Posts Tagged ‘Frank Chance’

1908: The Series

October 22, 2018

“Circus” Solly Hofman

Things have been a little goofy around here lately. I’ve been out-of-town and out of sorts for a while, so I’m a little behind on my 110 year later look at the 1908 season. But here’s a quick look at the World Series that season.

Because of the short distance between Detroit and Chicago, the 1908 World Series was played on consecutive days from 10 October through 14 October. The games rotated between cities with Detroit getting the odd-numbered games and Chicago the even numbers.

The Cubs were defending champions led by the celebrated (and probably overrated) trio of Joe Tinker to Johnny Evers to Frank Chance with Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown as the staff ace. The Tigers counted with an all-star outfield of Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb with Matty McIntyre holding down the other spot in the pasture.

After the celebrated National League pennant race and the equally terrific, but less celebrated, American League race, the Series seems something of an afterthought. It went five games with Detroit winning game three only. The Cubs scored 10 and six runs in the first two games, while Detroit managed seven total. The Tigers win in game three was 8-3, then the final two games turned in more common Deadball scores of 3-0 and 2-0. Brown and Orval Overall each picked up two wins with ERA’s of 0.00 (Brown) and 0.98 (Overall) with Jack Pfiester putting up a 7.88 ERA (it shouldn’t surprise you to find out he took the Cubs only loss). For Detroit George Mullen (ERA of 0.00) got the team’s only win while ace “Wild” Bill Donovan took two losses, including game five. Among hitters, Chance hit .421 while Tinker had the only home run (game 2). Outfielder Solly Hofman (of Merkle game fame) led the team with four RBIs. For Detroit Cobb hit .368 with a team leading four RbIs, while no Tiger hit a homer.

It was a fine, if not spectacular end of a famous season. Chicago won its second consecutive World Series and its last until 2016. The Cubs would get one more chance in 1910 (against Connie Mack’s Athletics) then fade. Detroit would be back for another try in 1909. This time they would face the Pittsburgh Pirates, Honus Wagner, and a rookie named Babe Adams.



1908: Game of Games

October 8, 2018

Joe Tinker

With the regular season over, the National League pennant was still undecided. The Chicago Cubs and New York Giants had identical records, but there was still one game to make up, the so-called ‘Merkle Game.” The baseball world had never seen anything like it. There were fans clamoring for tickets even after the game began. There were stories in the newspapers about possible aspect of the game. The bettors were out in force. There was an eclipse of the sun, brimstone fell from heaven. Well, maybe not an eclipse or brimstone, but to read the accounts of the day, it was close.

The game started well for New York. In the bottom of the first Cubs starter Jack Pfiester plunked Fred Tenney (playing first for New York, the position Fred Merkle played in the famous 23 September game), then walked Buck Herzog. A pick-off removed Herzog, but “Turkey” Mike Donlin doubled to score Tenney and a walk to Cy Seymour sent Pfiester to the showers. In came Cubs ace Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown. He managed to shut down the Giants without either Donlin or Seymour scoring.

Giants ace Christy Mathewson started for New York and got through the first two innings without damage. In the top of the third, Chicago shortstop Joe Tinker, who’d hit Mathewson reasonably well during the season (and had homered in the “Merkle Game.”) tripled to lead off the inning. A Johnny Kling single brought him home to tie the game. With two outs, Johnny Evers walked. Then a double by Frank “Wildfire” Schulte scored Kling and a two-run double by manager Frank Chance cleared the bases.

With the score now 4-1, Brown cruised through the sixth. In the bottom of the seventh, New York staged a mini-rally. With Art Devlin on base, Tenney lofted a long sacrifice to score the second Giants run. It was all for the Giants, as Brown held them scoreless in both the eighth and ninth innings to secure the victory and the pennant for the Cubs.

There were recriminations in New York and celebration in Chicago. For the Cubs it sent them to their third consecutive World Series. They’d won in 1907 and lost in 1906. For the Giants it was the end of a famous season. They would wait two more years before returning to the top of the National League in 1911.


1908: The End of July

August 1, 2018

Here’s the next update in my continuing look at the 1908 season (110 years on).

Bobby Wallace

With approximately two-thirds’ of the 1908 season gone, the pennant race in the American League was taking shape seriously. Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland all had winning records and held down the first division. The Tigers were two games up on the Browns, with Chicago 5.5 back, and Cleveland at eight behind. For Detroit, Ty Cobb was hitting .346, but fellow Hall of Famer Sam Crawford was only at .287. Chicago was standing behind Ed Walsh on the mound and 37-year-old George Davis (in his next-to-last season). Davis was only hitting .212. For Cleveland Nap LaJoie was having a down season so far (.269 with four triples), but the pitching (read Addie Joss here) was holding up. For the Browns, Bobby Wallace, their most famous player, was also having a bad season (hitting .269), but pitcher Rube Waddell was doing well (By WAR, a stat unknown in 1908, Wallace was having a terrific season. He’d end at 6.3). Among the also rans, the Highlanders (Yankees) were in last place, 25 games out.

John Titus

In the National League, five teams winning records on 31 July: Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. The Pirates were a half game up on the Cubs, two up on the Giants, 6.5 ahead of the Phils, and eight up on the Reds. St, Louis was all the way at the bottom 23.5 games out of first. The Pirates leaders, Tommy Leach, manager Fred Clarke, and Roy Thomas were a mixed bag at the end of July, but the team revolved around shortstop Honus Wagner. By 31 July, he was hitting .328 with an OPS of .939. Chicago, relying on the Tinker to Evers to Chance infield and Three-Finger Brown, was also getting good years out of Harry Steinfeldt, the other infielder, and a 21-year-old backup named Heinie Zimmerman. For the Giants it was a standard John McGraw team with great pitching from Christy Mathewson and Hooks Wiltse (with an assist from part-time pitcher, part-time coach, Joe McGinnity), and 3.0 WAR from first baseman Fred Tenney. Philadelphia played Cincinnati on 31 July and the Phillies win put the Reds another game back. Philadelphia’s John Titus was having a good year and for the Reds Hans Lobert was leading the hitters.

The season still had two months to go, two terrific pennant races to conclude, one utter memorable game to play. But it also had one of the more interesting games coming up between two also-rans in just a few days.

1908: The End of April

May 3, 2018

Orval Overall

In my continuing look at the 1908 season (110 years ago), here’s a quick summary of how things stood going into the month of May. By the end of April of the 1908 season, every team had at least 11 games in the bank (with a couple at 15). There were a handful of surprises.

In the American League, 1907 pennant winner Detroit stood at 3-9, the worst record in either league. Ed Summers had two of the team wins with Ed Killian logging the other. Both Ty Cobb and infielder Germany Schaefer were hitting well, but Sam Crawford was at .239 and leadoff man Matty McIntyre was at 1.82. Two of their three wins were extra inning affairs (both went 10 innings). They were dead last in runs scored (48-tied with Washington) and their staff had given up more runs than any team in either league (76). By contrast, the Highlanders (now the Yankees) were in first place with an 8-5 record, followed closely by the Browns at 9-6.

The National League was following form more closely than the AL. Defending champ Chicago was in first, followed closely by Pittsburgh and the New York Giants. As expected, the Cardinals were in last place 3-10 having scored just 29 runs. Orval Overall led the Cubs with three wins (at this point Three-Finger Brown had yet to rack up a win). Chick Fraser had also posted three wins. Fraser would end the season 11-9 while Overall settled for 15-11. Brown did have a save in game one. He would lead the NL with five in 1908 and end up 29-9. Harry Steinfeldt was hitting .310 and Frank Chance was only at .206 (and Joe Tinker was hitting .143 and Johnny Evers .242).

This was to be Honus Wagner’s greatest year, leading the league in almost every major category (and a few not so major categories also). By the end of April, 1908 he was hitting all of .233. He would get better.

So that’s how it stood at the end of April in 1908. The biggest surprise had to be the Tigers in last place, with the Highlanders leading the AL a close second.

A Long Look at 1908

March 6, 2018

Honus Wagner

Back in 2010 I took a months long look at the 1910 season as a tribute to the 100th anniversary of a pivotal season. The 1910 season was important because it began the ascendency of the American League over the National League in postseason play. In the first decade of the 20th Century, the NL won most World Series. The next time that was true was the 1960s. The 1910 season also saw the coming of the first AL dynasty, the Philadelphia Athletics. OK, I know Detroit won three straight pennants 1907-1909, but they blew all three World Series. Somehow, you just can’t be a dynasty if you lose the championship game three years in a row. The year also saw the rise to prominence of several players, Eddie Collins, Frank Baker (not yet “Home Run” Baker), and Joe Jackson (and others). All in all it was an important year for the sport.

The 1908 season wasn’t quite as important, but it has, over the 110 years since, become far more famous. It was the year of the “Merkle Boner,” probably the most famous Deadball Era play ever and of the first game that was something like a “play in” game. Honus Wagner had a season for the ages, arguably the finest hitting season prior to the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York. It included two great pennant races; the NL one being the more famous, but the one in the AL being every bit as terrific. It saw two great pitchers, Christy Mathewson and Mordecai Brown step center stage in the NL race. It was still two years to “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” the poem that immortalized Tinker to Evers to Chance, but they were the mainstays of one of the teams in the middle of the NL race. And always standing forefront in the NL was the shadow of John McGraw. In the AL there was Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford and the Detroit team trying to repeat as AL champs, something that hadn’t been done since 1903-04.

What I intend to do is take a post or two every month through September and look at various aspects of the season. Sometimes it will be a team, other times a player, yet other times a game or set of games. There will be updates on the standings and the stats. The project won’t dominate any month (at least I don’t think so), but it will recur. I hope you will enjoy a long, frequent (but hopefully not overdone) trip back 110 years to see just what all the shouting was about. More importantly, I hope we each learn something.

110 Years On

January 5, 2018

Honus Wagner

We usually do anniversaries in years like 50 and 100, but this is the 110th anniversary of one of the more unique years in Major League Baseball history. So it seems like a good time to look back at one of Deadball Baseball’s most interesting years.

There are a number of reasons why it’s important to remember 1908 in baseball. The most common response is probably that it’s the last time, prior to 2016, that the Cubs actually won the World Series. It was the apex year for the Tinker to Evers to Chance Cubs (and let’s not forget Mordecai Brown’s pitching). They Beat up on Ty Cobb’s Detroit team in the Series, then faded in 1909 before winning a final National League pennant in 1910 (losing the Series to the Philadelphia Athletics).

It’s also a good time to remember John McGraw’s New York Giants. They were a terrific Deadball team, fighting the Cubs right to the end (and one game beyond) before bowing out. It was a typical McGraw team, great pitching, good hitting, lots of base running, and decent defense for the era. But it’s most famous in 1908 for the “Merkle Boner” play. In case you’ve forgotten, in a key game against the Cubs, Fred Merkle (first baseman) was on first when a two-out single scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Merkle didn’t go all the way to second and was subsequently called out on a force play to end the inning with the score tied. The replay (the “one game beyond” mentioned above) saw the Cubs win and head to the World Series while McGraw, the Giants, and Merkle headed home for the off-season. It is arguably the most famous Deadball Era play and was 110 years ago this season.

It was also the year of Honus Wagner. Read these numbers carefully. Wagner’s triple slash line was .354/.415/.542/.957 with an OPS+ of 205 with 308 total bases. All of those lead the NL in 1908. He also had 201 hits, 39 doubles, 19 triples, 109 RBIs, and 53 stolen bases. All of those also led the NL. He hit only 10 home runs, good for second in the league. All that got him 11.5 WAR, which also led the NL. In fielding he led all NL shortstops in putouts. It is unquestionably one of the greatest seasons ever by any player. Among WAR for position players it’s the highest ever until the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York in 1920. It still ranks tied for 11th even after 110 years. To put it in some context of the era, the NL average triple slash line was .239/.299/.306/.605 with an average OPS+ of 93 (meaning the average player was below average–chew on that for a minute). The .239 is a low for the NL ever, tying 1888 for an all-time low. For what it’s worth the American League in 1968 set the all-time low for either league with an average of .230 (and in 1967 they were at .236, also below the NL in 1908). In 1908 the AL also hit .239. Wagner was simply terrific in 1908.

So set back and enjoy the 2018 season. Hopefully it will be worth remembering 110 years from now. Unfortunately, I won’t be around to make comparisons.

Congratulations and another one of those All Time Teams

September 16, 2016

First, it seems right to congratulate the Chicago Cubs as the first team to guarantee a spot in the playoffs. But, perhaps to celebrate, Sports Illustrated just released, on its daily mailing it sends to people like me, the All Time Cubs team. Here, for your interest and edification, is the list:

Catcher–Gabby Hartnett

Infield-Cap Anson (1st), Ryne Sandberg (2nd), Ernie Banks (ss), Ron Santo (3b)

Outfield–Billy Williams (left), Hack Wilson (center), Sammy Sosa (right)

Pitchers–Fergie Jenkins and Mordecai Brown as starters and Bruce Sutter as the reliever.

There are no backups listed.

So what do we make of this? On the face of it, it isn’t a bad list. It’s certainly better than the thing ESPN did on its top 100 players. Having said that, I have a couple of problems with it. I’m not sure how you compare Anson with the rest of the cast. He spent almost his entire career (which went from the National Association of the 1870s into the 1890s) hitting against pitchers who were not allowed to throw overhand or who did not throw from a mound 60’6″ away. I agree Anson was a heck of a player (probably a top 100), but I’m not sure you can accurately compare him with more modern Cubs first basemen (Mark Grace, Leon Durham, even Phil Cavarretta of the 1945 team). Sure you can make comparisons with Anson’s contemporaries, but I do worry about comparing him to much never guys. Second, I wish they’d do some commentary on Sosa’s steroid issue. I’m not sure how much it would change his position, but it should be noted (as should the bitter taste of how he left Chicago).

There is no manager listed. I suppose I’d go with Frank Chance. He’s the only one who proved he could lead a team to a modern World Series championship. Anyway, you should be able to find the list on Sports Illustrated’s website somewhere.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1920

October 1, 2015

The year 1920 saw “A Return to Normalcy” in the United States. At least that’s what Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding called his election. Well, I’m not sure how “normal” the 1920s were, but they did see a change in baseball. The Deadball Era ended and the home run took center stage. The US moved toward a return to isolation in world affairs and much of the nostalgia that as evident in the World War I era was gone. With it went much chance of electing any really old-time players to a 1920 Hall of Fame. But that doesn’t mean an 1890s player couldn’t get in. Here’s the Class of 1920 with commentary to follow:

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

Frank Chance was a player-manager for the turn of the century Chicago Cubs. Beginning as a catcher and moving to first base, he piloted the Cubs to pennants in consecutive years 1906 through 1908 and again in 1910. He won two World’s Championships and his 1906 team holds the record for wins in a single season.

Now the commentary:

1 That’s all? You’re kidding, right? Wish I was. The 1920 and 1921 classes are particularly weak among players. It will straighten out some in 1922, but right now is not a particularly strong period for retired players. I’ve committed to adding at least one person (player or contributor) a year and this is the best I can do for 1920. This shows me why it’s wise that the true Hall of Fame does not require the writers (or vets committee) to elect at least one person per year.

2. Chance? Frank Chance is, to me, one of those players who stands at the very edge of Hall of Fame quality. He’s pretty good for a handful of years, but his career is really short and his peak isn’t all that high. As a manager he’s better and that gives him a push he wouldn’t get if he was being evaluated strictly as a player. Additionally he was extremely well-known in the era, without reference to the poem.

4. You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself as well as us. That’s because I am. This isn’t much of a class and I acknowledge that, but every Hall of Fame has down periods when the true greats of the game are either in the Hall or not yet eligible. In 1920 you’ve got one of those times. Best I could do was Chance and without the managerial experience I’m not sure I’d take him. His period of playing excellence is pretty short and the peak isn’t all that great (as I said earlier) so his managerial years weigh heavier on his selection than anyone else I’ve chosen except John McGraw (other than guys chosen strictly as managers like Frank Selee). I think part of the problem is that it’s Chance’s first opportunity to make this Hall of Fame and he’s certainly not, in the modern sense of a first timer being special, a first try inductee. Of course I’ve argued that first time induction shouldn’t be seen as a test of true greatness (after all Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra weren’t first timers–in fact Bench is the only catcher to ever be a first ballot winner) and a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer (one of the main reasons I don’t like limiting the number of players a voter can check on his ballot). So staying true to the positions I’ve staked out on this blog, I pick Chance on the first ballot.

5. Next year (1921) Fred Clarke shows up among everyday players and as a manager as does A’s stalwart Danny Murphy. My guess is one is in and one is toast.

6. By now the statistics are beginning to standardize. I’m seeing the same ones over and over and the numbers are beginning to agree wherever I look (but not yet entirely). Life is getting a bit easier for me in this regard.

7. By now the nostalgia craze is pretty much over, as I mentioned above. That bodes poorly for guys like Cal McVey, Lip Pike, and any number of National Association players like Dave Orr. On the other hand 1890s players are still at least semi-well known so their chances aren’t dead yet (but they’re on life support). Also Nat Strong’s New York “league” of black teams and Rube Foster’s Negro National League are just beginning to form and it will make it just a bit easier to determine which black players will be considered for this Hall.

8. The 1921 list of eligible everyday players looks like this: Roger Bresnahan, Cupid Childs, Fred Clarke, George Davis, Mike Donlan, Jack Doyle, George Gore, Dummy Hoy, Bill Joyce, Bill Lange, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Johnny Kling, Tommy McCarthy, Danny Murphy, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Cy Seymour, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren. Not a bad list, four Hall of Famers (Bresnahan, Clarke, Davis, McCarthy) on it and a host of decent players, but again not a just “got to have” list (except probably for Clarke and I’ve dealt with Davis previously).

9. The 1921 list of pitchers: Bob Carruthers, Jack Chesbro, Dave Foutz, Clark Griffith, Brickyard Kennedy, Sam Leever, Tony Mullane, Deacon Phillippe, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White. Again not a bad list (with 2 HofF types–Chesbro and Griffith), but not one you just want to go out and embrace either. Griffith still has his managerial phase to consider (see below) and also his ownership phase. So he’s got a better chance as a contributor than as a pitcher. And then there’s that Pirates staff of 1900. A lot of good pitchers, but no really outstanding one. Still not sure what will happen here.

10. And the contributors list for 1921: Bill Carrigan, Jim Creighton, Clark Griffith, Tim Hurst, Hughie Jennings, Cal McVey, Lip Pike, Henry C. Pulliam, George Stallings, William R. Wheaton. That’s 4 managers (Carrigan, Griffith, Jennings, Stallings), 4 pioneers (Creighton, McVey, Pike, Wheaton), a league president (Pulliam), and Hurst who was both an umpire and a manager. Griffith shows up again, but I want to wait until into the mid-1920s (when his Senators start winning) to make a final decision on him. I may have done a disservice to the pioneers by not putting one of them in during the World War I nostalgia period because that’s dried up and I don’t see (at least with a short look) it occurring again during the 1920s (maybe when the Great Depression hits in 1929).

Tinker to Evers to…Saier?

May 27, 2014


Vic Saier

Vic Saier

This was originally supposed to be my Memorial Day post (Saier was in the military during World War I), but I wanted to get the mistake cleared up first. So here’s a late post on a former player who served his country (even if it wasn’t in combat).

The most famous, if not necessarily the best, double play combination in Major League history is still Tinker to Evers to Chance. By 1911, the combination was broken up for good. Tinker was still at short.  Evers was out much of 1911, but was back for 1912 and 1913. The real problem was first baseman Frank Chance. By 1911, Chance was 34 and appeared in only 31 games. For the entire rest of his career he would play in only 15 more. Ever wonder who replaced him at first? Let me introduce you to Vic Saier. Victor S. Saier was born in 1891 in Michigan. He was scouted as early as 1908, but not signed. He attended a local Business College, played on the local team, and was signed in 1910 by Lansing of the Southern Michigan League in 1910. He led the league in hits, batted over .300, and caught the attention of the Cubs. They signed him for 1911. He began 1911 as Chance’s backup, but when Chance was injured became the starter at first after failed attempts to draft two of the outfielders as first basemen. He played 73 games, hit .259 with a home run and 11 stolen bases. It wasn’t Chance, but it was good enough to get him the job for 1912. For the next couple of years he was good. He hit .288 in 1912, then had 14 home runs (3rd in the National League) in 1913 to go along with a league leading 21 triples. In 1914, he slugged a career high 18 home runs, second in the NL. He was doing well in 1915, when he injured his leg in a home plate slide. He was out for three weeks. He managed 11 home runs, 11 triples, 35 doubles, and 29 stolen bases, most prior to the injury. He didn’t recover well. His 1916 numbers were down, then in 1917 he was hurt in another play at the plate and was done after six games. He spent 1918 he joined the Army and was tasked with working in a defense plant helping the World War I effort. He resurfaced in baseball in 1919, this time with Pittsburgh. He got into 58 games, hit .223, and was done at age 28. For his career his triple slash line is .263/.351/.409/.760 with an ERA + of 120. He had 775 hits in 865 games, scored 455 runs, had 143 doubles, 61 triples, and 55 home runs to go with 395 RBIs. His WAR is 15.1 (Baseball version of WAR). After his career ended, he moved back to Michigan, ran a club in Lansing, and died in 1967. It wasn’t a great career. It also wasn’t a bad career.

Saier's military headstone

Saier’s military headstone

Star Managers

December 5, 2013

Recently my son reminded me that Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, and Ted Williams all have something in common other than being Hall of Famers with 500 home runs. Each was a manager with an overall losing record. Mathews’ .481 is the highest winning percentage of the four. He wondered if I knew that (I didn’t).

It got me to thinking about how commonplace an idea it is that great players don’t make great managers. The great managers are guys like Earl Weaver who never got to the big leagues,  Tony LaRussa who was a marginal player (he hit a buck-99 in 132 games), or Walter Alston who got all of one at bat in the Major Leagues. And no one is going to question that the three of them were great managers. But let me point out a small handful of exceptional players who made pretty fair managers.

1. John J. McGraw has the second most wins of any manager ever, and the one with the most wins of any manager who didn’t also own the team (Connie Mack). McGraw was a true star in the late 19th Century. He was the heart and soul of the most famous of all 19th Century teams, the 1890s Baltimore Orioles. He hit well, played a fine third base, ran well, and was unmatched at on field shenanigans.

2. Hughie Jennings was a teammate of McGraw’s and led Detroit to three consecutive World series appearances (1907-09). The Tigers lost all of them, but the next time they got the Series was 1934.

3. Yogi Berra led two New York teams to the World Series: the Yankees in 1964 and the Mets in 1973. Both teams lost.

4. Joe Torre, who admittedly wasn’t the player McGraw and Berra were, won four championships as a manager after winning an MVP as a player.

There are also a number of player-managers who were both successful managers and star players. Bucky Harris, Frank Chance, and Joe Cronin are only three examples.

So while it’s true that being a great player doesn’t necessarily translate to a great manager, it also doesn’t mean the guy is a disaster as manager.