Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Naps’

28 June 1914: the AL

June 25, 2014
Harry Coveleski

Harry Coveleski

Continuing a look at where Major League Baseball stood on 28 June 1914, the date the assassination in Sarajevo began the process that ushered in World War I. Today the American League gets a view.

As with the Federal League there were only three games played on Sunday the 28th of June. Two were a double-header between the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Sox. The other a single game between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Naps (now the Indians). Chicago and Cleveland were the home teams.

In game one in Chicago, the Sox took ten innings to dispatch the Browns 2-1. Losing pitcher Bill James (obviously neither the guy pitching for the Braves that season nor the modern stats guy) gave up two unearned runs, both to left fielder Ray Demmitt. He also game up three walks, two of them to Demmitt. He struck out four and saw the game lost on an error. For the White Sox, righty Jim Scott gave up only one run. It was earned. He also walked three, but struck out ten (James had four strikeouts). For James it was his fifth loss against seven wins while Scott picked up his seventh win against eight losses.

In the nightcap, the White Sox completed the sweep winning another 10 inning game, this time 3-2. Later Black Sox player Buck Weaver scored one run, fellow Black Sox Eddie Cicotte started the game. Later White Sox players Shano Collins and Ray Schalk played. Collins scored a run and knocked in another. Schalk had three hits with an RBI. Third baseman Jim Breton playing in his last season stole home. Hall of Famer Red Faber entered the game in the 10th and picked up his fifth win against two losses. Cicotte went eight innings giving up both runs. Joe Benz pitched one inning in relief giving up no hits and no walks. Browns starter Carl Weilman also went eight innings, giving up two earned runs. Reliever George Baumgardner took the loss to run his record to 7-6.

The game in Cleveland was more high scoring than both Chicago games combined. With Ty Cobb taking the day off, the Tigers won 6-4. After spotting Cleveland a run in the top of the first, they struck for four runs in the bottom of the inning. Naps starter Fred Blanding only managed two outs before being pulled. He would take the loss running his record to 1-8. Detroit later tacked on single runs in both the third and the sixth, with Cleveland getting one in the fifth and two in the seventh. Harry Coveleski (brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Stan Coveleski) got the win going five innings to set his record at 11-6. Hooks Dauss pitched for innings for his third save (a stat that didn’t exist in 1914). Hall of Fame player Sam Crawford went one for three with a walk and a strikeout for the Tigers while fellow Hall of Famer Nap LaJoie went one for three and was involved in two double plays.

At the end of the day, Philadelphia was three games up on Detroit in the standings with St. Louis 4.5 back in third. Chicago was sixth, 6.5 back (but still had a winning record at 33-32). Cleveland was dead last 16 games back. By seasons end Cleveland and Chicago would maintain the positions, although Chicago would have a losing record. The Browns would drop to fifth (and also have a losing record), while Detroit would end up in fourth (with a winning record). Philadelphia would remain in first, winning the pennant by 8.5 games. It would, of course, lose the World Series in four straight games.


1910: Naps Postmortem

September 2, 2010

The 1910 Cleveland team is one of the more interesting failures in the American League. It has several first line players (four made it to the Hall of Fame), but not enough to make it into the first division. Ultimately the Naps finished 71-81, 32 games back in manager Deacon McGuire’s first full season. He didn’t get a second, being fired 17 games into 1911.

Cleveland’s hitting numbers reveal that they  probably finished where they should . They rank fifth in almost all major categories like hitting slugging, runs, and RBIs. The problem is that the stats are uneven across the starters. Second baseman Napoleon LaJoie hit .383, slugged .520, led the league in hits doubles, and in some sources the .383 won the batting title (Other sources give the title to Ty Cobb). Those are great numbers, but now look at the third baseman, Bill Bradley. Bradley hit .196, slugged all of .210, had 12 RBIs and 42 hits. It’s true he played only 61 games, but those kinds of numbers are typical of what’s wrong with Cleveland’s hitting. LaJoie is great, catcher Ted Easterly didn’t do bad, but the rest of the starters were nothing special. Other than LaJoie and Easterly, only first baseman George Stovall managed to hit .250.

The bench is equally bad. Of the 10 players appearing in 2o or more games, only Joe Jackson (who plays in exactly 20 games) managed to hit .300 (.387) and Hall of Famer Elmer Flick in his final season managed .265 in 24 games. The rest of the bench gives the team nothing.

The pitching is disappointing. A staff of Cy Young, Addie Joss, and Cy Falkenberg should have been pretty good. But Joss managed only 13 games (and never came back, dying the next season). Young was 43 and although winning his 500th game during the year, managed only a 7-10 record. That left Falkenberg as the ace. There’s a reason you’ve never heard of him. As an “ace” he left a lot to be desired. He was 14-13, had an ERA of 2.94, and managed 107 strikeouts to 75 walks. Respectable numbers, maybe, but not “ace”-like.

Cleveland looks like a team ready to make a few strides in 1911 (and it will rise to third), but it is a deeply flawed team. LaJoie is 35, Joss is ill (and, as stated above, will not return), Flick retired, and Young is old at 45 (and was traded after seven starts in 1911). On the other hand Joe Jackson is starting to embark on a great career, George Stovall is pretty good sometimes and Easterly is a decent catcher.

The year 1911 turned out to be interesting for Cleveland. The end of 1910 gave some indication of that.

1910: 500

July 19, 2010

Cy Young

Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of those absolutely unique moments that baseball comes up with occasionally. On 19 July 1910, Cy Young took the mound for the Cleveland Naps of the American League. When the day ended he had notched his 500th win, the only Major League pitcher to have 500 or more wins.

The game on 19 July 1910 is interesting. Cleveland was on the road against Washington for a Tuesday double-header. They lost the first game 7-0, then Young took the mound for the second game against Senators hurler Doc Reisling (Wouldn’t it have been great if it were Walter Johnson?). Washington scored a run in the first, then in the ninth Cleveland scored two to take the lead. The Senators responded with another run to tie the score at the end of nine. Young held Washington scoreless through the tenth, then Cleveland picked up three runs in the eleventh. In the bottom of the eleventh, Young shut down the Senators and had his 500th win. He would, before he retired in 1911, add eleven more.

Young holds a number of records and is part of a couple of fun little trivia bits. He’s most famous for the 511 wins, but he also leads the Major Leagues in losses, starts, complete games, and innings pitched. When he retired he was first in shutouts (he’s now fourth) and strikeouts (currently 19th). He threw the first pitch in World Series history and lost game one of the Series (he went on to win two other games in the Series). On 27 April 1893, he became the first Cleveland pitcher to throw from a mound when the pitching distance moved to 60’6″. He won the game, but his team was in Pittsburgh so he doesn’t get to be the first pitcher to throw from a mound. Between 1892 and 1896, inclusive, he averaged 32 wins per season. Between 1892 and 1904 he failed to win 20 games once (19 in 1900). For his 22 year career, he had four seasons (1905-06, and 1910-11, the latter two his final seasons) when he had a losing record (40-59 combined for the seasons). His career winning percentage was .618. And, of course, he has both a perfect game and a no-hitter.

All this should remind you why the pitching award is named after Young. He is a truly great pitcher who seldom comes up when debates start over the greatest of all pitchers. Part of that has to be that he pitched a great deal of his career in the 19th Century. Another part is because of the current tendency to downgrade the “wins” statistic. He also pitches the first two seasons of his career at 50 feet without a mound. Take off the wins those two seasons and Young still has the most career wins. I’ve been a critic of the WAR stat when it comes to pitchers, but that stat lists Young as the top pitcher. I disagree, but he’s certainly someone who is in the mix. Bill James rates Young fourth in his Historical Baseball Abstract (Johnson, Grove, Alexander).

Cleveland would fall short in 1910, and Young would have a poor season. He would get one more, equally poor. Then he would retire. In 1937 he would make the Hall of Fame. His plaque shows him with a Naps cap, the team for which he won his 500th game, 100 years ago today.

The New Kid Does Good

June 9, 2010

Young phenom pitchers come and go. Some are exactly what you expect, some are even better, some much worse. Stephen Strasburg did OK, but so did another pitcher back a few eons ago.

On Saturday, 11 July 1914, the Boston Red Sox were at home against the Cleveland Naps. They were in sixth place in the American League, 5 games out, when manager Bill Carrigan decided to start a new phenom on the mound. The new kid was a left-handed nineteen year old just picked up from Baltimore who was reputed to be pretty good.

The Kid took the mound, got the first man out, then managed to pitch shutout ball for six innings. He gave up five hits but no one scored. The seventh inning proved to be more difficult for him. He gave up two more singles. Combined with a sacrifice, they plated two runs for the Naps (the same number of runs Strasburg gave up). Carrigan pulled him at the end of the inning (again the same inning Strasburg left the game). Boston gave up one more run, but hung on to pick up the victory 4-3 and the Kid was the winning pitcher. At the plate he went 0-2 (same as Strasburg).

For the season the Kid pitched in four games going 2-1 in 23 innings with an ERA of 3.91. He gave up 21 hits, one a home run, and 12 runs. He struck out 3 and walked 7.  At the plate he went 2 for 10 with four strikeouts and no walks. He did manage a double, scored a run, and picked up two RBIs. Not much better than his pitching numbers, but the double and the RBIs showed promise.

Manager Carrigan brought him back the next season and left him on the mound. It took a few years and a new manager, Ed Barrow, but the Red Sox finally moved the Kid to the outfield. The Kid, George Ruth, now nicknamed “Babe” did pretty well there.

Welcome to the big leagues Stephen Strasburg. May you have a long and productive career.

1910: Addie Joss

April 20, 2010

Today, 20 April 2010, marks the 100th anniversary of Addie Joss’ second and final no-hitter. He threw it for Cleveland against Chicago and raised his record to 2-0 for the season. Later in the year he began suffering health problems, and sat out much of the season. Within a year of his last no-hitter, he was dead. It seems fitting to take today to remember him.

He spent his entire career in Cleveland, which in the Deadball Era more or less guaranteed obscurity. The team didn’t do particularly well except occasionally, finishing as high as second in 1908. On his own team Joss was frequently overshadowed by his manager, Napoleon LaJoie. He was, however, the finest pitcher on the team.

His rookie year was 1902. In his first game, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, gave up one single, and won the game 3-0. In 1904 he led the American League in ERA, in 1905 he saw 20 wins and repeated the 20 wins in 1906 and 1907, tying for the league lead in wins in ’07.

Then came 1908. The year is mostly famous for the National League pennant race that included the “Merkle Game” and the replay of it. But the American League had a heck of a pennant race too. Detroit won by a half game. Cleveland and Joss finished second. Joss had 24 wins, a league leading ERA of 1.16, nine shutouts, and on 2 October threw a perfect game against Chicago (they finished third), besting 40 game winner Ed Walsh (who only gave up four hits and struck out 15 in the game). For the season Joss struck out 130. He was a control specialist, not a fireballer. He pitched in 42 games, starting 35. He gave up 42 earned runs and was on the mound for 35 unearned runs (1.2 earned runs for each unearned run). He walked only 30, meaning he gave up 1.4 runs for every walk (which is terrific). I love the unearned run stat. The fielding behind him was awful and he didn’t contribute to it by adding extra baserunners via the base on balls. For 42 earned runs (one per game) and 35 unearned runs he ended up with a 24-11 record. Tell me unearned runs don’t matter.

He fell back in 1909. Apparently his illness was beginning to affect him. His ERA jumped to 1.70 (from 1.16 that’s a jump), he went 14-13, and ceded the Cleveland ace role to newly acquired Cy Young (OK, so almost nobody else is the ace if Young is around). He got back in 1910 but only made it into 13 games.

One of those games was 100 years ago today. Again he faced Chicago. In the second inning Fred Parent, playing short for the White Stockings, hit a roller to Cleveland third baseman Bill Bradley. Bradley juggled the ball, and Parent was safe at first. The official scorer called it a hit. Sometime during the game, the scorer changed his mind and recorded the play as an error on Bradley. I’ve been unable to determine exactly when that occurred. If early, then it may have had no effect on the game, but if the scorer changed it in say the seventh inning or so, then he may have been purposefully aiding Joss in getting a no-hitter. Frankly, I just don’t know. I do know that Joss walked only two men and recorded 10 assists from the mound during the game. At the end of the day the score stood 1-0 Cleveland over Chicago and Joss had his second no-hitter. I looked it up and barring failing eyes that are worse than I think (and they may be) Joss is the only person to throw two no hitters against the same team and have identical scores (1-0 vs. Chicago).

Joss had to sit out most of the season. He tried to come back in 1911 but collapsed on the field in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He died of tubercular meningitis on 14 April 1911, two days after opening day. His funeral was on the 17th and the Cleveland team, against the initial wishes of league president Ban Johnson, postponed their game to attend. Old-time player turned evangelist Billy Sunday preached the funeral. On 24 July an exhibition game between Cleveland and a team of American League All-Stars was held. The stars won 5-3, but the gate went to Joss’ family. It totalled $12, 914, a large sum for the era.

Joss only played nine years, making him ineligible for the Hall of Fame. In 1978, the Veteran’s Committee waived the rule and elected him to the Hall. A handful of writers and baseball stat geeks said it was a mistake. They were wrong.

Next: Back to the 1910 teams with the Browns


February 2, 2010

This is a tale of two men. They didn’t have a lot in common. Oh, they played baseball and were good enough to make the major leagues, but that’s about all they had in common. Their bond is a sad one. They’re  two players who died directly from actions occuring on the field.

Ray Chapman

Ray Chapman is much the more famous. He was born in 1891 in Kentucky and, like Abe Lincoln,  moved to Illinois. He was a good player in the 3 I League (Davenport) and made the majors in 1912 breaking in with the Cleveland team (now the Indians, then the Naps). He came up as a shortstop, spent time at second and third. He did well hitting over .300 three times, posting a slugging percentage over .400 four times, with an  on base percentage over 300 every year (but never above 400). That gave him an OPS of 700 six times and 800 his final year. He avraged over 30 stolen bases with no pop, but managed to average 25 doubles and 12 triples over his nine year career.  He was a better than average shortstop, but not the slickest fielder in the league.

By 1920 the Cleveland team, under player-manager Tris Speaker was in a pennant fight with Chicago and New York. On 16 August they played the Yankees at the Polo Grounds (this was before Yankee Stadium was built). In the top of the fifth inning, Chapman came to bat against Yankees submariner Carl Mays. Mays promptly skulled him. According to the story it was late in the day, the ball was dirty, and Chapman simply never saw the ball. He went down and died the next morning. He’s buried in Cleveland. There is a plaque on display in the Indians museum in his honor. It used to hang on the wall in Memorial Stadium. It’s claimed that his death was part of what led to the outlawing of the spitball and other trick pitches. Maybe, but baseball was already considering that. It did, apparently, lead to the major leagues replacing soiled baseballs much more frequently during games. Cleveland made the World Series that year, defeating Brooklyn in 7 games (best of nine), a Series most famous for Bill Wambsganss’ unassisted triple play. Cleveland needed a new shortstop. They brought up 21 year old Joey Sewell to replace Chapman. That worked. In 1977 Sewell made the Hall of Fame.

Doc Powers

Doc Powers isn’t as well known as Chapman. His name was Mike and he was a college man, attending Notre Dame and becoming a licensed physician. He got to the majors in 1898 with the Louisville Colonels. In 1899 he was traded to Washington (then a National League city), sat out 1900, and jumped to the American League where he played with the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901 into 1909, with a short sidetrip to New York for a few months with the Highlanders (now the Yankees). He was a catcher who put in a little time at first and spent two games in the outfield. He was a decent catcher, backing up the starter in 1902 when the A’s won the AL pennant and went to the World Series when the A’s won a second pennant in1905. He played in three Series games, getting one double in seven at bats. He wasn’t much of a hitter, managing to hit .216 for a career with averages of 18 doubles and 3 triples. His career slugging percentage was .268. On 12 April 1909 he ran into a wall trying to catch a foul pop. He suffered internal injuries that required three surgeries. He developed peritonitis and died 26 April.

1908: That Other Race

February 1, 2010

The 1908 season is most famous for the National League pennant race and the Merkle Game. but there was a heck of a race in the American League too. Three teams were in contention on the last day.

After five months of solid baseball, the American League race came down to September and October. Detroit was in first place with St Louis (the Browns, not the Cardinals), Chicago, and Cleveland all bunched 2.5 games or less behind. By the 23rd, the date of the Merkle Game, St. Louis had fallen off, but the other 3 were still tightly bunched with Cleveland 2.5 games ahead. On the 25th, Detroit would begin a run that led to 10 consecutive wins against the A’s, Washington, and St. Louis. Then they dropped two in a row to the White Sox.

Meanwhile the ChiSox and Cleveland had kept pace. On 2 October they met each other in one of the finest pitching duels ever. White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh, on his way to a 40 win season, struck out 15 and gave up a single run. Addie Joss, the Naps hurler, was even better. He threw a perfect game.

By 6 October, the end of the regular season, Detroit was a half game up and played Chicago. They won 7-0 to put the Sox back 1.5 games. Cleveland beat St. Louis 5-1 to finish a half game back. Detroit ended the season 90-63, Cleveland 90-64, and Chicago 88-64. Only the Naps had played a complete schedule, both Chicago and Detroit losing a game to a rainout. Under the rules of the day, the  game didn’t have to be made up. So the Tigers went to the World Series and promptly lost in 5 games. The American League moved to change the rules requiring ties and rainouts be made up if they impacted the pennant. There is no record of the Naps’ asking “What took so long?”

On an individual basis, Walsh ended the season 40-15 over 66 games (49 of them starts) and led the league with 269 strikeouts and 7 saves (a stat not yet invented). Joss’ 1.16 ERA topped the league. In hitting Ty Cobb won the batting, slugging, hits, doubles, triples, and RBI titles, while outfield teammate Wahoo Sam Crawford took the home run crown (in 1909 Cobb would complete the Triple Crown). The other Tigers outfielder, Matty McIntyre, led the league in runs scored , making it one of the more productive outfields ever. Chicago’s Patsy Dougherty led in steals with 47.

Over the years the American League race has been obscured by the National League. That’s a great shame because it was equally sensational. There just wasn’t one game and one incident that turned the season quite so dramatically as Fred Merkle’s dash toward second.

The Nap LaJoie Traveling Show

January 27, 2010

Nap LaJoie

Way back in baseball’s Stone Age, Napoleon LaJoie was a premier second baseman. For a few years he may have been one of its premier players. He was so good that teams went to court to get him and so good that cities named their teams after him.

Let me start by saying I have no idea how he pronounced his last name. I’ve heard it La-Ja-Way, La-Jay, La-Joy (I think I’ve got the Napoleon part down). Wikipedia says he used La-Ja-Way but gives no source for that. Anybody know?

 LaJoie first entered the Major Leagues in 1896, actually league- there was only one. With the Philadelphia Phillies he led the league in slugging percentage, total bases, doubles, and RBIs at various times. Basically, he was a heck of a player.

In 1901, Ban Johnson renamed his Western League the American League and went head to head with the National League. One of his brightest assets was LaJoie who jumped from the Phillies to their cross-town rivals, the Athletics. The Phillies sued (and you thought lawsuits were new). The A’s won. The Phillies appealed. The A’s lost. LaJoie ended up at Cleveland and was not allowed to travel to or through the state of Pennsylvania (Got all that?). Essentially the Phillies claimed LaJoie was theirs, a state court agreed, and if he entered the borders of Pennsylvania he was liable for arrest, fine, and worst of all he would have to play for the Phillies. By 1903, they had it all worked out. LaJoie stayed at Cleveland through 1914. Between 1905 and 1909 he was player-manager and from 1905 through 1914 the team was known as the Cleveland Naps in his honor. He went back to the Athletics in 1915 (see, old lawsuits do eventuallly die) and retired at the conclusion of the A’s horrendous 1916 season (worth a post in itself). He made the Hall of Fame in 1937.

If you don’t study Stone Age baseball you’re probably wondering what all the fuss was about. In 1901, Nap LaJoie won the American League’s triple crown. He hit .422, still an American League record, slugged .635, led in hits with 229, doubles with 48, home runs with fourteen, total bases with 345, runs at 145, and RBIs at 125. He tied for first in home run percentage and was eighth in triples. Now I heard someone once downgrade the season saying that the American League was a “marginal” big league in 1901, so don’t get too excited about the statistics. Maybe. But, you know what, nobody else feasted on this “weak” league like LaJoie; in fact, no one else was even close. the next two highest batting averages were .347 and .345.  Next in total bases were 279 and 274. In hits it’s 190 and 187. LaJoie’s not just ahead of these guys, he’s way ahead of them. By 1903, this “marginal” league managed to win the first ever World Series (got better real quick, didn’t it?). LaJoie won the batting and slugging titles that season and again the next. I’ll give you a bit of inflation for 1901, but not much.  LaJoie simply had an outstanding year.

In 1910, he was involved in a major controversy over the batting title. Several years ago a bunch of baseball historians discovered an error in Ty Cobb’s 1910 totals. Turns out, they claim, that LaJoie should have won the batting title. Major League Baseball has never recognized that chainge. The furor at the time was so great that the Chalmers automobile people, who had promised a car to the batting title winner, gave both men a car (this led eventually to the Chalmers Award, the first MVP award).

Between 1901 and 1906, LaJoie was a great player. He produced a lot of runs, got a lot of hits, and had an excellent slugging percentage. After down years in 1907 through 1909 he came back in 1910. My guess is that managing a team named for you can really wear on you quickly. He maintained a high degree of excellence though 1913, then finished out with three down seasons. He died in 1959 acknowledged as one of the half dozen or so greatest second basemen ever.

Death in the Argonne

January 18, 2010

Eddie Grant

A couple of friends of mine are British. According to them, when World War I broke out in 1914 a number of soccer clubs joined up in mass as “Pals” units. The idea was that you would go to war with your friends, which would make the transition easier and give you more to fight for. Of course the problem was that if the unit got caught up in the horror of the Somme or Passchendaele, well, there just wasn’t a soccer club left to be “Pals”.

American professional sportsmen have been luckier. There have been a number of amateur sports figures lost to war (Heisman trophy winner Nile Kinnick comes most quickly to mind in World War II), but the pros lost only one in World War I, third baseman Eddie Grant.

Grant was born in Massachusetts in 1883 and began his professional career in 1905 with the Cleveland Naps. He was back in the minors in 1906 but returned to the big leagues the next season with the Philadelphia Phillies. From 1908 to 1910 he was a sometimes hit, mostly good field third baseman who generally led off for the Phils, peaking in 1910 with 25 stolen bases and 67 runs. The Phils, being the Phils, immediately traded him to Cincinnati. Turns out the Phils were right. Grant was finished. He was traded to John McGraw’s Giants in 1913, where he finished his career in 1915. It wasn’t all that great a career. He hit 249, with 277 RBIs and a 295 slugging percentage.

During his career, Grant managed to pick up a degree from Harvard (1905) and spent his post baseball life as an attorney. In April 1917, immediately after he US declared war, Grant joined the 77th Infantry Division and became a captain. He went overseas with the Division in 1918 and participated in the campaign in the Argonne Forest. During the battles in the Argonne, a unit of the 77th was cut off from the rest of the Division, becoming the famous “Lost Battalion”. Grant’s unit was one of the companies sent in to find and make contact with the “Lost Battalion.”  On 5 October 1918, a shell exploded near Grant killing him instantly. He was buried in the Meuse-Argonne Military Cemetary.

Baseball was stunned. No Major League player had ever died in combat. True, Grant was retired, but still he was one of the boys. The Giants erected a monument to him in the Polo Grounds. It remained there until the Giants moved to San Francisco. If you watch the film of Willie Mays’ famous catch in 1954 you get a short glimpse of the monument before the camera begins zooming in on Mays.