Posts Tagged ‘Larry Gardner’

1915: A New Dynasty Forms in the American League

April 6, 2015
Duffy Lewis

Duffy Lewis

The end of the 1914 season saw the end of the first Philadelphia Athletics dynasty. They won the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913, then lost it in 1914. The team broke up after the 1914 World Series, leaving a vacuum at the top of the American League. In 1912, the one year Philly hadn’t won, the Boston Red Sox grabbed the AL pennant and won the World Series. Beginning in 1915, Boston established a new dynasty that was to rule the AL through 1918.

The 1915 BoSox were a mixture of holdovers from 1912 and a series of new, or at least new to Boston, players. The manager had changed. Jake Stahl, manager of the 1912 team was gone, replaced with Bill Carrigan. Carrigan was the starting catcher for the 1912 team who took over the Red Sox with 70 games left in the 1914 season. He was considered a decent enough catcher and a so-so hitter (in other words he was a solid, but unspectacular player whose career hovered around mediocre). He was 32 in 1915 and still did some catching on occasion. He would remain with Boston as both a player and manager one more year, winning the pennant again in 1916.

The other catchers were Pinch Thomas and Hick Cady. Thomas hit in the .230s while Cady hit in the .270s. Although Thomas hit from the left side while Cady stepped into the right-handers batters box, they had almost exactly the same amount of at bats (205 for Cady and 203 for Thomas), indicating it wasn’t exactly a modern platoon system behind the plate.

The infield consisted of (from first to third) Dick Hoblitzell, Jack Barry, Everett Scott, and Larry Gardner. The latter was the only one remaining from 1912’s starting infield. He’d lost 50 points off his batting average from 1912, but was still a good third baseman for the era. Hoblitzell was third on the team with 61 RBIs and tied for second with 12 triples. Scott was 22 and playing only his second season. He hit all of .201, but was a good enough shortstop to push Barry to second base. Barry was one of the reasons the Athletics were no longer a power. He’d been the shortstop of the “$100,000 Infield” and a stalwart of the A’s pennant runs. In 1915 he was only 28 and still a capable fielder. He hit .262 and, in a base running crazy era, never even attempted a stolen base in 1915.

If the infield was largely new, the outfield was the same. The 1912-1915 Boston outfield is considered by many the best Deadball Era outfield and in some circles still holds a position in the top five or ten greatest outfields ever. Duffy Lewis played left field. He hit .291, tied for the team lead in home runs (among starters) with two, led the team in RBIs, and was second in hits.His OPS+ was 121. The other two outfielders were Hall of Fame center fielders. As two men couldn’t play center at the same time, Harry Hooper moved to right field. He was a stellar fielder who had a down year in 1915. He hit only .235, but led the team in triples (13), and was fifth in RBIs. Even with a bad average, he managed an OPS+ of 103. The actual center fielder was Tris Speaker. “Spoke” hit .322, led the team in hits, stolen bases, and was second in RBIs. He was a great center fielder whose OPS+ was 151 and who had a WAR (BBREF version) of 7.1, higher than the next two men (Lewis and Hooper) combined (3.2 and 3.1).

There was a long bench, especially for the era. Hal Janvrin, Heinie Wagner, and Del Gainer all got into more than 80 games and Olaf Henriksen got into 73. Of the lot Gainer had the highest average and the only home run. In fact, if you discount pitchers, he had the only home run by a bench player.

But if you don’t discount pitchers there are six more home runs, four of them by a second year lefty named Babe Ruth. Ruth hit .318, had an OPS+ of 188 and led the team with the four home runs. Smokey Joe Wood and Rube Foster (obviously not the Negro National League founder) had the other two. Ernie Shore had one of those great Deadball stats that you don’t see much anymore. He hit all of .101, but in eight hits he had four doubles, a triple, and 10 RBIs. All that gave him an OPS+ of 1.

But Shore, like Ruth, wasn’t there to hit. The staff was very good. Five men started double figure games. Foster and Shore both had 19 wins, Ruth getting 18. Wood and Dutch Leonard each had 15. All had more innings pitched than hits allowed, and only Ruth had more walks (86) than strikeouts (82). Ruth’s 2.44 was the highest ERA while Wood’s 1.49 led the starters. Carl Mays, at age 23, was the main man in the bullpen, registering 31 relief appearances, seven saves, and six starts. His record was 6-5. Twenty-one year old Herb Pennock was also over from Philadelphia, but only pitched 14 innings over five games. His Hall of Fame career would bloom later.

Over the season the BoSox won 101 games and beat Detroit for the pennant by 2.5 games. They were third in the AL in runs, second in RBIs, next-to-last in home runs, and dead last in stolen bases. Their team ERA was second in the AL behind only last place Washington (and Walter Johnson). They were also second (again to Washington) in runs and hits allowed, and were third in strikeouts (again Washington led, this time with Chicago in second). Individually, Speaker was fourth in hits and runs scored, sixth in total bases, seventh in doubles, and sixth in walks.  Lewis finished ninth in hits, eighth in total bases, second in doubles, and ninth in RBIs. Hooper was eighth in runs scored, ninth in triples, and fifth in walks. Speaker’s 7.1 WAR was third in the league behind Ty Cobb and Eddie Collins (another A’s refugee, now at Chicago). Ruth’s four home runs tied for ninth in the AL. Among pitchers Shore was third in ERA and tied for sixth in wins. Foster tied Shore for sixth in wins, with Ruth showing up as ninth. Carl Mays’ seven saves were easily the best among AL pitchers.

The 1915 season was the first of a four-year run for Boston. They would win the 1915 and 1916 World Series’, then repeat again in the shortened 1918 season (finishing second in 1917). This dynasty would be the end for the Red Sox. After 1918 they wouldn’t win another pennant until 1946 and not win the World Series until the 21st Century.

1912: Opening Day

April 11, 2012

Mae West in 1912

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of Opening Day in 1912. It was a different world then. William Howard Taft was President of the United States (although Woodrow Wilson would win the election in November). Most people still rode the train or horse and buggy. Wyatt Earp and Cole Younger were still alive, as was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria whose death two years later would spark a World War. Al Capone, Frank Nitti, and Elliot Ness were nobodies. Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin were writing ragtime music and Geroge Gershwin was still four years from publishing his first song. No one had ever heard of John Wayne and Mae West was just getting started on Broadway, but Mary Pickford was America’s darling and Lillian Gish was just beginning a career that would make her a great star. She’d hitched her ambitions to a genius named D.W. Griffith who was starting to toy with the idea of making a movie two hours long, an unheard of length for a “flicker”. Molly Brown wasn’t yet “unsinkable” because the Titanic was still three days from be introduced to icebergs.  George Gipp (of “win one for the Gipper” fame) had yet to play a down for Notre Dame and Babe Ruth had not yet appeared in a Red Sox uniform.

For Boston, 1912 would be an exceptionally good year. Down 2-1 in the ninth inning, the Red Sox would storm back to win on Opening Day. By the end of the season they would win 105 games, finish first by 14 (over Walter Johnson and the Senators), then win a famous World Series over the Giants four games to three (with a tie). The outfield of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper is considered one of the finest, if not the finest, Deadball Era outfield. Both Speaker and Hooper eventually made the Hall of Fame. Although Hooper had a down year in 1912, Speaker was tremendous and Lewis had a fine season. Jake Stahl managed and played first. He joined Speaker and third baseman Larry Gardner as .300 hitters. Steve Yerkes and Heinie Wagner rounded out the infield and Bill Carrigan did the bulk of the catching. Joe Wood hit .290 and won 34 games. Hugh Bedient and Buck O’Brien both won twenty and Charley Hall and Ray Collins (not the old actor) won in double figures.

The National League saw the New York Giants score 18 runs and pound out 22 hits as the started the season with a victory over Brooklyn. John McGraw’s team would win 103 games and finish 10 ahead of Pittsburgh. As with most McGraw teams, it was the pitching that stood out. Christy Mathewson won 23 games and walked only 34 in 310 innings of work. Lefty Rube Marquard won even more games with 26, while Jeff Tesreau, Red Ames, and Doc Crandall won between 11 and 17 games. Tesreau managed to cop the ERA title. In the field, catcher Chief Meyers had a terrific year, hitting over 350, winning an OBP title, and slugging almost .450. The infield of Fred Merkle, Larry Doyle, Art Fletcher, and Buck Herzog (first around to third )feathured two .300 hitters and two men with 10 or more homer runs (Merkle and Doyle in each case). The outfield featured Fred Snodgrass, who would make a memorable gaffe in the World Series, Josh Devore, Beals Becker, and Red Murray. None of them hit .300, but Murray slugged over .400.

Other noteworthy achievements of the season in the NL included Heinie Zimmerman winning the NL batting, slugging, home run, and OPS titles. Honus Wagner picked up the RBI title while Cincinnati leftfielder Bob Bescher swipped 67 bases to win the stolen base crown. Larry Cheney tied Marquard for the league lead in wins while Grover Cleveland Alexander picked up the strikeout title with 195. Nap Rucker of Brooklyn and Marty O’Toole at Pittsburgh each had six shutouts. The league lead in saves was six, turned in by Slim Sallee of the Cardinals. The Chalmers Award (the 1912 version of the MVP) went to Larry Doyle over Meyers (got me). 

In the American League Ty Cobb hit .409 to win the batting title. He also picked up slugging and OPS titles, while Speaker won the OBP title. Frank Baker won the home run title and tied with Speaker for the RBI lead. Clyde Milan of Washington won the stolen base crown with 88 steals. Walter Johnson won both the ERA and strikeout titles at the same time he put up 33 wins, one less than Wood. Wood also had 10 shutouts, while Ed Walsh at Chicago picked up 10 saves. It should not surprise you that Speaker picked up the AL’s Chalmers Award.

Hot Stove League 1912 (AL)

January 5, 2012

Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper about 1912

Today we baseball junkies get our November-February fix by engaging in what’s called “The Hot Stove League”. It was no different 100 years ago. Here’s a few things the 1912 American League fan had to be discussing in January 100 years ago.

Could the Athletics repeat? The Philadelphia Athletics were two-time defending champions. Could they make it three in a row? No one ever had in the American League. We know the answer is “no.” Chief Bender had a down year, rookies Herb Pennock and Stan Coveleski (future Hall of Famers) didn’t do much (Coveleski only pitched 21 innings).

If not, who could take them? Boston had finished fifth in 1911, but  Jake Stahl took over as manager (and had a good year at first base), the outfield of Harry Hooper, Tris Speaker, and Duffy Lewis became arguably the finest Deadball Era outfield, third baseman Larry Gardner had a good season (better than Hooper’s), and Smokey Joe Wood won 30 games.

 Was Walter Johnson a fluke? After three so-so seasons, Johnson put together two 20 win seasons in 1910 and 1911. Fans had to wonder if he could continue. Short answer? Yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911, could Ty Cobb do it again? Again the answer turned out to be yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911 and losing the batting title to Cobb, could new guy Joe Jackson hit .400 in 1912 and win the batting title? Jackson slipped to .395, but led the AL in triples.

Would the team in New York, which had finished second in 1910 and slipped back to sixth in 1911 under now ousted manager Hal Chase recover or continue to slide. They dropped all the way to last place in 1912 with Chase still at first and sulking (among other things). He did lead the team in RBIs with 58.

And finally would Chicago pitcher Ed Walsh’s arm fall off? Walsh led the AL in games pitched in 1907, 1908, 1910, and 1911. Could he do it again? He could. He pitched in 62 games, starting 41, completing 32, and pitching 393 innings (read that last number closely).  Apparently the arm stayed attached, but the toll finally got to him. He developed a sore arm in 1913 and his career was effectively over.

Part of the joy of baseball is actually the offseason. The speculation, the anticipation, the questioning all make for a lot of fun. I love it, I hope you love it, and I’m sure fans 100 years ago loved it too.

One of My All-Time Favorites

November 17, 2010

Larry Gardner in 1917

You know how there are just certain players who reach out and impress you? It’s not there stats exactly. Sometimes it’s just a picture that lingers with you. Sometimes it’s your first baseball card. Sometimes it’s just watching the intensity or the sheer joy with which the guy plays. Sometimes it’s a story about him that gets your attention and you can’t shake it. Sometimes it’s just the memories of others who saw him before your time and remind you that you’ll never see his like. We all have players that touch us like that. SportsPhd talks about Roy Smalley that way. Bill Miller has his own special Met. For me Larry Gardner is one of those.

Gardner was born in Vermont in 1886. He played ball in school and eventually, after some time in the local leagues, ended up at the University of Vermont. He stayed through 1908, majoring in chemistry. After classes ended in 1908 he joined the Red Sox as a  third baseman. He got into two games, hit .500, and drove in a run. In 1909 he split time between third and shortstop, managed to play in 19 games, and hit .297. By 1910 he was the starting second baseman. In 1911 he moved back to third base, where he remained through 1917. In 1912 he hit .315, led the team in triples (18), stole 25 bases, slugged .449, and had 163 hits. Boston won the World Series that season despite Gardner hitting only .167 in the Series. In 1915 and 1916 the Red Sox returned to the World Series, winning both. Gardner was injured in 1915 and managed  to hit only .258 in 127 games. This time he hit .235 in the Series with a triple. In 1916 he was back fulltime and hit .308 with 152 hits and a .387 slugging percentage. He had a strange World Series. He led the team in home runs with two, in RBIs with six, but managed to hit only .176 (3 for 17). Obviously he made his hits count.

In 1918 he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics. He didn’t have a bad year for the last place A’s, but was traded to Cleveland for the 1919 season. Teaming again with former Red Sox center fielder Tris Speaker, Gardner hit .300 for the second place Indians. In 1920, he made it back to the World Series one last time. He hit .208, after going over .300 during the regular season, and Cleveland won the Series in six games.

Gardner was a player who took advantage of the new “lively ball ” era. He hit over .300 in 1920 and 1921 establishing career highs in hits, runs, RBIs, and total bases. He slipped back in 1922 and even further back in 1923. He was done in 1924. Splitting time between second and third base he hit only .200 in 38 games (only 14 of them in the field). For his career he hit .289, slugged .384, had an OPS of .739 (OPS+ of 109), had 2571 total bases, scored 867 runs, and had 934 RBIs. He’s one of those guys whose numbers really change with the death of the Deadball Era. His fielding percentage was good for his era, but not at the top of the league, but he had a decent range factor. Not a bad career.

With his playing days behind him, Gardner managed for a few years in the minor leagues, ran a garage in his home town, and in 1929 joined the University of Vermont physical education department. In 1932 he became head baseball coach. In 1942 he added Athletic Director to his title. He held both positions until his retirement in 1952. In 1969 he made it into the University Hall of Fame, and SABR acknowledged him as the greatest ballplayer from Vermont in a 1973 poll. After his retirement the university named its baseball MVP award the “Larry Gardner Award.” He died in 1976 at age 89. A University of Vermont man to the end, he donated his body to the university Department of Anatomy.

I’m not sure why Gardner has always been a favorite of mine. There are other third basemen who were better, other members of both the Red Sox and Indians who were greater players, but Gardner was still a very good player. His numbers don’t leap off the page at you, but since I became aware of him back 40 or so years ago, I’ve always liked what I saw and read. I think maybe it’s because he so represents the transition from the Deadball to Livelyball Eras. It’s really obvious that something changed in the early 1920s because Gardner is better at 30 than at 20, a lot better. Not sure that’s it, really, but it’s as good an explanation as any.

So tell me which players are your Larry Gardners?

1910:Red Sox Postmortem

September 9, 2010

In 1909 Fred Lake left the managerial job with the Red Sox to go across leagues to the Doves. The team was awful and Lake was fired, never returning to manage in the Major Leagues. His replacement, Patsy Donovan, had better luck. The Red Sox finished fourth in 1910, at 81-72, 22.5 games out of first. That was down from a third place finish in 1909.

It wasn’t the hitting that was the problem. Every Sox starter except catcher Bill Carrigan hit over .250 (and Carrigan hit .249). The team was third in batting average, runs scored, and RBIs. They were second in slugging and first in home runs with first baseman Jake Stahl leading the American League with ten. In stolen bases they finished fourth. Tris Speaker hit .340, good for third in league.

The bench wasn’t anything special. Four players managed 20 or more games, two hitting under .200. But backup infielder Clyde Engle hit .264, stole 12 bases, and ended up with more hits than regular third baseman Harry Lord.

The weakness was the pitching. Eddie Cicotte (of 1919 Black Sox infamy) led the team with a 15-11 record. And his record is typical for the staff. Of the seven men who started double figures games, four had winning percentages of .550 or less, the definition of a mediocre staff. On the positive side all of them had more innings pitched than hits allowed and more strikeouts than walks, except for Frank Arellanes, who started 13 of 26 games. At 26, it was the second youngest staff in the AL (behind New York) so there was time for improvement.

All in all the BoSox are not a bad team. In 1911 they will fall back a spot,costing Donovan his job, but will win the AL pennant and the World Series in two years. You can see that coming if you look at the hitting. Speaker, Larry Gardner, Duffy Lewis, and Harry Hooper are all there.  As for the pitching, it needed work. It got it. By 1912, only three of the 1910 major starters would still be around.

Jack Barry, Six-Time Winner

August 20, 2010

Jack Barry in 1913

You know one of the strange things you find out when you study baseball history is that no matter how good a particular player is, he usually, but not always, ends of on a  team that puts up a regular season losing record at some point. Babe Ruth did it in 1935, Mickey Mantle did it in the last couple of years of his career. Deadball player Jack Barry never did.

Barry was born in Connecticut in 1887. He played ball locally, then transferred his talents to Holy Cross. Connie Mack found him in 1908 and signed him to play with the Philadelphia Athletics. He became the shortstop of the “$100,000 infield” (Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Barry, Frank Baker first to third), the premier infield of the day. The $100,000 had to do with what the infield was worth, not what they were paid. He became part of the first Athletics dynasty that won the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913, then lost the Series in 1914. He stayed with the A’s into 1915, then found himself sold to the Boston Red Sox for $8000. The A’s ended up with a terrible record. The Sox went to the World Series.

With Barry at shortstop (longtime shortstop Larry Gardner went to third base), the Red Sox won the World Series in five games over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox promptly went out and won the 1916 World Series too, although Barry, by now a second baseman, missed the Series.  So in consecutive years from 1910 through 1916 Barry was on five World Series winners, one World Series loser, and saw his team miss the Series exactly once (1912). Not bad, right? Well, it was the end of the streak. In 1917, Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan retired from the dugout. Barry replaced him and led the BoSox to second place. It was his only year as manager,  Ed Barrow taking over in 1918.

Barry left the managerial job not because he wasn’t any good at it, but because the United States entered World War I. Barry joined the military and missed the entire 1918 season. Under Barrow, the Red Sox went back to, and won, the World Series. So there was no managerial job waiting for Barry when he returned  in 1919. He played in 31 games in 1919, then was sold back to the Athletics. Rather than report, he retired.

Over his career, Barry hit .243, slugged .303, had on OBP of .321 (for an OPS of .624), stole 153 bases, had 1009 hits, 532 runs, and 429 RBIs. His fielding was consistently among the league leaders, but he was never the most accomplished shortstop (or second baseman) in the AL. His World Series number mirror his regular season play very well. In 25 World Series games he hit .241, slugged .345, and had on OBP of .272 (for an OPS of .617), all very close to his career percentages. His managerial record was 90-62.

Barry was through with the Major Leagues, but not with baseball. In 1921 he took over coaching duties at Holy Cross and remained there the rest of his life. His career .806 winning percentage is a college record.

But the title says “six-time winner” and you’ve only counted five, right? Well, in 1952 he took Holy Cross to Omaha where they won the College World Series. Still coaching the team, he died in April 1961. Of the $100,000 infield, only Frank Baker outlived him. In 1966 he was one of the initial inductees to the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Not a bad outcome for a .243 hitter.

Stuffy McInnis, Deadball Star

May 1, 2010

Stuffy McInnis with the 1925 Pirates

As I’ve pointed out before, most of the Hall of Fame caliber players from the Deadball Era are largely forgotten today. Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner may be exceptions, but by and large it’s true. It’s even more true of the stars of the era who didn’t make it to Cooperstown. Here’s one.

John (Stuffy) McInnis was a great fielding, good hitting first baseman for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in the second decade of the 20th Century. Coming out of Gloucester, Massachusetts at age 19, he was the junior member of the A’s famous “$100,000” infield in both age and entry to the Major Leagues. For those curious, the rest of the infield is Eddie Collins at second, Jack Barry at short, and Frank Baker at third.

McInnis arrived in Philadelphia as a shortstop in 1909. Mack had Barry at short, so McInnis had to find another position. By 1911 he was the primary first baseman, replacing aging Harry Davis. He stayed with Philadelphia through 1917, seeing the glory years of the 1910, 1911 and 1913 World Series triumphs, the heartbreak of the 1914 World Series flop, and the disastrous 1916 campaign.

In 1918 he was traded to Boston for three players one of which was longtime Red Sox stalwart Larry Gardner. The Sox promptly won the World Series. In 1915 and 1916, the Red Sox won the World Series, then dropped back to second in 1917, thus a good team was already in place. So it’s not like they picked up McInnis and came out of nowhere to win. (Having that Babe Ruth guy helped a lot.) McInnis was a fielding upgrade over the previous first baseman, and had roughly the same numbers at the plate. Remember, this is the Deadball Era and first basemen are not yet primarily sluggers. In the Series, McInnis knocked in the only run in a 1-0 Red Sox game one victory, then scored the winning run in game three.

In 1922 he went to Cleveland, beginning the nomad phase that went on for the rest of his career. In 1923 and 1924 he was with the Boston Braves (now of Atlanta). In 1925 and 1926 he played for Pittsburgh, helping the Pirates to a World Series victory in his first year there. He took over as manager for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1927, playing in one final game. They finished last and he was let go by the Phils.

He managed in the minors and at colleges after his playing career ended, ultimately retiring from Harvard in 1954. He died in 1960.

The first thing you notice about McInnis is his fielding numbers. For any era they are impressive, for baseball’s Stone Age they are mind-boggling. Between 1912 and 1924, the seasons he is generally his team’s regular first baseman, he finished first in fielding six times, second five times, and fourth the other two years, including his rookie year at first base in 1911. His fielding prowess is reflected in a range factor almost half a run higher than anyone else who played significant time at first (OK, I know you don’t figure range factor for first basemen, but  did it on a lark and discovered McInnis.). In 1921 in 1651 total changes over 152 games he made one (count ’em) error, a record that stood until Steve Garvey rang up no errors in 160 games in 1984 (and Garvey only had 1319 chances that season).Thank of that if you will. On 1921 fields with 1921 equipment, over 1651 chances Stuffy McInnis got 1650 of them right (the error was a dropped throw). Only Wally Pipp at New York (1713 chances) and Earl Sheely at Chicago (1756 chances) handled more balls and Pipp had 16 errors (one every 107 chances) and Sheely had 22 (one every 80 chances). In the National League New York’s George Kelly had comparable chances  (1667) and he committed 17 errors (one every 98 chances). Other McInnis seasons are comparable.

McInnis is credited with inventing the “knee reach”, or what we know as the first baseman’s split, when catching the ball. Don’t know if it’s true, but if he did it makes him an even better fielder. I’ve played a little first base and know how difficult it is to reach for a ball that’s beginning to change direction on you.

As a hitter McInnis was no slouch either. He hit .308 for his career, almost all singles. In today’s world of power hitting first basemen he would be in trouble, but in the context of his time he can be rated a solid, but not spectacular hitter. Of 2406 hits, 1973 (83%) were singles. His isolated power is 072. For his entire career he hit 20 home runs with a high of four in 1913. He didn’t have a great deal of speed, swiping a high of 27 bases in 1912. What he did do was put up a lot of runs. On four occasions he had 90 or more RBIs, and averaged 60 runs scored per year in his 14 full seasons. In a low scoring era that’s not bad, but not absolutely in the top echelon.

What McInnis did best was win. Five times he went to the World Series. Four times his team won (1911, 1913, 1918, 1925). He was on one other team that won a Series (1910) but did not play. Twice he went to teams that won the World Series in his first year with them (the latter two championships). Again, he’s not the primary reason his new team wins, but he seems to have provided part of the spark that put the team over the top.

It’s obvious I like McInnis. He’s a good solid player, who helps his team win. Is he an overlooked Hall of Famer? I might vote for him if I was on a veteran’s committee, but he wouldn’t be at the top of my list. Is he an overlooked star of his era? Yep.

Opening Day, 1910: Boston (AL)

April 16, 2010

Tris Speaker

New manager Patsy Donovan (former manager Fred Lake was now with the other Boston team) had a good enough team he could stand pat for the most part. There were two changes from the 1909 starting roster that finished 9.5 games out of first. Both were significant.

The infield had one of them. Jake Stahl remained at first base, Heinie Wagner at short, and Harry Lord at third. The new guy was Larry Gardner, a good fielding second baseman who would turn into a very good hitter for Boston. His arm was good enough that in the latter part of his career he would shift to third and Boston wouldn’t skip a beat.

The other big change was in the outfield. Duffy Lewis took over left field from Harry Niles. Tris Speaker remained the center fielder and the three hitter. Harry Hooper, who was the fourth outfielder in 1909 took on the right field post and led off. There was a time when fans, pundits, and historians refered to this trio as the greatest outfield ever. You don’t hear that much today, but it’s been recent enough that I recall a few old timers using that kind of talk about Lewis, Speaker, Hooper. Both Speaker and Hooper ultimately made the Hall of Fame.

The catcher was Bill Carrigan. He wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but was a premier defensive specialist of his day. That seems to be a common theme of the era. The best teams have catchers who are good backstops and any hitting is gravy.

There were major trades during the 1910 season that really strengthened the Boston bench, but they began the season with Niles as the backup outfielder, Tom Madden the backup catcher, and a bunch of guys who didn’t get into 20 games as the infield.

The pitching staff was also fairly stable. The 1909 staff of Frank Arellanes, Eddie Cicotte, Smoky Joe Wood, and Charlie Chech was intact except for Chech. Ray Collins, Charley Hall, Ed Karger, and Charlie Smith were new and expected to solidify the mound. The problem was that most of them were inexperienced. Collins was a rookie in 1909, getting into only 12 games. Hall had pitched only 11 games the year before. The ones with experience weren’t very good. Smith came over from Washington where he hadn’t been very good. Karger was a career National Leaguer who hadn’t been particularly distinguished.

So Boston was improved, but the pitching was a question. If it reached its potential, then the team could move up. If not, well, it was going to be a long year.

Next: the White Sox