Posts Tagged ‘Edd Roush’

Belly Up: the 1915 Federal League

April 2, 2015
The second place Maroons

The second place Maroons

The 1915 season was the final of two for the Federal League. By the beginning of the season it was already in trouble. In 1914 the team in Indianapolis won the pennant. Their reward? They were moved to Newark for the 1915 season. It’s never a good sign when your league champion ends up moving, especially if it’s a move forced by lack of attendance (as was the case here).

The Feds began their season on 10 April 1915, four days before either the National or the American League. The team in Newark, with much the same lineup (they’d lost Benny Kauff, the league’s best player, but most of the rest of the team was intact) as in 1914 was a favorite to win the pennant. They finished sixth. As noted in the post below on the Whales, the Chicago team won the pennant by a half game over the St. Louis Maroons. The Pittsburgh Rebels and the Kansas City Packers rounded out the first division and Newark was the last team to record a winning record (80-72). The rest of the league consisted of (in order of finish) the Buffalo Blues, the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, and the tail-end Baltimore Terrapins (47-107).

The league leader in hitting was Kauff. He absolutely dominated the Feds winning the batting title, slugging and on base titles (and obviously led the league in OPS), stolen bases, and WAR (BBREF version) at 6.8. The home run title went to Buffalo’s Hal Chase (yes, that Hal Chase) with 17, while the Whales’ Dutch Zwilling won the RBI crown. Babe Borton led the Feds in runs scored and Steve Evans led the league in doubles.

In pitching, Maroons ace Dave Davenport took the WAR crown (8.4) but finished third in wins, fifth in ERA, second in WHIP, and led the league in strikeouts (229 to 160 for second place) and shutouts (10). Whales ace George McConnell led the Feds in wins with 25 while Newark’s Earl Moseley won the ERA title (1.91). Jack Quinn of Baltimore put up the most losses (22), as befits a player from a last place team.

The league folded at the end of the season. By now it’s probably most famous for giving Chicago Wrigley Field, or for causing the lawsuit that led eventually to baseball’s antitrust exemption. But the Feds had a few other things going for them. First it brought Major League play to Kansas City, Buffalo, Newark, Indianapolis, and Baltimore. All had produced Major League teams in the 19th Century, but hadn’t had a big league team in years. It gave fans a chance to see Major League games in places and in venues that were new. Second, it provided a final shot for a number of fading stars like Mordecai Brown and Eddie Plank. Third, it introduced a number of very good players to fans. Kauff was number one. He tore up the Federal League, then had a solid, and totally unspectacular, career after 1915. Eventually he was one of the players banned by Judge Landis for associating with known gamblers. Edd Roush, a discarded American Leaguer, did well enough to get another chance. He latched on with Cincinnati, won a World Series (1919), a couple of batting titles (1917 and 1919), and eventually made the Hall of Fame; as did his teammate Bill McKechnie. McKechnie made the Hall as a manager, winning the World Series in 1925 and again in 1940. He got his first taste of managing as a mid-season replacement at Newark. Everything considered, all those things make for a fairly interesting legacy. Certainly they aren’t the worst legacy a league can leave.

 

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Opening Day, 1914: The Feds

March 21, 2014
Benny Kauff

Benny Kauff

With opening day scheduled for God knows what time in Australia on Saturday, it’s time to look at what the Major League landscape looked like 100 years ago. For the first time since 1890, there were three big leagues: the National League, the American League, and the Federal League. The Feds started their season first (13 April Buffalo at Baltimore), so it seems like a good idea to begin with the upstarts.

The Feds put eight teams in the field in 1914. Many of the players were over-the-hill types like Three-Finger Brown who were hanging on for one last fling. Others like Benny Kauff were new guys trying to make it in the big leagues. Most teams had something of a mixture of both kinds. There were teams in Chicago, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, all well established Major League cities. But the Federal League also ran teams in Indianapolis, Baltimore, Buffalo, and Kansas City, towns that didn’t normally see Major League quality play.

With no previously established rosters, it’s hard to say that any team was favored on opening day 1914. Indianapolis would eventually take the pennant by a game and a half over Chicago with Baltimore and Buffalo rounding out the first division. The Hoosiers won 88 games and featured six of their starting eight position players hitting over .300. The big name was Kauff who led the FL in runs, hits, doubles, stolen bases, batting, OPB OPS and total bases. He also played a decent center field. Bill McKechnie, future Hall of Fame manager, played third and hit .304. He was in the middle of what had been, so far, a mediocre career. Thirty-four year old Cy Falkenberg was the ace, going 25-16 and leading the league in shutouts and strikeouts. But the biggest name to come out of the team was a 21-year-old fourth outfielder with only nine games Major League experience. His name was Edd Roush and he would go on to win National League batting titles, a World Series with the 1919 Cincinnati Reds, and earn a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1962.Despite finishing first Indianapolis had no postseason play as neither the National nor American League acknowledged their existence as a Major League.

Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Tinker, at the end of his career, managed Chicago to second, while Baltimore featured long time pitcher Jack Quinn who, at 30 was still only mid-career. A few other notables did well for the Feds. John Montgomery Ward, long retired from playing and running the Brotherhood union was involved with the Brooklyn team as their business manager. As mentioned, Three-finger Brown split time between Brooklyn and St. Louis going a combined 14-11 and serving for a time as manager in St. Louis. The Terriers (St. Louis) finished dead last but did feature both Fielder Jones, winning manager from the 1906 World Series, as their second manager and 22-year-old Jack Tobin hit .270. He would go on to be one of the stalwarts in the Browns outfield of the 1920s.

In many ways 1914 was a success for the Feds simply because the survived. There was a major overhaul for 1915, champion Indianapolis being dropped for one. That didn’t bode well for the continued existence of the league. Never able to garner first-rate players and having major problems drawing in most of their cities, they hung on for only one more opening day. There have not been three Major Leagues since.

Opening Day, 1913: American League

April 3, 2013
Walter Johnson (later than 1913)

Walter Johnson (later than 1913)

In 1913, the American League opened its season one day later than the National League. Opening Day was 10 April. Among other games it saw Philadelphia win its first game of the season.

Although the Red Sox were defending World’s Champions, Connie Mack’s Athletics were the loaded team. The 1913 A’s boasted the “$100,000 Infield” of Stuffy McInnis at first, Jack Barry at short, and Hall of Famers Eddie Collins and Frank Baker at second and third. Of outfielders Rube Oldring, Amos Strunk, Eddie Murphy (obviously not the modern comedian), and Jimmy Walsh, only Oldring was older than 25 (he was 29) and only Walsh hit below .280. Jack Lapp and rookie Wally Schang shared catching duties with Schang being much the better hitter. Aging Danny Murphy was solid of the bench. It was a strong team that looked good for many years. They had won the 1910 and 1911 World Series and finished third in 1912. The fall back was primarily because of the pitching. Ace Eddie Plank was 37 and former ace Jack Coombs was ill from typhoid. There was nothing wrong with Chief Bender, however, and he managed 21 wins with a 2.21 ERA and 13 saves. The A’s would win the pennant by 6.5 over Washington and beat up on the Giants in the World Series, winning four games to one.

The Senators would finish second primarily because they had Walter Johnson and no one else did. Johnson had a season for the ages. He went 36-6, had an ERA of 1.14, struck out 243 men, and ended with an ERA+ of 259. It got him the pitching triple crown and the AL’s Chalmers Award (an early form of the MVP). The Chalmers lasted four years (eight total awards) and Johnson is the only pitcher to win one. Washington’s top hitter was probably Chick Gandil, who became infamous in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.

Defending champ Boston would finish in fourth (Cleveland was third) 15.5 games back. Tris Speaker hit in the .360s but the pitching collapsed. Notably, Smoky Joe Wood went from 34 wins to 11.

Ty Cobb won another batting title, hitting .390, while Baker won both the home run and RBI titles. Collins led the AL in runs, while Cleveland’s Joe Jackson had the most hits.

1913 saw a number of rookies who would make their mark. On 28 June Wally Pipp played his first game for the Tigers. He would anchor first base for the initial Yankees pennant winners before losing his position to Lou Gehrig. Hall of Fame outfielder Edd Roush made his debut on 20 August with Chicago. On 4 August Cleveland brought up Billy Southworth. He was an okay players, but made the Hall of Fame as a manager. Finally on 17 September Detroit brought Lefty Williams to the Major Leagues. He would eventually lose three games while helping the 1919 White Sox throw the World Series.

1919: The Reds

September 30, 2011

Edd Roush

For obvious reasons information on the 1919 World Series tends to concentrate on the White Sox. But there is, of course, another team in the Series: The Cincinnati Reds. Almost nothing is written about them. They are generally viewed as simple foils for the overpowering Sox who would have made hash of them had the Sox been playing on the up and up. In the movie “Eight Men Out”, which is probably the best flick on the event, they get all of two lines. But the Reds were a real team and they really did play in the 1919 World Series and in their opinion would have won anyway.

If you look at the Reds hitters you find a group not much different from the White Sox. There are a handful of really first-rate players, a bunch of middle-of-the-road types, and a few guys who you wonder why the team couldn’t find someone better. In Edd Roush, the center fielder, the Reds have a Hall of Fame quality player. Roush won two batting titles, including the one in 1919, had an OPS of 811 and an OPS+ of 146 for the season. Only Joe Jackson of the Sox is better. Third baseman Heinie Groh (who today is known only for his “bottle bat”, which is a great shame) had an even better OPS and OPS+ than Roush. Both, in other words, were good players having good years. At 35, first baseman Jake Daubert was beyond his prime, but was still a solid player, as was 32-year-old Morrie Rath, the second baseman. They were also the only two starters over 30. Outfielder Sherry Magee was also over 30 and well beyond the prime he showed with Philadelphia a decade earlier. But Magee was used in a platoon-type system with Rube Bressler, so saw limited action during the season and only had two plate appearances in the Series. As both Magee and  Bressler hit right-handed, I’m not sure how the platoon worked exactly. As a team, the Reds led the National League in both triples and walks, were second in both average and slugging as well as RBIs and runs. They were third in hits.

Heinie Groh

In fielding the Reds were actually slightly better than the Sox. they showed superior numbers in both fielding percentage and range factor as well as in assists. They also made fewer errors. This is not to say that there are a lot of truly great fielders on either team, but in the context of the era, the Reds aren’t just awful or anything.

Hod Eller

In pitching the Sox were definitely better, especially with a healthy Red Faber. Having said that, the Reds still show up first in shutouts in the National League and  second in ERA. They led the league with the least hits allowed and were second in the least walks given up. So again, it’s not a bad staff, but most people are going to credit the Sox with a better mound crew.

Pat Moran as Phillies Manger

And as a final comparison, I see no evidence that contemporary opinion was convinced that Kid Gleason was a particularly better manager than Pat Moran. Maybe he was, but I can’t  find a consensus that confirms that.

So why exactly were the Sox, with a weaker overall record (88-52) considered so utterly superior to the Reds (with a 96-44 record)? I think it’s a perception issue. In 1909 the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series. In the 10 years since the Cubs, Giants, Braves, Phillies, and Robins (now the Dodgers) had all crossed swords with the American League champion (including the White Sox in 1917) and only the Braves in 1914 had been successful (and they were, and still are, considered one of the great flukes of all time). So the American League was perceived as the stronger league. The American League champion, regardless of record, had to be seen as the stronger team.

Were they in 1919? Frankly, we’re never going to know. From a look at the stats and the players I’m convinced the Reds would have proved a formidable opponent for the Sox playing on the up and up.

The Feds

January 26, 2010

We tend to think of baseball as a monolithic entity of 2 leagues forever unchanging. Ain’t so, team. As late as 1914 there was a major challenge to the established National and American Leagues. It was called the Federal League.

James Gilmore ran the Federal League, a minor league, in 1914. He decided that the US could use a third major league so he went out, found backing from a number of major financial players of the day like Charles Weeghman, and announced the new league would compete on an equal basis with the established leagues. There were teams in Chicago, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Additionally, Gilmore said he would scrap the reserve clause (that’s the part of the baseball contract that bound a player to a team at the team’s discretion) and significantly raise salaries.

A bunch of players immeditely bolted to the Feds. Most were marginal players looking for a higher salary, or weaker players looking for playing time. Most major players simply agreed to stay with their current clubs for substantial raises. Ty Cobb did this, so did Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson. Others like Eddie Collins and Joe Jackson got trades because their old teams couldn’t afford the looming salary increases.

A third type of player went to the Federal League. These were older guys hanging on for one last chance at glory and/or a paycheck. Players like Three Finger Brown, Joe Tinker, and Eddie Plank ended up playing in the Federal League. Most of them had short rises in their career numbers, but never became stars of the new league.

The stars were new guys. Benny Kauff became the biggest Federal League star. In 1914 he led the league in batting, stole 75 bases, and his team (Indianapolis) won the pennant. The next season at Brooklyn he again led the league in both categories and was second in home runs. Kauff’s a good way to gauge the quality of play in the new league. In 2 years with the Feds he hit 370 and 342, stole 130 bases, had 376 hits, scored 212 runs, and hit a total of 20 home runs. For the entire rest of his career he hit 281, stole 104 bases, had 585 hits, scored 309 runs, and hit 29 home runs. He was 25 when he left the Feds and played until he was banned at age 30 in 1920. So most of his good numbers come from the 2 seasons away from the NL and AL (He played 5 of 569 games for the Yankees and the rest for the Giants.). Those stats are fairly common. Pitchers like Cy Falkenburg do the same thing.

The Federal League folded after the 1915 season (Chicago won the last pennant). It just wasn’t making enough money to continue offering the salaries it was offering and the fan base wasn’t growing. Indianapolis won the first pennant and promptly folded for lack of fans. There was a lawsuit (you knew the lawyers would get involved, didn’t you?), resolved by, of all people, Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Two Federal League owners got NL or AL teams (the Cubs and the Browns) and baseball returned to its normal 2 league set up.

But the Federal League had a legacy, quite a substantial one actually. The driving up of salaries and the subsequent collapse of paychecks is  considered, in some quarters, a major factor in the gambling scandals that were to hit baseball in the next 5 years, culminating with the Black Sox. It did produce one great player. Edd Roush was a centerfielder who got a cup of coffee with the White Sox in 1913 (he went 1 for 10). He went to the Feds, did well, and ended up in the National League. In 1919 he won the batting title at Cincinnati and led them into the World Series. He also led the NL in doubles once and triples once. For a career he hit 323 with a 446 sluging percentage and made the Hall of Fame in 1962. The lawsuit that ended the Federal League became the mainstay of Major League baseball’s contractual program into the 1970s. It’s the decision that ultimately led to the Supreme Court declaring that the unique nature of baseball made it immune to anti-trust laws and effectively made the players slaves to their teams.

Finally, the Chicago Federal League team (they were called the Whales) built a brand new stadium for its team. When they folded, well, there was this nice new stadium available and, you see the Cubs were playing in an outdated park, and, well, you know, it’s there and everything. The Cubs moved into the Whales park and later renamed it Wrigley Field.   They still use it.

1919: A Comparison

December 5, 2009

My son recently asked me why the White Sox were overwhelming picks to win the 1919 World Series. I told him that among other things the National League had managed to win exactly one World Series in 10 years (1914) which could leave people to assume the American League was simply superior. I still think that’s true, but a look at the players reveals that man for man it also could be interpreted as favoring the Sox.

Taking a look at only the hitters (maybe I’ll do the pitchers later) I decided to concentrate on 3 numbers: batting average, slugging percentage, and RBIs. I wanted to go with the traditional triple crown stats, but in the deadball era of 1919 the home run was not a significant weapon, so substituted slugging percentage as a way to cover extra base hits. Below are direct comparisons (RBI’s first, then average, then slugging) between the position players. I’ve lumped the corner outfielders together because the Sox platooned in right field and the Reds left fielders were about evenly split in games because Sherry Magee got hurt and batted only twice in the World Series.

1st Base: Daubert (44/276/350), Gandil (60/290/393) Advantage Sox.

2nd Base: Rath (29/264/298), E. Collins (80/319/450) Collins by a wide margin.

3rd Base: Groh (63/310/431), Weaver (75/296/401). Close either way. Weaver was considered a superior fielder.

Shortstop: Kopf (56/270/326), Risberg (38/256/345). Kopf over Risberg.

Center Field: Roush (71/321/431), Felsch (86/275/428) Closer than I originally thought. Roush won the NL batting title, but Felsch has more RBIs and the slugging percentage is a wash.

Catcher: Wingo (27/276/371), Schalk (34/282/320). Schalk by a little. Schalk was also considered much the superior catcher.

Corner Outfield: Duncan (17/244/411), Bressler (17/206/309), Magee (21/215/264),  Neale (54/242/316); Jackson (96/351/506), S. Collins (16/279/363), Leibold (26/302/353). As a whole the Sox are better, but if I had to pick only 3, I’d take Jackson, Leibold, and Neale. For the Series, Neale and Duncan did all the outfield work .

So in most positions the White Sox seem to be superior. There are just enough places where the Reds are as good or better that it could have been an interesting Series, providing of course that it was on the up and up. It wasn’t.