Posts Tagged ‘Deacon Phillippe’

1910: Pirates Postmortem

October 1, 2010

When the 1910 season began, Fred Clarke’s Pirates were defending champions of both the National League and the World Series. When the 1910 season ended they were third, 86-67, 17.5 games out of first. What went wrong?

First, it should be noted that 1909 was something of a fluke for Pittsburgh. They finished 110–42 for the season. But in 1907 they were 91-63. In 1908 they were 98-56. That’s a 12 game improvement in 1910, but only seven games in 1909. Secondly, the team was aging, especially the big names. Honus Wagner, who won the batting title 1906-09 (and would win again in 1911) was 36. Clarke was 37, Tommy Leach was 32, and 1903 World Series hero Deacon Phillippe was 38. Both Clarke and Leach had noticeably weak years and Phillippe, although 14-2, only started eight games. And Wagner? Well, Wagner was Wagner. He hit .320, led the NL in hits (tied with teammate Bobby Byrne), and slugged .432. All were fine, but both the average and the slugging were down.

The rest of the team was younger, but not all that good (except for Byrne). Twenty-two year old Vin Campbell hit .326 off the bench, but no one else, starter or substitute, with 20 or more games played hit above .276. The team slugging average dipped to third in the league.

The pitching was down. Babe Adams had a good year at 18-9, but the other three starters were all barely .500 pitchers (with Howie Camnitz actually going 12-13). Vic Willis, who was 22-11 in 1909 was in St. Louis. He went 9-12 for the Cards, but the 22 wins weren’t made up in Pittsburgh.

By 1910, the Pirates were on a downward spiral. They were still competitive, and would remain so for the next two years before the wheels fell off, but you can see age and talent issues beginning to crop up. It will be 15 years (1925) before they will be back in a World Series.

Tom, Dick, and Larry: Tom

May 24, 2010

Tommy Leach

Going to take the occasion of my return to something like normal around here to write about three players from baseball’s Stone Age that are worth remembering. As you know if you’ve read much of my stuff, I’m concerned that the players who were the foundation of the game are more or less ignored by modern players and fans. Here’s a small chance to recall a few of them.

Tommy Leach got to the Major Leagues with the Giants in 1898, managed to get into no games, and ended up being sent to the Louisville Colonels (then a National League team). When the NL contracted to eight teams from twelve in 1900, Leach and many of his teammates (including Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke) made the trek across Ohio to Pittsburgh and settled in with the Pirates. In 1901 he became the regular Pirates third baseman, hitting .305 with 153 total bases in only 95 games. For the next several years, Leach wandered all over the batting order, sometimes leading off, occasionally hitting third, one year as low as sixth. He finally settled in the two slot and about the same time (1907) became the regular center fielder. He had good speed, a decent arm, and range and was to remain in center through 1911, when he suffered a series of injuries. In 1912, he went to the Cubs in a trade. He stayed with Chicago through 1914, when to Cincinnati in 1915, then was out of the majors. He made a brief comeback in 1918, a war year (World War I), playing 30 games as a backup outfielder for the Pirates. He was 40 and done. He hung on in the minors for a while, but settled finally in Florida, where he managed a few years in the Florida State League. He died in 1969, the last surviving Pirate from the 1903 World Series.

For his career Leach hit .270 with a .371 slugging percentage. He had 2947 total bases, including 170 triples, 23rd on the all-time list.  He led the NL in home runs in 1902 with all of six, and in triples the same year. Of his 63 home runs, 49 are of the inside-the-park variety, which is second ever (Sam Crawford had 51). In both 1909 and 1913, he led the league in runs scored. In the 1903 World Series, he scored the first ever run (0ff Cy Young). For the Series he hit .273 with a series leading four triples and seven RBIs. In the 1909 World Series he led all hitter with a .360 average, four doubles, eight runs, and nine hits. The eight runs in 1909 ties him with a number of others for most runs in a seven game series and the four triples in 1903 is still the all-time record for triples in a World Series.

Leach did all this while standing only 5’6″ and weighing 135 pounds, making him one of the smallest players of his era. Having seen pictures of him, I’m guessing the weigh-in was done after a meal of at least two steaks and three deserts. (Geez, he’s tiny, especially when you see him standing next to Wagner–who was a huge man for the era.) You know you can make a pretty good team of small men. Leach, Johnny Evers (who may have been even smaller than Leach), David Eckstein, Mel Ott, Albie Pearson, and Bobby Schantz give you a pretty fair team to start.

Leach was never a big star in his own day. He had the problem of playing on the same team with Wagner, Clarke, Deacon Phillippe, Jack Chesbro, Sam Leever, and Jesse Tannehill. All were arguably better players. Each was certainly more well-known in their era. It’s fitting we remember him with them. He was a major part of what made that Pirate engine run.

Opening Day, 1910: Pittsburgh

April 6, 2010

Honus Wagner

The Pirates were defending champions when the 1910 season opened. As you would expect, they’d made few changes to the roster. In the infield, first baseman and normal six hitter Bill Abstein was replaced by rookie Jack Flynn (Abstein went to St. Louis of the American League). Dots Mller remained at second and in the five hole, while third baseman Bobby Byrne moved to the leadoff spot in the order. At shortstop Honus Wagner, defending batting, slugging, doubles, and RBI champ, took the clean up spot. The outfield remained unchanged with manager Fred Clake in left and batting third, right fielder Owen Wilson hitting seventh, and Tommy Leach in center and batting second. George Gibson stayed behind the plate and hit eighth. There were some changes. Ham Hyatt remained the primary pinch hitter, Ed Abbatacchio backup middle infielder was traded during the first week of the season. Bill McKechnie became his replacement.

The pitching staff of 1909 was led by Howie Camnitz, Vic Willis, Lefty Leifeld, and Nick Maddox. Babe Adams, the World Series hero; Deacon Phillippe and Sam Leever had all spent the season splitting time between starting and the bullpen. In 1910 Willis was gone to the Cardinals and Adams replaced him as one of the four primary starters. Leever and Phillippe, the pitching ace of he 1903 World Series, were now almost entirely bullpen men.

At 28, the Pirates had the 3rd oldest hitting team in the league by average age, but their staff was the oldest staff in the NL. Phillippe and Leever were both 38 and Adams, though reasonably new to the league, was 28 as was Camnitz. As far as I can tell, Clarke didn’t seem to be worried about it. Maybe he should. His biggest stars, Wagner (36), Leach (32), and himself (37) were getting old by 1910 baseball standards.

So Pittsburgh went into the 1910 season with its World Champion team mostly intact. There was a rookie at first and an aging pitching staff, but as long as the hitting, especially Wagner, held up they would be competitive for the season.

Tomorrow–the Cubs