Posts Tagged ‘Mordecai Brown’

1908: The Series

October 22, 2018

“Circus” Solly Hofman

Things have been a little goofy around here lately. I’ve been out-of-town and out of sorts for a while, so I’m a little behind on my 110 year later look at the 1908 season. But here’s a quick look at the World Series that season.

Because of the short distance between Detroit and Chicago, the 1908 World Series was played on consecutive days from 10 October through 14 October. The games rotated between cities with Detroit getting the odd-numbered games and Chicago the even numbers.

The Cubs were defending champions led by the celebrated (and probably overrated) trio of Joe Tinker to Johnny Evers to Frank Chance with Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown as the staff ace. The Tigers counted with an all-star outfield of Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb with Matty McIntyre holding down the other spot in the pasture.

After the celebrated National League pennant race and the equally terrific, but less celebrated, American League race, the Series seems something of an afterthought. It went five games with Detroit winning game three only. The Cubs scored 10 and six runs in the first two games, while Detroit managed seven total. The Tigers win in game three was 8-3, then the final two games turned in more common Deadball scores of 3-0 and 2-0. Brown and Orval Overall each picked up two wins with ERA’s of 0.00 (Brown) and 0.98 (Overall) with Jack Pfiester putting up a 7.88 ERA (it shouldn’t surprise you to find out he took the Cubs only loss). For Detroit George Mullen (ERA of 0.00) got the team’s only win while ace “Wild” Bill Donovan took two losses, including game five. Among hitters, Chance hit .421 while Tinker had the only home run (game 2). Outfielder Solly Hofman (of Merkle game fame) led the team with four RBIs. For Detroit Cobb hit .368 with a team leading four RbIs, while no Tiger hit a homer.

It was a fine, if not spectacular end of a famous season. Chicago won its second consecutive World Series and its last until 2016. The Cubs would get one more chance in 1910 (against Connie Mack’s Athletics) then fade. Detroit would be back for another try in 1909. This time they would face the Pittsburgh Pirates, Honus Wagner, and a rookie named Babe Adams.

 

1908: Game of Games

October 8, 2018

Joe Tinker

With the regular season over, the National League pennant was still undecided. The Chicago Cubs and New York Giants had identical records, but there was still one game to make up, the so-called ‘Merkle Game.” The baseball world had never seen anything like it. There were fans clamoring for tickets even after the game began. There were stories in the newspapers about possible aspect of the game. The bettors were out in force. There was an eclipse of the sun, brimstone fell from heaven. Well, maybe not an eclipse or brimstone, but to read the accounts of the day, it was close.

The game started well for New York. In the bottom of the first Cubs starter Jack Pfiester plunked Fred Tenney (playing first for New York, the position Fred Merkle played in the famous 23 September game), then walked Buck Herzog. A pick-off removed Herzog, but “Turkey” Mike Donlin doubled to score Tenney and a walk to Cy Seymour sent Pfiester to the showers. In came Cubs ace Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown. He managed to shut down the Giants without either Donlin or Seymour scoring.

Giants ace Christy Mathewson started for New York and got through the first two innings without damage. In the top of the third, Chicago shortstop Joe Tinker, who’d hit Mathewson reasonably well during the season (and had homered in the “Merkle Game.”) tripled to lead off the inning. A Johnny Kling single brought him home to tie the game. With two outs, Johnny Evers walked. Then a double by Frank “Wildfire” Schulte scored Kling and a two-run double by manager Frank Chance cleared the bases.

With the score now 4-1, Brown cruised through the sixth. In the bottom of the seventh, New York staged a mini-rally. With Art Devlin on base, Tenney lofted a long sacrifice to score the second Giants run. It was all for the Giants, as Brown held them scoreless in both the eighth and ninth innings to secure the victory and the pennant for the Cubs.

There were recriminations in New York and celebration in Chicago. For the Cubs it sent them to their third consecutive World Series. They’d won in 1907 and lost in 1906. For the Giants it was the end of a famous season. They would wait two more years before returning to the top of the National League in 1911.

 

1908: The End of July

August 1, 2018

Here’s the next update in my continuing look at the 1908 season (110 years on).

Bobby Wallace

With approximately two-thirds’ of the 1908 season gone, the pennant race in the American League was taking shape seriously. Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland all had winning records and held down the first division. The Tigers were two games up on the Browns, with Chicago 5.5 back, and Cleveland at eight behind. For Detroit, Ty Cobb was hitting .346, but fellow Hall of Famer Sam Crawford was only at .287. Chicago was standing behind Ed Walsh on the mound and 37-year-old George Davis (in his next-to-last season). Davis was only hitting .212. For Cleveland Nap LaJoie was having a down season so far (.269 with four triples), but the pitching (read Addie Joss here) was holding up. For the Browns, Bobby Wallace, their most famous player, was also having a bad season (hitting .269), but pitcher Rube Waddell was doing well (By WAR, a stat unknown in 1908, Wallace was having a terrific season. He’d end at 6.3). Among the also rans, the Highlanders (Yankees) were in last place, 25 games out.

John Titus

In the National League, five teams winning records on 31 July: Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. The Pirates were a half game up on the Cubs, two up on the Giants, 6.5 ahead of the Phils, and eight up on the Reds. St, Louis was all the way at the bottom 23.5 games out of first. The Pirates leaders, Tommy Leach, manager Fred Clarke, and Roy Thomas were a mixed bag at the end of July, but the team revolved around shortstop Honus Wagner. By 31 July, he was hitting .328 with an OPS of .939. Chicago, relying on the Tinker to Evers to Chance infield and Three-Finger Brown, was also getting good years out of Harry Steinfeldt, the other infielder, and a 21-year-old backup named Heinie Zimmerman. For the Giants it was a standard John McGraw team with great pitching from Christy Mathewson and Hooks Wiltse (with an assist from part-time pitcher, part-time coach, Joe McGinnity), and 3.0 WAR from first baseman Fred Tenney. Philadelphia played Cincinnati on 31 July and the Phillies win put the Reds another game back. Philadelphia’s John Titus was having a good year and for the Reds Hans Lobert was leading the hitters.

The season still had two months to go, two terrific pennant races to conclude, one utter memorable game to play. But it also had one of the more interesting games coming up between two also-rans in just a few days.

1908: The End of April

May 3, 2018

Orval Overall

In my continuing look at the 1908 season (110 years ago), here’s a quick summary of how things stood going into the month of May. By the end of April of the 1908 season, every team had at least 11 games in the bank (with a couple at 15). There were a handful of surprises.

In the American League, 1907 pennant winner Detroit stood at 3-9, the worst record in either league. Ed Summers had two of the team wins with Ed Killian logging the other. Both Ty Cobb and infielder Germany Schaefer were hitting well, but Sam Crawford was at .239 and leadoff man Matty McIntyre was at 1.82. Two of their three wins were extra inning affairs (both went 10 innings). They were dead last in runs scored (48-tied with Washington) and their staff had given up more runs than any team in either league (76). By contrast, the Highlanders (now the Yankees) were in first place with an 8-5 record, followed closely by the Browns at 9-6.

The National League was following form more closely than the AL. Defending champ Chicago was in first, followed closely by Pittsburgh and the New York Giants. As expected, the Cardinals were in last place 3-10 having scored just 29 runs. Orval Overall led the Cubs with three wins (at this point Three-Finger Brown had yet to rack up a win). Chick Fraser had also posted three wins. Fraser would end the season 11-9 while Overall settled for 15-11. Brown did have a save in game one. He would lead the NL with five in 1908 and end up 29-9. Harry Steinfeldt was hitting .310 and Frank Chance was only at .206 (and Joe Tinker was hitting .143 and Johnny Evers .242).

This was to be Honus Wagner’s greatest year, leading the league in almost every major category (and a few not so major categories also). By the end of April, 1908 he was hitting all of .233. He would get better.

So that’s how it stood at the end of April in 1908. The biggest surprise had to be the Tigers in last place, with the Highlanders leading the AL a close second.

Opening Day 1908

April 12, 2018

Jack Coombs

Continuing with the ongoing look at 1908, 14 April was opening day. That’s a Saturday this year, and I don’t post normally on a Saturday. So here’s an early look at the first day of the 1908 season.

There were seven total games opening the 1908 season, three in the National League, four in the American League. The defending champion Cubs opened on the road against Cincinnati. Chicago won 6-5. There are a couple of interesting points about the game. First Orval Overall started the opener, not Mordecai Brown (Brown relieved). Second, the Reds got all five runs in the first inning (only one was earned) then were shutout for the remainder of the game. Third, Hans Lobert, a pretty fair third baseman, started the game in left field. For the season he played 21 games in left and 99 at third. Finally, the hitting star was Johnny Evers. He went three for three with a double, three runs scored, an RBI, and a walk.

The Giants beat the Phillies 3-1 with Christy Mathewson throwing a four hit gem. He struck out seven, walked one, and saw a shutout lost in the ninth inning. In the other NL game, the Doves (Boston) knocked off the Superbas (Brooklyn) 9-3. Brooklyn first baseman Tim Jordan hit the NL’s first home run in the losing effort.

In the American League, Cy Young picked up a win leading the Red Sox to a 3-1 victory over the Senators. The one Washington run was a home run by Jim Delahanty. The Browns (St. Louis) knocked off the Naps (Cleveland) 2-1 with Hall of Famer Addie Joss taking the loss. Fellow Hall of Famer Nap LaJoie, for whom the team was named, went one for four with a double. The New York Highlanders (now Yankees) beat Connie Mack’s Athletics 1-0 in 12 innings. All 12 innings took two hours and 25 minutes to play. In another oddity, later star pitcher Jack Coombs started the game in right field for Philadelphia. He went two for five. The two hits led the team. For the season he played 47 games in the outfield and pitched 26.

The defending AL champion Detroit Tigers were in a slugfest with the Chicago White Sox. The final was 15-8 for the ChiSox with Doc White picking up the win. Every Chicago starter, including White, scored at least one run. For Detroit, both Hall of Famers Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb did well. Crawford was two for five with a double and two runs scored, while Cobb went two runs scored, a double, and a home run.

That was opening day 1908.

 

 

A Long Look at 1908

March 6, 2018

Honus Wagner

Back in 2010 I took a months long look at the 1910 season as a tribute to the 100th anniversary of a pivotal season. The 1910 season was important because it began the ascendency of the American League over the National League in postseason play. In the first decade of the 20th Century, the NL won most World Series. The next time that was true was the 1960s. The 1910 season also saw the coming of the first AL dynasty, the Philadelphia Athletics. OK, I know Detroit won three straight pennants 1907-1909, but they blew all three World Series. Somehow, you just can’t be a dynasty if you lose the championship game three years in a row. The year also saw the rise to prominence of several players, Eddie Collins, Frank Baker (not yet “Home Run” Baker), and Joe Jackson (and others). All in all it was an important year for the sport.

The 1908 season wasn’t quite as important, but it has, over the 110 years since, become far more famous. It was the year of the “Merkle Boner,” probably the most famous Deadball Era play ever and of the first game that was something like a “play in” game. Honus Wagner had a season for the ages, arguably the finest hitting season prior to the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York. It included two great pennant races; the NL one being the more famous, but the one in the AL being every bit as terrific. It saw two great pitchers, Christy Mathewson and Mordecai Brown step center stage in the NL race. It was still two years to “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” the poem that immortalized Tinker to Evers to Chance, but they were the mainstays of one of the teams in the middle of the NL race. And always standing forefront in the NL was the shadow of John McGraw. In the AL there was Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford and the Detroit team trying to repeat as AL champs, something that hadn’t been done since 1903-04.

What I intend to do is take a post or two every month through September and look at various aspects of the season. Sometimes it will be a team, other times a player, yet other times a game or set of games. There will be updates on the standings and the stats. The project won’t dominate any month (at least I don’t think so), but it will recur. I hope you will enjoy a long, frequent (but hopefully not overdone) trip back 110 years to see just what all the shouting was about. More importantly, I hope we each learn something.

110 Years On

January 5, 2018

Honus Wagner

We usually do anniversaries in years like 50 and 100, but this is the 110th anniversary of one of the more unique years in Major League Baseball history. So it seems like a good time to look back at one of Deadball Baseball’s most interesting years.

There are a number of reasons why it’s important to remember 1908 in baseball. The most common response is probably that it’s the last time, prior to 2016, that the Cubs actually won the World Series. It was the apex year for the Tinker to Evers to Chance Cubs (and let’s not forget Mordecai Brown’s pitching). They Beat up on Ty Cobb’s Detroit team in the Series, then faded in 1909 before winning a final National League pennant in 1910 (losing the Series to the Philadelphia Athletics).

It’s also a good time to remember John McGraw’s New York Giants. They were a terrific Deadball team, fighting the Cubs right to the end (and one game beyond) before bowing out. It was a typical McGraw team, great pitching, good hitting, lots of base running, and decent defense for the era. But it’s most famous in 1908 for the “Merkle Boner” play. In case you’ve forgotten, in a key game against the Cubs, Fred Merkle (first baseman) was on first when a two-out single scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Merkle didn’t go all the way to second and was subsequently called out on a force play to end the inning with the score tied. The replay (the “one game beyond” mentioned above) saw the Cubs win and head to the World Series while McGraw, the Giants, and Merkle headed home for the off-season. It is arguably the most famous Deadball Era play and was 110 years ago this season.

It was also the year of Honus Wagner. Read these numbers carefully. Wagner’s triple slash line was .354/.415/.542/.957 with an OPS+ of 205 with 308 total bases. All of those lead the NL in 1908. He also had 201 hits, 39 doubles, 19 triples, 109 RBIs, and 53 stolen bases. All of those also led the NL. He hit only 10 home runs, good for second in the league. All that got him 11.5 WAR, which also led the NL. In fielding he led all NL shortstops in putouts. It is unquestionably one of the greatest seasons ever by any player. Among WAR for position players it’s the highest ever until the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York in 1920. It still ranks tied for 11th even after 110 years. To put it in some context of the era, the NL average triple slash line was .239/.299/.306/.605 with an average OPS+ of 93 (meaning the average player was below average–chew on that for a minute). The .239 is a low for the NL ever, tying 1888 for an all-time low. For what it’s worth the American League in 1968 set the all-time low for either league with an average of .230 (and in 1967 they were at .236, also below the NL in 1908). In 1908 the AL also hit .239. Wagner was simply terrific in 1908.

So set back and enjoy the 2018 season. Hopefully it will be worth remembering 110 years from now. Unfortunately, I won’t be around to make comparisons.

Congratulations and another one of those All Time Teams

September 16, 2016

First, it seems right to congratulate the Chicago Cubs as the first team to guarantee a spot in the playoffs. But, perhaps to celebrate, Sports Illustrated just released, on its daily mailing it sends to people like me, the All Time Cubs team. Here, for your interest and edification, is the list:

Catcher–Gabby Hartnett

Infield-Cap Anson (1st), Ryne Sandberg (2nd), Ernie Banks (ss), Ron Santo (3b)

Outfield–Billy Williams (left), Hack Wilson (center), Sammy Sosa (right)

Pitchers–Fergie Jenkins and Mordecai Brown as starters and Bruce Sutter as the reliever.

There are no backups listed.

So what do we make of this? On the face of it, it isn’t a bad list. It’s certainly better than the thing ESPN did on its top 100 players. Having said that, I have a couple of problems with it. I’m not sure how you compare Anson with the rest of the cast. He spent almost his entire career (which went from the National Association of the 1870s into the 1890s) hitting against pitchers who were not allowed to throw overhand or who did not throw from a mound 60’6″ away. I agree Anson was a heck of a player (probably a top 100), but I’m not sure you can accurately compare him with more modern Cubs first basemen (Mark Grace, Leon Durham, even Phil Cavarretta of the 1945 team). Sure you can make comparisons with Anson’s contemporaries, but I do worry about comparing him to much never guys. Second, I wish they’d do some commentary on Sosa’s steroid issue. I’m not sure how much it would change his position, but it should be noted (as should the bitter taste of how he left Chicago).

There is no manager listed. I suppose I’d go with Frank Chance. He’s the only one who proved he could lead a team to a modern World Series championship. Anyway, you should be able to find the list on Sports Illustrated’s website somewhere.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1922

December 3, 2015

Time now for the final class of My Own Little Hall of Fame for this year. This time it’s the Class of 1922. The choices here are reasonably obvious.

Three Finger Brown

Three Finger Brown

Mordecai Brown was the ace of four pennant winning teams, two of which won the World’s Championship. Missing parts of two fingers on his throwing hand earned him the nickname “Three Finger.” Winner of over 200 games, he possesses one of the five top ERA’s ever and led the 1906 Cubs to a record 116 wins.

Nap LaJoie

Nap LaJoie

Napoleon LaJoie is arguably the finest second baseman ever. He led his league in hitting two times, in home runs once, and in 1901 set the all time American League record with a batting average of .426. He also led his league in doubles five times, in hits four times, and in runs once. Serving as playing manager of the Cleveland team he was honored by having the team nicknamed the “Naps.”

Christy Mathewson

Christy Mathewson

Christy Mathewson led the New York Giants to five pennants, two championships, and a World Series victory. In the 1905 World Series he won three complete game shutouts, including the Series clinching game. With more than 350 wins, he led the National League in wins four times, in ERA five times, in strikeouts five times, and in 1908 walked only 42 men in 390 plus innings of work.

Now the commentary:

1 You’re surprised at who made it are you? Of course you aren’t. These are three of the true greats of the game; three of the kind of player a Hall of Fame is meant to honor. Having said that, there are some things to point out about each that help make how what I wrote above make sense.

2. LaJoie in 1922 had credit for only two batting titles. Modern research has given him a third (the one in 1910) which is still not recognized by Major League Baseball. For the purposes of this post I went with the two acknowledged in 1922. There were still a couple of differences in his hit total, so I left the 3000+ hits out entirely. And as RBIs were just becoming a well established and accepted stat I decided not to emphasize the 1901 Triple Crown.

2. Currently Brown is credited with sixth all time in ERA. At the time (1922) ERA totals were in flux, especially among 19th Century players. Today Jim Devlin is credited with an ERA lower than Brown’s but that seems to have been unknown in 1922, so listing ole Three Finger in the top five works for this purpose. Again there is some differences in his numbers, this time the win total (kinda like LaJoie and his hit total) so I was deliberately vague with the exact number.

3. Mathewson’s exact win total is still in some dispute in 1922, but everybody is above 350 and there seems to be a growing consensus around the 373, the currently accepted number (although there seems to be some question about a 374th win). I had to acknowledge the 1904 pennant by calling it a championship, but then refer to only one World Series win (1905). It looks a little awkward, but it is correct.

4. By this point the statistics are beginning to even out. By that I mean I’m getting the same numbers for the same stats almost universally among newer players. There is, however, still much discrepancy about the exact figures when it comes to older players, especially 19th Century types. And for really early baseball (say 1865 or so) it’s hopeless (and today frankly isn’t just a whole lot better). I’m beginning to wonder why Al Monro Elias isn’t in the real Hall of Fame. His Sports Bureau is a Godsend for my project (but even there problems exist).

5.  I plan to do a year-end post on this project summarizing what’s happened and what I’ve learned (some of which was pretty obvious if I’d thought about it and some not so much).

 

Belly Up: the 1915 Federal League

April 2, 2015
The second place Maroons

The second place Maroons

The 1915 season was the final of two for the Federal League. By the beginning of the season it was already in trouble. In 1914 the team in Indianapolis won the pennant. Their reward? They were moved to Newark for the 1915 season. It’s never a good sign when your league champion ends up moving, especially if it’s a move forced by lack of attendance (as was the case here).

The Feds began their season on 10 April 1915, four days before either the National or the American League. The team in Newark, with much the same lineup (they’d lost Benny Kauff, the league’s best player, but most of the rest of the team was intact) as in 1914 was a favorite to win the pennant. They finished sixth. As noted in the post below on the Whales, the Chicago team won the pennant by a half game over the St. Louis Maroons. The Pittsburgh Rebels and the Kansas City Packers rounded out the first division and Newark was the last team to record a winning record (80-72). The rest of the league consisted of (in order of finish) the Buffalo Blues, the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, and the tail-end Baltimore Terrapins (47-107).

The league leader in hitting was Kauff. He absolutely dominated the Feds winning the batting title, slugging and on base titles (and obviously led the league in OPS), stolen bases, and WAR (BBREF version) at 6.8. The home run title went to Buffalo’s Hal Chase (yes, that Hal Chase) with 17, while the Whales’ Dutch Zwilling won the RBI crown. Babe Borton led the Feds in runs scored and Steve Evans led the league in doubles.

In pitching, Maroons ace Dave Davenport took the WAR crown (8.4) but finished third in wins, fifth in ERA, second in WHIP, and led the league in strikeouts (229 to 160 for second place) and shutouts (10). Whales ace George McConnell led the Feds in wins with 25 while Newark’s Earl Moseley won the ERA title (1.91). Jack Quinn of Baltimore put up the most losses (22), as befits a player from a last place team.

The league folded at the end of the season. By now it’s probably most famous for giving Chicago Wrigley Field, or for causing the lawsuit that led eventually to baseball’s antitrust exemption. But the Feds had a few other things going for them. First it brought Major League play to Kansas City, Buffalo, Newark, Indianapolis, and Baltimore. All had produced Major League teams in the 19th Century, but hadn’t had a big league team in years. It gave fans a chance to see Major League games in places and in venues that were new. Second, it provided a final shot for a number of fading stars like Mordecai Brown and Eddie Plank. Third, it introduced a number of very good players to fans. Kauff was number one. He tore up the Federal League, then had a solid, and totally unspectacular, career after 1915. Eventually he was one of the players banned by Judge Landis for associating with known gamblers. Edd Roush, a discarded American Leaguer, did well enough to get another chance. He latched on with Cincinnati, won a World Series (1919), a couple of batting titles (1917 and 1919), and eventually made the Hall of Fame; as did his teammate Bill McKechnie. McKechnie made the Hall as a manager, winning the World Series in 1925 and again in 1940. He got his first taste of managing as a mid-season replacement at Newark. Everything considered, all those things make for a fairly interesting legacy. Certainly they aren’t the worst legacy a league can leave.