Posts Tagged ‘Tris Speaker’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1934

December 8, 2016

After a couple of years I bring this project to a conclusion. How successful it was is up to the people who read it. Be kind, team. Here it is the final class. A few trumpets and drums please (OK, a lot of trumpets and drums).

Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb is Major League Baseball’s all time leader in average, hits, stolen bases, and runs. He is second in both doubles and triples. While with Detroit he won 12 batting titles, four RBI titles, and a home run title. He led his team to three consecutive American League pennants and won the 1911 Chalmers Award.

Urban Shocker

Urban Shocker

Stalwart pitcher of two pennant contenders, Urban Shocker first led the St. Louis American League team to respectability, then led the New York Yankees to two pennants and a World Series title before his untimely death.

Tris Speaker

Tris Speaker

Tris Speaker played center field for both Boston and Cleveland in the American League. With Boston he won the 1912 Chalmers Award while leading his team to a World Series Championship. He won a second championship with Boston then as player-manager of Cleveland won the 1920 World Series. He is the all time leader in doubles and second in total hits.

Christobal Torriente

Christobal Torriente

Negro League outfielder Christobal Torriente played 15 years for both Cuban and American teams. While with the American Giants his team won three Negro National League pennants.

The commentary:

1. I don’t suppose I need to say much about either Cobb or Speaker. They are the kinds of players that a Hall of Fame is made to showcase. A couple of quick comments are in order. First, the records of the time show Cobb winning the 1912 batting title so I went with that rather than the newer information that indicates Nap LaJoie might be the true winner. Also the stolen base number is a little shaky, but everyone is in agreement that Cobb has the most since the change of definition in the late 1890s. I don’t think Speaker gets enough credit for his managerial stint, so I wanted to make a point of mentioning it.

2. Shocker is something of a stretch, but he was generally regarded as a first line pitcher and there was a lot of ink about his dying early (the same sort of thing that happened with Addie Joss). Frankly, I think he should be in Cooperstown, so I took the opportunity to add him.

3. Which brings me to Torriente. There is some question about his last season. He is well documented (at least for a Negro League player) through a 1928 retirement. Then he comes back for a short spell in 1932. I decided that as Negro League careers were much more in flux than white players, that I would ignore the 1932 period and let him in as the first and only Cuban everyday player.

4. If this project went on into 1935, these would be the names showing up among everyday players: George Burns, Max Carey, Cupid Childs, Jake Daubert, Johnny Evers, Jack Fornier, Larry Gardner, Heinie Groh, Baby Doll Jacobson, Tommy Leach, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarthy, Stuffy McInnis, Clyde Milan, Johnny Mostil, Ray Schalk, Wildfire Schulte, Cy Seymour, Billy Southworth, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren, Ken Williams, Ross Youngs.

5. With the same proviso, the pitchers: Babe Adams, Chief Bender, Jack Chesbro, Wilbur Cooper, Stan Coveleski, Sam Leever, Rube Marquard, Carl Mays, Art Nehf, Deacon Phillippe, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White.

6. With the same proviso, the contributors: umpires-Bob Emslie, Tim Hurst; owners-Charles Ebbets, August Herrmann; Negro Leagues-Pete Hill, Oliver Marcell, Dobie Moore, Spottswood Poles, Ben Taylor; and pioneer William R. Wheaton.

7. I’m not doing 1935, but my best guess is that Max Carey, who had the record for most stolen bases in the National League (modern definition) in 1935 would make it. I’m not sure about any other everyday players. Among pitchers Coveleski would be, and I’m guessing here, the one with the best change of getting in. And I’d guess Oliver Marcell as the top choice among contributors. The only one I’d bet on would be Carey.

8. I’m going to do a wrap up later that will address questions some of you probably have, some I certainly have, and look at what I found out in doing this project.

9. I am sorry that I’m going to miss guys like Babe Ruth and John Henry Lloyd, but it’s up to Cooperstown to fix that when they vote in 1936. I’m banking on Ruth making it quickly, but don’t hold your breath over Lloyd.

 

 

 

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Win the MVP, Get a Car

August 18, 2016
Hugh Chalmers pictured on the cover of his biography

Hugh Chalmers pictured on the cover of his biography

The idea of a Most Valuable Player isn’t new. The current award goes back to the 1930s and before that there were two other versions of the award. In the 1920s the League Awards anointed an MVP in each league and prior to that there were the very first MVP style awards–the Chalmers Awards.

Hugh Chalmers began his rise to entrepreneurial prominence with the National Cash Register Company, becoming vice president at age 30. He was also an early automobile enthusiast. He got into the business early, buying into the Thomas-Detroit car company (Thomas was E. R. Thomas another early automobile magnate) in 1907. He took control of the company in 1909. He changed the name to Chalmers-Detroit and in 1911 dropped the Detroit. The company was moderately successful doing well until the US entry into World War I (April 1917). The Maxwell Company, under lease from Chalmers, took over much of their manufacturing space under government contract and made vehicles for the war effort. After the war ended, Chalmers returned to manufacturing his automobiles, but the damage was done. The company faltered, Chalmers merged with Maxwell in 1922, and made his last car in 1923. Maxwell later became the basis of Chrysler. He died in 1932 still in his 50s.

Chalmers was also a baseball fan. In 1910 he hit on the idea of combining his business with the sport to sponsor an award for baseball’s best players. The award was one of his cars. It would be great publicity for his company and recognize baseball’s best all at the same time. He got the leagues to agree to the idea of an annual award. Originally the award was to be given to the batting champ (batting average), the man with the highest batting average in either league (s0 only one car was given away)

Of course it wouldn’t be baseball if controversy hadn’t ensued. On the last day of the American League season Ty Cobb, leading the batting race, sat out the game. Indians second baseman Napoleon LaJoie was only a few points behind him and managed eight hits in a season ending doubled header. That gave him the batting title except that the St. Louis Browns, in a rebuke to Cobb’s playing style, played their third baseman so deep that LaJoie easily beat out eight bunts. Detroit, and a lot of other places, called foul and AL President Ban Johnson gave the batting title to Cobb (and there is still controversy today over who actually won the title) and declared, with Chalmers’ consent, that both men would receive a car. The National League batting champ, Sherry Magee, was well behind both Cobb and LaJoie (as well as Tris Speaker) so he didn’t figure in the debate.

The next season there were some changes in the award. First, it became officially an MVP Award. It could go to the “most important and useful player” as determined by a committee of baseball writers, without reference to whether he won the batting title or not (meaning that now pitchers were eligible). Second, there would be one in each league. That seemed to solve the worst problems.

Except of course it didn’t. In 1911 Ty Cobb again had a great year and won the 1911 Chalmers Award in the AL (and another car). That created a problem. No one wanted to give Cobb a new car every year and there was good reason to believe he might be the “most important and useful player” for a lot of years. So they made another change. Having won a Chalmers Award, a player was ineligible to win a second (meaning no one got more than one car). That seemed to solve the problem, but it created another. When the League Awards began in the 1920s, the “win one, ineligible for another” rule was put in place. Apparently the powers that be forgot why the Chalmers Award had that rule (the League Awards didn’t give out a car). When they got to the modern MVP in the 1930s, they dumped the one award only rule.

The problem now arose that the Award wasn’t helping Chalmers sell cars. His sales didn’t go up as he expected and it was expensive giving away two cars every year. The Award last through the 1914 season when Chalmers dropped his offer (and MLB didn’t continue the award without the car).

Here’s a quick list of the winners of the Chalmers Award:

AL: 1911-Cobb, 1912-Tris Speaker, 1913-Walter Johnson (the only pitcher to win the award), 1914-Eddie Collins

NL: 1911-Wildfire Schulte, 1912-Larry Doyle, 1913-Jake Daubert, 1914-Johnny Evers

Although it only lasted four years (and the 1910 fiasco), the Chalmers Award is important in baseball history. It established the idea of a postseason award for playing excellence, leading to the current MVP, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Henry Aaron awards, among others. It’s interesting to note that all four of the AL Chalmers winners ended up in the Hall of Fame, while only Johnny Evers among NL winners made it to Cooperstown. That might help explain why the AL was dominant in the World Series’ of the nineteen-teens.

Nap LaJoie and Ty Cobb (left to right) in a 1910 Chalmers 30 Automobile

Nap LaJoie and Ty Cobb (left to right) in a 1910 Chalmers 30 Automobile

 

 

 

1915: A New Dynasty Forms in the American League

April 6, 2015
Duffy Lewis

Duffy Lewis

The end of the 1914 season saw the end of the first Philadelphia Athletics dynasty. They won the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913, then lost it in 1914. The team broke up after the 1914 World Series, leaving a vacuum at the top of the American League. In 1912, the one year Philly hadn’t won, the Boston Red Sox grabbed the AL pennant and won the World Series. Beginning in 1915, Boston established a new dynasty that was to rule the AL through 1918.

The 1915 BoSox were a mixture of holdovers from 1912 and a series of new, or at least new to Boston, players. The manager had changed. Jake Stahl, manager of the 1912 team was gone, replaced with Bill Carrigan. Carrigan was the starting catcher for the 1912 team who took over the Red Sox with 70 games left in the 1914 season. He was considered a decent enough catcher and a so-so hitter (in other words he was a solid, but unspectacular player whose career hovered around mediocre). He was 32 in 1915 and still did some catching on occasion. He would remain with Boston as both a player and manager one more year, winning the pennant again in 1916.

The other catchers were Pinch Thomas and Hick Cady. Thomas hit in the .230s while Cady hit in the .270s. Although Thomas hit from the left side while Cady stepped into the right-handers batters box, they had almost exactly the same amount of at bats (205 for Cady and 203 for Thomas), indicating it wasn’t exactly a modern platoon system behind the plate.

The infield consisted of (from first to third) Dick Hoblitzell, Jack Barry, Everett Scott, and Larry Gardner. The latter was the only one remaining from 1912’s starting infield. He’d lost 50 points off his batting average from 1912, but was still a good third baseman for the era. Hoblitzell was third on the team with 61 RBIs and tied for second with 12 triples. Scott was 22 and playing only his second season. He hit all of .201, but was a good enough shortstop to push Barry to second base. Barry was one of the reasons the Athletics were no longer a power. He’d been the shortstop of the “$100,000 Infield” and a stalwart of the A’s pennant runs. In 1915 he was only 28 and still a capable fielder. He hit .262 and, in a base running crazy era, never even attempted a stolen base in 1915.

If the infield was largely new, the outfield was the same. The 1912-1915 Boston outfield is considered by many the best Deadball Era outfield and in some circles still holds a position in the top five or ten greatest outfields ever. Duffy Lewis played left field. He hit .291, tied for the team lead in home runs (among starters) with two, led the team in RBIs, and was second in hits.His OPS+ was 121. The other two outfielders were Hall of Fame center fielders. As two men couldn’t play center at the same time, Harry Hooper moved to right field. He was a stellar fielder who had a down year in 1915. He hit only .235, but led the team in triples (13), and was fifth in RBIs. Even with a bad average, he managed an OPS+ of 103. The actual center fielder was Tris Speaker. “Spoke” hit .322, led the team in hits, stolen bases, and was second in RBIs. He was a great center fielder whose OPS+ was 151 and who had a WAR (BBREF version) of 7.1, higher than the next two men (Lewis and Hooper) combined (3.2 and 3.1).

There was a long bench, especially for the era. Hal Janvrin, Heinie Wagner, and Del Gainer all got into more than 80 games and Olaf Henriksen got into 73. Of the lot Gainer had the highest average and the only home run. In fact, if you discount pitchers, he had the only home run by a bench player.

But if you don’t discount pitchers there are six more home runs, four of them by a second year lefty named Babe Ruth. Ruth hit .318, had an OPS+ of 188 and led the team with the four home runs. Smokey Joe Wood and Rube Foster (obviously not the Negro National League founder) had the other two. Ernie Shore had one of those great Deadball stats that you don’t see much anymore. He hit all of .101, but in eight hits he had four doubles, a triple, and 10 RBIs. All that gave him an OPS+ of 1.

But Shore, like Ruth, wasn’t there to hit. The staff was very good. Five men started double figure games. Foster and Shore both had 19 wins, Ruth getting 18. Wood and Dutch Leonard each had 15. All had more innings pitched than hits allowed, and only Ruth had more walks (86) than strikeouts (82). Ruth’s 2.44 was the highest ERA while Wood’s 1.49 led the starters. Carl Mays, at age 23, was the main man in the bullpen, registering 31 relief appearances, seven saves, and six starts. His record was 6-5. Twenty-one year old Herb Pennock was also over from Philadelphia, but only pitched 14 innings over five games. His Hall of Fame career would bloom later.

Over the season the BoSox won 101 games and beat Detroit for the pennant by 2.5 games. They were third in the AL in runs, second in RBIs, next-to-last in home runs, and dead last in stolen bases. Their team ERA was second in the AL behind only last place Washington (and Walter Johnson). They were also second (again to Washington) in runs and hits allowed, and were third in strikeouts (again Washington led, this time with Chicago in second). Individually, Speaker was fourth in hits and runs scored, sixth in total bases, seventh in doubles, and sixth in walks.  Lewis finished ninth in hits, eighth in total bases, second in doubles, and ninth in RBIs. Hooper was eighth in runs scored, ninth in triples, and fifth in walks. Speaker’s 7.1 WAR was third in the league behind Ty Cobb and Eddie Collins (another A’s refugee, now at Chicago). Ruth’s four home runs tied for ninth in the AL. Among pitchers Shore was third in ERA and tied for sixth in wins. Foster tied Shore for sixth in wins, with Ruth showing up as ninth. Carl Mays’ seven saves were easily the best among AL pitchers.

The 1915 season was the first of a four-year run for Boston. They would win the 1915 and 1916 World Series’, then repeat again in the shortened 1918 season (finishing second in 1917). This dynasty would be the end for the Red Sox. After 1918 they wouldn’t win another pennant until 1946 and not win the World Series until the 21st Century.

Opening Day 1914: American League

March 27, 2014
Stuffy McInnis, first base Philadelphia Athletics

Stuffy McInnis, first base Philadelphia Athletics

Next week marks what most of us consider the real Opening Day for MLB. So it’s time for a look at what was going on Opening Day 100 years ago. As the American League contained the World Champion Athletics, I think I’ll start with them (having done the “outlaw” Federal League already).

The champion A’s were much the same team as the 1913 version with the $100,000 Infield in place (Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank Baker). The outfield was still decent and in Wally Schang the A’s had a good catcher. They led the AL in hits, runs, home runs, RBIs, and average. The Athletics used a dominant pitching staff to rule the A for five years, but it was beginning to fray. Jack Coombs was gone (he pitched only 2 games), Eddie Plank was 38 and not aging well. Herb Pennock had five starts over the previous two years, while Bullet Joe Bush had all of 17. As a consequence, the A’s would have 24 shutouts, but lead the league in no other category. They were fourth in ERA and hits allowed.

Two teams would give them a run for their money. One was Washington. The Senators finished 19 games back, but they had Walter Johnson who led the AL in wins, shutouts, and strikeouts.

The greater challenge came from Boston. the Red Sox still had Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis, ad Harry Hooper as their outfield. Speaker led the league in hits and doubles. Pitcher Dutch Leonard went 19-5 with an all-time low ERA of 1.00 (try losing five games with that ERA). But the most important news at Boston and for baseball in general was the arrival on 11 July of a rookie pitcher from Baltimore with the nickname of “Babe” Ruth. He would go 2-1 over four games (three starts), but it was the beginning of the most famous of all Major League careers.

Around the rest of the AL, Ty Cobb again won a batting title (.368) and the slugging crown (.513). His teammate Sam Crawford led the league in RBIs and triples. Fritz Maisel, a third baseman for the Highlanders, won the stolen base title with 74 and Baker with the A’s copped the home run title with nine. In April future Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber made his debut for the White Sox, while Fred McMullin, one of the 1919 Black Sox (and Faber teammate) played his first big league game with Detroit in August. The 1920s stalwarts Everett Scott and Jack Tobin also first show up in 1914. Finally, 1914 is the rookie campaign for Bill Wambsganss, famous for the only unassisted triple play in World Series history (1920).

In the World Series, Philadelphia would be mauled by the “Miracle Braves” of Boston. It would be the end of Connie Mack’s A’s dynasty (he’d put together another in 1929) and the arrival of Ruth would signal the start of a new dynasty. This one in Fenway Park.

 

Opening Day, 1913: American League

April 3, 2013
Walter Johnson (later than 1913)

Walter Johnson (later than 1913)

In 1913, the American League opened its season one day later than the National League. Opening Day was 10 April. Among other games it saw Philadelphia win its first game of the season.

Although the Red Sox were defending World’s Champions, Connie Mack’s Athletics were the loaded team. The 1913 A’s boasted the “$100,000 Infield” of Stuffy McInnis at first, Jack Barry at short, and Hall of Famers Eddie Collins and Frank Baker at second and third. Of outfielders Rube Oldring, Amos Strunk, Eddie Murphy (obviously not the modern comedian), and Jimmy Walsh, only Oldring was older than 25 (he was 29) and only Walsh hit below .280. Jack Lapp and rookie Wally Schang shared catching duties with Schang being much the better hitter. Aging Danny Murphy was solid of the bench. It was a strong team that looked good for many years. They had won the 1910 and 1911 World Series and finished third in 1912. The fall back was primarily because of the pitching. Ace Eddie Plank was 37 and former ace Jack Coombs was ill from typhoid. There was nothing wrong with Chief Bender, however, and he managed 21 wins with a 2.21 ERA and 13 saves. The A’s would win the pennant by 6.5 over Washington and beat up on the Giants in the World Series, winning four games to one.

The Senators would finish second primarily because they had Walter Johnson and no one else did. Johnson had a season for the ages. He went 36-6, had an ERA of 1.14, struck out 243 men, and ended with an ERA+ of 259. It got him the pitching triple crown and the AL’s Chalmers Award (an early form of the MVP). The Chalmers lasted four years (eight total awards) and Johnson is the only pitcher to win one. Washington’s top hitter was probably Chick Gandil, who became infamous in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.

Defending champ Boston would finish in fourth (Cleveland was third) 15.5 games back. Tris Speaker hit in the .360s but the pitching collapsed. Notably, Smoky Joe Wood went from 34 wins to 11.

Ty Cobb won another batting title, hitting .390, while Baker won both the home run and RBI titles. Collins led the AL in runs, while Cleveland’s Joe Jackson had the most hits.

1913 saw a number of rookies who would make their mark. On 28 June Wally Pipp played his first game for the Tigers. He would anchor first base for the initial Yankees pennant winners before losing his position to Lou Gehrig. Hall of Fame outfielder Edd Roush made his debut on 20 August with Chicago. On 4 August Cleveland brought up Billy Southworth. He was an okay players, but made the Hall of Fame as a manager. Finally on 17 September Detroit brought Lefty Williams to the Major Leagues. He would eventually lose three games while helping the 1919 White Sox throw the World Series.

1912: The Man from Denmark

August 9, 2012

Olaf Henriksen in his rookie season (1911)

As most of you know, the Boston Red Sox won the 1912 American League Pennant, their first since 1904. Then they went on to win the World Series in dramatic fashion. Their outfield of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper consistently ranks as one of the premier outfields in Major League history and is frequently ranked as the best in the Deadball Era. With an outfield like that the backup outfielder tends to get lost in the shuffle. Olaf Henriksen, the backup in 1912, is one of those, even though he had a critical hit in the final game of the 1912 World Series.

Henriksen was born in Denmark in 1888, the only Major Leaguer born in Denmark. He was still young when his family arrived in the United States. He discovered baseball, liked it, and best of all was good at it. He joined the New England League team in Brockton, Massachusetts and by 1911 was with the Red Sox. He was the backup outfielder in an era when there tended to be only one. He was considered primarily a left fielder (Lewis’s replacement), he actually played very little in the field, becoming something of a specialty pinch hitter. He was good at it, managing a .449 OBP in 1911, still the second highest OBP by a rookie in the 20th Century. He surpassed that in 1912 with an OBP of .457, and set his career high in 1913 with an OBP of .468. 

A left-handed batter (and thrower), Henriksen had little power, hitting one home run in his entire career (1914). In only 487 at bats he walked 97 times, struck out 73, scored 84 runs, and had 48 RBIs. He managed 22 games in center field, 42 in left, and  61 in right field with 31 games in the field in 1916 being his high, much of his field work coming after the trade of Speaker to Cleveland.

Despite being from Denmark, he was nicknamed “Swede”. Apparently that was a generic nickname for Scandinavians in the era. As far as I can tell, Henriksen never went out of his way to correct others concerning his origins. He seems to have been both well liked and relatively quiet. His big moment came in the final game of the 1912 World Series, when he slugged a pinch hit double in the seventh inning tying the score. Boston ultimately won the game and the Series in extra innings. It was his only at bat of the Series.

His career was short, ending after the 1917 season. He hit .083 with an OBP of only .267. He was 29 and through. After a couple of years and a few odd jobs, he picked up the coaching job at Boston College. He managed the team from 1922-1924.

Henriksen is one of those players that go lost in the mists of time. But he was the kind of player that teams need in order to win consistently. He got on base a lot, made the most of his playing time, and was one of the pioneering career pinch hitters. You see that last quite a lot now. Guys like Manny Mota made their name pinch-hitting. Henriksen was, in some ways, their grandfather.

The 50 Greatest Red Sox

April 20, 2012

The Birthday Boy

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, ESPN Boston just released its list of the 50 Greatest Red Sox. It’s an interesting list and frankly not a bad one, although I would disagree with some of the selections. Here’s a list of their top 10 in order: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Tris Speaker, Pedro Martinez, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, and Bobby Doerr. Before you ask, Jim Rice is 11th.

Again, not a bad list but I wonder how much Clemens rancorous departure and the subsequent steroid controversy contributed to his rank below both Martinez and Young. I’m a little surprised Grove is a top 10 over Wade Boggs or Rice, but why not. You got to admit, that’s one heck of an outfield, isn’t it?

In case you’re interested it takes all the way to 30th to get a full team. According to this listing, the best Red Sox team is:

Infield: Foxx, Doerr, Joe Cronin (18th), and Wade Boggs (13th)

Outfield: Williams, Yastrzemski, Speaker

Catcher: Carlton Fisk (14th)

DH: Rice (11th and the first position player who would not have a regular spot in the field, hence he’s the DH)

Left Handed Starters: Ruth and Grove

Right Handed Starters: Martinez, Young, and Clemens

Closer: Dick Radatz (30th)

Agree? Disagree? Fine, but compliment or complain to ESPN: Boston, it’s their list.

1912: Opening Day

April 11, 2012

Mae West in 1912

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of Opening Day in 1912. It was a different world then. William Howard Taft was President of the United States (although Woodrow Wilson would win the election in November). Most people still rode the train or horse and buggy. Wyatt Earp and Cole Younger were still alive, as was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria whose death two years later would spark a World War. Al Capone, Frank Nitti, and Elliot Ness were nobodies. Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin were writing ragtime music and Geroge Gershwin was still four years from publishing his first song. No one had ever heard of John Wayne and Mae West was just getting started on Broadway, but Mary Pickford was America’s darling and Lillian Gish was just beginning a career that would make her a great star. She’d hitched her ambitions to a genius named D.W. Griffith who was starting to toy with the idea of making a movie two hours long, an unheard of length for a “flicker”. Molly Brown wasn’t yet “unsinkable” because the Titanic was still three days from be introduced to icebergs.  George Gipp (of “win one for the Gipper” fame) had yet to play a down for Notre Dame and Babe Ruth had not yet appeared in a Red Sox uniform.

For Boston, 1912 would be an exceptionally good year. Down 2-1 in the ninth inning, the Red Sox would storm back to win on Opening Day. By the end of the season they would win 105 games, finish first by 14 (over Walter Johnson and the Senators), then win a famous World Series over the Giants four games to three (with a tie). The outfield of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper is considered one of the finest, if not the finest, Deadball Era outfield. Both Speaker and Hooper eventually made the Hall of Fame. Although Hooper had a down year in 1912, Speaker was tremendous and Lewis had a fine season. Jake Stahl managed and played first. He joined Speaker and third baseman Larry Gardner as .300 hitters. Steve Yerkes and Heinie Wagner rounded out the infield and Bill Carrigan did the bulk of the catching. Joe Wood hit .290 and won 34 games. Hugh Bedient and Buck O’Brien both won twenty and Charley Hall and Ray Collins (not the old actor) won in double figures.

The National League saw the New York Giants score 18 runs and pound out 22 hits as the started the season with a victory over Brooklyn. John McGraw’s team would win 103 games and finish 10 ahead of Pittsburgh. As with most McGraw teams, it was the pitching that stood out. Christy Mathewson won 23 games and walked only 34 in 310 innings of work. Lefty Rube Marquard won even more games with 26, while Jeff Tesreau, Red Ames, and Doc Crandall won between 11 and 17 games. Tesreau managed to cop the ERA title. In the field, catcher Chief Meyers had a terrific year, hitting over 350, winning an OBP title, and slugging almost .450. The infield of Fred Merkle, Larry Doyle, Art Fletcher, and Buck Herzog (first around to third )feathured two .300 hitters and two men with 10 or more homer runs (Merkle and Doyle in each case). The outfield featured Fred Snodgrass, who would make a memorable gaffe in the World Series, Josh Devore, Beals Becker, and Red Murray. None of them hit .300, but Murray slugged over .400.

Other noteworthy achievements of the season in the NL included Heinie Zimmerman winning the NL batting, slugging, home run, and OPS titles. Honus Wagner picked up the RBI title while Cincinnati leftfielder Bob Bescher swipped 67 bases to win the stolen base crown. Larry Cheney tied Marquard for the league lead in wins while Grover Cleveland Alexander picked up the strikeout title with 195. Nap Rucker of Brooklyn and Marty O’Toole at Pittsburgh each had six shutouts. The league lead in saves was six, turned in by Slim Sallee of the Cardinals. The Chalmers Award (the 1912 version of the MVP) went to Larry Doyle over Meyers (got me). 

In the American League Ty Cobb hit .409 to win the batting title. He also picked up slugging and OPS titles, while Speaker won the OBP title. Frank Baker won the home run title and tied with Speaker for the RBI lead. Clyde Milan of Washington won the stolen base crown with 88 steals. Walter Johnson won both the ERA and strikeout titles at the same time he put up 33 wins, one less than Wood. Wood also had 10 shutouts, while Ed Walsh at Chicago picked up 10 saves. It should not surprise you that Speaker picked up the AL’s Chalmers Award.

Run Like the Wind

April 9, 2012

Ty Cobb sliding into third. The lack of fans in the stands may indicate this picture is staged

When I think of the Deadball Era in baseball I generally think of three things: pitching, low scores, and base running. Our image of the era is of low scoring games with lots of stolen bases, gap power, and great pitching. As a rule that’s true, but there is another element that needs to be considered. The baserunners weren’t very good.

Here’s a set of numbers for you: 185/182, 258/168, 276/157, 273/151, 194/131, 213/193, 247/184, 176/174. Those are the stolen base numbers for each American League team one hundred years ago (1912). The first number is the number of successful steal, the second number is the number of caught stealing. Percentages are as follows (teams in the same order): 50.4, 60.1, 63.7, 64.4, 59.7, 52.5, 57.3, 50.3. Not real good, are they? Now the kicker. These aren’t in order of finish in the league, but are in hitting order. Boston finished first and is listed first (50.4% success rate), but Washington, which finished second is listed fourth (64.4%). Detroit,which finished sixth is listed third  (63.7%). So there’s not much correlation between stealing bases at a successful rate and winning a pennant. Boston finished next to last (the 50.3% belongs to St. Louis which finished seventh) while Detroit finished second in success rate, but ended the season deep in the second division.

Selected players? Well, here’s a handful of well-known names. Tris Speaker stole 52, but was caught 28 times (a 65% success rate). Ty Cobb stole 61 and was caught 34 times (a 64% success rate). Sam Crawford was 42 and 13 for a success rate of 76%. Eddie Collins is 63 and 22 for a 74% rate. And Clyde Milan, who led the AL in stolen bases was 88 and 31 for a success rate of 74%. Milan, Collins, Cobb, and Speaker were the top four in the AL in stolen bases for 1912. And before anyone asks, the caught stealing stats are incomplete for the National League in 1912.

How’s this stack up against more modern players? using only three, Rickey Henderson had a 80.1% success rate, Luis Aparicio a 78.4% success rate, and Tim Raines as 84.7% success rate for their careers. All are better than the 1912 guys, but Crawford is close with the 76%.

For the entire AL in the entire season the numbers are 1822 stolen bases and 1340 caught stealing for a 52.6% success rate. Ninety years late (2002) the numbers are 1236 and 579 for a 68% success rate. True the total numbers are down but we are in a power era when stolen base totals tend to decrease. As a check, I looked at 1911 and 1913. The stats were incomplete but what stats there were indicated that 1912 wasn’t out of line for the era. I acknowledge that this is only a three-year look at incomplete stats and that a more in-depth study might yield different results.

What do I make of all this? A couple of things jump out at me. First, the guys who steal a lot of bases aren’t that much worse than their modern counterparts, but are below the newer guys when it comes to success. Second, the guys who aren’t great base stealers in 1912 are really, really awful. Take, for instance, the pennant winning Red Sox. Four of their primary starters actually had more caught stealing than successful stolen bases and one guy was at 21/20. A lot of other teams have similar numbers. Also, and this is a bit of a stretch, but you have to conclude that Deadball Era catchers had much better arms than we’ve been led to believe or a lot of pitchers had really first-rate pick-off moves. Further study could indicate how correct these conclusions are for the entire era.

Hot Stove League 1912 (AL)

January 5, 2012

Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper about 1912

Today we baseball junkies get our November-February fix by engaging in what’s called “The Hot Stove League”. It was no different 100 years ago. Here’s a few things the 1912 American League fan had to be discussing in January 100 years ago.

Could the Athletics repeat? The Philadelphia Athletics were two-time defending champions. Could they make it three in a row? No one ever had in the American League. We know the answer is “no.” Chief Bender had a down year, rookies Herb Pennock and Stan Coveleski (future Hall of Famers) didn’t do much (Coveleski only pitched 21 innings).

If not, who could take them? Boston had finished fifth in 1911, but  Jake Stahl took over as manager (and had a good year at first base), the outfield of Harry Hooper, Tris Speaker, and Duffy Lewis became arguably the finest Deadball Era outfield, third baseman Larry Gardner had a good season (better than Hooper’s), and Smokey Joe Wood won 30 games.

 Was Walter Johnson a fluke? After three so-so seasons, Johnson put together two 20 win seasons in 1910 and 1911. Fans had to wonder if he could continue. Short answer? Yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911, could Ty Cobb do it again? Again the answer turned out to be yes.

After hitting .400 in 1911 and losing the batting title to Cobb, could new guy Joe Jackson hit .400 in 1912 and win the batting title? Jackson slipped to .395, but led the AL in triples.

Would the team in New York, which had finished second in 1910 and slipped back to sixth in 1911 under now ousted manager Hal Chase recover or continue to slide. They dropped all the way to last place in 1912 with Chase still at first and sulking (among other things). He did lead the team in RBIs with 58.

And finally would Chicago pitcher Ed Walsh’s arm fall off? Walsh led the AL in games pitched in 1907, 1908, 1910, and 1911. Could he do it again? He could. He pitched in 62 games, starting 41, completing 32, and pitching 393 innings (read that last number closely).  Apparently the arm stayed attached, but the toll finally got to him. He developed a sore arm in 1913 and his career was effectively over.

Part of the joy of baseball is actually the offseason. The speculation, the anticipation, the questioning all make for a lot of fun. I love it, I hope you love it, and I’m sure fans 100 years ago loved it too.