Posts Tagged ‘Honus Wagner’

1908: Henry Clay Pulliam

September 20, 2018

Henry C. Pullliam

One of the more important, but most overlooked, results of the 1908 “Merkle Boner” was what happened off the field in its aftermath. It forever changed, and some argued shortened, the life of National League President Henry Clay Pulliam.

The future National League President was born in Kentucky in 1869, son of a tobacco farmer and named for one of the state’s most famous statesmen. He graduated from law school at the University of Virginia, became a journalist at the Louisville, Kentucky Commercial. Interested in politics, he ran successfully for the Kentucky state assembly and served a term. He came to the attention of Hall of Fame owner Barney Dreyfuss, who owned the Louisville Colonels of the American Association (a Major League at the time). Dreyfuss named him, first, team secretary (a position that would evolve into today’s General Manager), and later club President. While at Louisville, Pulliam signed future Hall of Famer Honus Wagner to his first major league contract.

When the National League contracted for the 1900 season, Dreyfuss and Pulliam moved their headquarters to Pittsburgh (Dreyfuss owned both Louisville and Pittsburgh under the “syndicate” rules of the day), taking with them Louisville’s primary players, including Wagner. It began the turn of the 20th Century Pirates dynasty that managed to get to the first World Series.

But by the first World Series, Pulliam was no longer with the team. He was well liked, considered knowledgeable about the sport, easy to get along with, and quite frankly a number of owners thought he could be easily manipulated. That got him elected to the presidency of the NL in 1902.

His first job was to end the “war” with the fledgling American League. Although Cincinnati owner Gerry Herrmann was primarily responsible for proposing the terms of the “National Agreement” that ended the war, and Dreyfuss was the first proponent of the World Series, Pulliam was instrumental in seeing both implemented. He got along with AL President Ban Johnson (almost no one else did) and was able to ease Johnson’s acceptance of the National Agreement. As NL President he, along with Johnson and Herrmann, was part of the trinity that ran Major League Baseball for the next several years.

But all this led him into conflict with two men of great importance to baseball: Andrew Freedman, owner of the Giants, and the Giants manager John McGraw. Both men argued that Pulliam’s decisions on disputed issues always favored the Pittsburgh position. After an initial unanimous election as NL President, Pulliam’s annual reelection was by a 7-1 margin with New York casting the no vote (later Cincinnati joined New York to make it 6-2). This continued even after Freedman left the Giants and John T. Brush took over as New York team owner.

Always considered “high-strung” Pulliam began suffering health problems by 1906. Some sources indicate he was on the verge of a “nervous breakdown” from the strain of his job. Then came the Merkle Boner (see the post just below this one) and he was thrust into the center of a raging fight between the Giants and almost everyone else. By 1908 John T. Brush had taken control of the Giants and he was furious with both umpire Hank O’Day, who’d ruled the Merkle game a tie, and Pulliam for upholding the decision. For the next year Brush relentlessly hounded Pulliam calling him a cheat in the pay of the Cubs and other things that are not acceptable for a family oriented site like this.

John T. Brush

All of that got to Pulliam and he suffered something like a breakdown in late 1908. He took a leave of absence and didn’t return to NL headquarters until after the 1909 season began. Apparently unable to withstand the pressures of his job, he went to his apartment and shot himself on 28 July 1909. He died the next day still in his apartment. He is buried in Kentucky. John Heydler, his assistant took over the job as NL President.

Pulliam is in many ways a tragic figure. He was good at his job, apparently honest and well liked. But he was unable to withstand the constant strain of the position. It’s much too much to say that Brush and the Giants killed him, but their constant abuse certainly helped lead to the depression that ultimately led to his demise.

Pulliam’s final resting place (from Find a Grave)

 

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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: 4 July

July 5, 2018

Hooks Wiltse

I know I’m a day late, but I was busy yesterday. The fourth of July in 1908 saw one of the strangest games played in the season. It was the no-hitter that was almost a perfect game.

On 4 July 1908 the New York Giants were home against the Philadelphia Phillies for a Sunday double-header. In game one the Giants starter George “Hooks” Wiltse matched zeroes with Phillies hurler George McQuillan. Both were doing well. McQuillan was pitching a shutout through eight innings. He’d given up a handful of hits, walked none, and struck out one. But Wiltse was great that day. Through eight innings he’d struck out one, walked none, and allowed no hits, not a single one. He had a perfect game going into the top of the ninth.

He got shortstop Ernie Courtney (Courtney had replaced starter Mickey Doolin earlier in the game) to start the inning, then retired catcher Red Dooin (note it’s Dooin, not Doolin, as in Mickey) for the second out. That brought up pitcher McQuillan. The Phils apparently left McQuillan in to bat because the game was still scoreless. Wiltse threw a pitch, then another and another running the count to 2-2. The next pitch, one pitch from a perfect game plunked McQuillan to end the perfect game. One batter later Wiltse retired third baseman Eddie Grant to keep the no-hitter intact.

The Giants failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, necessitating extra innings. With the no-hitter still operative, Wiltse set down Philadelphia in order. In the bottom of the tenth, Art Devlin singled and a Spike Shannon single moved him along. Shortstop Al Bridwell then singled to plate Devlin with the winning run. For the game Wiltse (who moved his record to 10-8) gave up no hits, no walks, no runs, and one hit batsman. McQuillan gave up 1 run on 10 hits and no walks. The win put New York a game an a half behind National League leading Chicago and a half game behind second place Pittsburgh in the standings. Chicago played Pittsburgh that day and won 9-3. They held Honus Wagner to a walk in five trips to the plate.

Wiltse would go on to post a 23-14 record in 1908 with an ERA of 2.24 (ERA+108) with 118 strikeouts, 6.8 WAR, and nine hit batsmen. None of the nine was as significant as McQuillan on 4 July.

1908: The End of May

May 31, 2018

Continuing on with something like a detailed look at the 1908 Major League season, here’s a few notes on where things stood at the end of May.

Honus Wagner

The National League

By the close of May, 1908, the National League began to settle down into those teams that were going to do well and the have-nots. Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh had winning records. Boston, Brooklyn, and St. Louis didn’t. The Cubs were in first, 3.5 games ahead of New York, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. The Pirates were a bit further back at four games.

It was Honus Wagner’s year. In 1908 he would put together the greatest year by WAR of any hitter prior to the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York. By the end of May Wagner was at .311 (.840 OPS) with nine steals. He’d end the year at .354/.957 and 53 steals. He obviously got better as the season when on.

The American League

T Cobb (see, he could smile)

The American League

The junior circuit saw huge changes in May. At the end of April, Detroit, the defending AL champs, were in last place. By the end of May the Tigers had clawed their way into second place, percentage points behind New York. The Browns, Athletics, and Naps (Cleveland) were all over .500 and fifth place Cleveland was only 1.5 games out of first. The White Sox had a losing record (17-19), but were only three games back, with seventh place Washington only a half game further back. Only the Red Sox were more than five games out of the lead (they were 6.5 back).

Much of Detroit’s turn around was attributed to Ty Cobb, who’d gotten his average back over .300 (.302). Of further note, Washington was holding close despite Walter Johnson not yet having pitched. His first game was 11 June.

Next month there are a couple of specifics I want to get into, but this should give you some sense of what’s going on 110 years ago.

1908: The End of April

May 3, 2018

Orval Overall

In my continuing look at the 1908 season (110 years ago), here’s a quick summary of how things stood going into the month of May. By the end of April of the 1908 season, every team had at least 11 games in the bank (with a couple at 15). There were a handful of surprises.

In the American League, 1907 pennant winner Detroit stood at 3-9, the worst record in either league. Ed Summers had two of the team wins with Ed Killian logging the other. Both Ty Cobb and infielder Germany Schaefer were hitting well, but Sam Crawford was at .239 and leadoff man Matty McIntyre was at 1.82. Two of their three wins were extra inning affairs (both went 10 innings). They were dead last in runs scored (48-tied with Washington) and their staff had given up more runs than any team in either league (76). By contrast, the Highlanders (now the Yankees) were in first place with an 8-5 record, followed closely by the Browns at 9-6.

The National League was following form more closely than the AL. Defending champ Chicago was in first, followed closely by Pittsburgh and the New York Giants. As expected, the Cardinals were in last place 3-10 having scored just 29 runs. Orval Overall led the Cubs with three wins (at this point Three-Finger Brown had yet to rack up a win). Chick Fraser had also posted three wins. Fraser would end the season 11-9 while Overall settled for 15-11. Brown did have a save in game one. He would lead the NL with five in 1908 and end up 29-9. Harry Steinfeldt was hitting .310 and Frank Chance was only at .206 (and Joe Tinker was hitting .143 and Johnny Evers .242).

This was to be Honus Wagner’s greatest year, leading the league in almost every major category (and a few not so major categories also). By the end of April, 1908 he was hitting all of .233. He would get better.

So that’s how it stood at the end of April in 1908. The biggest surprise had to be the Tigers in last place, with the Highlanders leading the AL a close second.

110 Years On

January 5, 2018

Honus Wagner

We usually do anniversaries in years like 50 and 100, but this is the 110th anniversary of one of the more unique years in Major League Baseball history. So it seems like a good time to look back at one of Deadball Baseball’s most interesting years.

There are a number of reasons why it’s important to remember 1908 in baseball. The most common response is probably that it’s the last time, prior to 2016, that the Cubs actually won the World Series. It was the apex year for the Tinker to Evers to Chance Cubs (and let’s not forget Mordecai Brown’s pitching). They Beat up on Ty Cobb’s Detroit team in the Series, then faded in 1909 before winning a final National League pennant in 1910 (losing the Series to the Philadelphia Athletics).

It’s also a good time to remember John McGraw’s New York Giants. They were a terrific Deadball team, fighting the Cubs right to the end (and one game beyond) before bowing out. It was a typical McGraw team, great pitching, good hitting, lots of base running, and decent defense for the era. But it’s most famous in 1908 for the “Merkle Boner” play. In case you’ve forgotten, in a key game against the Cubs, Fred Merkle (first baseman) was on first when a two-out single scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Merkle didn’t go all the way to second and was subsequently called out on a force play to end the inning with the score tied. The replay (the “one game beyond” mentioned above) saw the Cubs win and head to the World Series while McGraw, the Giants, and Merkle headed home for the off-season. It is arguably the most famous Deadball Era play and was 110 years ago this season.

It was also the year of Honus Wagner. Read these numbers carefully. Wagner’s triple slash line was .354/.415/.542/.957 with an OPS+ of 205 with 308 total bases. All of those lead the NL in 1908. He also had 201 hits, 39 doubles, 19 triples, 109 RBIs, and 53 stolen bases. All of those also led the NL. He hit only 10 home runs, good for second in the league. All that got him 11.5 WAR, which also led the NL. In fielding he led all NL shortstops in putouts. It is unquestionably one of the greatest seasons ever by any player. Among WAR for position players it’s the highest ever until the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York in 1920. It still ranks tied for 11th even after 110 years. To put it in some context of the era, the NL average triple slash line was .239/.299/.306/.605 with an average OPS+ of 93 (meaning the average player was below average–chew on that for a minute). The .239 is a low for the NL ever, tying 1888 for an all-time low. For what it’s worth the American League in 1968 set the all-time low for either league with an average of .230 (and in 1967 they were at .236, also below the NL in 1908). In 1908 the AL also hit .239. Wagner was simply terrific in 1908.

So set back and enjoy the 2018 season. Hopefully it will be worth remembering 110 years from now. Unfortunately, I won’t be around to make comparisons.

The End of an Era: 1917

April 4, 2017

One hundred years ago this month, the United States went to war in the War to End All Wars. Well, it turned out World War I didn’t do what is was supposed to do when it came to ending warfare. But in baseball three great careers came to an end one hundred years ago.

Wahoo Sam Crawford

Sam Crawford was a Hall of Fame outfielder in both leagues. He is most famous today as the “other guy” in the outfield with Ty Cobb at Detroit. But he hit .309, had an OPS+ of 144, and compiled 75.1 WAR. He still holds the record for the most triples. He won two home run titles, three RBI titles, led the league in triples five times (of course he did), has a doubles title, and even led the league in runs scored once. His last game was 16 September 1917. He went 0-1.

Big Ed Walsh

Ed Walsh still holds the record for the lowest ERA among pitchers with a significant number of innings pitched at 1.82. He won two games in the 1906 World Series for the White Sox against the favored Cubs. With that all-time low ERA, he won only two ERA titles, but led the American League in innings pitched four times, had 40 wins in 1908, compiled 57 shutouts, had two strikeout titles, put up an ERA+ of 145 had a WHIP of exactly 1.000 (do you realize how hard that had to be?), and 63.2 WAR. He closed out his career 11 September 1917 with two innings against the Phillies. He gave up a solo run.

The Flying Dutchman

The greatest shortstop who ever shortstopped stepped on the field for the last time as a player 17 September 1917, the day after Crawford (and six days after Walsh). Honus Wagner’s career is as legendary as his baseball card (or maybe the card is actually more legendary). He won eight batting titles, four RBI titles, led the National League in stolen bases five times, won seven doubles titles, led the league in triples, runs, hits, total bases, OBP, OPS, slugging, and just about everything else at least once in his career (although he never led the NL in either homers or walks). He had 3420 hits, an OPS+ of 151, and 131 WAR. In context, his 1908 campaign is arguably the greatest single season any player ever had (well, maybe Ruth a time or two, but it’s close).

Take a second, as the season begins, to reflect back one hundred years. It was the finale for three Hall of Fame members. And for those curious, the biggest name rookie is probably Hall of Fame outfielder Ross Youngs.

 

The Black Wagner

August 6, 2014

 

John Henry Lloyd

John Henry Lloyd

I’d normally hold this post until my usual look at Negro League baseball in February, but with all the hoopla over Derek Jeter’s retirement and his continued passing of greats like Carl Yastrzemski and Honus Wagner on the all-time hits list, I’m beginning to see a lot of lists trying to fit Jeter into the pantheon of shortstops. You’ve probably seen a few of these. They rank the top 10 (or 5 or 20) shortstops and place Jeter where they think he fits on the list. I’ve seen him number one (which is silly) and as low as ninth (which is also silly). But all these lists (at least the ones I have  seen) manage to leave out one man: John Henry Lloyd.

Lloyd was born in Florida in 1884. He was a superior ballplayer and by 1906 had gotten the attention of the Cuban X-Giants, one of the premier black teams in the country. He was quick and agile, a natural shortstop who could hit. That made him much in demand so he wandered a lot from team to team. It wasn’t that people didn’t want him, it was, as he said, “where the money was.” He played with the Philadelphia Stars from 1907 through 1909 then spent years with the Leland Giants, the Lincoln Giants, and finally with Rube Foster’s American Giants. (Do you note a pattern with the use of the name “Giants” for Negro League baseball in the era?). In 1912 he became manager of the Lincoln Giants and in 1913 led his team to a win over the American Giants in an early version of the Negro World Series (which began officially in 1924).

He spent time also in Cuba beginning in 1907. Between 1908 and 1930 he spent at least parts of 12 seasons playing in Cuba. His team won three championships (1912, 1925, and 1926). He is credited with hitting .329 in Cuba, but the records are sketchy.

Equally sketchy are the US stats. Baseball Reference credits him with hitting .340 and slugging .452 in 810 documented games. Per 162 games, they credit him with 32 doubles, 11 triples, four home runs, and 23 stolen bases. Those numbers are admittedly very incomplete. By way of proof, his Wikipedia page lists his batting average as .343.

He stayed in baseball, coaching local teams as late as 1943. Lloyd died in 1964 (that’s on his gravestone, some reports state his death occurred in 1965) in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His turn in the Hall of Fame came in 1977.

How good was he? It’s tough to tell, but contemporary reports compare him to Wagner. When told of the comparison, Honus Wagner said he was honored to be considered in the same category with Lloyd. That’s a good enough endorsement for me.

 

 

John Henry Lloyd's final resting place

John Henry Lloyd’s final resting place

28 June 1914: the NL

June 27, 2014
Heinie Groh, complete with "bottle bat"

Heinie Groh, complete with “bottle bat”

And now concluding a look at where all three Major Leagues stood on 28 June 1914 (100 years ago tomorrow), the day that the assassination in Sarajevo set off the spark that led to World War I, here’s a view of what was going on in the National League.

The National League had the most games on Sunday, 28 June 1914. Both of the other leagues had three games, a double-header and a single game. The NL went with twin double-headers. In one set Pittsburgh played two in Cincinnati and in the other the Cubs took on the Cardinals in St. Louis.

the Reds managed to sweep both games from the Pirates. In game one they rallied late to take a 7-6 victory. Pittsburgh scored a run in each of the first three innings, got three more in the seventh, and led 6-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. Joe Conzelman, in relief of Babe Adams started the ninth, couldn’t get anyone out, and left the job to George McQuillan. McQuillan got two outs, but never got the last, as Cincinnati plated five runs, all earned, to win the game. Heinie Groh of “bottle bat” fame had two hits, scored a run, and drove in one.  But the big hero was center fielder Howard Lohr who had three hits (all singles) scored two runs, and drove in three.

In game two the teams went the other way. In the second, Groh singled, then came home on another single by left fielder Harry LaRoss. It was the only run that starter Marty O’Toole gave up, but Cincinnati starter Pete Schneider picked up his first win of the season by throwing a complete game shutout. For the day Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner went one for seven with an RBI, while fellow Hall of Fame player Max Carey went one for seven and scored a run.

In St. Louis, the two teams split the double-header. In game one the Cards routed Chicago 6-0. The hitting stars were Lee Magee and Dots Miller. Magee scored two runs and had an RBI while going two for two with two walks. Miller went two for four, but drove in three runs. Pitcher Bill Doak threw a complete game shutout.

In the nightcap, with the scored tied 2-2, the Cubs erupts for six runs in the fifth. Tommy Leach two runs, Vic Saier had three RBIs, and Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan had both a run and an RBI from the eight hole. With the score 8-2, St. Louis rallied for two runs in the eighth before Cubs ace Hippo Vaughn entered the game. He gave up one more run, but then shut down St. Louis to record his only save of the season and see Chicago pull off an 8-5 victory.  Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem had the plate for both games.

At the end of the day, Cincy stood in second place, five games behind the Giants, while the Pirates held down fifth place (and were the highest placed team with a losing record). The Cubs were in third and the Cards in fourth. By the end of the season the Cards had risen to third, the Cubs were fourth, the Reds had slipped to last, nine games below seventh place Pittsburgh.

One major trade occurred that day. The last place Braves sent Hub Perdue, a 2-5 pitcher to St. Louis. They got back first baseman Possum Whitted and utility outfielder Ted Cather. Whitted moved into the clean up spot for the Braves and Cather became part of an outfield platoon. Both men were instrumental in the “Miracle Braves” run to the NL pennant and the World Series triumph in 1914. The run began 6 July when Boston ran off seven of eight wins to start the climb to the top.

 

 

 

 

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Dummy Hoy

June 18, 2014
Dummy Hoy

Dummy Hoy

1. William Hoy was born in Ohio in 1862.

2. He contracted meningitis at age three. He lost his hearing and his speech. By trade he became a shoemaker. By preference, a ballplayer.

3. After a number of teams turned him down because of his “handicap”, he signed with Oshkosh (Wisconsin) in 1886. He stayed there through 1887.

4. The Washington Nationals (not the current team) signed him in 1888 to play the outfield. By this point the “Dummy” nickname was already attached to him. It’s hard to tell if he liked it or not, but he accepted and tolerated it. By this point he was so well-known by the nickname that he would insist fans call him by it rather than his given name. That season he led the National League in stolen bases.

5. In 1889 playing centerfield he threw out three runners at home in one game. It was a record that has been tied but not broken.

6. In 1890 he joined the Player’s League team in Buffalo. After the failure of the league, he went to St. Louis in the American Association where he led the league in walks.

7. He spent the 1890s playing with Washington, Cincinnati, and Louisville. While with the latter team, he played with Honus Wagner and roomed with Tommy Leach.

8. In 1900 he moved to the Western League (minor league) team in Chicago where he played one season. The next year Ban Johnson renamed the Western League the American League and began competing with the National League as a Major League. Hoy was the White Stockings (now White Sox) original right fielder. The Sox won the pennant. It was Hoy’s only championship.

9. His last big league season was 1902. He was back at Cincinnati in the NL and on 16 May came to bat against Dummy Taylor, the first meeting between the two premier mute players of the era. Hoy got a single.

10. By 1903 he was 41 and at the end of the line. He played for Los Angeles in the Pacific Coast League that season and retired.

11. For his career, his triple slash line is .288/.386/.374/.760 with an OPS+ of 110. He had 2048 hits, scored 1429 runs, had 725 RBIs, 248 doubles, 40 home runs, walked 1006 times, struck out 345, and stole 596 bases (most of them of the pre-1897 variety). His WAR (Baseball Reference.com version) is 32.5.

12. In 1961 he threw out the first pitch in game three of the World Series (in Cincinnati). He was 99 at the time and the oldest living Major League player. He died later that year. The baseball field at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC is named for him.

13. Dummy Hoy is supposed to be the man for whom umpires developed the hand signals for balls and strikes. There is actually no contemporary evidence this is true.