Posts Tagged ‘Duffy Lewis’

1915: A New Dynasty Forms in the American League

April 6, 2015
Duffy Lewis

Duffy Lewis

The end of the 1914 season saw the end of the first Philadelphia Athletics dynasty. They won the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913, then lost it in 1914. The team broke up after the 1914 World Series, leaving a vacuum at the top of the American League. In 1912, the one year Philly hadn’t won, the Boston Red Sox grabbed the AL pennant and won the World Series. Beginning in 1915, Boston established a new dynasty that was to rule the AL through 1918.

The 1915 BoSox were a mixture of holdovers from 1912 and a series of new, or at least new to Boston, players. The manager had changed. Jake Stahl, manager of the 1912 team was gone, replaced with Bill Carrigan. Carrigan was the starting catcher for the 1912 team who took over the Red Sox with 70 games left in the 1914 season. He was considered a decent enough catcher and a so-so hitter (in other words he was a solid, but unspectacular player whose career hovered around mediocre). He was 32 in 1915 and still did some catching on occasion. He would remain with Boston as both a player and manager one more year, winning the pennant again in 1916.

The other catchers were Pinch Thomas and Hick Cady. Thomas hit in the .230s while Cady hit in the .270s. Although Thomas hit from the left side while Cady stepped into the right-handers batters box, they had almost exactly the same amount of at bats (205 for Cady and 203 for Thomas), indicating it wasn’t exactly a modern platoon system behind the plate.

The infield consisted of (from first to third) Dick Hoblitzell, Jack Barry, Everett Scott, and Larry Gardner. The latter was the only one remaining from 1912’s starting infield. He’d lost 50 points off his batting average from 1912, but was still a good third baseman for the era. Hoblitzell was third on the team with 61 RBIs and tied for second with 12 triples. Scott was 22 and playing only his second season. He hit all of .201, but was a good enough shortstop to push Barry to second base. Barry was one of the reasons the Athletics were no longer a power. He’d been the shortstop of the “$100,000 Infield” and a stalwart of the A’s pennant runs. In 1915 he was only 28 and still a capable fielder. He hit .262 and, in a base running crazy era, never even attempted a stolen base in 1915.

If the infield was largely new, the outfield was the same. The 1912-1915 Boston outfield is considered by many the best Deadball Era outfield and in some circles still holds a position in the top five or ten greatest outfields ever. Duffy Lewis played left field. He hit .291, tied for the team lead in home runs (among starters) with two, led the team in RBIs, and was second in hits.His OPS+ was 121. The other two outfielders were Hall of Fame center fielders. As two men couldn’t play center at the same time, Harry Hooper moved to right field. He was a stellar fielder who had a down year in 1915. He hit only .235, but led the team in triples (13), and was fifth in RBIs. Even with a bad average, he managed an OPS+ of 103. The actual center fielder was Tris Speaker. “Spoke” hit .322, led the team in hits, stolen bases, and was second in RBIs. He was a great center fielder whose OPS+ was 151 and who had a WAR (BBREF version) of 7.1, higher than the next two men (Lewis and Hooper) combined (3.2 and 3.1).

There was a long bench, especially for the era. Hal Janvrin, Heinie Wagner, and Del Gainer all got into more than 80 games and Olaf Henriksen got into 73. Of the lot Gainer had the highest average and the only home run. In fact, if you discount pitchers, he had the only home run by a bench player.

But if you don’t discount pitchers there are six more home runs, four of them by a second year lefty named Babe Ruth. Ruth hit .318, had an OPS+ of 188 and led the team with the four home runs. Smokey Joe Wood and Rube Foster (obviously not the Negro National League founder) had the other two. Ernie Shore had one of those great Deadball stats that you don’t see much anymore. He hit all of .101, but in eight hits he had four doubles, a triple, and 10 RBIs. All that gave him an OPS+ of 1.

But Shore, like Ruth, wasn’t there to hit. The staff was very good. Five men started double figure games. Foster and Shore both had 19 wins, Ruth getting 18. Wood and Dutch Leonard each had 15. All had more innings pitched than hits allowed, and only Ruth had more walks (86) than strikeouts (82). Ruth’s 2.44 was the highest ERA while Wood’s 1.49 led the starters. Carl Mays, at age 23, was the main man in the bullpen, registering 31 relief appearances, seven saves, and six starts. His record was 6-5. Twenty-one year old Herb Pennock was also over from Philadelphia, but only pitched 14 innings over five games. His Hall of Fame career would bloom later.

Over the season the BoSox won 101 games and beat Detroit for the pennant by 2.5 games. They were third in the AL in runs, second in RBIs, next-to-last in home runs, and dead last in stolen bases. Their team ERA was second in the AL behind only last place Washington (and Walter Johnson). They were also second (again to Washington) in runs and hits allowed, and were third in strikeouts (again Washington led, this time with Chicago in second). Individually, Speaker was fourth in hits and runs scored, sixth in total bases, seventh in doubles, and sixth in walks.  Lewis finished ninth in hits, eighth in total bases, second in doubles, and ninth in RBIs. Hooper was eighth in runs scored, ninth in triples, and fifth in walks. Speaker’s 7.1 WAR was third in the league behind Ty Cobb and Eddie Collins (another A’s refugee, now at Chicago). Ruth’s four home runs tied for ninth in the AL. Among pitchers Shore was third in ERA and tied for sixth in wins. Foster tied Shore for sixth in wins, with Ruth showing up as ninth. Carl Mays’ seven saves were easily the best among AL pitchers.

The 1915 season was the first of a four-year run for Boston. They would win the 1915 and 1916 World Series’, then repeat again in the shortened 1918 season (finishing second in 1917). This dynasty would be the end for the Red Sox. After 1918 they wouldn’t win another pennant until 1946 and not win the World Series until the 21st Century.

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Opening Day 1914: American League

March 27, 2014
Stuffy McInnis, first base Philadelphia Athletics

Stuffy McInnis, first base Philadelphia Athletics

Next week marks what most of us consider the real Opening Day for MLB. So it’s time for a look at what was going on Opening Day 100 years ago. As the American League contained the World Champion Athletics, I think I’ll start with them (having done the “outlaw” Federal League already).

The champion A’s were much the same team as the 1913 version with the $100,000 Infield in place (Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank Baker). The outfield was still decent and in Wally Schang the A’s had a good catcher. They led the AL in hits, runs, home runs, RBIs, and average. The Athletics used a dominant pitching staff to rule the A for five years, but it was beginning to fray. Jack Coombs was gone (he pitched only 2 games), Eddie Plank was 38 and not aging well. Herb Pennock had five starts over the previous two years, while Bullet Joe Bush had all of 17. As a consequence, the A’s would have 24 shutouts, but lead the league in no other category. They were fourth in ERA and hits allowed.

Two teams would give them a run for their money. One was Washington. The Senators finished 19 games back, but they had Walter Johnson who led the AL in wins, shutouts, and strikeouts.

The greater challenge came from Boston. the Red Sox still had Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis, ad Harry Hooper as their outfield. Speaker led the league in hits and doubles. Pitcher Dutch Leonard went 19-5 with an all-time low ERA of 1.00 (try losing five games with that ERA). But the most important news at Boston and for baseball in general was the arrival on 11 July of a rookie pitcher from Baltimore with the nickname of “Babe” Ruth. He would go 2-1 over four games (three starts), but it was the beginning of the most famous of all Major League careers.

Around the rest of the AL, Ty Cobb again won a batting title (.368) and the slugging crown (.513). His teammate Sam Crawford led the league in RBIs and triples. Fritz Maisel, a third baseman for the Highlanders, won the stolen base title with 74 and Baker with the A’s copped the home run title with nine. In April future Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber made his debut for the White Sox, while Fred McMullin, one of the 1919 Black Sox (and Faber teammate) played his first big league game with Detroit in August. The 1920s stalwarts Everett Scott and Jack Tobin also first show up in 1914. Finally, 1914 is the rookie campaign for Bill Wambsganss, famous for the only unassisted triple play in World Series history (1920).

In the World Series, Philadelphia would be mauled by the “Miracle Braves” of Boston. It would be the end of Connie Mack’s A’s dynasty (he’d put together another in 1929) and the arrival of Ruth would signal the start of a new dynasty. This one in Fenway Park.

 

1912: The Man from Denmark

August 9, 2012

Olaf Henriksen in his rookie season (1911)

As most of you know, the Boston Red Sox won the 1912 American League Pennant, their first since 1904. Then they went on to win the World Series in dramatic fashion. Their outfield of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper consistently ranks as one of the premier outfields in Major League history and is frequently ranked as the best in the Deadball Era. With an outfield like that the backup outfielder tends to get lost in the shuffle. Olaf Henriksen, the backup in 1912, is one of those, even though he had a critical hit in the final game of the 1912 World Series.

Henriksen was born in Denmark in 1888, the only Major Leaguer born in Denmark. He was still young when his family arrived in the United States. He discovered baseball, liked it, and best of all was good at it. He joined the New England League team in Brockton, Massachusetts and by 1911 was with the Red Sox. He was the backup outfielder in an era when there tended to be only one. He was considered primarily a left fielder (Lewis’s replacement), he actually played very little in the field, becoming something of a specialty pinch hitter. He was good at it, managing a .449 OBP in 1911, still the second highest OBP by a rookie in the 20th Century. He surpassed that in 1912 with an OBP of .457, and set his career high in 1913 with an OBP of .468. 

A left-handed batter (and thrower), Henriksen had little power, hitting one home run in his entire career (1914). In only 487 at bats he walked 97 times, struck out 73, scored 84 runs, and had 48 RBIs. He managed 22 games in center field, 42 in left, and  61 in right field with 31 games in the field in 1916 being his high, much of his field work coming after the trade of Speaker to Cleveland.

Despite being from Denmark, he was nicknamed “Swede”. Apparently that was a generic nickname for Scandinavians in the era. As far as I can tell, Henriksen never went out of his way to correct others concerning his origins. He seems to have been both well liked and relatively quiet. His big moment came in the final game of the 1912 World Series, when he slugged a pinch hit double in the seventh inning tying the score. Boston ultimately won the game and the Series in extra innings. It was his only at bat of the Series.

His career was short, ending after the 1917 season. He hit .083 with an OBP of only .267. He was 29 and through. After a couple of years and a few odd jobs, he picked up the coaching job at Boston College. He managed the team from 1922-1924.

Henriksen is one of those players that go lost in the mists of time. But he was the kind of player that teams need in order to win consistently. He got on base a lot, made the most of his playing time, and was one of the pioneering career pinch hitters. You see that last quite a lot now. Guys like Manny Mota made their name pinch-hitting. Henriksen was, in some ways, their grandfather.

1912: Opening Day

April 11, 2012

Mae West in 1912

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of Opening Day in 1912. It was a different world then. William Howard Taft was President of the United States (although Woodrow Wilson would win the election in November). Most people still rode the train or horse and buggy. Wyatt Earp and Cole Younger were still alive, as was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria whose death two years later would spark a World War. Al Capone, Frank Nitti, and Elliot Ness were nobodies. Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin were writing ragtime music and Geroge Gershwin was still four years from publishing his first song. No one had ever heard of John Wayne and Mae West was just getting started on Broadway, but Mary Pickford was America’s darling and Lillian Gish was just beginning a career that would make her a great star. She’d hitched her ambitions to a genius named D.W. Griffith who was starting to toy with the idea of making a movie two hours long, an unheard of length for a “flicker”. Molly Brown wasn’t yet “unsinkable” because the Titanic was still three days from be introduced to icebergs.  George Gipp (of “win one for the Gipper” fame) had yet to play a down for Notre Dame and Babe Ruth had not yet appeared in a Red Sox uniform.

For Boston, 1912 would be an exceptionally good year. Down 2-1 in the ninth inning, the Red Sox would storm back to win on Opening Day. By the end of the season they would win 105 games, finish first by 14 (over Walter Johnson and the Senators), then win a famous World Series over the Giants four games to three (with a tie). The outfield of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper is considered one of the finest, if not the finest, Deadball Era outfield. Both Speaker and Hooper eventually made the Hall of Fame. Although Hooper had a down year in 1912, Speaker was tremendous and Lewis had a fine season. Jake Stahl managed and played first. He joined Speaker and third baseman Larry Gardner as .300 hitters. Steve Yerkes and Heinie Wagner rounded out the infield and Bill Carrigan did the bulk of the catching. Joe Wood hit .290 and won 34 games. Hugh Bedient and Buck O’Brien both won twenty and Charley Hall and Ray Collins (not the old actor) won in double figures.

The National League saw the New York Giants score 18 runs and pound out 22 hits as the started the season with a victory over Brooklyn. John McGraw’s team would win 103 games and finish 10 ahead of Pittsburgh. As with most McGraw teams, it was the pitching that stood out. Christy Mathewson won 23 games and walked only 34 in 310 innings of work. Lefty Rube Marquard won even more games with 26, while Jeff Tesreau, Red Ames, and Doc Crandall won between 11 and 17 games. Tesreau managed to cop the ERA title. In the field, catcher Chief Meyers had a terrific year, hitting over 350, winning an OBP title, and slugging almost .450. The infield of Fred Merkle, Larry Doyle, Art Fletcher, and Buck Herzog (first around to third )feathured two .300 hitters and two men with 10 or more homer runs (Merkle and Doyle in each case). The outfield featured Fred Snodgrass, who would make a memorable gaffe in the World Series, Josh Devore, Beals Becker, and Red Murray. None of them hit .300, but Murray slugged over .400.

Other noteworthy achievements of the season in the NL included Heinie Zimmerman winning the NL batting, slugging, home run, and OPS titles. Honus Wagner picked up the RBI title while Cincinnati leftfielder Bob Bescher swipped 67 bases to win the stolen base crown. Larry Cheney tied Marquard for the league lead in wins while Grover Cleveland Alexander picked up the strikeout title with 195. Nap Rucker of Brooklyn and Marty O’Toole at Pittsburgh each had six shutouts. The league lead in saves was six, turned in by Slim Sallee of the Cardinals. The Chalmers Award (the 1912 version of the MVP) went to Larry Doyle over Meyers (got me). 

In the American League Ty Cobb hit .409 to win the batting title. He also picked up slugging and OPS titles, while Speaker won the OBP title. Frank Baker won the home run title and tied with Speaker for the RBI lead. Clyde Milan of Washington won the stolen base crown with 88 steals. Walter Johnson won both the ERA and strikeout titles at the same time he put up 33 wins, one less than Wood. Wood also had 10 shutouts, while Ed Walsh at Chicago picked up 10 saves. It should not surprise you that Speaker picked up the AL’s Chalmers Award.

Hot Stove League 1912 (AL)

January 5, 2012

Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper about 1912

Today we baseball junkies get our November-February fix by engaging in what’s called “The Hot Stove League”. It was no different 100 years ago. Here’s a few things the 1912 American League fan had to be discussing in January 100 years ago.

Could the Athletics repeat? The Philadelphia Athletics were two-time defending champions. Could they make it three in a row? No one ever had in the American League. We know the answer is “no.” Chief Bender had a down year, rookies Herb Pennock and Stan Coveleski (future Hall of Famers) didn’t do much (Coveleski only pitched 21 innings).

If not, who could take them? Boston had finished fifth in 1911, but  Jake Stahl took over as manager (and had a good year at first base), the outfield of Harry Hooper, Tris Speaker, and Duffy Lewis became arguably the finest Deadball Era outfield, third baseman Larry Gardner had a good season (better than Hooper’s), and Smokey Joe Wood won 30 games.

 Was Walter Johnson a fluke? After three so-so seasons, Johnson put together two 20 win seasons in 1910 and 1911. Fans had to wonder if he could continue. Short answer? Yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911, could Ty Cobb do it again? Again the answer turned out to be yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911 and losing the batting title to Cobb, could new guy Joe Jackson hit .400 in 1912 and win the batting title? Jackson slipped to .395, but led the AL in triples.

Would the team in New York, which had finished second in 1910 and slipped back to sixth in 1911 under now ousted manager Hal Chase recover or continue to slide. They dropped all the way to last place in 1912 with Chase still at first and sulking (among other things). He did lead the team in RBIs with 58.

And finally would Chicago pitcher Ed Walsh’s arm fall off? Walsh led the AL in games pitched in 1907, 1908, 1910, and 1911. Could he do it again? He could. He pitched in 62 games, starting 41, completing 32, and pitching 393 innings (read that last number closely).  Apparently the arm stayed attached, but the toll finally got to him. He developed a sore arm in 1913 and his career was effectively over.

Part of the joy of baseball is actually the offseason. The speculation, the anticipation, the questioning all make for a lot of fun. I love it, I hope you love it, and I’m sure fans 100 years ago loved it too.

1910:Red Sox Postmortem

September 9, 2010

In 1909 Fred Lake left the managerial job with the Red Sox to go across leagues to the Doves. The team was awful and Lake was fired, never returning to manage in the Major Leagues. His replacement, Patsy Donovan, had better luck. The Red Sox finished fourth in 1910, at 81-72, 22.5 games out of first. That was down from a third place finish in 1909.

It wasn’t the hitting that was the problem. Every Sox starter except catcher Bill Carrigan hit over .250 (and Carrigan hit .249). The team was third in batting average, runs scored, and RBIs. They were second in slugging and first in home runs with first baseman Jake Stahl leading the American League with ten. In stolen bases they finished fourth. Tris Speaker hit .340, good for third in league.

The bench wasn’t anything special. Four players managed 20 or more games, two hitting under .200. But backup infielder Clyde Engle hit .264, stole 12 bases, and ended up with more hits than regular third baseman Harry Lord.

The weakness was the pitching. Eddie Cicotte (of 1919 Black Sox infamy) led the team with a 15-11 record. And his record is typical for the staff. Of the seven men who started double figures games, four had winning percentages of .550 or less, the definition of a mediocre staff. On the positive side all of them had more innings pitched than hits allowed and more strikeouts than walks, except for Frank Arellanes, who started 13 of 26 games. At 26, it was the second youngest staff in the AL (behind New York) so there was time for improvement.

All in all the BoSox are not a bad team. In 1911 they will fall back a spot,costing Donovan his job, but will win the AL pennant and the World Series in two years. You can see that coming if you look at the hitting. Speaker, Larry Gardner, Duffy Lewis, and Harry Hooper are all there.  As for the pitching, it needed work. It got it. By 1912, only three of the 1910 major starters would still be around.

1910: J. Frank Baker

July 7, 2010

Frank Baker

John Franklin Baker was born in Maryland in 1886. He played baseball well enough that Connie Mack brought him to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1908. The next season he took over as the regular third baseman and stayed there through 1914. During his tenure the A’s won four pennants and three World Series championships. During the period Baker hit .321 and led the American League in home runs four times (1911-14) and in RBIs twice (1912 and 1913). As good as all that sounds, he was even better in World Series play. In three winning efforts (1910, 1911, and 1913) he hit .409 with three home runs and drove in sixteen runs. His slugging percentage was .621. In 1914, the Braves shut him down, along with pretty much everybody else, and the A’s lost. The three home runs in Series play tied or won ballgames and led to his nickname “Home Run” Baker. 

Baker sat out 1915 in a salary dispute with Mack. He spent the season playing in a semipro league in Pennsylvania. At the end of the season, Mack sold him to New York. He did alright with the Yankees, but he was never as good as he had been with Philadelphia. He hit .300 once, had double figure home runs twice (10 both times) and saw his slugging average drop badly. 

In 1920 his wife died and he took the season off to be with the children. He was back in New York in 1921 in time to make it to the World Series again (I was unable to find out if he remarried or not).  In 1921 he managed nine home runs to finish third on the team behind Babe Ruth’s 59 and Bob Meusel’s 24. The Yankees lost the series to the Giants with Baker contributing two hits (both singles) for a .250 average. His ground out to second with one out the ninth inning of the final game was turned into a double play when the runner on first, AaronWard, tried to steal a run by dashing to third. The throw to third was on target and the series ended. In 1922 he played one final year, hitting .278 in 69 games. He got into the World Series going 0 for 1 in a pinch hitting role. For his career he ended up with a .307 average, 1838 hits, 96 home runs, 1013 RBIs, on OBP of .353, a slugging percentage of .442, 235 stolen bases, and six triple crown titles in 5985 games, all at third base (except for pinch-hitting duties). 

After retirement he coached and managed a little. He’s credited with discovering Jimmie Foxx. He retired to his farm in Maryland and made the Hall of Fame in 1955. He died in 1963, arguably the finest third baseman of the deadball era. 

As a fielder, Baker was both good and mediocre (bear with me a second on that). His 3.43 range factor compares well with fellow Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and George Kell, but his fielding average is nothing to write home about. In his prime years, 1909-14, he was generally in the lower half of the league in fielding, but made up for it with decent range. One of the things I like about his fielding is that he got better. He started with fielding averages in the .920s and ended his career in the .950s. OK, those aren’t great numbers, but a lot of guys never get any better and Baker did. 

He has two number that I really like: 24 and 36. Those are the distance between his RBI totals in 1912 and 1913 and his nearest competitor. In 1912, Baker knocked in 133 runs. Sam Crawford at Detroit and Duffy Lewis at Boston each had 109 (Helps to have Eddie Collins, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker hitting in front of you, doesn’t it?) In 1913, he had 126. The next two guys behind him (again a tie) had 90. You don’t see that kind of domination often. In 1930, Hack Wilson set the Major League record for RBIs with 191. He won by 21. The following year Lou Gehrig set the AL record with 184. He also won by 21. Both Chuck Klein and Mickey Mantle won triple crowns. Klein won his RBI title by 14 and Mantle by only two. 

During his glory years, 1910-1914, Baker joined Cobb and Speaker as the dominant hitters of the age. And I guess that’s part of the knock on Baker. His glory years weren’t very long. But in those five years he won six triple crown titles (batting average, home runs, RBIs). So did Cobb. Speaker only got one. It’s not a bad legacy to say you could hold your own with Cobb and Speaker, even if only for five years. 

There haven’t been a lot of truly great third basemen in Major League history. In the Deadball Era there are only Baker and Jimmy Collins and I prefer Baker. With our without the nickname, Frank Baker is one of the top 10 third basemen ever and I could probably be talked into putting him in the top five.

Spoke

June 11, 2010

Tris Speaker

Normally when I try to wax eloquent about a Deadball Era player, I attempt to find some reasonably obscure one to say things about. This time I want to change that up and talk about a really good player, Tris Speaker. He, with suitable apologies to Eddie Collins, was arguably the third finest Deadball Era player behind only Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner.

He wasn’t an instant success, hitting a buck 58 in a seven game stint with Boston in 1907. In 1908 he hit all of .220. He was to hit below .300 exactly two more times: 1919, and his final season in 1928. His breakout year was 1910. He hit .340 and scored 92 runs. By 1912 he was teaming with Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis to win the World Series and establish one of Stone Age baseball’s finest outfields. In the Series he did OK, without being spectacular, and provided a key hit in the final inning of the final game. That same year he won his only home run title (with 10) and led the American League in doubles. His .383 batting average was third behind both Cobb and Joe Jackson.

Speaker (nicknamed “Spoke” by this point) had good years in both 1913 and 1914 then got back to the World Series in 1915. The Sox won in five games and he hit .294 with no RBIs. Before the 1916 season Boston traded him to Cleveland for pitcher Sam Jones, infielder Fred Thomas, and $55,000 cash. Chalk it up to lack of money and terminal stupidity (And you thought Boston’s bad trades began with Babe Ruth, didn’t you?).

Speaker continued to play well in Cleveland. In 1916 he led the league in hits, doubles, slugging and finally won a batting title. In 1919, he became player-manager and, despite a drop in his own stats, guided the Indians to second place. In 1920 they won the AL pennant and the World Series. For Speaker 1920 was a career year and a challenge. He hit .388, at the time a career high (he later hit .389 in 1925), and developed a new platoon system (first base and both outfield corners). He dealt with the accidental beaning and death of shortstop Ray Chapman with class and brought up future Hall of Famer Joe Sewell to replace Chapman.

Speaker stayed as player-manager through 1926, playing well and adapting to the post-Stone Age world. In 1927 he went to Washington where he teamed with Walter Johnson in the latter’s final season. His batting was still good, but his fielding was beginning to suffer. Age was slowing him down. In 1928, he moved on to Philadelphia for one final season where he teamed with Ty Cobb (also in his last season). It wasn’t a good year, and Speaker gave up playing when the Athletics season ended. He has chosen for the Hall of Fame in 1937.

Speaker is still fifth in hits (and was second when he retired) and is the all-time leader in doubles. That stat has a special kicker to it. He’s 48 doubles ahead of the second man on the list, Pete Rose. That’s farther ahead of the second place guy than the other extra base hit leaders. Sam Crawford leads Cobb by 14 in triples and  Bonds in less than ten ahead of Aaron in home runs.

Speaker did some coaching and scouting after he retired. There were rumors he joined the Ku Klux Klan at one point. I can’t find a definitive source to verify (or refute) that. He was known for helping newly arriving black players, especially Larry Doby, when integration came to baseball. Maybe he was a Klansman or maybe he wasn’t, but it doesn’t seem to have carried over to his views on baseball talent.   

Speaker is one of those talents that transcends his era. There are a lot of players that I look at and feel they were great because of when they played. Move ’em twenty years forward or backward and they might be marginal players or even stars, but not all-time greats. Tris Speaker isn’t one of those. His numbers transcend his era. I rate him a top five center fielder ever (Cobb, DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays alphabetically, are the other four).

1910: the end of April

April 30, 2010

Shano Collins

This is the first monthly update celebrating the centennial of the 1910 season. 

The end of April saw the season two weeks old. Teams had played between nine and 15 games. The World Champion Pirates were in first place in the National League, percentage points ahead of the Giants. The Phillies and Cubs also had winning records, while the other four teams had winning percentages in .300s. At 4-9, the Brooklyn Superbas were dead last. 

In the American League the defending champion Tigers at 8-4 were a game ahead of the Athletics. New York, Boston, and Cleveland all had winning records, while the Browns were in last place at 3-6. 

Individually, Addie Joss had tossed a no-hitter, Ty Cobb was off to a fast start, and John McGraw hadn’t been tossed from a game yet. There were a handful of rookies who came up after the season started. Two are significant. Duffy Lewis made his first appearance in left field for the Red Sox on 16 April. He would become a mainstay of the Boston dynasty that dominated much of the later teens. Lesser known, but also important, was Shano Collins. He first showed up with the White Stockings on 21 April. He was still around in 1917 to help the Sox win a World Series and again played in 1919 with the “Black Sox.” He was one of the “Clean Sox.” 

It’s much too early in the season to make any generalizations, but so far the Highlanders (Yankees) are the surprise of the AL while the failure of Cincinnati to rise above seventh place is the surprise of the AL. In the next month, things will change.

Opening Day, 1910: Boston (AL)

April 16, 2010

Tris Speaker

New manager Patsy Donovan (former manager Fred Lake was now with the other Boston team) had a good enough team he could stand pat for the most part. There were two changes from the 1909 starting roster that finished 9.5 games out of first. Both were significant.

The infield had one of them. Jake Stahl remained at first base, Heinie Wagner at short, and Harry Lord at third. The new guy was Larry Gardner, a good fielding second baseman who would turn into a very good hitter for Boston. His arm was good enough that in the latter part of his career he would shift to third and Boston wouldn’t skip a beat.

The other big change was in the outfield. Duffy Lewis took over left field from Harry Niles. Tris Speaker remained the center fielder and the three hitter. Harry Hooper, who was the fourth outfielder in 1909 took on the right field post and led off. There was a time when fans, pundits, and historians refered to this trio as the greatest outfield ever. You don’t hear that much today, but it’s been recent enough that I recall a few old timers using that kind of talk about Lewis, Speaker, Hooper. Both Speaker and Hooper ultimately made the Hall of Fame.

The catcher was Bill Carrigan. He wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but was a premier defensive specialist of his day. That seems to be a common theme of the era. The best teams have catchers who are good backstops and any hitting is gravy.

There were major trades during the 1910 season that really strengthened the Boston bench, but they began the season with Niles as the backup outfielder, Tom Madden the backup catcher, and a bunch of guys who didn’t get into 20 games as the infield.

The pitching staff was also fairly stable. The 1909 staff of Frank Arellanes, Eddie Cicotte, Smoky Joe Wood, and Charlie Chech was intact except for Chech. Ray Collins, Charley Hall, Ed Karger, and Charlie Smith were new and expected to solidify the mound. The problem was that most of them were inexperienced. Collins was a rookie in 1909, getting into only 12 games. Hall had pitched only 11 games the year before. The ones with experience weren’t very good. Smith came over from Washington where he hadn’t been very good. Karger was a career National Leaguer who hadn’t been particularly distinguished.

So Boston was improved, but the pitching was a question. If it reached its potential, then the team could move up. If not, well, it was going to be a long year.

Next: the White Sox