Posts Tagged ‘Kid Nichols’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1912

February 2, 2015

February begins Black History Month in the US. I normally take the month and use it for a yearly journey into whatever I’ve found concerning the Negro Leagues or other versions of black baseball. I also use the first post of each month to introduce the newest members of My Own Little Hall of Fame, which is a look at how a Hall of Fame begun in 1901 rather than the 1930s might have looked. It seems I’m able to combine both this year.

Kid Nichols

Kid Nichols

Charles “Kid” Nichols served as the primary pitcher for National League championship teams in 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897, and 1898. With the National League Boston franchise he won over 350 games, leading the league in wins three times. He won 30 or more games on seven occasions.

Sam Thompson

Sam Thompson

Samuel “Sam” Thompson was an outfielder for both Detroit and Philadelphia of the National League. Between 1885 and 1898 he led the league in batting and triples once, in doubles and home runs twice, and in hits three times. In 1894 he hit .415.

George Stovey

George Stovey

George Stovey was a colored pitcher who played in both segregated and integrated leagues between 1886 and 1897. A left-hander, he was considered the premier colored pitcher of his era.

Now the commentary:

1. Again I have used the word “colored” to describe a black ballplayer. From what I can tell, the word “Negro” doesn’t come into common usage in newspapers and digests until the end of World War I, or about 1920 (about the same time Rube Foster founds the Negro National League). That being the case, I will make my change over for the 1920 class, if it is necessary.

2. I am well aware that there is no chance of Stovey making a 1912 Hall of Fame and that if there was he could have been elected earlier. I choose to include Negro League players despite the normal custom in 1912 so he gets in. I purposefully left him until 1912 so I could include him during Black History Month. It should be another 10 or so years before the big names that began 20th Century black baseball arrive on the Hall list. Then there will be a lot all at once.

3. Nichols was one of the easiest calls I had to make. You can decide who you want to declare the best pitcher of the 19th Century, but whoever you decide, Nichols will have to be in the debate.

4. Thompson had all those numbers the early 20th Century baseball types loved, lots of hits, high average, and lots of extra base hits. He also had a bunch of RBIs, but it’s still a difficult number to pin down so I left it off.

5.  Next year Jake Beckley and Bobby Lowe are the most significant players eligible for the Class of 1913. Among contributors John T. Brush arrives on the scene. There are no significant pitchers arriving in 1913. I’ve decided to cut the list of holdovers to either 10 or 20 in any given year. If you can’t make my top 20 everyday players, top 10 contributors, or top 10 pitchers you have no business being considered for a Hall of Fame.

6. Everyday players now on the list for 1913 are: Jake Beckley, Cupid Childs, Lave Cross, Gene DeMontreville, Patsy Donovan, Jack Doyle, Hugh Duffy, George Gore, Paul Hines, Dummy Hoy, Bill Lange, Arlie Latham, Andy Leonard, Hermann Long, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarthy, John McGraw, Cal McVey, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren. A total of 22. I have to either add 2 to the Class of 1913 or drop 2 from the list.

7. For pitchers I have the following: Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz, Brickyard Kennedy, Bobby Mathews, Tony Mullane, Gus Weyhing, and Will White. A total of 7. None will have to be taken off for 1913.

8. The contributors, with Brush added, are: Brush (owner), Jim Creighton (who may have been the 1st professional and may have invented the fastball/ or maybe not), Candy Cummings (early pitcher who may, or may not, have invented the curve), Bob Ferguson (early 3rd baseman, manager, and umpire), John “Bud” Hillerich (of Louisville Slugger), Lip Pike (early power hitter), Henry C. Pulliam (NL President), Al Reach (player, owner, Reach Guide), Chris von der Ahe (owner), William R. Wheaton (wrote oldest set of rules available–1837). To reach 10 I dropped Henry Chalmers, of Chalmers Motors, who provided the first MVP Awards. As far as I can tell he didn’t do much else with baseball, so I cut him loose.

9. I’ve figured out how to handle the John McGraw problem mentioned in previous posts. Will let you know more next time.


A Dozen Things You Should Know About Kid Nichols

October 19, 2011

Kid Nichols

1. He was born Charles Augustus Nichols in Madison, Wisconsin in 1869.

2. After a few years in the minors, he hit the Major Leagues with Boston in 1890 at age 21. His youth earned him his nickname, his 27 wins earned him a permanent spot on the team.

3. In 1893, baseball went to the modern pitching distance and added the mound. He went from 35 wins to 34, his ERA jumped a  full run, his strikeouts went down, and he led the National League in WHIP for the first time. Obviously he, adjusted reasonably well (as did Cy Young).

4. Between 1891 and 1898 inclusive he averaged 31 wins a season, falling below 30 only once with 26 in 1895.

5. He remained with Boston through 1901. During his 12 years with the Beaneaters the team won five pennants, came in second once, and third another time.

6. In the 1892 split season, Boston won the first half with a .702 winning percentage, then beat Cleveland (and Cy Young) in the postseason playoff five games to none, Nichols getting two wins). In what passed for postseason play in the 1890s (split season and Temple Cup), Nichols was involved in the split season and the 1897 Temple Cup. He won one game in 1897.

7. The advent of the American League decimated the Boston team. Nichols stayed around for 1901, then spent 1902 and 1903 in the minors, pitching well and coaching a little.

8. In 1904 the Cardinals brought him back to the Majors. He went 21-13 with an ERA of 2.02 (ERA+ of 134).

9. He began 1905 with St. Louis, was traded to Philadelphia during the season, and finished his career with the Phillies in 1906.

10. His career record is in some dispute. His win total varies from 369 to 360 depending on the source. Baseball Reference settled on 361, but the Hall of Fame chose 360,  either of which is seventh ever.

11. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949 by the Veteran’s Committee. He never got more than 2.6 % of the vote by the writers (which should be proof that the writers aren’t as knowledgable about baseball as they claim).

12. He died in Kansas City, Missouri on 11 April 1953 and is buried there.

Long and Lowe

July 9, 2010

Bobby Lowe (left), Herman Long (right) with Fred Tenney (standing) and Jimmy Collins (seated center)

Some things just go together. Take pepperoni and pizza. Try bacon and eggs. Think Big and Mac.

Baseball’s like that too. Some things just go together. Jeter and Cano, Groat and Mazeroski, Tinker and Evers. See, don’t you just sort of think of one when you think of the other? Way back in the 1890’s there was another of those: Herman Long and Bobby Lowe.

Herman Long was a shortstop for Kansas City in 1889. He moved to the Boston Beaneaters in 1890, staying through 1902. After leaving Boston played for short stints with the Highlanders (Yankees), Tigers, and Phillies. Today he’s primarily famous for making more errors than anyone else in Major League history, 1096. Of course if you play for 17 years mostly in Nineteenth Century ballparks with Nineteenth Century equipment, you have to be pretty good to stay around long enough to make a thousand plus errors. His fielding percentage was .906, which isn’t all that good, with 765 double plays, which is terrific for the era. His range factor is 5.77 which is darned good in any era. He could hit a little too. He averaged .277, with an OBP of .335 and a slugging percentage of .338, giving him a .718 OPS. He scored 1456 runs, knocked in 1055, and had 2938 total bases. In 1900 he won the National League home run title with 12 and in 1893 led the NL in runs with 149. He died of tuberculosis in 1909.

Most of his doubles plays were in partnership with Bobby Lowe. Lowe came to Boston in 1890 and stayed through 1901. He then played for a short stint with the Cubs in 1902 and 1903, then went to both Pittsburgh and Detroit before retiring. Unlike Long he was one of the better fielders of his day. He managed a .951 fielding percentage, a 5.70 range factor, and only 389 errors (he was a second baseman, remember). He hit .273 for his career with an OBP of .325, a slugging percentage of .360, and an OPS of .685. He was a superior leadoff hitter for the era scoring 1135 runs on 1924 hits. He lived to age 86, dying in 1951.

What the two men did well together was win. Both men arrived in Boston in 1890, Long becoming an immediate starter. The Beaneaters finished fifth, 12 games back. Over the next 10 years, with both men starting up the middle, Boston took five pennants. They won in 1891 and to be honest, having Harry Stovey in right field and both John Clarkson and Kid Nichols on the mound helped Boston a lot, but both Long and Lowe were significant contributors to the improvement. The 1892 season saw a split season (the last until 1981) with Boston winning the first half, then beating up on Cleveland in the end of season pennant series. Neither Long nor Lowe did very well in the series. In fact to be honest about again, both did terribly.

Boston won again in 1893, slipped to third in 1894, and all the way to fifth in 1895. By 1896, they were back to fourth, then in both 1897 and 1898 won the NL title again. In 1899 they slipped back to second behind syndicate team Brooklyn (the owner of Brooklyn also owned Baltimore and cannibalized the two teams to put together one very good team.) In 1900 and 1901, their last two years together, an aging Long and Lowe finished fourth and fifth. But in 12 years together, 11 with both starting, they had, as mentioned earlier, managed to win five pennants. Thy also finished second once.

Neither man is much remembered today, neither is in much danger of making the Hall of Fame and thus returning to prominence. Both were major contributors to five pennant winners and good players in their own right. One really nice thing about the internet it that it gives people like me a chance to remind people like you about these kinds of players and how important they were to the game we love.

The Antithesis of Baltimore

March 25, 2010

Kid Nichols

There were two truly great teams playing in the National League in the 1890’s. Very few teams have been more unalike. The Orioles were loud, obnoxious, rowdy, obnoxious, dirty, obnoxious, full of fight (did I mention obnoxious?). Their counterparts were the Boston Beaneaters.

Unlike Baltimore, Boston had a tradition of winning teams, at least in the 1870s. The city could claim the last four National Association pennants and two of the first three National League pennants. They’d even won the only Player’s League championship.

After spending most of the 1880s outside the rarified air of pennant contenders, Boston got back in contention in 1889, then slid back in 1890 when the Player’s League raided them. One significant change occured in 1890, they brought in Frank Selee to manage the team. Selee was a minor league manager who had been incredibly successful and was brought on board to revamp the team. It worked.

The Beaneaters (as I’ve said before, what a terrible team nickname) were the antithesis of the Orioles. They played solid, fundamental, unspectacular baseball. They didn’t brawl, they didn’t fight. They hit well, they played good defense, and they pitched really, really well. Like Baltimore, they are credited with inventing the hit and run. I don’t know which, if either, actually did it. In 1891, ’92, and ’93 they won pennants and took the 1892 split season postseason series against Cleveland by winning five straight games after a first game tie. They slipped to third in 1894, fifth in ’95, and fourth again in ’96, then roared back to the top in both 1897 and 1898. They finished second in 1899 and finished the century in fourth.

Lots of players rotated through the Beaneaters during the final decade of the 19th Century, but the core of the team consisted of 10 or so players: first baseman Tommy Tucker, second baseman (and converted outfielder) Bobby Lowe, shortstop Herman Long, third baseman Billy Nash (who was replaced late in the run by Jimmy Collins), center fielder Hugh Duffy, the two left fielders Tommy McCarthy and Billy Hamilton, and pitchers Kid Nichols, Harry Staley, and Jake Stivetts. Of that crew Duffy, McCarthy, Hamilton, Collins, and Nichols (along with Selee) later made the Hall of Fame.

If John McGraw stood as the ultimate Oriole, the centerpiece of the Boston team was Kid Nichols. Along with Cy Young he is one of the greatest pitchers of the 19th Century. During the 1891-98 run he averaged 31 wins and 14 losses for a winning percentage of .688. He made the transition to 60’6″ and a mound easily, his record going from 35-16 to 34-14 at the change. In 1896, ’97, and ’98 he led the league in wins (you aren’t going to lead often if you have Cy Young in the league). For the century he was 310-167, a .650 winning percentage.

Like Baltimore, the Beaneaters didn’t do well in Temple Cup play, losing the only series (1897) they entered. As stated in earlier posts involving the Temple Cup, first place teams tended to take the games as exhibitons and figured that winning the regular season was enough. Boston was no exception.

These were the glory days of the National League team in Boston. The American League put a team in the city in 1901 and the Beaneaters waned about the same time. The new team, now the Red Sox, won and thus became the darlings of New England. The National League team faded in both the standings and in fans. By the 1950s it was in enough trouble it moved to Milwaukee. Although the new team in Milwaukee, and later in Atlanta, returned to glory, it was a sad end to a great franchise in Boston.

I hate to go out on a sad note. Late in their history, the Boston NL team, now called the Braves, called up a lefty pitcher named Warren Spahn. Put him together with Nichols and you get what is surely the best left-right combination produced by a single franchise in baseball history.