Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Terriers’

28 June 1914: The Feds

June 23, 2014
Dutch Zwilling

Dutch Zwilling

One hundred years ago this coming Saturday (28 June), the world changed. A Serb nationalist named Gavrilo Princip fired two shots that killed the Erzherzog (Archduke) Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie. Ultimately, a month later, that action led to the outbreak of World War I. The United States stayed out of the war until 1917, but was eventually drawn in. Most Americans might have been horrified at the assassination, but very few understood that it would eventually lead their sons, fathers, and brothers into places like the Argonne Forest.

Baseball games were played on 28 June 1914. It was a Sunday and people turned out to watch three leagues play ball. Here’s a look at what was happening in each league on 28 June 1914, one hundred years ago.

Of the eight Federal League teams playing the 1914 season, four were in action on Sunday the 28th of June: Kansas City, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Chicago. The Packers (KC) and Hoosiers (Indy) played a double-header. For the Terriers (St. Louis) and the Whales (Chicago) it was a single game.

The early game in Indianapolis saw KC pick up a 2-0 win. The Packers got both runs in the sixth when catcher Ted Easterly tripled, then scored on an error. Lefty Gene Packard pitched a complete game shutout giving up only three hits, striking out eight, and walking none. It was his tenth win of the season.

In the late game, you got a slugfest. The Hoosiers earned a split  with an 8-7 victory. KC picked up 18 hits, but committed three errors as Indianapolis scored one more run on only 11 hits. Eventual batting champion Benny Kauff went two for three with a walk and scored two runs while driving in one. Right hander George Kaiserling picked up his sixth win (against one loss) by going nine innings, walking one, and striking out three. He would finish the year 17-10.

In the other game, Chicago beat up on St. Louis 7-3. First baseman Fred Beck hit a solo home run while center fielder Dutch Zwilling went four for five with two runs scored and an RBI. Max Fiske pitched the first 7.1 innings, giving up all three runs, while walking two and striking out two. It was Fiske’s sixth win against two losses. Hall of Fame pitcher Three Finger Brown went the distance for St. Louis absorbing his fourth loss against five wins.

At the end of the day Indianapolis went home with a half game lead over Chicago with KC in fifth and St. Louis holding last place. By the end of the season, the Packers would drop a spot to sixth, but the other three teams would remain where they sat on 28 June. As the new league, they were not invited to postseason festivities.

Gettysburg Eddie

April 10, 2013
Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

Quick bit of trivia. Which left-handed pitcher has the most wins in the American League? Want some help? The number is 305. OK if you’re clever (and because you read this blog, most of you are) you looked at the title and the picture and guessed Eddie Plank. You win.

Plank was born to a farming family in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (scene of the famous battle) in 1875. His first taste of organized baseball came in 1893, when he was 17. It was a local team and brought him to the attention of Gettysburg Academy, a prep school for the local university, Gettysburg College. Apparently students enrolled at the Academy could participate in varsity athletics for the College, so Plank pitched for Gettysburg College but was never a student (Figure that one out, NCAA. I wonder if you can sanction a team after 100 years?). He came to the attention of Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics and in 1901 he joined the A’s without ever playing for a minor league team.

It was the first year for the American League and the Athletics. Plank was good and he would remain with Philly for most of his career. In his initial campaign he was 17-13 with an ERA over 3.– (which was big in the Deadball Era). The next four years he won 20 plus games each season. His ERA dropped, his strikeout total soared, peaking at   210 in 1905. The A’s won the AL pennant in both 1902 and 1905. In both cases Plank was the two pitcher behind Rube Waddell. In 1905, the A’s participated in the second World Series. With Waddell hurt, Plank got two games. He struck out eleven, walked four, gave up three earned runs, had an ERA of 1.59. Despite all that, he took the loss in both games as the Giants pitching staff gave up no earned runs for the entire series.

He continued to pitch well during the rest of the first decade of the 20th Century, having his first (of two) losing seasons in 1908 (14-16). By 1910 he was becoming the third member of the rotation behind Chief Bender and Jack Coombs. The A’s made the World Series in four of the next five seasons, winning three (1910, ’11, and ’13). Plank pitched well all three seasons, winning 20 games in 1911 (and again in 1912, the one year the Athletics failed to win the pennant).

His World Series record wasn’t as good as his regular season totals. In 1910 he didn’t pitch in the Series. Bender and Coombs pitched every game as the A’s beat the Cubs. In 1911 he was 1-1 with an ERA of 1.86. His game two win over Rube Marquard was a five hit masterpiece, but he was overshadowed by Frank Baker’s two-run home run that proved the difference. He wa 1-1 again in 1912 while putting up an 0,95 ERA. His victory was in game five when he two hit the Giants for a 3-1 win that clinched the Series for the A’s. In 1914, he pitched game two, lost it 1-0 on a double, stolen base, and a single in the top of the ninth. The Braves swept the A’s out of the Series in four games. For his career Plank was 2-5 with a 1.32 ERA and 32 strikeouts.

In 1914 the Federal League was formed. It offered players better salaries and something like quality play (the play could be pretty good or wretched depending on the team). Plank was interested and in 1915 Mack waived him (and both Bender and Coombs). Plank ended up with the St. Louis Terriers as their ace. He went 21-11, led the league in WHIP and ERA+, and found himself on one final pennant winner. The Feds folded after the 1915 season and Plank, now 40, found himself looking for work. The St. Louis Browns picked him up for the 1916 season (my wife’s grandfather once told me he saw Plank pitch with the Browns). He was 5-6 with a 1.79 ERA. It was only his second losing season. He was through. He retired to his farm in Gettysburg, where he farmed and led tours of the battlefield. In 1926 he suffered a stroke and died a couple of days later. In 1946 he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

For all his ability, Plank had one severe problem when he pitched. He was slow. Really slow. Really, really slow. He was infamous for taking a lot of time between pitches. As mentioned above, my wife’s grandfather told me he saw Plank pitch. He told me “you could drink a whole bottle of pop between pitches.” It seems to be part of the reason that Mack went with other pitchers in critical situations. A slow pitcher can cause the defense to become lax and Mack, as a former catcher, had to be aware of that. I looked at a handful of Plank’s games that had times listed (all of them don’t) and compared him with both Bender and Coombs. His games did seem to take longer, although not a lot, but were nothing like the length of games today.

Over his career, Plank was 326-194 for a .627 winning percentage. His ERA was 2.35 with an ERA+ of 122. He pitched 4495.2 innings, gave up 3958 hits, walked 1072, and struck out 2246 for a WHIP of 1.119. When he retired he had more wins than any other left-hander. In the 96 years since, he’s been passed by only two other lefty’s: Warren Spahn and Steve Carlton. Not bad considering all the left-handed pitchers that have played since 1917. As mentioned in the first paragraph, he still holds the record for most wins by a lefty in the American League.

When I first began this somewhat extended look at the 1910-14 Athletics, I was a little surprised I hadn’t dealt with Plank. After all, I’d done all four of the infield plus Bender and Coombs (and utility man Danny Murphy). In some ways that’s kind of fitting. Plank was never really a big star and only infrequently the team ace. Seems to be that way here also.

Plank's final resting place in Gettysburg, PA

Plank’s final resting place in Gettysburg, PA