Posts Tagged ‘Rube Oldring’

1914: Winning in Boston, part 1

October 20, 2014

After a pair of brief comments on the current World Series contenders, it’s time to get back to the world of 100 years ago.

Braves Field in Boston

Braves Field in Boston

On 12 October, the 1914 World Series resumed in Boston. The Braves were up two games to none against Philadelphia. Because the Braves home park (Southend Grounds) was smaller and older than the Red Sox new home in Fenway Park, the games in Boston were played in Fenway, not the Braves home park (Braves Field, pictured above, was opened in 1915 and so unavailable for use in the ’14 Series).

Game 3

Game three was one of the longest games in World Series history. The Braves started Lefty Tyler, who was 16-13 for the season, against the Athletics’ Bullet Joe Bush (17-13). The A’s got one in the first on Eddie Murray’s leadoff double. A bunt sent him to third and he came home on an error by left fielder Joe Connolly. The Braves got it back in the bottom of the second when, with two outs, Rabbit Maranville walked, stole second, and came home on a Hank Gowdy double. Philadelphia got the lead back in the top of the fourth on a Stuffy McInnis double and a run scoring single by center fielder Jimmy Walsh. Not to be outdone, Boston came back to tie it up on a Butch Schmidt single, a sacrifice, and a Maranville single.

And it stayed 2-2 for the rest of the regular innings. Through the end of the ninth, Tyler had given up two runs, two walks, and six hits, while striking out three. Bush was about as good and the game went into the 10th. Wally Schang led off the top of the 10th with a single. Bush then struck out. Then Tyler hashed a bunt and Schang went to second with Murray safe at first. A Rube Oldring ground out sent Schang to third and Murray to second. An intentional walk to Eddie Collins loaded the bases for Frank “Home Run” Baker. He didn’t hit a homer, but Baker lashed a single that scored both Schang and Murray. McInnis hit a fly to center to end the top of the 10th. Bush needed three outs to put Philly back in the Series. Gowdy started the bottom of the 10th with a home run to narrow the score to 4-3. Then a strikeout, walk, and single later Connolly made up for the earlier error. His sacrifice fly to center scored Howie Moran to knot the game.

During the bottom of the 10th Tyler was lifted for a pinch hitter. Braves pitcher Bill James replaced him. He got through the 11th and top of the 12th despite giving up three walks (but no hits). Bush, still pitching for the A’s, had a perfect 11th. In the bottom of the 12th, Gowdy led off with a double. Les Mann replaced him on the bases. An intentional walk later, up came Moran who hit the ball back to Bush. The pitcher fielded it and tossed to third to get the lead run. He missed the base and Mann trotted home with the winning run.

The A’s had a couple of chances to win, but Boston kept the score tied and won on an error. There’d been total nine runs scored. All but one were earned-the last one.

 

 

 

 

1914: The Big, Bad A’s

October 8, 2014
The Athletics

The Athletics

One hundred years ago this month one of the greatest upsets in World Series history occurred, the Philadelphia Athletics lost to the Boston Braves. No one expected to the Braves to win the National League pennant, let alone win the World Series. They were a bunch of cast-offs and losers who’d been put together from out of the trashcan, but they’d won the whole thing. They are, to this day, known as the “Miracle Braves.” I want to take a look at both the teams and the Series (and BTW Kevin at Baseball Revisited has just completed running a simulation of the Series on his site–see Blogroll at right) over the next few days. Because they lost, let’s start with the team that gets very little press in the entire endeavor, the big, bad Philadelphia A’s.

Connie Mack’s Athletics were defending world champions. In fact, they’d won three of the last four World Series (losing out to the Red Sox in 1912). To this point it was the most consistent of American League teams winning pennants in 1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, and the current pennant. They won 99 games in 1914 taking the pennant by 8.5 games over the Red Sox. If you look at their positional wins above average, they were above average in all positions except right field. They led the AL in runs, hits, homers, average, slugging, OBP, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. The hitters consisted of the $100,00 infield of Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank “Home Run” Baker from first around the horn to third. Collins led the league in runs scored, while Baker was the home run champion. McInnis was second in RBIs with 95 (it’s a league with Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker so you’re not going to lead the AL in much with them around). The outfield consisted of Rube Oldring, Amos Strunk, and Eddie Murphy (obviously not the comedian). All hit between .277 and .272 and were decent fielders for the era. Wally Schang was now Mack’s primary catcher. He hit .287 with a 137 OPS+ and managed to catch 45% of opponents base stealers, which was dead on league average.

The pitching was beginning to wither a bit. The team finished first in no major category (except wins, obviously) but was second in shutouts and strikeouts. It was fourth in hits and third in runs allowed (fourth in earned runs). Stalwarts Eddie Plank and Chief Bender were aging (Plank was 38), Jack Coombs was gone, and an entire group of younger pitchers were trying to make their mark. Bob Shawkey, Bullet Joe Bush, Weldon Wycoffe, and Herb Pennock were all in their early 20s (Pennock was 20) and Rube Bressler was only 19. Bush and Bender were technically the aces with 17 wins each. If the A’s had a problem it was with the staff.

They were overwhelming favorites to win. The National League hadn’t won a World Series since Honus Wagner’s Pirates in 1909 and the Braves were an absolute fluke. No one expected what was coming, except maybe the Braves.

 

 

 

Oldring in the Outfield

April 8, 2013
Rube Oldring

Rube Oldring

As mentioned earlier, the heart and soul of the 1910-14 Athletics was the infield, with a major nod to the pitching staff. The outfield, however, produced some quality play also. Amos Strunk was considered a superior fielder, Danny Murphy could play most anywhere, Briscoe Lord is almost totally overlooked today (but does have the best name of the lot. The best hitter was easily Rube Oldring.

Oldring was born in 1884 in New York. As with many of the players of the era, his dad was an immigrant (this time from Britain). Reuben grew up a baseball fan and a pretty good sandlot player. He played semipro ball in the New York-New Jersey area until he was noticed by the Montgomery, Alabama  minor league team. They picked him up, let him play third, short, and the outfield, and sold him to Connie Mack in 1905.  He got to Philadelphia in late September 1905 and was thus ineligible for the World Series (which Philly lost in five games). Mack sent him back to New York to play in the semipro leagues while waiting for the 1906 spring training. He played well in an exhibition game against the Highlanders (now the Yankees) and was signed for the remaining games of the 1905 season. He got into eight games, hit .300 with a home run and a triple, and was offered a contract with New York. Because of the existing contract with the A’s he couldn’t play in his home town. I have no idea how this double contract system worked. My guess is that the Yanks  and A’s didn’t play each other and Mack simply blew off the problem.

He made the 1906 Athletics as a third baseman. He could catch and throw. In fact he threw so hard that he frequently overthrew first base. In 156 chances he had 16 errors. They moved him to second and short. Same story. In 1907 they solved the problem by shifting him to center field. He remained there (with a shift to left as he aged) for most of his career (after 1906 he played 18 games in the infield). He was a solid outfielder with a strong, and still wild arm. He was quick and did reasonably well (again, for the era) in the field.

In 1915, Mack began dismantling his team. Olring remained with the A’s, hit six home runs (a career high), and retired at the end of the season. Desperate for players, Mack asked him back for 1916. He agreed. The 1916 team was an all-time clunker. Oldring played 40 games, was released and retired to his farm in New Jersey. The Yankees, also desperate for players, got him to play 43 games mediocre games for them. Then he retired again. He stayed away in 1917, but came back for one final partial season in 1918. With World War I going on, the Athletics were in need of players. Oldring got into 49 games, did some ball playing in the shipyards to entertain the ship builders, and finally hung up his uniform for good at the end of the season.

In retirement, Oldring played a little and managed a lot in the Minors. Between 1919 and 1926 he moved from team to team collecting two pennants as manager. He sold his farm in 1939 for a goodly sum and took a job with a canning company evaluating vegetables in the New Jersey area. It was a natural for an ex-farmer. He died in 1961 in New Jersey. He was 77.

He was a better hitter. After a good year in 1907, he had down years in 1908 and 1909, then at 26 found his stroke. He hit .300 for 1910, had four home runs, 57 RBIs, and scored 79 runs for the pennant winning Athletics. There was a couple of days off between the end of the regular season and the World Series, so Mack arranged an exhibition. Oldring sprained his knee chasing a fly and missed the Series (which the Athletics won).

The next four years, the heart of the A’s championship run, Oldring played center and hit between .277 and .301 each year, averaged three homers, had his career high in stolen bases with 40 (his only time at 30 or more), and managed to miss a lot of games. In 1912 he was  suspended for missing curfew (a woman was involved–and see below). In 1913 he got hurt, again in an exhibition game (Hey, Mack, will you sit Oldring out of these exhibition games? That’s twice he’s gotten hurt.). In 1914 he was injured again (this time in real games). The A’s won the World Series in 1911 and 1913. Oldring had a big homer in 1911 but was overshadowed by Frank Baker’s heroics. As a whole, Oldring didn’t do much in the World Series, managing to hit all of a buck-94 with the one home run and all of three RBIs (all on the home run). He did manage to score seven runs in the 15 games he played.

All of which brings me to Rube Oldring, lady’s man. In late 1914, Oldring announced he was getting married. This was immediately contested by a woman claiming to be his common-law wife. Oldring insisted she wasn’t, she insisted she was. The problem was the 1910 US Census showed the two living together as man and wife (and you wonder why census takers have a rough time). Ultimately the problem was solved out of court (and with a substantial loss of Oldring’s revenue from the World Series winner’s share) and he married the woman he loved (they stayed married 47 years).

Over a career lasting 1239 games Oldring had 1268 hits, 205 doubles, 76 triples, and 27 home runs for 1706 total bases. He scored 616 runs and drove in 471. His triple slash line in .270/.307/.364/.671 with an OPS+ of 64. His OPS+ peaked at 142 in 1910 (it was 145 in 1905, but only for eight games). He struck out about twice as often as he walked and managed 197 stolen bases.

Rube Oldring is one of those kinds of players that good teams must have in order to win. He was not a star but a solid, competent player that did a lot of things to help his team win. His injuries limit his usefulness some seasons, but when he’s healthy he’s good. His curfew problems and his woman trouble remind us that he, like a lot of ball players, really are just regular guys trying to make it in the world. That probably describes most of us.

Oldring's final home

Oldring’s final home

The Mackmen

April 5, 2013
1911 Athletics leave the field (note the White Elephants on their jackets)

1911 Athletics leave the field (note the White Elephants on their jackets)

Baseball is full of dynasties. Although some people might pick the 1903-04 Boston team as the first American League dynasty, I have a better candidate. I pick the 1910-1914 Philadelphia Athletics, Connie Mack’s White Elephants.

Connie Mack was a catcher for a handful of years in the 19th Century. He was known for his savvy and his knowledge of the game, but not so much for his hitting. When the American League was formed in 1901 he joined Ben Shibe in creating the team in Philadelphia. With tradition using “Athletics” for the team from Philly, Mack adopted the name, and after a jibe from John McGraw, adopted the “white elephant” as the team logo.

They were good from the beginning. In 1902, they won the second AL pennant. In 1905 they won another pennant and participated in the second World Series, losing in five games to McGraw’s Giants. For the next three seasons they finished in the first division in 1906 and ’07, then slid to sixth in 1908. By 1909 they were in a new ballyard, Shibe Park (later Connie Mack Stadium), and on the rebound.

The 1910-1914 A’s were a truly great team. With the 1915-1918 Red Sox, they provide one of the two great AL dynasties in Deadball Baseball. They were a team that did almost everything well. They hit, they hit for power (Deadball version), ran the bases, fielded well (for the era), and had excellent pitching. With the prevailing small rosters of the era, they even managed to put together a decent bench.

The heart of the team was the infield. In 1910 Harry Davis was finishing up a  solid career. He’d picked up three home run titles and a couple of RBI crowns along the way and was one of Mack’s favorites. By 1911 he was being replaced by Stuffy McInnis, a wonderful fielding first baseman (for any era) who hit .300 for his career and regularly knocked in 90 runs (during the 1911-14 run). Jack Barry played short and hit low in the order for a reason. He was a good, but not spectacular fielder. Hall of Famer Eddie Collins anchored second. He usually batted second, stole a lot of bases, hit .300 regularly, played second well, and his career high in strikeouts was 41 (OK, he wasn’t Joe Sewell, but he was still pretty good at putting the bat on the ball). Some stat heads consider him the greatest of all second basemen. At third there was J. Frank Baker. He was the power hitter for the team. He won three home run titles, a triples title, a couple of RBI crowns, and in 1911 hit two memorable home runs in the World Series that gave him the nickname “Home Run Baker.” Like Collins, he is also in the Hall of Fame.

The other key to the Mackmen was their pitching staff. Mack always seemed to find jewels for his mound. Maybe being an ex-catcher helped. By 1910 the staff revolved around three pitchers. Eddie Plank was the oldest and the left-hander. He’d been a mainstay of the Athletics since 1901, had been part of both championship teams (1902 and ’05), had pitched in the 1905 World Series, and was generally Mack’s most reliable pitcher. He would, when he retired in 1917, be the winningest lefty ever (326 wins). But Mack’s favorite was Chief Bender. Bender Joined the A’s in 1903, won the only game the A’s won in the ’05 World Series, and was the pitcher Mack favored to start most important series’ and to anchor the postseason staff. Jack Coombs was the new guy. He got to Philly in 1906, had been fairly undistinguished, then in 1910 put it together for a great three-year run. In 1913 he came down with typhoid, which derailed his career. He got back to the World Series with Brooklyn in 1916 (winning their only game) but was never the pitcher he’d been between 1910 and 1912. In 1910 and ’11 Harry Krause and Cy Morgan were the other pitchers who spent major time on the mound. Boardwalk Brown and Bob Shawkey (who later managed the Yankees) replaced them for the late run with a young Herb Pennock being available in 1914.

Neither the catchers nor the outfielders were as well-known in the era. During the 1910-14 run, Mack used three catchers primarily: Jack Lapp, Ira Thomas, and Wally Schang, who was a rookie in 1913. Neither Lapp nor Thomas were much in the batters box. Thomas hit right-handed and all of .242 with no power. Lapp hit lefty and made it all the way to .263. Both men played almost the same amount of games one year, then the next one would play a lot more, so it’s difficult to see that Mack was platooning them (the percentage of lefty pitchers can’t have changed that much in one year). Maybe he was, but it’s hard to see. From what I can find, neither was used as a personal catcher for a particular pitcher (ala Carlton-McCarver), so I’m not quite sure how it worked. Maybe Mack, being a former catcher, knew how much the job wore on a player and decided to make sure each stayed healthy by using them about equally.

Five different men did most of the outfield work: Rube Oldring, Eddie Murphy, Jimmy Walsh, Amos Strunk,and Bris Lord. For 1910 only, Topsy Hartsell patrolled the outfield. As a group they tended to hit around .280 with at least one in the .300s. Strunk, in particular, was known for his arm. Add to them Danny Murphy (apparently not related to Eddie) who was good enough to play about anywhere and you had the makings of a pretty fair bench.

Between 1910 and 1914 the A’s won three World Series’ (1910, ’11, and ’13) and lost one more (1914). Hard times and the coming of the Federal League caused Mack to break up the team in 1915. Collins, Baker, and McInnis would go on to greater glory with pennant winning teams, but Mack and Philadelphia would languish in the AL until the late 1920s.

1910: Athletics Postmortem

October 8, 2010

Well, the Athletics were world champions at the end of the 1910 season, so in many ways it’s harder to look at them than at any other team. No matter what you see, you can’t get around the fact that ultimately they won. And of course if you know your history, you’ll know they are going to dominate the American League through 1914.

A simple look at the World Series should have frightened the entire American League. The A’s won in five games and only game four, the lone Cubs victory, was close. The A’s not only won the Series, they dominated. They scored 35 runs to 15 by Chicago. Their ERA was 2.76, Chicago’s 4.70. The team average was above .300 (.316). This was a formidable team and was going to be for years.

The heart of the team rested two places: the infield and the staff. The infield consisted of two future Hall of Famers: Eddie Collins at second and Frank Baker at third (the “Home Run” Baker nickname would not come until 1911). Both generally enter the argument for greatest player at their position, although Baker is generally in the bottom half of the top ten while Collins usually figures in the top three (Rogers Hornsby and Joe Morgan the other two names that most often show up with him.). Jack Barry was a good enough shortstop who fielded his position well and hit well enough to contribute. Stuffy McInnis replaced aging Harry Davis at first base and was an upgrade. The entire group was known as “The $100,000 Infield” (a lot of money in 1910), maybe the great infield of the Deadball Era..

The pitching staff was equally excellent, at least at the top. Hall of Famers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender are the most famous of Connie Mack’s hurlers, but in 1910 and 1911, Jack Coombs may have been the best. Behind these three were Cy Morgan and newcomer Harry Krause. Neither was the quality of Plank, Bender, or Coombs; and Morgan,at 32,was beginning to get a little long in the tooth (as was Plank at 35). Each would have one more decent year, then fade. In an era of three man rotations that wasn’t as critical as it would be today.

The rest of the team wasn’t bad, but not the quality of the infield and staff. Like Harry Davis, it ws aging. Outfielder Danny Murphy was 33, Topsy Hartsel was 36. Murphy managed to hit .300 with a team leading 18 triples, but Hartsel hit only .221 and ended up losing his spot to mid-season trade Bris Lord (who hit .276). Center fielder Rube Oldring managed .308 and was second in slugging at .430. Not bad numbers and if they held up the next season Philadelphia would reasonably expect to repeat.

Neither catcher was particularly special. Jack Lapp hit .234 and Ira Thomas .278 with no pop at all. A former catcher himself, Mack got quite a bit out of both by essentially platooning them. Lapp caught 63 games, Thomas 60. If you look at A’s catchers in the entire era, Mack is very good about not overworking them (and to some degree that’s true all across the big leagues) and manages to get more out of his catchers than most other teams.

All in all the A’s are set for a long run as contenders. That had happened before and since and teams set for long runs have fallen flat. For the A’s it was going to work out. they have three more World Series experiences in their near future, and two rings. 

This is the last look at a specific team in 1910. In my last post on the centennial of the season, I want to look at why 1910 matters to us today. Then I’ll finally get on to different things.

The Way to Win: Deadball

August 6, 2010

Connie Mack

In the previous post I talked about how the Yankees dynasty teams were all built pretty much the same way with a solid manager, star players, good players, role players, and one-year wonders. I found this a good way to look at a “big picture”, as opposed to a stat-filled view of winners. It’s not just the Yankees who’ve done it that way. Consider the Deadball Era’s Philadelphia Athletics if you will. Although they win differently than the bashing Murder’s Row Yankees of the 1920s, the A’s are put together the same way.

Connie Mack was both manager and owner (which makes for really great job security for the manager). He’d been a 19th Century catcher who’d never been a great player, but he understood the importance of team unity, of pitching, of defense, and timely hitting. He put together a team that between 1910 and 1914 won the World Series three times, lost it once,  and finished third in 1912.

The hitting stars were second baseman Eddie Collins and third baseman Frank Baker. Both made the Hall of Fame and both hit extremely well. Collins provided speed to go with Baker’s power (power in Deadball Era terms). Additionally, Eddie Plank was a star pitcher, eventually racking up over 300 wins (he’s still third among lefties).

As mentioned earlier, you don’t win with just stars. You need a lot of good players around the stars. Mack had them. Stuffy McInnis, started the era as a role players, but quickly became a very good player at first base. On the mound Chief Bender overcame the racial prejudice of his era (he was an American Indian) and rose to Hall of Fame status as a solid pitcher and Mack’s favorite. Two other very good players came through the A’s dynasty for part of the period. Danny Murphy, a converted second baseman, was an outfielder in 1910-11 and Wally Schang took over the catching job late. Then there was Jack Coombs. Coombs had great years in 1910, 11, and 12, then got sick and his career faded. For those three years though, he may have been the best pitcher on the A’s , if not in all of baseball.

The team had a lot of role players who were able to step into holes or step up in games to provide the kind of solid play a team needs to win. Jack Barry was the shortstop for the entire period. He was a decent, without being truly great, shortstop who hit some. The outfield, other than Danny Murphy, consisted of Bris Lord, Rube Oldring, Amos Strunk,  Topsy Hartsell,  and Eddie Murphy. Not all of them started the entire time, but each contributed for at least a year or two. None were household names during the era (nor are they now). On the other hand, Harry Davis was something of a household name in the era. He’d led the AL in both doubles and home runs earlier in his career, but by 1910 was reduced to pretty much a role player (and in 1911 lost his first base job to McInnis).  Both Bob Shawkey and Herb Pennock came up late in run and both went on to stellar careers (Pennock making the Hall of Fame), but at this point in their lives they were role players.

The one-year wonders? Well, there was Harry Krause who went 11-8 on the mound in 1911 and 25-18 for the rest of his career and fellow pitcher Rube Bressler who went 10-3 in 1914 and 16-28 for the rest of his career . Mack seemed able to find guys like this frequently. Maybe his being an ex-catcher helped.

The Deadball A’s were put together very much like te Murder’s Row Yankees. They won differently by emphasizing pitching, timely hitting, speed, and power (as defined by Deadball Era stats) as opposed to raw power and effective pitching. Both worked well. As mentioned earlier the two teams look very different in the method they used to accomplish their job, but both are put together the same way. I want to look next week at two more squads to emphasize how many teams work like this over both different eras and different methods of winning.

Opening Day, 1910: Philadelphia (AL)

April 15, 2010

 

J. Franklin "Home Run" Baker

The Philadelphia Athletics were a premier American League team from the formation of the league in 1901. In 1902 they won the second pennant. In 1905 they played in the second World Series, losing in five games. Between 1906 and 1909 manager Connie Mack retooled his team so that it finished only 3.5 games behind Detroit in 1909. In 1910 the team was poised to take that 3.5 game jump.

As a contender in 1909, the A’s did little roster change in 1910. The heart of the team was its infield and its pitching staff. The infield consisted of Harry Davis at first, Eddie Collins at second, Jack Barry at short, and Frank Baker at third (“Home Run” Baker would come in 1911). Both Collins and Baker were destined for the Hall of Fame. The back up consisted of Simon Nicholls and eighteen year old phenom Stuffy McInnis (who would replace Davis at first in 1911). The quality and endurance of the infield was such that neither man played more than 21 games.

The outfield wasn’t as good as the infield, but there was quality there also. Former second baseman Danny Murphy was in right field and led the team in home runs in 1909 (with all of 5). Rube Oldring was a speedy center fielder who didn’t have much of an arm, and the left fielder was Topsy Hartsel, who at age 35 was getting old.Hartsel had replaced equally aged Bob Ganley. Heinie Heitmuller and Scotty Barr provided backup.

The catcher situation was fairly fluid. Mack, an ex-catcher, seems to have been aware of the way catching wore on a player and subsequently his catchers didn’t spend a lot of time behind the plate. In 1909 Ira Thomas caught for 84 games, Paddy Livingston for 64, and Jack Lapp for 19.  In 1910 Lapp took over as the primary catcher, but only caught three more games than Thomas. Livingston became the third catcher.

A great key to Mack teams was his pitching staff. He had a good one in 1910. Back from the previous year were future Hall of Famers Eddie Plank, on his way to a career 300 wins, and Chief Bender.  Harry Krause won 18 games in 1909 and Cy Morgan came from Boson during the 1909 season to win 16 games. Both were still available, as was Jimmy Dygert the primary bullpen man. Jack Coombs had been around since 1906 and had steadily risen in the A’s rotation. The new season was to be his breakout year.

So by 1910, the A’s were ready to challenge Detroit. With a solid infield, a good outfield, and excellent pitching they could do so. With a bit of luck they could pick up the 3.5 games they needed to hoist Philadelphia’s third pennant.

Next: the Red Sox