Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Duffy’

Losing at .400

October 25, 2018

Ed Delahanty

It’s been a long time since anyone won a batting title by hitting .400. You have to go all the way back to Ted Williams in 1941 to find one. But you know what’s kind of odd? There are a handful of guys who’ve hit .400 and not won the batting title. Here’s a quick list of them.

First, one of my caveats. This includes on the period since the beginning of the National League in 1876. In the old National Association there were a couple of occasions when someone hit .400 and didn’t win the batting title, but those were incredibly short seasons. There surely were players who hit over .400 in the even older Association of the 1860s and didn’t win a title, but we don’t have enough information to determine them. So it’s at least easier to find the players since 1876 (OK, I’ll admit to being lazy).

1887-Tip O’Neill wins the American Association (it was a Major League in 1887) batting title at .435. Runner up Pete Browning hit .402.

1894-There was something in the water in Philadelphia in 1894 when the entire City of Brotherly Love outfield, and their primary outfield sub all hit .400. Billy Hamilton hit .403. Ed Delahanty hit .405. Sam Thompson hit .415. That was the starting outfield in Philly. Super sub Tuck Turner hit .418. And none of them won the batting title. Boston outfielder Hugh Duffy managed to hit a still record .440 to take the batting title.

1895-Delahanty again hit over .400, this time coming in at .404. Again he lost the batting title. This time to fellow Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett who hit .405.

1896-This time Hughie Jennings hit over .400 by ending up at .401. Burkett again won the title. He managed .410.

That does it for the 19th Century and I suppose I ought to take a moment to remind you that the National League moved the mound back to 60′ 6″ just before the big outbreak of .400 hitting in 1894. Some hitters adjusted more quickly and obviously a lot of pitchers didn’t.

1911-Shoeless Joe Jackson hit .408, which is the record high in the 20th Century for a hitter that didn’t win a batting title. He lost to Ty Cobb who hit .420.

1922-Cobb was on the other end of hitting .400 and losing the batting title in 1922. He hit .401 and lost to George Sisler who hit .420. Interestingly enough, Rogers Hornsby won the National League title at .401. Had he been in the American League, he would have also joined the batting title losers who hit .400.

Thought you might like to know.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1913

March 3, 2015

With Black History Month over, it’s time to return to my more mundane ravings. Here’s a look at My Own Little Hall of Fame and the Class of 1913. Remember, this is a look at how the Hall of Fame would differ if it began in 1901 and the writers of the era were dealing only with the info available to them in 1913 (and other years) rather than the info available in the mid-1930s or currently.

 

Jake Beckley

Jake Beckley

Jacob “Eagle Eye” Beckley was a southpaw first baseman who played for five teams over a 20 year career lasting from 1888 through 1907. He is the all time leader in triples. His 2934 hits and 473 doubles are both second among retired Major League players.

Hugh Duffy

Hugh Duffy

Winner of two batting titles, including a century high .440 among Major Leaguers, Hugh Duffy led the league in home runs and hits twice, and in doubles once. He helped his team to five National League pennants and an 1892 win in the split season postseason series.

John J. McGraw

John J. McGraw

John Joseph McGraw was a starring third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s. Twice he led the National League in both runs and walks. He helped lead his team to three National League pennants and the 1896 Temple Cup victory. He later managed the National League New York Giants to five pennants and one World Series championship.

Now the commentary:

1. Beckley was an easy choice based on my premise that we’re doing this in 1913 with info available then. He has those big raw number stats that impressed writers and fans of the 1913 era. By this point he no longer leads the Major Leagues in triples (he’s now fourth). The comment about hits and doubles is worded funny because Honus Wagner was getting close to retirement and eventually passed Beckley in both. I didn’t feel like taking the time to see if he’d done so by 1913 (I presume he had in hits, but not sure about doubles) so I made a stipulation that was true, but possibly misleading.

2. Hugh Duffy was also an easy choice for pretty much the same reasons. He was a major player on five teams that won the NL pennant and his 1894 average was known (although there was some dispute about the exact number). In one of their articles, the guys at the wonderful Hall of Miller and Eric (who, ironically, just eliminated Beckley from their hall–they use modern stats I’m not allowed to use) pointed out that hitting .400, like hitting 61 home runs or getting an extraordinary number of strikeouts, tends to come very close to a period when there is a significant change in the game (like creating the mound or juicing the ball ala 1930 or expansion in 1960). In Duffy’s case that’s certainly true. His two batting titles occur in 1893 and 1894 (the move to a mound occurred in 1893) so his titles can be seen as a direct result of the move to 60’6″. I don’t think the writers of the era saw that as a problem. At least I can’t find one who says “Duffy benefitted from a new rule and his numbers are tainted” or some such comment. So I ignored that as a factor in his election. This issue will pop up again with Nap LaJoie, whose 1901 average is way out of line with the rest of his career (which is very, very good) and occurs with the first year of the American League.

3. And now, McGraw. As a player McGraw is, at best, a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. His numbers are fine, but they are fine for a very short period of time. So the counting numbers (hits, runs, walks, etc.) aren’t all that high and most of the percentages we use today weren’t around yet (batting average being an obvious exception). But as Kortas pointed out when I mentioned my John McGraw problem it is the Hall of Fame and in the period 1905-1913 there are only a few people in baseball more famous than John McGraw. His team was the toast of New York. They’d been in three consecutive World Series’ (and lost them all). Outside guys with names like Cobb, Wagner, Mathewson he was easily the most well-known man in the sport. It seemed that eventually the writers would compound the playing numbers with the managing and notoriety and put McGraw in the 1901 version of the Hall of Fame. The end of the 1913 pennant run seemed like a good time to do it.

4. I’ve noticed that the statistical information available is becoming more stable. By that I mean you can start finding the same types of stats (AB, H, R, etc.) each time. Also, the numbers associated with those statistics are beginning to firm up. There are still differences in the numbers, but the differences are getting closer and something like a consensus is starting. It makes it a bit easier to determine who makes the list.

5. New everyday players arriving on the 1914 list include both Joe Kelley and Jimmy Collins. Collins was considered, at the time, one of the two or three top third basemen ever, which will certainly enhance his chances. Kelley seems to be much less well known, not as highly thought of as others. I’m not sure yet what will happen with him. That pushes my holdover list to 21 and either someone will have to be added to the Hall or at least one player must be dropped.

6. Among pitchers Joe McGinnity is added to the 1914 list while Thomas Lynch, an umpire and later President of the National League, joins the contributors list. Adding Lynch will give me 11 contributors and someone either makes the Hall of gets dropped. Currently I’m leaning toward not adding a contributor in 1914, putting Lynch in the holdover pool, and dropping Bud Hillerich, the Louisville Slugger guy. Lynch will be the first umpire that I’ve found out enough about (mostly because of his NL Presidency) to make him seem a viable candidate. Will let you know.

 

 

Brew Crew

September 20, 2012

Kangaroo Davy Jones, an origianal Brewer

Way back in 1901, Ban Johnson set up the American League as a rival to the National League. Of course you know that it worked. But not exactly everything worked. One of the more innovative things Johnson did was set up a team in Milwaukee. That was one of the things that didn’t work.

The 1901 Brewers were a group of free agents, league jumpers, has beens, and never were types. Most of them you’ve never heard of, even once. A couple were footnote players, one was a star.

The star was Hugh Duffy. He was the player-manager. He was also 34 and over-the-hill. He did well enough in 1901, hitting .302 with 45 RBIs, and an OPS of .780 (good for second on the team).  His outfield mates were a pair of never was types. Bill Hallman was 25, a rookie, and a player who managed to play parts of four seasons, only two of them back-to-back (1906 and 1907). Irv Waldron was also a rookie. He hit .297 for Milwaukee, was sent to Washington where he hit .322 (for a  season average of .311), then disappears from the Majors for good. He played as late as 1911 in the minors, but never got back to the big leagues. He was with Milwaukee just prior to the American League stepping up in 1901 and seems to have been a carry over from the minor league days. He does reasonably well in the post 1901 minors so I have no idea why he never got back to the Majors.

The infield consisted of (from first around to third) John Anderson who had a career year hitting .330 with an OPS of .836 and 95 RBIs, Billy Gilbert, Wid Conroy, and Jimmy Burke. None of those three hit above .270 (Gilbert) or had an OPS above .666 (Conroy).

The catcher was Bill Maloney. He hit .293 with no power, no speed, no home runs, few runs, less RBIs, and only seven walks for the season.

The bench consisted of a bunch of players (it was a long roster for 1901) that went on to nothing. The exception here is Davy Jones (obviously not the singer). He ended up with Detroit and became the third (and later fourth) outfielder on the Ty Cobb/Sam Crawford Tigers that went to three consecutive World Series’.

The pitching consisted of five right-handers and one southpaw who started all of four games. None was particularly effective. Ned Garvin led the team with a 3.46 ERA (which is huge in the Deadball Era), 122 strikeouts, and an ERA+ of 104. For all that he was 8-20. Bill Reidy at 16-20 was the “ace”. It was also the only year Reidy had more than seven wins.

So what did this get them? Last place (you had that figured, right?). They ended up dead last in an eight team league in runs, hits, triples, average, slugging, OPS, total bases, and even in hit by pitch. They managed to climb out of the cellar by being seventh in on base percentage. On the mound they were last in complete games (a bigger deal in 1901 than today), shut outs, and earned runs given up. They were next-to-last in runs, hits, and walks. By compensation, they did finish third in total strikeouts.

All that also got them terrible crowds. Even in Milwaukee, a town without Major League baseball since 1891 (There had been three teams in Milwaukee in the 19th Century. None of them lasted more than a year.) this team failed to draw well. But Ban Johnson had a solution to the problem. He shifted the franchise to St. Louis in 1902 where they became the Browns. Right now they are in contention for both the American League East title and the wildcard because after a stint in St. Louis they moved on to Baltimore where they are currently the Orioles. That’s a long way in both miles and quality from the original Brewers.

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Hugh Duffy

July 11, 2012

Hugh Duffy while at Boston

1. Hugh Duffy was born in Rhode Island in 1866.

2. He began playing in the New England League, a Minor League, in 1886 and remained there in 1887.

3. In 1888 he joined the National League’s Chicago team (now the Cubs) hitting .282 in 71 games. The average, along with his home run total (7), was third on the team. He had only nine walks.

4. In 1890 he jumped to the Player’s League, leading the fledgling league in both hits and runs.

5. In 1891 he won his only RBI title with Boston in the American Association.

6. With the folding of the Association, Duffy joined the Boston Beaneaters (now the Braves) in 1892. He remained there through 1900.

7. With him in the outfield (along with fellow Hall of Famers Billy Hamilton and Tommy McCarthy), Boston won four pennants (1891-92 and 1897-98), finished second in 1899, and finished third  in 1894. They participated in the 1897 Temple Cup series losing in five games. 

8. His career year was 1894. He hit .440 (still an all-time record for highest batting average for a  regular), led the National League in home runs with 18, in doubles with 51, in hits with 237, and in total bases with 374. His OPS was a league leading 1.196. As noted above the team finished third.

9. In 1901 he managed the American League’s Milwaukee Brewers (now the Baltimore Orioles). He hit well but the team finished last with a 48-89 record. He wasn’t asked back for a second year.

10. He stayed in Milwaukee in 1902 and 1903 managing the minor league team. In 1904 he took over as player-manager of the Philadelphia Phillies doing more managing than playing. The Phils finished eighth in 1904, fourth in 1905, and fourth again in 1906 his final season as manager.

11. After retirement he coached at Harvard, managed in the minors, then had short stints managing both the White Sox (1910-11) and Red Sox (1921-22). After that he turned to scouting. He remained a scout until 1953 and died in 1954.

12. His career number include a .324 average, a .386 on base percentage, a .451 slugging percentage, and a OPS of .837 (OPS+ 112). He had 2293 hits, scored 1554 runs, hit 106 home runs, had 119 doubles, and knocked in 1302 RBI all in 7044 at bats. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Veteran’s Committee.

1910: White Sox Postmortem

August 27, 2010

By the end of August 1910 the Chicago White Sox were out of pennant contention in the American League. Depending on exactly how many ties needed to be made up they were eliminated on 29 August or about a week later. When the season was over they finished 68-85, 35.5 games out of first.

You can’t say the Sox weren’t trying to fix the problem. Manager Hugh Duffy used 25 position players (and pitcher Doc White put in 14 games in the outfield), an AL leading number. The problem was that most of them weren’t all that great. Of the bench players who got into 20 or more games (12 of them), only five hit above .200. Harry Lord, who took over as shortstop after coming over in a trade, had the best year hitting .297 (20 points better than the next bench player), stealing 17 bases, and showing a .370 slugging percentage.

The starters weren’t any better. Outfielder Patsy Dougherty led the starters with a .248 batting average and 43 RBIs, while center fielder Paul Meloin led in slugging with .324. Second baseman Rollie Zeider stole 49 bases to go with 62 walks. The problem was that first baseman Chick Gandil (yes, that Chick Gandil), starting shortstop Lena Blackburn (of baseball mud fame), and right fielder Shano Collins all hit under the Mendoza line. Obviously it wasn’t much of a hitting team finishing last in average, slugging, and hits. There were a couple of hopeful signs. Only Dougherty was over 30 (33) and rookie Collins had 10 doubles and 10 stolen bases in only 62 hits.

The hope lay in the pitching staff. With all that weak hitting, the pitching was going to have to carry the team and some of it actually held up. Doc White still had a few wins in him going 15-13 with more innings pitched than hits allowed and more strikeouts than walks. Frank Lange pitched in 23 games, 15 of them starts. He managed 9-4 and also had more innings than hits and more strikeouts than walks. Then there was Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. Walsh went 18-20 over 46 games (36 of them starts and 33 of them complete games). In 370 innings (second in the league to Walter Johnson) he gave up only 242 hits. He walked 61 and struck out 258 men (again second to Johnson). He led the league with a 1.27 ERA. He was also only 29, so barring arm injuries he had a long career ahead of him at the end of 1910 (his injury came in 1913).

As a brief aside, stats like Walsh’s always fascinate me. He led the AL in ERA and had a losing record. That’s happened a few times. I remember Nolan Ryan doing it while at Houston. It shows how unrelated those two stats are even though they are frequently linked.

Unlike the Browns, there are a few promising things about the White Sox. Walsh is good, Collins looks promising, and Lord just might pan out (He went to third in 1911 and had a few good years). So it least there was a little something to build on in Chicago.

Opening Day, 1910: Chicago (AL)

April 17, 2010

Ed Walsh

This is going to sound a little redundant, but Chicago was, like Boston, Philadelphia, and Detroit, one of the mainstays of the American League since its start. The White Stockings won the first AL pennant in 1901, then pulled off arguably the greatest World Series upset ever by knocking off the 1906 Chicago Cubs in six games. They remained close in both 1907 and 1908, but had dropped back to 20 games out in 1909. That set up wholesale changes in the team.

Out went the entire infield. In came four new players. Rookies Chick Gandil  and Rollie Zeider were now at first and second. Former bench player Billy Purtell took over third base, and another rookie, Lena Blackburn of baseball mud fame, was at short. Former starters Frank Isbell and Lee Tannehill were still around, but relegated to the bench.

The outfield was mostly new. Right fielder Patsy Dougherty remained. Newcomers were rookies Shano Collins and Pat Meloan at the other two spots. Collins was to remain until 1920.

The catcher remained Freddie Payne. Backups were Bruno Block and Billy Sullivan. Sullivan was the manager in 1909, replaced in the offseason by old-time outfielder Hugh Duffy. Sullivan stayed with the team the entire year, playing in 45 games. I’ve no idea how he and Duffy got along and if there was tension between them. If there was, no idea how it rubbed off on the rest of the team.

Little of the 1906 team remained among the hitters (only Sullivan, Isbell, and Dougherty), but the pitching staff was led by two veterans of the pennant winning team. Doc White (he was a practicing dentist in the offseason) was 11-9 in 1909, played 40 games in the outfield, and pinch hit. In 1910 he was expected to do better on the mound and keep up with the other aspects of his game (for 1910 he played 14 games in the outfield and hit .196). The other veteran was Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. He was 40-15 in 1908 and it took a toll on his arm. In 1909 he dropped to 15-11. He was still not fully recovered by 1910. Frank Smith and Jim Scott were holdovers from 1909 and Fred Olmstead, who had pitched n eight games the year before, became a starter.

The White Stockings were dropping fast in the standings. They moved to get younger, but it would take time for the rookies to become regulars. the pitching staff was a mixture of veterans and new guys and anchored by a man with a sore arm. Hugh Duffy would have his work cut out for him in 1910.

The Antithesis of Baltimore

March 25, 2010

Kid Nichols

There were two truly great teams playing in the National League in the 1890’s. Very few teams have been more unalike. The Orioles were loud, obnoxious, rowdy, obnoxious, dirty, obnoxious, full of fight (did I mention obnoxious?). Their counterparts were the Boston Beaneaters.

Unlike Baltimore, Boston had a tradition of winning teams, at least in the 1870s. The city could claim the last four National Association pennants and two of the first three National League pennants. They’d even won the only Player’s League championship.

After spending most of the 1880s outside the rarified air of pennant contenders, Boston got back in contention in 1889, then slid back in 1890 when the Player’s League raided them. One significant change occured in 1890, they brought in Frank Selee to manage the team. Selee was a minor league manager who had been incredibly successful and was brought on board to revamp the team. It worked.

The Beaneaters (as I’ve said before, what a terrible team nickname) were the antithesis of the Orioles. They played solid, fundamental, unspectacular baseball. They didn’t brawl, they didn’t fight. They hit well, they played good defense, and they pitched really, really well. Like Baltimore, they are credited with inventing the hit and run. I don’t know which, if either, actually did it. In 1891, ’92, and ’93 they won pennants and took the 1892 split season postseason series against Cleveland by winning five straight games after a first game tie. They slipped to third in 1894, fifth in ’95, and fourth again in ’96, then roared back to the top in both 1897 and 1898. They finished second in 1899 and finished the century in fourth.

Lots of players rotated through the Beaneaters during the final decade of the 19th Century, but the core of the team consisted of 10 or so players: first baseman Tommy Tucker, second baseman (and converted outfielder) Bobby Lowe, shortstop Herman Long, third baseman Billy Nash (who was replaced late in the run by Jimmy Collins), center fielder Hugh Duffy, the two left fielders Tommy McCarthy and Billy Hamilton, and pitchers Kid Nichols, Harry Staley, and Jake Stivetts. Of that crew Duffy, McCarthy, Hamilton, Collins, and Nichols (along with Selee) later made the Hall of Fame.

If John McGraw stood as the ultimate Oriole, the centerpiece of the Boston team was Kid Nichols. Along with Cy Young he is one of the greatest pitchers of the 19th Century. During the 1891-98 run he averaged 31 wins and 14 losses for a winning percentage of .688. He made the transition to 60’6″ and a mound easily, his record going from 35-16 to 34-14 at the change. In 1896, ’97, and ’98 he led the league in wins (you aren’t going to lead often if you have Cy Young in the league). For the century he was 310-167, a .650 winning percentage.

Like Baltimore, the Beaneaters didn’t do well in Temple Cup play, losing the only series (1897) they entered. As stated in earlier posts involving the Temple Cup, first place teams tended to take the games as exhibitons and figured that winning the regular season was enough. Boston was no exception.

These were the glory days of the National League team in Boston. The American League put a team in the city in 1901 and the Beaneaters waned about the same time. The new team, now the Red Sox, won and thus became the darlings of New England. The National League team faded in both the standings and in fans. By the 1950s it was in enough trouble it moved to Milwaukee. Although the new team in Milwaukee, and later in Atlanta, returned to glory, it was a sad end to a great franchise in Boston.

I hate to go out on a sad note. Late in their history, the Boston NL team, now called the Braves, called up a lefty pitcher named Warren Spahn. Put him together with Nichols and you get what is surely the best left-right combination produced by a single franchise in baseball history.

Triple Crown, II

March 18, 2010

Following up on the last post about the hitting triple crown,  I want to look at the two triple crown winners of the 19th Century. I would wager they are the most obscure of the entire lot of triple crown winners.

In 1894 Boston outfielder Hugh Duffy won the first triple crown in National League history. His numbers are in a bit of dispute, especially his batting average. No one disputes that whatever the numbers, Duffy wins the triple crown. Duffy was the center fielder for the Boston team in 1894. He hit .440 (All numbers in this post from Nemec’s book. Other sources give numbers that are slightly different.) with 18 home runs and 145 RBIs.  His closest competitors were Ed Delahanty and Sam Thompson at Philadelphia who both hit .407,  Bill Joyce at Washington and Duffy’s teammate Bobby Lowe who both had 17 home runs, and Thompson who had 141 RBI. So Duffy wins the triple crown, but doesn’t run away with anything except the batting title. With only one Major League in 1894, he stands alone atop the lists. What did it get his team? Third place behind John McGraw’s Baltimore Orioles and Monte Ward’s Giants.

The other 19th Century triple crown occurs way back in 1887, when pitchers were still pitching at 55′. That alone makes it unique. There were two leagues, the National League and the American Association. As a rule most scholars see the Association as the weaker of the two leagues, and in 1887  Detroit of the NL wins the “World Series”.  But the great individual season took place in the Association. James Edward “Tip” O’Neill (as far as I know, no kin of the late 20th Century American politician) played left field for the St. Louis Browns (now called the Cardinals). He’d been there since 1884 playing splendidly in each year except his first. In 1887 he peaked. He hit .435 with 14 home runs, and 123 RBIs. Additionally he slugged .692, had 19 triples, 52 doubles, 167 runs scored, 225 hits, 357 total bases, an on base percentage of .490, and an OPS of 1181. All those numbers led the Association. He won the batting title by 33 points, the home run title by four, and the RBI title by only five. In other words, O’Neill had a heck of a year. He led his team to the Association pennant, then had a weak series against National League champ Detroit in the postseason. He hit .200 with one home run (half the Browns’ total), and five RBI’s in 15 games. 

For all that excellence O’Neill has a tainted triple crown. His batting average leads the majors, but his 14 home runs would be tied for fourth in the National League (Bill O’Brien at Washington had 19) and his RBI total would be second in the National League behind Sam Thompson’s 166.

Both Duffy, who is a Hall of Famer, and O’Neill who isn’t, had excellent seasons (O’Neill is the only triple crown winner not in the Hall). Both are now largely forgotten, proving that winning the triple crown doesn’t guarantee a player eternal renown. Maybe it should.

Triple Crowns by team (using modern team name): Cardinals 4 (O’Neill, both Hornsby, Medwick), Red Sox 3 ( both Williams, Yastrzemski), Yankees 2 (Gehrig, Mantle), Braves 1 (Duffy), Tigers 1 (Cobb), Athletics 1 (Foxx), Phillies 1 (Klein), Orioles 1 (Robinson).

By position: Left Field 5 (O’Neill, Medwick, both Williams, Yastrzemski); Center Field 3 (Duffy,Cobb, Mantle); Right Field 2 (Klein, Robinson); Second Base 2 (both Hornsby); First Base 2 (Foxx, Gehrig); Shortstop. Third Base, Catcher, Pitcher 0.

By Decade: 1870s-none, 1880s-1, 1890s-1, 1900s-1, 1910s-none, 1920s-2, 1930s-4, 1940s-2, 1950s-1, 1960s-2, 1970s-2010-none.

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.

“Cry ‘Havoc…’

February 20, 2010

… “and let slip the dogs of war.”-William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”, Act III.

In the previous post I commented on the change in the pitching distance instituted in the National League in 1893. It ushered in the modern game by placing all the players where they currently play. It created havoc not only with the pitchers, but also with the hitters. That havoc reached its zenith in 1894.

Hitting numbers are crazy in 1894. I can’t think of a better word. Boston’s Hugh Duffy hit .440 (all stats are from David Nemic The Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Major League Baseball published in 1997, a book worth having), and hit 18 home runs. His slugging percentage was .694 and he had 237 hits. Boston finished third that season. But the biggest numbers were in Philadelphia.

The 1894 Phillies set a record with a team batting average of .349. Their slugging percentage was .476 for the team and they lead the league with 1732 hits. The outfield hit .400. Not just a single player, but the entire outfield hit .400. Center Fielder and Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton hit .404 with a .523 on base percentage (yes, that reads .523) and stole 98 bases. Stolen bases were figured differently in 1894 and included going from first to third on a single as a stolen base. The modern stolen base rule began in 1898 and stolen base totals dropped overnight. The number that sets Hamilton apart from everybody else is 192. That’s the number of runs he scored while playing only 131 games. That works out to 1.47 runs a game. So everytime Hamilton took the field, Philadelphia could count on one and a half runs. Left Fielder and Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty hit .407 with 199 hits, 147 runs, 131 RBIs, and a .585 slugging percentage. Right Fielder and fellow Hall of Famer Sam Thompson also hit .407 with a .686 slugging percentage, 141 RBIs and 27 triples. Even the substitute outfielder got into the act. Backup Tuck Turner hit a team leading .416 over 80 games with a .540 slugging percentage and 82 RBIs. First Baseman Jack Boyle was the weak hitter among the regulars netting only a .301 average.  Three subs (two backup catchers and a shortstop) played 40 or more games. One of them hit .346 while the other two managed to hit .294 and .255.

So what did all this offense get them? Fourth place, 18 games out in a 12 team league. League pitching was down in 1894 in general and in Philadelphia it was the same. Jack Taylor was the ace going 31-23 with a 4.08 ERA (good for fifth in the league) but the rest of the staff had ERA’s well over 5.00 with the team coming in at 5.63, 10th in a 12 team league.  They were ninth in strikeouts and sixth in hits.

By 1895 things began to calm down, only two men hitting over .400 and Hamilton scoring only 166 runs in 123 games (1.35 per game). But baseball was secure. The fans loved the new found offense.