Posts Tagged ‘George Davis’

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 1924

February 2, 2016

It’s time for this month’s addition of My Own Little Hall of Fame. As it’s also the beginning of black history month in the US, we’ll put the two things together while introducing the Class of 1924. I admit it’s a somewhat strange class.

George Davis

George Davis

Between 1890 and 1909, George Davis was a premier player. Moving between shortstop, the outfield, and third base he was considered an excellent defensive player. He led the National League in RBIs in 1897 while playing with the New York Giants. Later he joined the Chicago White Sox and helped lead them to a World’s Championship in 1906, hitting .306 in the World Series and driving in six runs.

Sol White

Sol White

King Solomon “Sol” White was a noted second baseman in 19th Century black baseball. Later he managed several teams in various segregated leagues and won a pennant in 1906 in the integrated International League. In 1907 he published History of Colored Base Ball the first compendium of black baseball in the United States.

Now the usual commentary:

1. What took so long with George Davis? As mentioned before, Davis was incredibly obscure in the period of the 1920s. It’s like he didn’t ever play ball. Even the guides don’t mention him except if it’s appropriate in a statistical list. After his retirement he spent several years coaching the Amherst College baseball team. In 1924 I found a reference indicating he’d been gone from Amherst for five years. I decided that this single reference was enough to bring his name back and I took the opportunity to add him to a Hall of Fame to which he clearly belongs. OK, it’s a stretch, a long stretch, a very long stretch, but I took it because I believe George Davis is a Hall of Famer. Because that’s true, I’ve broken one of my own rules. But, then, it’s my rule.

2. Sol White has the same problem every other Negro League player or executive has who I’ve added to my personal Hall of Fame, he’s black in an era where that wasn’t seen by most of the US as a good thing (to put it mildly). But when I set this Hall up I decided I would add black players despite the prevailing attitudes of the 1901-1934 era and White is certainly someone who should be a member. His book is the only major source for black professional baseball all the way to the 1960s. That alone gives him space. He could, in fact, have gone in earlier, but I wanted to hold him for black history month (February).

3. The 1925 class is going to be somewhat like this one. There are no just “have to” players (either everyday types or pitchers) coming up in 1925. I do have to look at someone who, the totality of his career being considered, is a person that may make it. At the same time that individual’s performance isn’t necessarily Hall-worthy if his playing or managing or contributions are looked at in isolation. There are three or four of those coming up and I’ll have to determine which, if any, are going into a 1925 era Hall of Fame and who isn’t.

4. Here’s the preliminary list of everyday players available in 1925: Jack Barry, Cupid Childs, Harry Davis, Mike Donlin, Jack Doyle, Elmer Flick, Hughie Jennings, Bill Lange, Tommy Leach, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Sherry Magee, Tommy McCarthy, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Wildfire Schulte, Cy Seymour, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, Joe Tinker, George Van Haltren.

5. The pitchers: Bob Carruthers, Jack Chesbro, Dave Foutz, Brickyard Kennedy, Sam Leever, Tony Mullane, Deacon Phillippe, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White.

6. The contributors: Bob Emslie, Hank O’Day, and Tim Hurst (umpires and Hurst was a manager for a while); Hughie Jennings and George Stallings (managers); Cal McVey and Lip Pike (early players); Ben Shibe and Clark Griffith (owners); Henry C. Pulliam (NL President); William R. Wheaton (pre-Civil War pioneer).

7. And 1926 (April) is the year I have to make a final decision on the Black Sox players. Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, and Eddie Cicotte are the only three that I have to realistically consider. I don’t think any of the others (Felsch, McMillan, Gandil, Williams, Risberg) have any chance of making it.


The Best of the Giants

May 27, 2013
Will Clark

Will Clark

It’s been a while since I stuck my foot deep in my mouth and picked an all-time team for a franchise. So it’s time to do it again. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time this month dealing with the Giants, especially the New York version, so it seems like a good franchise to work with now.

A few caveats first (you knew I’d do that, right?). Let me start with a simple disclaimer: I’ve never been a particular Giants fan. Growing up supporting the Dodgers, there’s not a lot of nice things to say about the Giants (only the Yankees are as deep in perdition as the Giants). That means I’ll admit to being less than confident about my choices, but it’s the best I can do using only research and a few memories. Second, I put together a 25 man roster that does not mirror a Major League roster, but it’s my list and I get to do it my way. There are nine infielders, five outfielders, two catchers, and nine pitchers. I decided to go with three bullpen men and six men who were primarily starters. I also picked a manager (bet you can guess him). Finally there are no players whose primary career is before the advent of the mound. There are som really fine Giants prior to 1892, like Roger Connor, Tim Keefe, Mike Tiernan, but they play a game that is different, so different I decided to drop them from consideration.

So with all that said, here we go diving in where God knows what we will find. Each list is alphabetical.

The Infield:  Will Clark, Al Dark, George Davis, Art Fletcher, Frankie Frisch, Travis Jackson, Jeff Kent, Johnny Mize, Willie McCovey.

Did you ever notice that the Giants have produced an inordinate number of quality first basemen? I chose McCovey, Mize, and Clark (and Cepeda spent a lot of time at first) and left out Hall of Fame first sackers Bill Terry and George Kelly. Frankly, I didn’t really have to think that hard about it. The only hard choice was Mize, who spent significant time with both St. Louis and the Yankees. I decided he was in. If they’ve had great first basemen, they’ve had mediocre third basemen. I went with Fletcher as the only third baseman because the rest of the list was Fred Lindstrom and Jim Davenport and guys like that. OK, maybe I should have considered Sandoval, but as a rule I like to stay away from current players because we don’t know how they’re stay with their team will go (but see Posey below). Short and second were mixed bags. Frisch, Kent, and Larry Doyle stood out but there wasn’t much below them. Short on the other hand had more quality players, but no one at the level of either Frisch or Kent. I left off Dave Bancroft and added Dark which may strike some as odd, but I suppose it’s merely a personal preference. And of course Jackson (who was in the top 10 Giants in WAR, which surprised me) played third toward the end of his career. 

The Outfield: Barry Bonds, Orlando Cepeda, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Mel Ott.

There is Bonds (whatever you think of him as a person or as a steroids user), there is Mays, and there is Ott. Everyone else is a huge drop, a really huge drop. You could make an argument that across the three outfield positions (left, center, and right) the Giants may have the best starting outfield ever. But you need backups and at the point you get past the big three you end up with a lot of quality outfielders. Cepeda’s knees sent him to first, but he began in the outfield. Irvin was a converted middle infielder who lost several years to segregation. Both are just short of the top-tier. I had to leave out both Felipe and Matty Alou, which I was sorry to do because I’d liked both when they played. Jeff Leonard and Kevin Mitchell were good for too short a time to be considered at the top.

The Catchers: Roger Bresnahan and Buster Posey.

OK, who else was there? Look at the Giants’ list of catchers and tell me you like anyone better. As a rule, Giants catching has been very weak. Buck Ewing is excluded as a pre-1890s player.  Hank Severeid maybe, but if that’s the best you can do then we’re stuck with these two. I hesitate to pick a current player like Posey, but it’s a really weak position and Posey has the advantage of coming to the Giants and they win a World Series. Then he gets hurt and they falter. Then he’s healthy again and they win another World Series. That’s a pretty good legacy, isn’t it?

The Starters: Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, Gaylord Perry, Amos Rusie.

You know, you could make a pretty fair five man rotation for the Giants just using pitchers whose last name began with the letter “M”. You could dump those bums Perry and Rusie and insert Rube Marquard and Sal Maglie and still have a darned good staff. I didn’t. I have a feeling that in a few years both Lincecum and Cain will be getting some consideration on lists like this.

The Bullpen: Rod Beck, Rob Nen, Hoyt Wilhelm.

Not the strongest part of the Giants history. Wilhelm made the Hall of Fame, but his tenure with New York was relatively short. Most of his Cooperstown credentials are from other teams. Nen and Beck are simply one, two in saves, so why not?

The Manager: John J. McGraw.

Surely you saw that coming.

So there it is in all its glory; for good ,bad, or indifferent. I think it’s a pretty fair list, but I’m sure a lot of people will disagree. Feel free to do so. (I have this nagging feeling I’ve left somebody out).

Undue Influence

March 6, 2012

George Davis as a member of the White SoxGeorge Davis began playing professional baseball in 1889 and made the Major Leagues with the Cleveland Spiders in 1890. He played quite a bit in center field and at third base before settling in at shortstop in 1897. By then he was with the New York Giants, a team he joined in 1893. He stayed there until 1902, doing a couple of stints as a not-very-successful manager. In 1902 he jumped to the new American League Chicago team. In the settlement that led ultimately to modern baseball’s current setup, Davis was ordered back to New York. He played four games, did a lot of holding out, and in 1904 rejoined the White Sox. In 1906 he was the regular shortstop for the “hitless wonders” who won the World Series. Davis hit .308, drove in six runs, scored four, stole a base, and had an OPS of .846 in the Series (He was also in the split season series of 1892, hitting a buck 67). The 1906 season was his last good one. He hung on through 1909 then retired. He died in 1940. For his career his triple slash numbers are .295/.362/.407 for an OPS of .767 (OPS+ of 121). He had 2665 hits, 3663 total bases, 453 doubles, 75 home runs, walked more than he struck out, and played a good shortstop for the era. He also won an RBI title in 1897.  He died in obscurity in 1940 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.

It’s that last sentence that intrigues me. George Davis came from utter obscurity to the Hall of Fame. What happened? Well, in 1994 baseball historian and stats man, Bill James, wrote a book titled “The Politics of Glory.” (it was reworked later as “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?”). In the book he took on the question of “who’s the best player eligible and currently not in the Hall of Fame.” On page 193 of my edition James comments, “If you apply statistical methods to look for the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame, the answer that you wind up with is George Davis.” Four years later, obscure, lost in the shuffle George Davis is elected by the Veteran’s Committee to Cooperstown and immortality.

Now I’m not going to argue here that Davis was a bad choice for the Hall. I don’t think he was. He was, in fact, overdue. What concerns me is that one writer can bring a man out of the depths of baseball obscurity and make him into a Hall of Famer. That bothers me some, not a lot, but some. I am, as usual, of two minds about this kind of undue influence. It’s not James that’s the problem. More than one writer has spilled enormous amounts of ink on stating the case for a particular player’s right to join the Cooperstown elite. I always thought Richie Ashburn should be in the Hall and was gratified anytime I saw someone write an article that told me I was right. But Ashburn wasn’t totally obscure. He was recent enough to be remembered. Davis came out of no where. It was as if Moonlight Graham had played 10 years and suddenly the Kinsella book had made him an overnight sensation and a Hall of Famer. I’d find that undue influence and I think the same of James’ comments.

As I said, I’m of two minds about this. On the one side I have no problem with people like James and the Richie Ashburn defenders making their case. On the other side, I can see where their standing can influence the Veteran’s Committee more than it should. But then, the committee itself has, on more than one occasion, become hostage to one of its members influence (see Frankie Frisch’s influence in the 1960s and 70).  I merely hope the Veteran’s Committee will look at what’s in front of them rather than be influenced by what they read from outside sources. At least from outside sources other than me.

Tall at Short

July 13, 2011

In my last post I answered Bill Miller’s question concerning my evaluation of Derek Jeter as an all-time Yank. Bill actually asked two questions. The second asked my opinion as to Jeter’s position in the shortstop pantheon. So, as I said earlier, I’m not immune from putting my foot solidly in my mouth, so here’s a reply to that query.

First the evaluations of shortstops are more difficult than a lot of positions. By general consensus Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Rickey Henderson, and Barry Bonds (done in the order they arrived in the big leagues) are the top four left fielders. There record as left “fielders”, as opposed to hitters is a mixed bag. Let me ask this, do you seriously care? Probably not. All are in the lineup to hit and it they can catch and throw then you have gravy. But it doesn’t work that way with a shortstop. You can’t just concentrate on his hitting. Fielding matters and fielding stats are most nebulous and imprecise of baseball stats. So you can’t just look at Jeter and say, “Well, sure, he’s better than Ozzie Smith because Smith didn’t hit nearly as well” (Using Smith purely as an example). That may be true, but Smith was twice the fielder that Jeter is (and that’s true of Smith versus almost anyone at short) and so that must be taken into serious consideration. If you decide that Williams and Bonds are a dead tie as hitters, you can use fielding as a way of picking one over the other, but with shortstops you have to consider this stat from the start. So looking at shortstops requires going into the fielding stats minefield.

Secondly, an inordinate number of truly fine shortstops have spent a lot (and I mean a LOT) of time at other positions. Honus Wagner was up for several years before settling at short, Robin Yount and Ernie Banks were both hurt and transfered to other positions (Yount to the outfield and Banks to first base) for significant parts of their career. In fact Banks ended up with more games at first than short, and Yount ended up with more total games in the outfield (but not at any single position in the outfield) than at short. And to give you a contemporary player, Alex Rodriguez has now spent more time at thrid than at short. All this makes it difficult to view a player as a shortstop rather than as an overall players (although doing so year by year instead of via career numbers makes it easier). Besides what do you call Yount, a shortstop of an outfielder? To solve that I went to the Hall of Fame site and looked how they defined a player. They say Yount and Banks are both shortstops (and Willie Stargell a left fielder as opposed to a first baseman–just to give you some idea of what they do). So I decided to add both to my list. I left ARod off (which I know isn’t great for consistency) because he’s still playing and it is possible he will shift back to short and solve the question or will end up spending twice as many games at third and solve the problem that way. As I don’t know what will happen there (“It is always easier to prophesy after the event.”–Winston Churchill) I left him off.

So here’s my thought on the matter. I’ll list my one and two players, then the next three in alphabetical order. I’m certain who I think is first and who is second. Three through five tend to shift around depending on the day, the stats I’m looking at, the latest book I’ve read (the phases of the moon), but I’m reasonably confident which three go there.

1. Honus Wagner. There are a lot of really good shortstops, but Wagner is still head  and shoulders above the rest. Personally, I think the drop from number one to number two is greater at shortstop than at any other position (no offense to number two, below).

2. Cal Ripken. He set the standard for a new kind of shortstop. He was mobile and he had power. He didn’t have the flash of Smith, but he was very adept at playing the hitter in such a way that he very seldom had to make a spectacular play.

3-5. Ernie Banks, Arky Vaughan, Robin Yount. Banks was the prototype for Ripken. It just didn’t take. All three of these are much alike. They are good enough shortstops (I’d rate Yount as the best) with a glove, but all hit very well; Banks for good power, Yount for occasional power. Both Yount and Banks win double MVPs and Vaughan could well have won one.

So where is Jeter? He’s in the next bunch. There are an entire pack of really good quality shortstops that can be rated 6-10. There’s Ozzie Smith, the underrated Alan Trammel, Barry Larkin, Joe Cronin, both Lu Ap’s (Luis Aparicio, Luke Appling), Reese, Rizzuto, Omar Vizquel, and old-timer George Davis who could take the next five slots (and I’m sure I left off at least one deserving candidate). Jeter is one of those that fit right in with this group. Right now I’d certainly put him in the mix, probably very high in that mix. I’m reasonably sure he’s going to move up my food chain. I expect him to end up a top five, possibly as high as third or fourth. But I’m going to wait until the career ends to drop him into a definite hole.

Having said that, he ought to get at least an extra point or two for standing along the first base line, grabbing a badly thrown ball, and flipping to Posada to nail Jeremy Giambi at the plate during the playoffs. Arguably the greatest play I ever saw. For all the overhyping of Derek Jeter (and I’ve been critical of it) he is the closest we’ve had to a baseball icon since the steroid scandal broke. Baseball could surely use one and Jeter has done a good job of filling that role.

The Split Season

March 14, 2010

Back in 1981 Major League Baseball decided to have a split season. There was a strike during the year and so a first and second half winner was declared in each division, playoffs occurred, and eventually the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the World Series. To hear pundits and some fans tell it, that was the worst thing that head ever happened to baseball, if not to the entire world. For a season or two, even the worst designated hitter haters had a new villain. Turns out, of course, that it was really nothing new. It had all been tried before.

Between 1882 and 1891 there were two Major Leagues, the National League and the American Association. They existed in an uneasy truce that led eventually to a handful of postseason games that were something like a 19th Century version of the World Series. That ended in 1890 and after the 1891 season, the American Association folded leaving only the National League. The postseason series’ had been pretty haphazard in number of games and in scheduling, but they had been reasonably popular. With the demise of the Association, there were now no more postseason games, which among other things, meant less revenue for the owners. What to do?

The owners decided to split the season into two parts. The winners of each half would then meet in a postseason series. Should the same team win both halves, then the team that finished second in the last half would take on the overall winner.

The team in Boston, the Beaneaters–which gets my vote for the absolutely worst team nickname ever–went 52-22 and won the first half by 2.5 games over Brooklyn. The team consisted of Hall of Famers Hugh Duffy and Tommy McCarthy in the outfield, King Kelly behind the plate, with Billy Nash, Tommy Tucker, Joe Quinn, Bobby Lowe, and Herman Long holding down the rest of the positions. Hall of Fame pitcher John Clarkson started the season at Boston, but was traded to Cleveland during the season. That left Kid Nichols as the undisputed ace. Nichols had a great year going 35-26 with 187 strikouts, a 2.84 ERA, and five shutouts.

During the second half of the season, Boston continued winning, but a new team showed up to challenge them. The Cleveland Spiders finished fifth in the first half, then ran off a 53-23 record in the second half to finish three games ahead of Boston. Cleveland had future Hall of Famers Jesse Burkett and George Davis leading their attack, with Cupid Childs and Jack Virtue providing the rest of the firepower. Clarkson, over from Boston went 17-10 and Nig Cuppy was 28-13 for the Spiders. But the real find was third year pitcher Cy Young. Young went 36-12, led the league in ERA at 1.93, struck out 168, and threw a league leading nine shutouts.

The postseason series was a walkover. After a tie in game one, Boston ran off five straight victories, defeating both Clarkson and Young twice, to claim the title. Duffy hit .462, had nine RBIs, twelve hits, and one of the three Boston home runs to pace the Beaneaters. Nichols and two pitcher Jake Stivetts each won two games (Harry Staley won the other). For the Spiders,shortstop Ed McKean hit well (.440), as did Childs, but the rest of the team was shut down.

The split season hadn’t been overly successful. There were allegations that because Boston had nothing to play for, the team wasn’t playing up to speed during the second half. In their defense, they came in second that half and had the best overall record in the league. The postseason games had not been either well played or well attended. The owners decided to scrap the split season and go with a single pennant winner. There would be no more postseason play until the Temple Cup games beginning in 1894. The split season was not a success and it took all the way to 1981 to try it again.