Posts Tagged ‘Zack Wheat’

Opening Day, 1919

March 28, 2019

Ollie O’Mara at bat for Brooklyn

It’s Opening Day for the 2019 season (I don’t count the 2 games in Tokyo). As I normally do, I take the occasion to look back 100 years. This year it’s 1919, a year of infamy.

Opening Day in 1919 was 19 April, a Saturday. The only games played on that date were a double-header between the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) and the Boston Braves (now setting up shop in Atlanta). Brooklyn won both, 5-2 and 3-2. Leon Cadore and Jeff Pfeffer were the winnings pitchers (in order) with Dick Rudolph and Pat Ragan taking the losses (again in that order). All but Ragan pitched complete games. In game one Ivy Olson hit the season’s first double and Hall of Famer Zack Wheat had the season’s first triple. Boston left fielder Joe Kelly had the year’s first stolen base. Boston’s first sacker Jimmy Johnston was the first batter of the season. Brooklyn third baseman Ollie O’Mara went 0 for 3 in game one, 0 for 4 in game two, reached base on a sacrifice and scored a run in game two. It was his last game in the Major Leagues. Over six years he hit .231/.280/.279/.559 with two home runs, 46 stolen bases, 77 RBIs, 166 runs scored, and more strikeouts than walks, and OPS+ of 68 and -0.8 WAR.

There were no games in the American League. They began play on the 23rd with the big news being a 13-4 rout by the White Sox over the Browns. Lefty Williams of Black Sox infamy got the win with six of the Black Sox (including Williams) playing (Fred McMullin and Eddie Cicotte sat it out). Buck Weaver was the hitting star with four hits and three runs scored. Back east, Boston shut out the Yankees 10-0 with left fielder Babe Ruth slugging the league’s first home run of the season in the first with a man on (yep, he hit it against the Yanks).

At this point the eventual National League champion Reds were in second place with the White Sox tied (with Boston ) for first in the American League. No one yet knew they would meet in the World Series and change baseball forever.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1933

November 1, 2016

We come now to the penultimate (don’t you just love $50 words like penultimate?) class of the My Little Hall of Fame project. This time a broad selection of people, including one of the more obvious choices possible.

Barney Dreyfuss

Barney Dreyfuss

Longtime National League owner Barney Dreyfuss entered baseball in the 1890s. He served as President and owner of the Louisville Colonels and later the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his tenure his Pirates team won six pennants, two prior to the creation of the World Series, then won the World Series twice. He was instrumental in bringing to a close the “Baseball War” of 1901-1903 between the National League and the American League and is the man who first proposed a “World’s Series” between the two Major League pennant winners. His team participated in the first one.

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson, the “Big Train,” pitched for the Washington American League team from the early 20th Century through 1927. Over his career he amassed more than 400 wins, became the first pitcher to record 3000 strikeouts, and led the league in wins six times, in strikeouts 12 times, in ERA five times, and helped his team win the 1924 World Series. He is the only player to win both a Chalmers Award and a League Award.

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

One of the greatest Negro League pitchers, Jose Mendez came from Cuba to star for the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1920s. He led them to a Negro World Series championship in 1924 before retiring after the 1926 season.

Zack Wheat

Zack Wheat

Star outfielder for Brooklyn in the National League he led his team to World Series appearances in both 1916 and 1920. He won the 1918 batting title and in the pennant winning season of 1916 led the league in extra base hits. He also led the National League in fielding twice.

And the commentary:

1. Dreyfuss was an easy choice as a contributor. He was an early advocate of the World Series, of gaining a “peace” between the warring American and National Leagues, and of contracting the National League to eight teams from the unwieldy 12 team league that existed most of the 1890s. Unfortunately, he was also an early advocate of syndicate baseball. I’m surprised it took quite so long for Cooperstown to come calling.

2. You knew Johnson was getting in, right? The only question was his win total. I noted a couple of differences in the final number, so left it at “more than 400 wins.”

3. Mendez is one of the truly outstanding pitchers of the early Negro Leagues. I suppose I might have put in another (although George Stovey did make it several classes ago), but his work with the Monarchs, a premier team in the 1920s, made him an easier choice.

4. Wheat has the kind of numbers that impressed 1930s writers. There are lots of hits, a high average, and he’s a good outfielder. One thing I noticed is that there’s praise for his later work (the years in the 1920s) that talks about him getting better with age. Of course we know that he covers that transition from the “Deadball” era to the “Lively ball” era so much of that later work is influenced by the change in eras. I don’t see anything that leads me to believe that the writers of the era paid attention to that.

5. Here’s the list of everyday players eligible for the final ballot in this project: George Burns, Cupid Childs, Ty Cobb, Jake Daubert, Jack Fornier, Larry Gardner, Heinie Groh, Baby Doll Jacobson, Tommy Leach, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarthy, Stuffy McInnis, Clyde Milan, Wildfire Schulte, Cy Seymour, Tris Speaker, Roy Thomas, Mike Tiernan, George Van Haltren, Ross Youngs (a total of 21 with 20 a maximum).

6. Now the same list for pitchers: Babe Adams, Chief Bender, Jack Chesbro, Wilbur Cooper, Stan Coveleski, Sam Leever, Rube Marquard, Tony Mullane, Deacon Phillippe, Urban Shocker, Jesse Tannehill, Doc White (a total of 12 with 10 a maximum).

7. Finishing with the contributors: umpires-Bob Emslie, Tim Hurst; manager-George Stallings; owners-Charles Ebbets, August Herrmann; Negro Leagues-Pete Hill, Oliver Marcell, Dobie Moore, Spottswood Poles, Ben Taylor, Christobal Torriente; and 19th Century pioneer William R. Wheaton (a total of 12 with a maximum of 10).

8. Without giving anything away I think the Cobb and Speaker kids have a pretty good chance of making it.

 

 

The 50 Greatest Dodgers

November 27, 2012

Don Newcombe, the 8th Greatest Dodger

Back a year or so ago I did a post on the 50 Greatest Yankees ever (according to ESPN). Turns out that the network did an entire series of these lists. You’ll have to look around pretty hard (or type in “greatest Dodgers” or whichever team) to find their lists but they are interesting.

One of the lists is the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers list. The top 10 (in order) look like this: Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, Zack Wheat, Roy Campanella, PeeWee Reese, Mike Piazza, Don Newcombe, Don Sutton, Dazzy Vance. And before anyone asks, Don Drysdale is 11th. Not a bad list actually, here’s a few comments on the list.

1. To create a full team you end up with Gil Hodges (16th on the list) at first, Robinson at second, Reese at short, and Roy Cey (14th on the list) at third. The outfield is Snider, Wheat, and Pedro Guerrero (15th on the list). Campanella catches and the first position player whose position is already covered is Piazza, making him the DH. The staff (four men for a World Series rotation, at least one being left-handed) is Koufax, Newcombe, Sutton, and Vance. Way down at 46th is Ron Perranoski, the only reliever on the list.

2. The list is a decent mix of both Brooklyn and Los Angeles, with LA being slightly favored in the higher parts of the list (see Guerrero over Babe Herman or Carl Furillo for example). There are, as you would expect with the Dodgers, an inordinate number of pitchers in the top 15.

3. They did put Dixie Walker on the list (he’s 25th). With the way he left the team (his opposition to Robinson) I half expected he’d be overlooked.

4. Wheat in the top 5 is inspired, as is Vance in the top 10. It’s unusual for guys who played that long ago to get much support when up against newer players that voters remember. However, Wheat over Campanella is questionable. Wheat and Vance are the only two players on the list who spent significant time with the Dodgers prior to 1940.

5. During their time together (most of the 1970s) Steve Garvey got a lot more press than Cey. This list placed Cey higher (14th to Garvey’s 17th). I think that’s probably right.

6. Jim Gilliam is at 43rd. That’s way too low. His versatility (second, third, center, and left) made him so much more valuable than his hitting stats (which aren’t bad either) made him appear.

7. Reggie Smith is at 26th. Again, I think that’s too low. I might slide him into the top 15. I know I’d put him in the top 20. I might even jump him over Guerrero. Smith is one of the more overlooked players in both Dodgers and Red Sox history.

8. The picking of  Newcombe over both Sutton and Drysdale is  interesting. Both ended up with more wins and Newk did have the drinking problem. I’m not sure the voters got it right. Maybe yes, maybe no.  Newcombe was the ace of the most famous (if not most successful) team in Dodgers history and that has to be worth something. Now, if he coulda just won a single World Series game (he went 0-4).

9. Now about first place. When I first became interested in baseball, Robinson was my hero. As he waned, Snider replaced him. Then as the Duke faltered, Koufax became my guy. That got me through high school and hero-worship of big leaguers. So I have no problem with those three being in the top positions. I’m not sure about the order. The ultimate problem is Robinson’s status as a civil rights icon. It so overshadows his on-field accomplishments that I’m not sure it didn’t get him first place more than his playing  ability did. Having said that, I recognize he was a heck of a player and when added to his late start (because of circumstances not of his making) and the abuse he suffered, maybe he is first. But Snider was as good, maybe better. And Koufax is simply the greatest pitcher I ever saw. I have my own order, but I have no real problem with the current order.

10. The location of a few more well-known names: Hershiser (12th), Valenzuela (13th), Wills (22nd), Reiser (31st), Podres (33rd), and Nomo (49th).

11. The most glaring omission? Carl Erskine.

1910: Superbas Postmortem

September 4, 2010

The 1910 Brooklyn Superbas , under rookie manager Bill Dahlen, went 64-90 for 1910 and finished sixth, 40 games back. They weren’t yet either the Boys of Summer  of the 1950s or the Daffiness Boys of the 1930s. They also weren’t very good (which is tough for a Dodgers fan to say).

Brooklyn in 1910 was dead last in hitting, slugging, RBIs, hits, and doubles. They were seventh in runs and walks, and first in striking out. Only first baseman Jake Daubert, third baseman Ed Lennox, and outfielder Zack Wheat managed to hit .250 while shortstop Tony Smith hit .181 and  catcher Bill Bergen made it all the way to .161. You know you’re in trouble if two of your starters don’t make it to the Mendoza line.

The problem with replacing some of these guys was that the bench was equally awful. A common theme of these posts is that teams who finish in the bottom part of the standings have terrible benches. Brooklyn was no exception. The highest average from the bench players was Al Burch’s .236. He also had one of the highest slugging percentages at .284. Tex Erwin, backup catcher, hit .188, not much of an improvement over Bergen, and Pryor McElveen’s .225 wasn’t that much better than Smith’s average. Outfielder Bob Coulson managed a .404 slugging percentage in 23 games. That led the team with Wheat second at .403.

Among the pitchers, knuckleballer Nap Rucker and Cy Barger had acceptable seasons. Rucker went 17-18 and led the NL in innings, hits, and shutouts with six. Barger was 15-15. It went south from there. George Bell was 10-27 and Doc Scanlan was 9-11. If you look down the list, there’s nobody below that even hints at solving the problems of the staff.

The Superbas have a little to look forward to in 1911. Daubert and Wheat are good players and will continue to improve. I know nothing about Bergen, but he must have been a heck of a catcher because in 1911 he will catch 84 games and hit all of .132 and slug .154. Both Hy Myers and Otto Miller come up in 1911. Neither are particularly good in ’11, but both will be significant contributors to the rise of the 1916 team to the NL pennant. Other than that, Oh, well.

Opening Day, 1910: Brooklyn

April 11, 2010

Zack Wheat

The Superbas were anything but superb in this era. They hadn’t finished out of the second division since 1902, had ended up dead last in 1905, and had not progressed beyond sixth by 1909. Not only were they not “The Boys of Summer”, it’s doubtful they were even the boys of winter.

Brooklyn finished the 1909 season in sixth place, 55.5 games out of first and 19 games out of fifth place. That meant major revision in the team. It started at the top, with manager-right fielder Harry Lumley losing his managerial job. He remained a part time right fielder, and I wonder how much tension existed between Lumley and new manager Bill Dahlen. Dahlen was 40 and something of a John McGraw clone. He won a World Series with New York in 1905. He was tough, fiery, intolerant of fools, and had never managed before.

The positional starters underwent major change in 1910. The day before the season began, Brooklyn picked up a new center fielder, Bill Davidson. He led off the first game, which must have been a trifle odd, even for Brooklyn. Rookie Jake Daubert was the new first baseman and hit second. Former first baseman Tim Jordan was still around but only got into five games in 1910 because of injuries. In 1909 a rookie named Zack Wheat got into 26 games. This season he would begin a Hall of Fame career by hitting third and holding down the left field spot. Second baseman Jerry Hummel, a bench player the year before,  took the clean up hole. Jack Dalton took former manager Lumley’s slot in rght field and hit fifth. Hold over third baseman Ed Lennox was in sixth and new guy Tony Smith was at short and hit seventh. Bill Bergen remained as catcher and eight hitter. Many of the old starters got bench roles. As mentioned, former first baseman Tim Jordan was hurt. Former manager Lumley got into only eight games, and 1909 shortstop Tommy McMillan was traded after 23 games. Ex-leadoff man Al Burch became the fourth outfielder. Gone entirely was ex-second baseman Whitey Alperman. Tex Erwin was the new backup catcher with Otto Miller getting spot duty as the third catcher. Pryor McElveen remained the backup middle infielder with Hap Smith doing a lot of pinch hitting.

The Superbas pitching in 1909 was nothing special. George Bell was 16-15 and everyone else, except Doc Scanlan (8-7) had a losing record.  At least all of them had more innings pitched than hits allowed. For 1910, Bell was back, so was potential ace Nap Rucker, along with Scanlan. Cy Barger who was over from the Yankees and Elmer Knetzer, a rookie who had pitched five games in ’09,  rounded out the starters. Gone was former starter Harry McIntire, and the final starter in 1909, Kaiser Wilhelm, was now the main man in the bullpen.

Brooklyn was in turmoil in 1910. They had done little to actually improve the team. Prospects of lifting in the standings were minimal. Having said that, new guys Daubert, and especially Wheat, held out prospects of a coming rise, but it was going to take a while.

Next: ST. Louis