Posts Tagged ‘Bill Killefer’

1915: The New Kids in the Natonal League

April 8, 2015
Erskine Mayer

Erskine Mayer

Philadelphia joined the National League in 1876 and was tossed out before the end of the season. A team was formed in the rival American Association and won the 1883 Association pennant. The National League returned to Philly in 1883 when Worcester folded and the rights to a new franchise were given to Philadelphia. The new team was called the Quakers and managed to finish last. It was fairly typical for the NL team in Philly. Between 1883 and 1914 they’d won absolutely nothing. That changed finally in 1915, one hundred years ago.

The 1914 Phils finished sixth in an eight team league. It cost manager Red Dooin his job. Pat Moran, who’d played one game for Philadelphia in 1914 took over the job. He was 38 and a catcher. He’d not had much of a career (.235, a 78 OPS+, and a total WAR of 6.8), but he turned into a successful manager (He led the 1919 Reds to a World Series title). He ran a team that was greatly changed in 1915.

The 1915 Phillie infield (first to third) consisted of Fred Luderus, Bert Neihoff, Dave Bancroft, and Bob Byrne. Luderus was a holdover from the previous year. He’d hit only .248 but was second on the team with 12 home runs. Byrne was also a holdover, although he’d been the regular second baseman in 1914. Bancroft and Neihoff were both new. Bancroft was 24 and a rookie, just beginning what became a Hall of Fame career, while Neihoff came to the Phils from Cincinnati.

The outfield contained two holdovers and one new guy. The new guy was Possum Whitted. He’d been the cleanup hitter for the World Champion Boston Braves in 1914, but came to Philly in the off-season. His 43 RBIs were fourth on the team. One of the holdovers was Beals Becker. He hit only .246 in 1915, but was second on the team in home runs. The other was Gavvy Cravath. Cravath was the Philadelphia power hitter. He led the team in homers, RBIs, and runs, and was second in hits. His 24 home runs, 115 RBIs, 89 runs, and 170 OPS+ all led the NL.

Bill Killefer (played by James Millican in the flick “The Winning Team”) did the bulk of the catching. He wasn’t much of  a hitter, but was a good catcher. His backup, Ed Burns hit about the same but without the receiving skills. Dode Paskert and Milt Stock joined Burns as the only men on the bench who played more than 40 games. Stock led the bench with a .260 average and Paskert had three home runs.

Five men did most of the pitching. The ace was Grover Cleveland Alexander (who didn’t look much like Ronald Reagan in “The Winning Team”). Alexander went 31-10, had 12 shutouts, and struck out 241 while putting up a 1.22 ERA (ERA+ of 225) and a BBREF WAR of 10.9. Erskine Mayer was the two pitcher. He was 21-15 with a 2.36 ERA. Lefty Eppa Rixey had a losing record, but still recorded an ERA+ of 115. Al Demaree and George Chalmers rounded out the starters. Southpaw Stan Baumgartner and righty Ben Tincup did most of the bullpen work, but didn’t manage to post a single save (Alexander led the team with three).

The Phils won the pennant by seven games over reigning champ Boston. they were second in the league in runs, but last in hits (That’s a really odd combination, isn’t it?). They led the NL in home runs, were third in both doubles and RBIs. The staff led the league in ERA, hits, and runs, and was third in strikeouts. Individually, Cravath led the NL in offensive WAR, slugging, OBP, runs, walks, total bases, RBIs, and home runs. A caveat should be thrown in here. Almost all of Cravath’s 24 homers came at home in the small Philly ball park, Luderus finished second in hitting, second in doubles, and fifth in OBP and 10th in hits. Bancroft was third in runs scored and second in walks. Among pitchers Alexander led the NL in ERA, wins, WAR, strikeouts, shutouts, complete games, innings pitched, and just about anything else you can think of for pitchers. Mayer’s 21 wins were third in the league and he was ninth in strikeouts. He did, however, also lead the league in gopher balls.

The Phillies were one hit wonders. In 1916 they dropped back to second, stayed there in 1917, then went south quickly. They would return to their normal middle of the pack to second division status for the rest of the first half of the 20th Century. Their next pennant would come in 1950, the same year Alexander died.

Opening Day, 1910: Washington

April 22, 2010

Walter Johnson

When George Washington died in 1799, former Revolutionary War leader Lighthorse Harry Lee (who became most famous for being the father of Robert E. Lee) gave this eulogy, “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” In baseball this was frequently paraphrased, “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” The 1909 season ended with the Senators in last place, 56 games out and 20 games out of seventh. There was little prospect for 1910 to be significantly better. 

At the end of the 1909 season, the Senators canned manager Joe Cantillon, replacing him with Jimmy McAleer. Now there was an upgrade. McAleer was the just fired manager of the Browns who managed to finish exactly one spot ahead of Washington in the standings, seventh (OK, they were 20 games closer to first, but still ya gotta wonder). 

The infield underwent change at the corners and up the middle (except at shortstop). Former backup Bob Unglaub replaced Jiggs Donahue at first and Kid Elberfeld came over from New York to play third. Former starter Wid Conroy now became the man off the bench. George McBride stayed at short and Red Killefer (Bill’s brother) became the new second baseman. Killefer came over from Detroit late in 1909 and moved into the starting job when the new season began. Germany Schaefer, who had done a lot of the 1909 work at second, went to the bench. 

The outfield saw one new man and one change of position. Jack Lelivelt moved from right field to left and Doc Gessler, another player who came over in mid-1909 (this time from New York) took the right field slot. Lead off hitter Clyde Milan remained in center. Conroy, the backup infielder, doubled as the fourth outfielder. 

The catcher was Gabby Street. He was a standard no hit, great field catcher of the era. Much later he went on to win a World Series as a manager with the Cardinals in 1931. Rookie Eddie Ainsmith was his backup. 

The pitching staff was uneven. Walter Johnson was the ace. His 1909 was forgettable, but when you’re Walter Johnson there’s always the possibility that the next year will be great. Bob Groom, Dolly Gray, Tom Hughes, and Charlie Smith were the other 1909 starters. Groom led the American League in walks (105) and Smith was traded during the season. Johnson was back, as were Groom and Gray. Dixie Walker (not the 1940s outfielder), who had pitched four games the previous season, took over one starting slot. Doc Reisling, who pitched 10 games in 1909, took the other. Besides Johnson, it wasn’t a particularly distinguished staff. 

The Senators, like most lower division teams, did a lot of tinkering with their roster between 1909 and 1910. They managed to find a couple of players who were pretty good (Milan and Street) and then there was Johnson. Every fourth day they were guaranteed of being competitive. It was the other three days that were the problem.This concludes a team by team look at the Major Leagues in 1910.

I intend to continue looking at 1910 for the balance of the season, but will concentrate on major events (there’s another no hitter, Cy Young wins his 500th game, etc) and a once monthly review of the standings and such. That will give all of us a break from the events of 100 years ago.

Opening Day, 1910: St. Louis (AL)

April 21, 2010

Bobby Wallace

It’s uncharitable to say that the St. Louis Browns were hopeless, but sometimes the truth hurts. The Browns were hopeless. In their entire existence, 1902-1953, they finished first once. 1910 wasn’t it.  

 The Browns finished seventh in 1909, 36 games out of first. It led to a general housecleaning, something the Browns did frequently. Manager Jimmy McAleer was canned and replaced by Jack O’Connor a former catcher whose rookie season was 1887 with the American Association Cincinnati Reds. It was his first managerial job (and his last). He would survive in the job exactly one year. 

He didn’t have a lot to work with in St. Louis. Three of the infielders were different. Future Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace remained at short, but he was 36 in 1910 and on is last legs as a player. Former right fielder Roy Hartzell moved to third base with fairly predictable results. Pat Newman and Frank Truesdale took the jobs at first and second. Both were rookies. Art Griggs and Dode Criss remained the men off the bench. Criss sometimes moonlighted as a pitcher for St. Louis. He wasn’t an upgrade. 

The outfield had two stable members, Hartzell moving to third as mentioned above. Al Schweitzer replaced Hartzell in right and Danny Hoffman and George Stone remained in the other two spots. Schweitzer had been, with John McAleese, one of the backup outfielders in 1909. 

The 1909 catcher, Lou Criger, was gone, replaced by ’09 backup Jim Stephens. The new backup was Bill Killefer who would go on to fame as Grover Cleveland Alexander’s catcher with the Phillies. Killefer played 11 games in 1909. 

The pitching in 1909 was weak, but at least none of the major starters had given up more hits than innings pitched, and only one had walked more than he struck out. In 1910 four of the big starters, Jack Powell, Barney Pelty, Bill Bailey, and Hall of Famer Rube Waddell were back. Joe Lake was new, coming over from New York. So was rookie Robert “Farmer” Ray. 

And that was it. There were new guys, but they weren’t much of an upgrade, if at all. There was a new manager, four rookies (including Killefer), and a bunch of guys nobody ever heard of. The genuinely good players like Wallace and Waddell were at the end of their careers. The 1910 season was Waddell’s final year. It was the same story for most of the Browns’ history. 

Next: the Senators