Posts Tagged ‘Bucky Harris’

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Bucky Harris

November 10, 2015
Bucky Harris

Bucky Harris

1 Stanley Harris was born in 1896 in Port Jervis, New York and grew up in Pittstown, Pennsylvania.

2. He left school early to work in a coal mine.

3. He played both basketball and baseball when not working and came to the attention of Hughie Jennings, Tiger manager and Pittstown native. He was signed to his first contract at age 19.

4. He spent 1916 through 1919 in the minors playing primarily with the International League’s Buffalo Bisons.

5. He was signed by Washington in 1920, became the Senators regular second baseman in 1921.

6. He became player-manager of the Washington Senators in 1924 at age 27. At the time he was the youngest player-manager in American League history. He’s still the second youngest behind Lou Boudreau.

7. His 1924 and 1925 Senators won the American League pennant and the 1924 version won the World Series.

8. In 1929 he was traded to the Tigers where he both played and managed. He last played a game in 1931, but managed Detroit through 1933. He also managed Boston, the Senators (for the second time), and the Phillies between 1934 and 1943.

9. He was fired from Philly in 1943 and spent the next three years as manager and general manager of the Buffalo Bisons. During this period he was one of several witnesses to appear before Judge Landis concerning the Phillies’ owners gambling on baeball. The upshot was the banning of Phils owner William Cox from baseball.

10. He was hired to manage the New York Yankees in 1947 and won the World Series that season. In 1948 he finished third (two games back and with 94 wins) and was fired.

11. Harris managed minor league San Diego in 1949, then completed his managerial career by managing Washington for a third time and Detroit for a second stint.

12. He worked in the Red Sox front office from 1957 through 1960. In 1959 he became general manager and was instrumental in bringing Pumpsie Green to Boston thus integrating the last Major League team. There is some dispute about whether Harris was committed to integration or simply thought the team would be better with Green on the roster.

13. He served as a scout (White Sox) and a special assistant (Senators–now the Rangers) until his retirement in 1971. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975 and died in 1977.

Harris grave from Find a Grave

Harris grave from Find a Grave

The Old Perfessor

May 4, 2015
Ole Case

Ole Case

Baseball is full of men who made a difference. There are heroes. There are villains. There are men who rose to the occasion and men who failed to rise to the occasion. All of them are interesting in some way or other. But to me the most fascinating man to ever appear in a baseball uniform is, with suitable apologies to Leo Durocher, Casey Stengel.

Ask most people what they know about Casey Stengel and you’ll draw a blank. It’s been a while, after all. But to a baseball fan you’ll generally get a nod of recognition. Usually they know about his stint managing the Yankees, sometimes they know he was the first manager of the Mets. At that point most baseball fans come up short.

They don’t know that Stengel was a pretty fair player long before he became a manager. He played from 1912 through 1925 with Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, all in the National League. That’s a little surprising since he rose to his greatest fame in the American League. He played the outfield (mostly in right) and was pretty good at it. He led the NL in a couple of fielding categories a few times. He was also a good hitter with a career triple slash line of .284/.356/.410/.766 (OPS+ of 120). He played more than 135 games once (1917), led the NL in OBP once (1914), and settled in for much of his career as the fourth outfielder. He hit 60 home runs (peaking at 9), 535 RBIs (peak of 73), stole some bases (he had 19 twice), and ended up with a BBREF WAR of 20.1 (hitting 3.0 twice).

He was better in the World Series. He played in three: 1916, 1922, and 1923. His team won the middle one. He hit .393 with and OBP of ..469, a slugging percentage of .607, and an OPS of 1.076. He scored five runs, had two home runs (both in 1923), the more famous of the two an inside the park job. There were four RBIs and he did so well in 1923 that one writer summed up the Series as “Yankees 4, Stengel 2 (He’d had the key hit in both Giants wins).

After retirement he coached and managed. His stints at Brooklyn (1934-36) and Boston (1938-43) were less than stellar (he never finished higher than fifth), but he gained a reputation as a knowledgeable baseball man who, if given a good team, could win. He got the chance in 1949. The New York Yankees finished third in 1948 (two games back and 2.5 because of a playoff game) and dumped manager Bucky Harris who’d won it all in 1947 (don’t ask).
Stengel was manager of the Oakland AAA team which won three consecutive pennants. He was picked to take over from Harris. Of course you know he proceeded to lead the Yanks to five consecutive pennants and five World Series championships. Then, after taking a year off to let Cleveland win a pennant (and hash a World Series), he led the Yanks to four more consecutive pennants and two World Series championships. In 1959 he let Chicago win the AL (and again blow the Series), then had one last pennant winner in 1960. It was an astounding record. In 12 years he’d won seven World Series’, three more pennants, finished second once, and third the other time.

After the 1960 Series the Yankees “retired” him. They said he was too old at 70. He responded that he’d “never make that mistake again.” He took 1961 off, then hooked up with the fledgling Mets in 1962. They were an expansion team and absolutely awful. He stayed with them into 1965, never finishing anywhere but last. After retirement he made the Hall of Fame in 1966 and died in 1975 as one of the most acclaimed men in baseball history.

Stengel was very quotable. There are a couple dozen quotes from him that have become famous, at least to baseball fans. He was also known for his mangled use of the English language. Sometimes it was known simply as “Stengelese” and a number of writers and players had trouble figuring out what he’d said.

Lesser known is the fact that he played in the Cuban-American Major League Series in 1913. This was a series of games between an American Major League team and some Cuban League teams. It’s important because the Cuban League was integrated. While managing the Yankees, Stengel presided over the integration of the team. He’d already been familiar with Negro League baseball when he was in Kansas City (where he grew up and the origin of the “Casey” nickname) and had recommended Bullet Joe Rogan (a Hall of Fame pitcher) to J.L. Wilkinson, head of the Kansas City Monarchs. All this made the transition to integrated baseball easier for New York than it did for some other teams (although Stengel apparently didn’t particularly like Elston Howard, the man who integrated the Yanks).

All in all I find Stengel absolutely fascinating. He’s a very good player, a less than successful manager, and then the consummate team leader whose record is stunning. That’s quite a combination.

A handful of my favorite Stengel quotes.

“Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.”

“When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you’re older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.”

” Never make predictions, especially about the future.”

“You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.”

“You have to go broke three times to learn how to make a living.”

And my favorite: “Without losers, where would winners be?”

God love that man.

 

The First Integrated World Series: The Bombers Explode

April 20, 2015

The 1947 World Series began 30 September in the Bronx. As with the current set up the Yanks would get two home games, then there would be three games in Brooklyn followed by a final two back in the Bronx if the Series went the full seven games. Unlike the modern Series, the games took place on seven consecutive days rather than a travel day between location changes.

Game 1

“Fireman” Joe Page

For game one New York manager Bucky Harris sent Spec Shea to the mound. Shea, unlike ace Allie Reynolds, had postseason experience. Brooklyn manager Burt Shotten countered with ace Ralph Branca. The Dodgers struck in the very first inning. With one out Jackie Robinson walked and stole second. He  was out attempting to advance on a Pete Reiser tapper back to the mound. Reiser took second on the out and scored on a Dixie Walker single. Over the first four innings Branca was perfect, striking out five. Then in the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees pounced. A single, a walk, and a hit batsman loaded the bases, bringing up outfielder Johnny Lindell. who doubled scoring two and putting runners on second and third. After another walk to reload the bases, Branca was replaced by Hank Behrman, who promptly walked in the third run. An out later a Tommy Henrich single scored two more to make the total five runs in one inning. With the Yanks now ahead, Harris brought in his ace reliever Joe Page. Page was sloppy but effective. He gave up two runs, one on a wild pitch, but managed to hang on to give New York a 5-3 victory and a 1 game lead in the Series.

Game 2

Tommy Henrich

Tommy Henrich

Game two was the following day, 1 October. This time the Yanks sent Reynolds to the mound. Brooklyn countered with Vic Lombardi. It became the Series’ only blowout. The Yanks got a run in the first on two singles and a double play and poured it on from there. The Dodgers managed runs in the third and fourth, including a Dixie Walker home run, but New York answered each with a run of their own, including a pair of triples. Already ahead 3-2 the Yankees scored two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth, and four in the seventh to open up a 10-2 lead. It was a team effort. Every Yankees starter except eight hitter Yogi Berra had a hit (and he scored a run). Seven players (all except Berra and Joe DiMaggio) had at least one RBI. Snuffy Stirnweiss, Johnny Lindell, and Billy Johnson each had a triple and Tommy Heinrich had the only New York home run. With one out and two on the Dodgers managed a final run in the ninth by scoring on a force at second to provide a final score of 10-3.

By the end of game two the Yankees were in  firm control of the Series. Up two games to none, they were now moving to Brooklyn for the next two games and the, if necessary game five. At this point it had all the makings of a truly one-sided Series.

The First Integrated World Series: the Yanks

April 16, 2015
The Yankee Clipper

The Yankee Clipper

There was less disarray among the 1947 New York Yankees than there was with Brooklyn, but it was in some turmoil because it was a team in transition. Between 1921 and 1943 New York had never gone more than three seasons without a pennant. By failing to win in 1944, 1945, and 1946, they’d just matched that record. The idea of going four in a row was anathema. So it brought on changes within the team.

The most noticeable change, in many ways, was the man in charge in the dugout. After 16 years as manager, Joe McCarthy was gone. A combination of losing, poor teams during the war, his drinking, and new management had sent McCarthy and his seven world championships into retirement. In his place was rookie manager Bucky Harris. Now Harris was a rookie manager only in the sense of being new to the Yanks. He’d managed the Senators as far back as their single World Series title in 1924 and had spent other years managing in Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia. On the hot seat after replacing the manager with the most championships ever and leading a team used to winning, Harris was able to provide stability to his team.

The infield was changed from the glory years. George McQuinn was at first after playing the same position for the Browns and Athletics. He hit over .300 and his 13 home runs tied for third on the team. Snuffy Stirnweiss had been around for a while. He’d taken over at second during the war years and was terrific. He’d picked up a batting title in 1945. Then reality set in. The major players were back from the war; the dominant pitchers were back on the mound. Stirnweiss suffered against them. His WAR (BBREF version) went from the mid-eights to the mid-threes. It was still better than backup Lonny Frey, seven years removed from his term with the world championship Reds of 1940. He’d come to New York in mid-season and hit .179. Phil Rizzuto hit .273, led the team in stolen bases, and was one of the better shortstops of the era. The primary third baseman was Billy Johnson. He had 10 home runs, had an ERA+ of 114 and was being challenged by Bobby Brown (who would later be President of the American League).

The outfield saw more stability. Johnny Lindell was now the regular in left field. He hit .275 with 11 home runs. He was the replacement for Charlie Keller. Keller was having back problems and so only saw action in 45 games. He only hit .238 but tied for third on the team with 13 home runs. His .550 slugging percentage and .954 OPS led the Yanks. Right field remained with Tommy Henrich. He led the team with 98 RBIs, and with 109 runs scored. His 158 hits was second on the team as were his 16 homers. And of course he was second in both to Joe DiMaggio. The Yankee Clipper hit .315, had 20 home runs, 97 RBIs, 168 hits, walked 64 times then had 31 doubles and 32 strikeouts. Just a more or less normal DiMaggio year.

No where was in greater transition than the catching job. Aaron Robinson began the year as the primary catcher. He was 32, hit .270, was a decent catcher, and by the end of the year was losing his job to second year man, the 22-year-old Yogi Berra. Berra hit .280, had 11 home runs, 54 RBIs, and 41 runs scored in 293 at bats. His catching numbers were on par with Robinson’s and in some cases (passed balls and caught stealing percentage) slightly better. The third catcher was Ralph Houk. He didn’t play much in 1947, but he would later manage the Yanks to three pennants and two World Series championships. Future All Star Sherm Lollar got into 11 games behind the plate.

But easily the most notable transition was in the pitching staff. Gone were the stalwarts of the 1930s and early 1940s, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. Allie Reynolds was now the ace. He came over from Cleveland at the beginning of 1947,went 19-8 and posted an ERA+ of 110. He walked 123 while striking out 129 and gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. Vic Raschi was only 7-2 in his rookie year (he’d pitched two games the year before), but was already 28. He would join Reynolds as one of the mainstays of the early 1950s Yanks. Spec Shea was the second pitcher. He went 14-5 and had both 89 walks and 89 strikeouts. Bill Bevens, like Shea, had the same number of walks as strikeouts. In his case 77 of each. He was a journeyman who went 7-13 during the regular season, but would make the most of his one starting opportunity in World Series play. Spud Chandler and Bobo Newsom, both aged 39, rounded out the starters. Fireman Joe Page was the primary reliever, garnering 17 saves, while relieving in 44 of 56 games. Karl Drews started 10 games and pitched in 30. No one else appeared in more than 25 games. Tommy Byrne, who would come to fame on the 1950s Yanks got into four games. Except for Page (and Byrne) all of them were right-handed.

They were a formidable team and favored in the Series. Since 1927 they’d won nine World Series and lost only one. In 1941 they’d beaten the Dodgers in five games. Most writers expected them to do so again, although it might take more than five games.

1924: The Con Job

March 17, 2015

(A DISCLAIMER: I don’t know how this happened, but the post concerning the 3 games held in New York posted out of order. It is currently four posts below this one and appears to be the first post in the set on the 1924 World Series. I have no idea how this happened; nor do I know how to fix it. If you’re interested, take a second to scroll down and read it. It is titled, “1924: The Senators Steal One.” Sorry, team.)

Needing two wins, the Washington Senators got the last two games of the 1924 World Series at home. If they could sweep, they would win Washington its first ever World’s Championship. New York needed one of the two to return the title to the Big Apple.

Game 6

Washington Player-Manager Bucky Harris

Washington Player-Manager Bucky Harris

Game 6 was played 9 October 1924 with the Senators needing a win to force a game seven. Tom Zachary, game 2 winner, was sent to the mound by Washington to insure that happened. Art Nehf opposed him. In the top of the first, Fred Lindstrom led off with a bunt that failed. Frankie Frisch then doubled. When he tried to advance to third on a Ross Youngs tapper back to the mound, Zachary gunned him down at third while Youngs advanced to second. A Highpockets Kelly single to center scored Youngs with the first run. The score remained 1-0 into the bottom of the fifth. Roger Peckinpaugh led off the Senators half of the inning with a single. A bunt sacrifice sent him to second. A Zachary grounder sent him to third. With two outs Earl McNeely walked, then stole second. With two outs and two on, Washington’s player-manager Bucky Harris singled to drive in both runs. Through the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth, New York managed one single was the score stayed 2-1 into the ninth. With one out in the ninth, Highpockets Kelly singled, but a ground out forced pinch runner Billy Southworth at second. Needing one out to force a game seven, Zachary fanned Hack Wilson to end the game. Zachary was great in game six. He gave up a single run in the first inning, then shutout the Giants. He gave up seven hits, walked none, and struck out three. Harris’ single provided all the runs he needed. Nehf wasn’t bad, even though he lost. He went seven innings (Rosy Ryan pitched the eighth) giving up only two runs, four hits, and four walks. He also struck out four. It set up game seven.

Game 7

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Game seven of the 1924 World Series became one of the most famous of all World Series games. It was played 10 October in Washington and its outcome was caused, in part, by one of the great con jobs in Series history. Senators manager believed that Giants player Bill Terry had trouble hitting left-handed pitching so he announced that righty Curly Ogden, who hadn’t pitched all Series, would start game seven. New York manager John McGraw responded by inserting Terry into the lineup (he hit fifth) over normal left fielder Irish Meusel (the regular five hitter). Terry went to first and Highpockets Kelly, the usual first baseman took Meusel’s place in left. It turned out to be a great con.

Ogden pitched to two men, striking out the first and walking the second. In came George Mogridge, who would normally have pitched game seven. Mogridge was left-handed and McGraw chose not to pull Terry in the first inning. Washington broke on top in the fourth when Harris homered to left. The run held up until the sixth when Ross Youngs walked and a Kelly single sent him to third. McGraw sent Meusel in to hit for Terry. Harris replaced Mogridge with relief ace Firpo Marberry. Marberry immediately gave up a sacrifice fly that tied the score and a Hack Wilson single sent Kelly to third. An error by first baseman Joe Judge brought in Kelly with the lead run. Then another error, this one by shortstop Ossie Bluege, gave the Giants a third run. New York hurler Virgil Barnes kept the Senators at bay until the eighth when a double, a single and a walk loaded the bases. With two outs, Harris singled to left tying up the game at 3-3. During the eighth, Washington pinch hit for Marberry. Needing a new pitcher, they went to Walter Johnson, who was 0-2 so far for the Series. Johnson had a great career, had a very good season, but he was 36 and pitching on one day’s rest (he’d lost game five). But he was Walter Johnson and he did what Walter Johnson normally did. Through the ninth, the tenth, the eleventh, and the twelfth inning, he shut down New York. He gave up three hits and walked three, but he also struck out five. He was in trouble in every inning but the tenth, but no Giants scored. Of course no Senator scored either. By the bottom of the twelfth he was tired. With an out, Muddy Ruel lifted a foul ball that catcher Hank Gowdy dropped. Given a second chance, Ruel doubled. Johnson was up. He hit one to short, but a misplay put him on. Up came leadoff hitter Earl McNeely. He dropped a roller to third. As third baseman Fred Lindstrom came in to field it and make a play on Ruel who was heading to third, the ball hit a pebble and bounced over Lindstrom’s head for a double. Ruel was slow, but he was quick enough to score and give Washington its first and only championship. Johnson finally had his Series win.

It was an excellent Series, arguably the best of the 1920s. The Giants actually outhit the Senators .261 to .246. Both teams had nine doubles and Washington out homered New York five to four. The Giants put up 27 runs to the Senators 26. But only 18 of Washington’s runs were earned as opposed to 23 New York earned runs. Individually, Goslin hit .344 with three home runs and seven RBIs. Harris had the other two homers and also seven RBIs while hitting .333. McNeely, Judge, and Goslin all scored four runs, while Harris led the team with five. For the Giants it was more of a mixed bag. No one hit more than one home run and both Kelly and Lindstrom had four RBIs. Kelly scored seven runs, but no one else had more than four (Gowdy).

Pitching-wise Zachary was terrific, going 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA but only three strikeouts. Marberry didn’t do well. He picked up a couple of saves, but took a loss and blew a save situation. On the other hand his ERA was a tiny 1.13. And Walter Johnson finally got a win. He went 1-2 with an ERA of 3.00 and 20 strikeouts. For the Giants Bentley took two losses, but pitched the best game for the team to give him a 1-2 record and a team high 10 strikeouts. Ryan pitched well in critical situations.

It marked a couple of milestones. It was John McGraw’s last World Series. The Giants would make it back to the Series in 1933 (against the Senators again), but Bill Terry would be the manager. George Mogridge won a game on the road. In all their history, the Senators/Twins would win only one more road game in their history (and Johnson would get it). Marberry picked up the only Senators/Twins road save ever. And the Giants? Well, in game seven they started seven Hall of Famers (all but the battery) and managed to lose. It happens.

 

1924: Derailing the Big Train

March 11, 2015

The first two games of the 1924 World Series were in Washington, D.C. There had never been playoff baseball in Washington. Even the President showed up.

Game 1

Bill Terry

Bill Terry

Game one, 4 October 1924, saw the Giants send Art Nehf to the mound to face D.C.’s ace Walter Johnson. Neither man pitched all that well, but it became a great game anyway. New York struck first when George “High Pockets” Kelly slammed a Johnson pitch into the left field seats to lead off the second inning. In the top of the fourth, Bill Terry drove a Johnson pitch to almost the same spot. The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Earl McNeely doubled, went to third on a ground out, and scored Sam Rice’s grounder to second. The score remained 2-1 into the bottom of the ninth. Two outs from losing game one, Ossie Bluege singled, then tied the game when Roger Peckinpaugh doubled. The tenth and eleventh innings were scoreless with both teams getting men as far as second, but being unable to get a key hit. That changed in the 12th. Giants catcher Hank Gowdy walked, went to second on a single by pitcher Nehf, then on to third when McNeely threw the ball away trying to catch Nehf off first. A walk to pinch hitter Jake Bentley loaded the bases. Frankie Frisch then grounded to shortstop Peckinpaugh. He flicked the ball to second baseman and manager Bucky Harris who then gunned down Gowdy trying to score, leaving the force at second intact. That let Nehf go to third and Bentley on to second (and Frisch was safe at first). Billy Southworth pinch ran for Bentley. A single by Ross Youngs brought home Nehf with the go ahead run and a Kelly sacrifice fly brought home Southworth. With the score now 4-2, the Senators rallied when Mule Shirley reached second on an error and, one out later, scored on a Harris single. Nehf got the next two men and the game ended 4-3.

The big heroes for the Giants were Terry with a home run, Kelly with a homer and a sacrifice fly that scored the winning run, and Nehf who pitched a complete game, and scored a run. He gave up 10 hits and walked five, but only gave up three runs, two of them earned (the first two), while striking out three. Johnson didn’t pitch all that well. He gave up four earned runs on 14 hits, two home runs, and six walks. He did, however, strike out 12.

Game 2

Goose Goslin

Goose Goslin

Game two occurred 5 October 1924 and was in many ways as exciting as game one. Tom Zachary took the hill for the Senators while game one pinch hitter Jake Bentley started for New York. Washington jumped on Bentley immediately, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. With two outs and Sam Rice on second, Goose Goslin parked a two-run homer to right center for a 2-0 Senators lead. They picked up another run in the fifth when Bucky Harris put one over the fence in left for a 3-0 lead. It held up until the top of the seventh, when a walk and a single put runners on first and third with no outs. Hack Wilson hit into a double play that scored High Pockets Kelly with the Giants first run. They got two more in the ninth (just as Washington had done the day before) with a walk, a long single with one out that scored the runner on first, and a single after a second out that tied the game. For the first time in the Series, a new pitcher entered the game when Zachary gave way to Firpo Marberry, who promptly fanned Travis Jackson to end the inning with the scored tied 3-3. In the bottom of the ninth Joe Judge walked, went to second on a single, and scored the winning run when Roger Peckinpaugh doubled to left. Bentley pitched well, giving up four runs on six hits while walking four and striking out three. Two of the hits were home runs. For Washington there were a lot of heroes. Goslin and Harris had homers, and Zachary went eight and two-thirds giving up three runs on six hits and three walks. Under the rules of the day, Zachary was the winning pitcher while Marberry picked up a save (a stat that hadn’t been invented yet).

So after two games the Series was knotted at 1-1. It now became a best of five Series as both teams did what they needed (the Giants won a game on the road and the Senators weren’t swept). New York held home field advantage.

1924: First in War; First in Peace

March 5, 2015
Firpo Marberry about 1924

Firpo Marberry about 1924

There are a lot of World Series games that are considered classics. Game 5 of 1956 (Larsen’s perfect game), game 7 of 1991 (Jack Morris vs. the Braves), game 7 of 1965 (Koufax on short rest), game 8 of 1912 (BoSox vs. Giants) all come to mind. But a lot of World Series’ taken as a whole aren’t particularly memorable. One of the better, and one of the more obscure, was the 1924 World Series.

The American League representative in the 1924 World Series was the Washington Senators. Yep, the famous mantra “First in War; First in Peace; and Last in the American League” had broken down. For the first time ever, a team from Washington was a pennant winner. In the entire history of the National League going back to 1876, no Washington franchise had finished first. In the entire history of the American League going back only to 1901, the Senators had never finished first. In the National Association and the Union Association and the Player’s League and the American Associations (professional leagues of the 19th Century) no Washington franchise had ever finished first. The Series became famous for that fact alone.

In the midst of the first big run by the Babe Ruth led New York Yankees, the Senators finished first in 1924 by two games over the Yanks and six over third place Detroit. It was a pitching heavy team. Catcher Muddy Ruel hit .283 with no home runs, but did a decent job catching a powerful staff. Most powerful was all-time great Walter Johnson. Johnson was 36 and late in his career. For the season he went 23-7 with 158 strikeouts to go with 77 walks, an ERA of .272 and an ERA+ of 149. He led the AL in wins, winning percentage, strikeouts, shutouts (6), ERA, ERA+, WHIP (1.116) and posted a 6.8 WAR (BaseballReference.com version). After the season ended he would win the MVP award. Tom Zachary was 15-9 with an ERA of 2.75 and an ERA+ of 148 (WAR of 4.7). George Mogridge was 16-11, but gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. The rest of the starters were 20-20. But owner Clark Griffith was an old pitcher and had spent much of his later active years in the bullpen. He knew the value of a good bullpen man and had cornered one of the first great relief men. Firpo Marberry was 11.-12 with a 3.09 ERA in 50 games. He had 15 saves, which, along with the 50 games, led the league. The 15 saves were also a Major League record (to be fair, no one knew that as the “save” stat had yet to be invented).

The infield consisted of Joe Judge, Bucky Harris, Roger Peckinpaugh, and Ossie Bluege from first around to third. Harris served as manager (and later went to the Hall of Fame as a manager) and hit .268. His 20 stolen bases were second on the team. He was all of 27. Judge was 30 and had been around since 1915 (in 1916 he replaced Black Sox player Chick Gandil at first). He was in a stretch where he was regularly hitting over .300 (.324 in 1924). His WAR was 3.9 (he had a 4.0 a couple of times) one of the highest of his career. He hit for little power. Peckinpaugh was a minor star.  He’d come over from the Yankees in 1922 and played a good shortstop. He usually hit in the .260s to .280 range with some speed and little power (He would win the 1925 AL MVP Award). Bluege was the kid. He was 23, in his third season, and getting better each year. He hit .280 and put up an OPS of .711.

The outfield had Nemo Leibold in center. At least he played the most games there. Leibold was one of the “Clean Sox” of 1919. He’d been in a platoon system (with Shano Collins) in right field then and came to the Senators in 1923. He hit .293 in 1924 (his next to last season) and had a WAR of 1.0. The corners of the outfield showcased two future Hall of Fame members. Goose Goslin was in left. He hit .344 for the season, led the team in home runs (12) and triples (17). His 129 RBIs led the American League. He had an OPS+ of 143 and a WAR of 6.4. Sam Rice held down right field. He started with the Senators in 1915 and had been a consistent star. He hit .334 in 1924, led the AL in hits with 216, led his team with 24 stolen bases and posted a 114 OPS+ with a 4.4 WAR.

As with a lot of teams in the 1920s, the Washington bench was thin Wid Mathews and Earl McNeely both hit .300 as backup outfielders while Doc Prothro spelled Bluege at third. For the Series, McNeely would do most of the work in center field, spelling Leibold. Those were the only players with 35 or more games played. For the Series, infielder Tommy Taylor, who got into only 26 games in 1924 (his only year in the Majors), would also play a big role. No bench player hit even a single home run (Johnson had one giving the entire bench plus staff exactly one homer for the season).

It was a good team, a  surprise team. They weren’t expected to win the AL pennant and were slight underdogs in the World Series. They would draw the New York Giants, a team competing in its fourth consecutive World Series.

 

1924: The Senators Steal One

March 4, 2015

With the World Series tied one game to one, the 1924 Series moved to New York for games three, four, and five. If either team could sweep, the Series would end. A two to one split would send it back to D.C. for a finale.

Game 3

Rosy Ryan

Rosy Ryan

On 6 October the first New York game of the 1924 World Series saw the Giants bring Hugh McQuillan to the mound. Washington countered with Firpo Marberry. It was a strange choice for player-manager Bucky Harris because Marberry had spent most of the season as a relief specialist. It was a mistake early. The Giants got to Marberry for two runs in the second and one more in the third before Harris had to pull him. With one out and two on in the bottom of the second singled to score Bill Terry and send Travis Jackson to third. With two outs, Marberry uncorked a wild pitch that brought home Jackson with the second run. In the third with two on and nobody out, Hack Wilson hit into a run scoring double play that made the score 3-0. It was the end for Marberry. The Senators got on the board in the fourth with a walk to Sam Rice, an out, a double, another walk, and a sacrifice. Then with the bases loaded, Rosy Ryan replaced McQuillan. He immediately walked backup catcher Ben Tate to bring in a second run, but got a fly to end the inning and maintain a 3-2 lead. Ryan managed to restore a two run lead in the next inning when he slugged a homer to right field off new Washington pitcher Allen Russell. In the sixth the Giants got another off Russell with an error by Ralph Miller, playing third for primary third baseman Ossie Bluege, a bunt, and a Fred Lindstrom double. It made the score 5-2. Washington finally got to Ryan in the eighth when a single, a walk, and another single yielded one run. New York got it right back in the bottom of the eighth with a single, a stolen base, another single, and a ground out by Ryan that plated Hank Gowdy. As he was tiring, Ryan was replaced in the ninth. Three singles and an out loaded the bases for Bluege, who was playing shortstop in the game. He walked to force in a run, then got a foul out and a grounder to end the game. For the Giants the big hero was Ryan.  He pitched 4.2 innings with seven hits and three walks, but gave up only two runs, struck out two, and had a home run and two RBIs. Marberry went back to the bullpen for Washington.

Game 4

George Mogridge, the only Senators/Twins pitcher not named Johnson to win a World Series road game

George Mogridge, the only Senators/Twins pitcher not named Johnson to win a World Series road game

Down two games to one, Washington sent 16 game winner George Mogridge to the mound in game four. New York countered with Virgil Barnes. The Giants struck first with a run in the first on a walk, a ground out, and an error. It held up until the top of the third. With two out and two on Goose Goslin stroked his second homer of the Series to put the Senators up 3-1. They tacked on two more in the fifth on consecutive singles, a Barnes wild pitch, and a Goslin single. New York made it 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth when a double by Highpockets Kelly and back-to-back groundouts plated a single run. In the top of the eighth singles by Goslin, Joe Judge, and Ossie Bluege scored both Goslin and Judge. With the score 7-2, New York came up in the bottom of the eighth. Ross Youngs walked and a Hack Wilson double scored him. In the ninth, the Giants got another run on a single, a two-base error, and another single, this one by Fred Lindstrom. Marberry, who’d entered the game with one out in the eighth, managed to slam the door for his second save. To this day, he is the only Senators/Twins franchise pitcher to record a World Series save in the other team’s park. But the big heroes were Goslin who had hour hits, one a home run, and four RBIs in four plate appearances, and Mogridge who went 7.1 innings, gave up three runs, two earned, and three hits, while striking out two and walking five.

The World Series was now tied 2-2. It had become a best of three with home field now moving to Washington. It was now also certain that the Series would return to the nation’s capital.

Game 5

Jack Bentley

Jack Bentley

Game 5 saw Walter Johnson square off against Jack Bentley. The Giants won 6-2 as Johnson gave up six runs on 13 hits. Bentley himself popped a home run and had two RBIs. Fred Lindstrom also had two RBIs, while Hank Gowdy scored four runs. For the Senators only Goose Goslin performed well. He hit a home run while Joe Judge scored the other run. It put the Giants up 3-2 going back to Washington. As an aside, it was the last World Series game John McGraw ever managed in New York. At least he went out a winner at home.

 

Star Managers

December 5, 2013

Recently my son reminded me that Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, and Ted Williams all have something in common other than being Hall of Famers with 500 home runs. Each was a manager with an overall losing record. Mathews’ .481 is the highest winning percentage of the four. He wondered if I knew that (I didn’t).

It got me to thinking about how commonplace an idea it is that great players don’t make great managers. The great managers are guys like Earl Weaver who never got to the big leagues,  Tony LaRussa who was a marginal player (he hit a buck-99 in 132 games), or Walter Alston who got all of one at bat in the Major Leagues. And no one is going to question that the three of them were great managers. But let me point out a small handful of exceptional players who made pretty fair managers.

1. John J. McGraw has the second most wins of any manager ever, and the one with the most wins of any manager who didn’t also own the team (Connie Mack). McGraw was a true star in the late 19th Century. He was the heart and soul of the most famous of all 19th Century teams, the 1890s Baltimore Orioles. He hit well, played a fine third base, ran well, and was unmatched at on field shenanigans.

2. Hughie Jennings was a teammate of McGraw’s and led Detroit to three consecutive World series appearances (1907-09). The Tigers lost all of them, but the next time they got the Series was 1934.

3. Yogi Berra led two New York teams to the World Series: the Yankees in 1964 and the Mets in 1973. Both teams lost.

4. Joe Torre, who admittedly wasn’t the player McGraw and Berra were, won four championships as a manager after winning an MVP as a player.

There are also a number of player-managers who were both successful managers and star players. Bucky Harris, Frank Chance, and Joe Cronin are only three examples.

So while it’s true that being a great player doesn’t necessarily translate to a great manager, it also doesn’t mean the guy is a disaster as manager.

A Franchise Best

May 20, 2011

Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators (and the Homestead Grays)

The loss of Harmon Killebrew and SportsPhD’s comment about Killebrew being the greatest Twins player got me to thinking. In some ways SportsPhd is right, but if you look franchise-wise (in other words all the way back to 1901) the answer has to be Walter Johnson. So that brings up the question of an All-Twins/Senators team. The slash is there to remind everyone that for much of their history, the Twins were in Washington. So I decided to figure one out for myself and share it with a breathlessly waiting world. Now I’m no Twins expert so I’m willing to admit that this list is probably flawed. It fact, it may be greatly flawed. It was also put together quickly with only a couple days reasearch. So you might want to take it with the proverbial grain of salt. But, it’s my best shot on short notice.

Now the caveats. This is a little easier because I decided to look for only a starting lineup plus a rotation and a manager. If you try to put together a 25 man roster you notice just how weak the Twins/Senators have been at certain positions (like thrid base). That’s actually fairly common. Try it with your own favorite team and see how quickly you start asking yourself “Do I really want to put this guy on the team?” Because the Senators were formed in 1901 there is no need to discount 19th Century players. Also, you’ll notice that the Twins have more players making this team in a shorter period than the Senators. Frankly, the Twins have been better than the Senators, so I’m not concerned with the percentages here. Feel free to come up with your own players and disagree with my selections.

Infield: Almost from the beginning, first base was the biggest hurdle for me. There have been a lot of good Twins/Senators first basemen: Joe Judge, Mickey Vernon, Kent Hrbek, Justin Morneau. None of them are really at the very top of any chart concerning great first basemen. OK, that means none of them are Lou Gehrig, but none of them are particularly close either. Ultimately I went with Hrbek because he was a solid first baseman, his 3-2-3 double play in game 7 of 1991 was one of the greatest plays by a first baseman I ever saw (and the Ron Gant body slam was a play for the ages) and he could hit well. I’m fairly sure that Morneau is probably (“fairly sure” “probably”, how’s that for certitude?) better, but until he can stay healthy and put in enough years I have to go with Hrbek. Second, short, and third are all fairly easy with Rod Carew, Joe Cronin, and Gary Gaetti being obvious picks.

Outfield: I was able to pick a left, center, and right fielder without having to double up on right fielders and drop a left fielder or some such thing. Kirby Puckett in Center Field is an obvious choice and for me Tony Oliva gets right field over Sam Rice. Yeah, Rice has a longer career, but Oliva’s is better, but over a shorter period of time. Old time Senator Goose Goslin get left field for this team. Did you know that Goslin is the only player to appear in every Washington Senators World Series game?

Catcher/DH: You know this is going to be Joe Mauer don’t you? If you think I need to justify that, you haven’t been paying attention to the American League. DH is where I put Killebrew. He wasn’t much of a fielder, but was best at first. I thought long  and hard about him there and if I was certain I was leaving out a great player, I’d move Killebrew to first. 

Starters: Of course this list begins with Walter Johnson, but you guessed that already, right? It’s amazing how far the drop from the team’s best pitcher to its number two is when Johnson is your number one. The rest of the list is good enough, but somehow just completely pales when compared. It’s also a little strange to see such an uneven list when you try to find five starters. I went with (alphabetically) Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat, Camilo Pasqual, Johan Santana. I have some reservations about both Pasqual and Santana. Pasqual’s numbers don’t look all that great if you just stare it them, but if you recall how awful some of his teams were, he gets better quick. And Santana just wasn’t there very long, but when he was  he was great.

Relievers: If the quality of starters is uneven, Twins/Senators relievers are amazingly good. There’s a long tradition of quality relievers going all the way back to Clark Griffith and the early years of the franchise. I took Firpo Marberry because he was one of the first truly great relievers and went with Rick Aguilera as the other one. I sort of miss putting in Jeff Reardon or Joe Nathan, but I like the other two better.

Manager: Tom Kelley was easy for me. Bucky Harris won in 1924, lost in 1925. Cronin was in charge in the 1933 loss, and Ron Gardenhire hasn’t won yet. So Kelley’s two wins are double anyone else in franchise history.

As a rule I’m not a big fan of these kinds of lists; there are just too many variables for me, or anyone else, to consider all of them. You inevitably leave off someone you shouldn’t and look like a total fool (trust me, Idon’t need a lot of help with that anyway). They are, however, kind of  fun.  So remember that when you look this over and go “What was he thinking?”  or rather “Was he thinking?”