Posts Tagged ‘Fred Clarke’

1908: Woeful

August 13, 2018

The immortal Chappy Charles

How do you win a ballgame? It’s actually not a trick question. You win by scoring more runs than the other guy. All this stuff about home runs and doubles and RBIs and WAR and OPS+ is just about how you go about scoring runs. In the history of Major League Baseball, going all the way back to 1880, the most woeful team at doing what you have to do to win is the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals.

First, a couple of caveats. The 1880 Cincinnati team scored 296 runs, but it was in a total of 80 games. The 1882 Baltimore team got 272 runs. The all-time record low for runs scored is 24 by the St. Paul Apostles of the Union Association in 1884. But they only survived for nine games. For something like a modern season of 162 games (or 154 by 1900) the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals are the non-scoring champs with (get ready for it) 372 runs scored over 154 games (49-105 win-loss record), or about 2.4 runs a game. And while we’re at it, they are low with only 301 total RBIs for the season (1.95 per game).

We should also take a moment and praise the Brooklyn Superbas for their own magical 1908. They went 53-101 and scored all of 375 runs in the season (also 2.4 a game) while the New York Highlanders (now the Yankees) dropped to the bottom in the American League with 459 runs scored (2.96 runs a game–and the Highlanders played 155 games). And for what it’s worth, those extra three runs got the Superbas four more wins than the Cards while the Highlanders split the difference, winning two more games than St. Louis.

Now at this point I just know you’re dying to know who are these all-time greats that managed an all-time low in runs scored while playing at St. Louis, so I’m going to oblige you (You knew I would, didn’t you?) The big gun (well, sorta) was Red Murray a 24-year-old outfielder who hit .282 and led the team with 64 runs scored (just over 17% of all the team’s runs) and 62 RBIs (20% of the team RBIs). Second on the team in both runs and RBIs was first baseman Ed Konetchy with 46 runs and 50 RBIs (that works out to 12% of the team’s runs and 17% of the team RBIs). The other two outfielders, Al Shaw (40 runs) and Joe Delahanty (37 runs and 44 RBIs) did much of the remaining damage. Murray, Konetchy, and Delahanty were the only players with more than 20 RBIs (Shaw had 19). And finally, backup infielder Chappy Charles had 39 runs scored, good for fourth on the team (just over 10%).

So how does all this compare to some of the other teams in 1908? Well, Fred Tenney led the NL in runs with 101, Honus Wagner had 100, Tommy Leach had 93, Fred Clarke had 83 (as did Johnny Evers). Add ’em up and you get 377, more than the entire St. Louis (and Brooklyn) team. In RBIs, Wagner led the league (of course he did, it’s 1908) with 109. Mike Donlin had 106 and Cy Seymour had 92. That’s three players who added together had more RBIs than poor old St. Louis.

I suppose that if your team is doing poorly, it’s no comfort to know the 1908 Cardinals existed. But in the deadest of all Deadball seasons, they set a record. I’m not sure how you celebrate that kind of record.

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.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1921

November 3, 2015

This post marks the penultimate (don’t you just love $10 words?) class of My Own Little Hall of Fame for this calendar year. With only 13 classes to go until the class of 1934 finishes off my hall it’s time to add a couple of players, one with claims to baseball innovation, and both with managerial experience (one did better than the other),

Roger Bresnahan

Roger Bresnahan

Roger Bresnahan was a premier catcher at the turn of the century. Beginning his career as a pitcher, he moved to the outfield, then became a catcher with the New York Giants. He helped lead the Giants to championships in 1904 and 1905, hitting .313 in the 1905 World Series. He developed the use of shin guards and other protective gear that prolonged the career of catchers throughout Major League Baseball.

Fred Clarke

Fred Clarke

Outfielder and manager of the pennant winning Pittsburgh club, Fred Clarke led the National League in walks, putouts, and doubles in a career that lasted from 1894 through 1915. He managed his team to three consecutive pennant 1901-1903 and participated in the first World Series. His team won the 1909 World Series when he hit two home runs and drove in five runs, while scoring seven runs himself. His career average is .312.

Now the commentary.

1 OK, Clarke makes sense, but Bresnahan? I am stunned at the amount of contemporary ink used to extol Bresnahan’s work with catching equipment. He’s considered an innovator (some even claim he invented the shin guards–he didn’t) who prolonged the career of innumerable catchers, made the game safer for catchers, and improved the quality of work behind the plate. It’s almost as if his batting numbers didn’t matter to the writers of the era. I checked his DWAR (which didn’t exist at the time so I didn’t use it in picking or rejecting him, but I wanted to check something) and his number rises significantly once he goes behind the plate, goes up even more when he puts on the “tools of ignorance” and stays up until he moves to St. Louis where he plays less and manages more. I believe that a contemporary bunch of writers who remembered him might have decided that the contributions to catching were enough to elect him to a Hall of Fame existing in 1920. And it’s the “contributions” word that’s important here. It’s almost as if his contemporaries might have added him more as a contributor than as a player. That explains why I chose a picture of him in gear rather than a shot that allowed us to see his face. As a player only, I’m not sold on his enshrinement either in 1921 or today.

2. Clarke was pretty easy. He was a very good player and a very good manager. Put them together and he’s an easy call. And by the way, he’s the one who decided to move Honus Wagner to shortstop as his primary position. Maybe he ought to get in just because of that.

3. There are a couple of significant additions to the list of players eligible for 1922. The most notable everyday player is Nap LaJoie, while pitchers Christy Mathewson and Mordecai Brown show up. I suppose it won’t be a shock to anyone if all three of them are in the final class of this year. Others involved in the 1922/23 classes will include Harry Davis, Hans Lobert, and Athletics co-owner Ben Shibe.

4. I can already hear it now, “Who the heck is Hans Lobert?” Most of you are probably asking that at this point. He’s a decent, but not spectacular infielder, but he’s inordinately well-known and well liked. I’m surprised at how much contemporary stuff there is on an otherwise, to us, obscure ballplayer. I’m trying to find out as much as I can about him (for instance Edward G. Robinson played him in a movie) for maybe a post here, but more importantly I’m trying to determine if the writers of the day liked him (and we’re talking liked him as a human being not as a player) enough to have given him consideration for a Hall of Fame. I don’t think so, but it’s interesting to check. I’m convinced that “likeability” is a feature in getting some players (but certainly not all) into the real Hall of Fame so here’s a chance for me to examine that idea.

1910: Pirates Postmortem

October 1, 2010

When the 1910 season began, Fred Clarke’s Pirates were defending champions of both the National League and the World Series. When the 1910 season ended they were third, 86-67, 17.5 games out of first. What went wrong?

First, it should be noted that 1909 was something of a fluke for Pittsburgh. They finished 110–42 for the season. But in 1907 they were 91-63. In 1908 they were 98-56. That’s a 12 game improvement in 1910, but only seven games in 1909. Secondly, the team was aging, especially the big names. Honus Wagner, who won the batting title 1906-09 (and would win again in 1911) was 36. Clarke was 37, Tommy Leach was 32, and 1903 World Series hero Deacon Phillippe was 38. Both Clarke and Leach had noticeably weak years and Phillippe, although 14-2, only started eight games. And Wagner? Well, Wagner was Wagner. He hit .320, led the NL in hits (tied with teammate Bobby Byrne), and slugged .432. All were fine, but both the average and the slugging were down.

The rest of the team was younger, but not all that good (except for Byrne). Twenty-two year old Vin Campbell hit .326 off the bench, but no one else, starter or substitute, with 20 or more games played hit above .276. The team slugging average dipped to third in the league.

The pitching was down. Babe Adams had a good year at 18-9, but the other three starters were all barely .500 pitchers (with Howie Camnitz actually going 12-13). Vic Willis, who was 22-11 in 1909 was in St. Louis. He went 9-12 for the Cards, but the 22 wins weren’t made up in Pittsburgh.

By 1910, the Pirates were on a downward spiral. They were still competitive, and would remain so for the next two years before the wheels fell off, but you can see age and talent issues beginning to crop up. It will be 15 years (1925) before they will be back in a World Series.

The Player-Manager

September 15, 2010

 

Solly Hemus

Baseball changes all the time. Some of the changes are immediate and noticable, like changing the pitching distance in 1893. Some are more subtle. No one seems to have realized what changing the strike zone in the 1960s would do to offense. Other things just seem to drop out of use without much fanfare. Player-Managers are like that. Once upon a time there were lots of them. Now there hasn’t been one since Pete Rose hung up his glove in 1986.

It actually makes since that there should be a lot of Player-Manager’s in the early days of baseball. Small rosters, limited talent pools, poor conditions make for having one man responsible for running the team and holding down a position. Harry Wright played center field for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. He also managed the team. So the tradition goes back a ways and carries on through players like Cap Anson and Charles Comiskey who both held down first base and managed in the 1880s.

Further, the expansion of Major League baseball from eight to 16 teams in 1901 meant that more managers were needed and the talent pool was small. So what better way to pick up a manager than to assign one of the players the managerial job (and toss in a couple hundred bucks for his troubles)? In 1901, four of the eight American League managers were player-managers. In the more established National Leage three of eight managers were player-managers. This trend continued for most of the Deadball Era (although not in those proportions). If you look at just the World Series, player-managers rule for much of the Deadball Era, especially early. Between 1901 and 1912 at least one team was managed by an active player in each Series except two. In both of those, 1905 and 1911, John McGraw faced off against Connie Mack. But in 1903 player-manager Jimmie Collins won. In ’06 it was Fielder Jones; in ’07 and ’08 it’s Frank Chance. In 1909 Fred Clarke played left field and managed Pittsburgh, in 1912 it was Jake Stahl as both first baseman and manager for Boston.

The rest of the Deadball Era saw a continued use of player-managers, but they were being less successful. Between 1913 and 1920, only Bill Carrigan at Boston in both 1915 and 1916 (44 games played in ’15, 33 in ’16), and Tris Speaker in 1920 were player-managers who led their team to the World Series (each happened to win). In the 1920s Rogers Hornsby in 1926 and Bucky Harris in 1924 were successful player-managers. In the 1930s you get something  of a rebirth with Bill Terry, Frankie Frisch, Charlie Grimm, Joe Cronin, and Gabby Hartnett all winning pennants (although Grimm, Cronin, and Hartnett’s teams all lose). The 1940s, a time that, because of a lack of players, should have produced mostly managers who were done with playing in the field gave us only Leo Durocher and Lou Boudreau as successful player-managers. It it should be noted that both had their greatest success on either side of the war. Boudreau became the last player-manager to win the World Series. The trend away from player-managers continued into the 1950s. Solly Hemus was at St. Louis in 1959 (he got into around 30 games), and appears (I may have missed one or two) to have ended the tradition until Pete Rose shows up in the 1980s.

So why did the tradition end? I’ll be honest, I’m not certain. I have some guesses, and that’s all they are.

1. As teams got more professional, a full-time manager was necessary.

2. Expanding rosters made it difficult for part-time managers to spend the time necessary to address the needs of individual players, especially bench players.

3. Once you get beyond 1910, full-time “professional” managers are almost always more successful than player-managers.

4. It’s easier for a full-time manager to act as a buffer between players and press than it is for a player-manager.

5. Full-time managers don’t have to worry about their individual stats, other than win/loss record.

I’m sure there are others. Feel free to add your own to the list.

Tom, Dick, and Larry: Tom

May 24, 2010

Tommy Leach

Going to take the occasion of my return to something like normal around here to write about three players from baseball’s Stone Age that are worth remembering. As you know if you’ve read much of my stuff, I’m concerned that the players who were the foundation of the game are more or less ignored by modern players and fans. Here’s a small chance to recall a few of them.

Tommy Leach got to the Major Leagues with the Giants in 1898, managed to get into no games, and ended up being sent to the Louisville Colonels (then a National League team). When the NL contracted to eight teams from twelve in 1900, Leach and many of his teammates (including Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke) made the trek across Ohio to Pittsburgh and settled in with the Pirates. In 1901 he became the regular Pirates third baseman, hitting .305 with 153 total bases in only 95 games. For the next several years, Leach wandered all over the batting order, sometimes leading off, occasionally hitting third, one year as low as sixth. He finally settled in the two slot and about the same time (1907) became the regular center fielder. He had good speed, a decent arm, and range and was to remain in center through 1911, when he suffered a series of injuries. In 1912, he went to the Cubs in a trade. He stayed with Chicago through 1914, when to Cincinnati in 1915, then was out of the majors. He made a brief comeback in 1918, a war year (World War I), playing 30 games as a backup outfielder for the Pirates. He was 40 and done. He hung on in the minors for a while, but settled finally in Florida, where he managed a few years in the Florida State League. He died in 1969, the last surviving Pirate from the 1903 World Series.

For his career Leach hit .270 with a .371 slugging percentage. He had 2947 total bases, including 170 triples, 23rd on the all-time list.  He led the NL in home runs in 1902 with all of six, and in triples the same year. Of his 63 home runs, 49 are of the inside-the-park variety, which is second ever (Sam Crawford had 51). In both 1909 and 1913, he led the league in runs scored. In the 1903 World Series, he scored the first ever run (0ff Cy Young). For the Series he hit .273 with a series leading four triples and seven RBIs. In the 1909 World Series he led all hitter with a .360 average, four doubles, eight runs, and nine hits. The eight runs in 1909 ties him with a number of others for most runs in a seven game series and the four triples in 1903 is still the all-time record for triples in a World Series.

Leach did all this while standing only 5’6″ and weighing 135 pounds, making him one of the smallest players of his era. Having seen pictures of him, I’m guessing the weigh-in was done after a meal of at least two steaks and three deserts. (Geez, he’s tiny, especially when you see him standing next to Wagner–who was a huge man for the era.) You know you can make a pretty good team of small men. Leach, Johnny Evers (who may have been even smaller than Leach), David Eckstein, Mel Ott, Albie Pearson, and Bobby Schantz give you a pretty fair team to start.

Leach was never a big star in his own day. He had the problem of playing on the same team with Wagner, Clarke, Deacon Phillippe, Jack Chesbro, Sam Leever, and Jesse Tannehill. All were arguably better players. Each was certainly more well-known in their era. It’s fitting we remember him with them. He was a major part of what made that Pirate engine run.

Opening Day, 1910: Pittsburgh

April 6, 2010

Honus Wagner

The Pirates were defending champions when the 1910 season opened. As you would expect, they’d made few changes to the roster. In the infield, first baseman and normal six hitter Bill Abstein was replaced by rookie Jack Flynn (Abstein went to St. Louis of the American League). Dots Mller remained at second and in the five hole, while third baseman Bobby Byrne moved to the leadoff spot in the order. At shortstop Honus Wagner, defending batting, slugging, doubles, and RBI champ, took the clean up spot. The outfield remained unchanged with manager Fred Clake in left and batting third, right fielder Owen Wilson hitting seventh, and Tommy Leach in center and batting second. George Gibson stayed behind the plate and hit eighth. There were some changes. Ham Hyatt remained the primary pinch hitter, Ed Abbatacchio backup middle infielder was traded during the first week of the season. Bill McKechnie became his replacement.

The pitching staff of 1909 was led by Howie Camnitz, Vic Willis, Lefty Leifeld, and Nick Maddox. Babe Adams, the World Series hero; Deacon Phillippe and Sam Leever had all spent the season splitting time between starting and the bullpen. In 1910 Willis was gone to the Cardinals and Adams replaced him as one of the four primary starters. Leever and Phillippe, the pitching ace of he 1903 World Series, were now almost entirely bullpen men.

At 28, the Pirates had the 3rd oldest hitting team in the league by average age, but their staff was the oldest staff in the NL. Phillippe and Leever were both 38 and Adams, though reasonably new to the league, was 28 as was Camnitz. As far as I can tell, Clarke didn’t seem to be worried about it. Maybe he should. His biggest stars, Wagner (36), Leach (32), and himself (37) were getting old by 1910 baseball standards.

So Pittsburgh went into the 1910 season with its World Champion team mostly intact. There was a rookie at first and an aging pitching staff, but as long as the hitting, especially Wagner, held up they would be competitive for the season.

Tomorrow–the Cubs

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.

The Chronicle-Telegraph Games

December 23, 2009

Chronicle-Telegraph Cup

In 1900 the National League contracted from 12 teams to eight. Baltimore, Louisville, Cleveland, Washington all ceased to exist. The players were shipped to other teams. In the case of Baltimore and Lousville the locations were already decided. Both teams were part of a syndicate that ran them and another team. Baltimore was owned by the Brooklyn team and Louisville by the team in Pittsburgh. This syndicate baseball was both common and legal in the era. The Brooklyn team had been most successful in using it because they had looted the Baltimore team earlier and won the National League pennant in 1899.

They repeated in 1900 winning the championship by 4.5 games over Pittsburgh. The Pirates owner, Barney Dreyfuss, argued that his team was actually better and only lost because he hadn’t been able to join the Louisville players with the Pittsburgh players earlier in the season.  He argued that the Pirates and the Superbas (they weren’t yet called the Dodgers) ought to meet in a five game series to settle the issue. Superbas manager Ned Hanlon accepted the challenge. The Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph, a major newspaper, agreed to sponsor the series and offered a cup as a trophy to the victor. (What is it with Pittsburgh and gaudy trophy cups?)

Beginning 15 October the Chronicle-Telegraph series was held. All games were played in Pittsbugh. The Superbas won game one 5-2 behind Joe McGinnity’s five hitter.  Frank Kitson picked up the win for Brooklyn 4-2 in game two. In the game Pittsburgh committed 6 errors. The Pirates crushed Harry Howell and the Superbas 10-0 in game 3 behind future World Series star Deacon Phillippe. With McGinnity back on the mound for game 4, Brooklyn rode to victory 6-1 and finished the series and claim the cup.

The Superbas roster included the following future Hall of Famers: pitcher Joe McGinnity, infielder Hughie Jennings, outfielders Willie Keeler and Joe Kelley, and manager Ned Hanlon.

The Pirates roster included the following future Hall of Famers: pitchers Jack Chesbro and Rube Waddell (losing pitcher in game 1 of the series), and outfielders Honus Wagner (not yet the shortstop) and Fred Clarke who doubled as manager.

The Chronicle-Telegraph cup is currently on display at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.