Posts Tagged ‘Ed Delahanty’

The Water in Philadelphia

October 29, 2018

“water, water everywhere.”–Coleridge

A couple of days ago I did a little thing on those players who hit .400 and failed to win a batting title. In 1894 there were four of them, all in Philadelphia. I commented that there must have been something in the water. So let’s take a quick look at what was going on in Philly in 1894.

First we have to acknowledge that after the 1892 season, Major League Baseball, which at that point consisted solely of the National League, moved the pitcher back to 60″ 6′ and built a mound. It changed forever the way pitchers worked and how batter could respond. It made an immediate difference in the game. As just one example, in 1892 Dan Brouthers won the batting title at .335. In 1893 Billy Hamilton (who will be one of the waterboys in Philadelphia in 1894) won the title at .380. The last time a NL batting title was won by hitting over .380 was in 1886 by King Kelly who’d hit .388 (there were American Association titles that were higher, but the AA was gone by 1894). On the other hand strikeouts by pitchers dropped from Bill Hutchinson’s 314 to Amos Rusie’s 208. It wouldn’t be until 1904 (Rube Waddell) that the 314 would be surpassed.

So acknowledging all that, what about the Phillies? In 1894 the team hit a team average of .350 and led the NL in hits. The starters were (with their batting average in parens) catcher Jack Clements (.351), and infield of (from first around to third) Jack Boyle (.300-lowest among the starters), Bill Hallman (.312), Joe Sullivan (.353), Lave Cross (.387), and an outfield of “Sliding” Billy Hamilton (.403), Ed Delahanty (.405), and Sam Thompson (.415). On the bench Tuck Turner who got into 82 games and had 347 at bats) was the backup outfielder and led the team with a .418 average. Backup catcher Mike Grady hit .363 in 61 games. From there the remainder of the reserves fell off with shortstop Tom Murray going 0 for 2 and hitting .000 (this doesn’t count pitchers who had some terrible averages also).

What did all that hitting get the Phillies? It got them a record of 71-57, good for fourth place in the NL (behind Boston, New York, and pennant winner Baltimore who went 89-39), 18 games behind the winner and 10 games out of third place. The problem? Their team had the second highest ERA (5.63) in the league, were seventh in hits (in a 12 team league), and also seventh in strikeouts.

What’s it all mean? Well, maybe good pitching does beat good hitting. Or maybe it just means that the 1894 Philadelphia Phillies could hit a lot, but didn’t pitch nearly as well. In case you’re curious, only Hamilton, Delahanty, and Thompson made the Hall of Fame. Again, thought you just might like to know.

Losing at .400

October 25, 2018

Ed Delahanty

It’s been a long time since anyone won a batting title by hitting .400. You have to go all the way back to Ted Williams in 1941 to find one. But you know what’s kind of odd? There are a handful of guys who’ve hit .400 and not won the batting title. Here’s a quick list of them.

First, one of my caveats. This includes on the period since the beginning of the National League in 1876. In the old National Association there were a couple of occasions when someone hit .400 and didn’t win the batting title, but those were incredibly short seasons. There surely were players who hit over .400 in the even older Association of the 1860s and didn’t win a title, but we don’t have enough information to determine them. So it’s at least easier to find the players since 1876 (OK, I’ll admit to being lazy).

1887-Tip O’Neill wins the American Association (it was a Major League in 1887) batting title at .435. Runner up Pete Browning hit .402.

1894-There was something in the water in Philadelphia in 1894 when the entire City of Brotherly Love outfield, and their primary outfield sub all hit .400. Billy Hamilton hit .403. Ed Delahanty hit .405. Sam Thompson hit .415. That was the starting outfield in Philly. Super sub Tuck Turner hit .418. And none of them won the batting title. Boston outfielder Hugh Duffy managed to hit a still record .440 to take the batting title.

1895-Delahanty again hit over .400, this time coming in at .404. Again he lost the batting title. This time to fellow Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett who hit .405.

1896-This time Hughie Jennings hit over .400 by ending up at .401. Burkett again won the title. He managed .410.

That does it for the 19th Century and I suppose I ought to take a moment to remind you that the National League moved the mound back to 60′ 6″ just before the big outbreak of .400 hitting in 1894. Some hitters adjusted more quickly and obviously a lot of pitchers didn’t.

1911-Shoeless Joe Jackson hit .408, which is the record high in the 20th Century for a hitter that didn’t win a batting title. He lost to Ty Cobb who hit .420.

1922-Cobb was on the other end of hitting .400 and losing the batting title in 1922. He hit .401 and lost to George Sisler who hit .420. Interestingly enough, Rogers Hornsby won the National League title at .401. Had he been in the American League, he would have also joined the batting title losers who hit .400.

Thought you might like to know.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1909

November 3, 2014

And now the monthly update of My Own Little Hall of Fame. Drum roll, please, for the Class of 1909.

"Big Ed" Delahanty

“Big Ed” Delahanty

Edward Delahanty starred in the Major League from 1888 until his untimely death in 1903. Playing mostly for Philadelphia in the National League and later for Washington in the American League he led his league in hitting twice, with a .410 average being his career high. He also led his league in home runs and hits once each, in triples twice, and in doubles five times. His career .346 average is among the highest in Major League history.

Frank Grant

Frank Grant

Noted colored second baseman Frank Grant was a stalwart of numerous integrated Minor League teams in the era of the 1880s and 1890s. He later played for a number of colored teams. An excellent fielder he also became a superior hitter over a 20 year career.

And now the commentary:

1. “Colored”? As I said when I added Bud Fowler to the Hall, I’m not comfortable with the word, but a look at contemporary articles in magazines and newspapers shows that “colored” was far and away the most commonly used word in the 1909 era. I was reminded by my wife that the “C” in NAACP is for “colored” and then recalled the NAACP was founded in 1909. So apparently it was accepted by the local black community as the best they were going to get. Later, about 1920, I’ll begin to replace it with “Negro” as Rube Foster did.

2. You did notice that Frank Grant was “colored” didn’t you? Yeah, I did. And, yeah, I know that there is no chance a 1909 Hall of Fame was going to elect a black man to its list of greats. Where I live, he wouldn’t have been able to enter the building in 1909 unless he was the janitor. But it’s my Hall and Frank Grant is one of the two best black everyday ball players of the 19th Century (with Fowler) and I think he deserves to be included. I’m currently mulling over whether George Stovey, the acknowledged best black pitcher of the age, should be enshrined or not. Will let you know.

3. With Delahanty dead from an accident in 1903, why didn’t you elect him in 1904? Well, I felt as if an accidental death was not sufficient cause to put a man in my Hall. Lots of players died in accidents, some while still playing. To me it just isn’t the same as a major disease (Lou Gehrig, Addie Joss) or loss in war (Eddie Grant). Having said that, Delahanty was a shoo-in when 1909 came around.

4. Just two this time? Yep. Again, there are a lot of really fine players eligible, but they are, in my opinion, “really fine”, not “great”. When I finish the year with next month’s list (1910) I’ll post just who I’m considering. Hopefully, you’ll see what my problem is when adding more. And Frank Grant is in as a contributor, not a player. I also have this funny feeling that I’m adding too many too soon and feel as if the 1909 writers might have brought things to something just short of a standstill at about this point (the 1930s writer’s certainly did).

5. It’s still difficult to find what are now common stats. For instance the Reach Guide still doesn’t have either RBIs or caught stealing. It does, and I find this strange, list the pitchers in order of winning percentage, not wins (with another list doing it in innings pitched order). It’s not a bad thing, we just don’t do it that way now.

Slidin’ Billy

August 25, 2010

Slidin' Billy Hamilton with Boston

One reason I always liked Lou Brock was because he was smarter than the writers and pundits knew. When he was getting ready to establish the all-time stolen base record, most people were talking about how he’d run ahead of Ty Cobb. It seems Brock knew Cobb wasn’t the record holder. Because Brock kept playing until he picked up 938 stolen bases, one more than Slidin’ Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton was born in Newark, N ew Jersey in 1866 (does that make him a Civil War Baby Boomer?). He was a left-handed hitting outfielder who got to the Big Leagues in 1888 with the Kansas City Cowboys of the American Association (a Major League in 1888). They finished last with Hamilton playing 35 games, hitting .264, and stealing 19 bases. In 1889, The Cowboys got to seventh (in an eight team league) with Hamilton taking over as the regular right fielder. He hit .301, stole 111 bases, and scored 144 runs in 137 games.  In the shake up that led to the formation of the Player’s League in 1890, Hamilton went to Philadelphia in the National League, where he stayed through 1895.

This is as good a point as any to take on this stolen base record stuff. After all 111 stolen bases is a lot. Back when Hamilton was playing, stolen bases were figured differently than they are now. A single was assumed to advance a runner one base, so a man going from first to third on a single was credited with a stolen base. A double was assumed to advance a runner two bases, so a man scoring from first on a double was credited with a stolen base (Apparently it wasn’t home, because he didn’t get credit for stealing home. You figure it out.). Also I can find no evidence that “defensive indifference” was called in the period. So a lot of Hamilton’s stolen bases aren’t what you and I would consider stolen bases, but were noted as such in his own era. The rule was changed to the modern method of determining a stolen base after 1897, so almost all of Hamilton’s stolen bases are under the old definition and no one seems to be able to accurately determine how many of his stolen bases would fit the modern definition.  To give you some idea how much this rule change effected stats, Ed Delahanty (for one example) had 58 steals to lead the NL in 1898. In 1897 that would have been eighth.

Hamilton had great years at Philadelphia. He led the league in runs three times, in hits once, in walks three times, in on base percentage yet again three times, won a batting title in 1891, and of course he led in stolen bases four times. In 1894 he was part of an all .400 hitting outfield when he hit .403. In that season, he set the record for runs scored with 192 (or 198 depending on the source) and also stole seven bases in a games, a record by any definition. In 1896 he went to Boston (now the Atlanta Braves) and helped lead them to NL pennants in 1897 and 1898. He remained in Boston until his retirement in 1901. With Boston he led the league in runs once, walks twice, and on base percentage twice.

For his career Hamilton hit .344, had an OBP of .455, had 2154 hits, scored 1697 runs, and played in 1594 games. He died in 1940 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1961. I have no idea why it took so long except that he played a long time ago.

Hamilton has a lot of interesting numbers. My favorite pair is 1594 games played and 1697 runs scored, or 1.06 runs scored per game played. That’s one of those 19th Century numbers that astound me. Take a look at more modern players. To stick with great base stealers, Lou Brock played 2616 games and scored 1610 runs (0.62 runs per game) and Rickey Henderson played 3081 games and scored 2295 runs (0.74 runs per game). Even the greatest base stealers ever can’t match Hamilton’s ability to score runs. It’s good that Lou Brock knew at least a little baseball history. It allowed him to pass Hamilton in stolen bases (whatever the definition) because he wasn’t going to catch him in runs per game.

“Cry ‘Havoc…’

February 20, 2010

… “and let slip the dogs of war.”-William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”, Act III.

In the previous post I commented on the change in the pitching distance instituted in the National League in 1893. It ushered in the modern game by placing all the players where they currently play. It created havoc not only with the pitchers, but also with the hitters. That havoc reached its zenith in 1894.

Hitting numbers are crazy in 1894. I can’t think of a better word. Boston’s Hugh Duffy hit .440 (all stats are from David Nemic The Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Major League Baseball published in 1997, a book worth having), and hit 18 home runs. His slugging percentage was .694 and he had 237 hits. Boston finished third that season. But the biggest numbers were in Philadelphia.

The 1894 Phillies set a record with a team batting average of .349. Their slugging percentage was .476 for the team and they lead the league with 1732 hits. The outfield hit .400. Not just a single player, but the entire outfield hit .400. Center Fielder and Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton hit .404 with a .523 on base percentage (yes, that reads .523) and stole 98 bases. Stolen bases were figured differently in 1894 and included going from first to third on a single as a stolen base. The modern stolen base rule began in 1898 and stolen base totals dropped overnight. The number that sets Hamilton apart from everybody else is 192. That’s the number of runs he scored while playing only 131 games. That works out to 1.47 runs a game. So everytime Hamilton took the field, Philadelphia could count on one and a half runs. Left Fielder and Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty hit .407 with 199 hits, 147 runs, 131 RBIs, and a .585 slugging percentage. Right Fielder and fellow Hall of Famer Sam Thompson also hit .407 with a .686 slugging percentage, 141 RBIs and 27 triples. Even the substitute outfielder got into the act. Backup Tuck Turner hit a team leading .416 over 80 games with a .540 slugging percentage and 82 RBIs. First Baseman Jack Boyle was the weak hitter among the regulars netting only a .301 average.  Three subs (two backup catchers and a shortstop) played 40 or more games. One of them hit .346 while the other two managed to hit .294 and .255.

So what did all this offense get them? Fourth place, 18 games out in a 12 team league. League pitching was down in 1894 in general and in Philadelphia it was the same. Jack Taylor was the ace going 31-23 with a 4.08 ERA (good for fifth in the league) but the rest of the staff had ERA’s well over 5.00 with the team coming in at 5.63, 10th in a 12 team league.  They were ninth in strikeouts and sixth in hits.

By 1895 things began to calm down, only two men hitting over .400 and Hamilton scoring only 166 runs in 123 games (1.35 per game). But baseball was secure. The fans loved the new found offense.