Posts Tagged ‘Larry Doyle’

Win the MVP, Get a Car

August 18, 2016
Hugh Chalmers pictured on the cover of his biography

Hugh Chalmers pictured on the cover of his biography

The idea of a Most Valuable Player isn’t new. The current award goes back to the 1930s and before that there were two other versions of the award. In the 1920s the League Awards anointed an MVP in each league and prior to that there were the very first MVP style awards–the Chalmers Awards.

Hugh Chalmers began his rise to entrepreneurial prominence with the National Cash Register Company, becoming vice president at age 30. He was also an early automobile enthusiast. He got into the business early, buying into the Thomas-Detroit car company (Thomas was E. R. Thomas another early automobile magnate) in 1907. He took control of the company in 1909. He changed the name to Chalmers-Detroit and in 1911 dropped the Detroit. The company was moderately successful doing well until the US entry into World War I (April 1917). The Maxwell Company, under lease from Chalmers, took over much of their manufacturing space under government contract and made vehicles for the war effort. After the war ended, Chalmers returned to manufacturing his automobiles, but the damage was done. The company faltered, Chalmers merged with Maxwell in 1922, and made his last car in 1923. Maxwell later became the basis of Chrysler. He died in 1932 still in his 50s.

Chalmers was also a baseball fan. In 1910 he hit on the idea of combining his business with the sport to sponsor an award for baseball’s best players. The award was one of his cars. It would be great publicity for his company and recognize baseball’s best all at the same time. He got the leagues to agree to the idea of an annual award. Originally the award was to be given to the batting champ (batting average), the man with the highest batting average in either league (s0 only one car was given away)

Of course it wouldn’t be baseball if controversy hadn’t ensued. On the last day of the American League season Ty Cobb, leading the batting race, sat out the game. Indians second baseman Napoleon LaJoie was only a few points behind him and managed eight hits in a season ending doubled header. That gave him the batting title except that the St. Louis Browns, in a rebuke to Cobb’s playing style, played their third baseman so deep that LaJoie easily beat out eight bunts. Detroit, and a lot of other places, called foul and AL President Ban Johnson gave the batting title to Cobb (and there is still controversy today over who actually won the title) and declared, with Chalmers’ consent, that both men would receive a car. The National League batting champ, Sherry Magee, was well behind both Cobb and LaJoie (as well as Tris Speaker) so he didn’t figure in the debate.

The next season there were some changes in the award. First, it became officially an MVP Award. It could go to the “most important and useful player” as determined by a committee of baseball writers, without reference to whether he won the batting title or not (meaning that now pitchers were eligible). Second, there would be one in each league. That seemed to solve the worst problems.

Except of course it didn’t. In 1911 Ty Cobb again had a great year and won the 1911 Chalmers Award in the AL (and another car). That created a problem. No one wanted to give Cobb a new car every year and there was good reason to believe he might be the “most important and useful player” for a lot of years. So they made another change. Having won a Chalmers Award, a player was ineligible to win a second (meaning no one got more than one car). That seemed to solve the problem, but it created another. When the League Awards began in the 1920s, the “win one, ineligible for another” rule was put in place. Apparently the powers that be forgot why the Chalmers Award had that rule (the League Awards didn’t give out a car). When they got to the modern MVP in the 1930s, they dumped the one award only rule.

The problem now arose that the Award wasn’t helping Chalmers sell cars. His sales didn’t go up as he expected and it was expensive giving away two cars every year. The Award last through the 1914 season when Chalmers dropped his offer (and MLB didn’t continue the award without the car).

Here’s a quick list of the winners of the Chalmers Award:

AL: 1911-Cobb, 1912-Tris Speaker, 1913-Walter Johnson (the only pitcher to win the award), 1914-Eddie Collins

NL: 1911-Wildfire Schulte, 1912-Larry Doyle, 1913-Jake Daubert, 1914-Johnny Evers

Although it only lasted four years (and the 1910 fiasco), the Chalmers Award is important in baseball history. It established the idea of a postseason award for playing excellence, leading to the current MVP, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Henry Aaron awards, among others. It’s interesting to note that all four of the AL Chalmers winners ended up in the Hall of Fame, while only Johnny Evers among NL winners made it to Cooperstown. That might help explain why the AL was dominant in the World Series’ of the nineteen-teens.

Nap LaJoie and Ty Cobb (left to right) in a 1910 Chalmers 30 Automobile

Nap LaJoie and Ty Cobb (left to right) in a 1910 Chalmers 30 Automobile

 

 

 

Opening Day, 1913: National League

April 1, 2013
Jake Daubert in 1913

Jake Daubert in 1913

Opening Day in 1913 was 9 April (10 days later than the current season). There was a single game played that day, Philadelphia defeating Brooklyn 1-0. The other teams opened play later and the National League had a good season, although one without a lot of suspense.

As two-time defending champions, the Giants were formidable still in 1913. Their eight position players remained the same with only Beals Becker missing, replaced by George Burns (not the comedian). Larry Doyle was a star at second, catcher Chief Meyers was a .300 hitter, Fred Merkle, five years removed from his “bonehead” play was a solid first baseman, and manager John McGraw was John McGraw. The heart of the team, however, was the pitching staff. Ace Christy Mathewson would win 25 games, pick up the ERA title (2.06) and walk all of 21 men in 306 innings. Rube Marquard would win 23 games and Jeff Tesreau would add a further 22. The Giants would make it three in a row by 12.4 games. Much of it came when the ran off 14 wins in a row between 26 June and 9 July. By way of contrast they lost four in a row 30 April to 5 May, their longest losing streak. They would go on to lose their third straight World Series in October.

Philadelphia would do well with Gavvy Cravath winning the home run title with 19, adding the RBI title at 128. Although future Hall of Famers Pete Alexander and Eppa Rixey pitched well, the ace was Tom Seaton who had 27 wins and led the NL in strikeouts with 168.

The emerging star was Brooklyn’s Jake Daubert. He would win the batting title at .350 for the sixth place Superbas (“Dodgers” would come later). At season’s end he picked up the Chalmers Award (an early version of the MVP Award), which should probably have gone to Cravath. The fading  star was Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner. For the last time he hit .300 and for the first time since 1905 didn’t lead the league in any major hitting category (it still got him eighth in the Chalmers Award voting).

The year saw two rookies arrive that would have an impact on the league. On 17 April, Bill James (not the current baseball stats man) made his first appearance for the Braves. He went 6-10 for the season, but was a key to the “Miracle” Braves run in 1914. For the Giants, outfielder Jim Thorpe made his initial appearance on 14 April. He would hit only .143 in limited service. He would make the NFL Hall of Fame and be known as the greatest athlete of the first 50 years of the 20th Century, but baseball was not his dominant sport.

Trifecta II

July 25, 2012

New York Giants members Fred Merkle, Larry Doyle, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, and Fred Snodgrass in 1912

I mentioned in an earlier post that two teams managed to lose three World Series’ in a row. One was the Detroit Tigers of 1907-09. The earlier post talked about them. It’s time to turn to the other team, the 1911-13 New York Giants.

The Giants were a standard John McGraw team. They had great pitching, solid defense (for the era), and stole a ton of bases. The dominated utterly the National League for the three-year period. They were first in 1911 by 7.5 games, led the NL in batting average, OBP, slugging, stolen bases, and RBIs. They were second in hits, doubles, triples, and managed to finish second in runs scored by a total of one. In 1912 they won the pennant by 10 games, with second baseman Larry Doyle winning the Chalmers Award (an early version of the MVP). They were first in average, OBP, runs (by about 75), and stolen bases. They finished second in slugging and third in hits. The 1913 season saw them take the pennant by 12.5 games, but they led the NL only in average and stolen bases.

It was the pitching that was most famous.  Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard led a staff that gave up the least runs, the least earned runs, the least walks, and struck out the most opponents in 1911. They repeated, except for strikeouts where they were second, all those numbers in both 1912 and 1913. Marquard led the league in strikeouts in 1911 and in wins in 1912, setting a consecutive wins record. Mathewson led the league in ERA in both 1911 and 1913 while managing to walk at total of 93 men ( a peak of 38 in 1911) over 923 innings. That’s about one man every 10 innings.

But they lost the World Series in 1911 to the Philadelphia Athletics four games to two. The A;s out hit them .244 to .175 and Frank Baker became “Home Run” Baker with two crucial homers. The 1912 World Series went seven games (eight because of a tie) with game seven (the eighth played) becoming one of the more famous World Series games. The Giants actually outhit and outpitched the Red Sox if you look just at the stats, but much of that came in game six (seventh played) when the Giants won 11-4 and gathered 16 hits. The 1913 A’s didn’t mess around in the Series, dispatching the Giants in five games (Mathewson getting the Giants win). They outhit New York by sixty points, got two home runs (one by Baker) to one by the Giants and had more doubles and triples. The A’s ERA was a full point and a half better. They walked fewer men, struck out more than double the number the Giants’ pitchers recorded. The Athletics were held under six runs twice, a game two shutout loss and in game five when they got only three runs (to New York’s one).

What went wrong? Well, a couple of things. First the Giants were winning big in a league that was falling behind their opponents. The Philadelphia Athletics of 1911-14 were a truly great team and being knocked off by them was no shame. The 1912 Series is a little hard to figure. The Red Sox were something of a fluke (the 1915-18 team was better and only a few of the pieces were there in 1912). They did manage to hold the Giants in check except for one game and never won a game by more than two runs.

It was the end of the line for the Giants. They fell back behind the Braves in 1914, stayed out of the limelight until 1917 when they won another pennant (and suffered another World Series loss to Boston). They won again in 1921 and 1922. Those were McGraw’s last Series triumphs.

Opening Day 1911: NL

April 11, 2011

Christy Mathewson

Last year I went into a detailed (perhaps overly detailed) look at the 1910 season. I don’t intend to repeat that with 1911, but 12 April was opening day in 1911 and I think we should celebrate the season 100 years later. It was, if not as significant as 1910, still a very interesting year. First the National League.

The old Cubs dynasty died. Both Frank Chance and Johnny Evers spent much of the year on the bench and in Chance’s case it was to be permanent. For the rest of his career Frank Chance would play only 56 games. Evers, on the other hand, would bounce back and have several more productive seasons, culminating with a Chalmers Award (and early MVP  Award) and a World Series championship in 1914.

The Giants took Chicago’s place as the reigning dynasty. John McGraw’s team won the pennant despite seeing their stadium burn. They spent most of the season as guests of the Highlanders (now the Yankees), but returned to their own stadium in August. They managed to go on a hot streak in August  and took the championship by 7.5 games.

A number of players had superb seasons. Honus Wagner hit .334 and won his final batting title for the Pirates. His OPS also led the league at .930. Chicago’s Wildfire Schulte led the NL with 21 home runs, the most by a player since 1899. Schulte and Owen Wilson of Pittsburgh tied with 107 RBIs. Schulte would walk away with the NL’s Chalmers Award (and the new car that went with it).

The biggest news was among the pitchers. Grover Cleveland Alexander had what was arguably the finest rookie season of any pitcher in the 20th Century. He led the NL in wins with 28, shutouts with seven, and pitched 31 complete games. Giants ace Christy Mathewson put up 26 wins and led the NL with an ERA of 1.99. In 307 innings he walked a total of 38 men. As good as that sounds, he would do even better in 1912. His teammate lefty Rube Marquard led the league in strikeouts with 237.

Unfortunately, the pennant was all the Giants could manage, dropping the World Series in six games. Mathewson and Doc Crandall got the two wins with Mathewson and Marquard taking three of the losses (Red Ames took the loss in game six). the team hit .175 for the Series with Larry Doyle and Chief Meyers managing to hit .300 with Josh Devore leading in both RBIs and strikeouts.

It’s a year to look back on and celebrate. We can look at the greatness of Honus Wagner, the genius of John McGraw, and the pitching prowess of Christy Mathewson. That’s worth celebrating, even if the NL lost the World Series.

Tom, Dick, and Larry: Larry

May 26, 2010

Larry Doyle

Like a number of players from the Deadball Era, Larry Doyle came out of the mines. His mines were in Breese, Illinois. He hated the mines, loved baseball, was better at the latter than the former and after a couple of years in the minors ended up in New York with the Giants in 1907.

Doyle was a third baseman in the minors and the Giants had a third baseman (Art Devlin). What they needed was a second baseman, so Doyle was handed the job. He was awful. Eventually he got better, but was never considered a first-rate second baseman. He seems to have never gotten the knack of coming in properly for a slow roller  and many of his errors were of the glove, not arm, kind.

What he could do well was hit. He moved quickly into the two hole in the Giants order and spent most of the next ten years as a reliable two hitter. He had good bat control, speed, and a good eye, all critical in a bunt oriented one-run-at-a-time offense. He led the National League in triples once (1911), in hits twice, and in doubles once. In 1915 he won the batting crown. In 1912 he won the NL’s Chalmers Award, the 19-teens version of the MVP award, setting career highs in both average and RBIs. His reward was a Chalmers automobile, which he managed to wreck in 1913 causing him to miss several games toward the end of the season.

During his tenure with the Giants, the team won the NL pennant in 1911-1913, but lost all three World Series’ to the American League team. In the 1911 Series Doyle led the team in hits (7) and average (.304). In 1912 his Series performance was much worse, and got even worse in 1913 when he managed to hit only .150 with three hits.

Doyle stayed with the Giants through 1915, managing to room with Christy Mathewson for most of the period. The two men became good friends and were very good at coming up with joint investments, which left Doyle with a nice nest egg for his early retirement years. He also became great friends with first baseman Fred Merkle and always supported him against detractors after the base running blunder of 1908.

In 1916 Doyle was traded to the Cubs with nine games left in the season (the Giants got Heinie Zimmerman). He stayed with Chicago through 1917, then came back to New York for the final three years of his career, retiring after the 1920 season. After his playing days he worked with the Giants as a minor league manager, scout, and sometime coach. He managed to go through most of his money and by 1942 was in bad shape both economically in healthwise. He got tuberculosis and ended up, with help from the NL, in the same sanitarium where his old roommate Mathewson had lived his last years. He outlived the sanitarium. It closed in 1954. He died at home in 1974.

For much of his career, Doyle was the finest second baseman in the National League, rivalled only by Johnny Evers (both Eddie Collins and Nap LaJoie in the American League were better). For his career he hit .290, slugged .408, had an on base percentage of .357 (765 ops) with 2654 total bases. He averaged 21 stolen bases a season (which includes two seasons when he did not play 100 games). He wasn’t much of a second baseman. HIs career .949 fielding average isn’t very good, even by the standards of the era (although there are worse).

Doyle was one of those players who is absolutely necessary for a team to do well, but who is not the big star on the team. He won an MVP but was usually lost behind the great names of the era. He was the best at his position in his league, but the other league was stronger at the spot. There are a lot of those types in baseball history.

Opening Day, 1910: New York (NL)

April 8, 2010

John J. McGraw

In 1908 the Giants lost the National League pennant on the last day of the season (the so called “Merkle Game”). They slipped in 1909, finishing third, 12 games out of second. John McGraw, never content with anything but first place, began retooling his team for the 1910 pennant run.

He did it by going with a group of bench players who replaced the more established players in the field. In doing so he dropped the average age of his postion players from 28 to 26 years of age, the youngest in the league (actually tied wth Cincinnati).  Gone were first baseman Fred Tenney, center fielder Bill O’Hara, and left fielder Moose McCormick. In their place came new first baseman and seven hitter Fred Merkle (of “Bonehead” infamy), Fred Snodgrass in center and hitting third, and Josh Devore the left fielder and new lead off man.

Staying in the starting line up were two hitter and second baseman Larry Doyle (the 1909 league leader in hits), shortstop and five hitter Al Bridwell, Art Devlin the third baseman and six hitter, and right fielder Red Murray who hit clean up. The 1909 backup catcher had been Chief Meyers. He now took over the starting spot, and the eight hole. Former starter Admiral Schlei slid onto the bench. Holdover Cy Symour and newcomer Beals Becker (from National League rival Boston) were the substitute outfielders, while Art Fletcher and Tilly Shafer remained backup infielders.

The pitching staff was the heart of a McGraw team. Christy Mathewson was the ace. He led the NL in winning percentage and ERA in 1909. Hooks Wiltse, Red Ames, and Bugs Raymond remained from the ’09 team. Reliever Doc Crandall stayed in the bullpen, and newcomer Rube Marquard was on the roster as a spot starter.

As usual for the Giants of the era, the team was built around pitching, defense, and speed. It was younger, faster, and hit better. Most New Yorkers expected it to compete for a pennant and a return to the World Series, the Giants’ first since 1905.

Next: Cincinnati

The First MVP Awards

January 11, 2010

The modern version of the MVP Award began in the 1930s and has run since. It isn’t, however, the first MVP Award series in baseball. Way back in the 19-teens there was the Chalmers Award.

Hugh Chalmers owned Chalmers Automobiles in Detroit. He was a baseball fan and in April 1911 proposed the idea of giving one of his cars (the Model 30) to the “most valuable player” in both leagues.   A committee of  baseball writers would be set up to determine the winners. The league offiicals didn’t have objections, but a suggestion was made that once a player won the award, he couldn’t win it again. The idea had some merit from Chalmers’ point of view. It was good advertising, it promoted automobiles, it promoted baseball during the “off season.”  The idea of  granting a player only one award also made sense. It meant that Chalmers Autos would be seen in more places, there were more players available to pose for pictures with the car and give testimonials as to the quality of the automobile, and, from baseball’s point of view, it meant that you weren’t going to have to give a new car to Ty Cobb every year.

The previous year, 1910, there was a huge debate about the batting title in the American League. Cobb and Nap LaJoie both had claim to it (long story and not for this post). Chalmers decided to give a car to both (heck, it was good advertising). It also lead  to the idea of the Chalmers Award.

The next year  the award itself went to Cobb. Over the next four years the Chalmers Award, and the car, were given out. By 1915 the award had lost its luster. It was getting expensive for Chalmers, whose business was beginning to get into trouble, the obvious American League winner, Cobb, couldn’t win another, fans weren’t impressed or enthused, so the award was dropped.

And, Chalmers? His company lasted into the 1920’s when it was folded into first Maxwell, then eventually into Chrysler. Chalmers lost his job.

One of the best things the Chalmers Award does is indicate the superiority of the American League in the period. All four AL winners went on to Hall of Fame careers, while only one National Leaguer, Johnny Evers, did the same. In the period the AL won three of the four World Series’, losing only in 1914, the year Evers won the award. Below is a list of the winners with the following stats beside the name: batting average/RBI’s/slugging percentage or Wins/ERA/strikeouts in the case of pitcher Walter Johnson.

AL 1911-Ty Cobb 420/127/621

1912-Tris Speaker 383/90/567

1913-Walter Johnson 36/1.14/243

1914-Eddie Collins 344/85/452

NL 1911-Wildfire Schulte 300/107/534

1912-Larry Doyle 330/90/471

1913-Jake Daubert 350/52/423 

1914-Johnny Evers  279/40/338