Posts Tagged ‘Joe Kelley’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: the Class of 1915

April 22, 2015

With war raging in Europe in 1915, I’m detecting a dose of nostalgia in the press. I’m not certain how much the two are related, but there is a distinct fondness for looking back on the last several years as a good time in the USA. That includes sports and allows me to stretch my inductees back a little farther than I’ve done in the last few classes. Here’s My Little Hall of Fame’s class of 1915.

Paul Hines

Paul Hines

Outfielder Paul Hines was a member of three pennant winners, including the initial National League Champion Chicago White Stockings. Later he helped lead the Providence Grays to pennants in 1879 and 1884. When he retired he was third in Major League history in hits. He led the National League in home runs and in hits once each, and in doubles three times.

Joe Kelley

Joe Kelley

Joseph Kelley was the captain of National League pennant winning teams in both Baltimore and Brooklyn. He hit .317 for his career while finishing above .300 for 11 consecutive seasons, four times topping .360. In 1896 he stole 87 bases to lead the league.

Now the usual commentary:

1. Kelley was one of those players who seemed to fit in nicely with the 1915 era view of what made a great player. He had lots of hits, scored a bunch of runs, had a high average (the four years of .362 to .393 were very prominent). I was surprised how often being designated “captain” of the Baltimore Orioles came up. It was seen as something of a badge of honor indicating just how important he was to what was already becoming the most famous 19th Century team. As a negative, those four years of .362 or above are 1894-1897. Those are years of huge batting averages and Kelley never finished higher than fifth in the league (1897).

2. Say, didn’t you forget something about Hines? Isn’t there something about a triple crown and a couple of batting titles? Well, yes and no. In 1915 Paul Hines was credited with neither a triple crown nor with a batting title. Hines won batting titles in 1878 and 1879. The one in 1878 contained a triple crown. The problem is that no one in 1915 knew that. The 1878 batting title was attributed to Abner Dalrymple and the one in 1879 was given to Cap Anson. It wasn’t until the 1960s (long after all three were dead) that research established that Hines won both batting titles (it had to do with hits in tie games being counted or not counted). So for my purposes I could not call Hines either a batting champion or a triple crown winner. That made his election to a 1915 Hall of Fame somewhat problematic. But the looking back on the 19th Century that was occurring (and I’ll stress it wasn’t overwhelming in 1915–it gets worse by 1918 when the US is in World War I) meant that there was, I felt, a short window when really old-time players like Hines (his last year was 1891) might get a chance at the Hall of Fame. In Hines’ case it had to be very quick. In 1920 he got in trouble with the law (a pickpocketing charge) and in the wake of the Black Sox scandal I can’t imagine anyone with a legal problem, no matter how small, being allowed into the Hall of Fame.

3. Still shying away from George Davis are you? Yep. There’s very little information on Davis in the stuff I’ve been reading (and I’ll admit I may have been looking in the wrong places). He seems to have dropped off the radar almost entirely. His “counting stats” (my phrase for the old and standard stats that go back to 1915) are OK, but he doesn’t hit .300, never leads the league in any major category except RBIs and that stat isn’t yet an “official” stat so I don’t know how many writers knew that was true. His fielding numbers are nice, but it’s very much a hitter’s paradise at the Hall of Fame and I presume that would be true in 1915. His WAR and OPS+ are very good (heck, his OPS is damned fine for a middle infielder of the period) but those are stats that don’t exist in 1915. I’m erring on the side of caution and holding him for at least a while.

4. Next time (1916) sees Willie Keeler and Elmer Flick head a list of everyday players and Sam Leever, Rube Waddell, and Vic Willis added to the pitchers. Among contributors I’ve come across Tim Hurst who both managed and was an umpire (something of a unique combination) and George Rawlings who gets credit for inventing the baseball glove. I think I want to look at Hurst fairly carefully because the combination of talents may give me a chance to finally figure out how to deal with an umpire (but don’t hold your breath). With Rawlings I’m fairly sure he’ll be gone as soon as he arrives. There’s too much debate about who invented the glove and when they did so to accept the story that Rawlings alone did it. The nostalgia, myth era is nice, but I’m trying to keep it to things that were provable in 1916 (yeah, I know, lottsa luck).


The Mighty Orioles

March 24, 2010

John McGraw

There is no question that the most famous team of the 1890s is the Baltimore Orioles (not to be confused with the modern Orioles). Their fame in some ways borders on infamy. They were tough, they were colorful, they were winners. They were the brawlers who put up great numbers and had unforgetable players.

There had been a Major League team in Baltimore as far back as 1872. None of them had done particularly well. There had been a second place finish a time or two, but no pennants. When the National League was formed in 1876 it bypassed Baltimore. The same was true of the American Association when it started in 1882. In 1883, the Association added the Orioles to their league. They finished last. In 1884 they rose to fourth and finished last, last, third, fifth, fifth, sixth, and fourth in the remaining years of the Association (1885-91). In other words, they weren’t very good very often. In 1892 the National League decided the American Association was dragging down the Major Leagues and convinced four teams, including Baltimore, to change leagues. It killed the Association and set up a twelve team league. For Baltimore nothing changed. They finished last. By 1893 they were up to eighth, then things did change.

The 1894 Orioles won the National League pennant by three games, marking a 29 game improvement (60 wins vs. 89). What happened? Essentially they changed their roster. Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon moved to replace or reassign most of his losing team. The infield of 1893 consisted of (from first to third) Harry Taylor, Heinie Reitz, John McGraw, and Billy Shindle.  In 1894 Dan Brouthers was now at first, McGraw had moved to third, and Hughie Jennings had taken his place at short. Only Reitz remained at the same spot in the field where he led all second basemen in fielding. The 1893 outfield was (from left around to right) Jim Long, Joe Kelley, and George Treadway. In ’94 Kelley (who moved from center to left), Steve Brodie, and Willie Keeler became the standard outfield.. Wilbert Robinson remained the catcher. In 1893 three pitchers won ten or more games: Sadie MacMahon, Tony Mullane, and Bill Hawke.  All three were still there in ’94 although Millane won only nine games. Kid Gleason and Bert Inks joined the staff as ten game winners. In other words, it’s basically a new team, particularly among the hitters.

For the three year span from 1894 through 1896, the former woebegone Orioles won three straight pennants, capping the ’96 race by 9.5 games. They slipped to second in 1897, losing to Boston by two games, then coming in second again in 1898, this time by six games.  In 1899 they dropped to fourth and were disbanded when the National League contracted in 1900.

The Orioles were noted for a rough style of play, some called it downright dirty. They would trip players rounding the bases, throw at batters, go into the stands to slug it out with fans. If you were from Baltimore you loved them. The rest of baseball hated them. But in all of that they played good team ball. In 1896, 1897, and 1898 they lead, as a team, the NL in several major offensive categories (and in ’96 it was almost all of them).  Except for Reitz in 1894 no Oriole led the league in any offensive category (Reitz led in triples in ’94) until 1897 and 1898 when Keeler led in hits runs and batting in ’97 and again in hits in ’98. Additionally McGraw led the NL in runs in 1898, and new outfielder Jake Stenzel picked up a doubles title in 1897. What they did was play as a team. The invented the “Baltimore chop” (hitting down on the ball to create an infield single). They get credit for the hit and run, although that’s disputed.

The defining player was John J. McGraw, the third baseman. He was tough, pugnacious, humorless, and a great ballplayer. As mentioned above he only led the league in a single category one time (runs), but he, more than manager Hanlon, set the tone for the team.  Unofficially, he led the team, and the league, in umpire baiting, ejections, fights, and creative use of the English language. All the while he was learning how to manage and soon after the turn of the century he would take over the New York Giants and become the second winningest manager ever (including three World Series victories).

During the Orioles run the Temple Cup series was played for a few years. This was a series of games played at the end of the season between the first and second place finishers in the National League. It was never very popular nor very successful and the pennant winner tended to not take the series seriously. Frankly they’d just won the pennant and had nothing to prove, so the games were viewed as exhibitions by the winners. Consequently, the second place team won most of the Temple Cup series’. The Orioles won the thing in 1896 and 1897.

Although Hanlon, McGraw, Jennings, Keeler, Brouthers, Kelley, and Robinson are in the Hall of Fame, it’s really tough to root for the Orioles. There’s just too much thuggery going on. I have to admit, though, I like their intensity and think I’d have enjoyed seeing them play at least a handful of times.