Posts Tagged ‘Wid Conroy’

Brew Crew

September 20, 2012

Kangaroo Davy Jones, an origianal Brewer

Way back in 1901, Ban Johnson set up the American League as a rival to the National League. Of course you know that it worked. But not exactly everything worked. One of the more innovative things Johnson did was set up a team in Milwaukee. That was one of the things that didn’t work.

The 1901 Brewers were a group of free agents, league jumpers, has beens, and never were types. Most of them you’ve never heard of, even once. A couple were footnote players, one was a star.

The star was Hugh Duffy. He was the player-manager. He was also 34 and over-the-hill. He did well enough in 1901, hitting .302 with 45 RBIs, and an OPS of .780 (good for second on the team).  His outfield mates were a pair of never was types. Bill Hallman was 25, a rookie, and a player who managed to play parts of four seasons, only two of them back-to-back (1906 and 1907). Irv Waldron was also a rookie. He hit .297 for Milwaukee, was sent to Washington where he hit .322 (for a  season average of .311), then disappears from the Majors for good. He played as late as 1911 in the minors, but never got back to the big leagues. He was with Milwaukee just prior to the American League stepping up in 1901 and seems to have been a carry over from the minor league days. He does reasonably well in the post 1901 minors so I have no idea why he never got back to the Majors.

The infield consisted of (from first around to third) John Anderson who had a career year hitting .330 with an OPS of .836 and 95 RBIs, Billy Gilbert, Wid Conroy, and Jimmy Burke. None of those three hit above .270 (Gilbert) or had an OPS above .666 (Conroy).

The catcher was Bill Maloney. He hit .293 with no power, no speed, no home runs, few runs, less RBIs, and only seven walks for the season.

The bench consisted of a bunch of players (it was a long roster for 1901) that went on to nothing. The exception here is Davy Jones (obviously not the singer). He ended up with Detroit and became the third (and later fourth) outfielder on the Ty Cobb/Sam Crawford Tigers that went to three consecutive World Series’.

The pitching consisted of five right-handers and one southpaw who started all of four games. None was particularly effective. Ned Garvin led the team with a 3.46 ERA (which is huge in the Deadball Era), 122 strikeouts, and an ERA+ of 104. For all that he was 8-20. Bill Reidy at 16-20 was the “ace”. It was also the only year Reidy had more than seven wins.

So what did this get them? Last place (you had that figured, right?). They ended up dead last in an eight team league in runs, hits, triples, average, slugging, OPS, total bases, and even in hit by pitch. They managed to climb out of the cellar by being seventh in on base percentage. On the mound they were last in complete games (a bigger deal in 1901 than today), shut outs, and earned runs given up. They were next-to-last in runs, hits, and walks. By compensation, they did finish third in total strikeouts.

All that also got them terrible crowds. Even in Milwaukee, a town without Major League baseball since 1891 (There had been three teams in Milwaukee in the 19th Century. None of them lasted more than a year.) this team failed to draw well. But Ban Johnson had a solution to the problem. He shifted the franchise to St. Louis in 1902 where they became the Browns. Right now they are in contention for both the American League East title and the wildcard because after a stint in St. Louis they moved on to Baltimore where they are currently the Orioles. That’s a long way in both miles and quality from the original Brewers.

1910: Senators Postmortem

August 31, 2010

By the first of September, the Washington Senators were hanging on to sixth place and were on the verge of elimination from the pennant chase. Under manager Jimmy McAleer they would ultimately finish seventh, 36.5 games out of first. Their record was 66-85.

The team averages of .236 and .289 slugging weren’t absolute bottom of the barrel in the American League, but they were close. But the team finished fourth in walks, so their on base percentage wasn’t as bad as you might expect from a seventh place team. Center fielder Clyde Milan finished fifth in stolen bases, led the team with 71 walks (good for second in the AL), and was fourth in the league in runs scored. Another positive for Washington was that Milan was the youngest of the starting position players (24). The rest of the starters provided three men with .250 plus batting averages, no one with more than 19 doubles, and only two men other than Milan with more than 50 runs scored. 

One of the running themes of the teams that finish in the bottom half of each league is that they have awful benches. The Senators were no exception. Of the seven bench players with 20 or more games played, three hit above .250, but three were under the Mendoza line (one hitting .149). They mustered one home run and Wid Conroy, who played the most games (105) of any bench player, led in RBIs with all of 27. He also got the home run.

The pitching was a mixed bag. Walter Johnson was Walter Johnson. He led the league in starts, games, complete games, strikeouts, and was second in shutouts. His record was 25-17 with an ERA of 1.35. For the first time he put up more than 300 strikeouts, 313, more than 50 ahead of Ed Walsh in second place. In doing so he became only the second man (Rube Waddell) to lead the AL with 300 or more strikeouts. Unfortunately the rest of the staff wasn’t Walter Johnson. Combined the non-Johnson staff went 41-68 with 362 strikeouts (only 49 more than Johnson alone).  Dixie Walker (obviously not the 1940s outfielder) went 11-11 for the second best record among the starters. All the rest had losing records. Again on the positive side, each had more innings pitched than hits allowed and more strikeouts than walks.

So Washington looks like a team that isn’t very good, but could improve. Milan is doing well and should have several years left (He would play until 1922 and steal 495 bases). Johnson is beginning the run that will make him arguably the greatest of all pitchers. The rest of the staff has potential, but isn’t any great shakes. As for the rest of the hitting, well maybe. Or maybe not.

Opening Day, 1910: Washington

April 22, 2010

Walter Johnson

When George Washington died in 1799, former Revolutionary War leader Lighthorse Harry Lee (who became most famous for being the father of Robert E. Lee) gave this eulogy, “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” In baseball this was frequently paraphrased, “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” The 1909 season ended with the Senators in last place, 56 games out and 20 games out of seventh. There was little prospect for 1910 to be significantly better. 

At the end of the 1909 season, the Senators canned manager Joe Cantillon, replacing him with Jimmy McAleer. Now there was an upgrade. McAleer was the just fired manager of the Browns who managed to finish exactly one spot ahead of Washington in the standings, seventh (OK, they were 20 games closer to first, but still ya gotta wonder). 

The infield underwent change at the corners and up the middle (except at shortstop). Former backup Bob Unglaub replaced Jiggs Donahue at first and Kid Elberfeld came over from New York to play third. Former starter Wid Conroy now became the man off the bench. George McBride stayed at short and Red Killefer (Bill’s brother) became the new second baseman. Killefer came over from Detroit late in 1909 and moved into the starting job when the new season began. Germany Schaefer, who had done a lot of the 1909 work at second, went to the bench. 

The outfield saw one new man and one change of position. Jack Lelivelt moved from right field to left and Doc Gessler, another player who came over in mid-1909 (this time from New York) took the right field slot. Lead off hitter Clyde Milan remained in center. Conroy, the backup infielder, doubled as the fourth outfielder. 

The catcher was Gabby Street. He was a standard no hit, great field catcher of the era. Much later he went on to win a World Series as a manager with the Cardinals in 1931. Rookie Eddie Ainsmith was his backup. 

The pitching staff was uneven. Walter Johnson was the ace. His 1909 was forgettable, but when you’re Walter Johnson there’s always the possibility that the next year will be great. Bob Groom, Dolly Gray, Tom Hughes, and Charlie Smith were the other 1909 starters. Groom led the American League in walks (105) and Smith was traded during the season. Johnson was back, as were Groom and Gray. Dixie Walker (not the 1940s outfielder), who had pitched four games the previous season, took over one starting slot. Doc Reisling, who pitched 10 games in 1909, took the other. Besides Johnson, it wasn’t a particularly distinguished staff. 

The Senators, like most lower division teams, did a lot of tinkering with their roster between 1909 and 1910. They managed to find a couple of players who were pretty good (Milan and Street) and then there was Johnson. Every fourth day they were guaranteed of being competitive. It was the other three days that were the problem.This concludes a team by team look at the Major Leagues in 1910.

I intend to continue looking at 1910 for the balance of the season, but will concentrate on major events (there’s another no hitter, Cy Young wins his 500th game, etc) and a once monthly review of the standings and such. That will give all of us a break from the events of 100 years ago.