Posts Tagged ‘Max Bishop’

Quick, We Need a Pitcher

July 26, 2017

Lefty Grove with the A’s

With the trading deadline approaching, I note that a number of teams are shopping decent pitchers. I guess if you figure you’re not going anywhere, that’s not a bad idea. It certainly isn’t new. Throughout baseball history good pitchers have been dealt while still quality hurlers, although not necessarily during the season (all these examples occurred between seasons).

Back in 1918 the Philadelphia Phillies let Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander go to the Cubs. I’d like to say it got the Cubs the pennant, but it didn’t exactly. Alexander pitched a handful of games (3) then went off to war. Chicago did win the pennant by 10.5 games, but Alexander’s impact was minimal. What did the Phils get in return? They got Pickles Dillhoefer (one of the all time great baseball names), Mike Pendergast, and cash ($55,000). The next time Philadelphia showed up in the World Series was 1950, Alexander threw what is arguably the most famous strikeout in baseball history in the 1926 World Series. He threw it for St. Louis (which should tell you there was another trade).

Between the 1933 and 1934 seasons the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox worked a trade. The BoSox got Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove (and Max Bishop and Rube Walberg) while the A’s got Bob Kline, Rabbit Warstler, and $125,000. It’s hard not to believe the cash was a major factor in the trade. Neither team got anywhere near the World Series and Grove still had 44.7 WAR left.

A bit more recently, the Cardinals unloaded Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, who had just put up a 20-9 win-loss record, to the Philadelphia Phillies (do you notice that both Philly teams show up a lot in these trades?) for Rick Wise between the 1971 and 1972 seasons. Wise didn’t do much, but Carlton went 27-10, led the National League in ERA, strikeouts, ERA+, put up 12.1 WAR, and won the Cy Young Award. He later got a call to Cooperstown. Wise? He went 32-28 for the Cards in two seasons and put up 7.7 total WAR.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to get rid of a pitcher, even a good one. But sometimes it’s a mistake. The Dodgers used to say they liked to get rid of a player a year early rather than a year late. They may be good philosophy, but sometimes the guy just has more than one year left in him.

The Camera Eye

June 29, 2015
Max Bishop

Max Bishop

Back when I first became interested in studying baseball, rather than merely watching the game, I had (and still have to some extent) a love of the 1929-1931 Philadelphia Athletics. They were a great team that managed to sideline the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees for three seasons and were an interesting bunch in and of themselves. But I wondered about something. I couldn’t quite understand why, on a team full of excellent players, Max Bishop led off.

Bishop was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania in 1899. He was a good amateur player who moved to Baltimore at age 14 and caught the attention of the minor league Baltimore Orioles who signed him as a third baseman in 1918. While playing for the birds in the summer, he attended Baltimore City College in the fall and spring, playing second base for the college team. In 1919, the Orioles switched him to second also.

His play with Baltimore was good enough that both the A’s and the Boston Red Sox were interested in obtaining him. The Athletics landed him in late 1923 and he began the 1924 season as their primary second baseman. He developed rapidly a great batting eye (hence the nickname “Camera Eye”) and moved to lead off for Philadelphia, a position in the batting order he held for most of his career. He usually hit in the .270 to .250 range, once getting into the .300s and once dropping as low as .230. He had no power, little speed (his top stolen base total was 10 in 1928), but with the power hitters Connie Mack had behind him, he was never going to be asked to steal a lot of bases. He walked a lot, having more than 100 bases on balls in eight of 12 campaigns (and 80 or more two other times). He was a decent second baseman, never among the top fielding men in the American League, but a solid middle of the pack keystone player (although he did win three fielding percentage titles).

In the glory years of 1929-1931 he was a major contributor to the team, but hardly a star. He had 10 home runs in the inflated air of 1930, led the AL in walks in 1929, scored over 100 runs each year (and also in 1928), and had 150 or more total bases each year. In his three World Series appearances he hit only .182, but had 12 walks, and scored 11 runs. His World Series OBP was .316.

With the team floundering and cash running out, Mack sold Bishop to Boston (the Red Sox, not the Braves) in 1934 (along with Lefty Grove and Rube Walberg). He played two final years in Boston, never getting into 100 games, and in 1936 moved to Portland to become player-manager of the Pacific Coast League team. He got hurt, couldn’t play second, and was fired in May. He played a few games with Baltimore, then became a scout, managed a little, then took over the baseball team at the Naval Academy. He stayed there 24 years, putting up winning season after winning season. He retired after the 1961 season and died in February 1962. He is buried in Baltimore.

For his career Bishop has the following triple slash line: .271/.423/.366/.789 (OPS+ of 103. In 1338 games he had 1216 hits, 236 doubles, 35 triples, 41 home runs, for 1645 total bases. He had 379 RBIs, 40 stolen bases (and was caught stealing 51 times), 1156 walks (about .86 per game), and only 452 strikeouts. He’s never gotten much support for the Hall of Fame, peaking at 1.9% of the vote in 1960.

Bishop, to answer my childhood question, led off because he got on base a lot.  He had a very good On Base Percentage, a statistic I’d never heard of at the time. Hidden in his lack of power, speed, and high average was the ability to draw a walk and get on base in front of the big guns of Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx hitting behind him. It was a successful formula that helped Philadelphia to three pennants and two World Series championships.

Bishop's tombstone

Bishop’s tombstone

A Bad Century: The Nadir (We Needed Eight Runs Saturday)

May 11, 2012

Pat Malone

In my last post I went into some detail about game 4 of the 1929 World Series, indicating I thought it was near the very bottom of the Cubs’ bad century. But with a Chicago win in game three, the fourth game didn’t actually end the Series. Only in Cubsland could you ask “Can it get worse than blowing and 8-0 lead with eight outs to go?” I’m not sure it got worse, but 14 October 1929 was darned close.

Game five of the 1929 World Series was played in Philadelphia. Down 3 games to one, Chicago had to win to keep the Series going. Manager Joe McCarthy sent ace Pat Malone to the mound. A’s manager Connie Mack countered with game one winner Howard Ehmke. Malone pitched well. He shut down a powerful Athletics lineup through the first three innings, allowing only one hit, an Al Simmons single that was erased on a double play. In the fourth Chicago got two runs on a double, a walk, and consecutive singles. Then Malone went back to the mound. He was masterful. He gave up one hit through the bottom of the eighth and allowed only one batter (Jimmie Foxx) as far as second. When the Cubs went down in order in the top of the ninth, they were three outs from getting back into the Series. According to one, probably fanciful, story an A’s coach (usually, but not always, identified as Eddie Collins) turned to Mack in the dugout and simply said “We need two runs bad.” Mack’s supposed to have replied, “We needed eight runs Saturday.”

With one out Max Bishop singled, and the wheels began to come off for Chicago. That brought up Mule Haas who slugged a pitch over the fence to tie the score at 2-2. Mickey Cochrane grounded to second for the second out, bringing up Al Simmons. Simmons doubled into the gap. Foxx was intentionally walked, giving Bing Miller the chance to be a hero. He was. Miller doubled to score Simmons and close the World Series with an Athletics win.

For the Cubs the loss was devastating and unexpected. They’d had exactly two bad innings in two days and now they were going home World Series losers. They would get back to the Series in 1932 (and be swept), then again in 1935 and 1938, but the cloud of 1929 lingered through the ensuing decade.

The Biggest Inning

May 11, 2010

There’s an old baseball dilemma that shows up every so often. It’s the “Do I play for one run or go for the big inning” dilemma. As we all know the answer depends on a lot of variables. One of those is “how far behind am I?” If the answer is eight runs in the seventh inning, the best bet is to go for the big inning. Which brings me to game four of the 1929 World Series.

The 1929 World Series featured the Chicago Cubs (You already know how this is going to turn out, don’t you?) and the Philadelphia Athletics. The Cubs were back in the Series for the first time since 1918 and the A’s had passed the Murder’s Row Yankees for their first pennant since the 1910-1914 glory days of Home Run Baker and Eddie Collins. The series figured to be close. Both teams hit really well. The difference was supposed to be the A’s pitching staff. So far that held up. The A’s won the first two games, then dropped game three in Philadelphia. If the Cubs could win the fourth game, the World Series would be a simple best of three sprint.

The Cubs sent Charley Root to the mound. Unfortunately for Root he’s always been associated with Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” in the 1932 World Series, but he was a solid, if unspectacular, pitcher who was the Cubs second best starter in 1929. For six innings he pitched like it.

The A’s sent Jack Quinn to hill. I don’t want to say Quinn was old or anything, but his rookie year was 1909 when the Yankees were still the Highlanders. He was 45 (15 years older than Root) and had started only 18 games in 1929. In game four, he pitched like it. He got through five innings, giving up seven runs on seven hits. Rube Walberg came in to replace him and saw a couple of men Quinn left on base score. In the seventh inning Eddie Rommel replaced Walberg and promptly gave up one final run. So going into the bottom of the seventh, the Cubs were up 8-0 with nine outs to go to tie up the World Series.

Al Simmons led off the seventh with a home run (8-1), then Jimmie Foxx, Bing Miller, and Jimmie Dykes all singled, scoring Foxx (8-2). Joe Boley singled to drive in Miller (8-3). George Burns, pinch-hitting for Rommel popped out. Max Bishop singled to bring in Dykes (8-3). Out went Root, in came Art Nehf, Chicago’s primary left-handed reliever. He proceeded to throw gas on the fire by tossing a fast ball to Mule Haas. Haas drove it to center field where Cubs star Hack Wilson promptly lost the ball in the sun. It rolled to the fence for an inside-the-park home run (8-7). Nehf walked A’s catcher Mickey Cochrane and was pulled for Sheriff Blake, the Cubs fourth starter. Simmons and Foxx both singled, driving in Cochrane (8-8). Out went Blake, in came Cubs ace Pat Malone who proceeded to plunk Miller to load the bases. Dykes then drove a double into left field scoring both Simmons and Foxx as the A’s took the lead 10-8. With the damage now done, Boley struck out and Burns fanned for the final out and the distinction of being one of the few players to make two outs in one World Series inning (and the patron saint of every one of us who made more than one out in an inning in Little League).

Now that they were ahead, the A’s sent ace Lefty Grove to the mound to shut down the Cubs. That worked. The game ended 10-8 and the A’s had just put together the biggest inning in World Series history (even the 1993 Phillies-Blue Jays 15-14 slugfest didn’t see more than six runs scored in one inning). Blake took the loss and Rommel had the win.

To finish it up, the A’s won the World Series the next day with a single, home run, and consecutive doubles in the bottom of the ninth. It was a thorough meltdown by the Cubs. Wilson got a lot of blame for losing the ball in the sun, but that was one play in an inning that produced 10 runs. The Cubs pitching was woeful for that inning and the A’s hitters, especially Jimmie Dykes, took advantage to prove that in this case the big inning is better.