Posts Tagged ‘Rollie Zeider’

The Whales

March 30, 2015
The Chicago Whales of 1915

The Chicago Whales of 1915

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the final season of the Federal League. It lasted all of two seasons before collapsing. Oh, there was a lawsuit (and it was major because it established baseball’s anti-trust exemption and brought Kennesaw Mountain Landis to the attention of team owners), but when it was all over to league was still gone. In memory of that long lost league, let’s take a look at the final Federal League champ. They were the Chicago Whales.

Opening day for the Whales was 10 April 1915. They were home in Weeghman Park against St. Louis and picked up a 3-1 win. In some ways it was the critical game of the season. In the final standings Chicago was 86-66 with a winning percentage of .566. St. Louis finished second 87-67 with a winning percentage of .565. In those days missed games didn’t have to be made up later in the season whether or not they impacted the pennant race or not. If Chicago lost game one their winning percentage would be .559 and St. Louis would move to .571 and take the pennant. And they tell me games in April don’t matter.

But because the season doesn’t end after one game, the Whales had to keep winning. They tallied a winning record in every month except August (12-19) and finished the season winning three of their last four games (including the last one). They were remarkably consistent. In the first half of the season they went 43-32 and 43-34 in the last half. They played at least .500 ball against every team in the league, going exactly .500 against three teams, including runner-up St. Louis. They also finished 44-32 at home and 42-34 on the road, a remarkably similar record. They finished fourth in hitting (.257), second in slugging, third in OBP, and second in total bases (by two bases). They led the league in home runs and RBIs, were second in both hits and runs. Their pitchers were third in the league in ERA, second in hits allowed, third in runs allowed, fourth in strikeouts, and third in walks allowed. In WHIP they are second. In one of my favorite stats, they are third in the FL in number of men left on base. They let ’em on, they don’t let ’em score.

The team was managed by Hall of Famer Joe Tinker. He played in 31 games, but mostly stayed in the dugout. Catcher Art Wilson hit .305 with seven home runs (second on the team), and an OPS+ of 164 (second in the league). He caught a staff that included Mordecai Brown, a Hall of Famer, who was at the end of his career. Brown went 17-8 with a 2.09 ERA (ERA+ 135), which was good for third in the league, and 95 strikeouts (tied for third on the team). The ace was George McConnell whose 25-10 record led the league in both wins and winning percentage.  His 2.20 ERA was fourth in the FL with his 151 strikeouts being third. Claude Hendrix won 16 games and Mike Pendergast had 14. All four of them had more innings pitched than hits given up and more strikeouts than walks. Brown’s 1.071 WHIP led the team.

The infield (first around to third) was Fred Beck, Rollie Zeider, Jimmy Smith, and Harry Fritz. Fritz’s .250 led the infield in batting and he followed up by leading the infield in slugging and OBP. Beck’s five homers led the infield and Zeider’s 16 stolen bases were tops in the infield (if Tinker had played full-time with the same percentages he had in part time work, he would have led in batting, slugging, and OBP).

The outfield hit better. Dutch Zwilling played center and led both the team and the Feds in RBIs (94). He also led his team and finished second in the FL in homers (13). He hit .286, slugged .442, had an OBP of .366, giving him an OPS of .808 (OPS+ of 142). Les Mann and Max Flack flanked him. Mann hit .306 with a 138 OPS+, while Flack led the team with 37 stolen bases and it .314.

The bench was large for the era. Twelve men played at least 11 games for the Whales (not all were on the team at the same time). William Fischer played the most with 105 games, He was the backup catcher and hit .329 (good for second in the league) and had 50 RBIs, good for third on the team. Joining with Wilson he gave the Whales the best combo of hitting catchers in the FL. Charlie Hanford and Jack Ferrell played 70 games, Bill Jackson 50, and Tex Wisterzil got into 49 games. None of them hit .250 and only Jackson had a home run. Hanford’s ten stolen bases led the bench.

With the folding of the Feds at the end of the season, the team was gone. The players went different ways. For the Hall of Fame players Brown and Tinker (and for Zwilling too), they hung on one more year then retired. Others went to the minors, many to other major league teams where they got a shot with the National or American League. None became big stars. But, as many of you know, they did give baseball a lasting legacy. Weeghman Park was a pretty good stadium and now it was empty. The Cubs, needing new digs, moved in. It was later rechristened Wrigley Field and is still in use.

1910: White Sox Postmortem

August 27, 2010

By the end of August 1910 the Chicago White Sox were out of pennant contention in the American League. Depending on exactly how many ties needed to be made up they were eliminated on 29 August or about a week later. When the season was over they finished 68-85, 35.5 games out of first.

You can’t say the Sox weren’t trying to fix the problem. Manager Hugh Duffy used 25 position players (and pitcher Doc White put in 14 games in the outfield), an AL leading number. The problem was that most of them weren’t all that great. Of the bench players who got into 20 or more games (12 of them), only five hit above .200. Harry Lord, who took over as shortstop after coming over in a trade, had the best year hitting .297 (20 points better than the next bench player), stealing 17 bases, and showing a .370 slugging percentage.

The starters weren’t any better. Outfielder Patsy Dougherty led the starters with a .248 batting average and 43 RBIs, while center fielder Paul Meloin led in slugging with .324. Second baseman Rollie Zeider stole 49 bases to go with 62 walks. The problem was that first baseman Chick Gandil (yes, that Chick Gandil), starting shortstop Lena Blackburn (of baseball mud fame), and right fielder Shano Collins all hit under the Mendoza line. Obviously it wasn’t much of a hitting team finishing last in average, slugging, and hits. There were a couple of hopeful signs. Only Dougherty was over 30 (33) and rookie Collins had 10 doubles and 10 stolen bases in only 62 hits.

The hope lay in the pitching staff. With all that weak hitting, the pitching was going to have to carry the team and some of it actually held up. Doc White still had a few wins in him going 15-13 with more innings pitched than hits allowed and more strikeouts than walks. Frank Lange pitched in 23 games, 15 of them starts. He managed 9-4 and also had more innings than hits and more strikeouts than walks. Then there was Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. Walsh went 18-20 over 46 games (36 of them starts and 33 of them complete games). In 370 innings (second in the league to Walter Johnson) he gave up only 242 hits. He walked 61 and struck out 258 men (again second to Johnson). He led the league with a 1.27 ERA. He was also only 29, so barring arm injuries he had a long career ahead of him at the end of 1910 (his injury came in 1913).

As a brief aside, stats like Walsh’s always fascinate me. He led the AL in ERA and had a losing record. That’s happened a few times. I remember Nolan Ryan doing it while at Houston. It shows how unrelated those two stats are even though they are frequently linked.

Unlike the Browns, there are a few promising things about the White Sox. Walsh is good, Collins looks promising, and Lord just might pan out (He went to third in 1911 and had a few good years). So it least there was a little something to build on in Chicago.

Opening Day, 1910: Chicago (AL)

April 17, 2010

Ed Walsh

This is going to sound a little redundant, but Chicago was, like Boston, Philadelphia, and Detroit, one of the mainstays of the American League since its start. The White Stockings won the first AL pennant in 1901, then pulled off arguably the greatest World Series upset ever by knocking off the 1906 Chicago Cubs in six games. They remained close in both 1907 and 1908, but had dropped back to 20 games out in 1909. That set up wholesale changes in the team.

Out went the entire infield. In came four new players. Rookies Chick Gandil  and Rollie Zeider were now at first and second. Former bench player Billy Purtell took over third base, and another rookie, Lena Blackburn of baseball mud fame, was at short. Former starters Frank Isbell and Lee Tannehill were still around, but relegated to the bench.

The outfield was mostly new. Right fielder Patsy Dougherty remained. Newcomers were rookies Shano Collins and Pat Meloan at the other two spots. Collins was to remain until 1920.

The catcher remained Freddie Payne. Backups were Bruno Block and Billy Sullivan. Sullivan was the manager in 1909, replaced in the offseason by old-time outfielder Hugh Duffy. Sullivan stayed with the team the entire year, playing in 45 games. I’ve no idea how he and Duffy got along and if there was tension between them. If there was, no idea how it rubbed off on the rest of the team.

Little of the 1906 team remained among the hitters (only Sullivan, Isbell, and Dougherty), but the pitching staff was led by two veterans of the pennant winning team. Doc White (he was a practicing dentist in the offseason) was 11-9 in 1909, played 40 games in the outfield, and pinch hit. In 1910 he was expected to do better on the mound and keep up with the other aspects of his game (for 1910 he played 14 games in the outfield and hit .196). The other veteran was Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. He was 40-15 in 1908 and it took a toll on his arm. In 1909 he dropped to 15-11. He was still not fully recovered by 1910. Frank Smith and Jim Scott were holdovers from 1909 and Fred Olmstead, who had pitched n eight games the year before, became a starter.

The White Stockings were dropping fast in the standings. They moved to get younger, but it would take time for the rookies to become regulars. the pitching staff was a mixture of veterans and new guys and anchored by a man with a sore arm. Hugh Duffy would have his work cut out for him in 1910.