Posts Tagged ‘Jack Glasscock’

Finding the Best 19th Century Player not in Cooperstown

December 28, 2015

As I mentioned several years ago I had the great joy of being able for a long time to know that I was smarter than the Hall of Fame’s Veteran’s Committee. For years I argued that Deacon White was the best 19th Century player not in the Hall of Fame. Then the committee agreed with me and White was enshrined. Great for him, lousy for me. I now had to come up with a new choice. Well, I still haven’t quite honed in on the guy, but I’m now down to five guys that get my vote for best 19th Century player not in Cooperstown’s gallery of greats.
Knowing you just can’t wait to find out who they are (still your beating hearts, team) I’ll get to them in a few sentences. But first I want to make clear this is supposed to be the best 19th Century player not in the Hall of Fame, not the best 19th Century player eligible for the Hall of Fame. There’s a difference in those two categories and in makes a great deal of difference when you look at two of my five finalists (Five finalists? Geez, I feel like I’m doing the Miss Universe Pageant and know it’s Phillippines.). And remember this is players, not “contributors,” which to me is a different category. Also be aware that there is much speculation here because statistics for the period prior to 1870 are almost non-existent and it surely colors my choices. So having said all that, here we go (alphabetically).

Ross Barnes

Ross Barnes

Ross Barnes is one of the players who isn’t exactly eligible for the Hall of Fame. Barnes was a star prior to the founding of the National Association in 1871, then was arguably the best player in the Association. When the NA folded after 1875 he moved to the new National League, had a couple of good years then it was over (sources vary on if what happened was age, illness, or a rule change). MLB does not recognize the NA as a “Major League” so Barnes doesn’t have 10 years in the “Major Leagues”, which makes him ineligible for the Hall of Fame. None of that means he wasn’t a heck of a player. He, along with Lip Pike, Cal McVey, and maybe Andy Leonard all have the same problem. They have career too short in the NL to make the Hall of Fame. For my money Barnes is the best of that lot.

Bud Fowler

Bud Fowler

To be absolutely honest I don’t know if Bud Fowler is one of the five best 19th Century players not in the Hall of Fame or not. His stats are almost completely non-existent. I do know that with Frank Grant in the Hall of Fame, Fowler is the best black player of the era (George Stovey and Fleet Walker not withstanding). How good was he? No one really knows, but the stories of his ability are formidable. Some of them are surely exaggerated (but so are some of the stories about the white players). It is reasonable, after noting the quality of black ball players in the 20th Century, to presume that a fairly significant number of black players would be of Hall of Fame quality in the 19th Century. So far the Hall has let in Grant and exactly no one else who plays the bulk of his career in the 19th Century. And with the current Hall of Fame mantra that they’ve got all the Negro League players they should have there’s little chance of him being added to the Hall (Did you see any Negro Leaguers in the last two Segregation Era Veteran’s Committee ballots? Neither did I.). My candidate for best black player left out is Fowler. I wish I could prove he fits in the top five, but frankly it’s just a feeling.

Jack Glasscock

Jack Glasscock

Jack Glasscock is arguably the best shortstop not currently in the Hall of Fame and eligible; with suitable apologies to Bill Dahlen, who spends too much of his career in the 20th Century to make this list. Glasscock played from 1879 through 1895 and died in 1947. He hit .290, had an OPS+ of 112, 61.9 WAR (BBREF version) along with 22.3 dWAR, which is terrific for 19th Century players without gloves. He won a batting title (1890–the Player’s League year) and two hits titles (1889 and 1890), didn’t strikeout much, and led the league in a bunch of fielding categories during his career. So far he’s been totally overlooked by the Hall of Fame (he appeared on the ballot once, in 1936, and garnered all of 2.6% of the vote). The Hall really needs to look at him again.

Dave Orr

Dave Orr

Dave Orr is one of the best first basemen of the 19th Century. He has one significant problem. He doesn’t get 10 years in the Major Leagues. He plays from 1883 through 1890, almost all of it with the American Association (which was generally considered the weaker of the two big leagues), then suffers a stroke and is through. So he’s one of those players I mentioned as being ineligible for the Hall of Fame (the other is, of course, Barnes). He leads the league in hits twice, in triples twice, in RBIs once, wins a batting title, two slugging titles, and lead the league in total bases twice. His OPS+ is 162. In other words, he’s really good, but he doesn’t have the 10 years. It seems to me that a physically disabling thing like a stroke should be considered when a player is up for Hall of Fame consideration. They let Addie Joss in with nine years (although he died rather than be disabled) so there’s nothing sacred about 10 years if the Hall decided to waive it. In Orr’s case they should at least consider a waiver.

Joe Start

Joe Start

Then there’s Joe Start who might actually be the best of the lot. He’s a major player with the Atlantic when they dominated baseball (that’s Civil War era, people), then he plays in the National Association, hits .295, has an OPS of .665, an OPS+ of 110. Then at age 33 he moves to the National League where he hits .300, has an OPS of .699, an OPS+ of 124. His team (Providence) wins two NL pennants and wins the first postseason series against the American Association. He’s 41 when his team wins in 1884 and still a significant force on his team (although no longer the big star). He plays his last game at 43 (when he’s over the hill). His putouts, assists, and range indicate he was also a very good first baseman.

So there they are, the five guys that I’ve decided include the best 19th Century player not in the Hall of Fame (with something of a tip of the hat to Cal McVey as the last guy I eliminated). At this point only Glasscock and Start are strictly eligible (Fowler is technically, I guess, but the Hall doesn’t seem to think so). I suppose that both Barnes and Fowler could be put in as “pioneers” or something and Orr needs the Hall to waive its 10 year rule for an extraordinary circumstance. I’m still trying to put a finger on which of these five is the best. Will let you know when I figure it out.

 

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1908

October 1, 2014

Taking time away from my look at World Series game 7 shutouts, here’s this month’s installment of My Own Little Hall of Fame.

Pebbly Jack Glasscock

Pebbly Jack Glasscock

John Wesley “Pebbly Jack” Glasscock was a premier shortstop for several National League teams between 1879 and 1895. He won the National League batting title in 1890 and hit over .350 on one occasion. An exceptional shortstop he led his league in fielding percentage, assists, putouts, and double plays numerous times.

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

Edward Hugh “Ned” Hanlon played outfield from 1880 through 1892, including the 1887 Detroit world champions. He began managing as early as 1889 and took the reins of the Baltimore Orioles in 1892. With three National League pennants and two second place finishes he led the Orioles through 1898. In 1899 he moved to Brooklyn and led the Superbas to championships in both 1899 and 1900 before retiring after the 1907 season.

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick

James McCormick won 265 games pitching between 1878 and 1887, including 40 or more twice and 30 or more two other times. His 1885 and 1886 campaigns helped Chicago to postseason play. Along the way he led the National League in wins twice and in ERA once.

Now the commentary and answers to questions:

1. Who the heck is Jack Glasscock? Bet a lot of you are asking that. Glasscock is one of the best shortstops of the 19th Century and he’s been utterly overlooked (a lot like George Davis was until a few years ago–but Davis was better). He hit well enough but was, considering the era, an excellent fielder. He ended up hitting .290 and ended up with surprisingly good SABR numbers (baseball reference version of WAR at 61.9 and 22.3 on defensive WAR which is really good for the 1880s and ’90s plus he had an OPS+ of 112). I’m not allowed to use those numbers because they weren’t available in 1908, but it’s good to look at them after I’ve decided on whom I’m picking and find they agree with me.

2. Hanlon managed the most famous, if not the best, team of the 1890s. The Orioles are arguably one of the most famous of all teams. Their manager was an obvious option for this Hall. Additionally, when the main Baltimore players (minus McGraw) went to Brooklyn, Hanlon went with them and continued winning.

3. I thought long and hard about McCormick, but he had the best old-fashioned (as opposed to SABR) numbers available. His teams never won until late in his career but he managed to keep a couple of pretty mediocre teams in contention when he was at Cleveland. He also played in the Union Association and did well, but I’ve been unable to find out if the UA was considered a Major League in 1908, so I discounted his numbers. Again, after having chosen him I looked at his modern stats and discovered I had chosen pretty well (75.5 WAR from baseball reference, ERA+ of 118, and a decent WHIP).

4. Again I’m finding I have a list of very good players backlogged and some very good players that became eligible in 1908, but they’re just that, very good players, not true greats. Wilbert Robinson became eligible this time and I decided he failed to make a great enough impact as a player to make my Hall. We’ll see about his managerial credits later.

5. I’ve noticed that the stats are beginning to become more standardized. By that I mean I’m finally starting to get the same stats showing up each year. Much of the randomness of the numbers seems to be disappearing, but there’s still nothing even vaguely close to the completeness we have today. Also we’re beginning to see agreement on exactly who played back in the early part of the era. As a simple example, I’ve found a couple of team rosters which list all the players with one or two not having first names. Apparently they were so obscure that the records of the day didn’t know their first names. That’s a good way to explain what I mean when I say the nature of what is known is sometimes sparse, but it is getting better.

 

Arky

April 28, 2014
Arky Vaughan

Arky Vaughan

Joseph “Arky” Vaughan was the premier National League shortstop in the 1930s. He is one of only three NL shortstops to lead the league in hitting in the entire 20th Century (depending on what you do with Jack Glasscock, who played 32 games as short and a lot of other games at other positions and won a batting title in 1890, Vaughan is the second shortstop to lead the NL in hitting). There have been a handful in the 21st Century, but in the 20th there were only Honus Wagner (who did it multiple times), Vaughan, and Dick Groat. Know what else they have in common? They all were at Pittsburgh when they won their batting title.

Vaughan’s rookie season was 1932. He became the Pirates’ everyday shortstop immediately. Three years later he won a batting title, the first NL shortstop to do so since 1911. It would be 25 years before another shortstop duplicated the feat (although Luke Appling won a batting title in the American League the next season). He remained a stalwart of the Pittsburgh offense through 1941. Then he was traded to Brooklyn.

Having problems at third base (they had PeeWee Reese at short) the Dodgers moved Vaughan to third. He did pretty well, but his hitting suffered. In 1942 he split time between the two positions and his batting average went back up. In 1943, he had a run-in with manager Leo Durocher (who didn’t have a run-in with “Leo the Lip”?) and retired following the season.

He spent 1944 and 1945 doing war work and was enticed back to the Major Leagues in 1947 (after Durocher was banned). He had a good  season as a part-time player for the Dodgers. That season brought him is only postseason play. He pinch hit three times in the Brooklyn loss to New York, going .500 with a walk and a double. He had an off-year in 1948 and retired for good. He died a tragic death (he drowned in a boating accident) in 1952. It wasn’t until 1985 that he got into the Hall of Fame.

I had a lot of trouble discovering Vaughan’s attitude toward integrating baseball. As a Southerner he should have been opposed to playing with Jackie Robinson in 1947, but I find no evidence that he signed the petition asking for Brooklyn to drop Robinson. As a part-time player whose status with the team was in doubt in 1947, it’s possible he wasn’t even asked. I did find an article on  Vaughan’s induction into Cooperstown in which Robinson is quoted as saying Vaughan went out of his way to be nice to him (Robinson).

As a player Vaughan showed little power but had a good eye and a knack for getting on base. He led the NL three times in runs and scored over 100 runs on five occasions. He averaged 29 doubles prior to World War II and led the NL three times in triples. Although not a speedster by modern standards, he led the league in stolen bases in 1943 with all of 20. Through his career he averaged almost ten stolen bases a year. That’s not actually too bad in an era noted for its lack of stolen bases.

If you look at his walk to strikeout ratio, it’s excellent. Three times he led his league in walks, twice had 100 walks. His highest strikeout total is 38. For a career he averaged 3.4 walks per strikeout. In 1940 he scored 113 runs and had 95 RBIs while hitting only seven home runs. He produced 201 runs that season (R + RBI-HR). Pittsburgh finished fourth with a league leading 809 runs scored. Vaughan had a hand in 25% of his team’s runs. That doesn’t count things like singles that move a runner to third and the subsequent scoring of that runner. I checked the same statistic for each year Vaughan scored 100 runs or had 90 RBIs (1933-36, 1940, 1943). In those seasons Vaughan produced, in order, 26%, 27%, 25%, 24%, 25%, and 24% of his team’s runs. Even Babe Ruth in 1920 and 1921 only had 29% and 30% of his team’s runs. So Vaughan isn’t Ruthian, but it’s still a major contribution to his team.

I like Arky Vaughan a lot. Without question he is the great NL shortstop of the 1930s. Only Joe Cronin and Luke Appling in the AL are his rivals for the era. Bill James once placed him second on the all-time shortstop list (behind Wagner). I’m not sure I’d want to go that high, but he’s surely in the list of top half-dozen or so shortstops ever (along with, alphabetically, Banks, Jeter, Ripken, Yount) for the two spot.

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