Posts Tagged ‘Mule Watson’

Beginning a Dynasty: The “Ole Perfessor” and the Babe

June 21, 2016

With both the Yankees and the Giants sharing the same hometown, the World Series was played on consecutive days in October 1923. The teams alternated parks with Yankee Stadium getting game one and the Polo Grounds holding game two. Two future Hall of Famers would step front and center in the first two games.

Casey Stengel with the Giants

Casey Stengel with the Giants

Game 1

For game one on 10 October, the Yankees started Waite Hoyt on the mound. The Giants responded with Mule Watson. Bush was on the mark early in the game, but not Watson. He walked Joe Dugan with one out. Babe Ruth grounded to short, but the relay was late and he was safe at first with Dugan recording the second out of the inning at second. A Bob Meusel double sent Ruth all the way around for the game’s first run. In the next inning consecutive singles, two outs, and another single brought home both Wally Schang and Aaron Ward to put the Yankees up 3-0. That did it for Watson. He was scheduled to bat in the third and was pulled for a pinch hitter. Rosy Ryan relieved him.

But before Ryan could take the mound, the Giants erupted for four runs in the top of the third to take the lead. A single, a walk, another single brought up Dave Bancroft. A force at second scored one run and gave the Giants one out. After Bancroft stole second, Heinie Groh tripled to score two and send manager Miller Huggins to the mound to get Hoyt. Bullet Joe Bush took over and gave up a single to plate Groh making the score 4-3.

And there it stayed until the seventh inning stretch. Ryan pitched well, but in the bottom of the seventh he gave up a single to Bush, who was a very good hitting pitcher. An out by Whitey Witt brought up Dugan. He tripled driving in Bush to tie the game. Ruth then drove a sharp grounder to first. Dugan broke for home but was out at the plate. A Meusel fly ended the threat.

The Giants got a man on in the top of the eighth and the Yanks got two on, but no one scored. That brought the game to the top of the ninth. Two quick outs brought up center fielder Casey Stengel (who’d later manage the Yankees). He drove a ball to deep left center, the deepest part of the ballpark. Racing around the bases, he lost a shoe, but continued running. He beat the throw home and scored an inside-the-park home run to give the Giants a lead. One wit, likening Stengel to the race horse Man O’ War noted he’d thrown a shoe but still finished first by a head. Now in front, Ryan proceeded to set the Yankees down in order in the bottom of the ninth to close out the win for the Giants 5-4.

Stengel got most of the press, but Ryan had done well in very long relief. Groh had two RBIs and Bancroft contributed a key stolen base. Game two was the next day.

The Babe

The Babe

Game 2

The Giants hosted game two 11 October 1923 in the Polo Grounds. They had Hugh McQuillen pitching while the Yankees sent southpaw Herb Pennock out to tie up the Series.

Neither pitcher got through six outs before giving up a run. With one out in the top of the second Arron Ward slugged a homer for the Yankees. Giants left fielder Emil “Irish” Meusel matched the home run with one of his own in the bottom of the second to tie up the game 1-1.

Two innings later, Babe Ruth led off the top of the fourth with a home run to right. Later in the inning singles by Wally Pipp, Wally Schang, and Everett Scott scored Pipp to put the Yanks up 3-1. In the top of the fifth, Ruth added his second homer of the game when he drove a ball down the right field line to make the score 4-1.

The Giants mounted a comeback in the sixth. Heinie Groh and Frankie Frisch both singled. A Ross Youngs single plated Groh, but a force at second and a double play shut down the Giants rally leaving the score 4-2.

And it stayed that way. Pennock allowed three more hits the rest of the way, but no Giant advanced beyond second base. The Yankees win tied up the Series at one game apiece. The next day the Series would return to Yankee Stadium as a best of five series.

 

 

Beginning a Dynasty: the 1923 Giants

June 16, 2016
Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds

By 1923 the New York Giants were winners on consecutive World Series’. Except for 1917, they’d been also-runs for most of the 19-teens. They’d roared back in 1921 to defeat the crosstown Yankees in the Series, then done it again the next year. It was, as Giants pennant winners went, a very different team from the normal champs.

Baseballwise, the New York of the early 1920s was the bailiwick of John J. McGraw and the Giants. They’d won consecutive titles, and McGraw was an institution dating back to the turn of the century. More even than Babe Ruth, McGraw was “Mr. Baseball” in New York. That would begin changing with this World Series. The ’23 Giants weren’t a typical McGraw team, a team heavy in pitching and speed. McGraw had adjusted to the “lively ball” era very well and produced a team that led the National League in runs, hits, average, normal “deadball” stats. But it also led the NL in slugging, OBP, OPS, and total bases. They were third in home runs, stolen bases, and doubles, while posting a second in triples. The staff, unlike pre-1920 Giants teams was sixth in ERA, but higher in strikeouts, hits, and runs allowed while being third in shutouts.

The infield consisted of three Hall of Famers. George “Highpockets” Kelly held down first. He hit .307 with 16 home runs and 103 RBIs. The homers were second on the team, while the RBIs were third. His WAR was 2.5. Frankie Frisch at second was a star. He led the team with a 7.1 WAR and was second in runs scored and RBIs while his .348 average paced the regulars. Dave Bancroft also hit .300, but was beginning the downside of his career. He had 46 errors at short and was beginning to be pushed by 19-year-old Travis Jackson, another future Hall of Famer, he was second on the team with 3.7 WAR.. Heinie Groh was the non-Hall of Famer and, at 33, the oldest of the starters. He hit .290 with no power and posted an even 3.0 WAR. Fred Maguire, along with Jackson, was the primary infielder on the bench, although future star, Hall of Famer, and Giants manager Bill Terry got into three games.

Five men did the bulk of the outfield work. Hall of Famer Ross Youngs was in right. He hit .336, led the team with 200 hits and with 121 runs scored, producing an OPS+ of 125 and a 3.6 WAR. The other corner outfielder was Emil “Irish” Meusel, brother of Yankees left fielder Bob Meusel. It’s the first time brothers playing the same position faced each other in a World Series. “Irish” led the team in RBIs with 125, in homers with 19, in triples with 14 and was considered an excellent outfielder, although the general consensus was that his brother had the better arm. All that got him 2.2 WAR. Jimmy O’Connell got into 87 games, most in center field. He hit .250 with six home runs, good for fourth on the team. Bill Cunningham and 32-year-old Charles “Casey” Stengel (another Hall of Famer, but in a different context). were the other two outfielders. Cunningham saw action in 79 games, while Stengel got into 75. Stengel hit .335 and both men had five home runs, good for a fifth place tie on the team. Twenty-three year old future Hall of Fame inductee Hack Wilson got into three games late in the season.

Frank Snyder did most of the catching, getting into 120 games. He was a good defensive backstop but his backup Hank Gowdy hit better. Gowdy, a hero of the 1914 Series, was 33 and not able to catch as often as previously. Alex Gaston and Earl Smith got into just over 20 games each.

The pitching staff was a long ride from the Mathewson, McGinnity, Marquard, Ames staffs of the early century. While those pitchers are still reasonably well known (except maybe Red Ames), the ’23 Giants staff wasn’t filled with household names. Hugh McQuillan, Mule Watson, and Jack Scott were the right handers. McQuillan and Watson both had ERA’s of 3.41 while Scott’s was 3.89. All three had given up more hits than they had innings pitched. McQuillan’s 3.3 WAR was easily highest among the staff. Lefties Art Nehf and Jack Bentley both had ERAs north of four and continued the trend of giving up more hits than having innings pitched. The Bullpen featured spot starter Rosy Ryan who went 16-5 and Claud Jonnard. Both had ERAs in the mid-threes and Jonnard joined the pack that gave up more hits than had innings pitched. Ryan missed making it unanimous by less than four innings.

So it was a good hitting team that could make up for a mediocre pitching staff. Facing the American League pennant winner, mediocre might just not be good enough.

1924: McGraw’s Last Throw

March 9, 2015
Travis Jackson

Travis Jackson

After three consecutive National League pennants and two World Series victories (1921 and 1922), the New York Giants rolled to their fourth straight pennant in 1924. It was still John McGraw’s team, but it was a vastly different team from his Deadball teams. Those relied to pitching and timely hitting. This was a team that hit well and the pitching was a notch down from those 1904-1913 teams. It was also McGraw’s final pennant winner.

The infield consisted of five Hall of Famers and one pretty good player. George “High Pockets” Kelly held down first. He led the team with 21 home runs and 136 RBIs. The RBI total led the NL and the homers ranked fourth. He was being challenged at first by second year player Bill Terry. Kelly was, in 1924, still the better player, but McGraw was keen on installing Terry in the lineup. Frankie Frisch played second, hit .328, stole 22 bases, had 198 hits (third in the NL), and scored a league leading 121 runs. The shortstop was 20-year old Travis Jackson, currently in his third year with the Giants. He managed to hit .300 (.302) for the first time in 1924, hit 11 home runs (good for second on the team), and played a good short. At 34, Heinie Groh was the old man on the team, and the only one not later enshrined in Cooperstown. He was famous for the odd shape of his bat (“Bottlebat”), but also played a good third while hitting .281. He was hurt during the season, which allowed the Giants to bring up 18-year old Fred Lindstrom who hit only .253 in 1924, but was considered a coming star. He would figure in one of the most famous plays of the World Series.

Five men, two of them in the Hall of Fame, manned the outfield. The Hall of Famers were Ross Youngs and Hack Wilson. Youngs was the regular right fielder. His .356 led the team in hitting. His 10 home runs were third and his 112 runs scored were second on the team. He would have two years left before being felled by Bright’s Disease. Wilson did much of the center field work. He was not yet the fearsome power hitter he became in the late 1920s at Chicago. He tied Youngs with 10 homers and hit .295. Emil “Irish” Meusel (the brother of Yankees left fielder Bob Meusel) was the primary left fielder. He hit .310 with 102 RBIs. Billy Southworth (who also made the Hall of Fame, but this time as a manager) and Jimmy O’Connell spelled the other three. O’Connell hit .317 and Southworth .256. Neither showed much power.

McGraw used two catchers during the season. Hank Gowdy, who did less during the regular season, did almost all the catching in the World Series. His partner was Frank Snyder. Neither had much power (Snyder had five homers, Gowdy four) and Snyder hit .302 to Gowdy’s .325. Both were right-handed hitters so they weren’t used in a platoon situation.

They caught a staff that was weaker than the old Giants pitching staffs. There was no Mathewson or McGinnity or even a Marquard on the staff (there may have been a Red Ames or two). Six men pitched double figure games: right-handers Virgil Barnes, Hugh McQuillan, Wayland Dean, Mule Watson, and lefties Jack Bentley and Art Nehf. Bentley and Barnes both won 16 games, while Dean actually had a losing record (6-12). Barnes, Bentley, Dean, and Watson all gave up more hits than they had innings pitched while both Dean and Watson walked more men than they struck out. For the Senators Firpo Marberry had 15 saves. The entire Giants staff had 19 with Rosy Ryan leading with five. If it came to the staff and the bullpen, Washington had a distinct advantage.

The 1924 Series was held over seven consecutive days (no day off) with the Senators getting games one, two, six, and seven at home. The papers of the day (at least the ones I’ve found) felt it was going to be Washington pitching against New York hitting. It turned out to be a great series with an unforgettable game seven.