shutouts on three occasions. His 1877 and 1878 Boston teams won pennants with him as their primary hurler. One of only a handful of players to work in four different leagues: National Association, National League, American Association, and Union Association.

Bid McPhee

Bid McPhee

John “Bid” McPhee was a star second baseman for Cincinnati in both the National League and the American Association. He holds many fielding records for second basemen. As a hitter he won both a home run and a triples title. Is second among all players with 189 total triples.

"Truthful" Jim Mutrie

“Truthful” Jim Mutrie

James “Truthful Jim” Mutrie managed both the New York Metropolitans of the American Association and the New York Gothams of the National League. Under his leadership the Metropolitans won the 1884 Association pennant and the Gothams won both the 1888 and 1889 National League pennants. The latter teams both won postseason tournaments against their Association rivals. Among managers with 200 or more wins his winning percentage is highest in Major League history. He is credited with coining the name “Giants” for the current New York National League team.

Tip O'Neill, well after his retirement

Tip O’Neill, well after his retirement

James “Tip” O’Neill played outfield for the St. Louis Browns between 1884 and 1889 inclusive and was the first great Canadian player. He led his team to four consecutive pennants (1885-1888) and two disputed postseason championships. He led the Association in hits twice and batting average twice. In 1887 he hit .435 and led the Association in average, home runs, RBIs, doubles, triples, hits, and runs.

Harry Stovey

Harry Stovey

Harry Stovey played both outfield and first base from 1880 through 1893. He led his league in booth runs scored and triples four times, in home runs five times, in stolen bases twice, and in doubles once. His 1888 Philadelphia Athletics team won the second American Association pennant, while his 1890 Boston team won the only Player’s League pennant. In the National League he won a pennant with the 1891 Beaneaters.

And now the commentary.

1. Tommy Bond? Really? Bond only has 180 wins in the National League but is the ace of the first great NL team. I felt that gave him a leg up on other pitchers still not elected and eligible (Mathews, McCormick, Mullane, and Deacon White’s brother Will). As with most pitchers of his era he has only a handful of great years then drops off quickly, perhaps too quickly for many voters. My guess is that if he were elected by the voters in 1905 he would just barely get invited to the Hall. Having said that, I think he’s the best available pitcher, but I am aware that Mullane and Mathews have a  lot more wins, the key pitching stat is 1905.

2. McPhee is now much further down the current list of triples, but in 1905 he was still second (to Anson). He is, by all accounts and by all stats available in 1905, the finest second baseman of the 19th Century.

3. I am absolutely certain that Mutrie should be in the Hall of Fame and, thus, am completely comfortable adding him to the Class of 1905. In 1876 William Hulbert tossed New York out of the National League. No NYC team played at the highest level again until the Metropolitans joined the American Association. Mutrie was a prime mover in creating the team and piloted it to its first successful season. Then he was instrumental in creating the Gothams (Giants) and putting a New York team back into the NL. In many ways he is the father of Major League baseball in New York. He was still alive in 1905, but lived in obscurity. In 1905 only one manager who managed more than one year had a higher winning percentage than Mutrie and he managed all the way back in the National Association (and to this day only Joe McCarthy has a higher winning percentage among managers with 200+ wins). BTW “Truthful Jim” is an ironic nickname (sort of like calling a 6’9″ 300 pound guy “Tiny”). He was known to make up a lot of stuff in order to get what he wanted when it came to his team and his own wealth. That means he’s a bit of a  rogue, but then the real Hall is full of those.

4. Aren’t O’Neill and Stovey a bit of a stretch? O’Neill and Stovey were, to me the best players in the Association (although McPhee also spent a lot of time in the AA, I think both were better than him). By 1905 the Association had been dead for almost 15 years and was already slipping in the public memory. The Reach Guide, newspapers, and other sources have very little on the Association and it was quickly fading from memory. Those new players eligible for a Hall of Fame in 1905 weren’t a particularly exciting lot, so I took the opportunity to add the best of the Association at this point, presuming that the longer I waited, the less likely they would get a call. I’m not at all sure that a real Hall existing in 1905 would have brought them inside. The current Hall certainly hasn’t.

5. OK, fine, but what happened to Pete Browning? I’ll admit that I considered long and hard about Browning. His average is tremendous, but there are three problems. First, he plays in the Association and for almost its entire existence it was considered much the weaker league. I felt that the perceived weakness of the Association would be held against him. Second, yeah he’s got a high average, but he’s got all of 1656 hits and 4820 at bats. Those just aren’t really big numbers, even for the era. He averages 371 at bats per season and 127 hits per season. That’s all. Finally he was universally considered a lousy fielder. Four times he’s in the top four in errors and no contemporary source I could find says anything good about him in the field. So I’m holding him until later. He may still get an invite, but not this time.

6. You seem somewhat unhappy with this list. Are you? Yeah, kinda. On a personal level I have no problem with who I added for 1905. But when trying to figure this out from the point of view of a voter in 1905, I’m not so sure that this is the list that would come out of a vote. As mentioned above, other pitchers have more wins than Bond (and wins is the key stat for pitchers in 1905) and O’Neill and Stovey play in what was almost universally conceded was a weaker league. Even McPhee is questionable because he didn’t hit .300 and in 1905 that mattered a lot. I’m simply concerned that viewing this list from 1905 I may have gotten it wrong.

7. Finally, it was a real problem putting five new members into this Hall of Fame. It’s becoming harder to get five each time because there are only a handful of worthy new candidates showing up each year and the backlog of quality players is quickly reaching the line that separates great players from really good players (and I may have crossed it already with Bond). It may be  a while before there are five new inductees again.

 

 

 

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1904

June 2, 2014

Time for my monthly addition to My Own Little Hall of Fame. This time it’s the Class of 1904. Without further nonsense, here’s the list followed, as usual, by the commentary.

Henry Chadwick

Henry Chadwick

Henry Chadwick

One of the true “Fathers of Baseball.” New York sportswriter who popularized baseball through his columns and coverage in newspapers. He is credited with inventing the box score as well as a number of other statistics.

"Pud" Galvin

“Pud” Galvin

James “Pud” Galvin

Most wins of any pitcher. Most innings pitched of any pitcher. Had a long career with both Buffalo and Pittsburgh while playing in three different Major Leagues. Never pitched from a mound.

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke

“Orator” Jim O’Rourke

Hit .310 over a 21 year career extending from 1872 through 1893. Member of three National Association champions and of the 1877 and 1978 Boston National League pennant winners. Won the 1884 National League batting title. Member of the 1888 and 1889 National League pennant winning New York Giants, hitting .306 with two home runs in postseason play.

Mickey Welch

Mickey Welch

Mickey Welch

Won over 300 games, most with the Giants. Had 40 wins once, 30 three times, with 345 strikeouts in 1884. Won pennants with the Giants in both 1888 and 1889.

Deacon White

Deacon White

James “Deacon” White

First great professional catcher. In 1871, he had the first hit in an all professional league. Later in his career he moved to third base. Won batting titles in both the National Association and the National League. His teams won three National Association pennants and an equal number of National League pennants.

And now the commentary.

1. How much did baseball writers know about Henry Chadwick’s work in 1904? I was surprised at how well he was known. Of course he was still alive in 1904, so that helped. But a lot of sports writer’s seemed to know about the box score. About the other stats I’m not as sure.

2. What took so long on Galvin? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, it seems that Galvin’s accomplishments had fallen off the face of the earth. Here’s a guy with more wins and innings pitched than any other 19th Century pitcher and he seems to be overlooked. Much as you find few people today who place Cy Young (who has more wins than any other pitcher) at the top of the pitching pecking order, preferring Walter Johnson or Lefty Grove or Rogers Clemens or someone else, Galvin (who has the most wins of a 19th Century pitcher) seems to find few writers who extolled his greatness. So I’m comfortable with holding him until 1904.

3. Deacon White lived until 1939 and was still active in 1904 as a manager and coach for a variety of minor league teams. I was surprised how much I found about him (although there was a lot more on other players). In various places he’s credited with catching innovations that are also credited to others. I decided to ignore those. Interestingly, the “first hit in an all professional league” honor didn’t seem to be all that well-known. As early as 1904 there seems to have been at least a bit of mixed feeling about calling the National Association a “Major League”.

4. So, who did you agonize over most? Well, I didn’t actually “agonize”, but I thought longest and hardest about O’Rourke and Welch. O’Rourke is one of those players that I’ve always felt was overrated, but when I looked at his hits, games, total bases, doubles, and membership on pennant winning teams, I decided he would probably have made it (possibly even earlier than 1904). He was still active in baseball in 1904 (he was a coach), even playing in a game for the Giants (the last one of the season). He hadn’t played in MLB since 1893 so I decided that if the election occurred in January (as it does presently) O’Rourke would remain retired when the election was held. As mentioned above, he was a coach for the Giants, but also had extensive ties to the minors, and was well enough known and liked that I could see him sliding into a 1904 version of the Hall of Fame. Besides, it gave me a chance to allow a living (as of 1904) member of the Hall of Fame to actually appear in a Big League game.

5. But Welch was different. He was distinctly the weaker of the two great Giants pitchers (Tim Keefe being the other). There were a lot of pitchers from the 19th Century that were probably as good but played for weaker teams. I looked at some of the more modern stats to see if I was just imagining it, but had to dismiss them as they were unavailable for 1904 era voters. Ultimately, I decided that era voters would probably be dazzled enough by the 300 wins that he’d get in without a lot a problem. I just wish I was more comfortable with his inclusion. BTW he was also still alive in 1904.

6. Where’s Delahanty? Ed Delahanty died in 1903 in a fall from the train bridge. Being dead there was no chance of him playing in 1904 (Is that the most obvious statement I ever made or what?) so he could be eligible for election. I thought about it seriously because I knew whatever I decided would impact what I do in 1910 with Addie Joss. The circumstances of Delahanty’s death were such that one could argue that the death was avoidable and thus he shouldn’t be given a waiver. On the other hand it was an era of sports reporting that tended to gloss over a player’s failings so I don’t know if the circumstances were universally known to regular fans. Realizing that most writers (the actual voters) would know the circumstances, I decided to hold him until he is otherwise eligible in 1909. Not sure it’s the right choice, but I have to make one. Without wanting to totally commit to it, my guess is that I’ll let Joss get in early since his death was of natural causes (he had tubercular meningitis), assuming he gets in at all let alone on the first try.

7. The 1905 class is going to be interesting. There are few just “have to” people left to put in and none of them come eligible in 1905. So I’m going to concentrate on the American Association (which doesn’t mean only Association players are getting in). For almost all their post-demise history, the two Associations (National and later American) were ignored by the later writers. To make it worse, the AA was considered much the weaker league so that hitting .320 in the AA didn’t mean quite the same thing to contemporaries as hitting .320 in the NL (this will greatly affect Pete Browning). I’m going to have to try to find out if there’s a way to figure out what the likely voters in 1905 thought of the players in the AA (by today, the only players with significant time in the AA enshrined in Cooperstown are Bid McPhee and Tommy McCarthy). By 1905 it had been over a  decade since the AA had played a game and I don’t know how much the writers who would have voted in 1905 knew about the Association. By something like 1915 it would have been 25 years since the Association played and many of the writers would never have seen an Association game. It seems to me that getting AA players in to a 1901 era Hall of Fame would have to come fairly quickly or time alone would dim the chances of the players. That convoluted enough for you?

 

Thoughts on Enshrining 3 Managers

December 10, 2013
Baseball's newest Hall of Famers (from MLB.com)

Baseball’s newest Hall of Famers (from MLB.com)

So the Veteran’s Committee has put Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, and Joe Torre into the Hall of Fame. Although I stated earlier I wouldn’t vote for Cox myself, I have no problem with the three making it to Cooperstown (as if the Committee cares what I think). Here’s a few thoughts on the newest election.

Again, Marvin Miller failed to make the Hall of Fame. According to reports the three winners were unanimously elected and no other candidate received more than six votes (out of 18). I’m surprised that Miller got at most six votes. There were six players on the committee, but I have no idea if any or all of them voted for Miller. So Far I’m unable to find out exactly how many votes anyone other than the three managers received.

And it’s not at all strange that a player was not elected. I went back to 2000 (the entire 21st Century, depending on what you do with 2000) and looked at the Veteran’s Committee inductees. It’s an interesting group. First, I need to remind you that the Committee was, for a  while, not a yearly institution, so in some of those 15 years there was no Committee and thus no one had a chance of election. For the purposes of this comment, I’ve excluded the 17 Negro League players and executives elected in 2006 because they were elected by a separate committee set up specifically to enshrine Negro League members. Only four players have been elected. They are Bill Mazeroski, Ron Santo, Bid McPhee, and Deacon White. Two of the players span the 1960s, the other two play in the 1800s. On the other hand, the Committee has elected two Negro Leaguers (Turkey Stearnes and Hilton Smith), seven managers (including the three just chosen), and seven contributors (executives, commissioners, umpires, etc.). So recently, the Veteran’s Committee has been shorting players.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It may mean that we’ve almost gotten to the end of those players who genuinely deserve Hall of Fame status. It may mean that the selection committee will continue to put up players and the election committee will continue to turn down almost all of them. I want to see what the various ballots look like over the next dozen or so years (remember there are 3 committees, so a dozen years would be four of each). If the same people keep making the list and keep failing election it should indicate that the various Veteran’s Committees have determined that the era for which they vote is devoid of quality candidates for enshrinement. Of course evolving lists and new stat methods can change this very much. The problem is that the pressure to elect someone, anyone, can be great. After all if you go five years without electing someone, then people begin to ask “why do we have a Veteran’s Committee?” This could lead to more marginal players elected or, more likely from what we’ve seen lately, more managers, umpires, owners, and executives making the trek to Cooperstown for enshrinement. Although I admit that the contributors have a major role in baseball and should be commemorated in Cooperstown, let’s not get carried away and start putting in everybody who ever umped a game or owned a team.

I also found out something about the Veteran’s Committee rules. According to MLB.com the members of the committee are restricted to voting for not more than five candidates (like the writers and the 10 candidate rule). As with the writers ballot this tends to depress the election results, which may not be bad, but I really wish they’d let the committee members vote for as many as they want. After all, they can vote for as few as they want, including no one.

So congratulations to Cox, LaRussa, and Torre. Now we wait for the Spink and Frick Awards and the big ballot writer’s selections. Those should be interesting, particularly the latter.

A Great Year for a Dead Guy

January 3, 2011

Bid McPhee

Back several years ago, my son and I were rummaging through a baseball almanac looking at various stats. You’ve seen these. At the back of the book is a long list of stats by career, season, playoffs, etc. Usually they pick a cutoff number and list everybody with that specific stat above the cutoff. In looking over the triples list we ran across the name “Bid McPhee.” Neither of us had ever heard of him, so we did a little bit of  searching and found out a minimal amount of info. Then the Veteran’s Committee announced it’s pre-1919 list of winners and there was McPhee, enshrined in Cooperstown in 2000. So we got out the newest version of the almanac and looked him up again. Strange, but he seemed to have gained about 20 triples. We went back and looked at the old one, and sure as taxes he had gained 20 triples (We chalk that up to SABR research). So in one year McPhee gained 20 triples and a ticket to Cooperstown. That led my son to comment, “He had a great year for a dead guy.”

Born in 1859 in New York, John McPhee moved with his family to Illinois immediately after the American Civil War. He played baseball for the local town team, was signed by a nearby minor league team and remained in the minors to 1880, when he left baseball for a job as a bookkeeper. He was a short man and was refered to as “Little Biddy.” The name stuck as “Bid”.  Apparently you could make more money keeping books than playing baseball, and McPhee decided he needed the money. By 1881 he was back in Akron, Ohio playing baseball for the town team. He caught the eye of the fledgling Cincinnati team of the newly formed American Association. He was signed in 1882 as a second baseman (seemingly for more than the bookkeeping job). Cincinnati won the inaugural Association pennant with McPhee hitting all of .228 with 43 runs and 31 RBIs. He was, however, first in putouts and fielding percentage, third in assists and range among Association second sackers. He would remain an excellent bare handed second baseman for all his career, until age began to show. His hitting steadily improved and he eventually led the Association in both triples (1887) and home runs (1886) one time each.

McPhee spent his entire career with Cincinnati, moving with the team to the National League as the Association began collapsing in 1890. He remained a solid second baseman, and with the advent of the 60’6″ mound, he finally hit over .300. In fact, if you didn’t know about the change in the pitching distance, you’d swear he got a lot better as he got into his mid and late 30s. Another major change occurred for him in 1896. He broke a finger and began using a glove. His fielding percentage took off and he set an all-time high percentage for second basemen (.978) that lasted until 1925.  By 1899 he was 39 and through. He managed the Reds in 1901 and 1902 without much success, then became a scout, holding the position through the 1909 season. He retired to California and died in 1943. The call from Cooperstown came in 2000. He is one of only two Hall of Fame members, Johnny Bench is the other, who played their entire career in Cincinnati. In 2002 he joined the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.

For his career McPhee hit .272 with a .355 on base percentage, slugged .373, had an OPS of .728 (OPS+ of 106). He had 2258 hits, comprising 3098 total bases with 303 doubles, 189 triples, 53 home runs, and 1072 RBIs. He scored 1684 runs and stole 568 bases. The stolen base total is both incomplete and includes bases stolen prior to the modern rule being adopted in 1898. His fielding percentage was ..944, which is great for the 1880s and 1890s, he had 6552 putouts and 6919 assists.

As with most players of the era, there is some difference in the statistics of McPhee. The stats listed above are from Baseball Reference.com and differ from Nemec’s numbers in his 19th Century baseball almanac. Either way, McPhee shows up as an excellent player. When starting this look at McPhee, I went took a cursory look at the other second basemen of the 19th Century. I’ve concluded that, along with catcher, second base has to be the weakest position overall in the century. It’s tough to find a really outstanding player whose numbers reach out and grab you. I like Bobby Lowe and Nap LaJoie, but to me LaJoie is a 20th Century player and Lowe, although very good, isn’t truly outstanding. You could make a case for McPhee as the best 19th Century second baseman. Not sure I would, but he’d certainly be in the mix. But you gotta give him some credit for picking up those 20 triples 57 years after he died.