Posts Tagged ‘Ed Barrow’

The War to End All Wars

November 11, 2018

Hell” by George LeRoux

Today marks the end of World War I, one hundred years ago. At 11 am in France, the guns fell silent and an armistice took over. Ultimately a peace treaty was worked out and the guns remained silent until a greater, but not more significant, war broke out.

As with everything else, the war touched baseball in a number of ways. Here’s a sampling of how:

1. The 1918 season was shortened to 140 games from the standard 154. It led to some funny statistics as the season was simply chopped down without being reworked. Some teams played more games than others, some played one team a lot of times, other teams not so many.

2. A lot of great and good players were away from the diamond during the season. Many were in the military, others were off at “war work.” The government allowed players to join war-related industries (like ship building or munitions making) in lieu of actually joining the military. Many players took up the offer. Some of them found that “war work” generally consisted of playing exhibition games for the rest of the workers.

3. A handful of owners, notably Charles Comiskey, thought using the “war work” option was “shirking” and held it against their players when they returned to the field after the war. A number of 1919 “Black Sox” were in this category and some scholars feel it further soured the team’s relationship with their owner.

4. The careers of some players were changed. Grover Cleveland Alexander played a handful of games, went off to the war (not to war work) and saw combat. He suffered “shell shock,” which added to his drinking problem, was to plague his pitching for a number of years. The 1918 season was also the first year in which Babe Ruth played more games in the outfield than he did on the mound. Some of that had to do with Ed Barrow noting the Babe’s hitting prowess, but Duffy Lewis was off to war and the Red Sox needed outfield help.

5. Former New York Giants infielder Eddie Grant was killed in action while a training accident drastically shortened the life of Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson.

There are more, lots more, effects, but this should give you a short taste of how much this early 20th Century catastrophe changed the world, but also changed American sport.

“The Trench”–Otto Dix



March 29, 2018

The Judge

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were watching Ken Burns’ documentary on Jackie Robinson. When we were done she turned to me and the following conversation (more or less) took place:

She: Is he the most important player ever?

Me: Let me think about it.

Ultimately all that led me to thoughts about the Most Important Baseball Guys. And sorry, ladies, but it is all guys, Effa Manley, Helena Robeson, and the All-American Girls baseball ladies not withstanding (not to mention Marge Schott). So I put together, just for my wife, my list of the 10 MIBGs and you know you’re about to be let in on it, don’t you?

First, the usual caveats. This is a list of the MOST IMPORTANT baseball people, not the BEST PLAYERS. There is a difference. I’m looking here for people whose contribution is so important that it cannot be overlooked when detailing the history of the game. Also, I’ve done something like this before years back and I’m cleaning up that list because it included groups (like the Knickerbockers or the Atlantic) and that’s not what I’m looking for. As we really don’t know who “invented” baseball, the origins guy, whoever he is, can’t be on this list and the earliest teams are not a substitute for him.

So here’s my list. I reserve the right to declare, in a week or two, that it is utterly stupid and that this post doesn’t really exist.

Here’s my list of the 10 MIBGs in baseball history. First a list of seven non-playing contributors (in alphabetical order):

1. Ed Barrow invented the Yankees. OK, I know Colonel Ruppert owned the team and coined the name, but when Ruppert brought Barrow to the Yanks, he changed the fortunes of the team. As the team secretary (we’d call him the general manager today), Barrow was a knowledgeable baseball man who’d been instrumental in making the Red Sox a power (he’d managed the 1918 team to World Series title). Barrow went out and collected a number of players like Babe Ruth, Joe Dugan, and added new guys like Lou Gehrig and created a juggernaut that, by the time Barrow retired in 1946 his charges had won 14 pennants and 10 World Series’.

2. Do you like baseball statistics? Do you study them and quote them and use them to bolster your arguments? Then you owe a great debt to Henry Chadwick. A 19th Century sportswriter, Chadwick was the first to systematize baseball statistics. He invented the box score and came up with a number of other statistics that are still in use. New stats may have made some of Chadwick’s work obsolescent, but the guys who came up with them owe a debt to Chadwick.

3. William Hulbert invented the modern league system in 1876 when he founded the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (baseball was two words in 1876). The key word here is “Clubs.” Hulbert’s system put the clubs, not the players, in charge of the league. It created labor problems, it gave us owners who were first-rate jerks (including Hulbert himself), but it worked. It stabilized professional baseball and served as the model for all American team sport leagues (whatever sport) created since.

4. Byron Bancroft “Ban” Johnson founded the American League. After a quarter century of leagues coming and going, ultimately destroyed or absorbed by the National League, Johnson created a league that was stable enough to challenge the NL for players and gate receipts. After a short “baseball war,” the American League emerged as the equal and rival of the more established league, an equality and rivalry that remain today.

5. Kennesaw Mountain Landis was the first commissioner of baseball and, arguably the most powerful person in the history of the game. Coming into office with a lifetime contract he was able to clean up the sport in the wake of the Black Sox Scandal and to rule the game with an iron fist. He kept Branch Rickey from cornering the market for new players by opening up the farm system for other teams. That made it possible for teams to be more competitive. At the same time he was a staunch segregationist and almost single-handedly kept baseball from integrating until after his death (I never said these were all nice, enlightened guys).

6. If you are opposed to wage slavery and think people ought to be paid what they’re worth and what the market will bear, you have to tip your ball cap to Marvin Miller. Head of the Player’s Union, Miller revolutionized baseball by destroying the reserve clause (admittedly he had help) and opening up salaries. This led to more movement of players and thus more chances for teams to compete as the best players were no longer locked up forever.

7. Twice Wesley Branch Rickey revolutionized the game. A mediocre catcher and manager, he became team secretary for the St. Louis Browns in 1913, moved to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1919 and invented the farm system. This may have been deadly to a free minor league system, but it bound players to an organization in such a way that the best players were able to hone their skills in a team system, that emphasized working together, melding groups of players into a unit that knew each other and to at least some extent learned how to play together. It assured Major League teams of a constant supply of quality players (provided the scouts, owners, and executives knew what they were doing). In 1942 he moved to Brooklyn where he again revolutionized the game by integrating the Major Leagues in 1947. This action helped truly nationalize the game and was a major step in the civil rights movement of the 1940s through the 1960s.

And now two transcendent players:

8. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was not the first black man to play in the Major Leagues. There is evidence that William Edward White who played one game with Providence in 1879 was black. Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Welday, both of which played for Toledo (a big league club) in 1884 certainly were black. But none of them stuck. All were out of the major leagues within a year and the so-call “Gentlemen’s Agreement” re-segregated baseball until 1947, when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was an excellent player, a leader, and a person who could not be ignored as either a man or a player. His arrival opened up the game for an entire group of players who had been excluded for 60 years.

9. George Herman “Babe” Ruth revolutionized the game by introducing power as a central element of baseball. His feats were legendary, some were even true, but he became a household name unlike any other in the game and arguably in American sport. “Ruthian” still describes a larger than life feat in sports. He didn’t save baseball in the early 1920s (Landis did), but he made it popular again and became the centerpiece of the Yankees Dynasty that has been at the heart of baseball since 1921.

All of which brings me to the tenth guy. I thought about a lot of people, Al Spalding and Happy Chandler, Harry Wright, John Montgomery Ward, and Vin Scully, William Rufus Wheaton and Duncan Curry, Daniel Adams and Jim Creighton. All are important in American baseball history and I sort of hate to leave any of them off, but I’ve only got one place left and it belongs to

10. Andrew “Rube” Foster. Foster was an excellent pitcher in the rough and tumble black leagues of the early 20th century. By 1904 he was in Philadelphia and moved in 1907 to Chicago. Still a terrific pitcher, he became a manager and team owner of the American Giants. In 1920 he moved to form the first stable black league, the Negro National League. It was later joined by the Eastern Colored League. These leagues, led by Foster’s NNL, gave form and order to much of black baseball and made it possible for players to coalesce around specific teams. There was still a lot of barnstorming and player movement, but order was coming to what had been an essentially disorganized group. It made it possible for the black press to more easily highlight the black players and it popularized the game. Foster was confined to a mental institution in 1926 and died in 1930. The Great Depression killed the NNL, but the idea remained and a new NNL was formed in the 1930s. It joined the Negro American League in creating a stable playing system for black baseball until the Major Leagues were willing to integrate.

So that’s my list and my present to you on opening day. Feel free to disagree (I know many of you will). Now “Play Ball.”




August 23, 2012

Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel

Take a second, close your eyes and form a mental picture of Babe Ruth. I presume it’s a picture of him at bat. Now try to form a mental picture of him in the field. My guess is that it was either a picture of him on the mound from his pitching days or of him in right field. Neither of those are bad mental images, but they are both incomplete. It’s a question of the way we perceive the Babe.

I had known for years that Ruth played a number of games in left field and a handful at first base. I didn’t realize just how many of the Babe’s appearances in the field weren’t on the mound or in right. Here’s a quick rundown of his games by position (all from Baseball Reference): pitcher-163, first base-32, center field-74, left field-1050, right field-1132. In some games he played more than one position and in others he pinch hit, so the numbers don’t add up to his total games played (2503).

The difference between 1050, the number of games in left, and 1132, the number of games is right, is all of 82. Not much of a difference, is it? If you throw in the center field number with the left field number it comes out only eight games more in right field than in the other two combined. And yet we all think of him as a right fielder.

Why the changes in position? Well, a handful of things jump out if you look at the teams involved and the stadia. In 1918, Ruth’s first season with significant time in left field, the Red Sox have Harry Hooper in right. Whatever you think of Hooper’s credentials for the Hall of Fame, he was a very good right fielder in his day. By 1919, Hooper had moved to center field and Ruth took over as the regular left fielder (in 1918 he had 47 games in left, by 1919 it was 110). Why not move him to right? I’m not sure but maybe he was learning to deal with “Duffy’s Cliff”, the hill in left field in Fenway and the manager (Ed Barrow) didn’t want to move him. His fielding percentage (.988) and range factor (2.43) are actually better than either Hooper or Braggo Roth, the right fielder (but Ruth pitched 17 games that season and had a handful in center which may have changed his fielding numbers slightly).

In 1920 he moved to New York and the most significant thing to remember about the fielding in New York is that the Yankees played 1920 through 1922 in the Polo Grounds, not in Yankee Stadium. The horseshoe shape meant that you had to have a heck of a center fielder, but that right fielder and left fielder could be interchangeable. And we see that in the stats. In 1920 he plays most of his games in right, in 1921 he’s almost exclusively a left fielder, and in 1922 he splits time in both (about 2 to 1 favoring left).

By 1923 the Yankees are in Yankee Stadium with its bus ride to the fence in left field. In 1923-25 he spends most (but certainly not all) his time in right. I’ve been unable to break it down by park, but I understand from reading some stuff that he tended to play right at home and left on the road, but I can’t give you exact numbers. Beginning in 1926 he starts spending more time in right than in left (but in some seasons it’s close and in other a big difference shows up).

What’s going on here? Well, a couple of things. First, the Babe was never known as strong armed. He seems to have possessed a decent arm, but not a great one. In Yankee Stadium the big arm was needed in left field (because of the distances) so it was best to move him to right field. Second, for most games in the 1920s the other corner outfielder was Bob Meusel. By general agreement of almost everyone I’ve read, Meusel had the best arm of the decade. So playing Meusel in left at home and in right on the road made a great deal of sense. But it also meant that Ruth was going to have to switch positions a lot. By 1929, Meusel was fading (1930 was his last year and it wasn’t in New York) and Ruth began to get more time strictly in right field.

All of this is by way of reminding you that sometimes what we think we know isn’t exactly true. Even in the case of a great and well-known figure like Ruth.

The Colonel

March 8, 2012

Colonel Jacob Ruppert

When some talks to me about “The Colonel” I usually think of Harland Sanders first. Heck, being “Colonel Chicken” is a pretty good gig. But baseball also has it’s Colonel and he established the greatest dynasty in Major League history.

Jacob Ruppert was a second generation American born into a brewing family in New York in 1867. He spent some time in the New York National Guard, becoming an aide to the governor. That got him a promotion to Colonel and the title by which he is most commonly known. He spent time in the US Congress (1899-1907, four terms) as a Democrat Representative from New York (not all rich guys were Republicans in 1900).  He left Congress to work with his father in the brewery. Knickerbocker Beer was popular and the family made a lot of money. In 1911 Jacob Ruppert was chosen President of the United States Brewer’s Association, a job he held into 1914. In 1915 his father died and he took over the family business. A year earlier, in 1914, Jacob Ruppert bought a struggling baseball team, the New York Highlanders, and changed the face of baseball forever.

Logo allegedly based on Ruppert's stickpin

One of the first things Ruppert did was change the team nickname to “Yankees”. The famous Yankees logo showing an Uncle Sam top hat on a bat is supposed to be derived from a stickpin he wore on his lapel during World War I. The lapel is supposed to have shown an Uncle Sam top hat and the team took that and replaced the stickpin with a bat. I’ve looked at a lot of pictures of Ruppert and have to admit I can’t find a copy of the pin (maybe I’ve just overlooked it), so I can’t verify the tale, but it does make a good story.

Ed Barrow

Rupert understood that he had a potential goldmine in the American League team in New York, but he also had a team that wasn’t very good. It took a few years, but he began to create a team that could compete for the AL title on a yearly basis. One of his most important acquisitions was Ed Barrow. Barrow had been secretary and some-time manager of the Boston Red Sox in the late 19-teens. Ruppert brought him over to run the team as secretary (a position more or less equivilent to the modern general manager). It was a match that worked and the two men became the brain trust behind the Yankees pennant winning teams (certainly better than the Soggy Bottom Boys brain trust of “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?”). One of Barrow’s first suggestions was for the Yankees to purchase Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. Ruth became an instant star in New York and the Yankees started winning. Ruppert, a second generation American from Germany, had a noticable accent and generally refered to the Babe as “Root.” Actually, that’s OK. In German a “th” (as in Ruth) is frequently pronounced as a “t” so “Root” was a good pronunciation, if you were German. It did get a number of gags going in the press including one that asked if Ruth was going to hit third and Root fourth.

Through a series of good trades, timely purchases, good scouting, and sheer luck, the Yankees under Ruppert and Barrow produced great team after great team. They picked up Miller Huggins to manage the team, found a college slugger named Lou Gehrig to play first, went to San Francisco to look at a prospect named Joe DiMaggio, traded for Red Ruffing and Herb Pennock, and had a scout tell them about Bill Dickey. In each case they decided to pick up the player and the team won year after year. Between 1921 and 1938 (Ruppert died in 1939 before the season began) the Yankees won 10 pennants and 7 World Series’ and produced great player after great player. The 1927 team in frequently cited as the greatest of all Major League teams. Recent works have added the 1939 team (which was put together on Ruppert’s watch) as the greatest of all Major League teams. Pick either and the common denominators are Ruppert and Barrow.

Ruppert was not first into the farm system (Branch Rickey gets that honor), but saw immediately the promise of the system and got the Yankees into it quickly. Unfortunately, it got Ruppert into one of the great controversies of his career (letting Ruth go was the other). He bought a minor league team in Kansas City. The team came with a stadium that happened to have integrated seating. Ruppert immediately segregated the seating, moving black fans to the far reaches of the stadium. It got him into some trouble with the press, but he had the backing of the powers that be in the Majors Leagues (including Judge Landis) and survived with little problem.

Jacob Ruppert died in January 1939 in New York. One of the last people to visit him was Babe Ruth. They parted friends, despite past arguments over Ruth’s contract. Ruth always thought that Ruppert was generous with his money but stingy with praise (DiMaggio thought Ruppert was tight with a buck). He’s buried in the mausoleum pictured below.

Ruppert tomb

Occasionally I’m asked who I think is the best player currently not in the Hall of Fame (and eligible). My answer is Jeff Bagwell. But if the question is “who’s the most deserving baseball figure not currently in the Hall of Fame?” then I have a different answer. Because other executives and contributors are enshrined in Cooperstown, I pick Jacob Ruppert.

The Flying Dutchman

December 15, 2010

Honus Wagner

A dozen things you should know about Honus Wagner:

1. His name was John Peter Wagner. “Honus” is a play on the name “Hans”, which is a diminutive of “Johannes” (German for “John”).

2. In 1905 he became the first Major League player to have his name branded onto a “Louisville Slugger” bat.

3. He was originally scouted and signed by future Hall of Fame general manager Ed Barrow, who obviously knew a thing or two about talent.

4. His rookie season was 1897. Although he  is most famous for playing shortstop, he played first base, second base, third base, left field, center field, right field, and pitched during the 19th Century but did not play a single game at shortstop until 1901. The only position he never played was catcher.

5. His 1908 season is, in context, one of the finest hitting years any player had in the 20th Century. By Bill James’ “Win Shares” rating, it is number one, and by any measure is in the top five. The numbers: 100 runs, 201 hits, 39 doubles, 19 triples, 10 home runs, 109 RBIs, 53 stolen bases, 54 walks, a .354 batting average, .415 OBP, .542 slugging percentage, .957 OPS, 205 OPS+, 308 total bases, 68 extra base hits, and he also finished first in putouts by a shortstop. For the National League as a whole the league averaged ..239, had an OBP of .299, a slugging percentage of .306, an OPS of .605, and averaged 3.33 runs a game. All are lows for the entire 20th Century. By the way, Wagner’s number would look even better in the American League where the batting average was the same, but the OPS, OBP, and slugging percentages were even lower. Only the 1968 and 1969 American League seasons produced lower batting averages and no AL season was ever lower for the other three. So in the lowest overall batting season in Major League history, Wagner produces the numbers listed above. Not bad, right?

6. He won eight NL batting titles. No one has won more and only Tony Gwynn has equalled him. Ty Cobb has more in the AL.

7. He was a member of four teams that won the NL pennant (1901-3, 1909), two of them before the World Series was played. In World Series play his teams lost in 1903 and won in 1909. He hit a combined .274 with six runs, 14 hits, three doubles, one triple, and nine RBIs in 15 games, all at shortstop.

8. His nickname, “The Flying Dutchman”, comes from a combination of his speed and the mispronunciation of “Deutsch” as “Dutch”. The genesis of the name is a medieval legend about a ship captain who was cursed to sail the seas forever until he could find one true love. Richard Wagner’s opera of the same name is one version of the tale.

9. His older brother, Albert “Butts” Wagner, got into 74 games for Washington and Brooklyn in 1898. He played second, short, third, left, and center, hit .226 with a .279 OBP, and a .307 slugging percentage, had one home run, 34 RBIs, and never got back to the big leagues. Obviously the younger brother had most of the talent.

10. When the first vote for the Hall of Fame occurred, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Wagner (alphabetically) were the initial inductees. In the voting, Wagner tied with Ruth for second. Cobb received the most votes.

11.A statue of Wagner was erected in front of Forbes Field (the Pirates home field) in April 1955. Wagner lived to see it in place. He died in December of the same year. The statue was moved to Three Rivers Stadium when it became the new Pirates field, and subsequently moved to PNC Park where it currently resides.

12. He was a heck of a story teller. There are a bunch of Wagner stories he told himself. My favorite is this one. A slow grounder was hit to him. At the same time a hare dashed out onto the field. Wagner grabbed the ball, the hare, and a handful of dirt and sent all flying toward first base together. The batter was out. According to Wagner, “I nipped him by a hare.” Gotta love that man.

And as a bonus, Wagner was an innovator. The picture above is a little hard to see, but it’s the only copy I could find on-line. I’ve seen an enlarged copy which shows Wagner is wearing a cap with the bill in back. As far as I can tell, he invented them. I’ve got to get one some day. All my caps have the bill in the front. Anybody know who sells them?

The Greatest General Manager

November 16, 2010

Ed Barrow

A title like the one above is dangerous. People can always say “Hey, dope, you forgot…”. Well, in this case I think I’m quite safe in picking Ed Barrow is the finest General Manager to ever grace the game.

Barrow was born in May 1868. After a short newspaper stint in Iowa, Barrow moved to Pittsburgh in 1890 and by 1895 had served as manager in Wheeling, West Virginia and Paterson, New Jersey. In ’95 while in New Jersey, he signed Honus Wagner (see what I mean about greatest) to a contract. By 1903 he was manager of the Detroit Tigers, finishing fifth in an eight team league. He left in 1904 and went back to managing in the minors. In 1910 he took over presidency of the Eastern League and in 1918 became manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Barrow made one major change to the Sox roster in 1918. He moved Babe Ruth from being primarily a pitcher who could hit a bit to an outfielder who could pitch a bit. Boston promptly won the World Series. Barrow stayed at Boston through 1920. The owner, Harry Frazzee, was in the process of dismantling the team for cash. The most famous sale was Ruth to New York, but it also cost him his manager. Barrow also moved to New York, this time in the role of business manager (the modern equivalent is general manager). It’s here that Barrow flourished. Given pretty much a free hand by Yankees ownership, between 1920 and 1945 Barrow helped create the greatest dynasty in Major League history. He was largely responsible for bringing up such players as Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Earle Combs for the 1920s Yankees team. In the 1930s he added Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey (Dickey actually came up in 1928, but didn’t start), Phil Rizzuto, Lefty Gomez, Tommy Henrich, and Charley Keller. He also was an astute trader, picking up journeyman Red Ruffing from Boston to be the ace of the 1930’s team.

In 1945, Barrow became president of the Yankees, holding the job for two years. He retired after the 1947 season and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953. He died later that same year.

There is no question that the Yankees teams that dominated baseball between 1921 and 1947 owed their success to the quality of the players on the field. Ed Barrow was largely responsible for putting those teams together. Branch Rickey may have been more influential by creating the farm system and integrating baseball, but Barrow was more successful on the diamond. He gets my vote as the best GM ever.

Jack Barry, Six-Time Winner

August 20, 2010

Jack Barry in 1913

You know one of the strange things you find out when you study baseball history is that no matter how good a particular player is, he usually, but not always, ends of on a  team that puts up a regular season losing record at some point. Babe Ruth did it in 1935, Mickey Mantle did it in the last couple of years of his career. Deadball player Jack Barry never did.

Barry was born in Connecticut in 1887. He played ball locally, then transferred his talents to Holy Cross. Connie Mack found him in 1908 and signed him to play with the Philadelphia Athletics. He became the shortstop of the “$100,000 infield” (Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Barry, Frank Baker first to third), the premier infield of the day. The $100,000 had to do with what the infield was worth, not what they were paid. He became part of the first Athletics dynasty that won the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913, then lost the Series in 1914. He stayed with the A’s into 1915, then found himself sold to the Boston Red Sox for $8000. The A’s ended up with a terrible record. The Sox went to the World Series.

With Barry at shortstop (longtime shortstop Larry Gardner went to third base), the Red Sox won the World Series in five games over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox promptly went out and won the 1916 World Series too, although Barry, by now a second baseman, missed the Series.  So in consecutive years from 1910 through 1916 Barry was on five World Series winners, one World Series loser, and saw his team miss the Series exactly once (1912). Not bad, right? Well, it was the end of the streak. In 1917, Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan retired from the dugout. Barry replaced him and led the BoSox to second place. It was his only year as manager,  Ed Barrow taking over in 1918.

Barry left the managerial job not because he wasn’t any good at it, but because the United States entered World War I. Barry joined the military and missed the entire 1918 season. Under Barrow, the Red Sox went back to, and won, the World Series. So there was no managerial job waiting for Barry when he returned  in 1919. He played in 31 games in 1919, then was sold back to the Athletics. Rather than report, he retired.

Over his career, Barry hit .243, slugged .303, had on OBP of .321 (for an OPS of .624), stole 153 bases, had 1009 hits, 532 runs, and 429 RBIs. His fielding was consistently among the league leaders, but he was never the most accomplished shortstop (or second baseman) in the AL. His World Series number mirror his regular season play very well. In 25 World Series games he hit .241, slugged .345, and had on OBP of .272 (for an OPS of .617), all very close to his career percentages. His managerial record was 90-62.

Barry was through with the Major Leagues, but not with baseball. In 1921 he took over coaching duties at Holy Cross and remained there the rest of his life. His career .806 winning percentage is a college record.

But the title says “six-time winner” and you’ve only counted five, right? Well, in 1952 he took Holy Cross to Omaha where they won the College World Series. Still coaching the team, he died in April 1961. Of the $100,000 infield, only Frank Baker outlived him. In 1966 he was one of the initial inductees to the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Not a bad outcome for a .243 hitter.

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.

The First BoSox Dynasty (Finis: 1918)

November 24, 2009

It was a heck of a year, 1918. The War to End All Wars finally ended. The greatest tragedy of the 20th Century was finally over. Communism solidified itself in Russia. The Red Sox won the World Series, something that wouldn’t happen again for over 80 years.

Much of the 1916 team was gone. Ed Barrow, who would later get to the Hall of Fame as architect of the Yankees dynasty, was manager, Former A’s player Stuffy McInnis was at first base, both Larry Gardner and Duffy Lewis were gone. But the big change was that Barrow had figured out what to do with Babe Ruth. Now Ruth split time between the outfield and the mound playing 59 games in the field and 20 on the hill. He went 13-7, getting a decision in every game he pitched, and led the league in home runs and slugging percentage, the first Red Sox to lead the AL in the latter category.

The Sox beat Cleveland and Tris Speaker by 2.5 games and went into the World Series against Chicago as a favorite. They won in 6 games although being outhit by the Cubs .210 to .186. There were no home runs and a Cub win in game 6 by a 3-0 score was the closest there was to a blowout. Ruth and Carl Mays both won 2 games, including a 1-0 game one matchup between Ruth and Hippo Vaughn. The Cubs finally brought Ruth’s consecutive scoreless inning streak to a close in the 8th inning of game 4, but lost 3-2.  In one of those quirks that makes baseball so intereesting, in 6 games no player managed to have more than 2 RBIs, with 5 players doing so).

The Sox fell to 5th the next year and began to dismantle the team. By 1922 almost all the dynasty players were gone to places like New York (Ruth, Mays, Bush, Sam Jones and Scott), Chicago ( Hooper), Cleveland (McInnis). The next time the Red Sox would win a pennant, Ted Williams would be in Left Field.