Posts Tagged ‘Harry Hooper’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1931

September 1, 2016

This class of My Own Little Hall of Fame marks the start of a “final four” of this project. The last class will be the Class of 1934. The true Hall of Fame began inducting members with the Class of 1936 so 1934 seemed like a good place to stop. I’ll end this project with the end of the calendar year and that will leave a gap for 1935, but I have no desire to carry this over into next year for the sake of a single Class.
So here’s the Class of 1931. This time we take a decided turn to the defense.

Harry Hooper

Harry Hooper

Primary Right Fielder for the Boston American League team through four championship seasons, Harry Hooper was a superb defender. As the team’s leadoff hitter he was prolific at getting on base and scoring runs. As a defender he led the American League in assists, double plays, and fielding on numerous occasions.

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

Joseph Tinker was the primary shortstop for the Chicago National League team from 1902 through 1913. In that period the team won four pennants and two championships. Leading the league in assists, putouts, double plays, and fielding several times, he solidified an infield that helped lead to those championships. Never a power hitter, he was known for his clutch hitting, especially against the rival Giants.

And the commentary:

1. Hooper? He was at the time well-known as part of what was sometimes called “the greatest outfield of all time.” A couple of places he’s called the second best center fielder of his time, always behind Tris Speaker who played for the same team (causing Hooper to move to right). One thing interesting about him is how often it is brought up that he is a college graduate (St. Mary’s in California with a degree in engineering). It was certainly unusual for the era, but not unheard of by any means. A number of players had attended college, but Hooper was one of the few who actually graduated.

2. Tinker to Evers to Chance rearing its ugly head is it? No. In the 1920s and 1930 Joe Tinker was both well-known and seemingly well liked. He was recognized as a superior shortstop and there’s more comment than I anticipated on his ability to be a “Giant Killer” against John McGraw’s early teams (it seems he hit Mathewson especially well). All that made it seem possible that he would make a 1930s Hall of Fame. And to be honest, the poem didn’t hurt. He had a stint as manager and player in the Federal League, his team winning one pennant. As MLB in the 1930s tried desperately to ignore the Feds, I decided it best not to mention Tinker’s association with them.

3. Last time I mentioned the onslaught of players arriving on the retired for 5 years list who are considered today as marginal Hall of Famers or as mistakes by the Hall (either letting them in or leaving them out). I mentioned Ross Youngs last time and Hooper and Tinker are also examples. Other guys coming up include Stan Coveleski (in), Babe Adams (out), Bob Shawkey (out), Urban Shocker (out) Chief Bender (in). Guys like that. Just be advised.

4. And now, as usual, the new list for 1932 everyday players: George Burns, Cupid Childs, Jake Daubert, Jack Doyle, Johnny Evers, Art Fletcher, Larry Gardner, Tommy Leach, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarty, Clyde Milan, Del Pratt, Hardy Richardson, Wildfire Schulte, Cy Seymour, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren, Bobby Veeach, Ross Youngs (a total of 21 with 20 being the maximum).

5. The pitchers: Babe Adams, Chief Bender, Jack Chesbro, Wilbur Cooper, Hooks Dauss, Brickyard Kennedy, Sam Leever, Rube Marquard, Tony Mullane, Deacon Phillippe, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White, Joe Wood (a total of 13 with 10 being the maximum).

6. And the contributors: umpires-Bob Emslie, Tim Hurst; manager-George Stallings; owners-Charles Ebbets, August Herrmann, Ben Shibe; Negro Leagues-Pete Hill, Jose Mendez, Dobie Moore, Spottswood Poles, Louis Santop, Candy Jim Taylor; and pioneer William R. Wheaton (a total of 13 with 10 being the maximum).

 

 

 

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1915: A New Dynasty Forms in the American League

April 6, 2015
Duffy Lewis

Duffy Lewis

The end of the 1914 season saw the end of the first Philadelphia Athletics dynasty. They won the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913, then lost it in 1914. The team broke up after the 1914 World Series, leaving a vacuum at the top of the American League. In 1912, the one year Philly hadn’t won, the Boston Red Sox grabbed the AL pennant and won the World Series. Beginning in 1915, Boston established a new dynasty that was to rule the AL through 1918.

The 1915 BoSox were a mixture of holdovers from 1912 and a series of new, or at least new to Boston, players. The manager had changed. Jake Stahl, manager of the 1912 team was gone, replaced with Bill Carrigan. Carrigan was the starting catcher for the 1912 team who took over the Red Sox with 70 games left in the 1914 season. He was considered a decent enough catcher and a so-so hitter (in other words he was a solid, but unspectacular player whose career hovered around mediocre). He was 32 in 1915 and still did some catching on occasion. He would remain with Boston as both a player and manager one more year, winning the pennant again in 1916.

The other catchers were Pinch Thomas and Hick Cady. Thomas hit in the .230s while Cady hit in the .270s. Although Thomas hit from the left side while Cady stepped into the right-handers batters box, they had almost exactly the same amount of at bats (205 for Cady and 203 for Thomas), indicating it wasn’t exactly a modern platoon system behind the plate.

The infield consisted of (from first to third) Dick Hoblitzell, Jack Barry, Everett Scott, and Larry Gardner. The latter was the only one remaining from 1912’s starting infield. He’d lost 50 points off his batting average from 1912, but was still a good third baseman for the era. Hoblitzell was third on the team with 61 RBIs and tied for second with 12 triples. Scott was 22 and playing only his second season. He hit all of .201, but was a good enough shortstop to push Barry to second base. Barry was one of the reasons the Athletics were no longer a power. He’d been the shortstop of the “$100,000 Infield” and a stalwart of the A’s pennant runs. In 1915 he was only 28 and still a capable fielder. He hit .262 and, in a base running crazy era, never even attempted a stolen base in 1915.

If the infield was largely new, the outfield was the same. The 1912-1915 Boston outfield is considered by many the best Deadball Era outfield and in some circles still holds a position in the top five or ten greatest outfields ever. Duffy Lewis played left field. He hit .291, tied for the team lead in home runs (among starters) with two, led the team in RBIs, and was second in hits.His OPS+ was 121. The other two outfielders were Hall of Fame center fielders. As two men couldn’t play center at the same time, Harry Hooper moved to right field. He was a stellar fielder who had a down year in 1915. He hit only .235, but led the team in triples (13), and was fifth in RBIs. Even with a bad average, he managed an OPS+ of 103. The actual center fielder was Tris Speaker. “Spoke” hit .322, led the team in hits, stolen bases, and was second in RBIs. He was a great center fielder whose OPS+ was 151 and who had a WAR (BBREF version) of 7.1, higher than the next two men (Lewis and Hooper) combined (3.2 and 3.1).

There was a long bench, especially for the era. Hal Janvrin, Heinie Wagner, and Del Gainer all got into more than 80 games and Olaf Henriksen got into 73. Of the lot Gainer had the highest average and the only home run. In fact, if you discount pitchers, he had the only home run by a bench player.

But if you don’t discount pitchers there are six more home runs, four of them by a second year lefty named Babe Ruth. Ruth hit .318, had an OPS+ of 188 and led the team with the four home runs. Smokey Joe Wood and Rube Foster (obviously not the Negro National League founder) had the other two. Ernie Shore had one of those great Deadball stats that you don’t see much anymore. He hit all of .101, but in eight hits he had four doubles, a triple, and 10 RBIs. All that gave him an OPS+ of 1.

But Shore, like Ruth, wasn’t there to hit. The staff was very good. Five men started double figure games. Foster and Shore both had 19 wins, Ruth getting 18. Wood and Dutch Leonard each had 15. All had more innings pitched than hits allowed, and only Ruth had more walks (86) than strikeouts (82). Ruth’s 2.44 was the highest ERA while Wood’s 1.49 led the starters. Carl Mays, at age 23, was the main man in the bullpen, registering 31 relief appearances, seven saves, and six starts. His record was 6-5. Twenty-one year old Herb Pennock was also over from Philadelphia, but only pitched 14 innings over five games. His Hall of Fame career would bloom later.

Over the season the BoSox won 101 games and beat Detroit for the pennant by 2.5 games. They were third in the AL in runs, second in RBIs, next-to-last in home runs, and dead last in stolen bases. Their team ERA was second in the AL behind only last place Washington (and Walter Johnson). They were also second (again to Washington) in runs and hits allowed, and were third in strikeouts (again Washington led, this time with Chicago in second). Individually, Speaker was fourth in hits and runs scored, sixth in total bases, seventh in doubles, and sixth in walks.  Lewis finished ninth in hits, eighth in total bases, second in doubles, and ninth in RBIs. Hooper was eighth in runs scored, ninth in triples, and fifth in walks. Speaker’s 7.1 WAR was third in the league behind Ty Cobb and Eddie Collins (another A’s refugee, now at Chicago). Ruth’s four home runs tied for ninth in the AL. Among pitchers Shore was third in ERA and tied for sixth in wins. Foster tied Shore for sixth in wins, with Ruth showing up as ninth. Carl Mays’ seven saves were easily the best among AL pitchers.

The 1915 season was the first of a four-year run for Boston. They would win the 1915 and 1916 World Series’, then repeat again in the shortened 1918 season (finishing second in 1917). This dynasty would be the end for the Red Sox. After 1918 they wouldn’t win another pennant until 1946 and not win the World Series until the 21st Century.

Bottom of the Hall

July 30, 2014

Continuing along with my current obsession with the Hall of Fame, it’s almost impossible while there and immediately upon leaving not to speculate on the membership of the institution. Of course you want to praise the addition of guys like Greg Maddux and speculate on the chances of currently eligible players to make it on the next ballot. One of the things you also do is look at a plaque and wonder “What’s that guy doing here?”

After leaving the Hall, my son and I engaged in a fun little game of trying to figure out if you could put together a full team of players (one at each position) for various teams. Some we could, although we had to get really obscure with some players (like remembering that Arky Vaughn played third for the Dodgers for a while in the 1940s). Some teams we got a full team, some we didn’t.

But one of the things we debated was the question of how good could a team be that consisted only of the bottom rung of the Hall of Fame. OK, the idea of a “bottom rung of the Hall of Fame” sounds like a true oxymoron, but of course there are those guys in the Hall who aren’t up to the Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Walter Johnson class of player. Here, briefly, are our conclusions.

First, we picked a team off the top of our heads (in other words no looking up stats or going to computers for help). We took two pitchers, one left and one right. We then took a catcher, one infielder at each position, and three outfielders (trying to make sure we had a left, center, and right fielder rather than just three outfielders at random. Here’s our team:

Jesse Haines is our right-handed pitcher and Rube Marquard is the lefty. Rick Ferrell catches. The infield is Highpockets Kelly at first, Fred Lindstrom (pictured above) at third, Dave Bancroft at short, and Johnny Evers at second. The outfield is (left to right) Chick Hafey, Lloyd Waner, and Harry Hooper. I’ll be the first to admit we could have probably come up with a weaker team than that one, but neither of us thought of some of the other choices (Schalk, Maranville, McCarthy, etc.).

Now the question became how good would they be. Well, we didn’t have access to anything like what Kevin at Baseball Revisited uses when he does his wonderful World Series replays, so there was no way to prove whatever we decided. But we did decide that if you put this team in the field and ignored you only have two pitchers, the team would still win a lot of games. They’d probably win a pennant or three and even an occasional World Series.

What I realized was that no matter how much we might question the choices the voters and committees make when it comes to the Hall of Fame, they don’t really choose bad players. Each man was actually a bona fide excellent ballplayer (try getting to the Big Leagues without being very, very good) and whether he was Hall of Fame quality or not, he was a benefit to his team. In doing this little exercise, I gained a renewed respect for the men who are on most people’s list as the very bottom of the Hall of Fame. Whether they should actually be in the Hall of Fame is another question.

 

Opening Day 1914: American League

March 27, 2014
Stuffy McInnis, first base Philadelphia Athletics

Stuffy McInnis, first base Philadelphia Athletics

Next week marks what most of us consider the real Opening Day for MLB. So it’s time for a look at what was going on Opening Day 100 years ago. As the American League contained the World Champion Athletics, I think I’ll start with them (having done the “outlaw” Federal League already).

The champion A’s were much the same team as the 1913 version with the $100,000 Infield in place (Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank Baker). The outfield was still decent and in Wally Schang the A’s had a good catcher. They led the AL in hits, runs, home runs, RBIs, and average. The Athletics used a dominant pitching staff to rule the A for five years, but it was beginning to fray. Jack Coombs was gone (he pitched only 2 games), Eddie Plank was 38 and not aging well. Herb Pennock had five starts over the previous two years, while Bullet Joe Bush had all of 17. As a consequence, the A’s would have 24 shutouts, but lead the league in no other category. They were fourth in ERA and hits allowed.

Two teams would give them a run for their money. One was Washington. The Senators finished 19 games back, but they had Walter Johnson who led the AL in wins, shutouts, and strikeouts.

The greater challenge came from Boston. the Red Sox still had Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis, ad Harry Hooper as their outfield. Speaker led the league in hits and doubles. Pitcher Dutch Leonard went 19-5 with an all-time low ERA of 1.00 (try losing five games with that ERA). But the most important news at Boston and for baseball in general was the arrival on 11 July of a rookie pitcher from Baltimore with the nickname of “Babe” Ruth. He would go 2-1 over four games (three starts), but it was the beginning of the most famous of all Major League careers.

Around the rest of the AL, Ty Cobb again won a batting title (.368) and the slugging crown (.513). His teammate Sam Crawford led the league in RBIs and triples. Fritz Maisel, a third baseman for the Highlanders, won the stolen base title with 74 and Baker with the A’s copped the home run title with nine. In April future Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber made his debut for the White Sox, while Fred McMullin, one of the 1919 Black Sox (and Faber teammate) played his first big league game with Detroit in August. The 1920s stalwarts Everett Scott and Jack Tobin also first show up in 1914. Finally, 1914 is the rookie campaign for Bill Wambsganss, famous for the only unassisted triple play in World Series history (1920).

In the World Series, Philadelphia would be mauled by the “Miracle Braves” of Boston. It would be the end of Connie Mack’s A’s dynasty (he’d put together another in 1929) and the arrival of Ruth would signal the start of a new dynasty. This one in Fenway Park.

 

The Middle Rung

September 18, 2012

This was supposed to be something like a standard baseball biography of Harry Hooper. As I delved deeper into Hooper I began to notice just how controversial his Hall of Fame selection is. And then I began to ask myself questions like “Self, do you think he should be there?” Finally the entire thing began to devolve into questions of the Hall.

I believe the Hall of  Fame has four categories of inductees: the obvious, the inspired, the “who?”, and the middle rung. I often subdivide these, but basically I always come back to four. You may choose more categories or less, but I can’t seem to get around four.

The Obvious: these are guys who we all know should be there. They have names like Ruth and Gehrig, Mays and Musial.

The Inspired: these are the guys who are in because of a moment of inspiration on the part of the voters or the Hall. They include putting in Clemente without having to wait five years, adding Addie Joss who died just before his tenth season, and every Negro League player who currently graces the Hall.

The “who?”: these are the guys who you’re fairly sure had a plaque made up, broke in one night, hung the thing up, and nobody noticed. I’m not putting names here; I’ll bet each of you has your own list of these guys.

The middle rung: These are the guys I want to talk about. Hooper is one of them.

The middle rung is my way of classifying those guys who are not terrible choices for the Hall of Fame, but are not the first names that jump instantly to mind. They are good players, even in their own era great players, but a quick look at their careers creates puzzlement rather than nods when the Hall of Fame is mentioned. Some of them are guys who made sense when they were elected, but whose plaques look a little out-of-place today. Two quick examples that I’ve used before are Eppa Rixey and Max Carey. When Rixey was elected to the Hall he was the second (to Warren Spahn) winningest left-hander in National League history. Sounds like a good reason to put a guys in, doesn’t it? Today, after Steve Carlton and Tom Glavine and others, Rixey is no longer second and his numbers pale in comparison to the men who went passed him in the last 50 years.  But, again, 50 years ago his numbers weren’t as bad as the sound today. Carey was the all-time leader in stolen bases in the National League (using the modern definition of stolen base) when he went into the Hall. Again, not a bad reason to put a man in the Hall. But today after Tim Raines and Vince Coleman and Lou Brock, Carey isn’t even close to number one. But 50 years ago no one knew that he was going to be sent sliding down the stolen base ladder.

It seems to me that you can’t exclude from the Hall those people who were among the finest players of their day just because their stats are now not as impressive as they were 50 or 75 or 100 years ago.  To stick with Hooper, he was one of the better outfielders of his day, a major factor in five World Series champions (although he did not play in the 1919 Series), and a decent hitter. Is that a Hall of Famer? Maybe. And Hooper is one of those maybe’s for me. He’s certainly not the best choice ever made, but he’s not a totally awful one either. That defines “middle rung” to me.

Feel free to disagree.

1912: The Man from Denmark

August 9, 2012

Olaf Henriksen in his rookie season (1911)

As most of you know, the Boston Red Sox won the 1912 American League Pennant, their first since 1904. Then they went on to win the World Series in dramatic fashion. Their outfield of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper consistently ranks as one of the premier outfields in Major League history and is frequently ranked as the best in the Deadball Era. With an outfield like that the backup outfielder tends to get lost in the shuffle. Olaf Henriksen, the backup in 1912, is one of those, even though he had a critical hit in the final game of the 1912 World Series.

Henriksen was born in Denmark in 1888, the only Major Leaguer born in Denmark. He was still young when his family arrived in the United States. He discovered baseball, liked it, and best of all was good at it. He joined the New England League team in Brockton, Massachusetts and by 1911 was with the Red Sox. He was the backup outfielder in an era when there tended to be only one. He was considered primarily a left fielder (Lewis’s replacement), he actually played very little in the field, becoming something of a specialty pinch hitter. He was good at it, managing a .449 OBP in 1911, still the second highest OBP by a rookie in the 20th Century. He surpassed that in 1912 with an OBP of .457, and set his career high in 1913 with an OBP of .468. 

A left-handed batter (and thrower), Henriksen had little power, hitting one home run in his entire career (1914). In only 487 at bats he walked 97 times, struck out 73, scored 84 runs, and had 48 RBIs. He managed 22 games in center field, 42 in left, and  61 in right field with 31 games in the field in 1916 being his high, much of his field work coming after the trade of Speaker to Cleveland.

Despite being from Denmark, he was nicknamed “Swede”. Apparently that was a generic nickname for Scandinavians in the era. As far as I can tell, Henriksen never went out of his way to correct others concerning his origins. He seems to have been both well liked and relatively quiet. His big moment came in the final game of the 1912 World Series, when he slugged a pinch hit double in the seventh inning tying the score. Boston ultimately won the game and the Series in extra innings. It was his only at bat of the Series.

His career was short, ending after the 1917 season. He hit .083 with an OBP of only .267. He was 29 and through. After a couple of years and a few odd jobs, he picked up the coaching job at Boston College. He managed the team from 1922-1924.

Henriksen is one of those players that go lost in the mists of time. But he was the kind of player that teams need in order to win consistently. He got on base a lot, made the most of his playing time, and was one of the pioneering career pinch hitters. You see that last quite a lot now. Guys like Manny Mota made their name pinch-hitting. Henriksen was, in some ways, their grandfather.

1912: Opening Day

April 11, 2012

Mae West in 1912

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of Opening Day in 1912. It was a different world then. William Howard Taft was President of the United States (although Woodrow Wilson would win the election in November). Most people still rode the train or horse and buggy. Wyatt Earp and Cole Younger were still alive, as was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria whose death two years later would spark a World War. Al Capone, Frank Nitti, and Elliot Ness were nobodies. Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin were writing ragtime music and Geroge Gershwin was still four years from publishing his first song. No one had ever heard of John Wayne and Mae West was just getting started on Broadway, but Mary Pickford was America’s darling and Lillian Gish was just beginning a career that would make her a great star. She’d hitched her ambitions to a genius named D.W. Griffith who was starting to toy with the idea of making a movie two hours long, an unheard of length for a “flicker”. Molly Brown wasn’t yet “unsinkable” because the Titanic was still three days from be introduced to icebergs.  George Gipp (of “win one for the Gipper” fame) had yet to play a down for Notre Dame and Babe Ruth had not yet appeared in a Red Sox uniform.

For Boston, 1912 would be an exceptionally good year. Down 2-1 in the ninth inning, the Red Sox would storm back to win on Opening Day. By the end of the season they would win 105 games, finish first by 14 (over Walter Johnson and the Senators), then win a famous World Series over the Giants four games to three (with a tie). The outfield of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper is considered one of the finest, if not the finest, Deadball Era outfield. Both Speaker and Hooper eventually made the Hall of Fame. Although Hooper had a down year in 1912, Speaker was tremendous and Lewis had a fine season. Jake Stahl managed and played first. He joined Speaker and third baseman Larry Gardner as .300 hitters. Steve Yerkes and Heinie Wagner rounded out the infield and Bill Carrigan did the bulk of the catching. Joe Wood hit .290 and won 34 games. Hugh Bedient and Buck O’Brien both won twenty and Charley Hall and Ray Collins (not the old actor) won in double figures.

The National League saw the New York Giants score 18 runs and pound out 22 hits as the started the season with a victory over Brooklyn. John McGraw’s team would win 103 games and finish 10 ahead of Pittsburgh. As with most McGraw teams, it was the pitching that stood out. Christy Mathewson won 23 games and walked only 34 in 310 innings of work. Lefty Rube Marquard won even more games with 26, while Jeff Tesreau, Red Ames, and Doc Crandall won between 11 and 17 games. Tesreau managed to cop the ERA title. In the field, catcher Chief Meyers had a terrific year, hitting over 350, winning an OBP title, and slugging almost .450. The infield of Fred Merkle, Larry Doyle, Art Fletcher, and Buck Herzog (first around to third )feathured two .300 hitters and two men with 10 or more homer runs (Merkle and Doyle in each case). The outfield featured Fred Snodgrass, who would make a memorable gaffe in the World Series, Josh Devore, Beals Becker, and Red Murray. None of them hit .300, but Murray slugged over .400.

Other noteworthy achievements of the season in the NL included Heinie Zimmerman winning the NL batting, slugging, home run, and OPS titles. Honus Wagner picked up the RBI title while Cincinnati leftfielder Bob Bescher swipped 67 bases to win the stolen base crown. Larry Cheney tied Marquard for the league lead in wins while Grover Cleveland Alexander picked up the strikeout title with 195. Nap Rucker of Brooklyn and Marty O’Toole at Pittsburgh each had six shutouts. The league lead in saves was six, turned in by Slim Sallee of the Cardinals. The Chalmers Award (the 1912 version of the MVP) went to Larry Doyle over Meyers (got me). 

In the American League Ty Cobb hit .409 to win the batting title. He also picked up slugging and OPS titles, while Speaker won the OBP title. Frank Baker won the home run title and tied with Speaker for the RBI lead. Clyde Milan of Washington won the stolen base crown with 88 steals. Walter Johnson won both the ERA and strikeout titles at the same time he put up 33 wins, one less than Wood. Wood also had 10 shutouts, while Ed Walsh at Chicago picked up 10 saves. It should not surprise you that Speaker picked up the AL’s Chalmers Award.

“Non-Essential”

March 30, 2012

Harry Hooper during the 19-teens

In April 1917 the United States entered the Great War on the side of the Entente (Britain, France, Russia) and sent men off to “make the world safe for Democracy” (nice try, fellas). The federal government began to mobilize American society to fight a war unlike any the US had ever faced. It would take a million men to fight it and even more to provide the materiel (yep, that’s spelled right. Materiel is a particular military spelling of material whose origins escape me.), goods, services, morale boosting necessary to fight a modern industrial war. The basic government slogan was “fight or work.” Unfortunately, most people didn’t see playing baseball as work so Major League Baseball was declared “non-essential” and the 1918 season was scrapped.

Of course baseball struck back. The leadership of both leagues argued that the sport provided a morale boost for both men on their way to France and to the munitions and shipyard workers who were supporting the troops, so it should be allowed. The government relented and authorized a shortened season that had to end by Labor Day (2 September) except for a World Series that could be held immediately after. That gave the game a shortened season (126 games for the American League champion and 129 for the National League champion) and led to some funny looking numbers.

With a lot of good players off at either war or war work, the Boston Red Sox won the AL pennant by 2.5 games over Cleveland. They failed to lead the AL in any major category in hitting (leading only in sacrifices). They, in fact, finished dead last in hits with 990. Individually Babe Ruth, now splitting time between the outfield and the mound, tied for the league lead with 11 home runs and led the AL with strikeouts with 58. Pitching was a different story. Boston lead the league in complete games, least hits allowed, shutouts, least runs allowed, and was seond in ERA. Both first baseman Stuffy McInnis and third baseman Fred Thomas spent some time away from the team while serving in the military, but were available for the World Series. Dave  Shean (who lead the AL in sacrifices) and Everett Scott rounded out the infield with Hall of Famer Harry Hooper in right field, Amos Strunk in center, and Ruth in left (with George Whiteman spelling Ruth on days he pitched). Sam Agnew and Wally Schang took care of the catching. The staff had Ruth, Carl Mays, Sam Jones, and Joe Bush starting double figures games and Dutch Leonard who also started 16 games but was gone to the military by the end of the season.

They got to face the Chicago Cubs in the Series. Chicago, which hadn’t won since 1910 had put together a good team through trades and won a pennant by 10.5 games. Fred Merkle (of 1908 infamy), Rollie Zeider, Charlie Hollocher, and Charlie Deal were the infield with Max Flack, Dode Paskert, and Les Mann doing the outfield work, while old-time Phillies catcher Bill Killefer did the backstop work. The staff consisted of Hippo Vaughn, Claude Hendrix, Lefty Tyler, and Phil Douglas as the starters with Paul Carter as the man out of the bullpen. Expected ace Grover Cleveland Alexander was off in the army after only three games. As with Boston, the stars were on the mound (although the team lead the NL in runs scored). Chicago led the NL in shutouts, least runs allowed, and in strikeouts.

It was a terrific Series, with Boston winning in six games. No team scored more than three runs in a game, no game was decided by more than three runs (a 3-0 shutout win by Chicago in game five). Four games (1, 3, 4, and 6) were decided by one run. Ruth won two games (Mays the other two for Boston), including game one. In doing so he stretched his consecutive scoreless inning streak. It stayed until game four’s eighth inning when Chicago got two runs (both earned). The record lasted until Whitey Ford slid passed it in 1960. There were no home runs and only Cubs backup second baseman Charlie Pick and Boston’s Schang hit over .300 (Schang led all hitters at .444).

Maybe 1918 was “non-essential” but it produced a good pennant race in the AL. It also produced a fine World Series. All-in-all not a bad way of diverting a wartime populace from the tragedy of World War I.

Hot Stove League 1912 (AL)

January 5, 2012

Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper about 1912

Today we baseball junkies get our November-February fix by engaging in what’s called “The Hot Stove League”. It was no different 100 years ago. Here’s a few things the 1912 American League fan had to be discussing in January 100 years ago.

Could the Athletics repeat? The Philadelphia Athletics were two-time defending champions. Could they make it three in a row? No one ever had in the American League. We know the answer is “no.” Chief Bender had a down year, rookies Herb Pennock and Stan Coveleski (future Hall of Famers) didn’t do much (Coveleski only pitched 21 innings).

If not, who could take them? Boston had finished fifth in 1911, but  Jake Stahl took over as manager (and had a good year at first base), the outfield of Harry Hooper, Tris Speaker, and Duffy Lewis became arguably the finest Deadball Era outfield, third baseman Larry Gardner had a good season (better than Hooper’s), and Smokey Joe Wood won 30 games.

 Was Walter Johnson a fluke? After three so-so seasons, Johnson put together two 20 win seasons in 1910 and 1911. Fans had to wonder if he could continue. Short answer? Yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911, could Ty Cobb do it again? Again the answer turned out to be yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911 and losing the batting title to Cobb, could new guy Joe Jackson hit .400 in 1912 and win the batting title? Jackson slipped to .395, but led the AL in triples.

Would the team in New York, which had finished second in 1910 and slipped back to sixth in 1911 under now ousted manager Hal Chase recover or continue to slide. They dropped all the way to last place in 1912 with Chase still at first and sulking (among other things). He did lead the team in RBIs with 58.

And finally would Chicago pitcher Ed Walsh’s arm fall off? Walsh led the AL in games pitched in 1907, 1908, 1910, and 1911. Could he do it again? He could. He pitched in 62 games, starting 41, completing 32, and pitching 393 innings (read that last number closely).  Apparently the arm stayed attached, but the toll finally got to him. He developed a sore arm in 1913 and his career was effectively over.

Part of the joy of baseball is actually the offseason. The speculation, the anticipation, the questioning all make for a lot of fun. I love it, I hope you love it, and I’m sure fans 100 years ago loved it too.

1910:Red Sox Postmortem

September 9, 2010

In 1909 Fred Lake left the managerial job with the Red Sox to go across leagues to the Doves. The team was awful and Lake was fired, never returning to manage in the Major Leagues. His replacement, Patsy Donovan, had better luck. The Red Sox finished fourth in 1910, at 81-72, 22.5 games out of first. That was down from a third place finish in 1909.

It wasn’t the hitting that was the problem. Every Sox starter except catcher Bill Carrigan hit over .250 (and Carrigan hit .249). The team was third in batting average, runs scored, and RBIs. They were second in slugging and first in home runs with first baseman Jake Stahl leading the American League with ten. In stolen bases they finished fourth. Tris Speaker hit .340, good for third in league.

The bench wasn’t anything special. Four players managed 20 or more games, two hitting under .200. But backup infielder Clyde Engle hit .264, stole 12 bases, and ended up with more hits than regular third baseman Harry Lord.

The weakness was the pitching. Eddie Cicotte (of 1919 Black Sox infamy) led the team with a 15-11 record. And his record is typical for the staff. Of the seven men who started double figures games, four had winning percentages of .550 or less, the definition of a mediocre staff. On the positive side all of them had more innings pitched than hits allowed and more strikeouts than walks, except for Frank Arellanes, who started 13 of 26 games. At 26, it was the second youngest staff in the AL (behind New York) so there was time for improvement.

All in all the BoSox are not a bad team. In 1911 they will fall back a spot,costing Donovan his job, but will win the AL pennant and the World Series in two years. You can see that coming if you look at the hitting. Speaker, Larry Gardner, Duffy Lewis, and Harry Hooper are all there.  As for the pitching, it needed work. It got it. By 1912, only three of the 1910 major starters would still be around.