Posts Tagged ‘Nap Rucker’

Rucker for the Hall?

September 6, 2018

The post just below this discusses the no-hitter tossed by Brooklyn pitcher Nap Rucker in 1908. In a comment by rjkitch13, he speculates that if Rucker played for the Cubs, Giants, or Pirates, the dominant teams of the era, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.

Well, that lends itself to the question, is that the case? To begin with, the answer is “we’ll never know, because Rucker played his entire career in Brooklyn.” But we can do a little guessing. For his career (1907 through 1916) Rucker posted a 134-134 record, exactly a .500 winning percentage. In those same years, the Brooklyn team went 673-848 for a winning percentage of .443. So Rucker outperformed his team overall by a few percentage points (.057). Of course some years he did better and some years he did worse than his team, and in the final three years of his career he only started 35 games.

By contrast Chicago went 903-627 for a winning percentage of .590 over the same years (1907 through 1916). New York went 905-623 (.592 winning percentage), and Pittsburgh was 808-680( for a winning percentage of .555). All three teams did significantly better than Rucker’s Superbas/Robins (the two names the Brooklyn team carried while Rucker played for them). Would Rucker have fared better with any of these three teams? Likely, but ultimately unknowable.

In doing this short exercise I have concentrated on Rucker’s win-loss record. In the period most likely for him to have adorned a Hall of Fame voting ballot that stat would have been front and center in determining his enshrinement. With the Veteran’s Committees that followed, the same is true until at least very recently.

Finally, the answer to rjkitch13’s proposal is unknowable, but it is probable, based on what is unquestionably a small sampling of the information, that Rucker’s overall record, especially in wins and losses would have been better. Whether that would get Nap Rucker to the Hall of Fame is unknowable. But it is fun to speculate.

A thanks to rjkitch13 for bringing this little exercise to my attention and I suggest all of you take a look at his own blog. Give ’em the address rj.

1908: Rucker’s Gem

September 5, 2018

Nap Rucker

In an otherwise dreadful season, Brooklyn had one ray of sunshine in 1908. On 5 September, Nap Rucker, their best pitcher, tossed a no hitter against Boston.

Rucker’s gem was game two of a Saturday double-header (Brooklyn lost game one). The Superbas (that’s Brooklyn) sent him to the mound with a 14-14 record. He’d pitched well but hadn’t gotten a lot of support from his hitters. The Boston Doves (who are now in Atlanta) parried with Patrick “Patsy” Flaherty, who was 10-14.

Brooklyn put up four runs in the second inning and two more in the eighth to post six runs. Clean up hitting first baseman Tim Jordan went three for three with two runs scored and an RBI and an eighth inning solo home run (his ninth of what would be a league leading 12). Second baseman Whitey Alperman had two hits and scored two runs, while catcher Bill Bergen knocked in two with a second inning double. Rucker, meanwhile struck out 14 while walking none.

The Doves (don’t you just love that nickname?) took advantage of three Brooklyn errors to put men on base, but had no hits. Shortstop Bill Dahlen struck out three times in as many trips to the plate. Flaherty allowed eight hits, walked two, and struck out two.

Flaherty ended the season 12-18 with more walks than strikeouts, while Rucker went 17-19 with a 2.08 ERA,199 strikeouts, and a league leading 125 walks. At the end of the day Boston would was 52-72 and in sixth place. Brooklyn, after this day was 44-78 and in seventh place (next-to-last), 31 games out of first.

It was a long season for both teams, but at least Brooklyn had a no-hitter to its credit.

1908: Extra Bases

August 7, 2018

Tim Jordan, NL home run champ for 1908

In keeping with the idea that an individual game that appears meaningless in the standings can be interesting, here’s a look at a game played 7 August 1908, 110 years ago today.

On this date 110 years ago, the Cincinnati Reds were in Brooklyn for a Friday game. They were led by future Hall of Fame manager Miller Huggins and sent pitcher Bob Ewing to the mound. The Superbas (again, the “Dodgers” would come later), led by first baseman Tim Jordan responded with pitcher Nap Rucker.

The game ended 5-3 with the Reds grabbing a lead in the fourth and adding three more in the sixth and tacking on a final run in the eighth. The Superbas got two run in the seventh to narrow the lead to 4-2, but were unable to tie it up. in the bottom of the ninth, they got one more run to give Cincy a two-run margin. Ewing got the win and Rucker, who went eight innings (relieved by Jim Holmes for the ninth), took the loss. At the end of the day, the Reds were at .500, 11 games out of first (in fifth place) and Brooklyn was 23 games out in seventh (next-to-last place).

“So what?” you ask. Glad you asked. There were four games played that day (it was a short schedule) and in this game Huggins had a double and a triple. He neither scored a run nor knocked in any of the Reds five runs. Jordan hit a two-run home run to account for a third of the Superbas’ three runs and two of their three RBIs (shortstop Phil Lewis had the other RBI when he knocked in Jordan). Harry Lumley was on base when Jordan homered. Jordan would go on to lead the National League in home runs in 1908 (one of the few hitting categories not monopolized by Honus Wagner). Again you ask, “So?” Well, here’s the thing. The double and triple by Huggins and the Jordan homer were the only extra base hits the entire day in either league. The other scores were 7-0, 3-0, and 2-1. There were a total of 36 hits in the other three games, all were singles. In the Cincinnati vs. Brooklyn matchup there were 14 hits, a total of 50 hits in the day, only three, all in the same game were for extra bases. There were also 11 errors spread among the games and 22 total walks. The 7th of August 1908 is an excellent example of Deadball baseball at its finest.

1910: Superbas Postmortem

September 4, 2010

The 1910 Brooklyn Superbas , under rookie manager Bill Dahlen, went 64-90 for 1910 and finished sixth, 40 games back. They weren’t yet either the Boys of Summer  of the 1950s or the Daffiness Boys of the 1930s. They also weren’t very good (which is tough for a Dodgers fan to say).

Brooklyn in 1910 was dead last in hitting, slugging, RBIs, hits, and doubles. They were seventh in runs and walks, and first in striking out. Only first baseman Jake Daubert, third baseman Ed Lennox, and outfielder Zack Wheat managed to hit .250 while shortstop Tony Smith hit .181 and  catcher Bill Bergen made it all the way to .161. You know you’re in trouble if two of your starters don’t make it to the Mendoza line.

The problem with replacing some of these guys was that the bench was equally awful. A common theme of these posts is that teams who finish in the bottom part of the standings have terrible benches. Brooklyn was no exception. The highest average from the bench players was Al Burch’s .236. He also had one of the highest slugging percentages at .284. Tex Erwin, backup catcher, hit .188, not much of an improvement over Bergen, and Pryor McElveen’s .225 wasn’t that much better than Smith’s average. Outfielder Bob Coulson managed a .404 slugging percentage in 23 games. That led the team with Wheat second at .403.

Among the pitchers, knuckleballer Nap Rucker and Cy Barger had acceptable seasons. Rucker went 17-18 and led the NL in innings, hits, and shutouts with six. Barger was 15-15. It went south from there. George Bell was 10-27 and Doc Scanlan was 9-11. If you look down the list, there’s nobody below that even hints at solving the problems of the staff.

The Superbas have a little to look forward to in 1911. Daubert and Wheat are good players and will continue to improve. I know nothing about Bergen, but he must have been a heck of a catcher because in 1911 he will catch 84 games and hit all of .132 and slug .154. Both Hy Myers and Otto Miller come up in 1911. Neither are particularly good in ’11, but both will be significant contributors to the rise of the 1916 team to the NL pennant. Other than that, Oh, well.