Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Mathews’

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Bobby Mathews

May 5, 2014
Bobby Mathews

Bobby Mathews

1. Robert Mathews was born in Baltimore in 1851.

2. In 1869 he became both a professional and the main pitcher for the Marylands of Baltimore, one of the first professional clubs in Maryland.

3. With the forming of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, Mathews joined the Keokuk Westerns in 1871. On 4 May he threw the first pitch in a fully professional league (and to some people’s thinking, the first Major League) game. His team won 2-0 making him the first pitcher to win a game in the National Association.

4. After one season at Keokuk, he joined the Baltimore Canaries as their primary pitcher in 1872, then joined the New York Mutual where he pitched from 1873 through 1875.

5. In the NA he won 131 games, lost 112, gave up 2593 hits in 2221.2 innings, struck out 329 men while walking 196. His ERA was 2.69 with an ERA+ of 107 and a WAR of 39.7 (all stats from Baseball Reference dot-com and WAR is BR.com’s version).

6. He stayed with the Mutual in 1876 when they joined the newly formed National League. With the Mutual being tossed out of the league at the end of 1876, he joined Cincinnati in 1877.

7. In 1878 he pitched for the independent Brooklyn Chelseas until tossed from the team for public drunkenness (a recurring problem for Mathews throughout his career). He was later reinstated.

8. In 1879 he got a chance back in the National League with Providence as the backup pitcher to John Montgomery Ward. Mathews won 12 games and Providence won the pennant by five games. In  1880 he went west to play in the Pacific League (not the Pacific Coast League of later fame). The league folded before the year ended. In this period the NL was not considered, by many players, to be significantly superior to other leagues, some of which paid better. So Mathews’ actions in 1880 were not uncommon.

9. He was back in the National League in 1881 pitching for Providence and later for Boston.

10. With the establishment of the American Association, Mathews jumped to Philadelphia in 1883 where he stayed through 1887, his final season. He helped Philly to the AA pennant in 1883.

11. During the offseason Mathews, with no college education and a serious drinking problem, became an assistant coach for the University of Pennsylvania. Some sources credit him as the first college pitching coach.

12. By 1895 he was working for Joe Start (Providence first baseman in the 1870s and 1880s) at a “roadhouse” near Providence. His drinking was catching up with him and he died in 1898 at age 47.

13. For his career (NA, NL, and AA combined) Mathews won 297 games, lost 248, gave up 5601 hits in 4956 innings. He walked 532, struck out 1528, had an ERA of 2.86, an ERA+ of 104, and a WAR (BR.com version) of 62.2. He’s never gotten a lot of backing for the Hall of Fame. Primarily because he is 60-75 in the National League, 106-61 in the AA, and 131-112 in the NA. The latter two leagues are almost totally forgotten today with MLB not even recognizing the NA as a Major League.

Thoughts on the Upcoming Veteran’s Committee Vote, III

November 9, 2011

1954 Allie Reynolds baseball card

Previously I’ve given my thoughts on the everyday players who are listed on this year’s Veteran’s Committee ballot for the Hall of Fame. Now it’s time to look at the pitchers. There are three on the Ballot: Jim Kaat, Allie Reynolds, and Luis Tiant. As with the everyday players, each pitcher has significant issues that have kept him from the Hall.

With 283 wins, Kaat has the most of this year’s trio. In fact of players not in the Hall of Fame and eligible Kaat has the fourth most wins. He’s behind Tommy John and two 19th Century pitchers Bobby Matthews and Tony Mullane (and Matthews pitched for far back he never stood on a mound). Kaat also has three 20 wins seasons (only one of which led the American League). But that’s the only time he led his league in any major category. He was only occasionally his team’s ace and by this point is probably most famous as the losing pitcher in the seventh game of the 1965 World Series, losing to Sandy Koufax who threw a shutout on two day’s rest (that happens). Further, Kaat pitched much of the end of his career in relief, becoming, in 1982, the oldest man to ever play in a World Series game (I’m not sure if that’s still true). And it’s this longevity that is much of Kaat’s problem. His numbers look pretty good, but they are longevity numbers and many Hall of Fame voters like gaudy peak numbers that Kaat just doesn’t have.

Luis Tiant was always a personal favorite of mine. As mentioned in the paragraph on Minnie Minoso, Tiant’s dad pitched in the 1947 Negro League World Series, so his son had quite a pedigree. For his career the younger Tiant had 229 wins, putting up 20 or more four times. He never led the AL in wins, but did lead in losses in 1969. He picked up ERA and shutout titles in 1968 (the year before leading the AL in losses). He got to a World Series with Boston in 1975 and won two games for a losing team. In many ways his problem is that he has too much of an up-and-down career. He wins 20, follows it with losing 20. He  has the big drop off at the end of his career that a lot of people have, but in the middle there are three seasons with less than 10 wins.

Allie Reynolds played back in the 1940s and 1950s, first for Cleveland, then for Casey Stengel’s Yankees. He was, according to a Stengel biography, Casey’s favorite pitcher because he could both start and relieve. Reynolds put up 182 wins with a .620 winning percentage. He won 20 games once, led the AL in ERA and walks once, led in strikeouts and shutouts twice, and went 7-2 with four saves in the World Series. Reynolds has three problems among Hall of Fame voters. One is the paucity of wins for a team that went to the World Series year after year while he pitched. Secondly, in many ways his replacement was better; a guy named Whitey Ford. You can of course argue that Ford replaced any one of the three early 1950s stalwarts of the Yankees staff (Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, and Vic Raschi), but Ford was better than any of them and I think that hurts Reynolds Hall of Fame chances. Finally, the 1950s Yankees teams are the teams of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra, not the pitchers (with the exception of Ford). It’s not a team remembered because of Reynolds, and that, too, hurts his chances.

There’s the list, three solid pitchers with good numbers and flaws. Would I vote for any or all of them? Not this time I wouldn’t. We’re left now with the two executives (neither of which has an old ball card to feature at the top of the article). I’ll take a look at them with a few comments next time.

The First Big League Game

March 3, 2010

It rained in Washington on the 4th of May 1871. The Boston Red Stockings and the Washington Olympics were scheduled to kick off the inaugural season of the newly formed National Association professional league. The rain stopped that from happening, so the first game between professional teams in a professional league was played in Fort Wayne, Indiana with the local team, the Kekiongas (named after an old Miami Indian settlement), facing the Cleveland Forest City. The powers that be in modern Major League Baseball don’t recognize the league as a Major League, but that idea is easily dismissed as silly. If you got two teams playing professional baseball at the highest level possible then that’s the Major Leagues and this is an account of the first game.

In Nemec’s The Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Major League Baseball there is a play by play account of the first Major League game taken from the New York Herald  (and the stats differ slightly from Retrosheet’s version). I don’t propose to copy it, you can read it for yourself. I do want to look at four innings and make a couple of comments.

In the first inning Cleveland catcher Deacon White doubled, then was out on a double play when he wandered away from second on a line shot to Fort Wayne second baseman Tom Carey. A foul out ended the inning. In the bottom of the first with two outs Fort Wayne’s Jim Foran singled but died at first when the inning ended on another foul out. You have a couple of firsts here. Deacon White recorded the first hit, and the first extra base hit in big league play. Tom Carey got the first ever unassisted double play in big league history. Jim Foran had the first single and the first hit by the home team.

In the bottom of the second, catcher Bill Lennon led off with a double, then scored with two outs on center fielder Joe McDermott’s single. Here we have the first run scored and the first RBI in the big leagues.

There was no more scoring until the bottom of the fifth when Fort Wayne’s Bill Kelly singled, advanced two bases on two passed balls  and scored on a ground out by Frank Selman. That ended the scoring for the day. In the top of the ninth, Deacon White again led off with a hit (a single), but was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double. Then a fly out, and outfielder Art Allison struck out to end the inning, but not the game. Under existing rules, the game had to have a bottom of the ninth. Fort Wayne went in order to finish the game and win the first ever big league game.

The line scores read Fort Wayne two runs on four hits while Cleveland had no runs on five hits. The winning pitcher was Bobby Mathews, who threw the frst ever big league shutout (it was also the lowest scoring game of the season), with Al Pratt taking the loss. Mathews line was nine innings pitched, four hits, no runs, one walk, and six strikeouts. Pratt had nine innings pitched, five hits, two runs (one earned), one walk, and no strikeouts. The game took two hours and someone named J.L. Boake was the umpire.

Pratt ended up 10-17 while Mathews went 6-11 with one shutout (this game). Pratt only pitched only two years, going 12-26 while Mathews pitched all the way into 1882 going (National Association and National League stats combined) 297-248. Deacon White, who got the first hit, was probably the biggest star to come out of the game. There are a handful of 19th Century players not currently in the Hall of Fame who might have, if properly studied, potential to reach the Hall. White is one of them.

On the one hand, the game wasn’t particularly important. Cleveland managed to finish seventh in a nine team league and Fort Wayne finished just behind them in eighth, folding at the end of the season. But it is one of the most significant games played in the last 140 or so years. Why? Simply because it was first.