Posts Tagged ‘Les Backman’

Opening Day, 1910: St. Louis (NL)

April 12, 2010

Miller Huggins (1910)

I asked myself one day which National League team had the worst overall record in the Deadball Era. Answer: the St. Louis Cardinals. Considering what they’ve meant to baseball since, I find that a lot strange. By the start of the 1910 season, the last time they’d seen the first division was 1901. In 1909 they finished 56 games out of first.

In 1909 they picked up a new manager, Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan. He immediately inserted himself as the backup catcher and almost as quickly came into conflict with most of his players. He was from the Giants, had been Christy Mathewson’s catcher, and was a student of John McGraw. The Cardinals weren’t very Giantlike and it created problems for Bresnahan.

The team, as befits a seventh place finisher, underwent major changes going into the 1910 season. Half the starters were new. Ed Konetchy was still at first and hitting cleanup, but Miller Huggins was over from Cincinnati to play second and leadoff. Arnie Howser was now the shortstop and eight hitter, with Mike Mowrey, a previous backup, taking over at third and hitting seventh.

The outfield consisted of holdovers Rube Ellis in left and Steve Evans in right, They hit second and fifth. The new guys was Rebel Oakes, like Huggins, from Cincinnati. He took the three hole. And the regular catcher was seven hitter Ed Phelps.

The bench was Bresnahan catching, Rudy Hulwitt the backup middle infielder, Frank Betcher another backup infielder, and Ody Abbott as the fourth outfielder. It wasn’t much of a bench,, Bresnahan being the only one to manage .250 during the season.

The pitching staff of 1909 consisted of six guys who failed to break even on the mound. Fred Beebe, Johnny Lush, Slim Sallee, Bob Harmon, Charlie Rhodes, and Les Backman are all pretty obscure, and there’s a reason for that. Only Sallee would ever do much. By 1910 Beebe was gone, replaced by Vic Willis who came to St. Louis from pennant winning Pittsburgh. Eddie Higgins, 1909’s bullpen man, managed only two games in 1910 and was ultimately replaced by committee. There just wasn’t much of an improvement for the staff over the offseason.

There was very little reason for hope in St. Louis as the 1910 season began. The changes were insignificant, but at least the average age of the pitchers had gone from  23 to 26, so the added maturity might be a blessing. Also Huggins appeared to be a real player and Bresnahan’s fire was encouraging. But when you’ve just finished 56 games out, you need more than maturity and fire. You need talent.

Next: Boston