Posts Tagged ‘Sherry Magee’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1926

April 7, 2016

Time again for the latest installment of the Hall of Fame. Remember this Hall attempts to determine what a Hall of Fame instituted in 1901 would look like and how it would differ from the current Hall of Fame. Here’s the newest class and the commentary that follows.

Sherry Magee

Sherry Magee

Sherwood “Sherry” Magee began play for the Philadelphia Nationals in 1904 and retired following the 1919 World Series, in which he played for the He stole home 23 times and racked up 44o total stolen bases over his career, second most in National League history. Winner of four RBI titles, he won the 1910 National League batting title as well as leading his league in doubles hits and runs once each while playing a superior left field.

And the commentary:

1. I have no problem adding Magee to the 1901 version of the Hall of Fame. He was well-known, particularly for his stolen bases. He was, in 1926 involved in umpiring and was thus able to keep his name in the public eye. Cooperstown has not seen fit to embrace him. For what it’s worth, he died in 1929 so in my world he’d get to make an acceptance speech.

2. But most of the 1926 discussion would be taken up by who isn’t listed above, the members of the 1919 Black Sox. One reason I held Magee for 1926 is so he, a member of the winning Reds in 1919, could go into my Hall of Fame in the same year the Black Sox players become eligible. It seemed like the kind of thing that might be done to rub salt into the wounds of the Black Sox. In fact, I deliberately held the class to one player in order to emphasize the damage done by the Black Sox. I’ll try to explain that below.

3. There are three Black Sox that might legitimately get some consideration for an 1926 Hall of Fame: Eddie Cicotte, Joe Jackson, and Buck Weaver (alphabetically). None of the others have the numbers or in some cases the 10 years of Major League play to gain consideration. But if you tried hard you might be able to make a case of Cicotte as a premier pitcher, for Weaver as a defensive specialist, and for Jackson because he was “Shoeless Joe.”

4. By 1926 the Sox were receding in the journals and digests of the day (at least those I could find to look over–God bless university libraries). But when they came up in the contemporary press they were almost universally reviled. They were “cheats” and “con men” and a number of other things that might shock the ears of those people who might read this. We’ve begun over the years to see the Black Sox, especially Joe Jackson, as at least semi-sympathetic players who perhaps should, after almost 100 years, be forgiven their sins and allowed back into the good graces of a sport that perhaps more than any other understands and cherishes its history. That ain’t so in 1926 (“ain’t so” being used deliberately). There is no forgiveness for these guys then and no chance any of them would get into a baseball Hall of Fame that existed in 1926. By limiting the class of 1926 to one player, especially a 1919 Reds player, it points out the lack of Black Sox players like Jackson and Cicotte who might otherwise be standing on a podium with Magee. Imagine this conversation: “Where’s Joe Jackson, Dad? Hasn’t he been gone five years?” “Jackson’s a crook, son, and he doesn’t deserve to stand there with a true Hall of Famer.”

5. As I left a “character clause” out of this Hall, it is possible that by now they, especially Jackson, might be given some sort of ticket into the Hall because there has been something of a movement to understand what happened in 1919 and not blame the players, at least not totally, for what occurred. There are lots of reasons for this. First, it’s been a long, long time (almost 100 years) and its tough for some to hold a grudge that long (although others seem to have no trouble). Second, Jackson’s illiteracy is seen as a mitigating factor in his defense. Of course that confuses unlettered with stupid and that needs to be pointed out. The Movie Eight Men Out places much of the blame on Charles Comiskey, the owner. Also the movie Field of Dreams was a huge hit and still well-loved and well liked. It makes Jackson (played well by Ray Liotta) a tragic figure who earns at least partial redemption by helping Ray Kinsella to reconcile with his father. Both make good theater, but none of that is around in 1926. Whatever my personal beliefs, and if you’ve read me much you know I think they should all be consigned to the lower reaches of hell (I’d rather put “Stonewall” Jackson in the Hall of Fame than “Shoeless” Joe Jackson–and as far as I know “Stonewall” had never even heard of baseball), it’s evident that there is simply no way any member of the 1919 Black Sox were getting into any Hall of Fame.

6. The Class of 1927 brings me up against another guy or two like Clark Griffith or Comiskey. Neither is a Hall of Famer (at least in my opinion) based on any single aspect of their career, but the totality of their contribution is such that I had to consider them. I’m running up against that again next month. Also 1926 saw the death of one of the earliest pioneering players and I want to see how much of an uptick there is in references to him. If he’s getting a lot of positive obit press then I’ll have to decide if it’s enough to get him a sympathy vote to a Hall. I’m surprised at how much of that there is in the real Hall of Fame. As it exists there, I claim the privilege of doing the same.


A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Sherry Magee

September 17, 2015
Sherry Magee with the Phillies

Sherry Magee with the Phillies

  1. Sherwood “Sherry” Magee was born in Clarendon, Pennsylvania in 1884.
  2. He was good at baseball, football, and basketball as a student. He also excelled as a bowler.
  3. While playing for the local semipro team at age 19, he was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1904.
  4. He played 95 games in 1904, getting 101 hits, 12 of them for triples which led the team.
  5. In 1905 he stole 55 bases, good for second in the National League and the Philadelphia record. The record lasted until 1984.
  6. In 1907, 1910, 1914, and 1918 he led the National League in RBIs.
  7. His career year was 1910 when he led the NL in runs, RBIs, total bases, batting average, OBP, Slugging, OPS, and OPS+, was second in WAR among everyday players, second in doubles, and second in triples. He was also third in hits and fifth in home runs with six.
  8. In 1911 he was called out on strikes, argued with the umpire and was thrown out of the game. He responded by slugging the ump (drawing blood and rendering the umpire unconscious). After playing only 121 games, Magee was banned for the remainder of the season.
  9. After leading the NL in hits, RBIs, doubles, total bases, and slugging in 1914 he was traded to Boston (the Braves, not the Red Sox). He’d been passed over for manager and asked for a trade. Despite not playing for the team since 1914, he still holds the Phils team record for triples and stolen bases.
  10. Injured in training camp in 1915, his career slipped and in 1917 and he was waived. Cincinnati picked him up.
  11. In 1919 he got into his only World Series, going one for two as a pinch hitter for the victorious Reds. It was his last season.
  12. He spent a few seasons in the minors, then became an umpire, serving in the NL in 1928.
  13. Sherry Magee contracted pneumonia in March 1929 and died on 13 March 1929. He’s never gotten much consideration for the Hall of Fame. In 2003 he was chosen for the Phillies Wall of Fame (the team’s version of a Hall of Fame).
Magee's grave from Find a Grave

Magee’s grave from Find a Grave

Opening Day, 1914: National League

March 30, 2014
George Stallings, "The Miracle Man"

George Stallings, “The Miracle Man”

The National League opened play in 1914 in mid-April, but with opening day starting earlier now, it seems like a good time to finish my look at how things stacked up in 1914. It’s important to remember it’s a different world in 1914. Black Americans couldn’t vote or play in the Major Leagues, most Americans still lived in rural settings (but that would change by 1920), the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was still alive (his death in June would spark World War I), the Braves were still in Boston and they were supposed to be bad.

The New York Giants were three-time defending NL champions and expected to repeat in 1914. They were led by Hall of Fame pitchers Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard with Hall of Fame manager John McGraw at the helm. It was decent, but not great lineup with soon to be war casualty Eddie Grant available as a sub. By way of  compensation, third pitcher Jeff Tesreau  would have a career year.

Philadelphia finished second in 1913 and looked set for another run at a pennant in 1914. Grover Cleveland Alexander was the ace and would have more wins and strikeouts than any other NL pitcher. But the rest of the staff, minus Erskine Meyer, would have a down year. Gavvy Cravath would lead the league in home runs with 19  (he also led in OPS and OPS+, but those stats weren’t around in 1914), and Sherry Magee won the RBI total with a miniscule 103. But other than Beals Becker’s .325 average the rest of the team didn’t do much.

The Cubs and Pirates finished third and fourth in 1913. Cubs pitching, even with Three-Finger Brown moved to the Federal League was still good, but the hitting wasn’t even vaguely on par with the pitching. The Pirates were aging. Honus Wagner, their best player, had his first bad year and without him, Pittsburgh had no one to step up.

The Braves finished fifth in 1913. They were 69-82, which was best among teams with a losing record, but still fifth. But there had been a revolution in Boston. Of the 1913 infield, only Rabbit Maranville, the shortstop, remained with the team. The catcher was new, as was one outfielder. the new players included Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers (who would win the NL’s 1914 Chalmers Award–the 1914 version of the MVP) and a clutch of players brought over during the season who would turn the team around. The pitching also came around. By the fourth of July they were still out of the running (last place), but that would change as manager George Stallings’ (I still try to call him “Gene Stallings” some times) platoon system, judicious use of pitchers, a great (for the era) fielding team, and timely hitting brought them all the way to first as the “Miracle Braves.”

Nothing much was expected of Brooklyn, St. Louis, or Cincinnati, but Brooklyn’s Jake Daubert won the batting title and the Cardinals Bill Doak took the ERA title. Doak’s pitching helped St. Louis more than Daubert’s hitting helped Brooklyn with the Card’s coming in third and Brooklyn fifth.

It was not a great year for rookies in the NL. In May 1914, the Braves brought Dolf Luque to the team. He got into two games, lost one of them, and ended up being a non-factor in the Braves’ sprint for the championship. He would make his mark a few years later.

Boston was a big underdog in the 1914 World Series, but ended up sweeping the Athletics away in four games. They hit .244 while Philly had an average of only .172. Boston’s ERA was 1.15 versus the A’s 3.41. They scored 16 runs (14 earned) while giving up only six (five earned).

It was a “one year wonder” team. Boston faded in 1915, finishing second, then proceeding downhill, finishing sixth by the time the United States joined World War I in 1917. You gotta admit, it was one heck of a year for them in 1914.



1919: The Reds

September 30, 2011

Edd Roush

For obvious reasons information on the 1919 World Series tends to concentrate on the White Sox. But there is, of course, another team in the Series: The Cincinnati Reds. Almost nothing is written about them. They are generally viewed as simple foils for the overpowering Sox who would have made hash of them had the Sox been playing on the up and up. In the movie “Eight Men Out”, which is probably the best flick on the event, they get all of two lines. But the Reds were a real team and they really did play in the 1919 World Series and in their opinion would have won anyway.

If you look at the Reds hitters you find a group not much different from the White Sox. There are a handful of really first-rate players, a bunch of middle-of-the-road types, and a few guys who you wonder why the team couldn’t find someone better. In Edd Roush, the center fielder, the Reds have a Hall of Fame quality player. Roush won two batting titles, including the one in 1919, had an OPS of 811 and an OPS+ of 146 for the season. Only Joe Jackson of the Sox is better. Third baseman Heinie Groh (who today is known only for his “bottle bat”, which is a great shame) had an even better OPS and OPS+ than Roush. Both, in other words, were good players having good years. At 35, first baseman Jake Daubert was beyond his prime, but was still a solid player, as was 32-year-old Morrie Rath, the second baseman. They were also the only two starters over 30. Outfielder Sherry Magee was also over 30 and well beyond the prime he showed with Philadelphia a decade earlier. But Magee was used in a platoon-type system with Rube Bressler, so saw limited action during the season and only had two plate appearances in the Series. As both Magee and  Bressler hit right-handed, I’m not sure how the platoon worked exactly. As a team, the Reds led the National League in both triples and walks, were second in both average and slugging as well as RBIs and runs. They were third in hits.

Heinie Groh

In fielding the Reds were actually slightly better than the Sox. they showed superior numbers in both fielding percentage and range factor as well as in assists. They also made fewer errors. This is not to say that there are a lot of truly great fielders on either team, but in the context of the era, the Reds aren’t just awful or anything.

Hod Eller

In pitching the Sox were definitely better, especially with a healthy Red Faber. Having said that, the Reds still show up first in shutouts in the National League and  second in ERA. They led the league with the least hits allowed and were second in the least walks given up. So again, it’s not a bad staff, but most people are going to credit the Sox with a better mound crew.

Pat Moran as Phillies Manger

And as a final comparison, I see no evidence that contemporary opinion was convinced that Kid Gleason was a particularly better manager than Pat Moran. Maybe he was, but I can’t  find a consensus that confirms that.

So why exactly were the Sox, with a weaker overall record (88-52) considered so utterly superior to the Reds (with a 96-44 record)? I think it’s a perception issue. In 1909 the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series. In the 10 years since the Cubs, Giants, Braves, Phillies, and Robins (now the Dodgers) had all crossed swords with the American League champion (including the White Sox in 1917) and only the Braves in 1914 had been successful (and they were, and still are, considered one of the great flukes of all time). So the American League was perceived as the stronger league. The American League champion, regardless of record, had to be seen as the stronger team.

Were they in 1919? Frankly, we’re never going to know. From a look at the stats and the players I’m convinced the Reds would have proved a formidable opponent for the Sox playing on the up and up.

1910: Phillies Postmortem

September 10, 2010

I’m not sure what to say about the Fightin’ Phils. They finished fourth, but probably should have been higher. They hit well in spots and abysmally in others. Their pitching was a mixed bag. I guess that means I shouldn’t be surprised they ended up fourth in the National League. But somehow they just look better on paper.

Outfielder Sherry Magee was the star. He won the batting and slugging titles, ending Honus Wagner’s stranglehold on hitting in the NL, and led the league in both runs and RBIs. The Chalmers Award, the first MVP Award, began in 1911, but had it started in 1910, Magee might have won it. He had that good a year.

The rest of the hitting wasn’t nearly as good. Center fielder Johnny Bates hit .300 and three other starters hit above .250, but the other starters, including catcher/manager Red Dooin, hit below that mark. Philly finished fifth in average, fourth in slugging, and first in doubles. They scored 674 runs, third in the league.

As with most teams of the era, the bench wasn’t much. Of six players showing up in 20 or more games, one hit .250 and four were under the Mendoza Line. The one was 24-year-old Fred Luderus, who got into 21 games after a 24 game stint with the Cubs. He would anchor the right side of the infield for the Phils through 1920 and help lead them to a World Series appearance in 1915.

The pitching is as mixed a bag as the hitting. Thirty year old Ed Moore led the team with 22 wins against 15 losses. He led the NL in both strikeouts (185) and shutouts (6). George McQuillan led the league in ERA at 1.60, but had a record of only 9-6. The rest of the starters had mediocre years with winning percentages between .533 and .461.

So Philadelphia going into 1911 looked like a run-of-the-mill team with some potential. If Magee had another great year (he got hurt) and Bates continued playing well (he was traded to Cincinnati) then they might contend. The pitching had to improve. On 1 September 1910, the Phillies went a long way toward doing that. They drafted Grover Cleveland Alexander from minor league Syracuse, planning to bring him to Philadelphia in 1911. That worked.

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: Philadelphia (NL)

April 10, 2010

Sherry Magee

The Phillies led the second division of the National League at the end of 1909. They were going the wrong way. It was their lowest finish over the last four years. Had I been told that and nothing else, I would have expected major changes in their lineup. I would have been wrong.

The Phils made one significat change between 1909 and 1910, their manager. Out was Bill Murray, in came Red Dooin. Dooin was the team catcher. He wasn’t much of a hitter, although not really bad either (which defines mediocre). Although not at Johnny Kling’s level, he was considered a fine defensive backstop. As a manager he was untested. He would stay through 1914.

Although the people in the lineup didn’t change, the batting order changed a lot. John Titus, the right fielder, moved from third to leadoff. Second baseman Otto Knabe went from sixth to second. Johnny Bates stayed in center field, but went from second to third in the batting order. Left fielder Sherry Magee remained in the cleanup spot. Former leadoff hitter third baseman Eddie Grant dropped to fifth in the order, and former five hitter and first baseman Kitty Bransfield took over the six hole. The other two spots in the lineup remained the same with shortstop Mickey Doolan hitting seventh and catcher-manager Dooin batting eighth.

The bench did make some changes. Backup first baseman and pinch hitter Joe Ward remained, but Pat Moran came over from Chicago to hold down the backup catching duties, and rookie Jimmy Walsh became a jack-of-all-trades by becoming both the primary backup middle infielder and fourth outfielder. Roy Thomas spelled him in the outfield on a handful of occasions.

The pitching staff also underwent some change. The main starters in ’09 were Earl Moore, Lew Moren, George McQuillan, Frank Corriden, Harry Coveleski, and Tully Sparks. Moore was 18-12  and led the league in walks. Both Moren and Corriden had winning records, something McQuillan, Coveleski, and Sparks couldn’t say. In 1910 Moore, Moren, and McQuillen were back (Sparks was around too, but only got into three games). Replacing Coveleski and Corriden were Bob Ewing who came over from Cincinnati and rookie Eddie Stack.

So there wasn’t much improvement on the Phillies roster in 1910. If they were going to overcome a 36.5 game 1901 deficit and win, their old guys wre going to have to do it. Maybe a new manager and a couple of new pitchers would do the trick. Of course maybe someone already there would get hot (see Magee).

Next: Brooklyn