Posts Tagged ‘Doc Adams’

The All-Star Series

December 18, 2018

The first “All Star” Game

Baseball is odd. Among all the major team sports, it plays its games in a series. Football, soccer, hockey, basketball, play a game, take a break, play another (there are occasional exceptions), but baseball plays a handful of games (sometimes two or four, but usually three) together, then the teams move on to another venue and another set of, usually, three games.

It wasn’t always that way. At its inception, baseball, like the other sports, tended to play single games. One team would play a game against a second team, then move on to play, generally several days later, a game against a third team. But the modern system of “series baseball” took over and you always never see a game in isolation (except for a rainout) anymore. That began to change in 1858.

In 1858 the cities of New York and Brooklyn were separate (and would remain so until 1890). At that point, the best teams tended to cluster in either of the two towns. There were individual teams like the Athletic in Philadelphia or the Niagara in Buffalo, but no one had a group of top level teams except New York and Brooklyn. In New York there were the Mutual, the Gothams, the Knickerbockers. Brooklyn had the Excelsiors, the Eckford, the Atlantic. At some point someone was going to come up with the idea of city teams comprising the best players of each team, joining together to play the best players of another city (sort of an All-Star Game). That finally happened in 1858. But it wasn’t to be a single game, but was to be a series of games to determine which town, New York or Brooklyn had the better players.

Unlike a modern series, the 1858 all-star series was played over three months, one game in July, the second in August, and the final game in September. And unlike the current All Star Game, there were a series of games. So this initial “series” or initial “All Star Game” was a hybrid. To be fair to both sides, the games were held at the Fashion Place Racetrack (a horse racing track) in Queens.

The names today are mostly forgotten. Harry Wright played center field for New York in the initial game. Theodore Van Cott, unknown today, was the Gothams ace. Joe Leggett of the Excelsiors was the catcher for Brooklyn. He later became famous as Jim Creighton’s catcher. Dickie Pearce and Folkert Boerum of the Atlantic also played. Some historians credit Pearce with inventing the modern positioning of the shortstop and Boerum with working toward the invention of catcher’s equipment (neither can be entirely verified.

The games were high scoring affairs in comparison to modern baseball. New York won the first game 22-18 (lots of touchdowns, lots of missed kicks) with Van Cott leading the team with four runs scored and making only two outs (Harry Wright led the team with five outs). Excelsior second baseman, John Holder, had the game’s only home run. In game two the Brooklyn team returned the favor outscoring New York 29-8.

That made the September game the deciding game of the series. Daniel “Doc” Adams, Knickerbockers shortstop, umpired the game (remember, umpires in 1858 didn’t do all the same things they do now so an umpire with a rooting interest wasn’t as big a problem as it would be now). Joe Gelston, Eagles shortstop, led off New York’s part of the game with a home run and the team went on to pile up seven runs in the first. Union outfielder Joseph Pinckney hit another homer for New York later in the game, and the New York team ran up a 29-18 score to take game three and the championship two games to one.

The series would not be repeated. As the 1860s began, the Brooklyn clubs, particularly the Atlantic, began to dominate the baseball scene and not many New York teams wanted to face a Brooklyn all-star team that was composed mostly of players from the Atlantic. But it provides us with a look at a long ago series of games that would become more common and ushered in the idea of an all-star team.



April 26, 2018

Urban Shocker as a Yankee

Every so often the Hall of Fame decides to revamp the Veteran’s Committee. Currently there are four of them and I wouldn’t hold my breath if they moved that to five or to three between now and the next meeting later this year. That alone should tell you how difficult it is to determine exactly what the parameters are for electing members of the Hall.

One of those committees, which is supposed to meet only once in 10 years, is the really old timers committee that looks at players prior to the advent of Jackie Robinson in the big leagues. You might name it for me, the Geezer Committee. But the very fact that it is meeting only once in 10 years is to me a hopeful sign that the Hall has finally determined that they have, more or less, all the people from the pre-Korean War period that should be enshrined in Cooperstown. But of course, you know the committee is still going to meet and we also know that the Hall of Fame gives the committee a ballot (almost always with 10 names on it) to vote on. So I began to wonder what that list might look like. Yeah, I know I have too much time on my hands, but having just dodged the end of the world (or missed the rapture) I’m free again to take that time to think about such things as the veteran’s committee, Geezer edition. Here’s something of a semi-educated guess that may or may not have much to do with what the real ballot will look like (Is that wishy-washy enough for you?). This is strictly a guess and you may feel free to snicker at it, laugh aloud, curse it, or comment on my sanity as appropriate. In this I make no comment on whether the person should be or should not be in the Hall of Fame. In no particular order:

1. Daniel “Doc” Adams-is one of he founders of the sport and seems to be the most well-known. Duncan Curry, William Rufus Wheaton, and a host of others could be here as representing the people who codified the game, but Adams is probably the best know and hence most likely to be on such a ballot.

2. Bud Fowler-is probably the best 10th Century black player currently not in the Hall of Fame.

3. or maybe it’s George Stovey. Fowler was an infielder, Stovey a pitcher.

4. As the committee is now allowed to look at the period beginning in 1871 rather than 1876, it opens up the list for Ross Barnes. Barnes was a terrific hitter in the old National Association and for a few years in the new National League.

5. Joe Start played for the Atlantic in the 1860s (they were the Yankees of their day) and was one of their stars. He moved to the Association, then to the NL and continued playing into his 40s and into the 1880s. Helped Providence to a pair of pennants and to a victory in the first ever postseason series against the American Association in 1884. It was sort of an early version of the World Series. Very few players can say they gave quality play for three decades.

6. Sam Breadon owned the Cardinals from 1920 through 1947. When he took over they hadn’t won a championship in the 20th Century. By the time he retired, they were the dominant franchise in the NL.

7. Wes Ferrell is probably not in the Hall of Fame because he has a huge ERA. But the new fangled stats make it easier to see that he was a very good pitcher in a hitting era (and he could hit a little too).

8. Bucky Walters was one of those guys who started at one position (third base) and transitioned into a quality player at another position (pitcher). He won an MVP, a World Series, and, like Ferrell, could hit a little.

9. Urban Shocker may be the most overlooked pitcher of the late 19-teen and the 1920s. He pitched well enough in the Deadball Era, then moved successfully into the hitting era of the 1920s (and he played for the ’27 Yankees who have everybody else except the batboy in the Hall).

10. Candy Jim Taylor was a superb player, then became a manager and ultimately took over the reins of the Negro League Homestead Grays during their most successful period in the 1940s. Obviously he should not be confused with Jim Taylor, the fullback for the Vince Lombardi Packers of the 1960s.

So there it is, a solid guess at what the really Old-Timers Veteran’s Committee list will look like when it’s published a couple of years from now (and the least likely players to actually show up are probably the Negro League guys). By then, this should be well hidden on this blog and most of you will have forgotten you ever saw it. That may be for the best.

2015 Veteran’s Ballot Announced

October 9, 2015

According to “This Week in SABR”, the email notification I get each weekend the 2015 Veteran’s ballot is out. Here’s the list in the order they give it:

Doc Adams, Sam Breaden, Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, August “Gerry” Hermann, Marty Marion, Frank McCormick, Harry Stovey, Chris von der Ahe, Bucky Walters.

Several are holdovers from the last Segregation Era ballot but some are new. FYI and commentary to follow at some point.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1911

January 2, 2015

For my opening salvo into 2015, it’s time to unveil the 1911 class of My Own Little Hall of Fame. For those of you who are new, who forgot, or who simply want to be bored with a rehash, this is my attempt to determine what a Hall of Fame established in 1901 rather than the 1930s would look like.  It’s based on what information was available in the year of the election (in this case 1911). For this I’m scouring newspapers, magazines, guides, memoirs, etc. looking for what was known and what people thought. Here’s this year’s first class.

Doc Adams

Doc Adams

Daniel “Doc” Adams was one of the most important founders of the game. A member of the original Knickerbockers, he is credited with inventing the position of shortstop, of chairing the 1857 meeting that codified game rules, and helping establish the National Association of Base Ball Players, the first league using something like the current rules.

Jesse Burkett

Jesse Burkett

Outfielder primarily in the 1890’s, Jesse Burkett won the 1895, 1896, and 1901 National League batting titles and led the National League in hits three times and runs scored twice. A career .338 hitter he is fifth all-time in triples and third in total hits.

Now the commentary:

1. One of the things I’ve noticed is the proliferation of baseball mythology at this time. The Mills Commission nonsense about Abner Doubleday is of the era, there are interviews with geezers older than me who are talking about what it was like in the early days of the sport. One of those interviews was with Adams (He died in 1899). I don’t know that any one person can be called “The Father of Baseball” but Adams is one of those guys that had a prominent part in the beginnings of the sport and the writers of the era knew who he was and what he’d supposedly done. I put supposedly there because we only have Adams’ word for some of it, particularly the shortstop assertion. So in a mythology heavy era I felt that a pioneer might get in. And to look at it from a modern era view, he’s probably a better candidate than Alexander Cartwright. Although William Wheaton might be an even better candidate, Wheaton seems to be much less well-known in 1911.

2. Burkett is one of the better players of the era. The comment about triples is based on what seems to be the info available at the time. By now he’s much lower (15th). And by way of a correction, Bid McPhee, who is now listed above him, was not there in 1910. Modern research has established McPhee with more triples than Burkett. He belongs in a 1911 era Hall of Fame because of his counting numbers, those numbers that have been around since Henry Chadwick. He has a high batting average, a ton of runs, and a lot of hits. Those numbers dominate the era and I feel would assure him a place in a 1911 Hall of Fame, without reference to the exactitude of his triples. By the way, the only players with more hits than Burkett in 1911 were Cap Anson (1st) and Jake Beckley (which bodes well for Beckley when his turn comes). Currently Burkett is 44th.

3. And the triples info is the kind of thing I have to watch carefully. Modern statistical info is so much greater that McPhee’s triple line has grown over time. And Burkett’s changes also. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 2006 (which is the last issue, I think) has him with 185 triples, Baseball has 182. So it’s still not solved. I’m beginning to understand why Hall of Fame plaques sometimes have the wrong information on them.

4. Next year (1912) will have Kid Nichols added to the pitcher’s ballot, Hugh Duffy, Sam Thompson, and John McGraw (as a player, not manager) added to the everyday players part of the ballot and Henry Chalmers (originator of the Chalmers Award) added to the contributors. I expect Nichols will have no trouble making the Hall. I’m not sure about either Duffy or Thompson and I’m reasonably sure Chalmers won’t get there. McGraw is the problem. As I mentioned in my review at the end of 2014, McGraw’s playing career is already, by 1912, being dwarfed by his managing. I’ll have to work a bit to see whether he makes it as a player. You’ll find out next time.