Posts Tagged ‘Willie Keeler’

1908: Cy Young

June 26, 2018

Cy Young with Boston

Continuing on with a look back 110 years ago to 1908, we come to a milestone for a great pitcher. On the 30th of June 1908 Cy Young, the fella they named the award for, pitched his third no-hitter. He was 41.

By 1908 Young was on the downside of his amazing career. He’d averaged 30 wins between 1892 and 1896, did so again between 1901 and 1903. He’d won an ERA title, a couple of strikeout titles, several times he’d led the league in shutouts. He’d even won two saves titles (OK, it was only three saves, but it still led the league). He started the first ever World Series game (and lost), won the first ever World Series in 1903 with Boston, and, in 1908 was still with Boston. It was his last 20 win season (21-11) and his ERA dipped below two for the final time (1.26–and it didn’t lead the AL). His ERA+ was 193, the second highest total of his career (219 in 1901), and his 9.6 WAR was the seventh highest total for his career (he peaked at 14.0 in 1892). The season’s highlight came 30 June.

The Red Sox were playing on the road in New York against the Highlanders (now the Yankees). Wee Willie Keeler, who was, like Young, toward the end of his career, was the only Hall of Famer in the Highlanders lineup. The opposing pitcher was Rube Manning, a 25 year-old righty in his second (of four) seasons. He was 7-5 going into the game.

Harry Niles

Young was almost flawless in this third no-hitter. The leadoff hitter for the Highlanders was second baseman Harry Niles, who was later in the season traded to Boston (as Mel Allen might say, “How about that?”). He was 27 and in his third (of five) seasons in the big leagues. He managed a walk from Young to lead off the game. Then he broke for second and was thrown out by Boston’s catcher Lou Criger. And that was all the base runners New York had for the entire game. Young struck out two on the way to facing the minimum of 27 batters. Meanwhile Boston ran up eight runs and Manning didn’t get out of the second inning. The big hitting star for the Red Sox was… you guessed it, Cy Young. He went three for five, scored a run and knocked in three. You could make an argument that combining pitching and hitting it was the best single day any player ever had in the Major Leagues.

Young, of course, would go on to win more games than any other pitcher, set a record for strikeouts (since broken many times), and rack up more innings pitched than anyone else. There’s a reason they named the pitching award for him. And for a great bit of trivia. On the same day (30 June) in 1962, Sandy Koufax pitched his first of four no-hitters.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1916

June 1, 2015

Refreshed from seeing our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, I’m back to business. So it’s a new month and a new addition to My Own Little Hall of Fame. This time a pair of newly retired players, one from the everyday players list and one a pitcher.

Willie Keeler

Willie Keeler

“Wee” Willie Keeler was a star outfielder from 1892 through 1910. With a career average of .341 he managed to hit above .300 in the first 15 years of his 19 year career. Twice leading the National League in hitting, once at above .400, he was a key member of pennant winning teams in both Baltimore and Brooklyn. He led the NL in hits three times and in runs once.

Rube Waddell

Rube Waddell

George “Rube” Waddell was the premier strikeout pitcher of his era, winning strikeout titles in six consecutive seasons. His 349 strikeouts in 1904 is a record among pitchers throwing from a mound. He posted more than 20 wins four seasons and won two ERA titles.

Now the commentary:

1. The two men enshrined this time are easily the kind of men that would be elected to an existing Hall of Fame in 1916. Both were well-known and both had the kinds of numbers that impressed in the period.

2. Keeler, as is usual for the big names of the pre-1910 era, had a lot of hits, scored a bunch of runs, and had very high averages. He was also one of the players I was able to find out quite a bit about. He was extremely popular and well-known (He was elected to Cooperstown in 1939, very quickly after it was formed).

3. Waddell is a bit more problematic. He didn’t get anywhere near 300 wins, notching only 193. That’s not a lot for an era obsessed with high win totals among pitchers. He did, however, have an enormous number of strikeouts and was dominant for a while. The statement that his 349 strikeouts in a season is a record is correct for 1916. It has since been passed several times. His personality was a bit of a difficulty, which I ultimately decided was worth overlooking. There were a handful of things I found that seemed to indicate that some writers didn’t take him seriously enough to elect him to a 1916 Hall of Fame. Offsetting that was the knowledge that he was dead by 1915 (he died in 1914) and that should have led to a certain amount of sympathy vote.

4. The newly eligible for the Class of 1917 includes one certainty, Cy Young, and a handful of other players. Bill Dahlen, Roy Thomas, and Fred Tenney are probably the best of the everyday players coming up. All have a distinct problem from a 1917 perspective and Tenney is probably DOA Hall-wise. Deacon Phillippe and Jesse Tannehill (old Pirates teammates) show up with Young and probably, but not certainly, will have to wait if they are elected at all. Young would, I believe, so dominate the pitching list that all other pitchers would find themselves downgraded for at least that one year. Among Conributors, Bill Carrigan who won two World Series’ while manager of the Red Sox shows up. No idea at this point how much that achievement was lauded in the era. If he hangs around my ballot the chances are that early pioneer Bob Ferguson drops off.

5. The 1917 class puts me half way through this project. I intend to go through 1934 which will come in December next year and will get me very close to the opening of the actual Hall. That seems like a good place to stop. After announcing the 1917 class, I intend to do a post about what I’ve learned midway through this project. Hopefully, it will explain some about how I got to that point.

Opening Day, 1910: New York (AL)

April 18, 2010

 

Hal Chase

Considering what the American League team in New York has meant to the AL since 1920, it’s a little surprising to note that the Highlanders (they were to become the Yankees in the next decade) were not a significant factor in the league. They were formed in 1903 when the Baltimore franchise relocated to New York. They finished in the first division in ’03 and second in the league in ’04 (1.5 games out), then slid back in 1905, made second again in 1906, then fell back, finishing last in 1908. By 1909 they were back to fifth.

It was a team in some turmoil. Manager George Stallings (the “Miracle Man” of 1914) had a fairly solid infield, but there were problems in the rest of the positions. Hal Chase, Frank La Porte, Jack Knight, and Jimmy Austin held down the infield from first over to third in 1909 and all were back for 1910. but the infield bench was different. Gone was Kid Elberfeld. Earle Gardner, Roxy Roach, and Eddie Foster now handled the backup duties for the team.

The 1909 outfield was gone. Willie Keeler, Ray Demmitt, and Clyde Engle were replaced by Harry Wolter, Charlie Hemphill, and Birdie Cree. In 1909 Cree had been the fourth outfielder, but the others were new. Bert Daniels was now the outfielder sitting on the bench.

Ed Sweeney, the ’09 backup catcher, moved to the starting role in 1910 with Fred Mitchell the backup. Former starter Red Kleinow developed a sore arm and was traded after getting into only six games. Neither catcher would manage to hit .220.

The pitching underwent something of a makeover. Joe Lake, Jack Warhop, Lew Brockett, Jack Quinn, Joe Doyle, Tom Hughes, and Rube Manning had done the bulk of the starting for the Highlanders in 1909. Quinn, Warhop, and Hughes were back. Manning was now a bullpen man and Doyle lasted exactly three games before a trade. In their place were Russ Ford and Jim “Hippo” Vaughn.

Well, it wasn’t a bad team, in fact it would show significant rise in 1910. But it had one serious flaw. By 1910 manager Stallings was already voicing concerns about the reliability of first baseman Chase. There were allegations that Chase was taking money to lose games, that he was spreading gambling money to other players in return for shoddy play in critical games. There were allegations that he was playing just well enough to look reasonably good in losing efforts. There was no proof, and certainly nowhere for Stallings to go with his complaints but to the ownership who had an interest in protecting Chase who was a definite fan favorite (Judge Landis was 10 years in the future).  All this made for major clubhouse problems. It would take until 1919-1920 to garner the evidence to ban Chase. Until then he would be a cancer on the club, and any club for which he played.

Next: Cleveland

The Mighty Orioles

March 24, 2010

John McGraw

There is no question that the most famous team of the 1890s is the Baltimore Orioles (not to be confused with the modern Orioles). Their fame in some ways borders on infamy. They were tough, they were colorful, they were winners. They were the brawlers who put up great numbers and had unforgetable players.

There had been a Major League team in Baltimore as far back as 1872. None of them had done particularly well. There had been a second place finish a time or two, but no pennants. When the National League was formed in 1876 it bypassed Baltimore. The same was true of the American Association when it started in 1882. In 1883, the Association added the Orioles to their league. They finished last. In 1884 they rose to fourth and finished last, last, third, fifth, fifth, sixth, and fourth in the remaining years of the Association (1885-91). In other words, they weren’t very good very often. In 1892 the National League decided the American Association was dragging down the Major Leagues and convinced four teams, including Baltimore, to change leagues. It killed the Association and set up a twelve team league. For Baltimore nothing changed. They finished last. By 1893 they were up to eighth, then things did change.

The 1894 Orioles won the National League pennant by three games, marking a 29 game improvement (60 wins vs. 89). What happened? Essentially they changed their roster. Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon moved to replace or reassign most of his losing team. The infield of 1893 consisted of (from first to third) Harry Taylor, Heinie Reitz, John McGraw, and Billy Shindle.  In 1894 Dan Brouthers was now at first, McGraw had moved to third, and Hughie Jennings had taken his place at short. Only Reitz remained at the same spot in the field where he led all second basemen in fielding. The 1893 outfield was (from left around to right) Jim Long, Joe Kelley, and George Treadway. In ’94 Kelley (who moved from center to left), Steve Brodie, and Willie Keeler became the standard outfield.. Wilbert Robinson remained the catcher. In 1893 three pitchers won ten or more games: Sadie MacMahon, Tony Mullane, and Bill Hawke.  All three were still there in ’94 although Millane won only nine games. Kid Gleason and Bert Inks joined the staff as ten game winners. In other words, it’s basically a new team, particularly among the hitters.

For the three year span from 1894 through 1896, the former woebegone Orioles won three straight pennants, capping the ’96 race by 9.5 games. They slipped to second in 1897, losing to Boston by two games, then coming in second again in 1898, this time by six games.  In 1899 they dropped to fourth and were disbanded when the National League contracted in 1900.

The Orioles were noted for a rough style of play, some called it downright dirty. They would trip players rounding the bases, throw at batters, go into the stands to slug it out with fans. If you were from Baltimore you loved them. The rest of baseball hated them. But in all of that they played good team ball. In 1896, 1897, and 1898 they lead, as a team, the NL in several major offensive categories (and in ’96 it was almost all of them).  Except for Reitz in 1894 no Oriole led the league in any offensive category (Reitz led in triples in ’94) until 1897 and 1898 when Keeler led in hits runs and batting in ’97 and again in hits in ’98. Additionally McGraw led the NL in runs in 1898, and new outfielder Jake Stenzel picked up a doubles title in 1897. What they did was play as a team. The invented the “Baltimore chop” (hitting down on the ball to create an infield single). They get credit for the hit and run, although that’s disputed.

The defining player was John J. McGraw, the third baseman. He was tough, pugnacious, humorless, and a great ballplayer. As mentioned above he only led the league in a single category one time (runs), but he, more than manager Hanlon, set the tone for the team.  Unofficially, he led the team, and the league, in umpire baiting, ejections, fights, and creative use of the English language. All the while he was learning how to manage and soon after the turn of the century he would take over the New York Giants and become the second winningest manager ever (including three World Series victories).

During the Orioles run the Temple Cup series was played for a few years. This was a series of games played at the end of the season between the first and second place finishers in the National League. It was never very popular nor very successful and the pennant winner tended to not take the series seriously. Frankly they’d just won the pennant and had nothing to prove, so the games were viewed as exhibitions by the winners. Consequently, the second place team won most of the Temple Cup series’. The Orioles won the thing in 1896 and 1897.

Although Hanlon, McGraw, Jennings, Keeler, Brouthers, Kelley, and Robinson are in the Hall of Fame, it’s really tough to root for the Orioles. There’s just too much thuggery going on. I have to admit, though, I like their intensity and think I’d have enjoyed seeing them play at least a handful of times.

The Chronicle-Telegraph Games

December 23, 2009

Chronicle-Telegraph Cup

In 1900 the National League contracted from 12 teams to eight. Baltimore, Louisville, Cleveland, Washington all ceased to exist. The players were shipped to other teams. In the case of Baltimore and Lousville the locations were already decided. Both teams were part of a syndicate that ran them and another team. Baltimore was owned by the Brooklyn team and Louisville by the team in Pittsburgh. This syndicate baseball was both common and legal in the era. The Brooklyn team had been most successful in using it because they had looted the Baltimore team earlier and won the National League pennant in 1899.

They repeated in 1900 winning the championship by 4.5 games over Pittsburgh. The Pirates owner, Barney Dreyfuss, argued that his team was actually better and only lost because he hadn’t been able to join the Louisville players with the Pittsburgh players earlier in the season.  He argued that the Pirates and the Superbas (they weren’t yet called the Dodgers) ought to meet in a five game series to settle the issue. Superbas manager Ned Hanlon accepted the challenge. The Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph, a major newspaper, agreed to sponsor the series and offered a cup as a trophy to the victor. (What is it with Pittsburgh and gaudy trophy cups?)

Beginning 15 October the Chronicle-Telegraph series was held. All games were played in Pittsbugh. The Superbas won game one 5-2 behind Joe McGinnity’s five hitter.  Frank Kitson picked up the win for Brooklyn 4-2 in game two. In the game Pittsburgh committed 6 errors. The Pirates crushed Harry Howell and the Superbas 10-0 in game 3 behind future World Series star Deacon Phillippe. With McGinnity back on the mound for game 4, Brooklyn rode to victory 6-1 and finished the series and claim the cup.

The Superbas roster included the following future Hall of Famers: pitcher Joe McGinnity, infielder Hughie Jennings, outfielders Willie Keeler and Joe Kelley, and manager Ned Hanlon.

The Pirates roster included the following future Hall of Famers: pitchers Jack Chesbro and Rube Waddell (losing pitcher in game 1 of the series), and outfielders Honus Wagner (not yet the shortstop) and Fred Clarke who doubled as manager.

The Chronicle-Telegraph cup is currently on display at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.