Posts Tagged ‘Tony Mullane’

The Pride of the Association

July 29, 2013
Browns third baseman, Arlie Latham

Browns third baseman, Arlie Latham

I’ve contended on this site that there are five true dynasties in the 19th Century: 1870s Boston Red Stockings, 1880s Chicago White Stockings, 1880s St. Louis Browns, 1890’s Boston Beaneaters, and 1890s Baltimore Orioles. Over the years I’ve done posts on four of them. It’s time to take a look at the last, the Browns.

First, to clarify something, this team has nothing to do with the American League St. Louis Browns who are now in Baltimore as the Orioles, which are also not the 1890s Orioles. The 1880s Browns played in the American Association, a league that no longer exists. The team is still around but it’s now the Cardinals (got all that?).

The American Association put a team in St. Louis in 1882. Owned by Chris von der Ahe, a local beer mogul, the team became a contender in 1883, finishing second. It slipped to fourth in 1884, then dominated the Association for the rest of the decade. With the small rosters of the era, much of the team remained consistent through the entire period.

Pat Deasley did the bulk of the catching in 1883 and 1884. In 1885 Doc Bushong took over as the primary backstop with Deasley going to the Giants. Bushong remained with the team through 1887, spending the first two years as the primary catcher and backing up Jack Boyle who remained the starter into the 1890 season. None of them were particularly distinguished, although Boyle did manage to crack 23 home runs over 13 years.

the infield corners consisted of Charlie Comiskey at first and Arlie Latham at third. Comiskey doubled as manager and was considered an above average fielder for is day. He wasn’t an especially good hitter. Latham led off, scored a lot of runs, stole a lot of bases (pre-1900 definition of stolen base), and was generally considered one of the more obnoxious players in the league by his opponents. For most of the era  Bill Gleason handled short. He led the Association in putouts and assists a couple of times, but also led in errors. By the end of the period (1888 and 1889) Bill White (obviously not the 1960s Cardinals first baseman) and Shorty Fuller replaced him. Neither are much remembered today and neither especially deserves to be recalled. Second base went through a series of players. George Strief, Joe Quest, and Sam Barkley all spent one season at second (1883-1885). In 1885 Yank Robinson  showed up as a utility infielder. By 1886 he had the second base job holding it to 1890. His average wasn’t all that great, but he walked a lot and scored over 100 runs four times (three with St. Louis).

There was great consistency in the outfield also. Hugh Nicol held down one corner spot from 1883 through 1886. He was another player whose average wasn’t all that high, but who scored a lot of runs and was considered a fine fielder by 1880s standards. He left for Cincinnati in 1887 and was replaced by first Bob Caruthers (see more on him in the pitcher section of this post), then by Hall of Fame outfielder Tommy McCarthy. The other corner slot was held down, after the 1883 season, by Tip O’Neill. O’Neill is one of the handful of players who can legitimately be called the best 19th Century player not in the Hall of Fame. He hit .326, won the triple crown in 1887 (.425 average, 14 home runs, 123 RBIs), led the Association in hits, average, and RBIs a couple of other times, and was deemed a so-so outfielder. The center fielder in 1883 was Fred Lewis, an early switch hitter who hit .296 for his career. He was replaced in 1885 by Curt Welch, who wasn’t as good at hitting, but was a better outfielder. Welch was gone by 1888, replaced by Harry Lyons in 1888. Lyons managed to hit all of a buck-94 and 1889 found Charlie Duffee in center. A rookie, Duffee managed to lead the Association in strike outs.

As usual with 1880s teams, the pitching staff showed a lot of turnover. Pitchers threw a lot of innings and many of them didn’t last all that long. The 1883 team featured Tony Mullane (who just appeared on the latest Veteran’s Committee Hall of Fame ballot). It was his only year with the team. Jumbo McGinnis Served as the two pitcher. McGinnis stood 5’10” and weighted 197 pounds, hardly a “Jumbo” by today’s standards, but a big man in 1883. He had good years in both ’83 and ’84, then his career came unglued. Dave Foutz joined the team in 1884, replacing Mullane. He remained through 1887 winning 114 games (told you these guys pitched a lot). In 1885 he was joined by Caruthers (see the outfield above). Caruthers remained through 1887 (he and Foutz both went to Brooklyn) winning 106 games, playing 86 games in the outfield (and 23 at first), and hitting .357 with eight home runs in 1887. In 1887 Silver King showed up, earning a spot in the rotation when Caruthers was in the outfield. He became the ace the next season and remained with the Browns through the 1880s. He won 203 total games, 113 with the Browns.

St. Louis finished second in 1883, fourth in 1884, then ran off four consecutive pennants, They finished second in 1889 and had two more good years, although the team changed in 1890 due to the Player’s League. The 1880s produced a proto-World Series and the Browns were involved in one each of the years they won pennants. In 1885 they faced the Chicago White Stockings. Foutz went 2-2, Caruthers 1-1, and the seventh game was a disputed tie. In an 1886 rematch, they defeated Chicago four games to two with O’Neill hitting .400 and blasting two home runs. In 1887 the Series consisted of 15 games with Detroit (a team that included newly elected Hall of Famer Deacon White) winning 10 games while St. Louis picked up only five wins (they played all 15 games, although Detroit got to eight wins quickly). Finally, in 1888 the Giants beat them six games to four. Giants pitcher Tim Keefe set a record by winning four games in postseason play.

Throughout its existence, the American Association was usually viewed as the weaker of the two professional major leagues (the National League being the other). that’s probably true. But that weaker league did produce one of the truly great teams of the 19th Century in the 1880s St. Louis Browns.

2012 Veteran’s Committee Ballot: the Pitchers

November 6, 2012

The 2012 Veteran’s Committee ballot lists three pitchers. Chronologically they are Tony Mullane, Wes Ferrell, and Bucky Walters. Here’s a quick review of each.

Tony Mullane

Let me begin this section with the same disclaimer that I used for the everyday players. No one alive today saw Tony Mullane pitch. So again, his stats and articles about him will be the only reference to used for determining his qualification for the Hall of Fame. He started in 1881 and played through 1894 (missing all of 1885). He was primarily a pitcher, but as was common in the era, played a lot of other positions. As a pitcher he was 284-220 (.563 winning percentage), pitched in 555 games (468 of the complete games), struck out 1803 and walked 1408 in 4531 innings. His ERA is 3.05 and his ERA+ is 117. He has a WHIP of 1.237 and has 30 shutouts. He led his league in winning percentage, hits, earned runs, walks, and strikeouts once each and led the league in shutouts twice (and in saves five times–although it wasn’t a stat yet). In the field he played 154 games in the outfield, 52 at third, and a handful at first, short, and  second. He hit .243, had an OBP of .307, slugged ..316 and ended with an OPS of .623 (OPS+ of 87). He scored 407 runs, had 223 RBIs, 661 hits, and 860 total bases. He spent about equal time in both the National League and the American Association, never won a pennant, and pitched at 45 feet, 50 feet, and the last year was on a mound. After his retirement, he became a sports writer and was noted during his career to have occasionally pitched left-handed (he was a natural righty), the only major pitcher to do so (although it seems to have been more a novelty than a normal occurence). In 1884 his battery mate was Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first black American to play in the Major Leagues. Mullane seems to have at least distrusted Walker’s baseball ability and would frequently throw a different pitch than the one Walker called for. I could not find any comment of overt racism on Mullane’s part so I won’t swear he had a racial problem, but considering the age and his attitude toward Walker as a catcher, it is likely (and certainly wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the age). 

The other Ferrell brother

Wes Ferrell was a pitcher, primarily for Cleveland and the Red Sox in the 1920s and 1930s. He began his career in 1927 with the Indians and played his last game in 1941 with the Braves (his only year with them).  He made the World Series with the Yankees in 1938, but did not pitch in the Series. For his career he was 193-128 for a .601 winning percentage. His ERA was 4.04 (ERA+ of 116). In 2623 innings pitched he gave up 2845 hits, 1177 earned runs, 1040 walks, and struck out 985. He led the American League in wins once, and in hits allowed, innings pitched, home runs  allowed, earned runs, and walks a handful of times. His WHIP is 1.481. Ferrell was also a good hitting pitcher, holding the record for home runs by a pitcher at 38. For his  career he hit .280, had an OBP of .351, slugged .446, giving him an OPS of .797 (OPS+ of 100). In 1933 he played 13 games in the outfield. One of the major comments about Wes Ferrell is that he was better than his brother Rick, who is in the Hall of Fame. That may be true, but is not a reason for putting Ferrell in. It may simply indicate that the brother shouldn’t be enshrined. 

Bucky Walters

The third candidate for the Hall is Cincinnati right hander Bucky Walters. Walters is one of the last of a breed of players that you don’t see much anymore. He got to the Major Leagues as a third baseman, did alright, but wasn’t anything special. He switched to the mound and became an all-star. That doesn’t happen much. Bob Lemon is the last major player I could find who did it (most of the players who switched, like Babe Ruth, George Sisler, or Rick Ankiel, went from the mound to a position in the field).  He batted .243, had an OBP of .286, slugged ..344, for an OPS of .530 (OPS+ of 69). He had 477 hits, scored 277 times, had 234 RBIs, and 23 home runs, to go with 114 walks and 303 strike outs. But he’s being considered for the Hall of Fame because of his pitching. He was 198-160 (.533 winning percentage) with an ERA of 3.30 (ERA+ of 116). In 3104.2 innings he gave up 2990 hits, 1139 earned runs, 1121 walks, and struck out 1107. His WHIP was 1.324. He made the World Series with Cincinnati in both 1939 and 1940, winning the Series the second time. His overall record was 2-2 with a 2.79 ERA and seven walks with 12 strikeouts. He led the NL in losses, hits, strikeouts, and shutouts once each, in wins three times, and in ERA and WHIP twice. He was the 1939 National League MVP.

2012 Veteran’s Committee Ballot

November 2, 2012

Just got a first look at the 2012 Veteran’s Committee ballot. It contains 10 names and covers the period 1876-1946. Here (alphabetically) are the names on the ballot:

1. Sam Breadon–Cardinals owner who hired Branch Rickey

2. Bill Dahlen–Deadball Era shortstop

3. Wes Ferrell–1930s AL pitcher

4. Marty Marion–1940s Cardinals shortstop and MVP

5. Tony Mullane–1880s American Association pitcher and later sports writer

6. Hank O’Day–Deadball Era umpire

7. Alfred Reach–“Reach Guide” founder and sporting goods magnate

8. Jacob Ruppert–owner of the New York Yankees 1920s and 1930s

9. Bucky Walters–1930s-40s National League pitcher who won both an MVP and 1940 World Series

10. Deacon White–19th Century bare handed catcher and third baseman.

That’s the list. Will comment on it later. Election day is 3 December.

One Heck of a Guy

May 29, 2012

Guy Hecker in 1882

When I started this project of looking into the lives and careers of the 19th Century men who won either the hitting or pitching Triple Crown I have to admit that Guy Hecker was a total unknown. Frankly, I’d never heard of him. But as I’ve looked into his life and his career I’ve decided he’s interesting, and he’s also worth the atrocious play-on-words that makes up the title of this post.

Guy Hecker with born in 1856 in Pennsylvania oil country. His dad was street superintendent for Oil Town, Pa and his son was adept at both pitching and hitting. His first professional experience was in Springfield, Ohio (where someone I know lives) in 1877. After a season in Ohio he moved back to Oil Town, got married, went to work (I’ve been unable to find out what he did), and joined the local semi-pro team. There he met Tony Mullane who would go on to post a winning record in the Major Leagues. Mullane was impressed enough to recommend Hecker to the Louisville team in the fledgling American Association in 1882. They signed him as a first baseman and backup pitcher.

One common thread among these 19th Century players is how few of them were instant successes. Hecker went 6-6 with a 1.30 ERA in his rookie campaign. He did manage to hit .276 with three home runs in 78 games, most at first. He did show one bright spot. On 19 September he tossed the second no-hitter in Association history. The next season he appeared in 81 games, 10 at first, 23 in the outfield, and 53 on the mound. He hit .271 with one home run, but his pitching improved. He ended the season 28-23 with an ERA of 3.34 (ERA+ of 89) and a little more than two strikeouts for every walk. Louisville managed to finish fifth.

The next season he struck pay dirt. He hit .296, slugged .443, had four home runs, and 42 RBIs. But of course he was now the Eclipse’s primary pitcher and he was sterling. He won 52 games, losing 20. He led the Association with a 1.80 ERA (ERA+ of 171), had 385 strike outs, pitched 671 innings, and gave up 526 hits. All those led the Association and made him a Triple Crown winner. Unfortunately, over in the National League, Charles Radbourn won 59 (or 60 depending on who you believe) and pitched his team to the first postseason series (they won). Hecker’s 52 wins is still third in Major League history (John Clarkson had 53 just a couple of years later).

In 1885 he developed arm trouble (the exact problem is disputed), went 20-23, saw his ERA jump above two, and saw his strikeouts diminish by 175. The next year, 1886, was even worse. He was 26-23 and saw his strike outs drop by almost another 100. He did manage to put in a few games at first and in the outfield. That gave him enough at bats to win the Association batting title in 1886 at .341. Hecker never knew it. He was officially considered second until the statistics were reviewed in the 1960s and it was determined he had won the title (shades of Paul Hines who was profiled a couple of posts back). He is the only man to win both the pitching Triple Crown and a batting title.

His pitching continued to decline and his hitting fell back also (but he still managed to hit .300 in 1887). By 1890 he was in Pittsburgh in the National League as a player-manager. He hit .226 and went 2-9 on the mound with an ERA north of five. The Alleghenys finished last. His Major League career, both as a player and a manager was over. 

He stayed in baseball as a player-manager in the Western League and Indiana-Illinois League, then ran the semipro team in Oil Town after he returned to his hometown. He spent time in the oil business, then moved to Wooster, Ohio, where I also know someone (Isn’t it funny how much baseball touches our lives in even trivial ways?). He ran a grocery store and died there on 3 December 1938. I asked the person I know who lives in Wooster. She tells me there is no monument to him.

For his career, Hecker was 175-146 with a 2.93 ERA (ERA+ of 113). He struck out 1110 men, walked 492, gave up 2922 hits, and 951 earned runs in 2924 innings. As a hitter he batted .282 with 812 hits, 504 runs scored, and 1080 total bases. He won the single batting title and his only pitching Triple Crown titles were the ones he won in 1884.

Hecker only played nine season, so he is ineligible for the Hall of Fame. Even if you waive the ten-year rule, he’s still not, at least to me, Hall of Fame quality. He had one great year, one other good one, and a lot of years that don’t really stand out. Having said all that, he’s still worth remembering, if for no other reason than his winning both a pitching Triple Crown and a batting title. That’s something that will never be duplicated at the big league level.

Thoughts on the Upcoming Veteran’s Committee Vote, III

November 9, 2011

1954 Allie Reynolds baseball card

Previously I’ve given my thoughts on the everyday players who are listed on this year’s Veteran’s Committee ballot for the Hall of Fame. Now it’s time to look at the pitchers. There are three on the Ballot: Jim Kaat, Allie Reynolds, and Luis Tiant. As with the everyday players, each pitcher has significant issues that have kept him from the Hall.

With 283 wins, Kaat has the most of this year’s trio. In fact of players not in the Hall of Fame and eligible Kaat has the fourth most wins. He’s behind Tommy John and two 19th Century pitchers Bobby Matthews and Tony Mullane (and Matthews pitched for far back he never stood on a mound). Kaat also has three 20 wins seasons (only one of which led the American League). But that’s the only time he led his league in any major category. He was only occasionally his team’s ace and by this point is probably most famous as the losing pitcher in the seventh game of the 1965 World Series, losing to Sandy Koufax who threw a shutout on two day’s rest (that happens). Further, Kaat pitched much of the end of his career in relief, becoming, in 1982, the oldest man to ever play in a World Series game (I’m not sure if that’s still true). And it’s this longevity that is much of Kaat’s problem. His numbers look pretty good, but they are longevity numbers and many Hall of Fame voters like gaudy peak numbers that Kaat just doesn’t have.

Luis Tiant was always a personal favorite of mine. As mentioned in the paragraph on Minnie Minoso, Tiant’s dad pitched in the 1947 Negro League World Series, so his son had quite a pedigree. For his career the younger Tiant had 229 wins, putting up 20 or more four times. He never led the AL in wins, but did lead in losses in 1969. He picked up ERA and shutout titles in 1968 (the year before leading the AL in losses). He got to a World Series with Boston in 1975 and won two games for a losing team. In many ways his problem is that he has too much of an up-and-down career. He wins 20, follows it with losing 20. He  has the big drop off at the end of his career that a lot of people have, but in the middle there are three seasons with less than 10 wins.

Allie Reynolds played back in the 1940s and 1950s, first for Cleveland, then for Casey Stengel’s Yankees. He was, according to a Stengel biography, Casey’s favorite pitcher because he could both start and relieve. Reynolds put up 182 wins with a .620 winning percentage. He won 20 games once, led the AL in ERA and walks once, led in strikeouts and shutouts twice, and went 7-2 with four saves in the World Series. Reynolds has three problems among Hall of Fame voters. One is the paucity of wins for a team that went to the World Series year after year while he pitched. Secondly, in many ways his replacement was better; a guy named Whitey Ford. You can of course argue that Ford replaced any one of the three early 1950s stalwarts of the Yankees staff (Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, and Vic Raschi), but Ford was better than any of them and I think that hurts Reynolds Hall of Fame chances. Finally, the 1950s Yankees teams are the teams of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra, not the pitchers (with the exception of Ford). It’s not a team remembered because of Reynolds, and that, too, hurts his chances.

There’s the list, three solid pitchers with good numbers and flaws. Would I vote for any or all of them? Not this time I wouldn’t. We’re left now with the two executives (neither of which has an old ball card to feature at the top of the article). I’ll take a look at them with a few comments next time.

The First Integration

December 24, 2009

Fleet Walker

We all know Jackie Robinson and we justly celebrate his life, his achievements, and his courage. But he isn’t the first black American to play Major League Baseball. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Moses Fleetwood Walker.

Fleet Walker was born in Ohio in 1857. He played college baseball for both Oberlin College and the University of Michigan, then signed with Toledo in the Northwestern League (a minor league) in 1883. Some teams, notably Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts (now the Cubs) refused to play against a team with a black player, but Walker became the team’s regular catcher. In 1884 the team joined the American Association, then a Major League, with Walker remaining their catcher. He met with indifferent success. One of his pitchers, Tony Mullane, is reported to have refused to accept Walker’s signs when he (Walker) called for a pitch. Mullane’s also supposed to have declared Walker was the  best catcher he worked with. In July 1884 Walker suffered a season-ending injury. It also proved to be the end of his big league career. Toledo went bust at the end of the season and no one else was willing to pick him up. He caught on with Newark of the minor league International League (the same league that saw Robinson’s first game–also in Newark). He lasted the season when the league voted to exclude black Americans from its rosters. The league rescinded the ban the next year and Walker again served as a catcher, this time for Syracuse. He was ultimately released in July 1889, his career over. He died in 1924 after a lifetime working for black causes. His brother Welday also briefly played for Toledo in 1884.

How to assess Walker? His career is, of course, always tainted with racism. If you look at his stats he’s not a bad player, but unfortunately he’s nothing special. And that’s kind of the problem. He’s really nothing special. As a catcher he ranks in the middle of the pack among American Association catchers. His hitting stats aren’t expecially strong, but they’re better than about half the other regular catcher’s in the league. But he couldn’t be just average. Because he was black he had to be better, a lot better, than the other catchers to make it worthwhile for teams to take a chance on playing him. Why risk it for a mediocre player? Part of why Jackie Robinson works is because he’s a heckuva player and you simply couldn’t afford to ignore his ability or leave him out of the lineup. Walker? Well, you could do that with him. So he doesn’t become “The Chosen One” to tear down racial barriers and bring black Americans along with him. It seems he never gave up trying. RIP, Fleet.