Posts Tagged ‘Joe McGinnity’

1908: Merkle

September 18, 2018

Fred Merkle in 1908

You knew when you read that I would be taking some time to talk about the 1908 season that it would eventually come down to Fred Merkle, didn’t you? The “Merkle Boner” is among the most famous of all baseball plays, probably the single most famous Deadball Era play. So without hesitation, let’s get on with it.

At the end of the day on 22 September 1908, the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs were in a virtual tie atop the National League. The Giants were percentage points ahead (.635 to .629) by virtue of having played seven fewer games. They were three up in the loss column, but the Cubs had eight games to play while they had 15 more. The next game for both would be an afternoon game at the Polo Grounds the next day.

Fred Tenney

The Giants’ regular first baseman Fred Tenney was having back trouble and was forced to sit the 23 September game. In his place John McGraw inserted Fred Merkle. Our man Merkle came up in 1907, played a little, was again on the team in 1908. He had not started a game all season and at that point had all of 41 at bats for the year. He was, considered an excellent fielder, an acceptable hitter, and a player worth having. He was also 19 years of age.

The Cubs sent Jack Pfiester to the mound and the Giants replied with ace Christy Mathewson. Pfiester would finish the season at 17-6, while Mathewson would go 37-11. The first four innings were scoreless. In the top of the fifth, Chicago shortstop Joe Tinker, who had a habit of hitting Mathewson well, stroked his fifth home run of the season (he ended up with six). The Giants struck back in the bottom of the sixth when a Mike Donlin single scored Buck Herzog with the tying run. The score remained 1-1 through the top of the ninth. By that point Merkle was 0-2 with a walk.

With one out Art Devlin singled, but was erased on a Moose McCormick grounder. Now with two outs, Merkle sliced a single that put McCormick on third and himself on first. Up came Al Bridwell who drove a pitch into center field scoring McCormick and giving the Giants a one game lead in the NL.

Except that it didn’t. Merkle, halfway to second and seeing McCormick score, turned and trotted toward the club house without ever touching second base. The rules (it’s 4.09) state that, with two outs, no run can score if the final out of the inning is a force play. Merkle was forced to run to second, so a force play was in order.

Johnny Evers

At this point, history leaves off and legend takes over. There a several versions of what happened next. All agree that Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed that Merkle failed to touch second. He called for Cubs center fielder Circus Solly Hofman to throw him the ball. At this point there is great disagreement. The stories indicate that there was some interference with the throw. Most sources say that Giants base coach Joseph McGinnity intercepted the ball and threw it into the stands. Other sources say a fan (fans were on the field by this point) grabbed the ball and either tossed it into the stands or pocketed it. Whatever happened, Evers and other Cubs went after the ball. There seems to have been some sort of scuffle and Evers eventually emerged at second with a ball. Whether it was “the ball” or not is in open dispute. Wherever the ball came from, Evers was on second holding it and arguing that Merkle was out and that the run didn’t count. Umpire Hank O’Day agreed and called Merkle out. With fans all over the field and darkness approaching, he also called the game a tie.

Hank O’Day

New York exploded. McGraw was furious with the umpires, not with Merkle. Team President John T. Brush complained to the National League President. The Cubs prepared for the next game. The ramifications of the game would continue for the remainder of the season. They would effect both teams and, unexpectedly, help determine the fate of not only a pennant, but a life.

 

 

 

1908: The End of July

August 1, 2018

Here’s the next update in my continuing look at the 1908 season (110 years on).

Bobby Wallace

With approximately two-thirds’ of the 1908 season gone, the pennant race in the American League was taking shape seriously. Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland all had winning records and held down the first division. The Tigers were two games up on the Browns, with Chicago 5.5 back, and Cleveland at eight behind. For Detroit, Ty Cobb was hitting .346, but fellow Hall of Famer Sam Crawford was only at .287. Chicago was standing behind Ed Walsh on the mound and 37-year-old George Davis (in his next-to-last season). Davis was only hitting .212. For Cleveland Nap LaJoie was having a down season so far (.269 with four triples), but the pitching (read Addie Joss here) was holding up. For the Browns, Bobby Wallace, their most famous player, was also having a bad season (hitting .269), but pitcher Rube Waddell was doing well (By WAR, a stat unknown in 1908, Wallace was having a terrific season. He’d end at 6.3). Among the also rans, the Highlanders (Yankees) were in last place, 25 games out.

John Titus

In the National League, five teams winning records on 31 July: Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. The Pirates were a half game up on the Cubs, two up on the Giants, 6.5 ahead of the Phils, and eight up on the Reds. St, Louis was all the way at the bottom 23.5 games out of first. The Pirates leaders, Tommy Leach, manager Fred Clarke, and Roy Thomas were a mixed bag at the end of July, but the team revolved around shortstop Honus Wagner. By 31 July, he was hitting .328 with an OPS of .939. Chicago, relying on the Tinker to Evers to Chance infield and Three-Finger Brown, was also getting good years out of Harry Steinfeldt, the other infielder, and a 21-year-old backup named Heinie Zimmerman. For the Giants it was a standard John McGraw team with great pitching from Christy Mathewson and Hooks Wiltse (with an assist from part-time pitcher, part-time coach, Joe McGinnity), and 3.0 WAR from first baseman Fred Tenney. Philadelphia played Cincinnati on 31 July and the Phillies win put the Reds another game back. Philadelphia’s John Titus was having a good year and for the Reds Hans Lobert was leading the hitters.

The season still had two months to go, two terrific pennant races to conclude, one utter memorable game to play. But it also had one of the more interesting games coming up between two also-rans in just a few days.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1914

April 1, 2015

The My Little Hall of Fame class that is 1914 enters the Hall in a dark period of human history. I always presume the election is held in December of the year (about the time real Hall of Fame ballots are released) so the voters and inductees will all know that World War I was wrecking Europe when the Hall results are announced. In her wonderful book The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman informs us that the French military academy lost the entire graduating class of 1914 to the war. Fortunately for both the voters and the Hall honorees, the US was still on the sidelines in 1914, so the Hall election is still a main topic and a time of joy for the fans. Here’s the Class of 1914:

Jimmy Collins

Jimmy Collins

James Joseph Collins was a star third baseman between 1895 and 1908. He played for both the National League Boston team and the American League Boston team before finishing his career in Philadelphia. An outstanding defender of the Hot Corner he led his league in putouts, assists, and double plays on many occasions. In 1898 he led the league in home runs. As the first player-manager of the American League Boston team he led his team to two pennants and the first ever World Series victory.

Joe "Iron Man" McGinnity

Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity

Between 1899 and 1908 Joseph McGinnity averaged 25 wins per season, winning 30 or more games twice. He earned the nickname “Iron Man” for pitching both games of a double-header, doing so three times in one month in 1903. In that same season he set the National League record for complete games and innings pitched (post-1892). In postseason play he led Brooklyn to a win in the Chronicle-Telegraph Series of 1900 and helped his team to a victory in the 1905 World Series.

And now the commentary:

1. First a disclaimer. It seems that Joe McGinnity was known as “Ironman” because he worked in an iron foundry prior to playing Major League baseball. But the legend of his double-header success leading to his nickname was already around in 1914. I chose to use the mythological reasoning for the nickname because it seemed to be more commonly accepted in the era.

2. Collins is arguably the finest third baseman in baseball prior to Home Run Baker (Deacon White might argue that). It seemed his acceptance into an early Hall of Fame would be easy. He was also popular from all his years in Boston and his World Series win was already legendary (although Cy Young and Bill Dinneen were getting most of the credit).

2, McGinnity was also an easy choice. He had a lot of wins, a ton of innings pitched (he averaged 344 innings a season over his 10 year career, going over 400 twice). The complete games and innings pitched records still stand. He also pitched for both National League teams in New York which made him something of a celebrity. He was, however, seen as the second pitcher behind Christy Mathewson in the latter part of his career. That doesn’t seem to have changed the way he was viewed.

3. 1915 doesn’t add just a whole lot in quality players for consideration for the Class of 1915. Among everyday players George Davis finally shows up. Among pitchers there is Jack Chesbro.  The addition of Davis will move the backlog of everyday players to 21, so someone has to be dropped or someone has to make the Class of 1915. Frankly I’m not sold on Davis as an early inductee. His rise to prominence is something of a creation of the more modern stats, so I don’t know what will happen yet. Chesbro was a nice pitcher, but I’m also not sold on him as an inductee, although there’s a lot of info on him because of his great 1904 season and those good years with the Pirates. With only eight names on the pitching list (including Chesbro) I can punt him down the road if necessary.

4. The Contributors list adds old-time umpire Jack Sheridan to the list. Sheridan is one of the few umpires I can find out much about. He seems to be well-respected. I’m not sure what to do with umps yet, so don’t expect anything exciting there. He will push the contributors list above my maximum of 20, so someone will either have to be elected or someone will have to be tossed onto the discarded pile. As I’m at a quandary about what to do with umpires I doubt I’ll elect Sheridan. But I also doubt he’ll be discarded simply because I’d like to err on the side of caution and keep him around until I can make some sort of decision on umpires. If someone goes off the list, it will most likely be John T. Brush. Of all the contributors on the 1915 list, he’s the one that I feel fairly safe in saying nobody liked (well, maybe Mrs. Brush). That’s not a great way to get yourself elected to much of anything.

From New York to Frisco

October 23, 2012

Giants Logo

So it’s the Giants, is it? They’ve had a long and distinguished history. Interestingly enough they’ve never played Detroit in the postseason. Of all the original American League teams from 1901 the Giants have played each except for Detroit and the team now in Baltimore (via Milwaukee and St. Louis). How have they done?

Frankly, the Giants have, as a rule, been a disappointment in postseason play (I reference here only the 20th and 21st Century teams, not the successful 19th Century team.). In 1904 they won a pennant then refused to play Boston in the World Series. In 1905, under great public pressure, they changed their mind and bested Philadelphia in five games. It was their last win until the 1920s. They made the World Series each year from 1911 through 1913 and proceeded to lose all three. They lost again in 1917, going 0 for 4 for the teens.

They did better in the 1920s. From 1921 through 1924 they won consecutive National League pennants. In World Series play they beat the Yankees in the first two “Subway Series” in 1921 and 1922. Then they lost to the Yanks in 1923 and to Walter Johnson and the Senators in 1924. That was it for John McGraw’s tenure as manager.

In the 1930s they got back to the World Series on three occasions: 1933, 1936, and 1937. They won the first (against Washington), then dropped two Subway Series to Lou Gehrig’s Yankees.  For the 1940s they did nothing. The decade was doubly painful because they saw their status as New York’s premier NL team be eclipsed by the Dodgers.

In 1951 they won the most famous of all playoff games and finally got back to the World Series. I’ve always been amazed at the number of people who think that either Bobby Thomson’s home run won the World Series, or that the Giants went on to coast to a World Series victory. They didn’t as the Giants hashed the Series in six games. They were back again in 1954 when they pulled off one of the great upsets ever by knocking off the 111 game winning Indians in four games.

And that was it for the New York version of the Giants. In 1958 they headed for San Francisco. They won the pennant in 1962 and faced the Yankees in a “Jetliner Series”. They lost in seven games on a smoking line drive by Willie McCovey that Bobby Richardson speared (The ball was hit so hard I always wondered if it dislocated Richardson’s shoulder). And then they went into hibernation. For the rest of the 1960s, most of the 1970s (one playoff appearance that they lost), and the 1980s they were dismal. In 1989 they made a second San Francisco World Series losing the “Bay Area Classic” to Oakland in four games (interrupted by an earthquake).

Then it was back to the boondocks until 2002. They won the NL pennant that year, had the Angels on the ropes in game six of the World Series, and managed to hash another playoff run. That finally changed in 2010 when they blew Texas out of the Series and claimed their first championship in San Francisco.

So it’s a very mixed bag if you’re a Giants fan. You lose more than you win, but your wins are as glorious as they are for any other team. And like Detroit, you can put together a heck of a team. Here’s a sample of what they Giants could put in the field over the years: an oufield of Mel Ott, Willie Mays, and Barry Bonds (before his head got big); an infield of Willie McCovey, Frankie Frisch, Al Dark, and Matt Williams; and Roger Bresnahan behind the plate. And the pitching? Try this staff without leaving the letter “M”: Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, Rube Marquard, Sal Maglie, Juan Marichal. And of course that leaves out Carl Hubbell and company. They’ve even got a great pair of managers in John McGraw and Leo Durocher. Not bad, right?

So good luck to the Giants (You have any idea how hard that is for a Dodgers fan to type?). Win or lose I hope they play well. Most importantly, I hope it’s a great Series.

The Iron Man

January 26, 2011

Joe McGinnity

Baseball has, over the years, produced some strange stats. Few are more strange than those of Joe McGinnity. He plays exactly ten years, averages 25 wins a season as a pitcher, then disappears from Major League rosters forever. I decided to find out what happened.

Joseph McGinty (the name change occurred after he reached adulthood) was born in 1871 in Rock Island, Illinois (home of the rail line made famous by the “Leadbelly” song). He tried minor league ball with little success, but did find a wife. His offseason job in 1893 and 1894 was in the Union Iron Foundry in McAlester, Oklahoma Territory (now state). He hit it off with the owners daughter and they married in 1893 (Is that a fringe benefit?). The work in the foundry earned him his nickname “Iron Man” McGinnity.

His baseball career floundering, he ran a saloon (also serving as the bouncer) and continued to pitch in semi-pro ball. During the sojourn in the semi-pros he discovered a new pitch. The pitch was a curve delivered with a submarine motion. It was difficult to hit and relatively easy on the arm. In 1898 he was back in professional ball, doing well enough to make the National League with the Baltimore Orioles (not the current team). He was an instant hit leading the league in wins and coming in second in ERA. He was also 29.

The owner of the Orioles also owned the Brooklyn team. Syndicate baseball was common in the era and the owner moved McGinnity to the stronger team, the Superbas (they didn’t become the Dodgers until much later). McGinnity again led the National League in wins and this time added innings pitched to his black ink stats. The Superbas won the pennant, but were challenged by second place Pittsburgh to a post season set of games called the “Chronicle-Telegraph Games” (named for a Pittsburgh newspaper which put up a fancy cup). Brooklyn won three games to one with McGinnity pitching two complete games and giving up no earned runs.

In 1901, the American League arrived. McGinnity joined the new AL team in Baltimore, also called the Orioles, but, again, not the same team as exists today. He won 26 games for the fledgling team, despite a 12 day suspension for spitting on an umpire (Joe McGinnity, meet Roberto Alomar). In 1902 he began the year with Baltimore but joined the exodus of players to New York and the NL, when his manager, John McGraw, jumped to the Giants as a result on a dispute with AL president Ban Johnson.

He spent the remaining years of his Major League career with the Giants, picking up 31 wins and pitching 434 innings in ’03. The latter is the NL record for the 20th Century. In August of 1903 he became famous for pitching both ends of a double-header three different times. He won all six games. He was already known as “Iron Man”, but now the nickname became synonymous with the double-header feat. In 1904 he was 35-8, winning 14 consecutive games, leading the league in wins, innings, shutouts, ERA, and saves. In 1905, he was down to 21 wins, but the Giants won the World Series. He took a loss in game two and won game four (of five) giving up no earned runs in either game (the loss came on errors). In 1906 he won 27 games, but was suspended for ten days, this time for fighting on the diamond.

By 1907, he was on the downslide. He pitched much less than before and began spending a lot of time in the coach’s box. By 1908 he was through, although he was famously involved in the “Merkle Game” (He’s supposed to have thrown the ball into the stands to keep the Cubs from making Fred Merkle out at second.). The Giants released him in February 1909. He was 39. He may have been through at the Major League level, but he wasn’t through with baseball. He went back to the minors, which were in his day not tied to the big league clubs in a farm system. He pitched until 1925 racking up 400 more wins, including a 30 win season, five 20 win seasons, and twice more winning both ends of a double-header. In the modern world of farm teams whose only job is to get minor leaguers to the big leagues, McGinnity’s post-1908 minor league career is unthinkable.

After retiring he coached a little with the Brooklyn team and assisted Williams College with its baseball program. He died in 1929 and was buried in McAlester, Oklahoma. He made the Hall of Fame in 1946.

For his Major League career McGinnity went 246-142 (or 25-14 per year) for his ten year career with an ERA of 2.66. In five of the ten years he led the NL in wins. He also led the league in ERA, shutouts, and winning percentage once each and led in innings pitched four times. His ERA+ is 1.21 and his WHIP is 1.188. What you get with McGinnity is an innings eater with a lot of wins. It’s fashionable to downplay “wins” as a major pitching statistic today, and that’s certainly fair in the modern era. After all, a starter goes six innings, turns the game over to any number of seventh inning stoppers, who turn it over to the set up man in the eighth, who finally gives the ball to the closer in the ninth. It’s hard to really consider the six inning starter much of a winning pitcher. Additionally, fielders have massive gloves and the field is manicured. That’s very different from McGinnity’s day. He started 381 games and finished 314 (82%) and had fielders with little gloves and terrible playing surfaces behind him. To me a win in 1905 is pretty meaningful, particularly versus the modern version. So, I’m more impressed with the 25 wins a year than I would be if McGinnity put them up today.

I began my search for McGinnity by wondering why he had such a short career. I think there are two reasons. First, he was 29 when he got to the Majors and 39 was usually the end of the baseball line in the first decade of the 20th Century. Second, with all those innings, I imagine that even a submarine delivery had to put a lot of strain on that arm of his. Although his subsequent minor league stats might belie that assertion.

While researching this post I ran across information that McGinnity’s home in McAlester, Oklahoma is still standing. Here’s a picture of it:

McGinnity home, McAlister, OK

 It’s in poor repair, but the article indicates that they are trying to restore it (as evidenced by the equipment to the left in the picture) to its original splendor. There’s some question as to whether McGinnity bought it or if it belonged to his wife’s family and she inherited it on the death of her parents. Considering the size and evident expense of the home and considering baseball salaries in 1905, I lean toward the latter theory. Either way, McGinnity actually lived in it. There is no information I could find about what memorabilia, if any, they have.

Short but Sweet

December 27, 2010

Following up on the post about guys who made the Hall of Fame and really could only do one thing well, I began to look for other groups of players who could be linked. An easy one was guys with very short, but very intense careers who make the Hall of Fame based on a brief time of greatness. It turned out there were more than I thought. 

Let me exclude from this list players who lost significant time to war. Guys like Joe DiMaggio who only played 13 years and Hank Greenberg, also 13 years, go in this group. Also I exclude Negro League players who are in the Hall of Fame for their Major League years but lost significant time to segregation. This is where guys like Roy Campanella and Larry Doby go. A third group to be left out are those guys who die while major leaguers but make the Hall. Addie Joss and Ross Youngs are the primary people in this group. All of these people have short careers because of outside influences (or internal in the case of Joss and Youngs) and not due to baseball related causes. That makes them different enough to me that I exclude them from the list I compiled. I also excluded players whose primary career was prior to 1900. Conditions were so different then that short careers were actually somewhat common and both conditions and rules changes (a mound over a pitching box, gloves vs no gloves, etc) made a difference. Still, I get a fairly impressive, and probably incomplete, list.

Among pitchers, five came quickly to mind and a survey of the info indicated I was right about them. Jack Chesbro, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, Sandy Koufax, and Joe McGinnity (alphabetically) all had very short careers that were considered Hall of Fame worthy (and I don’t intend to debate here whether they were worthy or weren’t).  In Dean’s case he only barely got the required 10 years in through a bit of trickery by the St. Louis Browns ownership. McGinnity also deserves a caveat. He left the National League after 10 years (averaging 25 wins during the 10 seasons) to return to the Minor Leagues (which were not tied to the Major Leagues as they are now) and racked up another 250 plus wins before finally retiring. I’m a bit unclear on his reasoning for the change, but his ML career was on its downside.

I knew of six hitters who met my criteria: Earl Averill, Mickey Cochrane, Earle Combs, Ralph Kiner, Kirby Puckett, and Hack Wilson (again alphabetical). Averill, Combs, Kiner, and Puckett all suffered injuries (back for both Averill and Kiner, a skull fracture for Combs to go along with a broken collarbone, and eyes for Puckett) that curtailed their careers. Cochrane was skulled in a game and told to retire. He did. Wilson drank himself out of the game.  Again each had a short, and very intense period of greatness that did not turn into a long career because of other circumstances (primarily injury except for Wilson).

By my count, there are 180 people in the Hall of Fame who are primarily players (Here’s hoping I can count.) and not managers, executives, umpires, etc. I didn’t really go through the entire list looking for people who played only 10-13 years. Instead I used people I could think of immediately. Maybe not the best way of doing it, but it’s what I used. At least 11 of them had short careers. That’s about 6%, which isn’t a bad number, although certainly not an overwhelming number either. And here I used the entire Hall without excluding those people I specifically excluded in the second paragraph. Had I done so, the percentage would, of course, be higher. It seems that if you are very good you can still have a short career and make the Hall of Fame. But you have to be very, very good.

Old Longings

May 13, 2010

A day or so ago SportsPhd put up a little post on four things in baseball he wished he had seen, but wasn’t around for. It was a great list and I don’t disagree with any of it except for Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. I got home from school in time to see the last couple of innings. I’m going to shamelessly borrow his idea and give you four baseball moments I wish I had seen.

I’m going back to a period either before I was born or when I was so small I didn’t know what was going on. That makes me leave out things I heard on the radio, like Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, but didn’t actually “see.” It also leaves out those things that happened while I was watching something else and have now seen a dozen times on TV. So with those caveats, here we go.

4. I’d have loved to have been in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1871 to see the first ever major league game. Fort Wayne beat Cleveland 2-0 in a game that sounds as if it was well-played. There’s something about being there at a birth that is so special. If you have a child, you know the feeling.

3. I’d like to have been around in 1908 for the Merkle Game. It’s arguably the most famous regular season game ever played. It was apparently a heck of a game prior to the chaos of the ninth inning and might have been worth seeing anyway. Knowing what was going to happen (remember this is time machine stuff so I know who’s going to win already) I could now stay in the stands and watch the ball to see what really happened between Solly Hofman, Joe McGinnity, and Johnny Evers. And this is a two-for-one special. I also get to see the replay a few weeks later.

2. As I told SportsPhd I would like to be in Wrigley Field in October 1932 for game 3 of the World Series. That’s the game that featured Babe Ruth’s “called shot.” I don’t know what he did, but apparently he did something just before crushing the ball. I’d love to know exactly what he did. You can argue about the greatest player ever in the game, but Ruth is easily the greatest showman ever to put on a uniform (with apologies to Reggie Jackson). 

1. Here I agree with SportPhd. I want to be in Ebbets Field in April 1947 to see Jackie Robinson take up his position at first base. It was one of baseball’s finest hours and I’d love to be there to see and participate.

So that’s four things I missed and wish I hadn’t. Your own list?

More Miscellaneous Stats

May 4, 2010

Yesterday I wrote about the idea of decade lists. These are a list of stats showing who led the majors in a particular stat for a decade. Baseball Digest just published its list for the period 1900-2009, each decade divided using the ending zero as the first year of the decade and the ending nine as the last. Yesterday I looked at the hitters, today I want to comment on the pitchers. This particular set of stats shows the following categories: wins, strikeouts, ERA, innings pitched, shutouts, saves. Now some thoughts on them:

1. You can see the evolving role of both the starter and reliever over the decades. This is the number of wins that leads each decade beginning in 1900: 236, 265, 190, 199, 170, 202, 191, 186, 162, 176, 148. Notice how there are two major drop offs. One is between 1910-19 and 1920-29, the end of the deadball era. The other is between 1970-79 and 1980-89, when relievers become much more common. You can also see this in the increasing number of saves. The lowest number to lead a decade is 21 (Joe McGinnity) in the first decade published and peaks with the last decade published when the lead number is 397 (Mariano “Hey, I finally got a commercial”  Rivera). The same thing happens with shutouts. They peak with Walter Johnson’s 74 in the teens and bottom out with Roy Halladay’s 14 in the just concluded decade.

2. As with the hitters, you can see the advent of the “lively ball” era. There is a drastic drop in wins, shutouts (Johnson also leads the decade of the 1920s, but with only 24) and a huge rise in ERA.

3. Again as with the hitters, there are some pretty surprising pitchers who rise to the top of these lists. Burleigh Grimes leads all pitchers in wins during the 1920s. Who woulda thunk it? Dazzy Vance leads the same decade in strikeouts. I would have never pegged Early Wynn as the 1950s strikeout king. With just over half a decade of play, Sandy Koufax is still third in strikeouts in the 1960s (just over 150 out of first).

4. These lists do only traditional stats. There’s no WHIP, no adjusted ERA, etc. SportsPhd just did a nice article on why “Wins” is a stat that’s less than trustworthy on determining pitcher’s ability. I suggest you read it. It helps explain why this list isn’t necessarily the best list available. My previous comments about breaking lists into decades stands here also.

I’ve always liked to study baseball statistics. I find them individually interesting and note that they can be enlightening. This list is good in that it helps readers see, in simple columns of figures, the changing nature of the game. That’s probably something this list does better than simply giving you an idea of which player dominated which decade.

Matty vs the Elephants

January 22, 2010

In 1905 the World Series resumed after a one year hiatus. The New York Giants won the National League pennant in 1904 but refused to play a postseason series against what Giants manager John McGraw called “an upstart league.” Public outcry was such that the next year the World Series resumed.

The Giants won the NL pennant by 9 games over the Pirates so McGraw was going to have to play whether he wanted to or not. His team was pitching heavy with Joe McGinnity and Red Ames both winning 22 games and Christy Mathewson winning the pitching triple crown (wins, strikeouts, ERA). The hitting wasn’t all that great. The infield consisted of (from 1st around to 3rd) Dan McGann, Billy Gilbert, Bill Dahlen, and Art Devlin. The outfield was George Browne, Mike Donlin, and Sam Mertes, with Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan doing the catching. Backups Sam Strang and Frank Bowerman were the only other players to net 50 or more games. Never heard of most of them, right? (Although if you get a chance to see the Buster Keaton silent movie The General Donlin plays one of the Union commanders.)  Like I said, pitching heavy.

They faced off against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, sometimes nicknamed the “White Elephants” (another story for another post) who won the AL pennant by 2 games over the White Sox. The A’s were also pitching heavy with Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank, Andy Coakley, and Chief Bender all winning 16 or more games. Waddell, like Mathewson, won the American League pitching triple crown. Again, not a great hitting team. The infield (again 1st to 3rd) was Harry Davis, Danny Murphy, Jack Knight, and Lave Cross. The outfield was Socks Seibold, Danny Hoffman, and Topsy Hartsel,with all-name-team catcher Ossee Schreckengost behind the plate. Monte Cross, Briscoe Lord, Mike Powers, and Harry Barton were the entire bench (no one else played even one inning in the field for the A’s). Again, never heard of them, right?

Looking at the rosters it appeared the 1905 World Series would be dominated by pitching. There was one down note to that premise. Just before the Series began, A’s ace Rube Waddell was injured in a freak injury on the train returning from a game. The Sports Encylopedia: Baseball lists the injury as a shoulder separation, but there were rumors it was faked and Waddell had been paid to miss the Series, thus turning the odds towards the Giants. There is no evidence that I can find that substantiates this rumor, so I’m discounting it now, but can be persuaded if evidence is found.

 It turned out to be the greatest Series-wide pitching performance ever. The Giants won in 5 games with the A’s taking game 2 by a score of 3-0 behind Chief Bender. In the game the A’s got 3 unearned runs off “Ironman” McGinnity. It was a unique event in the Series. In the 4 Giants wins the A’s scored exactly zero runs. McGinnity won game 4 1-0 and Mathewson won the other three.

Mathewson’s totals are unquestionably the finest totals in World Series history. He pitched 3 complete games (27 innings), giving up no runs (not even an unearned run) for a 0.00 ERA, with 14 hits, 1 walk, and 18 strikouts. In fact, you can argue that the Giants pitching (Mathewson, McGinnity, and Red Ames for 1 whole inning) had the single greatest World Series for any staff. In the Series the Giants ERA was 0.00 with only 25 hits, 25 strikeouts, and only 5 walks. They didn’t give out Series MVP’s back then, but Mathewson surely would have won it.

The Chronicle-Telegraph Games

December 23, 2009

Chronicle-Telegraph Cup

In 1900 the National League contracted from 12 teams to eight. Baltimore, Louisville, Cleveland, Washington all ceased to exist. The players were shipped to other teams. In the case of Baltimore and Lousville the locations were already decided. Both teams were part of a syndicate that ran them and another team. Baltimore was owned by the Brooklyn team and Louisville by the team in Pittsburgh. This syndicate baseball was both common and legal in the era. The Brooklyn team had been most successful in using it because they had looted the Baltimore team earlier and won the National League pennant in 1899.

They repeated in 1900 winning the championship by 4.5 games over Pittsburgh. The Pirates owner, Barney Dreyfuss, argued that his team was actually better and only lost because he hadn’t been able to join the Louisville players with the Pittsburgh players earlier in the season.  He argued that the Pirates and the Superbas (they weren’t yet called the Dodgers) ought to meet in a five game series to settle the issue. Superbas manager Ned Hanlon accepted the challenge. The Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph, a major newspaper, agreed to sponsor the series and offered a cup as a trophy to the victor. (What is it with Pittsburgh and gaudy trophy cups?)

Beginning 15 October the Chronicle-Telegraph series was held. All games were played in Pittsbugh. The Superbas won game one 5-2 behind Joe McGinnity’s five hitter.  Frank Kitson picked up the win for Brooklyn 4-2 in game two. In the game Pittsburgh committed 6 errors. The Pirates crushed Harry Howell and the Superbas 10-0 in game 3 behind future World Series star Deacon Phillippe. With McGinnity back on the mound for game 4, Brooklyn rode to victory 6-1 and finished the series and claim the cup.

The Superbas roster included the following future Hall of Famers: pitcher Joe McGinnity, infielder Hughie Jennings, outfielders Willie Keeler and Joe Kelley, and manager Ned Hanlon.

The Pirates roster included the following future Hall of Famers: pitchers Jack Chesbro and Rube Waddell (losing pitcher in game 1 of the series), and outfielders Honus Wagner (not yet the shortstop) and Fred Clarke who doubled as manager.

The Chronicle-Telegraph cup is currently on display at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.