Posts Tagged ‘Bob Groom’

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.

Can’t Buy a Hit

February 16, 2010

The second bizarre pitching performance of the 1917 season includes the hapless St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. In 2 of 3 games over 2 days, the Browns no hit the Sox. The Browns had their number for at least one weekend.

On Saturday, 5 May 1917, the Browns and White Sox played a single game in St. Louis. For the White Sox, ace Eddie Cicotte took the mound, opposed by lefty Ernie Koob. In the first, Buck Weaver singled. It was a close play, made difficult by the fact the second baseman hadn’t fielded it cleanly. By the end of the day the official scorer had consulted with a number of reporters and officials and changed the play to E4 (error by second baseman Ernie Johnson). It’s a crucial change, because it was the only hit Koob gave up that day. With the change, Koob had thrown a no hitter besting Cicotte 1-0. The score wasn’t in doubt, only the hit. So Koob, who won only 24 games for his entire career, had a no hitter.

The next day, 6 May, was a Sunday. The teams played a double header. In game 1, the Browns beat up on the White Sox 8-4 with Eddie Plank taking the win. Right hander Bob Groom relieved in the eighth inning, pitched two no hit innings and picked up a save. Then Groom started game 2. Like Koob, he didn’t give up a hit, winning 3-0. This time there was no controversial play. So Groom had pitched a total of 11 no hit innings during the day picking up both a win and a save (which he never knew, dying prior to the save becoming a stat).

Neither Koob nor Groom were particularly great pitchers. Koob went 6-14 with a 3.90 ERA in 1917. For a career he was 24-31 with an ERA of 3.13 over 125 games and ended up with more walks than strikeouts (186 to 121). His final season was 1919 and he died in 1941. Groom was 8-19 (the 19 losses led the AL), with an ERA of 2.94 in 1917. For his career he was 120-150 with a 3.10 ERA over 367 games. He had 783 walks and 1159 strikeouts. He ended his Major League career in 1918, only a year after his no hitter, and died in 1948.

A couple of interesting points to make here: First, it’s the only time the same team threw no hitters on back to back days (in 1968 there were no hitters on back-to-back days, but by different teams, and in 1990 there were two no hitters thrown on the same day, but in different leagues). Second, the Browns were on their way to finishing a dismal 7th (in an 8 team league) 43 games back. The pennant winner? The Chicago White Sox, who won the pennant by nine games and the World Series in six games. So the Sox were a better team, but for one weekend they simply couldn’t buy a hit off two marginal pitchers playing for a weak team in St. Louis. Who would have guessed it?