Posts Tagged ‘George Kelly’

Beginning a Dynasty: the 1923 Giants

June 16, 2016
Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds

By 1923 the New York Giants were winners on consecutive World Series’. Except for 1917, they’d been also-runs for most of the 19-teens. They’d roared back in 1921 to defeat the crosstown Yankees in the Series, then done it again the next year. It was, as Giants pennant winners went, a very different team from the normal champs.

Baseballwise, the New York of the early 1920s was the bailiwick of John J. McGraw and the Giants. They’d won consecutive titles, and McGraw was an institution dating back to the turn of the century. More even than Babe Ruth, McGraw was “Mr. Baseball” in New York. That would begin changing with this World Series. The ’23 Giants weren’t a typical McGraw team, a team heavy in pitching and speed. McGraw had adjusted to the “lively ball” era very well and produced a team that led the National League in runs, hits, average, normal “deadball” stats. But it also led the NL in slugging, OBP, OPS, and total bases. They were third in home runs, stolen bases, and doubles, while posting a second in triples. The staff, unlike pre-1920 Giants teams was sixth in ERA, but higher in strikeouts, hits, and runs allowed while being third in shutouts.

The infield consisted of three Hall of Famers. George “Highpockets” Kelly held down first. He hit .307 with 16 home runs and 103 RBIs. The homers were second on the team, while the RBIs were third. His WAR was 2.5. Frankie Frisch at second was a star. He led the team with a 7.1 WAR and was second in runs scored and RBIs while his .348 average paced the regulars. Dave Bancroft also hit .300, but was beginning the downside of his career. He had 46 errors at short and was beginning to be pushed by 19-year-old Travis Jackson, another future Hall of Famer, he was second on the team with 3.7 WAR.. Heinie Groh was the non-Hall of Famer and, at 33, the oldest of the starters. He hit .290 with no power and posted an even 3.0 WAR. Fred Maguire, along with Jackson, was the primary infielder on the bench, although future star, Hall of Famer, and Giants manager Bill Terry got into three games.

Five men did the bulk of the outfield work. Hall of Famer Ross Youngs was in right. He hit .336, led the team with 200 hits and with 121 runs scored, producing an OPS+ of 125 and a 3.6 WAR. The other corner outfielder was Emil “Irish” Meusel, brother of Yankees left fielder Bob Meusel. It’s the first time brothers playing the same position faced each other in a World Series. “Irish” led the team in RBIs with 125, in homers with 19, in triples with 14 and was considered an excellent outfielder, although the general consensus was that his brother had the better arm. All that got him 2.2 WAR. Jimmy O’Connell got into 87 games, most in center field. He hit .250 with six home runs, good for fourth on the team. Bill Cunningham and 32-year-old Charles “Casey” Stengel (another Hall of Famer, but in a different context). were the other two outfielders. Cunningham saw action in 79 games, while Stengel got into 75. Stengel hit .335 and both men had five home runs, good for a fifth place tie on the team. Twenty-three year old future Hall of Fame inductee Hack Wilson got into three games late in the season.

Frank Snyder did most of the catching, getting into 120 games. He was a good defensive backstop but his backup Hank Gowdy hit better. Gowdy, a hero of the 1914 Series, was 33 and not able to catch as often as previously. Alex Gaston and Earl Smith got into just over 20 games each.

The pitching staff was a long ride from the Mathewson, McGinnity, Marquard, Ames staffs of the early century. While those pitchers are still reasonably well known (except maybe Red Ames), the ’23 Giants staff wasn’t filled with household names. Hugh McQuillan, Mule Watson, and Jack Scott were the right handers. McQuillan and Watson both had ERA’s of 3.41 while Scott’s was 3.89. All three had given up more hits than they had innings pitched. McQuillan’s 3.3 WAR was easily highest among the staff. Lefties Art Nehf and Jack Bentley both had ERAs north of four and continued the trend of giving up more hits than having innings pitched. The Bullpen featured spot starter Rosy Ryan who went 16-5 and Claud Jonnard. Both had ERAs in the mid-threes and Jonnard joined the pack that gave up more hits than had innings pitched. Ryan missed making it unanimous by less than four innings.

So it was a good hitting team that could make up for a mediocre pitching staff. Facing the American League pennant winner, mediocre might just not be good enough.

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1924: Derailing the Big Train

March 11, 2015

The first two games of the 1924 World Series were in Washington, D.C. There had never been playoff baseball in Washington. Even the President showed up.

Game 1

Bill Terry

Bill Terry

Game one, 4 October 1924, saw the Giants send Art Nehf to the mound to face D.C.’s ace Walter Johnson. Neither man pitched all that well, but it became a great game anyway. New York struck first when George “High Pockets” Kelly slammed a Johnson pitch into the left field seats to lead off the second inning. In the top of the fourth, Bill Terry drove a Johnson pitch to almost the same spot. The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Earl McNeely doubled, went to third on a ground out, and scored Sam Rice’s grounder to second. The score remained 2-1 into the bottom of the ninth. Two outs from losing game one, Ossie Bluege singled, then tied the game when Roger Peckinpaugh doubled. The tenth and eleventh innings were scoreless with both teams getting men as far as second, but being unable to get a key hit. That changed in the 12th. Giants catcher Hank Gowdy walked, went to second on a single by pitcher Nehf, then on to third when McNeely threw the ball away trying to catch Nehf off first. A walk to pinch hitter Jake Bentley loaded the bases. Frankie Frisch then grounded to shortstop Peckinpaugh. He flicked the ball to second baseman and manager Bucky Harris who then gunned down Gowdy trying to score, leaving the force at second intact. That let Nehf go to third and Bentley on to second (and Frisch was safe at first). Billy Southworth pinch ran for Bentley. A single by Ross Youngs brought home Nehf with the go ahead run and a Kelly sacrifice fly brought home Southworth. With the score now 4-2, the Senators rallied when Mule Shirley reached second on an error and, one out later, scored on a Harris single. Nehf got the next two men and the game ended 4-3.

The big heroes for the Giants were Terry with a home run, Kelly with a homer and a sacrifice fly that scored the winning run, and Nehf who pitched a complete game, and scored a run. He gave up 10 hits and walked five, but only gave up three runs, two of them earned (the first two), while striking out three. Johnson didn’t pitch all that well. He gave up four earned runs on 14 hits, two home runs, and six walks. He did, however, strike out 12.

Game 2

Goose Goslin

Goose Goslin

Game two occurred 5 October 1924 and was in many ways as exciting as game one. Tom Zachary took the hill for the Senators while game one pinch hitter Jake Bentley started for New York. Washington jumped on Bentley immediately, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. With two outs and Sam Rice on second, Goose Goslin parked a two-run homer to right center for a 2-0 Senators lead. They picked up another run in the fifth when Bucky Harris put one over the fence in left for a 3-0 lead. It held up until the top of the seventh, when a walk and a single put runners on first and third with no outs. Hack Wilson hit into a double play that scored High Pockets Kelly with the Giants first run. They got two more in the ninth (just as Washington had done the day before) with a walk, a long single with one out that scored the runner on first, and a single after a second out that tied the game. For the first time in the Series, a new pitcher entered the game when Zachary gave way to Firpo Marberry, who promptly fanned Travis Jackson to end the inning with the scored tied 3-3. In the bottom of the ninth Joe Judge walked, went to second on a single, and scored the winning run when Roger Peckinpaugh doubled to left. Bentley pitched well, giving up four runs on six hits while walking four and striking out three. Two of the hits were home runs. For Washington there were a lot of heroes. Goslin and Harris had homers, and Zachary went eight and two-thirds giving up three runs on six hits and three walks. Under the rules of the day, Zachary was the winning pitcher while Marberry picked up a save (a stat that hadn’t been invented yet).

So after two games the Series was knotted at 1-1. It now became a best of five Series as both teams did what they needed (the Giants won a game on the road and the Senators weren’t swept). New York held home field advantage.

1924: McGraw’s Last Throw

March 9, 2015
Travis Jackson

Travis Jackson

After three consecutive National League pennants and two World Series victories (1921 and 1922), the New York Giants rolled to their fourth straight pennant in 1924. It was still John McGraw’s team, but it was a vastly different team from his Deadball teams. Those relied to pitching and timely hitting. This was a team that hit well and the pitching was a notch down from those 1904-1913 teams. It was also McGraw’s final pennant winner.

The infield consisted of five Hall of Famers and one pretty good player. George “High Pockets” Kelly held down first. He led the team with 21 home runs and 136 RBIs. The RBI total led the NL and the homers ranked fourth. He was being challenged at first by second year player Bill Terry. Kelly was, in 1924, still the better player, but McGraw was keen on installing Terry in the lineup. Frankie Frisch played second, hit .328, stole 22 bases, had 198 hits (third in the NL), and scored a league leading 121 runs. The shortstop was 20-year old Travis Jackson, currently in his third year with the Giants. He managed to hit .300 (.302) for the first time in 1924, hit 11 home runs (good for second on the team), and played a good short. At 34, Heinie Groh was the old man on the team, and the only one not later enshrined in Cooperstown. He was famous for the odd shape of his bat (“Bottlebat”), but also played a good third while hitting .281. He was hurt during the season, which allowed the Giants to bring up 18-year old Fred Lindstrom who hit only .253 in 1924, but was considered a coming star. He would figure in one of the most famous plays of the World Series.

Five men, two of them in the Hall of Fame, manned the outfield. The Hall of Famers were Ross Youngs and Hack Wilson. Youngs was the regular right fielder. His .356 led the team in hitting. His 10 home runs were third and his 112 runs scored were second on the team. He would have two years left before being felled by Bright’s Disease. Wilson did much of the center field work. He was not yet the fearsome power hitter he became in the late 1920s at Chicago. He tied Youngs with 10 homers and hit .295. Emil “Irish” Meusel (the brother of Yankees left fielder Bob Meusel) was the primary left fielder. He hit .310 with 102 RBIs. Billy Southworth (who also made the Hall of Fame, but this time as a manager) and Jimmy O’Connell spelled the other three. O’Connell hit .317 and Southworth .256. Neither showed much power.

McGraw used two catchers during the season. Hank Gowdy, who did less during the regular season, did almost all the catching in the World Series. His partner was Frank Snyder. Neither had much power (Snyder had five homers, Gowdy four) and Snyder hit .302 to Gowdy’s .325. Both were right-handed hitters so they weren’t used in a platoon situation.

They caught a staff that was weaker than the old Giants pitching staffs. There was no Mathewson or McGinnity or even a Marquard on the staff (there may have been a Red Ames or two). Six men pitched double figure games: right-handers Virgil Barnes, Hugh McQuillan, Wayland Dean, Mule Watson, and lefties Jack Bentley and Art Nehf. Bentley and Barnes both won 16 games, while Dean actually had a losing record (6-12). Barnes, Bentley, Dean, and Watson all gave up more hits than they had innings pitched while both Dean and Watson walked more men than they struck out. For the Senators Firpo Marberry had 15 saves. The entire Giants staff had 19 with Rosy Ryan leading with five. If it came to the staff and the bullpen, Washington had a distinct advantage.

The 1924 Series was held over seven consecutive days (no day off) with the Senators getting games one, two, six, and seven at home. The papers of the day (at least the ones I’ve found) felt it was going to be Washington pitching against New York hitting. It turned out to be a great series with an unforgettable game seven.

 

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Bill Lange

December 31, 2012
Bill Lange about 1898

Bill Lange about 1898

1. Bill Lange was born in San Francisco in 1871 to a career military man assigned to the Presidio.

2. He was a prodigy, winning a state tournament and becoming the best player on his local semi-pro team at age 19.

3. He played minor league ball on the West Coast until being signed by the Chicago Colts (now the Cubs) in 1893. In 117 games he stole 47 bases, had 88 RBIs, scored 92 runs, and for the only time in his career hit under .300 (.281).

4. By 1894 he was the team’s primary center fielder and lead off hitter. He stole 66 bases, , hit .325, and had an OPS+ of 99. It was his last OPS+ under 120.

5. Lange was leader of Chicago’s “Dawn Patrol” (Bill Dahlen was also a member). The “Patrol” was famous for skipping curfew, drinking all night, and being seen in the company of “loose women.” This brought him into conflict with manager Cap Anson. Anson’s career was on the wane, Lange was a rising star. As you might guess, the conflict ultimately resulted in Anson’s ouster as manager.

6. In 1895, Lange put up an OPS of 1.032 and an OPS+ of 157. His WAR was 5.1, a huge number for a position player  who got into only 123 games. The 123 games would be his career high.

7. In 1897, he scored 119 runs in 118 games and led the National League with 73 stolen bases.

8. By the end of the 1899 season his career numbers included a triple slash line of .330/.400/.458 for an OPS of .858 (OPS+ 123). In 813 games he had 1056 hits, 134 doubles, 39 home runs, and 1467 total bases. He also had 400 stolen bases, 579 RBIs, scored 691 runs, and had twice as many walks as strike outs.

9. At about this time he met Grace Anna Giselman. Lange fell in love and her father felt playing baseball was a waste of time. After the 1899 season, Lange and Grace married and he retired from baseball, taking over an insurance company. He was 28. He never went back to the Majors. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last. The couple divorced in 1915 (Lange was 44 and too old for baseball).

10. Lange died in 1950 in San Francisco.

11. He was the uncle of Hall of Famer George “Highpockets” Kelly. Playing only 7 years himself, Lange is ineligible for the Hall.

12. The most famous story about Lange has him pursuing a fly ball, breaking through the outfield wall, and catching the ball for an out. Some accounts say he got the ball back to the infield in time for a double play. The accounts disagree on when and where he did this. Most modern students of the game discount the tale, but it does make a great story.

And a HAPPY NEW YEAR to each of you.

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Buddy Myer

August 14, 2012

Buddy Myer about 1925

1. He was born Charles Solomon Myer in Mississippi in 1904. His father was Jewish, his mother Christian, which must have made for some interesting times in turn of the 20th Century Mississippi. Myer appears never to have been particularly religious although his ethnicity got him into a couple of fights during his Major League career.

2. He attended Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Mississippi State University) and graduated in 1925.

3. He signed with Cleveland, was assigned to Dallas, which he hated, and was released at his request.

4. He signed with New Orleans, an independent member of the Southern Association, and was picked up by the Washington Senators. He made it to the Majors that same year, appearing in four games.

5. Regular third baseman Ossie Bluege was injured in the World Series and Myer played third in the final three games of the Series (with only the four games of MLB experience). He hit .250 with two strikeouts and a walk.

6. He became the regular Washington shortstop in 1926, started slowly in 1927 and was traded to Boston (the Red Sox, not the Braves). While at Boston he led the American League in stolen bases in 1928 with 30 (16 caught stealing) and hit .301. That led Washington to make a trade that brought him back to the Senators. It cost them five players: Milt Gaston, Hod Lisenbee, Elliot Bigelow, Grant Gillis, and Bob Reeves.

7. In 1929 he split time between second base and third base before settling in as the Senators’ regular second baseman for the decade of the 1930s.

8. He won the batting title in 1935 hitting .3495 against Joe Vosmik’s .3489 by going four for five on the final day of the season. He scored 115 runs, knocked in an even 100 (the only time he had 100 RBIs) with an OPS of .907 (OPS+ of 138). He made the All Star team and finished fourth in the MVP voting.

9.  In 1936 he developed stomach trouble (apparently an ulcer). It bothered him off  and on for the rest of his career. His season high in games played after the illness was 127 in 1938.

10. He retired after the 1941 season with a .303 batting average and an OPS of .795 (OPS+ of 108).

11. After retirement he worked as a mortgage banker and died in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1974.

12. In 1949 he received his only vote for the Hall of Fame. Joining him with a single vote were future Hall of Famers George Kelly, Fred Lindstrom, Heinie Manush, and Earl Averill as well as Hall of Fame managers Leo Durocher and Al Lopez.

Stuffy McInnis, Deadball Star

May 1, 2010

Stuffy McInnis with the 1925 Pirates

As I’ve pointed out before, most of the Hall of Fame caliber players from the Deadball Era are largely forgotten today. Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner may be exceptions, but by and large it’s true. It’s even more true of the stars of the era who didn’t make it to Cooperstown. Here’s one.

John (Stuffy) McInnis was a great fielding, good hitting first baseman for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in the second decade of the 20th Century. Coming out of Gloucester, Massachusetts at age 19, he was the junior member of the A’s famous “$100,000” infield in both age and entry to the Major Leagues. For those curious, the rest of the infield is Eddie Collins at second, Jack Barry at short, and Frank Baker at third.

McInnis arrived in Philadelphia as a shortstop in 1909. Mack had Barry at short, so McInnis had to find another position. By 1911 he was the primary first baseman, replacing aging Harry Davis. He stayed with Philadelphia through 1917, seeing the glory years of the 1910, 1911 and 1913 World Series triumphs, the heartbreak of the 1914 World Series flop, and the disastrous 1916 campaign.

In 1918 he was traded to Boston for three players one of which was longtime Red Sox stalwart Larry Gardner. The Sox promptly won the World Series. In 1915 and 1916, the Red Sox won the World Series, then dropped back to second in 1917, thus a good team was already in place. So it’s not like they picked up McInnis and came out of nowhere to win. (Having that Babe Ruth guy helped a lot.) McInnis was a fielding upgrade over the previous first baseman, and had roughly the same numbers at the plate. Remember, this is the Deadball Era and first basemen are not yet primarily sluggers. In the Series, McInnis knocked in the only run in a 1-0 Red Sox game one victory, then scored the winning run in game three.

In 1922 he went to Cleveland, beginning the nomad phase that went on for the rest of his career. In 1923 and 1924 he was with the Boston Braves (now of Atlanta). In 1925 and 1926 he played for Pittsburgh, helping the Pirates to a World Series victory in his first year there. He took over as manager for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1927, playing in one final game. They finished last and he was let go by the Phils.

He managed in the minors and at colleges after his playing career ended, ultimately retiring from Harvard in 1954. He died in 1960.

The first thing you notice about McInnis is his fielding numbers. For any era they are impressive, for baseball’s Stone Age they are mind-boggling. Between 1912 and 1924, the seasons he is generally his team’s regular first baseman, he finished first in fielding six times, second five times, and fourth the other two years, including his rookie year at first base in 1911. His fielding prowess is reflected in a range factor almost half a run higher than anyone else who played significant time at first (OK, I know you don’t figure range factor for first basemen, but  did it on a lark and discovered McInnis.). In 1921 in 1651 total changes over 152 games he made one (count ’em) error, a record that stood until Steve Garvey rang up no errors in 160 games in 1984 (and Garvey only had 1319 chances that season).Thank of that if you will. On 1921 fields with 1921 equipment, over 1651 chances Stuffy McInnis got 1650 of them right (the error was a dropped throw). Only Wally Pipp at New York (1713 chances) and Earl Sheely at Chicago (1756 chances) handled more balls and Pipp had 16 errors (one every 107 chances) and Sheely had 22 (one every 80 chances). In the National League New York’s George Kelly had comparable chances  (1667) and he committed 17 errors (one every 98 chances). Other McInnis seasons are comparable.

McInnis is credited with inventing the “knee reach”, or what we know as the first baseman’s split, when catching the ball. Don’t know if it’s true, but if he did it makes him an even better fielder. I’ve played a little first base and know how difficult it is to reach for a ball that’s beginning to change direction on you.

As a hitter McInnis was no slouch either. He hit .308 for his career, almost all singles. In today’s world of power hitting first basemen he would be in trouble, but in the context of his time he can be rated a solid, but not spectacular hitter. Of 2406 hits, 1973 (83%) were singles. His isolated power is 072. For his entire career he hit 20 home runs with a high of four in 1913. He didn’t have a great deal of speed, swiping a high of 27 bases in 1912. What he did do was put up a lot of runs. On four occasions he had 90 or more RBIs, and averaged 60 runs scored per year in his 14 full seasons. In a low scoring era that’s not bad, but not absolutely in the top echelon.

What McInnis did best was win. Five times he went to the World Series. Four times his team won (1911, 1913, 1918, 1925). He was on one other team that won a Series (1910) but did not play. Twice he went to teams that won the World Series in his first year with them (the latter two championships). Again, he’s not the primary reason his new team wins, but he seems to have provided part of the spark that put the team over the top.

It’s obvious I like McInnis. He’s a good solid player, who helps his team win. Is he an overlooked Hall of Famer? I might vote for him if I was on a veteran’s committee, but he wouldn’t be at the top of my list. Is he an overlooked star of his era? Yep.