Posts Tagged ‘Jake Daubert’

Win the MVP, Get a Car

August 18, 2016
Hugh Chalmers pictured on the cover of his biography

Hugh Chalmers pictured on the cover of his biography

The idea of a Most Valuable Player isn’t new. The current award goes back to the 1930s and before that there were two other versions of the award. In the 1920s the League Awards anointed an MVP in each league and prior to that there were the very first MVP style awards–the Chalmers Awards.

Hugh Chalmers began his rise to entrepreneurial prominence with the National Cash Register Company, becoming vice president at age 30. He was also an early automobile enthusiast. He got into the business early, buying into the Thomas-Detroit car company (Thomas was E. R. Thomas another early automobile magnate) in 1907. He took control of the company in 1909. He changed the name to Chalmers-Detroit and in 1911 dropped the Detroit. The company was moderately successful doing well until the US entry into World War I (April 1917). The Maxwell Company, under lease from Chalmers, took over much of their manufacturing space under government contract and made vehicles for the war effort. After the war ended, Chalmers returned to manufacturing his automobiles, but the damage was done. The company faltered, Chalmers merged with Maxwell in 1922, and made his last car in 1923. Maxwell later became the basis of Chrysler. He died in 1932 still in his 50s.

Chalmers was also a baseball fan. In 1910 he hit on the idea of combining his business with the sport to sponsor an award for baseball’s best players. The award was one of his cars. It would be great publicity for his company and recognize baseball’s best all at the same time. He got the leagues to agree to the idea of an annual award. Originally the award was to be given to the batting champ (batting average), the man with the highest batting average in either league (s0 only one car was given away)

Of course it wouldn’t be baseball if controversy hadn’t ensued. On the last day of the American League season Ty Cobb, leading the batting race, sat out the game. Indians second baseman Napoleon LaJoie was only a few points behind him and managed eight hits in a season ending doubled header. That gave him the batting title except that the St. Louis Browns, in a rebuke to Cobb’s playing style, played their third baseman so deep that LaJoie easily beat out eight bunts. Detroit, and a lot of other places, called foul and AL President Ban Johnson gave the batting title to Cobb (and there is still controversy today over who actually won the title) and declared, with Chalmers’ consent, that both men would receive a car. The National League batting champ, Sherry Magee, was well behind both Cobb and LaJoie (as well as Tris Speaker) so he didn’t figure in the debate.

The next season there were some changes in the award. First, it became officially an MVP Award. It could go to the “most important and useful player” as determined by a committee of baseball writers, without reference to whether he won the batting title or not (meaning that now pitchers were eligible). Second, there would be one in each league. That seemed to solve the worst problems.

Except of course it didn’t. In 1911 Ty Cobb again had a great year and won the 1911 Chalmers Award in the AL (and another car). That created a problem. No one wanted to give Cobb a new car every year and there was good reason to believe he might be the “most important and useful player” for a lot of years. So they made another change. Having won a Chalmers Award, a player was ineligible to win a second (meaning no one got more than one car). That seemed to solve the problem, but it created another. When the League Awards began in the 1920s, the “win one, ineligible for another” rule was put in place. Apparently the powers that be forgot why the Chalmers Award had that rule (the League Awards didn’t give out a car). When they got to the modern MVP in the 1930s, they dumped the one award only rule.

The problem now arose that the Award wasn’t helping Chalmers sell cars. His sales didn’t go up as he expected and it was expensive giving away two cars every year. The Award last through the 1914 season when Chalmers dropped his offer (and MLB didn’t continue the award without the car).

Here’s a quick list of the winners of the Chalmers Award:

AL: 1911-Cobb, 1912-Tris Speaker, 1913-Walter Johnson (the only pitcher to win the award), 1914-Eddie Collins

NL: 1911-Wildfire Schulte, 1912-Larry Doyle, 1913-Jake Daubert, 1914-Johnny Evers

Although it only lasted four years (and the 1910 fiasco), the Chalmers Award is important in baseball history. It established the idea of a postseason award for playing excellence, leading to the current MVP, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Henry Aaron awards, among others. It’s interesting to note that all four of the AL Chalmers winners ended up in the Hall of Fame, while only Johnny Evers among NL winners made it to Cooperstown. That might help explain why the AL was dominant in the World Series’ of the nineteen-teens.

Nap LaJoie and Ty Cobb (left to right) in a 1910 Chalmers 30 Automobile

Nap LaJoie and Ty Cobb (left to right) in a 1910 Chalmers 30 Automobile

 

 

 

Opening Day, 1914: National League

March 30, 2014
George Stallings, "The Miracle Man"

George Stallings, “The Miracle Man”

The National League opened play in 1914 in mid-April, but with opening day starting earlier now, it seems like a good time to finish my look at how things stacked up in 1914. It’s important to remember it’s a different world in 1914. Black Americans couldn’t vote or play in the Major Leagues, most Americans still lived in rural settings (but that would change by 1920), the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was still alive (his death in June would spark World War I), the Braves were still in Boston and they were supposed to be bad.

The New York Giants were three-time defending NL champions and expected to repeat in 1914. They were led by Hall of Fame pitchers Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard with Hall of Fame manager John McGraw at the helm. It was decent, but not great lineup with soon to be war casualty Eddie Grant available as a sub. By way of  compensation, third pitcher Jeff Tesreau  would have a career year.

Philadelphia finished second in 1913 and looked set for another run at a pennant in 1914. Grover Cleveland Alexander was the ace and would have more wins and strikeouts than any other NL pitcher. But the rest of the staff, minus Erskine Meyer, would have a down year. Gavvy Cravath would lead the league in home runs with 19  (he also led in OPS and OPS+, but those stats weren’t around in 1914), and Sherry Magee won the RBI total with a miniscule 103. But other than Beals Becker’s .325 average the rest of the team didn’t do much.

The Cubs and Pirates finished third and fourth in 1913. Cubs pitching, even with Three-Finger Brown moved to the Federal League was still good, but the hitting wasn’t even vaguely on par with the pitching. The Pirates were aging. Honus Wagner, their best player, had his first bad year and without him, Pittsburgh had no one to step up.

The Braves finished fifth in 1913. They were 69-82, which was best among teams with a losing record, but still fifth. But there had been a revolution in Boston. Of the 1913 infield, only Rabbit Maranville, the shortstop, remained with the team. The catcher was new, as was one outfielder. the new players included Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers (who would win the NL’s 1914 Chalmers Award–the 1914 version of the MVP) and a clutch of players brought over during the season who would turn the team around. The pitching also came around. By the fourth of July they were still out of the running (last place), but that would change as manager George Stallings’ (I still try to call him “Gene Stallings” some times) platoon system, judicious use of pitchers, a great (for the era) fielding team, and timely hitting brought them all the way to first as the “Miracle Braves.”

Nothing much was expected of Brooklyn, St. Louis, or Cincinnati, but Brooklyn’s Jake Daubert won the batting title and the Cardinals Bill Doak took the ERA title. Doak’s pitching helped St. Louis more than Daubert’s hitting helped Brooklyn with the Card’s coming in third and Brooklyn fifth.

It was not a great year for rookies in the NL. In May 1914, the Braves brought Dolf Luque to the team. He got into two games, lost one of them, and ended up being a non-factor in the Braves’ sprint for the championship. He would make his mark a few years later.

Boston was a big underdog in the 1914 World Series, but ended up sweeping the Athletics away in four games. They hit .244 while Philly had an average of only .172. Boston’s ERA was 1.15 versus the A’s 3.41. They scored 16 runs (14 earned) while giving up only six (five earned).

It was a “one year wonder” team. Boston faded in 1915, finishing second, then proceeding downhill, finishing sixth by the time the United States joined World War I in 1917. You gotta admit, it was one heck of a year for them in 1914.

 

 

Opening Day, 1913: National League

April 1, 2013
Jake Daubert in 1913

Jake Daubert in 1913

Opening Day in 1913 was 9 April (10 days later than the current season). There was a single game played that day, Philadelphia defeating Brooklyn 1-0. The other teams opened play later and the National League had a good season, although one without a lot of suspense.

As two-time defending champions, the Giants were formidable still in 1913. Their eight position players remained the same with only Beals Becker missing, replaced by George Burns (not the comedian). Larry Doyle was a star at second, catcher Chief Meyers was a .300 hitter, Fred Merkle, five years removed from his “bonehead” play was a solid first baseman, and manager John McGraw was John McGraw. The heart of the team, however, was the pitching staff. Ace Christy Mathewson would win 25 games, pick up the ERA title (2.06) and walk all of 21 men in 306 innings. Rube Marquard would win 23 games and Jeff Tesreau would add a further 22. The Giants would make it three in a row by 12.4 games. Much of it came when the ran off 14 wins in a row between 26 June and 9 July. By way of contrast they lost four in a row 30 April to 5 May, their longest losing streak. They would go on to lose their third straight World Series in October.

Philadelphia would do well with Gavvy Cravath winning the home run title with 19, adding the RBI title at 128. Although future Hall of Famers Pete Alexander and Eppa Rixey pitched well, the ace was Tom Seaton who had 27 wins and led the NL in strikeouts with 168.

The emerging star was Brooklyn’s Jake Daubert. He would win the batting title at .350 for the sixth place Superbas (“Dodgers” would come later). At season’s end he picked up the Chalmers Award (an early version of the MVP Award), which should probably have gone to Cravath. The fading  star was Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner. For the last time he hit .300 and for the first time since 1905 didn’t lead the league in any major hitting category (it still got him eighth in the Chalmers Award voting).

The year saw two rookies arrive that would have an impact on the league. On 17 April, Bill James (not the current baseball stats man) made his first appearance for the Braves. He went 6-10 for the season, but was a key to the “Miracle” Braves run in 1914. For the Giants, outfielder Jim Thorpe made his initial appearance on 14 April. He would hit only .143 in limited service. He would make the NFL Hall of Fame and be known as the greatest athlete of the first 50 years of the 20th Century, but baseball was not his dominant sport.

1919: The Reds

September 30, 2011

Edd Roush

For obvious reasons information on the 1919 World Series tends to concentrate on the White Sox. But there is, of course, another team in the Series: The Cincinnati Reds. Almost nothing is written about them. They are generally viewed as simple foils for the overpowering Sox who would have made hash of them had the Sox been playing on the up and up. In the movie “Eight Men Out”, which is probably the best flick on the event, they get all of two lines. But the Reds were a real team and they really did play in the 1919 World Series and in their opinion would have won anyway.

If you look at the Reds hitters you find a group not much different from the White Sox. There are a handful of really first-rate players, a bunch of middle-of-the-road types, and a few guys who you wonder why the team couldn’t find someone better. In Edd Roush, the center fielder, the Reds have a Hall of Fame quality player. Roush won two batting titles, including the one in 1919, had an OPS of 811 and an OPS+ of 146 for the season. Only Joe Jackson of the Sox is better. Third baseman Heinie Groh (who today is known only for his “bottle bat”, which is a great shame) had an even better OPS and OPS+ than Roush. Both, in other words, were good players having good years. At 35, first baseman Jake Daubert was beyond his prime, but was still a solid player, as was 32-year-old Morrie Rath, the second baseman. They were also the only two starters over 30. Outfielder Sherry Magee was also over 30 and well beyond the prime he showed with Philadelphia a decade earlier. But Magee was used in a platoon-type system with Rube Bressler, so saw limited action during the season and only had two plate appearances in the Series. As both Magee and  Bressler hit right-handed, I’m not sure how the platoon worked exactly. As a team, the Reds led the National League in both triples and walks, were second in both average and slugging as well as RBIs and runs. They were third in hits.

Heinie Groh

In fielding the Reds were actually slightly better than the Sox. they showed superior numbers in both fielding percentage and range factor as well as in assists. They also made fewer errors. This is not to say that there are a lot of truly great fielders on either team, but in the context of the era, the Reds aren’t just awful or anything.

Hod Eller

In pitching the Sox were definitely better, especially with a healthy Red Faber. Having said that, the Reds still show up first in shutouts in the National League and  second in ERA. They led the league with the least hits allowed and were second in the least walks given up. So again, it’s not a bad staff, but most people are going to credit the Sox with a better mound crew.

Pat Moran as Phillies Manger

And as a final comparison, I see no evidence that contemporary opinion was convinced that Kid Gleason was a particularly better manager than Pat Moran. Maybe he was, but I can’t  find a consensus that confirms that.

So why exactly were the Sox, with a weaker overall record (88-52) considered so utterly superior to the Reds (with a 96-44 record)? I think it’s a perception issue. In 1909 the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series. In the 10 years since the Cubs, Giants, Braves, Phillies, and Robins (now the Dodgers) had all crossed swords with the American League champion (including the White Sox in 1917) and only the Braves in 1914 had been successful (and they were, and still are, considered one of the great flukes of all time). So the American League was perceived as the stronger league. The American League champion, regardless of record, had to be seen as the stronger team.

Were they in 1919? Frankly, we’re never going to know. From a look at the stats and the players I’m convinced the Reds would have proved a formidable opponent for the Sox playing on the up and up.

1910: Superbas Postmortem

September 4, 2010

The 1910 Brooklyn Superbas , under rookie manager Bill Dahlen, went 64-90 for 1910 and finished sixth, 40 games back. They weren’t yet either the Boys of Summer  of the 1950s or the Daffiness Boys of the 1930s. They also weren’t very good (which is tough for a Dodgers fan to say).

Brooklyn in 1910 was dead last in hitting, slugging, RBIs, hits, and doubles. They were seventh in runs and walks, and first in striking out. Only first baseman Jake Daubert, third baseman Ed Lennox, and outfielder Zack Wheat managed to hit .250 while shortstop Tony Smith hit .181 and  catcher Bill Bergen made it all the way to .161. You know you’re in trouble if two of your starters don’t make it to the Mendoza line.

The problem with replacing some of these guys was that the bench was equally awful. A common theme of these posts is that teams who finish in the bottom part of the standings have terrible benches. Brooklyn was no exception. The highest average from the bench players was Al Burch’s .236. He also had one of the highest slugging percentages at .284. Tex Erwin, backup catcher, hit .188, not much of an improvement over Bergen, and Pryor McElveen’s .225 wasn’t that much better than Smith’s average. Outfielder Bob Coulson managed a .404 slugging percentage in 23 games. That led the team with Wheat second at .403.

Among the pitchers, knuckleballer Nap Rucker and Cy Barger had acceptable seasons. Rucker went 17-18 and led the NL in innings, hits, and shutouts with six. Barger was 15-15. It went south from there. George Bell was 10-27 and Doc Scanlan was 9-11. If you look down the list, there’s nobody below that even hints at solving the problems of the staff.

The Superbas have a little to look forward to in 1911. Daubert and Wheat are good players and will continue to improve. I know nothing about Bergen, but he must have been a heck of a catcher because in 1911 he will catch 84 games and hit all of .132 and slug .154. Both Hy Myers and Otto Miller come up in 1911. Neither are particularly good in ’11, but both will be significant contributors to the rise of the 1916 team to the NL pennant. Other than that, Oh, well.

Opening Day, 1910: Brooklyn

April 11, 2010

Zack Wheat

The Superbas were anything but superb in this era. They hadn’t finished out of the second division since 1902, had ended up dead last in 1905, and had not progressed beyond sixth by 1909. Not only were they not “The Boys of Summer”, it’s doubtful they were even the boys of winter.

Brooklyn finished the 1909 season in sixth place, 55.5 games out of first and 19 games out of fifth place. That meant major revision in the team. It started at the top, with manager-right fielder Harry Lumley losing his managerial job. He remained a part time right fielder, and I wonder how much tension existed between Lumley and new manager Bill Dahlen. Dahlen was 40 and something of a John McGraw clone. He won a World Series with New York in 1905. He was tough, fiery, intolerant of fools, and had never managed before.

The positional starters underwent major change in 1910. The day before the season began, Brooklyn picked up a new center fielder, Bill Davidson. He led off the first game, which must have been a trifle odd, even for Brooklyn. Rookie Jake Daubert was the new first baseman and hit second. Former first baseman Tim Jordan was still around but only got into five games in 1910 because of injuries. In 1909 a rookie named Zack Wheat got into 26 games. This season he would begin a Hall of Fame career by hitting third and holding down the left field spot. Second baseman Jerry Hummel, a bench player the year before,  took the clean up hole. Jack Dalton took former manager Lumley’s slot in rght field and hit fifth. Hold over third baseman Ed Lennox was in sixth and new guy Tony Smith was at short and hit seventh. Bill Bergen remained as catcher and eight hitter. Many of the old starters got bench roles. As mentioned, former first baseman Tim Jordan was hurt. Former manager Lumley got into only eight games, and 1909 shortstop Tommy McMillan was traded after 23 games. Ex-leadoff man Al Burch became the fourth outfielder. Gone entirely was ex-second baseman Whitey Alperman. Tex Erwin was the new backup catcher with Otto Miller getting spot duty as the third catcher. Pryor McElveen remained the backup middle infielder with Hap Smith doing a lot of pinch hitting.

The Superbas pitching in 1909 was nothing special. George Bell was 16-15 and everyone else, except Doc Scanlan (8-7) had a losing record.  At least all of them had more innings pitched than hits allowed. For 1910, Bell was back, so was potential ace Nap Rucker, along with Scanlan. Cy Barger who was over from the Yankees and Elmer Knetzer, a rookie who had pitched five games in ’09,  rounded out the starters. Gone was former starter Harry McIntire, and the final starter in 1909, Kaiser Wilhelm, was now the main man in the bullpen.

Brooklyn was in turmoil in 1910. They had done little to actually improve the team. Prospects of lifting in the standings were minimal. Having said that, new guys Daubert, and especially Wheat, held out prospects of a coming rise, but it was going to take a while.

Next: ST. Louis

The First MVP Awards

January 11, 2010

The modern version of the MVP Award began in the 1930s and has run since. It isn’t, however, the first MVP Award series in baseball. Way back in the 19-teens there was the Chalmers Award.

Hugh Chalmers owned Chalmers Automobiles in Detroit. He was a baseball fan and in April 1911 proposed the idea of giving one of his cars (the Model 30) to the “most valuable player” in both leagues.   A committee of  baseball writers would be set up to determine the winners. The league offiicals didn’t have objections, but a suggestion was made that once a player won the award, he couldn’t win it again. The idea had some merit from Chalmers’ point of view. It was good advertising, it promoted automobiles, it promoted baseball during the “off season.”  The idea of  granting a player only one award also made sense. It meant that Chalmers Autos would be seen in more places, there were more players available to pose for pictures with the car and give testimonials as to the quality of the automobile, and, from baseball’s point of view, it meant that you weren’t going to have to give a new car to Ty Cobb every year.

The previous year, 1910, there was a huge debate about the batting title in the American League. Cobb and Nap LaJoie both had claim to it (long story and not for this post). Chalmers decided to give a car to both (heck, it was good advertising). It also lead  to the idea of the Chalmers Award.

The next year  the award itself went to Cobb. Over the next four years the Chalmers Award, and the car, were given out. By 1915 the award had lost its luster. It was getting expensive for Chalmers, whose business was beginning to get into trouble, the obvious American League winner, Cobb, couldn’t win another, fans weren’t impressed or enthused, so the award was dropped.

And, Chalmers? His company lasted into the 1920’s when it was folded into first Maxwell, then eventually into Chrysler. Chalmers lost his job.

One of the best things the Chalmers Award does is indicate the superiority of the American League in the period. All four AL winners went on to Hall of Fame careers, while only one National Leaguer, Johnny Evers, did the same. In the period the AL won three of the four World Series’, losing only in 1914, the year Evers won the award. Below is a list of the winners with the following stats beside the name: batting average/RBI’s/slugging percentage or Wins/ERA/strikeouts in the case of pitcher Walter Johnson.

AL 1911-Ty Cobb 420/127/621

1912-Tris Speaker 383/90/567

1913-Walter Johnson 36/1.14/243

1914-Eddie Collins 344/85/452

NL 1911-Wildfire Schulte 300/107/534

1912-Larry Doyle 330/90/471

1913-Jake Daubert 350/52/423 

1914-Johnny Evers  279/40/338