Posts Tagged ‘Bill Donovan’

1908: The Series

October 22, 2018

“Circus” Solly Hofman

Things have been a little goofy around here lately. I’ve been out-of-town and out of sorts for a while, so I’m a little behind on my 110 year later look at the 1908 season. But here’s a quick look at the World Series that season.

Because of the short distance between Detroit and Chicago, the 1908 World Series was played on consecutive days from 10 October through 14 October. The games rotated between cities with Detroit getting the odd-numbered games and Chicago the even numbers.

The Cubs were defending champions led by the celebrated (and probably overrated) trio of Joe Tinker to Johnny Evers to Frank Chance with Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown as the staff ace. The Tigers counted with an all-star outfield of Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb with Matty McIntyre holding down the other spot in the pasture.

After the celebrated National League pennant race and the equally terrific, but less celebrated, American League race, the Series seems something of an afterthought. It went five games with Detroit winning game three only. The Cubs scored 10 and six runs in the first two games, while Detroit managed seven total. The Tigers win in game three was 8-3, then the final two games turned in more common Deadball scores of 3-0 and 2-0. Brown and Orval Overall each picked up two wins with ERA’s of 0.00 (Brown) and 0.98 (Overall) with Jack Pfiester putting up a 7.88 ERA (it shouldn’t surprise you to find out he took the Cubs only loss). For Detroit George Mullen (ERA of 0.00) got the team’s only win while ace “Wild” Bill Donovan took two losses, including game five. Among hitters, Chance hit .421 while Tinker had the only home run (game 2). Outfielder Solly Hofman (of Merkle game fame) led the team with four RBIs. For Detroit Cobb hit .368 with a team leading four RbIs, while no Tiger hit a homer.

It was a fine, if not spectacular end of a famous season. Chicago won its second consecutive World Series and its last until 2016. The Cubs would get one more chance in 1910 (against Connie Mack’s Athletics) then fade. Detroit would be back for another try in 1909. This time they would face the Pittsburgh Pirates, Honus Wagner, and a rookie named Babe Adams.

 

1908: The AL Pennant

October 6, 2018

“Wahoo” Sam Crawford (note the sunglasses)

In 1908, the final day of the season was 6 October. On that date, the Detroit Tigers began the day 89-63, a half game ahead of both the White Sox and Cleveland. A Detroit win would clinch a title. As the baseball gods would have it, the Tigers played the ChiSox. Cleveland got the Browns.

The Browns dropped the game to the Naps (now the Indians) 5-1, making them 90-64 for the season. Both games were played in the Central Time Zone (St. Louis and Chicago). I was unable to find out if the Naps knew the outcome of the Chicago game before their own ended. I also couldn’t find out it the teams in Chicago knew that Cleveland won.

The Tigers sent Wild Bill Donovan to the mound to face Doc White. The game got out of hand quickly as the Tigers scored four first inning runs off the White Sox and tacked on another in the second. They added two more in the ninth to take the American League pennant 7-0. White didn’t get out of the first inning. Reliever Ed Walsh went a little more than three innings, and Frank Smith finished the game. Combined they gave up 12 hits, struck out six, and didn’t walk any. Donovan twirled a two hitter, both singles, walked three, and struck out nine. For the Tigers, Sam Crawford had four hits, one a double, and scored two runs. Ty Cobb racked up two hits, the big blow being a triple.

The final tallies for all three teams stood at 90-63 for Detroit, 90-64 for Cleveland, and 88-64 for the ChiSox. Detroit had a tie, Cleveland had three, and Chicago four. By the rules of the day, ties did not have to be made up. So the rules in play for 1908 gave the Tigers a half game lead and the pennant. That rule is different now.

In the National League it was another story. The Giants had a made up game the next day and won. That left New York at 98-55, in a dead tie with Chicago. But each team had a tie, the so-called ‘Merkle Game.” Under the earlier decision by the National League leadership, the game would be replayed 8 October.

 

Trifecta

July 19, 2012

Bet you didn’t know Ty Cobb could smile, did you?

Never having gotten to the big leagues myself, I can only speculate here, but my guess is that it must hurt deeply to lose a World Series. The Texas Rangers have now lost two in a row which must be even more heart breaking. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose three in a row, something that Texas could do this year. If they do, they’ll tie a record. It’s happened twice, losing three in a row. They occurred 100 years ago and occurred almost back-to-back. Here’s the story of one of those teams.

The 1907-1909 Detroit Tigers were the first Detroit team to cop a pennant since the Wolverines of the 1880s. They were a loaded team with a lot of star players for the era. It was a team that could hit and hit a lot. With an outfield of  Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford (with either Davy Jones or Matty McIntyre holding down left field) they led the American League in runs and hits all three seasons, led in doubles and triples twice each, in batting average, on base percentage, and OPS all three years, and in slugging the first two seasons. Cobb won batting titles all three years and the triple crown in 1909. Crawford picked up a home run title in 1908.

The problem was the pitching. During the three-year period from 1907 through 1909 the Tigers finished third, sixth, and third in ERA; fifth, fourth, and fifth in shutouts; never finished higher than sixth (in an eight team league) in hits allowed; and the best they could do with runs scored against them was third in 1909. Mainstays George Mullin, Ed Killian, and Bill Donovan had great win-loss records, but those records were very much a reflection of the team hitting.

In 1907, led by manager Hughie Jennings, they won the American League pennant by a game and a half (over Philadelphia) and were then swept by the Cubs in the World Series. Well, not exactly swept. There was one game that was called on account of darkness with the score tied. In 1908, they won the pennant by a half game over Cleveland (there was a rain out that didn’t have to be made up under the rules of the day) and had to face Chicago again in the World Series. This time they managed one win as the Cubs won their last ever World Series. By 1909, tired of playing the Cubs, Detroit decided to try its luck with Pittsburgh. The Tigers won the AL pennant by three and a half games (again over Philadelphia), and lost a hard-fought World Series. The Series went seven games with the Pirates winning all the odd-numbered games and Detroit taking all the even-numbered games (only time that’s happened). Their run was over in 1910 as the Athletics finally rushed passed Detroit to take three of the next four pennants (Boston had the other).

There’s a common perception that Cobb did poorly in postseason play. That’s kind of true. He hit less than .250 in both 1907 and 1909 with only ten hits and two stolen bases. He did, however, drive in five runs in ’09 (none in ’07)  and scored three in 1909 (again none in 1907). In 1908 he hit .368, drove in four runs (in five games), scored three runs, had seven hits (all but one a single), and stole two bases. So he’s a best a mixed bag. Crawford, who doesn’t suffer from the same perception, never hit above .250, had one home run, eight RBIs, and one stolen base in the combined three Series’. Again not a particularly great stat line. As a rule, the less said about the pitching the better.

After 1909, Detroit fell back in the standings not resurfacing in the World Series until the 1930s. Cobb played into the 1920s, Crawford into the teens. Both failed to make another postseason.

Opening Day, 1910: Detroit

April 14, 2010

Sam Crawford

Today marks the actual opening day of the 1910 season. One hundred years ago baseball began its season anew. And Detroit was the returning American League Champion.

The Tigers were three-time defending AL champions. Unfortunately they were also three-time losing World Series participants. As you would probably guess, the three-time defending champion hadn’t made many changes on its roster as the 1910 season opened. Manager Hughie Jennings had a good team and little reason to make major changes.

The infield consisted of Tom Jones at first and Jim Delahanty at second. Both came to Detroit late in the 1909 season and helped the Tigers to a 3.5 game margin over Philadelphia. Donie Bush remained at shortstop and George Moriarty was the third baseman. Bush led off and led the AL in walks in 1909. Frankly he wasn’t much of a shortstop, but was considered adequate, especially when his batting was taken into consideration.

The catchers platooned. That was a rarity in 1910. Oscar Stanage hit left-handed and Boss Schmidt, a switch hitter, swung mostly from the right. Neither were considered exceptional catchers or superior hitters, but got the job done.

You should start seeing a pattern emerge here. The team is adequate, not special. In defending a pennant adequate can lead to loss.

The heart of the team was the outfield. Longtime left fielder Matty McIntyre saw his production slip in 1909 and became, in 1910, the fourth outfielder. Davy Jones, former backup outfielder, took over the job in left. The key to the outfield lay in the other two positions manned by Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. Cobb was coming off a triple crown year. He also led the AL in runs, stolen bases, and slugging. He was fearless and fearsome on the bases, generally disliked as  person, but widely admired for his baseball abilities. Crawford was in many way the anti-Cobb. He was quiet, will liked, a team player. He was also very, very good. In 1909 he led the AL in doubles.  With the two of them hitting three and four in the lineup, Detroit was formidable.

The bench consisted of McIntyre, the platooned catcher of the day, Charley O’Leary, Hack Simmons, and Chick Lathers. All were backup infielders with Lathers doing more pinch-hitting than either of the others.

The pitching staff saw one major change during the offseason. Sailor Stroud was a rookie. The rest of the staff consisted of George Mullin (who won 29 games in 1909), Bill Donovan, Ed Willett, Ed Summers, and Ed Killian (what is it with all the Ed’s?). All had pitched reasonably well in 1909 with Willett posting 22 wins.

But the Tigers had  problems. They were aging and the pitching staff was in many ways a reflection of their hitting. None of the pitchers had particularly good hits to innings pitched ratios or walks to strikeout ratios. In fact none of them were significant strikeout pitchers. Millen led the team with 124, good for 11th in the AL. The hitters, beyond Cobb and Crawford, weren’t anything special. All of them would hit over .250 for the season, but there was little pop. Beyond Cobb and Crawford none of them had more than six triples (which is a bigger deal in 1910 than in 2010). With the growing abilities of other teams, especially Philadelphia, the Tigers went into 1910 defending champs, but vulnerable.

Next: the Athletics