Posts Tagged ‘Frank Selee’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1906

August 4, 2014

Here’s the latest installment of My Own Little Hall of Fame:

Pete Browning

Pete Browning

Louis Rogers “Pete” Browning has the highest batting average in the 19th Century. He won three batting titles, two with Louisville and the other with Cleveland in the Player’s League. Meticulous about his bats, he became the original “Louisville Slugger” when he ordered bats from a local company.

Frank Selee

Frank Selee

Selee was a premier manager in the 1890s. Leading Boston from 1890 through 1901, his Beaneaters won five pennants, including the split season 1892 pennant. He later managed the Chicago National League team, retiring in 1905. His .598 winning percentage is among the highest in professional baseball history.

Joe Start

Joe Start

Premier first baseman for the Atlantic in their championship years of the 1860s, Joe Start made the transition to the National Association in 1871, playing for the New York Mutuals. He moved to the National League playing for the Mutuals, Hartford Dark Blues, and Chicago White Stockings. In 1879 he moved to the Providence Greys and helped them to pennants in both 1879 and 1884. He retired after the 1886 season at the age of 43.

And now the commentary you always expect.

1. What took so long on Browning? Pete Browning raises a number of questions. I’ve decided most of them are modern questions. In 1906 when baseball wasn’t very far from some really short seasons, the fact that Browning plays few games and get s few hits shouldn’t have been the problem to contemporaries as it is to us. It took a while to figure that out. Also Browning never plays for a winner, not even in the Player’s League. Further, he plays his truly best years in the American Association, by general consensus the weaker of the two leagues. BTW, it turns out (according to Baseball Reference.com) that Browning doesn’t have the highest average of 19th Century players. Both Billy Hamilton and Dave Orr are listed as higher. But in the period I’m researching (and in a lot of modern stuff too), Browning is listed higher, so I used what was received knowledge at the time in my initial comment above.

2. Selee was the manager of the best of the 1890s teams (sorry Baltimore fans) and his winning percentage is still fourth all time. BTW he would die only a couple of years later.

3. Joe Start? It seems to me that the pioneers of the game should be recognized, particularly in a year when there are no overwhelming candidates for a Hall of Fame. I looked at several candidates (Lip Pike, Bob Ferguson, etc.) and finally decided on Start. He had three things going for him. First, he was a member of the Atlantic, the best team of the pre-professional leagues and somebody from there had to be good enough to make it. Second, Start has a pretty good National Association and National League career. Easily the best of any of the old Atlantic players and arguably the finest of any of the 1860s era players. Finally, he’s a major contributor to two pennant winners in the NL. I simply couldn’t find anyone from the 1860s period with that kind of career. My guess is that Start would never receive 75% of the vote in the era (75% of the voters probably never heard of him), but I’m also presuming a Veteran’s Committee type organization that would be tasked with looking for people like Start.

4. No fourth or fifth inductee? As I said last time, the pickings are getting kind of thin. This is a list of the pitching candidates I haven’t put in who are eligible and who I consider worthy of consideration: Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz, Bobby Mathews, Jim McCormick, Tony Mullane, Gus Weyhing, Will White. Not a bad list, right? But also not just a really first-rate list either, right? I’m beginning to see why Hall’s frequently put in a bunch of people quickly then start to slow down. Next year Amos Rusie shows up, but he’s not eligible until then. My guess is most of the Caruthers-White list is going to fail (although Mullane and Matthews might slide over the top in some year in which there aren’t a lot of really good candidates).

5. Same problem with everyday players? Yep.  Cupid Childs, Jack Glasscock, George Gore, Paul Hines, Charlie Jones, Bill Joyce, Bill Lange, Arlie Latham, Andy Leonard, Tommy McCarthy (who is actually in the Hall–and his name here should tell you what I think of that), Cal McVey, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Mike Tiernan are the guys I’m looking at. Not a bad lot of players, but Hall of Fame quality? Maybe I’m viewing them from too far away in time, but they just don’t look as good as I thought they would. I’m beginning to see why it took so long for guys like Eppa Rixey and Max Carey to get elected to Cooperstown. Once they were initially overlooked, they were overrun by a later generation who looked at least superficially better (and maybe not so superficially either). If I do this right, I’ve discovered it’s a lot more difficult than I expected. I’m beginning to understand why “marginal” Hall of Famers get elected. I’m also noting a temptation to put in someone, anyone. That also helps me understand why that same group of “marginal” people are elected. I’m also learning a new respect for the writers who seriously look at the candidates before voting (and even less respect for those who just haphazardly fill out a ballot). It’s a lot harder than I thought. Next year I get lucky and Billy Hamilton shows up.

The Antithesis of Baltimore

March 25, 2010

Kid Nichols

There were two truly great teams playing in the National League in the 1890’s. Very few teams have been more unalike. The Orioles were loud, obnoxious, rowdy, obnoxious, dirty, obnoxious, full of fight (did I mention obnoxious?). Their counterparts were the Boston Beaneaters.

Unlike Baltimore, Boston had a tradition of winning teams, at least in the 1870s. The city could claim the last four National Association pennants and two of the first three National League pennants. They’d even won the only Player’s League championship.

After spending most of the 1880s outside the rarified air of pennant contenders, Boston got back in contention in 1889, then slid back in 1890 when the Player’s League raided them. One significant change occured in 1890, they brought in Frank Selee to manage the team. Selee was a minor league manager who had been incredibly successful and was brought on board to revamp the team. It worked.

The Beaneaters (as I’ve said before, what a terrible team nickname) were the antithesis of the Orioles. They played solid, fundamental, unspectacular baseball. They didn’t brawl, they didn’t fight. They hit well, they played good defense, and they pitched really, really well. Like Baltimore, they are credited with inventing the hit and run. I don’t know which, if either, actually did it. In 1891, ’92, and ’93 they won pennants and took the 1892 split season postseason series against Cleveland by winning five straight games after a first game tie. They slipped to third in 1894, fifth in ’95, and fourth again in ’96, then roared back to the top in both 1897 and 1898. They finished second in 1899 and finished the century in fourth.

Lots of players rotated through the Beaneaters during the final decade of the 19th Century, but the core of the team consisted of 10 or so players: first baseman Tommy Tucker, second baseman (and converted outfielder) Bobby Lowe, shortstop Herman Long, third baseman Billy Nash (who was replaced late in the run by Jimmy Collins), center fielder Hugh Duffy, the two left fielders Tommy McCarthy and Billy Hamilton, and pitchers Kid Nichols, Harry Staley, and Jake Stivetts. Of that crew Duffy, McCarthy, Hamilton, Collins, and Nichols (along with Selee) later made the Hall of Fame.

If John McGraw stood as the ultimate Oriole, the centerpiece of the Boston team was Kid Nichols. Along with Cy Young he is one of the greatest pitchers of the 19th Century. During the 1891-98 run he averaged 31 wins and 14 losses for a winning percentage of .688. He made the transition to 60’6″ and a mound easily, his record going from 35-16 to 34-14 at the change. In 1896, ’97, and ’98 he led the league in wins (you aren’t going to lead often if you have Cy Young in the league). For the century he was 310-167, a .650 winning percentage.

Like Baltimore, the Beaneaters didn’t do well in Temple Cup play, losing the only series (1897) they entered. As stated in earlier posts involving the Temple Cup, first place teams tended to take the games as exhibitons and figured that winning the regular season was enough. Boston was no exception.

These were the glory days of the National League team in Boston. The American League put a team in the city in 1901 and the Beaneaters waned about the same time. The new team, now the Red Sox, won and thus became the darlings of New England. The National League team faded in both the standings and in fans. By the 1950s it was in enough trouble it moved to Milwaukee. Although the new team in Milwaukee, and later in Atlanta, returned to glory, it was a sad end to a great franchise in Boston.

I hate to go out on a sad note. Late in their history, the Boston NL team, now called the Braves, called up a lefty pitcher named Warren Spahn. Put him together with Nichols and you get what is surely the best left-right combination produced by a single franchise in baseball history.