Posts Tagged ‘Pop Snyder’

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Subs

March 20, 2010

I wonder how modern managers would handle old time rosters. Tony LaRussa seems to think a 25 man roster ought to include 19 pitchers and six others (I guess two pitchers go in the corners of the outfield.). But way back when rosters were much smaller, the 1927 Yankees had 25 men total on their roster for the entire year. The prize here has to go to the 1878 Boston Red Caps who managed to win a pennant with a ten man roster. With appropriate apologies to Alfonso Bedoya, their motto might have been “We don’t need no stinkin’ subs.”

The Red Caps won the National Association pennant by four games over Cincinnati going 41-19 in a 60 game season. They loaded up on the bottom teams winning eight of 12 against Chicago, 10 of 12 against Indianapolis, and all but one against Milwaukee. As mentioned in the post on Louisville’s 1877 scandal, both Indianapolis and Milwaukee were new to the league. They included a number of players from the defunct Louisville and St.. Louis teams, but hadn’t spent time working the pieces together. A further group of their players were NL rookies. Against the stronger teams, Providence and Cincinnati, Boston went 6-6.

They did it all with ten men. Harry Wright managing his last pennant winner, pulled all the right levers and won without substituting. Imagine that today.  Here’s the roster.

John Morrill played at first (and one game at third and in the outfield) hitting .240 with 23 RBIs and 26 runs scored.

Jack Burdock was at second for every inning of every game. He hit .260 with 25 RBIs and 37 runs.

George Wright was Harry’s younger brother and a future Hall of Famer. He played shortstop for 59 games hitting .225 with 12 RBIs and 35 runs. He was one of two players who “wimped out” and sat out a game.

Ezra Sutton played third for 59 games (and short the day George Wright sat out) going .226, with 29 RBIs, and 31 runs.

Andy Leonard was in left every game hitting .260 with 16 RBIs and 41 runs.

Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke played center field (plus one game at first and caught two more). He led the team with a .278 average, and in runs scored  with 44. He tied with Sutton for the team lead in RBIs with 29.

Jack Manning was in right except for pitching three games (only one of which he started). He was a .254 hitter, with 23 RBIs, and 41 runs scored. Pitching he went 1-0 in 11.33 innings with two strikeouts, five walks, and an ERA of 14.29.

Pop Snyder was the catcher. He hit .212 with 14 RBIs and 21 runs scored. He spent two games in the outfield.

Tommy Bond was the workhorse pitcher. He hit .212 with 23 RBIs and scored 22 runs. In the field he was 40-19 with a 2.06 ERA, 33 walks, and led the league in strikeouts with 182 and 9 shutouts. The 40 wins also led the league. He, like George Wright, took a day off.  Both times he was relieved from pitching duties, he went to the outfield.

Which brings me to the tenth man. Drum roll please for substitute Harry Schafer. The supersub played in two (count ’em) games, both in the outfield. He was one for eight ( a .125 batting average) with no RBIs or runs scored. The hit was a single. I’ve always wondered if Schafer travelled around with the team or if Harry Wright just called him up a couple of times and asked him to come to the park so he could give someone a rest.

A couple of things to notice here. First, there are a lot more runs than RBIs. It was an era of small or non-existent gloves and terrible fields so there were a lot of errors and unearned runs. Second, the batting averages are pretty low, O’Rourke’s .278 leading the team. Boston finished fourth in hitting in the league (six teams), but was second in pitching with a 2.32 ERA. Obviously they were winning a lot of close games. Additionally, Burdock, George Wright, Snyder, and Bond all led the league in fielding at their position. The fielding numbers aren’t great by modern standards, but are very good for the era.

I’ve always been fascinated by this team since I first discovered it years ago. I wondered how you won with only one sub (playing only two games). I’d like to see the least number of players a modern (21st Century) team used over a sixty game period.

The Scandal at Louisville

March 19, 2010

I really wish I didn’t have to say this, but it’s true. The Black Sox are not completely unique. OK, they threw a World Series and no one else did, but the idea of throwing away a game or a season isn’t unique. Players have been accused of it for a long time. There have been questions of players taking money to lose games, of them playing less that 100% because the hated the owner or the manager. The Black Sox may have been the worst case, but they weren’t first.

By the middle of the 1877 season it became evident that the National League pennant was a two team race: Boston vs. the Louisville Grays. The Red Caps (Boston) was managed by Harry Wright. They had essentially the same team that won the last four National Association pennants then lost the first National League pennant by finishing fourth. Deacon White, George Wright (Harry’s brother), Ezra Sutton, and John Morrill handled the infield; Lew Brown caught; Andy Leonard, Harry Schafer, and Jim O’Rourke patrolled the outfield; and Tommy Bond did the pitching (both Wright’s and O’Rourke are Hall of Famers). Louisville finished fifth in 1876, but produced a strong contender the next season. The Grays featured Juice Latham, Joe Gerhardt, Bill Craver, and Bill Hague were the infield: the catcher was Pop Snyder; the outfield consisted of George Hall, Orator Shaffer, and Bill Crowley; and Jim Devlin pitched.

Th race was tight into late September, then Louisville lost four in a row at Boston, lost three of  four in Brooklyn (the other game was a tie), then dropped the final game of the season to Chicago. Boston won the pennant by seven games after Louisville led for most of the year. The official reason was that Devlin tired and the team just quit hitting. In an era of one pitcher teams, that sounded reasonable.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t so, Joe. It seems that a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, who happened to be the son of the team owner, started asking questions. Little used player Al Nichols (he played six games) was serving as a conduit for gamblers to fix games. Pitcher Devlin, outfielder Hall, and third baseman Craver were the other men accused. For money, they had thrown an unspecified number of games allowing Boston to win the pennant.

The accusations and the proof, in the form of telegrams to Nichols, landed on the desk of league president William Hulbert. The National League was Hulbert’s baby and any chance that gambling was occuring was sheer anathema to him. Any chance that games were being fixed was equally anathema. In looking at his comments, it’s as if he took it as a personal affront to his honor. He moved immediately, banning all four players from the game. None ever played a Major League game again.

As a result of the castastophe, Louisville dropped totally out of the NL the next season. St. Louis attempted to sign two of the “outlaws” and was shown the door also. So the scandal had produced a questionable pennant and cost the NL two teams (which were replaced by Milwaukee and Indianapolis). At least in 1919 the AL lost no teams.

Interestingly enough Devlin, who died in 1883, found another line of work after his banishment. He became a policeman in Philadelphia (go figure).