Posts Tagged ‘Russ Ford’

1910: Highlanders Postmortem

September 13, 2010

For the first time since 1904, the New York Highlanders were significant contenders for the American League pennant. Ultimately they failed to win, finishing at 88-63, 14.5 games back in second place. They were the only team in either league to change managers during the season, going from George Stallings to Hal Chase. That occurred in late September 1910 and will be the subject of a later post.

The Highlanders (now the Yankees) hit well. They led the league in stolen bases and walks, were third in runs, fifth in hits (but made up for it in OBP with all those walks), and third in slugging. Shortstop Jack Knight was the only regular to hit .300, but first baseman Hal Chase, second baseman Frank La Porte, and outfielders Harry Wolter and Birdie Cree all hit above .260. Only third base man Jimmy Austin and catcher Ed Sweeney hit below .220. Chase led the team in RBIs, runs, and hits. More about him in the manager post.

The bench had six players participate in 20 or more games. One of them, backup outfielder Bert Daniels, led the team in stolen bases, hit .253, and was fourth on the team in walks. The other major  bench players hit below .250, with two hitting below .200 (and one below .150).

The Highlanders used only 10 pitchers all season, five of them starting 15 or more games. They did pretty well. Russ Ford was 26-6 with an ERA under two. Jack Quinn (who would pitch into his 40s and win a World Series as late as 1930) was 18-12, and 22-year-old lefty James “Hippo” Vaughn went 13-11 with a 1.83 ERA. Every pitcher had more strikeouts than walks, and all but one, Tom Hughes, had more innings pitched than hits.  At 7-9, Hughes was also the only major starter with a losing record.

For the Highlanders, the future looked bright. The pitching staff was good, the starting position players were good to adequate, depending on the position. What they lacked was a solid bench, but then so did everyone else. In 1911 they slipped back to fifth and finished at .500. What happened? Well, that manager change certainly didn’t help. Hal Chase wasn’t the best choice to lead a team, any team.

1910: End of June

June 30, 2010

Hilltop Park, home of the Highlanders in 1910

By the end of June 1910, the season was beginning to take definite form in both leagues. There were few surprises, although the American League had a big one. Here’s a look at the way Major League Baseball stood at the end of June 1910.

The National League was running true to pre-season expectations. The Chicago Cubs were in first place with a record of 38-21. They were 1.5 games up on the New York Giants, with the defending champion Pittsburgh Pirates another4.5 games back. Cincinnati rounded out the first division 8.5 games back with a .500 record (30-30 with one tie on the books). The Phillies, Cardinals, and Brooklyn Superbas were bunched closed behind the Reds in position to step into the first division. The Doves of Boston were already mired deep in last place 18 games out of first with a record of 22-41 (with a tie). Honus Wagner was on track for another batting title, but Philadelphia outfielder Sherry Magee was having a monster year and already ahead in the RBI department.

The big surprise was in the American League. Philadelphia was a game ahead at the end of June, but second place belonged to the New York Highlanders (now Yankees). The Highlanders finished fifth in 1909 and were not favorites for a pennant in 1910. But manager George Stallings (of 1914 Miracle Braves fame) had them in contention. They led the AL in stolen bases and Russ Ford was striking out a lot of batters. Unfortunately for the Highlanders, manager Stallings was already having problems with first baseman Hal Chase, who seemed not to be trying very hard to win games on occasion. It was to be a career long problem for Chase’s managers.

It helped the Highlanders, that the Athletics had a terrible June. The A’s went 12-12 for the month (unfortunately the Highlanders only went 13-11 for the month), their worst month of the season. Chief Bender was doing alright on the mound, but ace Eddie Plank was off his game. Jack Coombs was doing OK, but nothing special (his time was to come later in the season).

Both the Tigers defending AL champs) and Red Sox were in range of first (3 and 6 games out), but had yet to make a charge. The second division teams, Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, and St. Louis, were falling back, although Senators pitcher Walter Johnson was having a decent first half.

So except for the Highlanders, the season was playing out about as expected. There were three months left (plus a handful of October games) to sort out the winners, but other than the AL’s New York team, there were no surprises. Of course, it was only half a season and a lot of things could change.

In July there will be a couple of major developments that will be dealt with on the appropriate date.

Opening Day, 1910: New York (AL)

April 18, 2010

 

Hal Chase

Considering what the American League team in New York has meant to the AL since 1920, it’s a little surprising to note that the Highlanders (they were to become the Yankees in the next decade) were not a significant factor in the league. They were formed in 1903 when the Baltimore franchise relocated to New York. They finished in the first division in ’03 and second in the league in ’04 (1.5 games out), then slid back in 1905, made second again in 1906, then fell back, finishing last in 1908. By 1909 they were back to fifth.

It was a team in some turmoil. Manager George Stallings (the “Miracle Man” of 1914) had a fairly solid infield, but there were problems in the rest of the positions. Hal Chase, Frank La Porte, Jack Knight, and Jimmy Austin held down the infield from first over to third in 1909 and all were back for 1910. but the infield bench was different. Gone was Kid Elberfeld. Earle Gardner, Roxy Roach, and Eddie Foster now handled the backup duties for the team.

The 1909 outfield was gone. Willie Keeler, Ray Demmitt, and Clyde Engle were replaced by Harry Wolter, Charlie Hemphill, and Birdie Cree. In 1909 Cree had been the fourth outfielder, but the others were new. Bert Daniels was now the outfielder sitting on the bench.

Ed Sweeney, the ’09 backup catcher, moved to the starting role in 1910 with Fred Mitchell the backup. Former starter Red Kleinow developed a sore arm and was traded after getting into only six games. Neither catcher would manage to hit .220.

The pitching underwent something of a makeover. Joe Lake, Jack Warhop, Lew Brockett, Jack Quinn, Joe Doyle, Tom Hughes, and Rube Manning had done the bulk of the starting for the Highlanders in 1909. Quinn, Warhop, and Hughes were back. Manning was now a bullpen man and Doyle lasted exactly three games before a trade. In their place were Russ Ford and Jim “Hippo” Vaughn.

Well, it wasn’t a bad team, in fact it would show significant rise in 1910. But it had one serious flaw. By 1910 manager Stallings was already voicing concerns about the reliability of first baseman Chase. There were allegations that Chase was taking money to lose games, that he was spreading gambling money to other players in return for shoddy play in critical games. There were allegations that he was playing just well enough to look reasonably good in losing efforts. There was no proof, and certainly nowhere for Stallings to go with his complaints but to the ownership who had an interest in protecting Chase who was a definite fan favorite (Judge Landis was 10 years in the future).  All this made for major clubhouse problems. It would take until 1919-1920 to garner the evidence to ban Chase. Until then he would be a cancer on the club, and any club for which he played.

Next: Cleveland