Posts Tagged ‘Fred Beck’

The Whales

March 30, 2015
The Chicago Whales of 1915

The Chicago Whales of 1915

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the final season of the Federal League. It lasted all of two seasons before collapsing. Oh, there was a lawsuit (and it was major because it established baseball’s anti-trust exemption and brought Kennesaw Mountain Landis to the attention of team owners), but when it was all over to league was still gone. In memory of that long lost league, let’s take a look at the final Federal League champ. They were the Chicago Whales.

Opening day for the Whales was 10 April 1915. They were home in Weeghman Park against St. Louis and picked up a 3-1 win. In some ways it was the critical game of the season. In the final standings Chicago was 86-66 with a winning percentage of .566. St. Louis finished second 87-67 with a winning percentage of .565. In those days missed games didn’t have to be made up later in the season whether or not they impacted the pennant race or not. If Chicago lost game one their winning percentage would be .559 and St. Louis would move to .571 and take the pennant. And they tell me games in April don’t matter.

But because the season doesn’t end after one game, the Whales had to keep winning. They tallied a winning record in every month except August (12-19) and finished the season winning three of their last four games (including the last one). They were remarkably consistent. In the first half of the season they went 43-32 and 43-34 in the last half. They played at least .500 ball against every team in the league, going exactly .500 against three teams, including runner-up St. Louis. They also finished 44-32 at home and 42-34 on the road, a remarkably similar record. They finished fourth in hitting (.257), second in slugging, third in OBP, and second in total bases (by two bases). They led the league in home runs and RBIs, were second in both hits and runs. Their pitchers were third in the league in ERA, second in hits allowed, third in runs allowed, fourth in strikeouts, and third in walks allowed. In WHIP they are second. In one of my favorite stats, they are third in the FL in number of men left on base. They let ’em on, they don’t let ’em score.

The team was managed by Hall of Famer Joe Tinker. He played in 31 games, but mostly stayed in the dugout. Catcher Art Wilson hit .305 with seven home runs (second on the team), and an OPS+ of 164 (second in the league). He caught a staff that included Mordecai Brown, a Hall of Famer, who was at the end of his career. Brown went 17-8 with a 2.09 ERA (ERA+ 135), which was good for third in the league, and 95 strikeouts (tied for third on the team). The ace was George McConnell whose 25-10 record led the league in both wins and winning percentage.  His 2.20 ERA was fourth in the FL with his 151 strikeouts being third. Claude Hendrix won 16 games and Mike Pendergast had 14. All four of them had more innings pitched than hits given up and more strikeouts than walks. Brown’s 1.071 WHIP led the team.

The infield (first around to third) was Fred Beck, Rollie Zeider, Jimmy Smith, and Harry Fritz. Fritz’s .250 led the infield in batting and he followed up by leading the infield in slugging and OBP. Beck’s five homers led the infield and Zeider’s 16 stolen bases were tops in the infield (if Tinker had played full-time with the same percentages he had in part time work, he would have led in batting, slugging, and OBP).

The outfield hit better. Dutch Zwilling played center and led both the team and the Feds in RBIs (94). He also led his team and finished second in the FL in homers (13). He hit .286, slugged .442, had an OBP of .366, giving him an OPS of .808 (OPS+ of 142). Les Mann and Max Flack flanked him. Mann hit .306 with a 138 OPS+, while Flack led the team with 37 stolen bases and it .314.

The bench was large for the era. Twelve men played at least 11 games for the Whales (not all were on the team at the same time). William Fischer played the most with 105 games, He was the backup catcher and hit .329 (good for second in the league) and had 50 RBIs, good for third on the team. Joining with Wilson he gave the Whales the best combo of hitting catchers in the FL. Charlie Hanford and Jack Ferrell played 70 games, Bill Jackson 50, and Tex Wisterzil got into 49 games. None of them hit .250 and only Jackson had a home run. Hanford’s ten stolen bases led the bench.

With the folding of the Feds at the end of the season, the team was gone. The players went different ways. For the Hall of Fame players Brown and Tinker (and for Zwilling too), they hung on one more year then retired. Others went to the minors, many to other major league teams where they got a shot with the National or American League. None became big stars. But, as many of you know, they did give baseball a lasting legacy. Weeghman Park was a pretty good stadium and now it was empty. The Cubs, needing new digs, moved in. It was later rechristened Wrigley Field and is still in use.

28 June 1914: The Feds

June 23, 2014
Dutch Zwilling

Dutch Zwilling

One hundred years ago this coming Saturday (28 June), the world changed. A Serb nationalist named Gavrilo Princip fired two shots that killed the Erzherzog (Archduke) Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie. Ultimately, a month later, that action led to the outbreak of World War I. The United States stayed out of the war until 1917, but was eventually drawn in. Most Americans might have been horrified at the assassination, but very few understood that it would eventually lead their sons, fathers, and brothers into places like the Argonne Forest.

Baseball games were played on 28 June 1914. It was a Sunday and people turned out to watch three leagues play ball. Here’s a look at what was happening in each league on 28 June 1914, one hundred years ago.

Of the eight Federal League teams playing the 1914 season, four were in action on Sunday the 28th of June: Kansas City, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Chicago. The Packers (KC) and Hoosiers (Indy) played a double-header. For the Terriers (St. Louis) and the Whales (Chicago) it was a single game.

The early game in Indianapolis saw KC pick up a 2-0 win. The Packers got both runs in the sixth when catcher Ted Easterly tripled, then scored on an error. Lefty Gene Packard pitched a complete game shutout giving up only three hits, striking out eight, and walking none. It was his tenth win of the season.

In the late game, you got a slugfest. The Hoosiers earned a split  with an 8-7 victory. KC picked up 18 hits, but committed three errors as Indianapolis scored one more run on only 11 hits. Eventual batting champion Benny Kauff went two for three with a walk and scored two runs while driving in one. Right hander George Kaiserling picked up his sixth win (against one loss) by going nine innings, walking one, and striking out three. He would finish the year 17-10.

In the other game, Chicago beat up on St. Louis 7-3. First baseman Fred Beck hit a solo home run while center fielder Dutch Zwilling went four for five with two runs scored and an RBI. Max Fiske pitched the first 7.1 innings, giving up all three runs, while walking two and striking out two. It was Fiske’s sixth win against two losses. Hall of Fame pitcher Three Finger Brown went the distance for St. Louis absorbing his fourth loss against five wins.

At the end of the day Indianapolis went home with a half game lead over Chicago with KC in fifth and St. Louis holding last place. By the end of the season, the Packers would drop a spot to sixth, but the other three teams would remain where they sat on 28 June. As the new league, they were not invited to postseason festivities.

1910: Doves Postmortem

August 28, 2010

I know a lot of American Indians don’t like the nickname “Braves” (What, only Indians can be Brave?).  And I can understand their concern, but be honest, would you rather root for a team called the “Braves” or the “Doves’? Thought so.

The 1910 Boston Doves (who are now in Atlanta) finished the season 53-100, 50.5 games out of first. It got manager Fred Lake fired. He never managed in the Major Leagues again.

Most of it wasn’t his fault. The Doves were a miserable team. They finished seventh (in an eight team league) in hitting and slugging, last in runs, and sixth in hits. They had one real star, or at least semi-star, Fred Beck. Beck hit .275, slugged .415, led the National League in home runs with 10, and led the team with 64 RBIs. The rest of the team gave him little support. Three other starters hit above .250 (and one was right on .250), but with weak slugging percentages and only shortstop Bill Sweeney had more than 50 walks.

The bench wasn’t anything special either. Outfielder Wilbur Good got into 23 games and managed to hit .337 but struck out more than he walked. No one else who played 20 or more games hit .250 and the entire bench gave the team two home runs and 64 RBIs (the same number of RBIs as Beck alone).

It would be comforting to say the pitching was better. It wasn’t. Twenty year old Billy Burke went 1-0 and was the only pitcher with both a win and a winning record (There were two guys who went 0-0 and another posted a 1-1 record). “Ace” Al Mattern was 16-19 with a 2.98 ERA (big in 1910) in over 300 innings. He had more walks than strikeouts, as did two of the other four starters). The team ERA of 3.22 was seventh in the league and the Doves pitchers were dead last with 699 walks. The NL leading Pittsburgh, by contrast, had only 392 bases on balls.

Again, there’s just not a lot to like here. Beck’s OK, so of course the Doves sent him to Cincinnati the next season. Of the eight primary position players, only three would start the bulk of the team’s games in 1911, and many of the new men were retreads from other teams.  Although the team actually got a year younger going from 28 to 27 on average, most of that was because of an influx of rookies. There was no pitcher to look forward to as a potential ace.

If I told you this team was going to win the World Series in four years you’d probably laugh, unless of course you know your baseball history. But then the 1914 “Miracle Braves” team bears almost no resemblance to the 1910 team (even the name changed). Only pitcher Buster Brown (9-23 in 1910) from the Doves remained on the roster in training camp and he died before pitching a single game during the season. Somebody in Boston finally figured out what they were doing. They just didn’t figure it out in time to save the 1910 team.

Opening Day, 1910: Boston (NL)

April 13, 2010

Peaches Graham

There’s no way to sugarcoat this, Boston in 1909 was a Truly Awful Team. That’s how I describe a team that finishes under a .300 winning percentage. Boston ended the season 45-108 (a .294 winning percentage), 65.5 games out of first and 9.5 out of seventh.

As you would expect, the Doves underwent wholesale change during the offseason. During the 1909 season manager Frank Bowerman had a winning percentage of .290 and was fired with 77 games remaining. New manager Harry Smith did better. His winning percentage was .299. So out he went too. In came Fred Lake. Lake was the former manager at the other Boston team (the Red Sox) and had finished third (I have no idea what possessed him to switch teams. As far as I can tell he wasn’t fired.).

The 1909 outfield had been Roy Thomas in left field and leading off, Beals Becker in right hitting second, and center fielder Ginger Beaumont hitting fourth. In 1910 they were all gone (to Philadelphia, the Giants, and the Cubs), replaced by Bill Collins in left and leading off, Fred Beck in center who hit seventh, and clean up hitter and right fielder Doc Miller (who would actually arrive in Boston about a month into the season).

Catching was holdover Peaches Graham, the eighth hitter. In trying to find a good picture to post with this comment, Graham’s was the best I could do. That alone should tell you the quality of what Boston was putting on the field in 1910.

The infield had two holdovers. Second baseman Dave Sheen remained but moved from the three hole in the lineup to fifth, and Bill Sweeney, the 1909 third baseman and five hitter, moved to shortstop and now hit sixth. The new third baseman was Buck Herzog who hit second. First base saw Bud Sharpe, the new three hitter, take over. (He was traded during the season.) 

The pitching was a mess. Al Mattern, Lew Richie, Kirby White, Cecil Ferguson, Buster Brown, and Tom Tuckey were the 1909 pitchers who started 10 or more games. Only Richie managed to pitch .500 (he went 7-7) and he came over in a trade from Philadelphia. Ferguson managed to go 5-23 and lead the NL in losses.  By 1910 Mattern, Ferguson, White, Richie, and Brown were all back. They were joined by Cliff Curtis (who started nine in 1909). Billy Burke became the major bullpen pitcher.  

I wish I could say something positive about this team. The only thing I can think of is that they will get above .300 in 1910 (.346) and end up only 50.5 games out of first. It’s a long road to redemption in the form of Gene Stallings and the 1914 Miracle Braves.

Next: the Tigers