Posts Tagged ‘Ed Willett’

Opening Day, 1910: Detroit

April 14, 2010

Sam Crawford

Today marks the actual opening day of the 1910 season. One hundred years ago baseball began its season anew. And Detroit was the returning American League Champion.

The Tigers were three-time defending AL champions. Unfortunately they were also three-time losing World Series participants. As you would probably guess, the three-time defending champion hadn’t made many changes on its roster as the 1910 season opened. Manager Hughie Jennings had a good team and little reason to make major changes.

The infield consisted of Tom Jones at first and Jim Delahanty at second. Both came to Detroit late in the 1909 season and helped the Tigers to a 3.5 game margin over Philadelphia. Donie Bush remained at shortstop and George Moriarty was the third baseman. Bush led off and led the AL in walks in 1909. Frankly he wasn’t much of a shortstop, but was considered adequate, especially when his batting was taken into consideration.

The catchers platooned. That was a rarity in 1910. Oscar Stanage hit left-handed and Boss Schmidt, a switch hitter, swung mostly from the right. Neither were considered exceptional catchers or superior hitters, but got the job done.

You should start seeing a pattern emerge here. The team is adequate, not special. In defending a pennant adequate can lead to loss.

The heart of the team was the outfield. Longtime left fielder Matty McIntyre saw his production slip in 1909 and became, in 1910, the fourth outfielder. Davy Jones, former backup outfielder, took over the job in left. The key to the outfield lay in the other two positions manned by Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. Cobb was coming off a triple crown year. He also led the AL in runs, stolen bases, and slugging. He was fearless and fearsome on the bases, generally disliked as  person, but widely admired for his baseball abilities. Crawford was in many way the anti-Cobb. He was quiet, will liked, a team player. He was also very, very good. In 1909 he led the AL in doubles.  With the two of them hitting three and four in the lineup, Detroit was formidable.

The bench consisted of McIntyre, the platooned catcher of the day, Charley O’Leary, Hack Simmons, and Chick Lathers. All were backup infielders with Lathers doing more pinch-hitting than either of the others.

The pitching staff saw one major change during the offseason. Sailor Stroud was a rookie. The rest of the staff consisted of George Mullin (who won 29 games in 1909), Bill Donovan, Ed Willett, Ed Summers, and Ed Killian (what is it with all the Ed’s?). All had pitched reasonably well in 1909 with Willett posting 22 wins.

But the Tigers had  problems. They were aging and the pitching staff was in many ways a reflection of their hitting. None of the pitchers had particularly good hits to innings pitched ratios or walks to strikeout ratios. In fact none of them were significant strikeout pitchers. Millen led the team with 124, good for 11th in the AL. The hitters, beyond Cobb and Crawford, weren’t anything special. All of them would hit over .250 for the season, but there was little pop. Beyond Cobb and Crawford none of them had more than six triples (which is a bigger deal in 1910 than in 2010). With the growing abilities of other teams, especially Philadelphia, the Tigers went into 1910 defending champs, but vulnerable.

Next: the Athletics

The Dutchman vs the Peach

January 19, 2010

By general consensus the two great position players of the Deadball Era are Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. Two people more unalike is tough to imagine. Wagner was from the Pennsylvania coal fields. He was quiet, dignified, admired by his teammates, apparently relatively free from racism (when told John Henry Lloyd was being called “The Black Wagner”, Honus was supposed to have said he was honored to be compared with Lloyd). Cobb, on the other hand, was from Georgia. Quiet would never describe him. He was brash, angry, violent, tolerated rather than liked by his teammates, and violently racist. The did have one thing in common, they were great ballplayers. For fans who wanted to see both in action against each other, there was a problem. Wagner (“The Flying Dutchman”) played in the National League while Cobb (“The Georgia Peach”) played in the American League. The only way they could be on the same field in an meaningful game would be in the World Series. In 1909, that finally happened.

Cobb’s Detroit Tigers swept to the American League pennant by 3.5 games over the A’s. Led by Cobb, who hit league leading numbers of 377 in batting, 107 RBI’s, and 9 homers to become the second American Leaguer to win the Triple Crown (Nap LaJoie in 1901), the Tigers had future Hall of Famers Sam Crawford and manager Hughie Jennings on the team. The leading pitchers were George Mullin (29 wins) and Ed Willett (22 wins).

The Pittsburgh Pirates, who knocked off the Cubs by 6.5 games, had Wagner who led the league in hitting at 339 and in RBI’s at 100, along with a league leading 39 doubles. They also had future Hall of Famer and manager-left fielder Fred Clarke and got good seasons from Bill Abstein (1st base), Dots Miller (2nd base), and Tommy Leach (center field). The pitching was led by Howie Camnitz (25 wins) and future Hall of Famer Vic Willis (22 wins).

It was a good series, the first to go the full compliment of 7 games (The 1903 Series was a best of nine. There was a game 7, but it was the penultimate game.) The Pirates won all the odd numbered games, the Tigers the even numbered games (what are the chances of that?). Neither Wagner nor Cobb were the stars. Cobb hit only 231, stole only 2 bases, but led the team with 5 RBIs. Wagner did better hitting 333 with 6 stolen bases and 2 RBIs. But the big stars were Clarke who hit both Pirates home runs and tallied 7 RBIs with only a 211 batting average, Leach who hit 360, and an obscure pitcher named Babe Adams who won 3 of the Pirates 4 games (13 game winner Nick Maddox won the other game). Adams put up a 1.33 ERA and struck out 11 in 27 innings. He pitched three complete game victories, including game 7.

When the Series ended, Pittsburgh had its first championship, the Tigers had lost 3 World Series’ in a row. Neither Cobb nor Wagner would ever make it back to a Series as a player. Both men would be in the initial Hall of Fame class.