Posts Tagged ‘Les Mann’

The Whales

March 30, 2015
The Chicago Whales of 1915

The Chicago Whales of 1915

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the final season of the Federal League. It lasted all of two seasons before collapsing. Oh, there was a lawsuit (and it was major because it established baseball’s anti-trust exemption and brought Kennesaw Mountain Landis to the attention of team owners), but when it was all over to league was still gone. In memory of that long lost league, let’s take a look at the final Federal League champ. They were the Chicago Whales.

Opening day for the Whales was 10 April 1915. They were home in Weeghman Park against St. Louis and picked up a 3-1 win. In some ways it was the critical game of the season. In the final standings Chicago was 86-66 with a winning percentage of .566. St. Louis finished second 87-67 with a winning percentage of .565. In those days missed games didn’t have to be made up later in the season whether or not they impacted the pennant race or not. If Chicago lost game one their winning percentage would be .559 and St. Louis would move to .571 and take the pennant. And they tell me games in April don’t matter.

But because the season doesn’t end after one game, the Whales had to keep winning. They tallied a winning record in every month except August (12-19) and finished the season winning three of their last four games (including the last one). They were remarkably consistent. In the first half of the season they went 43-32 and 43-34 in the last half. They played at least .500 ball against every team in the league, going exactly .500 against three teams, including runner-up St. Louis. They also finished 44-32 at home and 42-34 on the road, a remarkably similar record. They finished fourth in hitting (.257), second in slugging, third in OBP, and second in total bases (by two bases). They led the league in home runs and RBIs, were second in both hits and runs. Their pitchers were third in the league in ERA, second in hits allowed, third in runs allowed, fourth in strikeouts, and third in walks allowed. In WHIP they are second. In one of my favorite stats, they are third in the FL in number of men left on base. They let ’em on, they don’t let ’em score.

The team was managed by Hall of Famer Joe Tinker. He played in 31 games, but mostly stayed in the dugout. Catcher Art Wilson hit .305 with seven home runs (second on the team), and an OPS+ of 164 (second in the league). He caught a staff that included Mordecai Brown, a Hall of Famer, who was at the end of his career. Brown went 17-8 with a 2.09 ERA (ERA+ 135), which was good for third in the league, and 95 strikeouts (tied for third on the team). The ace was George McConnell whose 25-10 record led the league in both wins and winning percentage.  His 2.20 ERA was fourth in the FL with his 151 strikeouts being third. Claude Hendrix won 16 games and Mike Pendergast had 14. All four of them had more innings pitched than hits given up and more strikeouts than walks. Brown’s 1.071 WHIP led the team.

The infield (first around to third) was Fred Beck, Rollie Zeider, Jimmy Smith, and Harry Fritz. Fritz’s .250 led the infield in batting and he followed up by leading the infield in slugging and OBP. Beck’s five homers led the infield and Zeider’s 16 stolen bases were tops in the infield (if Tinker had played full-time with the same percentages he had in part time work, he would have led in batting, slugging, and OBP).

The outfield hit better. Dutch Zwilling played center and led both the team and the Feds in RBIs (94). He also led his team and finished second in the FL in homers (13). He hit .286, slugged .442, had an OBP of .366, giving him an OPS of .808 (OPS+ of 142). Les Mann and Max Flack flanked him. Mann hit .306 with a 138 OPS+, while Flack led the team with 37 stolen bases and it .314.

The bench was large for the era. Twelve men played at least 11 games for the Whales (not all were on the team at the same time). William Fischer played the most with 105 games, He was the backup catcher and hit .329 (good for second in the league) and had 50 RBIs, good for third on the team. Joining with Wilson he gave the Whales the best combo of hitting catchers in the FL. Charlie Hanford and Jack Ferrell played 70 games, Bill Jackson 50, and Tex Wisterzil got into 49 games. None of them hit .250 and only Jackson had a home run. Hanford’s ten stolen bases led the bench.

With the folding of the Feds at the end of the season, the team was gone. The players went different ways. For the Hall of Fame players Brown and Tinker (and for Zwilling too), they hung on one more year then retired. Others went to the minors, many to other major league teams where they got a shot with the National or American League. None became big stars. But, as many of you know, they did give baseball a lasting legacy. Weeghman Park was a pretty good stadium and now it was empty. The Cubs, needing new digs, moved in. It was later rechristened Wrigley Field and is still in use.

1914: Winning in Boston, part 1

October 20, 2014

After a pair of brief comments on the current World Series contenders, it’s time to get back to the world of 100 years ago.

Braves Field in Boston

Braves Field in Boston

On 12 October, the 1914 World Series resumed in Boston. The Braves were up two games to none against Philadelphia. Because the Braves home park (Southend Grounds) was smaller and older than the Red Sox new home in Fenway Park, the games in Boston were played in Fenway, not the Braves home park (Braves Field, pictured above, was opened in 1915 and so unavailable for use in the ’14 Series).

Game 3

Game three was one of the longest games in World Series history. The Braves started Lefty Tyler, who was 16-13 for the season, against the Athletics’ Bullet Joe Bush (17-13). The A’s got one in the first on Eddie Murray’s leadoff double. A bunt sent him to third and he came home on an error by left fielder Joe Connolly. The Braves got it back in the bottom of the second when, with two outs, Rabbit Maranville walked, stole second, and came home on a Hank Gowdy double. Philadelphia got the lead back in the top of the fourth on a Stuffy McInnis double and a run scoring single by center fielder Jimmy Walsh. Not to be outdone, Boston came back to tie it up on a Butch Schmidt single, a sacrifice, and a Maranville single.

And it stayed 2-2 for the rest of the regular innings. Through the end of the ninth, Tyler had given up two runs, two walks, and six hits, while striking out three. Bush was about as good and the game went into the 10th. Wally Schang led off the top of the 10th with a single. Bush then struck out. Then Tyler hashed a bunt and Schang went to second with Murray safe at first. A Rube Oldring ground out sent Schang to third and Murray to second. An intentional walk to Eddie Collins loaded the bases for Frank “Home Run” Baker. He didn’t hit a homer, but Baker lashed a single that scored both Schang and Murray. McInnis hit a fly to center to end the top of the 10th. Bush needed three outs to put Philly back in the Series. Gowdy started the bottom of the 10th with a home run to narrow the score to 4-3. Then a strikeout, walk, and single later Connolly made up for the earlier error. His sacrifice fly to center scored Howie Moran to knot the game.

During the bottom of the 10th Tyler was lifted for a pinch hitter. Braves pitcher Bill James replaced him. He got through the 11th and top of the 12th despite giving up three walks (but no hits). Bush, still pitching for the A’s, had a perfect 11th. In the bottom of the 12th, Gowdy led off with a double. Les Mann replaced him on the bases. An intentional walk later, up came Moran who hit the ball back to Bush. The pitcher fielded it and tossed to third to get the lead run. He missed the base and Mann trotted home with the winning run.

The A’s had a couple of chances to win, but Boston kept the score tied and won on an error. There’d been total nine runs scored. All but one were earned-the last one.

 

 

 

 

1914: Winning in Philadelphia

October 14, 2014
Shibe Park

Shibe Park

The first two games of the 1914 World Series were played in Philadelphia, Shibe Part on 9 and 10 October. The home team Athletics were overwhelming favorites to defeat the National League’s Boston Braves. Games one and two would set the tone for the entire Series.

Game 1

The first game was the only blowout of the Series. Boston’s Dick Rudolph pitched a complete game giving up five hits, walking one, and striking out eight. The Braves scored on a  second inning walk to outfielder “Possum” Whitted, a one out double by Hank Gowdy plated Whitted. Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville then singled bringing home Gowdy. In the bottom of the second, Stuffy McInnis walked, went to second on an Amos Strunk single, then scored when Braves right fielder Herbie Moran threw the ball away. Strunk got to third, but didn’t score. From there on out it was the Boston bats and Rudolph that dominated the game. In the top of the fifth, Gowdy tripled and scored on a Maranville single. Then Boston tacked on three more in the sixth. Johnny Evers singled, Joe Connolly walked, then Whitted tripled sending both runs home. Butch Schmidt singled home Whitted and that brought Connie Mack to the mound to lift starter Chief Bender. Back to back singles and a Schmidt steal of home in the eighth finished off the scoring. Boston won 7-1 and shelled Mack’s ace, Bender. Every Braves starter except Moran had a run, hit, or RBI, including Rudolph. Gowdy had three hits, scored two runs, and furnished an RBI to take game hitting hero honors.

Game 2

The second game in Philly was a pitching masterpiece by both teams. Boston star Bill James squared off against Hall of Fame lefty Eddie Plank. For eight innings they matched zeroes. Through eight, Plank had given up five hits, walked three, and struck out five. James was even better. Through eight he gave up two hits, one walk, and struck out seven. With one out in the top of the ninth, Charlie Deal doubled, then stole third. James struck out for the second out, but Les Mann singled to center scoring Deal. After another walk, Plank got out of more damage by inducing a ground out. In the bottom of the ninth, James walked two, but a strikeout and a double play ended the threat and the inning. James had given the Braves a two game lead with the World Series heading to Boston.

The Series would resume in Boston for two more games. It appears that MLB used a two-two-one-one-one formula for the World Series in this era (although none of them went seven except 1912) meaning that the Braves would have to return to Philadelphia for any game five. (This seems to be the pattern for the era, but I’ve been unable to find anything that states this for certain.)

 

 

1914: The Miracle Team

October 10, 2014
Johnny Evers and George Stallings (left and right)

Johnny Evers and George Stallings (left and right)

The Boston team was one of the best 19th Century baseball clubs. In the 1870s they’d dominated the National Association, then won consecutive pennants in the first years of the National League. There was a hiatus in the 1880s, but they roared back to be one of the great clubs of the 1890s. Their owner was a jerk (but so were a lot of 19th Century owners) so when the American League was formed, most of the good players jumped to the new league. Boston, the National League version, languished for the entire first decade of the 20th Century. Trying to return to relevancy, in 1913 they hired George Stallings to manage the team.

Stallings had been a so-so player in the 1880s and 1890s, who’d managed Philadelphia in the National League and both Detroit and New York in the American League. He’d never won a pennant, finishing as high as second in 1910, but was considered a good judge of talent. He was given a team that had little talent and got them to fifth in 1913. By 1914 he was starting to figure out how to do the best he could with what he had. That meant he pushed for and got a series of good trades and then instituted a platoon system (he didn’t invent platooning, but merely used it). As most of you know, on 4 July, Boston, now called the Braves, was in last place in the NL. The traditional story is they got hot and eventually ran away with the pennant. That’s true, to a point. On 4 July they lost both ends of a double-header, dropping them to 26-40. But third place St. Louis had 35 loses. So the NL was tightly bunched and any kind of streak was destined to move them up in the standings. By 4 August they were 47-45 (heck of a month, right?), now in fourth place, and two games out of second. By 4 September, they were a half game back of the league leading Giants. From that point they went 28-7 and coasted to the pennant (running away only in September) . Among other things, it got Stallings the nickname “Miracle Man.”

So who were these guys? Butch Schmidt played first. Hall of Fame middle infielders Johnny Evers (who would win the 1914 MVP award) and Rabbit Maranville were at second and short. Charlie Deal was the normal third baseman, but Red Smith (not the journalist) did a lot of work at third. Larry Gilbert, Les Mann, and Joe Connolly did more work in the outfield than anyone else, but the platoon system worked primarily in the outfield and Josh Devore, George “Possum” Whitted, and Ted Cather spelled them. The only category in which they led the league was walks, although they were second in runs and doubles, and third in home runs and OBP.

Catcher Hank Gowdy (who has been touted in some Hall of Fame conversations, although I wouldn’t vote for him) handled a staff of Dick Rudolph, Bill James, and Lefty Tyler. None had particularly remarkable careers prior to 1914 and little was expected of them when the season began, but they led the league in complete games, and were second in shutouts, while finishing third in both hits and runs allowed. As an individual, James led the NL in winning percentage.

Nothing much was expected of Boston in the World Series. It was supposed to be a Philadelphia walkover. After all, the NL hadn’t won in a while and everyone knew the Braves were a fluke.

 

Miracles, 1914 Style

January 25, 2010

If ever there was a year full of miracles it was 1914. In June a bunch of half-trained adolescents killed a married couple in Sarajevo and all hell broke loose in the form of the First World War. The early part of the war gave us The Angel of Mons (a miraculous winged vision that led a lost British unit to safety), the Miracle at Tannenberg (when a vastly outnumbered German army destroyed a Russian army), and the Miracle of the Marne (when the French stopped the advancing Germans within sight of Paris). By December 1914, a lot of men simply saw it as a miracle that they were still alive.

Baseball had its own miracle, the 1914 Boston (now Atlanta) Braves. The Braves were a dominant force in the National League at the end of the 19th Century, but fell on hard times in the early 20th. Betwen 1910 and 1912 they finished dead last each year. By 1913 they climbed to 5th under new manager George Stallings.  Stallings was a former catcher who played 7 games in the 1890s managing to bat an even 100 for his career. He took over a floundering franchise and by 18 July 1914 it looked like the team wasn’t going to stop floundering anytime soon. They were dead last again in the league 13.5 games out of first. According to legend that’s when Stallings installed a platoon system, picked up a handful of has-beens and never-was types, and the team took off. The Braves won 34 of their last 44 games, swept past the New York Giants and won the pennant by 10.5 games. In roughly half a season they made up 24 games.

If that wasn’t shocking enough, they went into the World Series against the defending World Champion Philadelphia Athletics and swept the series. Game one was a blowout (7-1),  but the others were close (1-0, 5-4, and 3-1).  The Braves outhit the A’s 244 to 172 and had the only home run (catcher Hank Gowdy, who also led all hitters with a 545 average, led the series with 3 runs scored and tied for the RBI lead with 3). The team ERA was 1.15 versus the A’s ERA of 3.41.

OK, so who are these people? Most of them were role players in their own day, and thus don’t become household names passed down through the roughly century since they played. From first around to third, the infield was Butch Schmidt, Johnny Evers (a Hall of Famer primarily known for his work with the Cubs), Rabbit Maranville (also a Hall of Famer), and Charle Deal. The outfield, where most of the platooning took place was Possum Whitted, Les Mann, Joe Connolly, Josh Devore, and Ted Cather (the latter two came over in midseason and helped the run to the top). Hank Gowdy caught with Bert Whaling as his backup. The only other players to notch 50 or more games was Red Smith, another late season add on who spelled Deal at 3rd and Oscar Dugey who seems to have been the primary pinch hitter. The main pichers were Dick Rudolph, Bill James (as far as I can tell, no relation to the modern stats man), and Lefty Tyler. Dick Crutcher was the main bullpen man.

So what happened to make them winners? First, Stallings gets credit for the platoon system. Second, a number of mid-season additions provided a spark that led the team to victory. The pitchers developed. As a staff they allowed the 2nd fewest runs in the league. Rudolph was 14-13 the year before. In 1914 he went 26-10 and lowered his ERA by a half run. James came out of nowhere. He’d played 2 mediocre years previously. The blog “The On Deck Circle”  just did a wonderful piece on One Year Wonders (check it out).  He used only the last 20 years to define his people, but if he’d gone back 100, he might have chosen James. He ended with a losing record for his career (and was banned in the gambling scandal that blew up after 1919). Fourth, the hitters were better than an initial look at their stats might show. They were second in the league in OBP, third in slugging, and second in OPS. They were also 2nd in the league in runs. Additionally, the Chalmers Award, an early MVP award, was given for the final time in 1914. The NL winner? Braves second baseman Johnny Evers. I’m not sure why. He hits 279, third on the team, is fourth in stolen bases, 6th in slugging and 5th in RBIs.  He does lead the team in runs. Fielding stats show him a decent, but not spectacular 2nd baseman. I presume there is a leadership factor involved that I don’t know about (but am willing to learn about if anyone knows).

All those things taken together can lead to a pennant. For the 1914 Braves it did. They’ve been the “Miracle Braves” since.