Posts Tagged ‘Sam Thompson’

The Water in Philadelphia

October 29, 2018

“water, water everywhere.”–Coleridge

A couple of days ago I did a little thing on those players who hit .400 and failed to win a batting title. In 1894 there were four of them, all in Philadelphia. I commented that there must have been something in the water. So let’s take a quick look at what was going on in Philly in 1894.

First we have to acknowledge that after the 1892 season, Major League Baseball, which at that point consisted solely of the National League, moved the pitcher back to 60″ 6′ and built a mound. It changed forever the way pitchers worked and how batter could respond. It made an immediate difference in the game. As just one example, in 1892 Dan Brouthers won the batting title at .335. In 1893 Billy Hamilton (who will be one of the waterboys in Philadelphia in 1894) won the title at .380. The last time a NL batting title was won by hitting over .380 was in 1886 by King Kelly who’d hit .388 (there were American Association titles that were higher, but the AA was gone by 1894). On the other hand strikeouts by pitchers dropped from Bill Hutchinson’s 314 to Amos Rusie’s 208. It wouldn’t be until 1904 (Rube Waddell) that the 314 would be surpassed.

So acknowledging all that, what about the Phillies? In 1894 the team hit a team average of .350 and led the NL in hits. The starters were (with their batting average in parens) catcher Jack Clements (.351), and infield of (from first around to third) Jack Boyle (.300-lowest among the starters), Bill Hallman (.312), Joe Sullivan (.353), Lave Cross (.387), and an outfield of “Sliding” Billy Hamilton (.403), Ed Delahanty (.405), and Sam Thompson (.415). On the bench Tuck Turner who got into 82 games and had 347 at bats) was the backup outfielder and led the team with a .418 average. Backup catcher Mike Grady hit .363 in 61 games. From there the remainder of the reserves fell off with shortstop Tom Murray going 0 for 2 and hitting .000 (this doesn’t count pitchers who had some terrible averages also).

What did all that hitting get the Phillies? It got them a record of 71-57, good for fourth place in the NL (behind Boston, New York, and pennant winner Baltimore who went 89-39), 18 games behind the winner and 10 games out of third place. The problem? Their team had the second highest ERA (5.63) in the league, were seventh in hits (in a 12 team league), and also seventh in strikeouts.

What’s it all mean? Well, maybe good pitching does beat good hitting. Or maybe it just means that the 1894 Philadelphia Phillies could hit a lot, but didn’t pitch nearly as well. In case you’re curious, only Hamilton, Delahanty, and Thompson made the Hall of Fame. Again, thought you just might like to know.


Losing at .400

October 25, 2018

Ed Delahanty

It’s been a long time since anyone won a batting title by hitting .400. You have to go all the way back to Ted Williams in 1941 to find one. But you know what’s kind of odd? There are a handful of guys who’ve hit .400 and not won the batting title. Here’s a quick list of them.

First, one of my caveats. This includes on the period since the beginning of the National League in 1876. In the old National Association there were a couple of occasions when someone hit .400 and didn’t win the batting title, but those were incredibly short seasons. There surely were players who hit over .400 in the even older Association of the 1860s and didn’t win a title, but we don’t have enough information to determine them. So it’s at least easier to find the players since 1876 (OK, I’ll admit to being lazy).

1887-Tip O’Neill wins the American Association (it was a Major League in 1887) batting title at .435. Runner up Pete Browning hit .402.

1894-There was something in the water in Philadelphia in 1894 when the entire City of Brotherly Love outfield, and their primary outfield sub all hit .400. Billy Hamilton hit .403. Ed Delahanty hit .405. Sam Thompson hit .415. That was the starting outfield in Philly. Super sub Tuck Turner hit .418. And none of them won the batting title. Boston outfielder Hugh Duffy managed to hit a still record .440 to take the batting title.

1895-Delahanty again hit over .400, this time coming in at .404. Again he lost the batting title. This time to fellow Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett who hit .405.

1896-This time Hughie Jennings hit over .400 by ending up at .401. Burkett again won the title. He managed .410.

That does it for the 19th Century and I suppose I ought to take a moment to remind you that the National League moved the mound back to 60′ 6″ just before the big outbreak of .400 hitting in 1894. Some hitters adjusted more quickly and obviously a lot of pitchers didn’t.

1911-Shoeless Joe Jackson hit .408, which is the record high in the 20th Century for a hitter that didn’t win a batting title. He lost to Ty Cobb who hit .420.

1922-Cobb was on the other end of hitting .400 and losing the batting title in 1922. He hit .401 and lost to George Sisler who hit .420. Interestingly enough, Rogers Hornsby won the National League title at .401. Had he been in the American League, he would have also joined the batting title losers who hit .400.

Thought you might like to know.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1912

February 2, 2015

February begins Black History Month in the US. I normally take the month and use it for a yearly journey into whatever I’ve found concerning the Negro Leagues or other versions of black baseball. I also use the first post of each month to introduce the newest members of My Own Little Hall of Fame, which is a look at how a Hall of Fame begun in 1901 rather than the 1930s might have looked. It seems I’m able to combine both this year.

Kid Nichols

Kid Nichols

Charles “Kid” Nichols served as the primary pitcher for National League championship teams in 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897, and 1898. With the National League Boston franchise he won over 350 games, leading the league in wins three times. He won 30 or more games on seven occasions.

Sam Thompson

Sam Thompson

Samuel “Sam” Thompson was an outfielder for both Detroit and Philadelphia of the National League. Between 1885 and 1898 he led the league in batting and triples once, in doubles and home runs twice, and in hits three times. In 1894 he hit .415.

George Stovey

George Stovey

George Stovey was a colored pitcher who played in both segregated and integrated leagues between 1886 and 1897. A left-hander, he was considered the premier colored pitcher of his era.

Now the commentary:

1. Again I have used the word “colored” to describe a black ballplayer. From what I can tell, the word “Negro” doesn’t come into common usage in newspapers and digests until the end of World War I, or about 1920 (about the same time Rube Foster founds the Negro National League). That being the case, I will make my change over for the 1920 class, if it is necessary.

2. I am well aware that there is no chance of Stovey making a 1912 Hall of Fame and that if there was he could have been elected earlier. I choose to include Negro League players despite the normal custom in 1912 so he gets in. I purposefully left him until 1912 so I could include him during Black History Month. It should be another 10 or so years before the big names that began 20th Century black baseball arrive on the Hall list. Then there will be a lot all at once.

3. Nichols was one of the easiest calls I had to make. You can decide who you want to declare the best pitcher of the 19th Century, but whoever you decide, Nichols will have to be in the debate.

4. Thompson had all those numbers the early 20th Century baseball types loved, lots of hits, high average, and lots of extra base hits. He also had a bunch of RBIs, but it’s still a difficult number to pin down so I left it off.

5.  Next year Jake Beckley and Bobby Lowe are the most significant players eligible for the Class of 1913. Among contributors John T. Brush arrives on the scene. There are no significant pitchers arriving in 1913. I’ve decided to cut the list of holdovers to either 10 or 20 in any given year. If you can’t make my top 20 everyday players, top 10 contributors, or top 10 pitchers you have no business being considered for a Hall of Fame.

6. Everyday players now on the list for 1913 are: Jake Beckley, Cupid Childs, Lave Cross, Gene DeMontreville, Patsy Donovan, Jack Doyle, Hugh Duffy, George Gore, Paul Hines, Dummy Hoy, Bill Lange, Arlie Latham, Andy Leonard, Hermann Long, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarthy, John McGraw, Cal McVey, Dave Orr, Hardy Richardson, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren. A total of 22. I have to either add 2 to the Class of 1913 or drop 2 from the list.

7. For pitchers I have the following: Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz, Brickyard Kennedy, Bobby Mathews, Tony Mullane, Gus Weyhing, and Will White. A total of 7. None will have to be taken off for 1913.

8. The contributors, with Brush added, are: Brush (owner), Jim Creighton (who may have been the 1st professional and may have invented the fastball/ or maybe not), Candy Cummings (early pitcher who may, or may not, have invented the curve), Bob Ferguson (early 3rd baseman, manager, and umpire), John “Bud” Hillerich (of Louisville Slugger), Lip Pike (early power hitter), Henry C. Pulliam (NL President), Al Reach (player, owner, Reach Guide), Chris von der Ahe (owner), William R. Wheaton (wrote oldest set of rules available–1837). To reach 10 I dropped Henry Chalmers, of Chalmers Motors, who provided the first MVP Awards. As far as I can tell he didn’t do much else with baseball, so I cut him loose.

9. I’ve figured out how to handle the John McGraw problem mentioned in previous posts. Will let you know more next time.

That Other Detroit Team

October 22, 2012

1887 World Chammpion Detroit Wolverines

I wanted to comment on the team playoff history of the National League representative to this season’s World Series but the Cardinals and Giants are making it exceedingly difficult for me to do so. They are, however, having a heck of a series. So I’ve decided to write about Detroit baseball before the Tigers.

In 1881 Major League baseball came to Detroit. The Wolverines played in the National League and were reasonably good for much of their history. They finished fourth and fifth in 1881 and 1882, then slid back from 1883 through 1885 never finishing higher than sixth. It was too much for the owner.

In 1886 he went out and bought a team (George Steinbrenner would be pleased). What he did was to lure away a number of the stars of the era by offering big salaries (for the era) and a multi-year contract. In doing so he put together one of the better teams of the 19th Century. Although these names may be meaningless to you, in the 1880s they were household names among baseball fans. There was Hall of  Famer Dan Brouthers at first, Fred Dunlap and Jack Rowe up the middle of the infield, and Deacon White (who should be in the Hall of Fame) at third. The outfield consisted of Hardy Richardson (a borderline HoF candidate) and Hall of Famers Sam Thompson and Ned Hanlon (although Hanlon is in the Hall as a manager). Charlie Bennett (who later had the Detroit stadium named for him) was the catcher and the mainstays of the staff were Lady Baldwin and Pretzels Getzien (God, they don’t make nicknames like they used to).

They finished second in 1886, 2.5 games behind Chicago, then roared to a pennant in 1887 with Charlie Ganzel replacing Bennett as the primary catcher. There was a postseason series in the 1880s (a sort of primitive World Series) played between the National League champion (Detroit) and the winner of the American Association (St. Louis Browns–now the Cardinals). The teams were allowed to pick the number of games in the postseason and the two teams settled on an all-time high of 15 games with all 15 being played regardless of who got to 8 first. Detroit won 10 games and brought the first World’s Championship to the city.

It was a short-lived triumph. You see the team was expensive to maintain and no matter how well they did, they just couldn’t turn a profit. With Dunlap going to Pittsburgh (Richardson replaced him at second), White turning 40, and Thompson having a down year they finished 5th. It was too much and the team folded at the end of the season. It was the last Major League team in Detroit until the Tigers were formed in 1901.

So Detroit has a long history of Major League play. Not just the Tigers have been successful. The team that came before had one great run. Thought you ought to know.

George Didn’t Start It

March 21, 2010

One of the great things about baseball is that no matter what it is you see, the odds are overwhelming it’s been done before. I remember when George Steinbrenner got control of the Yankees and free agency hit he started buying up talent. A bunch of people complained that he was trying to buy a pennant and wasn’t that just horrible. Well, maybe it was or maybe it wasn’t. What it for sure wasn’t was brand new. Frederick Stearns had done it before.

Frederick Kimball Stearns was born in Buffalo, NY in 1854, graduated from the University of Michigan, and took over his father’s hugely successful pharmaceutical business in Detroit. He loved athletics and was instrumental in the local Amateur Athletics Union. But for our purposes, he owned the Detroit Wolverines, a National League team.

The Wolverines were formed in 1881. They were not overly successful finnishing fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth (last) between their founding and 1884. In 1885 Stearns bough the team and immediately began spending money on trying to improve the team. In 1885 they rose to sixth. Then Stearns really began to lay out the cash. In 1886 they rose to second and won the NL pennant in 1887.

So what did Stearns do? Well, frankly, he bought a pennant. He dumped most of his 1885 team and went with a group of players that were stars of the era.  From the last place 1884 team Charlie Bennent, a catcher; Ned Hanlon (a Hall of Fame manager), the center fielder; and pitchers Stump Weidman and Charlie Getzein remained. In 1885 he picked up right fielder and Hall of Famer Sam Thompson along with pitcher Lady Baldwin. The next year left fielder Hardy Richardson, and the entire infield (from first around to third) Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers, Fred Dunlap, Jack Rowe, and Deacon White were on board and Charlie Ganzel was giving Bennett a second catcher that could ease the burden behind the plate. For the era it included some of the most important players in either league: White, Rowe, Brouthers, Richardson, and Thompson.

The Wolverines rolled to the pennant winning by 3.5 games. Thompson won both the batting and RBI titles (.372 and 166) and led the league in hits with 203. Brouthers led the league in runs with 153 and in doubles with 36. The team was first in hitting at .299, slugging at .434, and had 818 RBIs to also lead the league. In fact it led in all major offensive categories except home runs, finishing second to Chicago.

In the post season series of 15 games, Detroit beat the American Association’s St. Louis Browns 10 games to 5. They clinched the series in game 11, but the rules of the day required the entire series to be played. They split the final four. Thompson, Rowe, and Bennett had a great series and both Getzein and Baldwin picked up four wins.

It shold have been a great season for Detroit, but it turned into a disaster. Stearns was putting out a lot more money than he had. The rules for gate receipts were changed during the season to deprive the team of needed revenue and Stearns and the Wolverines couldn’t maintain the pace. From a share of the gate receipts as was normal, the new rule limited the visiting team to $125 per game. It was aimed directly at Detroit and its payroll.

With massive debts and discontented players, Detroit fell to fifth in 1888. Out of money and luck, Stearns disbanded the team at the end of the season, and sold the players to other teams for $45,000 (a whole lot of money in 1888). Detroit would not see Major League baseball again until 1901 when the American League put the Tigers there.

Stearns lived to see the Tigers and to watch them in three World Series. His Wolverines had better luck the the postseason. The Tigers lost all three World Series’ Stearns saw. He died in 1924 at age 70.

Triple Crown, II

March 18, 2010

Following up on the last post about the hitting triple crown,  I want to look at the two triple crown winners of the 19th Century. I would wager they are the most obscure of the entire lot of triple crown winners.

In 1894 Boston outfielder Hugh Duffy won the first triple crown in National League history. His numbers are in a bit of dispute, especially his batting average. No one disputes that whatever the numbers, Duffy wins the triple crown. Duffy was the center fielder for the Boston team in 1894. He hit .440 (All numbers in this post from Nemec’s book. Other sources give numbers that are slightly different.) with 18 home runs and 145 RBIs.  His closest competitors were Ed Delahanty and Sam Thompson at Philadelphia who both hit .407,  Bill Joyce at Washington and Duffy’s teammate Bobby Lowe who both had 17 home runs, and Thompson who had 141 RBI. So Duffy wins the triple crown, but doesn’t run away with anything except the batting title. With only one Major League in 1894, he stands alone atop the lists. What did it get his team? Third place behind John McGraw’s Baltimore Orioles and Monte Ward’s Giants.

The other 19th Century triple crown occurs way back in 1887, when pitchers were still pitching at 55′. That alone makes it unique. There were two leagues, the National League and the American Association. As a rule most scholars see the Association as the weaker of the two leagues, and in 1887  Detroit of the NL wins the “World Series”.  But the great individual season took place in the Association. James Edward “Tip” O’Neill (as far as I know, no kin of the late 20th Century American politician) played left field for the St. Louis Browns (now called the Cardinals). He’d been there since 1884 playing splendidly in each year except his first. In 1887 he peaked. He hit .435 with 14 home runs, and 123 RBIs. Additionally he slugged .692, had 19 triples, 52 doubles, 167 runs scored, 225 hits, 357 total bases, an on base percentage of .490, and an OPS of 1181. All those numbers led the Association. He won the batting title by 33 points, the home run title by four, and the RBI title by only five. In other words, O’Neill had a heck of a year. He led his team to the Association pennant, then had a weak series against National League champ Detroit in the postseason. He hit .200 with one home run (half the Browns’ total), and five RBI’s in 15 games. 

For all that excellence O’Neill has a tainted triple crown. His batting average leads the majors, but his 14 home runs would be tied for fourth in the National League (Bill O’Brien at Washington had 19) and his RBI total would be second in the National League behind Sam Thompson’s 166.

Both Duffy, who is a Hall of Famer, and O’Neill who isn’t, had excellent seasons (O’Neill is the only triple crown winner not in the Hall). Both are now largely forgotten, proving that winning the triple crown doesn’t guarantee a player eternal renown. Maybe it should.

Triple Crowns by team (using modern team name): Cardinals 4 (O’Neill, both Hornsby, Medwick), Red Sox 3 ( both Williams, Yastrzemski), Yankees 2 (Gehrig, Mantle), Braves 1 (Duffy), Tigers 1 (Cobb), Athletics 1 (Foxx), Phillies 1 (Klein), Orioles 1 (Robinson).

By position: Left Field 5 (O’Neill, Medwick, both Williams, Yastrzemski); Center Field 3 (Duffy,Cobb, Mantle); Right Field 2 (Klein, Robinson); Second Base 2 (both Hornsby); First Base 2 (Foxx, Gehrig); Shortstop. Third Base, Catcher, Pitcher 0.

By Decade: 1870s-none, 1880s-1, 1890s-1, 1900s-1, 1910s-none, 1920s-2, 1930s-4, 1940s-2, 1950s-1, 1960s-2, 1970s-2010-none.

“Cry ‘Havoc…’

February 20, 2010

… “and let slip the dogs of war.”-William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”, Act III.

In the previous post I commented on the change in the pitching distance instituted in the National League in 1893. It ushered in the modern game by placing all the players where they currently play. It created havoc not only with the pitchers, but also with the hitters. That havoc reached its zenith in 1894.

Hitting numbers are crazy in 1894. I can’t think of a better word. Boston’s Hugh Duffy hit .440 (all stats are from David Nemic The Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Major League Baseball published in 1997, a book worth having), and hit 18 home runs. His slugging percentage was .694 and he had 237 hits. Boston finished third that season. But the biggest numbers were in Philadelphia.

The 1894 Phillies set a record with a team batting average of .349. Their slugging percentage was .476 for the team and they lead the league with 1732 hits. The outfield hit .400. Not just a single player, but the entire outfield hit .400. Center Fielder and Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton hit .404 with a .523 on base percentage (yes, that reads .523) and stole 98 bases. Stolen bases were figured differently in 1894 and included going from first to third on a single as a stolen base. The modern stolen base rule began in 1898 and stolen base totals dropped overnight. The number that sets Hamilton apart from everybody else is 192. That’s the number of runs he scored while playing only 131 games. That works out to 1.47 runs a game. So everytime Hamilton took the field, Philadelphia could count on one and a half runs. Left Fielder and Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty hit .407 with 199 hits, 147 runs, 131 RBIs, and a .585 slugging percentage. Right Fielder and fellow Hall of Famer Sam Thompson also hit .407 with a .686 slugging percentage, 141 RBIs and 27 triples. Even the substitute outfielder got into the act. Backup Tuck Turner hit a team leading .416 over 80 games with a .540 slugging percentage and 82 RBIs. First Baseman Jack Boyle was the weak hitter among the regulars netting only a .301 average.  Three subs (two backup catchers and a shortstop) played 40 or more games. One of them hit .346 while the other two managed to hit .294 and .255.

So what did all this offense get them? Fourth place, 18 games out in a 12 team league. League pitching was down in 1894 in general and in Philadelphia it was the same. Jack Taylor was the ace going 31-23 with a 4.08 ERA (good for fifth in the league) but the rest of the staff had ERA’s well over 5.00 with the team coming in at 5.63, 10th in a 12 team league.  They were ninth in strikeouts and sixth in hits.

By 1895 things began to calm down, only two men hitting over .400 and Hamilton scoring only 166 runs in 123 games (1.35 per game). But baseball was secure. The fans loved the new found offense.