Posts Tagged ‘Jim McCormick’

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.

 

The White Stockings

July 17, 2013
1885 Chicago White Stockings (fourth of five pennant winners)

1885 Chicago White Stockings (fourth of five pennant winners)

All of you know the Cubs. They have a great reputation as losers. Wasn’t always so. They won, of course, in 1907 and 1908. But even before that the team won and they won a lot. There are arguably five great teams of the 19th Century professional leagues. The 1870s Red Stockings dominated the National Association. In the 1890s the Beaneaters and Orioles fought for dominance in the National League. In the 1880s the Browns ruled the American Association. The other team was the 1880s White Stockings. With a name change they are now the Cubs.

After winning the first ever National League pennant in 1876 (yes, team, the Cubs won the first pennant) Chicago slipped back into the pack for the rest of the 1870s. They were generally good, but someone else always walked away with the prize. That changed in 1880 when the White Stockings won the first of three consecutive pennants. After losses in 1883 and 1884, they picked up again winning championships in both 1885 and 1886. Although they didn’t win again for the rest of the 1880s, they remained a perennial power.

So what exactly happened in 1880 that set the Chicago team on the road to being one of the most dominant teams of the 19th Century? Well, a couple of things. Most notably, they picked up two new pitchers. In 1879 the team utilized two pitchers: Terry Larkin and Frank Hankinson. As with all of you, I asked myself, “who?”. Larkin was at the end of a career (his last season was 1880) that wasn’t bad, but also wasn’t particularly distinguished. Hankinson was essentially a third baseman that got a year in the box (no mound yet). In 1880, both men were replaced. The new guys were Larry Corcoran and Fred Goldsmith. Both were major upgrades as pitchers. The everyday players (and in that era pitchers were close to being everyday players too) were pretty much the same as in 1879, so the change in pitchers was critical. Having said that, the everyday players saw a few significant changes also.

Those everyday players included an infield of (from first to third) Cap Anson, Joe Quest, Tom Burns, and Ned Williamson. Only Burns was new and he was a significant upgrade  over departed shortstop John Peters. The outfield remained the same in both left and center with Abner Dalrymple and George Gore continuing to hold down both positions. Gone was Orator Shafer, a decent enough hitter, but his replacement was Hall of Famer King Kelly. Silver Flint stayed on as catcher.

One of the good things about studying this era is that the small rosters make for few changes in the lineup over the years. The 1880 starting eight remained intact through 1882, changing only the second baseman in 1883 (Quest was replaced by Fred Pfeffer). There were a couple of major additions to the bench in the period with Billy Sunday  taking over the fourth outfielder duties in 1883, and John Clarkson joining the pitching staff in 1884. As Cochrane and Goldsmith both faded after 1884, Jim McCormick and later Jocko Flynn joined Clarkson as the pitching mainstays.

Chicago dominated the period in the National League winning pennants by as many as 15 games in 1880 and by as few as two in 1885, In the 1885 and 1886 they faced the American Association champion St. Louis Browns (now the Cardinals) in the 1880s version of the World Series. In the first Series they played to a 3-3-1 tie with most newspapers indicating the White Stockings played better ball. In 1886, the Browns won the competition four games to two.

After 1886, the White Stockings never again won a pennant (by the next pennant they were the Cubs). They stayed close for a few years but as the players aged, were traded, or jumped to the Player’s League in 1890, Chicago fell back into the pack. But for the period of the 1880s they were a truly great team.

Doctor Perfect

March 15, 2010

If you’re ever in Worcester, Massachusetts, and I was a long time ago, there’s a monument you have to see. It’s nothing much,  just a little marker kind of obscurely stationed on a small college campus. It marks the spot where the very first professional perfect game was pitched.

On Saturday, 12 June 1880, a National League game was played between the visiting Cleveland Blues and the home town Worcester Ruby Legs. Cleveland came into Worcester third in the league one-half game behind second place Worcester.  They sent Jim McCormick, a third year starter to the box against sophomore southpaw J(ohn) Lee Richmond.

Richmond was a little unique for his era. Not only was he left-handed, he was a college man. In 1879, as a college junior at Brown University in Rhode Island, Richmond had led his team to the college championship by besting Yale, then had pitched one game for the National League Boston club at the end of the NL season. He won the game giving up two earned runs and striking out eleven. The next season he continued his studies and pitched for Worcester on the side. He was a senior at Brown, four days from graduating, when he took the field against Cleveland.

Nine innings later he had done something no one else had ever done in the professional ranks. He faced 27 men and set all of them down without one reaching first base. He pitched the first perfect game in professional history. He struck out six and allowed only three outfield chances, one a ball that dropped in front of the right fielder (Lon Knight), who caught in on the first bounce and flipped it to the first baseman to record the out. Left fielder, and future Hall of Fame manager, Ned Hanlon made the final out. Richmond left Worcester later that evening and went back to Brown where he graduated four days later.

McCormick pitched well, just not well enough. He gave up three hits (one to Richmond) and only one unearned run, Worcester shortstop Art Irwin scoring from third on a bobble and an overthrow of the catcher. McCormick struck out seven.

Richmond finished the season 32-32 with a 2.15 ERA and 243 strikeouts. He remained in baseball until 1886, using his baseball salary to fund medical school at Columbia. He finished his career 75-100 with 552 strikeouts. Not a great career, but among the better numbers for 19th Century left-handers.

After he left baseball, Richmond practiced medicine for a while, then became a high school teacher in Toledo, Ohio. Upon retirement, he became Professor of Hygiene and Dean of Men at the University of  Toledo. He died in 1929.

His accompishment wasn’t unique. Within a week, Monty Ward had pitched the National League’s second perfect game. In one way though Richmond remained unique for 85 years. He was left-handed. The next left-hander to throw a perfect game did it in 1965. His name was Koufax.