Posts Tagged ‘Union Association’

On The Road Again

March 23, 2015
This is supposed to be a picture of the 1884 St. Paul Apostles

This is supposed to be a picture of the 1884 St. Paul Apostles

When Willie Nelson penned “On the Road Again” he saw it as a joy to get moving and live a life he loved. OK for Willie I guess, but I never figured out how he could leave Dyan Cannon for that other broad in the flick. But for the St. Paul Apostles it was a different story. It was all on the road and it wasn’t particularly successful.

In 1884, Minnesota was part of a bustling minor league area of the upper Midwest. The primary league was the Northwest League and it was, as was true of a lot of leagues, in financial trouble. By August most of the teams folded, but the team in St. Paul hung on. The team was called the Apostles, but was sometimes known as the White Caps or the Saints. No one’s quite sure which, if any, were official.

The year 1884 saw the formation of the Union Association, a one year wonder of a major league. It was, for the entire season, on shaky financial ground and teams folded and were formed during the season. A few of the franchises, notably the one in St. Louis, were stable, but others not so much. By September the league was in trouble and looking for teams to help flush out a schedule. St. Paul was looking for a league to play in. It was an obvious match, almost a match made in heaven (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

On 27 September 1884, the Apostles (or White Caps, or Saints, or God knows what else) played their first major league game against the Cincinnati team in Cincinnati. They lost 6-1. On the 30th and the 1st of October they played two more games against Cincy, both games in Cincinnati. They lost 6-1 again and 7-0. The 2nd of October was a travel day which took them to St. Louis for a two game series against the Maroons, the league leader. They lost the first game 8-5, then on 5 October 1884 they won their first game by beating the Maroons 1-0. From there it was on to Kansas City for a three game set. The Apostles reached their apex on 8 October when they defeated Kansas City 9-5 to run their record to 2-4. It was downhill from there. They dropped the next game at Kansas City 7-2, then fashioned a 4-4 tie on 12 October. The next day they closed out their season back in St. Louis taking at 6-2 for a final record of 2-6-1. They ended the season 39.5 games out of first. The Union Association folded at the end of the season and the Apostles were through with Major League play.

But did you notice something about the games? They’re all road games. The Apostles are the only team in Major League history to never play a home game. Not a single home game. Not one. It’s a strange record not likely to ever be broken.

So now you’re bound to be asking, “Just exactly who are these guys?” Glad you asked. The team consisted of 11 players. The manager was Andrew Thompson. It was his only year as a Major League manager so he finished his career with a 2-6-1 record, a .250 winning percentage, and not one home win to his credit. Here’s the roster for you to check out.
Charlie Ganzel–was the primary catcher. He played several years in the Majors (1885-97) hitting .259 with 10 home runs and helped the Beaneaters to a National League pennant.

Steve Dunn–played first. It was his only season in the Major Leagues. His .250 led the Apostles in hitting and is the franchise record.

Emery “Moxie” Hengel–played second.  He played a few games for Chicago’s Union Association team before joining St. Paul. In 1885 he played seven games for Buffalo in the National League.

Joe Werrick–was the shortstop. His .074 average was the team low and is also the franchise record for futility. He did get into several games for Louisville in the American Association in 1886-1888. His hitting improved. He managed to hit ,285 in 1887 and had 7 home runs with 99 RBIs.

Bill O’Brien–was the third baseman. He had a solid big league career from 1887 through 1890. He hit .256 for a career and led the NL in home runs with 19 for Washington in 1887. He hit 13 for the entire rest of his career. He pitched in one game for the Apostles and got the win (that ties the franchise record for wins).

John “Scrappy” Carroll–outfielder. He played a little in 1885 for Buffalo and then resurfaced in 1887 when he played 57 games for Cleveland in the American Association.

Bill Barnes–played outfield. It was his only season in the Major Leagues.

John Tilley–was an outfielder. He’d played 15 games for the Cleveland Blues of the NL in 1882 and hit all of .082. He showed up again in 1884 with Toledo in the American Association hitting .179 in 17 games. He joined the Apostles after leaving Toledo and never played another Major League game.

Lou Galvin–pitched in three games going 0-2 with an ERA of .288. He struck out 17 and walked 10. It was his only Major League duty. As far as I can determine, he isn’t related to Hall of Fame pitcher Pud Galvin.

Jim Brown–pitched and played outfield. He began the season with Altoona in the Union Association, then went to the Giants. He ended up with St. Paul and went 1-4, tying O’Brien for the franchise record in wins. He struck out 20 and walked 14 (both franchise records). He shows up in the Majors again in 1886 with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. He went 1-4 in his last big league season.

Pat Dealy–caught and played outfield. He moved on from St. Paul to play both 1885 and 1886 with Boston in the National League, playing all over the diamond (but mostly as a catcher). He played third and caught for Washington in 1887, then in 1890 showed up as a utility player for Syracuse of the American Association.

With no home games St. Paul has to be one of the more unusual teams to ever play in the Majors. It’s nine total games are among the lowest in history. I wonder if it had any home fans following them in the papers. That was, after all, about the only way a home town fan could follow them without leaving town.

Why 1910 Matters

October 11, 2010

Since April I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time running all over the 1910 baseball season. Part of that is simply because it was 100 years ago and a centennial is worth remembering. It’s also because the season is interesting in itself. But primarily I’ve been focusing on the 1910 season because it is a watershed season for Major League Baseball. There are a lot of reasons why. Here are some in no particular order.

1. The appointment of Hal Chase as manager of the Highlanders (Yankees) is not, for managerial purposes, all that important. What is important is the ability of the owners and the National Commission (which ran baseball before Judge Landis) to look the other way when it came to gambling in the big leagues. Failure to crack down on this sort of activity meant that it was going to get worse and that eventually something like the Black Sox scandal was bound to occur. The players likely to participate in this kind of thing now had proof that not only were the powers that be not going to do anything about gambling,  but might actually reward a player if the situation was right. I don’t want to compare it directly with the steroid situation of the 1990s, but it does seem that Malamud was right, we really don’t learn from our mistakes (The book “The Natural”–not the movie–has this as one of its central themes.).

2. During the 19th Century the National Association, the Union Association, the American Association, and the Player’s League had all existed, as had the National League. By 1892 they were all gone. Only the American Association survived 10 seasons, and by the tenth was on life support. By contrast the American League, founded in 1901, was now ten years old and flourishing. The 1910 season marked a decade of success both as a business and on the field. Frankly, baseball had not had this kind of stability in its history. Ban Johnson had managed to create a new Major League and made it work. By 1910 there was no question the AL was here to stay and that the National League finally had a partner co-equal to it. 

3. The Athletics had created the first successful AL dynasty. From league founding in 1901 through 1910, four teams won all the AL pennants: Chicago (1901, 1906), Philadelphia (1902, 1905, 1910), Boston (1903-1904), and Detroit (1907-1909). None of the pre-1910 teams created a dynasty. OK, Detroit won three years in a row, but was defeated in all three World Series matchups, which is kinda hard to call a dynasty. Let’s be honest, dynasties work, especially if they happen to be your team. Baseball seems to do best in attendance and popularity when there is a dynasty. They give fans both a hero and a villain (depending on whether you like the team or not) and 3500 years of drama tell us that nothing  in entertainment sells like heroes and villains. On top of that, it was easy to like the A’s. Connie Mack was a nice enough human being (except when it came to paying his players–a common problem in the era). You hear very few negative comments about Eddie Collins, Frank Baker, or Stuffy McInnis. And in the case of  Chief Bender, he was a sympathetic figure to many fans because of all the racial riding he took (he was an American Indian). All those things went together to help boost attendance and cash.

4. The Cubs dynasty had come to an end. If one dynasty was born in 1910, another died. The “Tinker to Evers to Chance” Cubs had their last fling in 1910. Between 1906 and 1910 the Cubs dominated the NL. They won four of five pennants (losing in 1909 to Pittsburgh) and two World Series’ (1907-8). But 1910 was the end. In the Cubs Postmortem post I detailed what went wrong, so I don’t intend to do it again. But the loss of the Cubs dynasty is signficant because it allowed for a more wide open NL. If having a dynasty is good for baseball, having two isn’t. One league has to remain open for fans to believe their team has a chance to win. With the death of the Cubs dynasty hope could rise for other teams in the NL, notably John McGraw’s New York team, but also in the next ten years Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Cincinnati would also win pennants (as would the Cubs in 1918). The end of the Cubs dynasty also ushered in the beginning of the Cubs mystique as the “loveable losers.” With only sporadic exception, the Cubs have been non-factors in the NL since.  After four pennants in five seasons, the Cubs have won the NL title exactly six times (1918, 1929, 1932, 1935. 1938, 1945). They are now a synonym for “loser”, a tradition that began with the end of the 1910 season.

5 The AL became the dominant league. I said earlier that the reasons 1910 mattered were in no particular order, but this one is last on purpose because it’s the most important. Between 1903 and 1909 there were six World Series matchups. The NL won four (1905, 1907-09) and the AL only two (1903, 1906). By 1910, the AL hadn’t beaten the NL in four years. All that changed in 1910. Take a look at the next ten years, actually 11 because I’m going to ignore the 1919 “fixed” Series. Between 1910 and 1920 inclusive the NL wins one untainted World Series, 1914. And it took a team known as the “Miracle Braves” to do that.  The AL won everything else: Philadelphia in 1910-11, 1913; Boston in 1912, 1915-16, 1918; Chicago in 1917; and Cleveland in 1920. And that kind of dominance continues in some measure all the way to 2010. Here’s the World Series wins by league by decade since 1910 (going from the zero year to the nine year to determine a decade, thus 1920-29, 1940-49, etc.) 1910-19: AL-8, NL-2 (including 1919), 1920-29: AL-6, NL-4, 1930-9: AL-7, NL-3; 1940-9: AL-6, NL-4, 1950-9: AL-6, NL-4, 1960-9: AL-4, NL-6, 1970-9: AL-6, NL-4; 1980-9: AL-5, NL 5, 1990-9: AL-6, NL-3 (and no series in 1994): 2000-9: AL-6, NL-4. In each decade except the 1960s, when the NL actually wins more World Series championships and  1980s when the each win five, the American League has won the more often. I think this is much more significant than the results of the All Star game which saw the NL have along period of dominance in the 1960s and 1970s. I’m not really impressed with winning an exhibition game. So the American League has been the superior league in most of the last 100 years, and that began in 1910.

I’ve enjoyed going over the 1910 season. I learned a lot, some significant, some trivial. I’ve begun to celebrate the players of the era more by having done this, and I consider that a good thing. Hope you enjoyed it.

1884

March 30, 2010

Most baseball seasons go along pretty much the same. Very few of them end up being particularly memorable except for a few diehard fans, bloggers like me, and antiquarians whose job it is to study them. Case in point: who won the World Series in 1933? OK, if you looked it up you know the Giants beat the Senators in five games. If you went further, you found the MVPs, the stat leaders, and maybe a bit of info like it was the first All Star Game. But almost everybody had to look it up. But 1884 is different and memorable. It is arguably the most interesting year of  19th Century baseball for five reasons.

1. There are three leagues. It’s the first time the country tried to deal with three major leagues. As with the other two attempts (1890 and 1914-15) it was a failure. Henry Lucas was a son of wealth in St. Louis. A fan, he decided to form a new league to compete with the existing leagues (National League and American Association). There’s some dispute about his motivation. Some works cite his anger with the reserve rule (which bound a player to a team) and others favor something akin to an ego trip. Whichever you pick (and I tend to agree with ego trip) Lucas founded the Union Association in 1884. It lasted one season, was a disaster, and floundered almost immediately. The team in St. Louis ran away with the pennant going 94-19. If you add that up, it equals 113 games. The original schedule called for 112 games (got me, coach). Other teams managed records of 69-36, 58-47, but still others were 8-4, 2-6, 6-19, and 2-16. The team in St. Paul was the 2-6 team. It was in such bad shape it folded before ever playing a home game, the only major league team to never play before a home crowd. The competition was utterly uneven, and some teams never played each other (Winner St. Louis never played Milwaukee, the 8-4 team).  St. Paul obviously played almost no one. There were teams in Wilmington, NC and Altoona, PA., both nice enough towns, but not big enough in 1884 to support a big league franchise. Atloona managed to survive 25 games and Wilmington only 18. At the end of the season, the league was gone. You could argue it gave the major leagues one very good player (Tommy McCarthy) and that’s all. Bill James in his Historical Abstract  argues that the Union Association is not really a major league. I tend to agree with him. Major League Baseball doesn’t.

2. Charles Radbourn had the greatest season ever by any pitcher in the majors. Radbourn pitched for the Providence Grays. Early in the season the team’s other pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, bolted to the Union Association. Radbourn at that point agreed, for contractual and monetary considerations, to pitch every inning of every game for the remainder of the season. Well, it didn’t work out that way, but it came close. Read the following numbers closely. For the year Radbourn was 59 (or 60)-12 with 73 complete games, 441 strikeouts, 98 walks, 11 shutouts, and an ERA of 1.38 in 679 innings (not a record. The record is 680 by Will White in 1879). In fairness to modern pitchers, Radbourn wasn’t on a mound, and wasn’t 60’6″ away. His delivery was sidearm, and he could take a short run before releasing the pitch. Still, it’s a heck of a year. About the 59 (60) business. There are differences in the way wins were determined in 1884 and the modern method. Under the old way Radboun gets 60 wins, under our contemporary method he gets 59. So the modern Major Leagues recognize 59 wins, while his colleagues saw 60. I leave it to you to determine which you prefer. Me? Well, 60 is a nice round number.   

3. The first postseason playoffs were held in 1884. Radbourn led his Grays to the NL pennant by 10.5 games. Meanwhile, the New York Metropolitans (not the modern Mets) won the American Association title by 6.5. They challenged the Grays to a three game set, all to be played in New York, to determine a champion for the year. The Grays accepted and Radbourn continued to pitch as he’d done in the regular season and Providence won all three games with Radbourn pitching complete game (what else?) victories giving up no earned runs. The first “World Series” ended with a National League victory.

4. There was a home run explosion at Chicago. The park in Chicago was a little odd. The fences were short, less than 200 feet to right field. Previous seasons balls going over the fences were ruled doubles. In 1884, the team changed the rule to make them home runs. The White Stockings put up astronomical numbers by 19th Century standards, coming up with 149 homers in 112 games. That’s a team record that lasts until 1927 and the Murder’s Row Yankees. The big winner was Ned Williamson, the third baseman, who set a 19th Century record with 27 home runs, all but two at home. Three of his teammates, second baseman Fred Pfeffer, first baseman Cap Anson, and outfielder Abner Dalrymple also posted 20 or more home runs. Dan Brouthers of Buffalo hit 14 for the most of any player outside Chicago. The next year the White Stockings moved to a new park and Dalrmyple’s league leading 11 homers were the most by any of the Chicago four. It took until Babe Ruth in 1919 to best Williamson’s record.

5. Integration first occurred in 1884. The American Association Toledo Blue Stockings hired Moses Fleetwood Walker to be their catcher. Fleet Walker was a black American and the first to play in the Major Leagues. I’ve done a previous post on him, so will simply say here that he wasn’t well received (maybe the understatement of this blog ever) and was gone after the season ended. His brother Welday also got into five games (all in the outfield) and was gone at the end of the season. It took until 1947 for Jackie Robinson to reintegrate the big leagues.

So there’s 1884, it’s not so famous today. It is, after all, a long time ago. But it’s still one of the most important and interesting seasons in Major League history.

BTW there’s a new book out on the season that is supposed to center around Radbourn and his accomplishments. I haven’t read it, but if anyone has, I’d appreciate a quick review if possible.