Posts Tagged ‘Joe Lake’

1910: Browns Postmortem

August 23, 2010

By the end of August 1910, the St. Louis Browns were on the verge of elimination in the American League pennant race. If you ignored ties that might or might not be replayed, they were eliminated on 22 August. If you count the ones that were replayed, then they managed to hang on another week.

For the season the Browns went 47-107 (a .305 winning percentage). In an eight team league they finished 7th in hits, runs, and doubles; 6th in triples, walks,  and slugging: and dead last in hitting, stolen bases, and RBIs. They did manage 4th in home runs with all of 12. The pitching was as bad. They finished 7th in complete games (a bigger deal in 1910 than it is now) and hits allowed. They were dead last again with the most walks, highest ERA , and least strikeouts in the American League.

Individually, only Hall of Fame shortstop Bobby Wallace (.258) and outfielder George Stone (.256) managed to hit .250. Wallace and sub Art Griggs led the team in doubles with 19 and 22, while Stone led with 12 triples, 40 RBIs, and 144 hits. A real problem was that of all the bench players with 30 or more at bats, only Griggs managed to hit above .200 (.236), so there was no one to go to if one of the starters slumped (With this team I’m not sure how you determined if someone was slumping.). Another real problem for the team was that Stone and Wallace, their best position players were, at 36 and 33, the oldest position players on the team (pitcher Jack Powell was 35).

The pitching ace (if there is an “ace”) was Joe Lake who went 11-18 with a 2.21 ERA, which is third highest in the AL among “aces”. He’s the only pitcher to pick up double figure wins. Lefty Bill Bailey went 3-18 with more walks than strikeouts. Only Roy Mitchell at 4-2 (over six games), Rube Waddell 3-1 (10 games and only two starts), and Dode Criss 2-1 (six games, all in relief) had winning records (Bill Crouch and Harry Howell both went 0-0, which at least isn’t a losing record).

All this got first year manager Jack O’Connor fired. Shortstop Wallace was picked to replace him. Wallace would make in 39 games into 1912 before being shown the door. O’Connor never managed again in the big leagues.

I’d like to say something good about this team, but just can’t find anything positive to say. It’s not like a young George Sisler came up at the end of the year and showed possibilities or anything.  This team is a typical Browns team of the era. There’s a reason the Browns made exactly one World Series (1944) before transferring to Baltimore (where they are now the Orioles). Too many teams like this is the reason.

Over the next month or so, I intend to do one of these for each team that failed to win the 1910 pennant. I want to see what went wrong and what went right. It may take a while, because I’m not going to slavishly do it each time until all are done.

Opening Day, 1910: St. Louis (AL)

April 21, 2010

Bobby Wallace

It’s uncharitable to say that the St. Louis Browns were hopeless, but sometimes the truth hurts. The Browns were hopeless. In their entire existence, 1902-1953, they finished first once. 1910 wasn’t it.  

 The Browns finished seventh in 1909, 36 games out of first. It led to a general housecleaning, something the Browns did frequently. Manager Jimmy McAleer was canned and replaced by Jack O’Connor a former catcher whose rookie season was 1887 with the American Association Cincinnati Reds. It was his first managerial job (and his last). He would survive in the job exactly one year. 

He didn’t have a lot to work with in St. Louis. Three of the infielders were different. Future Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace remained at short, but he was 36 in 1910 and on is last legs as a player. Former right fielder Roy Hartzell moved to third base with fairly predictable results. Pat Newman and Frank Truesdale took the jobs at first and second. Both were rookies. Art Griggs and Dode Criss remained the men off the bench. Criss sometimes moonlighted as a pitcher for St. Louis. He wasn’t an upgrade. 

The outfield had two stable members, Hartzell moving to third as mentioned above. Al Schweitzer replaced Hartzell in right and Danny Hoffman and George Stone remained in the other two spots. Schweitzer had been, with John McAleese, one of the backup outfielders in 1909. 

The 1909 catcher, Lou Criger, was gone, replaced by ’09 backup Jim Stephens. The new backup was Bill Killefer who would go on to fame as Grover Cleveland Alexander’s catcher with the Phillies. Killefer played 11 games in 1909. 

The pitching in 1909 was weak, but at least none of the major starters had given up more hits than innings pitched, and only one had walked more than he struck out. In 1910 four of the big starters, Jack Powell, Barney Pelty, Bill Bailey, and Hall of Famer Rube Waddell were back. Joe Lake was new, coming over from New York. So was rookie Robert “Farmer” Ray. 

And that was it. There were new guys, but they weren’t much of an upgrade, if at all. There was a new manager, four rookies (including Killefer), and a bunch of guys nobody ever heard of. The genuinely good players like Wallace and Waddell were at the end of their careers. The 1910 season was Waddell’s final year. It was the same story for most of the Browns’ history. 

Next: the Senators

Opening Day, 1910: New York (AL)

April 18, 2010

 

Hal Chase

Considering what the American League team in New York has meant to the AL since 1920, it’s a little surprising to note that the Highlanders (they were to become the Yankees in the next decade) were not a significant factor in the league. They were formed in 1903 when the Baltimore franchise relocated to New York. They finished in the first division in ’03 and second in the league in ’04 (1.5 games out), then slid back in 1905, made second again in 1906, then fell back, finishing last in 1908. By 1909 they were back to fifth.

It was a team in some turmoil. Manager George Stallings (the “Miracle Man” of 1914) had a fairly solid infield, but there were problems in the rest of the positions. Hal Chase, Frank La Porte, Jack Knight, and Jimmy Austin held down the infield from first over to third in 1909 and all were back for 1910. but the infield bench was different. Gone was Kid Elberfeld. Earle Gardner, Roxy Roach, and Eddie Foster now handled the backup duties for the team.

The 1909 outfield was gone. Willie Keeler, Ray Demmitt, and Clyde Engle were replaced by Harry Wolter, Charlie Hemphill, and Birdie Cree. In 1909 Cree had been the fourth outfielder, but the others were new. Bert Daniels was now the outfielder sitting on the bench.

Ed Sweeney, the ’09 backup catcher, moved to the starting role in 1910 with Fred Mitchell the backup. Former starter Red Kleinow developed a sore arm and was traded after getting into only six games. Neither catcher would manage to hit .220.

The pitching underwent something of a makeover. Joe Lake, Jack Warhop, Lew Brockett, Jack Quinn, Joe Doyle, Tom Hughes, and Rube Manning had done the bulk of the starting for the Highlanders in 1909. Quinn, Warhop, and Hughes were back. Manning was now a bullpen man and Doyle lasted exactly three games before a trade. In their place were Russ Ford and Jim “Hippo” Vaughn.

Well, it wasn’t a bad team, in fact it would show significant rise in 1910. But it had one serious flaw. By 1910 manager Stallings was already voicing concerns about the reliability of first baseman Chase. There were allegations that Chase was taking money to lose games, that he was spreading gambling money to other players in return for shoddy play in critical games. There were allegations that he was playing just well enough to look reasonably good in losing efforts. There was no proof, and certainly nowhere for Stallings to go with his complaints but to the ownership who had an interest in protecting Chase who was a definite fan favorite (Judge Landis was 10 years in the future).  All this made for major clubhouse problems. It would take until 1919-1920 to garner the evidence to ban Chase. Until then he would be a cancer on the club, and any club for which he played.

Next: Cleveland