P-Matt Kilroy, BAL
P-Mike Smith, CIN
P-Toad Ramsey, LOU
P-Tony Mullane, CIN
P-Ed Seward, PHA
P-Silver King, STL
P-Bob Gilks, CLE
P-Al Mays, NYP
P-Adonis Terry, BRO
C-Chris Fulmer, BAL
C-Sam Trott, BAL
1B-John Reilly, CIN
1B-Tommy Tucker, BAL
2B-Yank Robinson, STL
2B-Bid McPhee, CIN
2B-Reddy Mack, LOU
3B-Denny Lyons, PHA
3B-Jumbo Davis, BAL
3B-Arlie Latham, STL
SS-Oyster Burns, BAL
SS-Frank Fennelly, CIN
LF-Tip O’Neill, STL
LF-Harry Stovey, PHA
CF-Pete Browning, LOU
RF-Bob Caruthers, STL
46-19, 3.07 ERA, 217 K, .247, 0 HR, 25 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-11.9
WAR for Pitchers-10.8
Games Pitched-69 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-589 1/3
Games Started-69 (2nd Time)
Complete Games-66 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-69 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-157 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-There were still certain teams which pitched their players to death and the Orioles were one of them. For the second consecutive season, Kilroy pitched over 580 innings. The little man, standing at five-foot-seven and weighing in at 175 pounds, also had his best season ever. He finished first in WAR (11.9) and first in WAR for Pitchers (10.8). He pitched a league-leading 589 1/3 innings while garnering a 3.07 ERA and a 133 ERA+.
As for the Orioles, Manager Bald Billy Barnie, coaching his fifth season with Baltimore, led it to a third place finish with a 77-58 record. If you do the math, you see it went 46-19 in games pitched by Kilroy and 31-38 in the others.
Here’s SABR’s report of Kilroy’s 1887 season: “In 1887 the American Association instituted a rule requiring four strikes for a strikeout, and the number of strikeouts declined dramatically, but Kilroy’s effectiveness increased. He led the league with 46 wins and 66 complete games. He also topped the circuit in shutouts and finished second in strikeouts, third in won-lost percentage, and fourth in WHIP (walks and hits allowed per nine innings pitched). Most remarkable was his 46-19 record with a club that was 31-37 in games in which Kilroy was not the pitcher of record. This performance earned him the highest weighted rating (16,900) and the most Faber System points (138) ever attained by a pitcher of his tender years. His 46 wins is still the single-season record for a left-handed pitcher. The 75 wins he accumulated in his first two major-league seasons remain a record to this day.”
34-17, 2.94 ERA, 176 K, .253, 0 HR, 23 RBI
1887 AA Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-2.94
Hits Per 9 IP-8.048
Adjusted Pitching Runs-72
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.1
1st Time All-Star-Elmer Ellsworth “Mike” Smith was born on March 23, 1868 in Pittsburgh, PA. The five-foot-11, 178 pound pitcher started his career with Cincinnati in 1886, before becoming its ace pitcher this season. He had his best season ever, finishing third in WAR (10.6) and second in WAR for Pitchers (10.1). He pitched a very reasonable 447 1/3 innings with a league-leading 2.94 ERA and 148 ERA+.
As for my Red Stockings, Gus Schmelz took over the reins and managed the team to a second place finish, with an 81-54 record. Their pitching, led by Smith, was outstanding, but their hitting couldn’t keep up with the Browns. Surprisingly, Cincinnati didn’t struggle against St. Louis, going 12-6 against them. (Is that how far back I have to go in history for the Reds to beat the Cardinals?) They did have a losing record against third-place Baltimore and fourth-place Louisville.
For the era in which he managed, Schmelz had a fairly long career, coaching 11 seasons with six different teams. He coached the Columbus Buckeyes to a second place 69-39 record in 1884 and then would have three good seasons with Cincinnati, but the rest of his seasons weren’t as successful. He never did lead a team to a title.
After this season, Smith would slowly start pitching less and would eventually be a position player. Maybe it’s because he threw over 447 innings as a 19-year-old. He’d move to leftfield for the most part and will probably make a couple of All-Star teams there.
37-27, 3.43 ERA, 355 K, .191, 0 HR, 24 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-5.695
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-2.126
Fielding Independent Pitching-3.20 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-31
2nd Time All-Star-After his incredible 1886 season, Ramsey settled down, going only 37-27 after going 38-27 the year before and only pitching 561 innings instead of the 588 2/3 he pitched the previous season. See, he’s a whole different pitcher. Still, the Toad finished fourth in WAR (7.7) and third in WAR for Pitchers (8.2.). In those 561 innings, Ramsey had a 3.43 ERA and a 128 ERA+.
Led by the arm of Ramsey and the coaching of Kick Kelly in his first year, the Colonels finished in fourth place with a 76-60 record.
Here’s Wikipedia’s report on Ramsey’s 1887 season: “Ramsey had a similar 1887 season, pitching 561 innings and winning 37 games. His 355 strikeouts led the American Association, while his 561 innings pitched, 64 games started, and 61 complete games, were all second in the league to [Matt] Kilroy. Unfortunately, his dominant years stopped after that season, and his fortunes changed for the worse beginning during the 1888 season. His win–loss record was 8–30 in 40 starts. On July 25, 1888, Ramsey was arrested for not paying an overdue bar bill.”
The Sports Daily said Ramsey was the first person to bring up the concept of BABIP (batting average on balls in play): “The final proof that Toad Ramsey may indeed have been baseball’s equivalent of Nikola Tesla and/or was some kind of baseball terminator was his belief in BABIP.
“’If I yield up a groover and the fellow at bat gives it a slap and it goes to short, who fields it to first in time, why is that an out for the baseman and an assist for the shortstop, and all right for me, in a manner of speaking. But look at you – if that shortstop had been playing a slightly different position, and the ball had got by him, it would have counted as a hit off me. That’s funny as after the ball left my hands I had no further control over it.’”
31-17, 3.24 ERA, 97 K, .221, 3 HR, 23 RBI
Shutouts-6 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-If I would have been a Reds fan in 1887 when I was (minus)-77 years old, I would have got to see one of the Reds’ all-time greats in Mullane. Even nowadays, he’s 17th on Cincinnati in all-time WAR with 39. And no one beats the nickname of Apollo of the Box. This season, he continued his dominant pitching, finishing fifth in WAR (7.6) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (7.1). He pitched 416 1/3 innings, his lowest since his rookie year, with a 3.24 ERA and a 134 ERA+. Looking at his overall stats and the remainder of his career, he could definitely be ONEHOF-bound.
What he isn’t, however, is in the real Hall of Fame, because of many years spent in the American Association. The Hall of Fame sure is picky, isn’t it? No gamblers, no American Associationers, no steroids users! C’mon, it’s just baseball!
Hardball Times has this to say about his 1887 season, “He had no interest in accepting less than what he believed he was worth, and no compunction about telling others where they could stick it. In 1887, he informed his manager that he didn’t want to pitch a game against Brooklyn because ‘I don’t intend to do any more work than the other pitchers.’ His manager fined him $100 and suspended him indefinitely, although the dispute was smoothed over before the end of the month, and he still managed to win 31 games that year.” Should someone pitching 416 innings complain about being overused?
25-25, 4.13 ERA, 155 K, .188, 5 HR, 28 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Edward William “Ed” Seward, born Edward William Sourhardt, was born on June 29, 1867 in Cleveland, OH. He pitched one game with the 1885 National League Providence Grays, pitching six innings and allowing no runs, but didn’t play Major League ball again until this season. His 4.13 ERA doesn’t look too good, but the league average was 4.29. Seward finished sixth in WAR (7.1) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.4), tossing 470 2/3 innings pitched with a 102 ERA+. If you were going to have a so-so year in pitching, this was the season and the league to do it.
As for the Athletics, Frank Bancroft (26-29) and Charlie Mason (38-40) led them to a fifth place 64-69 season. Bancroft managed multiple teams over his career, but this would be the only managing stint for Mason.
Seward wasn’t a big man, being five-foot-seven and 175 pounds, but he would still lead the league in strikeouts in 1888 (Spoiler Alert!) He wasn’t going to have much of a career, but his 25 wins as a rookie this season still ranks as one of the high marks of all-time.
There have been a lot of Philadelphia teams, but this one isn’t the one that would eventually become the Phillies, nor the one which would eventually become the A’s. It only has three seasons left of existence, despite an over-.500 lifetime mark. Seward is actually second on this team all-time in WAR, behind only the great Harry Stovey. Most of Seward’s success came in two seasons.
32-12, 3.78 ERA, 128 K, .207, 0 HR, 19 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Charles Frederick “Silver” King, born Charles Frederick Koenig, was born on January 11, 1868 in St. Louis, MO. He started in 1886, pitching five games for the National League Kansas City Cowboys, before coming over to the great Browns this season, where, as a rookie, he was their dominant pitcher. And there’s better years to come. As for this season, King finished ninth in WAR (5.6) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (6.2). He pitched 390 innings with a 3.78 ERA and a 119 ERA+.
The Browns won their third of four consecutive league titles, finishing 95-40. Charlie Comiskey led them to the title again as he proved to be one of the best managers of all-time. We forget that because we only know him as the skinflint which caused the Black Sox to throw the 1919 World Series.
Speaking of the World Series, St. Louis lost 10-5 to the National League’s Detroit Wolverines. King pitched in four of the games, going 1-3 with a 2.03 ERA.
“King was an unusual pitcher for his time. Gripping the ball with unusually large hands, he delivered the ball without a windup. He also was one of the first pitchers in major league history to employ a sidearm delivery…His strong fastball enabled him to become a notable strikeout artist; he finished among the league’s top 10 in that category six times.”
7-5, 3.08 ERA, 28 K, .313, 0 HR, 13 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Robert James “Bob” Gilks was born on July 2, 1864 in Cincinnati, OH. The five-foot-eight, 178 pound hurler picked a good year to debut as making the All-Star team as a pitcher this season wasn’t too difficult. Still, Gilks had his best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR for Pitchers (2.7), pitching 108 innings with a 3.08 ERA and a 141 ERA+.
His team, the Blues, definitely sang the blues this season, as Jimmy Williams coached them to a last place 39-92 finish. Gilks would be the team’s only All-Star.
This team started its existence this season and would last until 1899, when, if you thought this season was bad, wait till that one! Still, they would introduce one of the greatest players of all-time. He’s a pitcher. He has an award named after him. Well, that’s going to be a few years down the road.
Wikipedia says, “The Spiders first fielded a team in the American Association (then a major league) in 1887. At the time, they were known as the Cleveland Forest Citys or Cleveland Blues. The team was organized by Frank Robison, who eventually brought his brother Stanley aboard to help run the club.”
Here’s Baseball Reference on Gilks: “Bob Gilks tried just about everything on a ballfield. He had a playing career that lasted from 1885 to 1909. He also managed in the minors between 1903 and 1914 and umpired in the South Atlantic League in 1910. Gilks also scouted for the Cleveland Indians (1911-1913), New York Yankees (1914-1926, 1929), and Boston Braves (1928).”
17-34, 4.73 ERA, 124 K, .204, 2 HR, 23 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Albert C. “Al” Mays was born on May 17, 1865 in Canal Dover, OH. He started as a pitcher for the Louisville Colonels in 1885 before moving over to the Metropolitans. He had his best season ever, finishing 10th in WAR for Pitchers (2.6), pitching 441 1/3 innings with a 4.73 ERA and a 89 ERA+. It’s probably his last All-Star team.
If New York is giving 441 innings to a pitcher with a 4.73 ERA, you’re probably guessing they didn’t do too well and I say to you, huzzah for your wisdom! Bob Ferguson (6-24), Dave Orr (3-5), and Ollie Caylor (35-60) led the team to a 44-89 seventh place finish. Mays was New York’s only All-Star. The city of New York would have a much better Mays in the future.
And thus ends the run of the Metropolitans. They won a pennant in 1884, but finished seventh their last three seasons. Wikipedia writes of the team’s demise, “Prior to the 1886 season, Day and Mutrie sold the Mets to Erastus Wiman who moved the team to cricket grounds on Staten Island in hopes of promoting ferry trade across New York harbor. This business plan did not succeed, though, and the Mets ceased operation following the 1887 season. The team was bought by the Brooklyn Dodgers to gain territorial protection and the contracts of several of the Mets’ stars, including Dave Orr and Darby O’Brien. The current minor league Staten Island Yankees play in a stadium very near the cricket ground used by the Mets.”
16-16, 4.02 ERA, 138 K, .293, 3 HR, 65 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-As my regular reader (sic) know, players can make the All-Star teams in the following manners: be the best player on their team; be either one of two catchers, an infielder, or one of three outfielders; or just be a great player who didn’t make it in the other manners. Terry would have never made the All-Star team this season if he wasn’t the best the Grays had to offer. Still, he did manage to pitch 318 innings with a 4.02 ERA and a 107 ERA+. Not to mention, on a bad team, he had a .500 record. It’s not exactly Steve Carlton’s 1972, but it’s not terrible.
Charlie Byrne led Brooklyn to a 60-74 sixth place finish in the American Association. Terry was the only All-Star for the team. It was Byrne’s last year managing.
I put Terry in as a pitcher, but he could’ve also been an All-Star in the outfield. He played 49 games and 425 innings in the outfield, playing 33 in right, 12 in left, and four in center. Terry wasn’t the greatest hitter, slashing .293/.323/.392 for an OPS+ of 96, but he would eventually get a little better. Yet for the most part, his career was spent on the mound. He has more All-Star games coming in the future.
From Greek Mythology, here’s some facts about Adonis:
“In Greek mythology, Adonis was the god of beauty and desire.
“Adonis died when he was attacked by a wild boar that was sent by Artemis, who was jealous of his hunting skills. A different version of the myth has it that the boar was sent by Ares, as he was the lover of Aphrodite. When he died, Aphrodite poured nectar over his blood, and the flower anemone emerged.”
.269, 0 HR, 32 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-I never would have though Fulmer had another All-Star team in him, but look at me, always wrong! Fulmer was just one of two Baltimore catchers to make this team. Have patience, you can read about the other in a minute. Fulmer slashed .269/.382/.363 for an OPS+ of 113. Speaking of having patience, that was Fulmer’s specialty, as he was one of the great walkers of his time.
There used to be a rivalry between Baltimore and the Eastern Association Washington team. Here’s a highlight from DC Baseball History of a game they played in 1885: “Baltimore came for wool, but was shorn. Such, in brief, is the story of the contest at Capitol Park. Reinforced by Barr, the home team played a splendid game, and won by the errors which marked the visitors’ play an eight out of the nine innings. Since the season began Manager Barnie and his supporters in Baltimore have eloquently described how they would defeat the Nationals; but, like their predecessors of the League and American Associations, their scalps are now drying in the Nationals’ wigwam. The Baltimoreans were so confident that nearly 300 of them came over here with their pockets filled with money to invest upon their Orioles. They found ready takers, and they retired at 630PM with lighter pockets. The Washington Sunday Herald states that the crowd was announced at 3,000 spectators. The Washington National Republican estimated the crowd at 4,000. Outside the fumble by Jimmy Knowles the Nationals played a faultless game, their fielding being an improvement over that of several weeks ago. The fact that the fielding was better may be attributed to Barr being in the box. Chris Fulmer backed Barr up in splendid manner, considering the bad condition of his hands. Umpire Walsh. Time 1:45.”
.257, 0 HR, 37 RBI
Fielding % as C-.915
1st Time All-Star-Samuel W. “Sam” Trott was born in March, 1859 in Maryland. He actually started his career as a 21-year-old catcher for the Boston Red Stockings in 1880, moved to the Detroit Wolverines in 1881, and finally came to the Orioles in 1884. In a year and a league with very few good catchers, Trott finally made the All-Star team. He finished seventh in Defensive WAR (0.9), while at the bat, he slashed .257/.322/.330 for an OPS+ of 86. He’d actually hit very well in 1888, but didn’t play too many games, so I doubt he’ll make the All-Star team in that, his last year.
Wikipedia says of the beginning of Trott’s life, “Trott was born in Maryland in 1859. His father, Samuel E. Trott, was a Maryland native and a carpenter. His mother, Laura J. Trott, was also a Maryland native.”
And then of the end of his life: “By 1900, Trott was living with his wife Emma in Baltimore. They had two children then living with them, Bessie (born August 1890) and Samuel (born March 1900). Trott’s occupation was listed as a cigar salesman. Ten years later, Trott was still living in Baltimore with wife, Emma, and they by then had three children, Bessie, Samuel and Dorothy. His occupation in 1910 was traveling salesman. Trott died in Catonsville, Maryland, in June 1925 at the age of 66.”
Besides pitchers, it’s rare to have a team with two players making the All-Star team at the same position. Chris Fulmer was rated the higher catcher despite Trott catching more games.
.309, 10 HR, 96 RBI
Double Plays Turned as 1B-84 (5th Time)
3rd Time All-Star-Reilly is back on the All-Star team after missing it for the last two seasons. For some reason, Long John’s power took a hiatus, but this year it returned as he hit double digit homers for the second time. Altogether this year, Reilly finished seventh in WAR Position Players (3.5) and slashed .309/.352/.477 for an OPS+ of 127. It wasn’t his greatest season, but he was still the American Association’s best first baseman.
SABR has an excellent article on Reilly. Here’s a snippet: “A free-swinging hitter who rarely walked and had difficulty adjusting his big swing to the bunting and place hitting that came into fashion during the late 1880’s, Reilly nevertheless recorded consistently high batting averages. He had a strong throwing arm and, while a man of his size would hardly be a speed demon, with his long legs he covered ground rapidly enough and appeared repeatedly on contemporary lists of the Reds’ most effective base runners. In a day when most home runs were hit inside the park, his high totals for homers as well as triples testify to his speed as well as his power. He maintained the superior defensive skills that had kept him in the major leagues before his hitting had matured. In later years he would claim to have originated the practice of first basemen playing away from the bag, a distinction that was more frequently attributed to his contemporary, Charlie Comiskey of the St. Louis Browns. In fact, though, this practice had been followed sporadically for many years before Comiskey’s and Reilly’s time.”
.275, 6 HR, 84 RBI
Hit By Pitch-29
Def. Games as 1B-136
Putouts as 1B-1,346
Errors Committed as 1B-35
1st Time All-Star-Thomas Joseph “Tommy” or “Foghorn” Tucker was born on October 28, 1863 in Holyoke, MA and had a tremendous rookie year. He finished ninth in Defensive WAR (0.8) and has some good seasons ahead. From the beginning, Tucker was good at taking one for the team. This would be one of five seasons he would lead the league in being hit by pitches. Altogether, he would finish in the top 10 in that category 11 times and be plunked 272 times in his career, behind only Hughie Jennings and Craig Biggio. However, Tucker (13 seasons) played considerably less than Jennings (18 seasons) and Biggio (20 seasons).
As someone who grew up under the tutelage of Bill James’ Baseball Abstract, I learned about the defensive spectrum, which shows that there are tougher defensive positions than others on the field, with shortstop being the most difficult and first base being the easiest. I don’t know if WAR cares about the defensive spectrum, but it’s always a surprise to me when a first sacker makes the top 10 of dWAR, like Tucker did. He must have had quite a glove.
Speaking of his fielding, Wikipedia says, “He was a flashy first baseman in an era when using two hands was normal, making one-handed scoops of wild throws and pick-ups with his small glove, in contrast to the big-sized gloves employed by today’s first basemen.
.305, 1 HR, 74 RBI, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 0 K
2nd Time All-Star-Robinson continued to be one of the reasons the Browns won the American Association pennant year after year. As the best second baseman in the young league, he finished sixth in WAR Position Players (3.5) and sixth in Offensive WAR (3.7). In the regular season, Yank slashed .305/.445/.405 for an OPS+ of 128. He was one of baseball’s first great walkers. In the World Series against Detroit, Robinson slashed .326/.446/.478 in a losing effort.
Here’s Wikipedia on Robinson’s penchant for walking: “During his peak years from 1887 to 1890, Robinson drew 472 free passes (427 walks and 45 times hit by pitch) and 400 hits in 2,115 plate appearances, giving him a ‘free pass’ percentage of .223 and an on-base percentage of .412. His Offensive WAR ratings of 3.8, 3.7 and 3.6 ranked sixth in the American Association in 1886 and 1887 and eighth in 1888.”
Nowadays, of course, walks are well-regarded, even worshiped by pagans. But there have always been those who understood the value of the base on ball. Getting on base is better than making outs; that should be obvious. Yet there’s still something psychologically wrong about watching a batter take pitches instead of going up there hacking. I’d much rather watch Mike Trout take a shot at the long ball rather than watching him jog down to first, though I know the walk is more valuable than a whiff.
So without written records, we don’t know how the fans in the beginning days of baseball liked watching batters walk. Before the sabermetric days, walks were the pitcher’s fault and not due to the caginess of the hitter.
.289, 2 HR, 87 RBI
Assists as 2B-434 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-76 (6th Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-6.95 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-6.79 (3rd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-McPhee, the gloveless wonder, continued to be a defensive wiz for the Red Stockings, finishing second in Defensive WAR (1.2). He also finished eighth in WAR Position Players (3.4), slashing .289/360/.407 for an OPS+ of 111. The Reds would have better second basemen, like Joe Morgan, but you have to appreciate someone like McPhee who did so well for so long.
I was never alive for the days where people could hit 19 triples on a regular basis. Oh, it still happens once in a while—Jose Reyes just hit 19 in 2008—but it’s not a common thing anymore and, as of this writing, that was eight years ago. From 1884-through-1906, the leading triple hitter had 19 or more. The record at this time was Dave Orr, who hit 31 in 1886.
Back to McPhee’s fielding, SABR says, “Earlier in McPhee’s career, ‘batsmen’ were permitted to choose whether they wanted the pitcher to deliver a high or low ball. As a result, McPhee and other infielders found it relatively easy to tell where the ball would be hit. When this practice was ended in 1887, McPhee used his skills and knowledge to determine proper positioning for each batter. Also, because of the efforts of McPhee and two of his outstanding contemporaries, Fred Pfeffer and Fred Dunlap, the position of second baseman evolved in the 1880s from one of playing directly on or near the bag to placing themselves to the left, ranging towards first.” And remember, this was all without a glove.
.308, 1 HR, 69 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Joseph “Reddy” Mack, born Joseph McNamara, was born on May 2, 1866, exactly 100 years before my brother, Rob, in Ireland. (Rob wasn’t born in Ireland, just in case you were wondering). The Irishman started as a 19-year-old for Louisville in 1885, learned how to draw walks in 1886, and made the All-Star team, probably his last, in 1887. He slashed .308/.415/.395 for an OPS+ of 124. As you can see, he didn’t have much power. After this season, he’s also going to lose his ability to hit for average. But Mack, you have nothing to be ashamed of, many players before you have made only one All-Star team and they are very proud of that accomplishment. Oh, wait, all of them are dead, never mind.
Despite the fact that the American Association was in its sixth season, it still had a lack of consistency in keeping players around. The National League had great stability. Only four of the 25 players on its All-Star team made the team for the first time and two players, Cap Anson and Jim O’Rourke, have been All-Stars for double-digits seasons. The AA has 11 players making the team for the first time and the most All-Star teams for it is from Harry Stovey, who has made six so far.
So you will have many people like Reddy Mack (who is so glad Chris Berman wasn’t born yet so he didn’t have to go around with the moniker “Helen” Reddy Mack or Reddy “Set, Go” Mack) who have an occasional good season, but fade out after that.
.367, 6 HR, 102 RBI
Def. Games as 3B-137
Putouts as 3B-255
Double Plays Turned as 3B-29
1st Time All-Star-Dennis Patrick Aloysius “Denny” Lyons was born on March 12, 1866 in Cincinnati, OH, the baseball capital of the world! (Editor: Check this). He started by playing four games for the National League Providence Grays in 1885, before moving to Philadelphia the next season, where he will be for a while. Another place he’ll be for a stretch of time is right here on the All-Star teams. He’s going to have a good career that will end at the age of 31.
This season, Lyons, the best third baseman in the league, finished 10th in WAR (5.1), third in WAR Position Players (5.1), and fourth in Offensive WAR (5.8). At the dish, he slashed .367/.421/.523 for an OPS+ of 162. According to Baseball Reference, “Lyons reached base by hit or walk in 52 consecutive games in 1887.” He’s got one better hitting season coming up, but you’ll have to wait just like everybody else.
Since Hick Carpenter was the top third baseman in the American Association at its start in 1882 and 1883, the AA hasn’t had anyone be the top at that position for more than one year. In 1884, it was Dude Esterbrook; in 1885, it was Frank Hankinson; in 1886, it was Arlie Latham; and in 1887, it was Lyons. D.P.A. Lyons is going to be around for a while.
.309, 8 HR, 109 RBI
1st Time All-Star-James J. “Jumbo” Davis was born on September 5, 1861 in New York, NY. When you have someone nicknamed “Jumbo,” the first thing to check is his vital stats. He’s five-foot-11, 195 pounds. That’s big, but not jumbo. Well, maybe for his time. He had his best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR Position Players (3.3) and seventh in Offensive WAR (3.5). Davis slashed .309/.353/.485 for an OPS+ of 137. He also tied for the league lead in triples. How many times does someone named Jumbo lead the league in triples? It should be mentioned Dave Orr, who was the same height as Davis but weighed 250 pounds, holds the record at this time for triples with 31. Why wasn’t Orr nicknamed Jumbo?
Davis is yet another one of those players who had one season which was an aberration from the rest of his career. He’d never have a full season again in which he slugged over .400 or hit over .300. His 19 triples this season was over half of his seven-year career total (37).
He’d finish his career bouncing around the American Association, from Kansas City to St. Louis to Brooklyn to Washington. Davis died at the age of 59 in St. Louis on Valentine’s Day of 1921. He is the first of many Davises who will be making this All-Star team over the years.
.316, 2 HR, 83 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Latham, the crazy, fun-loving third baseman continued to bring joy to others, play on a winning team, and make All-Star teams. This season, he finished 10th in WAR Position Players (3.3) and second in Defensive WAR (1.2). At the plate, Latham slashed .316/.366/.413 for an OPS+ of 108. In the World Series, he slashed .293/.388/.310 with 15 stolen bases. In the regular season, Latham stole 129 bases, second in the league to Cincinnati rightfielder Hugh Nicol, who swiped 138.
Of those steals, Wikipedia says, “Latham stole 129 bases during the 1887 season. His career total of 742 ranks seventh all-time in the majors. As a player-coach for the 1909 Giants, Latham at age 49 became the oldest MLB player to steal a base…This record is not recognized by Major League Baseball, as stolen bases were defined differently prior to 1898.”
SABR always has amusing stories about Latham, like this one: “Arlie’s great gymnastic ability paid off from time to time. During one game Arlie laid down a bunt and the opposing team’s first baseman, a big man, was in the baseline with the ball waiting to tag Arlie. Suddenly Arlie did a complete somersault over the startled first baseman and came down safely on the bag. Arlie and the St. Louis team were a pugnacious lot and were greatly encouraged by [St. Louis Browns Owner] Von der Ahe to intimidate the other teams. When the league fined them, which was often, Von der Ahe would pay off the fines.”
.341, 9 HR, 99 RBI, 1-0, 9.53 ERA, 2 K
1st Time All-Star-Thomas P. “Oyster” Burns was born on September 6, 1864 in Philadelphia, PA. He started his Major League career with the Union Association Wilmington Quicksteps in 1884, playing two games for them before moving on to the Orioles that same year. This was his best season ever as he finished fourth in WAR Position Players (5.0) and second in Offensive WAR (6.1). Despite 1887 being his crowning achievement, he’ll be around these lists for a while.
At the plate, Burns slashed .341/.414/.519 for an OPS+ of 164. It would be his highest on-base percentage, slugging average, and Adjusted OPS+ of his whole career, all at the age of 22.
Wikipedia tells us why Burns didn’t play in the 1886 season: “His offensive struggles led him to be demoted to the Newark Domestics for the 1886 season, where he helped the Domestics win the Eastern League pennant.”
However, still from Wikipedia, Burns didn’t seem much fun to be around. Here’s a quote from an anonymous teammate of Burns on the Orioles: “He was a disturber and one of the worst that ever played ball. His disposition was very bad, and he made it unpleasant for any of the boys that crested him. He is what you would call a bulldozer. [Bridegrooms manager Bill] McGunnigle may be able to handle Burns, but I doubt it.” Well, we’ve all worked with people like that, haven’t we?
And one last tidbit from Wikipedia: “By 1887, Burns had reentered the majors for the Orioles and became the team captain until he threw a baseball at an opposing pitcher following a groundout; he was later fined $25 ($658 in 2011).”
.266, 8 HR, 97 RBI
Errors Committed as SS-99 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-Fennelly made his fourth consecutive All-Star team, finishing ninth in Offensive WAR (3.0) and 10th in Defensive WAR (0.8) and he’s probably got one or two teams left in him. He certainly was the crown jewel at shortstop for the American Association for a stretch of time here and one of the first great players of my Cincinnati Reds, but heck if I knew him before I started doing this webpage.
The great shortstop would never win a league title and this year is as close as he got as the Red Stockings finished in second place. It’s the old argument, can you be a great player but not win titles? Ask Mike Trout.
This is Fennelly’s last full season with the Red Stockings. He would start with them in 1888, but be traded to Philadelphia late in the season. His hitting is really going to take a fall next season. As it is, his OPS+ in 1885 was 141, in 1886 was 127, and then this season, he slashed .266/.369/.401 for and OPS+ of 112. It’d continue to fall, his Adjusted OPS+ being only 83 in 1888.
During Fennelly’s whole career with the Red Stockings, he played in a neutral hitters’ park, League Park, so it’s not like a change of park affected him. Maybe, looking above, you see that he led the league in strikeouts and your conclusion is he started striking out too much. You might be right, because you’re very smart. But we have no tracking of strikeouts before 1887, so it’s possible Fennelly was whiffing frequently even in previous seasons.
.435, 14 HR, 123 RBI
1887 AA Batting Title
1887 AA Triple Crown
WAR Position Players-6.9
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.180
Runs Batted In-123 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-82
Adj. Batting Wins-7.8
Extra Base Hits-85
Offensive Win %-.907
AB per HR-36.9
2nd Time All-Star-Once in a while, you run into one of these seasons, where one hitter or one pitcher so dominates the league. Look at all those categories O’Neill led in. I don’t have to give his slash numbers because he was tops in all of them. I don’t have to give his Adjusted OPS+, because he finished first in that, too. I will tell you after a good 1886 World Series, Tip couldn’t keep up his great hitting in the 1887 version, slashing .200/.200/.308 as the Browns lost to the Wolverines.
According to Wikipedia, “His batting average was originally recorded at .492, bases on balls having been counted as hits during that season. At the time of his death in 1915, his unadjusted .492 average was recorded as the highest in major league history. Subsequently, batting averages for the 1887 season were adjusted by removing bases on balls from the calculations. Even after that adjustment, O’Neill’s 1887 batting average of .435 was a major league record until 1894 when Hugh Duffy established the current major league record by hitting .440. O’Neill’s adjusted average for 1887 remains the second highest single season batting average in major league history.”
As I write this, there is talk about baseball possibly limiting the number of pitcher changes allowed along with limiting the number of defensive shifts permitted. People look at those tweaks as abominations to the game of baseball, which has never changed. But the game changed all the time. In 1887, walks were counted in the batting average. I don’t know whether or not I agree with the changes, but I don’t think “the game is sacred and has never changed” is a good argument.
.286, 4 HR, 77 RBI
6th Time All-Star-Though I had Stovey at first base on the 1886 All-Star team, he actually played more outfield. This season, he’s on the team at leftfield for the first time. He has now made the team for the sixth consecutive year and has a good shot at making the ONEHOF (The One-a-Year Hall of Fame) someday. This season, Stovey slashed .286 (his lowest average in six years)/.366 (his lowest on-base percentage in four years)/.421 (his lowest slugging average in six years) for an OPS+ of 119 (his lowest Adjusted OPS+ in six years). This just shows how spectacular his career has been. Even with lower numbers, he still made the All-Star team.
In an article in philly.com in 1999 by writer Frank Fitzpatrick, he talks of Stovey being considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. I suggest you read it all, but here’s a little bit: “In the years after he left baseball, Harry Stow walked a beat in New Bedford, Mass. The policeman’s territory was the fishing city’s dingy waterfront. He broke up fights, arrested prostitutes, and, one hot summer day in 1901, rescued a drowning 7-year-old boy who had fallen between two wharves. By the time he retired in 1923, the gentlemanly Stow had been a police captain for eight years.
“He died at his daughter’s home in 1937 at 80. Until they read his obituary in the next morning’s newspaper, not many of New Bedford’s younger residents knew anything about this quiet cop’s remarkable past.” Is it possible there are superstars walking among us nowadays and we don’t know about it? I doubt that in this Twitter era.
.402, 4 HR, 118 RBI
Singles-165 (2nd Time)
Times on Base-283 (3rd Time)
Errors Committed as OF-46 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-It seems to me, reading over the past blurbs I’ve written of Browning, that more was written about his terrible defense than his amazing offense. But let’s not forget that great batting. This season, he finished eighth in WAR (6.0), second in WAR Position Players (6.0), and third in Offensive WAR (6.1). He slashed .402/.464/.547 for an OPS+ of 177. All of those categories rank second in the league behind the outstanding Tip O’Neill, except slugging, which ranks third.
Is the Louisville Slugger named after Browning? SABR says, “Of course the most widely know legend has to do with the Louisville Slugger line of bats. Browning was often referred to as the Louisville Slugger in his day. According to bat-maker Hillerich & Bradsby legend, the first custom made bat made by the now-famous firm was for Browning in 1884. This is most likely not true but it is part of baseball lore forever.” Their answer, probably not.
From a different SABR article, there’s this: “For nearly his entire life, Browning was plagued by mastoidal problems. The impact of this malady is significant. It robbed Browning of his hearing. Because he could not hear, he refused to go to school out of frustration and embarrassment; the lack of schooling made him a virtual illiterate. The resulting sense of isolation, coupled with the savage physical discomfort attendant to the condition, fueled his uncontrollable drinking. It also prompted his commitment to an insane asylum, and was a major factor in his early death –both the product of a brain infection. In short, the mastoiditis was responsible for all his personal and professional problems.” Sad.
.357, 8 HR, 73 RBI, 29-9, 3.30 ERA, 74 K
Win-Loss %-.763 (2nd Time)
Walks & Hits per IP-1.167
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-3.48
Range Factor/Game as P-3.38
Fielding % as P-.971
3rd Time All-Star-In 1887, Caruthers played 50 games in rightfield and pitched 39 games, so he’s on the All-Star team as a position player for the first time. However, it’s mainly his pitching that led to this incredible season. He finished second in WAR (11.0), sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.8), fifth in WAR Position Players (4.2), and fifth in Offensive WAR (4.0). Along with all of that, his team made the World Series again, where Parisian Bob started eight games on the mound, going 4-4 with a 2.15 ERA. At the plate, he wasn’t as valuable, slashing .239/.255/.239, much less than his regular season marks.
It was also his last season with the Browns. According to SABR, “In 1887, as they had each year since 1882, the champions of the American Association faced the National League titleholders in a postseason series. Billed as the World’s Championship Series, the contests were viewed as mere exhibition games by some of the players and with good reason. For example, the 1887 series consisted of 15 games between the Browns and the National League champion Detroit Wolverines, played in several different cities. One day the teams played a morning game in Washington and an afternoon encounter in Baltimore. In order to relieve the monotony of the travel and the meaningless (to them) games, some of the St. Louis players engaged in recreational activities that may have taken precedence over their preparations for baseball. At least that was the opinion of Chris von der Ahe, owner of the Browns. As Caruthers was an expert billiards and poker player as well as something of a carouser, the owner placed the onus on Parisian Bob for the loss of the series 10 games to 5. He put Caruthers on the market.”
P-John Clarkson, CHC
P-Charlie Ferguson, PHI
P-Dan Casey, PHI
P-Jim Whitney, WHS
P-Tim Keefe, NYG
P-Pud Galvin, PIT
P-Henry Boyle, IND
P-Mark Baldwin, CHC
P-Mickey Welch, NYG
P-Pretzels Getzien, DTN
C-Jim O’Rourke, NYG
C-Charlie Bennett, DTN
1B-Roger Connor, NYG
1B-Dan Brouthers, DTN
1B-Cap Anson, CHC
2B-Hardy Richardson, DTN
3B-Jerry Denny, IND
3B-Billy Nash, BSN
SS-Monte Ward, NYG
SS-Jack Glasscock, IND
SS-Sam Wise, BSN
SS-Jack Rowe, DTN
RF-Sam Thompson, DTN
RF-Jim Fogarty, PHI
RF-King Kelly, BSN
38-21, 3.08 ERA, 237 K, .242, 6 HR, 25 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-15.1 (2nd Time)
WAR for Pitchers-14.9 (2nd Time)
Wins-38 (2nd Time)
Games Pitched-60 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-523.0 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts-237 (2nd Time)
Games Started-59 (2nd Time)
Complete Games-56 (2nd Time)
Batters Faced-2,183 (2nd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-3.42
Adj. Pitching Runs-71 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.3 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-60 (2nd Time)
Putouts as P-34
Assists as P-125 (3rd Time)
4th Time All-Star-Clarkson’s great run continued, though Chicago’s pennant-winning streak came to an end. Still it was another monster season for the White Stockings pitcher, who finished first in WAR (15.1) and first in WAR for Pitchers (14.9). He was old-school, out on the mound game-after-game. In a time when pitchers’ innings pitched were starting to come down, Clarkson still tossed 523 innings with a 3.08 ERA and a 145 ERA+, his fourth straight season with an Adjusted ERA+ of 145 or higher.
Not all was well, however. According to Wikipedia, Clarkson missed his catcher:”In 1887, Clarkson was 38-21 for Chicago with 56 complete games and a 3.08 ERA. However, King Kelly was sold to Boston before the season began, and the team began a decline, dropping to third place in 1887. Clarkson, always a touchy temperament, reportedly became more difficult to handle after Kelly’s departure.”
And so the great Clarkson himself would go join his teammate in 1888. On the website, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, John Thorn writes, “In 1888 John Clarkson of Chicago was sold to Boston for the same sum as King Kelly had been one year earlier, thus providing Boston with its famous ‘$20,000 Battery.’ The winner of fifty-three games with Chicago in 1885, he would win forty-nine with Boston, so there was no doubt of his ability, yet he was always unsure of himself and hypersensitive to slights. He ended his years at age forty-seven in a variety of sanitariums and asylums, depressed, alcoholic, and disoriented. As Sporting Life noted at the time of his death, ‘He seemed to have no memory at all for things of today, but talked clearly and lucidly of matters connected with the past.’” He’ll have a sad ending for sure, but his All-Star days are not done.
22-10, 3.00 ERA, 125 K, .337, 3 HR, 85 RBI
Saves-1 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-It was old news, Ferguson had another great season. He finished second in WAR (10.4) and third in WAR for Pitchers (7.7). He also had a great year at the plate, slashing .337/.417/.470 for an OPS+ of 140. From the mound, he pitched 297 1/3 innings with a 3.00 ERA and a 141 ERA+. Ferguson had now pitched four straight seasons of 20 or more wins and looked to have many more. Same old, same old.
It was same old, same old for the team itself also, as they just fell short, finishing in second place with a 75-48 record, three-and-a-half games out of first behind Detroit. Managed by Harry Wright, the Quakers finished the season with a 16-game winning streak. With Ferguson only 24 and coached by one of the greatest managers in baseball history, they’d have to eventually win it all, wouldn’t they?
I’ll let SABR finish the story: “Sometime during the Quakers’ spring preparation for the 1888 season, Ferguson probably consumed contaminated food or water. Within days, the tiny red spots that signaled typhoid fever appeared on his chest. With his health quickly deteriorating, the Quakers’ star hurler was sequestered in the second-floor bedroom he and his wife rented from Quakers shortstop Arthur Irwin. Ferguson battled the ailment for nearly a month, periodically rallying, before succumbing on April 29, 1888, at 10:30 p.m., less than two weeks after his 25th birthday. Ferguson’s remains were returned to Charlottesville the next day and he was interred at Maplewood Cemetery after a funeral attended by the entire Quakers organization and players on the Princeton College team, which Ferguson had coached in the offseasons.. (Princeton College is now Princeton University.)
“Ferguson’s death sent shockwaves through the entire baseball community. To that point in baseball history, he may have been the most prominent active major leaguer to die during his playing career. To honor Ferguson, the Quakers along with the Washington Nationals, New York Giants, and Boston Beaneaters wore black crepe on their left sleeves during the season.”
28-13, 2.86 ERA, 119 K, .165, 1 HR, 17 RBI
1887 NL Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-2.86
2nd Time All-Star-Unbeknownst to Casey, he would have more responsibility in 1888 after the death of Charlie Ferguson. How well will he do? My guess is he has made his last All-Star team. Let’s not be negative. I think I’m still bummed over the Ferguson’s demise. Shake it off, Ron! Okay, I’m back. Casey this season finished third in WAR (9.3) and second in WAR for Pitchers (10.4). He pitched 390 1/3 innings with a 2.86 ERA and a 147 ERA+. Casey at the bat added nothing.
Scoring really went up in the National League this year. In 1886, teams averaged 5.2 runs per game, while in 1887, it increased by almost a run at 6.1. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but Vintage Base Ball Association says, “The changes made in the rules governing the delivery of the ball to the bat form the most radical of the amendments made to the code, and by far the most important. In the first place the size of the pitcher’s ‘box’ has been reduced from seven feet in length to five feet six, thus rendering it almost impossible for him to take more than one forward step in delivering, even if he were not expressly forbidden to do so. The new rule also requires the pitcher to keep one foot on the rear line of his position, and this foot he cannot lift until he has completed the forward throwing or pitching movement of his arm in delivery. The rule also says that he shall not ‘make more than one step in such delivery.’ Moreover, in taking his stand in the box, preparatory to the delivery of the ball, he must hold the ball fairly in front of his body, and in sight of the Umpire. This prohibits any holding of the ball behind his back, as was the general rule last year. When, too, he makes any pretence or feint to throw the ball to a base to put out a base runner, he must, after such feint, resume his original standing position, and make a distinct pause before actually delivering the ball to the bat.”
24-21, 3.22 ERA, 146 K, .264, 2 HR, 22 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.934 (5th Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-3.476 (4th Time)
6th Time All-Star-Whitney was now pitching for his third team in three seasons, but he still made the All-Star team two of those three seasons. He might have made his last on. But if it is his last All-Star team, Whitney made the best of it, pitching 404 2/3 innings pitched with a 3.22 ERA and a 126 ERA+. It was the first time he had an Adjusted ERA+ over 100 since 1884 for Boston.
Despite having Whitney on the team, the Nationals had a tough season, finishing seventh with a 46-76 record. John Gaffney coached the team for his second and last season. Ironically on this team was the man who would coach the most games ever, catcher Connie Mack. Washington was 24-21 in games decided by Whitney and 22-55 in games decided by other pitchers. It needed more Grasshopper Jim.
Sports Illustrated talks about Whitney’s death at the age of 33. “That article also raises questions about Whitney’s death. ‘It generally has been supposed that he died of consumption,’ the article reads, but former opponent Al Maul offers another explanation.
“’That hit was the death of Grasshopper Jim Whitney,’ Maul said. ‘Jim was pitching for the Washington team, and the game in which he received the blow that cost him his life was played at Pittsburg. [Bill] Kuehne was a Sandow in strength, and the whole force of his body backed up that hit. Before Whitney could step aside or duck, the ball crashed into his chest, and he fell forward prone on his stomach. He was carried off the field, and a few days later hemorrhage of the lungs set in. Jim, though deep-chested and a man of steel, never recovered from that blow and died a few years later.’” The problem is this could have only occurred in 1888 and Whitney lived three more years.
35-19, 3.12 ERA, 189 K, .220, 2 HR, 23 RBI
Walks & Hits per 9 IP-1.124 (3rd Time)
Hits per 9 IP-8.081 (4th Time)
Errors Committed as P-15
8th Time All-Star-A year after making the ONEHOF, Keefe continued to pitch well and he isn’t done yet. In 1887, he finished fifth in WAR (7.5) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (7.1). Smiling Tim would never again pitch 600 innings like he did in 1883 or 500 innings like he did in 1886, but he still managed 476 2/3 innings, innings in which he garnered a 3.12 ERA and 121 ERA+. And as mentioned, he still has great seasons ahead.
As for the Giants, they still couldn’t bust through to the pennant. Jim Mutrie coached the team to a 68-55 record, fourth in the National League, 10-and-a-half games out of first.
Keefe and the other NL pitchers had to deal with rule changes designed to help the hitters. SABR says, “In 1887 a rule change required Keefe to abandon the ‘hop, skip, and jump’ delivery by pitching from a fixed position, with the ‘pitcher compelled to keep both feet on the ground and face the batter before delivering the ball,’ and keep his right foot on the back line of the pitcher’s box and allowed to take only one step forward. Other rule changes were instituted that year to reduce the advantage of the pitcher, such as needing four strikes for a strikeout (up from three) and five balls for a walk (down from six), and allowing a hit batsman to take first base.
“On August 20 Keefe held a 5-3 New York lead in the top of the ninth inning when Philadelphia loaded the bases with no outs. Pitcher Dan Casey, the next hitter, ‘then raised the crowd to its feet by hitting safely to right, bringing in McGuire and Irwin’ to tie the game. When the Giants failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, the game ended 5-5. Thus began the inspiration for baseball’s most famous poem, contend Jim Moore and Natalie Vermilyea, authors of the book Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat”: Background and Characters of Baseball’s Most Famous Poem. Moore and Vermilyea postulate that Thayer, then living in San Francisco, read about Casey’s exploits in The Sporting News, which included the phrase ‘Casey was at the bat,’ and modeled the pitching character in his poem after Keefe.”
28-21, 3.29 ERA, 76 K, .212, 2 HR, 22 RBI
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-2.96
Range Factor/Game as P-2.96
8th Time All-Star-After two years in the American Association, Galvin followed Pittsburgh back to the National League and made yet another All-Star team. Oh, and he is the 1887 ONEHOF (One-a-year in the Hall of Fame) Inductee. This is very prestigious, almost as important as making the real Hall of Fame. For 1888, the nominees will be Charley Jones, Fred Dunlap, George Gore, Monte Ward, King Kelly, Mickey Welch, Charlie Bennett, Jack Glasscock, Dan Brouthers, Davy Force, Ned Williamson, Ezra Sutton, Old Hoss Radbourn, Jim Whitney, Hardy Richardson, Roger Connor, and Harry Stovey. It’s going to be an exciting competition!
Gentle Jeems finished seventh in WAR (6.4) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.8). He pitched an incredible 440 2/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and a 115 ERA+. At 30 years old, he has already pitched an incredible 4573 1/3 innings and has almost 1500 innings left. He would end up with the second most innings pitched of all-time.
Pittsburgh moved to the NL from the AA this season. According to Wikipedia, “After five mediocre seasons in the A.A., Pittsburgh became the first A.A. team to switch to the older National League in 1887.” Well, it was just as mediocre in the NL, as the Horace Phillips-managed team finished in sixth place with a 55-69 record. Of course, this would end up being the Pittsburgh Pirates, which still exist to this day, so it’s not like this bad start kept the franchise from thriving for a long time.
13-24, 3.65 ERA, 85 K, .191, 2 HR, 13 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Boyle is having a fluky All-Star career. He didn’t make the 1884 Union Association All-Star team despite a 15-3 record, 1.74 ERA, and 174 ERA+ , mainly because of “only” 150 innings pitched. He then made the 1885 National League All-Star team despite a 16-24 record, a 2.75 ERA and a 101 ERA+, mainly because he pitched 366 2/3 innings. He didn’t make the NL All-Star team in 1886 despite a league-leading 1.76 ERA and 178 ERA+. Why? That’s right. “Only” 210 innings pitched. And then he made it again this season with 328 innings pitched, a 3.65 ERA and a 113 ERA+. It seems to me teams should have pitched him less; it seemed to help his effectiveness.
His team this season was the Indianapolis Hoosiers, since his former squad, the St. Louis Maroons relocated there. It was a different city with the same result, a bad team. The Hoosiers went 37-89, in last place, 43 games out of first. It took three men to manage this team to these depths – Watch Burnham (6-22 in his first and last time managing), Fred Thomas (11-18 in his first and last time managing), and Horace Fogel (20-49 in his first, but not last time managing).
Did you know Indianapolis has a rich baseball history? According to the Indy Star, “Albert Von Tilzer, composer of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game,’ was an Indianapolis native and lived at 434 S. Illinois St.” If it wasn’t for Indianapolis, Harry Caray would have just been singing random nonsense during the seventh-inning stretch. It’s hard to believe Caray has been dead for 18 years.
18-17, 3.40 ERA, 164 K, .187, 4 HR, 17 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-4.419
1st Time All-Star-Marcus Elmore “Mark” or “Fido” Baldwin was born on October 29, 1863 in Pittsburgh, PA. He must have thought he won the lottery as he was picked up by the perennial champion White Stockings for his rookie year. But he wasn’t part of a league title and wouldn’t be on this team for long. He has another All-Star left in his wild career. By wild, I speak of his bouncing around leagues and teams and also his pitches. He had a lot of wild pitches this season with 41, but two years later, he’d bury that amount with 83 wild pitches in 1889, still the all-time record.
For the season, Baldwin finished seventh in WAR for Pitchers (6.0), pitching 334 innings with a 3.40 ERA and a 131 ERA+.
If it was up to his coach, Baldwin would have started sooner. According to Baseball Reference, “Nicknamed ‘Fido’, Mark Baldwin played football at Penn. won 39 games in the minor leagues in 1886 and then signed with the Chicago White Stockings. Chicago manager Cap Anson tried to use Baldwin in the 1886 World Series against the St. Louis Browns, but Browns skipper Charlie Comiskey objected and Baldwin did not join the White Stockings until the next season.”
From the same article comes this quote, “’Although never known for a good curve, or changeup, [Baldwin] had plenty of speed and the gumption to challenge the best hitters.’ Robert L. Tiemann, Baseball’s First Stars.” It was that speed that led to all of those wild pitches.
22-15, 3.36 ERA, 115 K, .243, 2 HR, 15 RBI
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.182
7th Time All-Star-Welch made his fifth consecutive All-Star team and I have no doubt he’s a future member of ONEHOF, possibly as early as next season. The one thing Welch couldn’t do was be part of pennant-winning team, but that would soon change. For this season, Welch finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (4.7), garnering a 3.36 ERA and a 112 ERA+ in 346 innings pitched.
SABR tells us how Welch acquired his nickname: “For the 1885 campaign, the New York team performed up to expectations. But an exceptional 85-27 record was good for only second place that season, as the Chicago White Stockings, with Cap Anson, King Kelly, and John Clarkson at their playing peak, came in two games better in final NL standings. During the season, the New York team acquired the nickname that would accompany the club to later baseball glory: Giants. Star pitcher Welch also received an enduring sobriquet: Smiling Mickey, a tribute to his even-temperedness in the pitching box – he never argued a call and was said to be the favorite pitcher of NL umpires – and the bemused grin that seemed plastered on his face.
“With an ever-growing family to support, Welch held out briefly during the off-season of 1885-1886, but club owner Day refused to yield to his ‘exorbitant’ demands. Welch later signed quietly, probably for about $3,000. He pitched well during the 1886 and 1887 seasons, but a nagging back and occasional arm miseries reduced his numbers: 33-22 in 500 innings pitched (1886), and 22-15 in 346 innings (1887). Meanwhile, Tim Keefe had gone a combined 75-39 in over 1,000 innings pitched, and had assumed the mantle of staff ace.”
29-13, 3.73 ERA, 135 K, .186, 1 HR, 14 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-24
2nd Time All-Star-Surprisingly for a team that won the league title, Getzien is the only pitcher to make the All-Star team for the Wolverines. Are you thinking they must have a lot of bats bashing in their lineup? You’re so smart, they do have five position players on the All-Star team. Back to Pretzels. He last made the All-Star team in 1884, but was a consistent pitcher for the Wolverines even in his non All-Star seasons. In 1886, he was 30-11 with a 3.03 ERA and a 107 ERA+, but there were a lot of good pitchers in the National League that year. This season, Getzien finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (4.7), with a 3.73 ERA and a 109 ERA+ in 366 2/3 innings pitched.
As for Detroit, its hitting was the best in the league and its pitching and defense was among the league’s best. This led the Wolverines to their first (and last) title. Surprisingly, despite its success, Detroit only has one more season left.
Enough focusing on the negative! The Wolverines, coached by Bill Watkins, finished 79-45, three-and-a-half games ahead of Philadelphia. They then played a 15-game World Series! You heard me. Acccording to Wikipedia, “The Detroit Wolverines defeated the St. Louis Browns in the 1887 World Series, 10 games to 5.
“After the Wolverines won the National League pennant, owner Fred Stearns challenged the American Association champion St. Louis Browns. The Wolverines and the Browns would play ‘a series of contests for supremacy’ of the baseball world. This early ‘world series’ consisted of fifteen games – played in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Baltimore and Chicago, as well as Detroit and St. Louis. The Wolverines claimed their eighth victory – and thus the championship – in the eleventh game.” Pretzels pitched six of the games, going 4-2 with a 2.48 ERA.
.285, 3 HR, 88 RBI
11th Time All-Star-Imagine nowadays a player who mainly roamed the outfield who at the age of 36 became a regular catcher. It’s usually the opposite, catchers moving to other positions as they age. People like Craig Biggio and Mike Napoli, among many others. But that’s what O’Rourke did as he continues to frustrate my prophecies that say “This is his last year.” I really think this one is, but what do I know? I’ve been wrong numerous times about the Hall of Famer.
Of course, O’Rourke made the team because of a lack of good catchers this season. And though he played more catcher than any other position, he only caught 40 games. And it’s not like he hadn’t caught before. Orator Jim had caught in 147 games in his career before this season and in 1886, actually caught more games than this season when he donned the tools of ignorance 47 times.
Now in his third season with the Giants, O’Rourke continued to be a productive player, slashing .285/.352/.411 for an OPS+ of 114. Incredibly, that Adjusted OPS+ would be higher the next five years. Maybe he will make more All-Star teams!
In his personal life, Wikipedia says, “He graduated from Yale Law School in 1887 with an LL.B., practicing law in Bridgeport between early playing stints, and earning the nickname ‘Orator Jim’ because of his verbosity on the field, his intellect, and his law degree—uncommon in a game regarded as a rough immigrant sport at the time.”
.244, 3 HR, 20 RBI
7th Time All-Star-Bennett’s career is so fascinating. He never played 100 or more games, because Bennett was a catcher. Many others were CINOs (Catchers in Name Only), but when Bennett played, it was mainly behind the plate. Even this season, he made the All-Star team despite playing in only 46 games, but 45 of them were at catcher. Despite the lack of games played, Bennett finished sixth in Defensive WAR (1.0) and now has made seven straight All-Star teams. His hitting was declining, but still more than adequate, as he slashed .244/.363/.400 for an OPS+ of 109, his lowest since 1880.
Shouldn’t all of this hard work and beat up hands have a reward? This year, it finally did, as Bennett won his first ever pennant. He then played in his first World Series, slashing .262/.311/.357 with two doubles and a triple. It’s my guess he caught in 10 of the 15 games.
There is a website called The Baseball Page which has a whole page devoted to the Detroit Wolverines’ 1887 season and it has this to say about Bennett: “Catching duties were divided between Charlie Ganzel (51 games at catcher) and Charlie Bennett (45 games at catcher). Both were good defensive catchers, though neither hit particularly well. Bennett had a better fielding percentage than Ganzel (.951 to .913), but Ganzel was stronger in range factor (6.78 to 5.64) and fielding runs (9 to 2).” However, Ganzel did not make the top 10 in dWAR and Bennett did. Also, Bennett was a much better hitter as Ganzel slashed .260/.288/.330 for an OPS+ of 69.
.285, 17 HR, 104 RBI
Def. Games as 1B-127 (2nd Time)
Putouts as 1B-1,325
Fielding % as 1B-.993
6th Time All-Star-Surprisingly for the man who would be the all-time home run leader until George Herman Ruth came along, Connor only led the league in home runs once and it wasn’t this season, his best long ball year ever. At this point, Dan Brouthers was the all-time home run leader with 65. Connor only has 39 at this point. We’ll keep watching this race.
Still, there was no doubt Connor was the best first baseman in league, finishing eighth in WAR (6.2), second in WAR Position Players (6.2), second in Offensive WAR (5.3), and seventh in Defensive WAR (1.0). It was a great all-around season for the big man. At the plate, he slashed .285/.392/.541 (his highest slugging thus far) for an OPS+ of 161. This season was the first time he hit double digit home runs, but he would do so six out of seven seasons. I have no doubt he’ll eventually be in the ONEHOF. He’s already in Cooperstown.
Though Connor had a good season, he had a terrible year. SABR explains: “For Connor, the Giants’ tepid performance was dwarfed by family tragedy. Late in the 1887 season, daughter Lulu contracted dysentery when brought on a road trip. She died in September, just before her first birthday. To add to Connor’s anguish, the child had not been baptized, a grave parental failing for one as devout as Roger Connor. According to granddaughter Margaret Colwell, Connor always deemed Lulu’s death divine retribution for having been married outside church to a non-Catholic.”
.338, 12 HR, 101 RBI
Offensive WAR-6.0 (4th Time)
On-Base %-.426 (3rd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.988 (6th Time)
Doubles-36 (2nd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-169 (6th Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-50 (4th Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-4.8 (4th Time)
Extra Base Hits-68 (5th Time)
Times on Base-246 (3rd Time)
7th Time All-Star-Brouthers, the greatest hitter of his time, finally won a league title as Detroit took the National League title. It certainly had its share of great hitters. As for Big Dan, same ole, same ole. He finished fourth in WAR Position Players (5.3) and first in Offensive WAR (6.0). His defense, as rated by dWAR, was again terrible. Oh, well, I’m sure the Mona Lisa has a miniscule paint blotch on it somewhere.
Unfortunately for the great Brouthers, this would be the only World Series he would make and he only batted three times because of an injury. Because he’s Dan Brouthers, he did get two hits in those three at-bats, but those would be the only World Series plate appearances in his career.
Baseball Reference says, “Brouthers has one of the top ten highest batting averages of all time. There is no player truly similar to Brouthers, but all ten of the most-similar players to Brouthers are in the Hall of Fame, with the most similar being Roger Connor, another 19th century player. Brouthers has been compared to Mickey Mantle as well, due to the proclivity that both of them had for high on-base percentage along with high slugging average.”
The other nine similar players played in the early days of baseball, so did similar things to Brouthers. However, if Brouthers would have played in a live-ball era, there’s no doubt he would be one of the top home run hitters of all time. As it is, after 1887, he was the all-time home run leader with 65.
.347, 7 HR, 102 RBI
1887 NL Batting Title (3rd Time)
Assists as 1B-70 (6th Time)
13th Time All-Star-History gives us the ability to look over big swatches of time and know the final results. For Cap Anson, he had no way of knowing in his time he would never lead Chicago to another crown, that his last was in 1886. It would be a 20-year stretch of not winning the league crown.
For the season, the 35-year-old Anson finished sixth in WAR Position Players (5.2), seventh in Offensive WAR (4.3), and ninth in Defensive WAR (0.9). While Roger Connor and Dan Brouthers were certainly better hitters, they couldn’t field like Cap. Oh, and by the way, it’s not like he couldn’t hit. He slashed .347/.422/.517 for an OPS+ of 146.
Cap Anson has a website devoted to him called Cap Chronicled which is amazing. The writing is excellent and it’s very fair and thorough. I want to put a snippet of it here about Anson’s racism as there was no major or minor league black baseball players from 1887 to 1947. Excuse the language.
“The influx of blacks into the professional ranks had not gone unnoticed. On July 11, 1887, the ‘Sporting News’ prints its opinion of the situation, a decidedly racist one. In it, it says ‘A new trouble has just arisen in the affairs of certain baseball associations [which] has done more damage to the International League than to any other we know of. We refer to the importation of colored players into the ranks of that body.’
“Three days after the Sporting News article appeared, an exhibition game was played between the Chicago White Stockings and the Newark Little Giants. It is this infamous game that many point to as the ‘line in the sand’ that designates the beginning of baseball segregation. Before the game began, Anson is purported to have exclaimed ‘get that nigger off the field!’ in reference to Stovey. Unlike the 1883 incident, this time Anson did not back down from his insistence. Ultimately, Stovey feigned injury and withdrew himself from the game. He and Walker watched the game from the bench.” Click the link above and read the whole thing.
.328, 8 HR, 94 RBI
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-7.22 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-6.78 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Old True Blue continued to play well into his 30s and now was part of his first league-winning team. Richardson moved from the outfield in 1886 back to his regular position of second base this season and was the best second sacker in the league. He slashed .328/.366/.484 for an OPS+ of 131. It was his lowest OPS+ since his 1882 season. Richardson didn’t do too well in the 15-game World Series against St. Louis of the American Association, slashing .197/.209/.379 for the series.
Wikipedia says of the Detroit 1887 team: “The 1887 season was the pinnacle in the eight-year history of the Detroit Wolverines. The team won the National League pennant with a 79-45 record and then defeated the St. Louis Browns in the 1887 World Series. In an article published in 1911, Richardson called the 1887 Detroit team ‘one of the grandest collection of hitters ever seen together.’”
I’ve put Richardson at second base, where he toiled for 64 games, but he played almost as many games in the leftfield (58). His overall fielding was decent as it always was and I believe Richardson has another All-Star team left in him.
Like his teammate, Dan Brouthers, this season would be the only World Series appearance for Richardson, but that doesn’t mean neither of them ever won other titles. Both were part of the 1890’s Players League-winning Boston Reds and the 1891 American Association-winning team of the same name. There were older then but could still lead a team to the title.
.324, 11 HR, 97 RBI
Range Factor/9 Inn as 3B-4.15 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 3B-3.99 (3rd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Denny, the bare-handed fielding third baseman, had his best season ever after moving from St. Louis to Indianapolis. Because he refused to wear a glove long after they became commonplace in the league, he has the fifth highest amount of errors as a third baseman all-time. However, he was still had great range.
For the season, Denny had his best season ever, finishing eighth in WAR Position Players (4.4) and eighth in Offensive WAR (4.0). He slashed .324/.344/.502 for his highest Adjusted OPS+ ever of 136. Though he was the National League’s best at the hot corner this season, he’ll probably never make another All-Star team.
I mentioned in last year’s blurb that Denny’s real name was Jeremiah Dennis Eldridge. Wikipedia says the reason for the name change was, “Eldridge attended St Mary’s College, Phoenix in the late 1870s, and wanted to play semi-professional baseball during the summer months, when he wasn’t playing for the college as an amateur. He used the pseudonym ‘Jerry Denny’ to hide his professional play from the college.”
Indianapolis would last as a National League team for three seasons, from 1887-89 and never get above seventh place out of the eight teams. They had the great Jack Glasscock and the almost great Jerry Denny, but it wasn’t enough to push them over the top and just barely over the bottom.
.295, 6 HR, 94 RBI
Putouts as 3B-207
1st Time All-Star-William Mitchell “Billy” Nash was born on June 24, 1865 in Richmond, VA. He started as a 19-year-old with the 1884 American Association Richmond Virginians before moving to Boston the next season. Nash finished 10th in the league in Offensive WAR (3.8), slashing .295/.376/.434 for an OPS+ of 126. He has a couple more good seasons ahead.
Tomahawk Take says the Nash made the All-19th Century team for the Braves, as the Beaneaters would eventually become. “Playing 10 seasons in Boston, the third baseman Nash was a good hitter who played solid defense, worth about 27 WAR with the franchise. He was usually among the league leaders in walks, though walks were then considered to be the pitcher’s fault, not the batter’s skill.”
Baseball Reference notes, “When people say there weren’t any good third basemen in the early days of baseball, they forget about people like Billy Nash. Nash played 15 years and was both a decent hitter and a good fielder. Some have called him the best glove man of his era. The similarity scores method shows the most similar player to Nash as Willie Kamm, and Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins is also on his list of the most similar players. Bill James ranked Nash as the # 49 third baseman of all time.
“’It is Capt. Billy Nash, of the Boston League team. Here’s to you, Billy. Good things come high, but we must have them. Billy is good, very good, and is correspondingly high. For playing third base the triumvirs will pay him $4000. For captaining the team he will get $1000 more. For signing the little paper that gives Capt. William to our League nine he gets a cool $2500 as a bonus. In other words for the coming season Billy will get $7500. A nice little plum. . . But the triumvirs are not kicking. They are very happy. . . Bill Nash will take with him quite a following . . .’- Sporting Life, March 14, 1891.”
.338, 1 HR, 53 RBI
WAR Position Players-6.6
Games Played-129 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as SS-129 (3rd Time)
Putouts as SS-226 (3rd Time)
Fielding % as SS-.919
7th Time All-Star-I almost forgot about Monte Ward, who last made the All-Star team as a centerfielder in 1883. Since then, he moved to shortstop in 1885, where he would play the majority of the rest of his career. This season, he finished sixth in WAR (6.6), first in WAR Position Players (6.6), fifth in Offensive WAR (4.6), and first in Defensive WAR (2.7). That 2.7 dWAR was tied for the highest up to this point in baseball history with Jack Glasscock’s 1883 season. At the plate, he slashed .338/.375/.391 for an OPS+ of 116, his highest ever and his first time over 100 OPS+ since 1879. His 111 stolen bases certainly helped that.
I believe Ward has a couple more All-Star seasons left in him and could possibly sneak into the ONEHOF. I have no problem with him being in Cooperstown, since they obviously have much lower standards than this page. While looking up some articles on Ward, the most commonly mentioned subject was his not deserving the Hall of Fame nod. But his overall WAR is 64.0. He had six straight outstanding seasons from the mound and then made a new career for himself as a slick-fielding shortstop. There are much worse inductees in Cooperstown.
Ward would eventually become a lawyer, using this to help the players, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Ward graduated from Columbia Law School in 1885 and led the players in forming the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, the first sports labor union. Ward and the players had become frustrated with the owners’ reserve clause, which allowed them to sign players to one-year contracts and then not allow them to negotiate with other teams when those contracts expired. The players felt that the owners had absolute power. At first, the players had some success, gaining the freedom to negotiate with other teams when they were asked to take a pay cut by their current team. In October 1887, Ward married actress Helen Dauvray.”
.294, 0 HR, 40 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 K
AB per SO-60.4 (2nd Time)
Assists-493 (3rd Time)
Assists as SS-493 (5th Time)
Errors Committed as SS-73
Double Plays Turned as SS-58 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-6.09 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/Game as SS-5.77 (2nd Time)
7th Time All-Star-Glasscock made the All-Star team for the seventh consecutive season, six of them in the prestigious National League. He finished 10th in WAR (5.3), WAR Position Players (5.3), and second in Defensive WAR (2.4). His dWAR would have led the league in almost any other year, but Monte Ward was phenomenal. (See above). At the plate, Glasscock slashed .294/.361/.360 for an OPS+ of 104. He’s not done being a good hitter – in a couple years, he’ll have a resurgence – but he will start to fade. However, his fielding will be great for many years to know.
The Ohio County Public Library has many clips from various 1880s publications on Jack Glasscock. There seemed to be a rumor that Pebbly Jack was trying to purposely play bad to get out of Indianapolis. The Sporting Life of June 8, 1887 says, “I notice in one or two papers where the writers claim that Jack Glasscock is playing a listless game and writer claims that Jack is playing for his release. This talk is all nonsense. No matter how anxious Jack is to get away from Indianapolis he will never put up a poor game of ball in order to get away from the Hoosiers…When Jack is playing on a losing club he becomes low-spirited and remains that way until his club strikes a streak of luck, and I suppose his spirits must be pretty low just at the present time.” Glasscock is one of those hard-luck great players who never played on a league-winning team.
.334, 9 HR, 92 RBI
Errors Committed-81 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Samuel Washington “Sam” or “Modoc” or “Mordor” (j/k) Wise was born on August 18, 1857 in Akron, OH. He was only 50 or 60 years too early to have the nickname “Hobbit” like Glenn Hubbard. He also arrived late on the scene to the All-Star party. Wise started in 1881 playing one game for the Detroit Wolverines before moving to Boston the next season. He started catching fire in 1885, finishing 10th in Offensive WAR (3.7) and really busted forth this season. Modoc led the Beaneaters in WAR, while finishing seventh in WAR Position Players (4.7) and fourth in Offensive WAR (4.8) league-wide. From the plate, he slashed .334/.390/522 for an OPS+ of 153. All of those would be career highs.
SABR, in an article written by Mark Sternman, says of Wise, “Sam Wise teamed with Jack Burdock to form the double-play combination for the Boston Red Stockings for seven years during the 1880s. An unusual shortstop,i Wise was a Jekyll-and-Hyde player,a free swinger (‘When Sam Wise offers at a ball and misses it he takes a turn like a prize fighter landing the pivot blow’) with power who led the National League in strikeouts in 1884. While far-ranging, he possessed a highly erratic, scattershot throwing arm. With his unique combination of skills and deficiencies, managers moved him around the batting order and diamond. Called by future Hall of Famer Buck Ewing ‘the best short stop in the country,’ Wise for a short period compared favorably with some of the enduring legends of the game.”
.318, 6 HR, 96 RBI
5th Time All-Star-In his ninth season, Rowe finally was part of league-winning team, but has probably made his last All-Star team. This season he finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.1) and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.1). At the plate, Rowe slashed .318/.368/.445 for an OPS+ of 122. In the 15-game World Series victory against the American Association champion St. Louis Browns, Rowe slashed .333/.354/.381 with five stolen bases. He is one of five Wolverines’ position player All-Stars.
Rowe would play three seasons after this one, with Detroit in 1888, with Pittsburgh in 1889, and with the Players League Buffalo Bisons in 1890. Age and probably his years of catching caught up with his hitting. Then, according to Wikipedia, “After retiring from baseball, Rowe operated a cigar store in Buffalo. His store was reportedly ‘a popular gathering place for sporting figures of the city.’ In January 1899, The Sporting Life described him as ‘one of the most contented men in Buffalo these days’, attending to his cigar business, and ‘ever ready to talk base ball.’
“Rowe became ill in 1910 and moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to live with his daughter, Helen. Rowe died in April 1911 at his daughter’s residence in St. Louis at age 55. His cause of death has been reported as aortic regurgitation and nephritis. He was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.”
.372, 10 HR, 166 RBI
Runs Batted In-166
Offensive Win %-.803
Def. Games as OF-127
2nd Time All-Star-For all of the fame of Detroit’s vaunted “Big Four,” it was Big Sam Thompson, who wasn’t part of that clique, who dominated on this team. He finished third in the league in WAR Position Players (5.3) and third in the league in Offensive WAR (5.1). Thompson slashed .372/.416/.565 for an OPS+ of 166. It was his best season ever. His 166 RBI would be the record until a man named Babe Ruth edged it in 1921. Also, on May 7, he became the first ever player to hit two triples with bases loaded in the same game.
With Big Sam leading the way, Detroit won the National League and played a 15-game World Series against the American Association St. Louis Browns. The Wolverines won 10-5, with Thompson slashing .362/.393/.500 with two doubles and two home runs.
Thompson’s Hall of Fame page says, “’He was a wonderful friend,’ Charlie Bennett said at his funeral. ‘No one ever quarrelled with Sam. No one ever knew him with all his strength to be rough or brutal. He was always even-tempered, simple and plain.’
“During a time when the play was rough and so were many of the players, being recognized as ‘plain’ was complimentary, and only reserved for true gentlemen. Samuel ‘Big Sam’ Thompson spent time over 15 seasons in the Major Leagues protecting that reputation, while also building a name for himself at the plate.” I’ve mentioned many times that in this era, players seemed to be hedonistic drunkards or clean-cut choirboys. Thompson was the latter.
.261, 8 HR, 50 RBI, 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 0 K
Bases on Balls-82
Assists as OF-39
Double Plays Turned as OF-9
1st Time All-Star-James G. “Jim” Fogarty was born on Lincoln’s Birthday in the year before the great president was assassinated. He was born in San Francisco and attended St. Mary’s College of California. He entered the Major Leagues in 1884 with the Quakers and in 1887, had his best season ever. He finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.1) and 10th in Defensive WAR (0.9). Fogarty slashed .261/.376/.410 for an OPS+ of 113. He’ll most likely never make another All-Star team, but in a league with very few good outfielders, he slipped in this year.
Fogarty would play with the Quakers two more seasons, before playing his last season at the age of 26 with the Players League Philadelphia Athletics. Philadelphia must be cursed because they lost pitcher Charlie Ferguson at a young age. (See his blurb above.) Fogarty also died young, according to Baseball Reference, which says, “He died at age 27. He is rather grimly remembered in a 1907 newspaper article as follows: ‘Jimmy Fogarty, the idol of Philadelphia and one of the first really good men in sliding to bases, was too frail of physique to stand the strain of a severe athletic career and is in his grave, one of the few ballplayers to die of consumption.’ Consumption in this case refers to tuberculosis.”
.322, 8 HR, 63 RBI, 1-0, 3.46 ERA, 0 K
7th Time All-Star-Because of the reserve clause in baseball, teams didn’t generally have to worry about losing their star players. However, according to SABR, after the White Stockings lost the 1886 World Series, “Anson and Spalding decided to clean house and get some players who would be better able to keep in training. The Boston Beaneaters believed Kelly would attract the numerous Irish population of the city, and were willing to pay the amazing sum of $10,000 to purchase his contract. They paid Kelly $5,000 in salary, which was listed as the $2,000 National League maximum plus $3,000 for the use of his picture for advertising purposes.”
Kelly’s play didn’t falter being in a new city. He finished sixth in Offensive WAR (4.5), slashing .322/.393/.488 for an OPS+ of 145. On top of all of this, King managed the Beanaters to a 49-43 record, before John Morrill took over, leading Boston to a 12-17 record the rest of the year. It finished 61-60, fifth in the National League.
Being Irish certainly added to Kelly’s fame in Boston. More from SABR: “The record purchase price only increased Kelly’s celebrity. Young Boston fans began following him around town, asking him to sign his name on a piece of paper. Kelly may not have been the first baseball player fans followed for an autograph, but as the most famous he can certainly be given credit for popularizing the practice.
“Kelly also received extra income from endorsements. A ‘Slide, Kelly, Slide’ model sled was tried, as was a Kelly-branded shoe polish.”
P-Toad Ramsey, LOU
P-Bob Caruthers, STL
P-Dave Foutz, STL
P-Ed Morris, PIT
P-Guy Hecker, LOU
P-Matt Kilroy, BAL
P-Tony Mullane, CIN
P-Pud Galvin, PIT
P-Ed Cushman, NYP
P-Adonis Terry, BRO
C-Fred Carroll, PIT
C-Chris Fulmer, BAL
C-John Kerins, LOU
1B-Dave Orr, NYP
1B-Harry Stovey, PHA
2B-Bid McPhee, CIN
2B-Yank Robinson, STL
2B-Sam Barkley, PIT
3B-Arlie Latham, STL
SS-Frank Fennelly, CIN
SS-Pop Smith, PIT
LF-Tip O’Neill, STL
LF-Henry Larkin, PHA
CF-Curt Welch, STL
RF-Ed Swartwood, BRO
38-27, 2.45 ERA, 499 K, .241, 0 HR, 28 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-12.5
WAR for Pitchers-12.6
Hits per 9 IP-6.834
Innings Pitched-588 2/3
Bases on Balls-207
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.59
1st Time All-Star-Thomas H. “Toad” Ramsey was born on August 8, 1864, 91 years before my brother, Ernie, whose name is also a nickname. Little Toad was only five-foot-nine, 180 pounds but he had a heck of an arm. He didn’t always hit the strike zone, but he hit it enough to be effective. Toad missed the mark so much, he set a record for walks allowed in a season, a record which will be beat in three years. Then in four years, Amos Rusie will walk 289 batters, which is still the record.
In between all of that walking was some good pitching. Ramsey pitched 588 2/3 innings with a 2.45 ERA and a 148 ERA+. It was his second year with Louisville. His rookie year was also effective, with a 1.94 ERA, but he only pitched 79 innings in 1885.
Louisville did pretty well when Ramsey started, but not so good otherwise. Ramsey went 38-27, while the Colonels went 66-70 overall, finishing in fourth place, 25-and-a-half games out. Manager Jim Hart coached for the second straight season, but was gone afterwards.
Ramsey struck out the second most batters of all time, but he was unfortunately in the same league in the same year as the man who struck out the most. We’ll get to him later.
Finally, was Toad the inventor of the knuckleball? Read this from Wikipedia: “Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and a former bricklayer, Ramsey is credited as the inventor of the knuckleball pitch. He had severed the tendon in the index finger of his pitching hand with a trowel. The result was that Ramsey’s pitches had a natural knuckleball motion. He threw with a fastball motion, holding the ball with his index finger retracted, since he could not straighten it, and with just his finger tip on the ball. Some historians have disputed that he threw a knuckleball in the modern sense, in that his ball movement was like what is now known as knuckle curve.”
30-14, 2.32 ERA, 166 K, .334, 4 HR, 61 RBI
On-Base Plus Slugging-.974
2nd Time All-Star-Parisian Bob, the precursor to the two-way genius of Babe Ruth, stuffed a lot into one season. He had his best season ever, finishing second in WAR (11.9), fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.6), and fifth in WAR Position Players (4.3). From the mound, Caruthers pitched 387 1/3 innings with a 2.32 ERA and a 147 ERA+. He’d never really pitch this well again, but combined with his monster bat, he’d still be effective. Did I mention his hitting? He slashed .334/.448/.527 for and OPS+ of 201. Quite a year.
And that year was the main reason for second straight American Association pennant for the St. Louis Browns. One thing about doing this page is I get to see the unmentioned stories about famous people. People like Charlie Comiskey, known for his cheapness which led to the 1919 White Sox throwing the World Series. But this man was a heck of a manager. He led St. Louis to a first place finish this year with a 93-46 record, 12 games ahead of the second place team.
This took St. Louis to the World Series against the National League White Stockings. In 1885, they tied, but this season, the team from the weaker league, the AA, actually won. St. Louis beat Chicago, four games to two. In the Series, Caruthers pitched three games, going 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA. At the plate, he didn’t do as well as he did in the regular season, hitting .250 with a double and two triples.
41-16, 2.11 ERA, 283 K, .280, 3 HR, 59 RBI
1886 AA Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-2.11
Adj. Pitching Runs-69
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.4
Putouts as P-57
2nd Time All-Star-Now in his third season with the Browns, Foutz had his best season ever, finishing third in WAR (11.4) and third in WAR for Pitchers (9.8). Bob Caruthers had a better overall season, from the mound and the batters’ box, but Scissors was the better pitcher. He pitched 504 innings, with league-leading totals of a 2.11 ERA and 162 ERA+. From the plate, he slashed .280/.297/.389 for an OPS+ of 111. These Browns pitchers sure could rake.
In the World Series, Foutz pitched two games with a 1-1 record and a 3.60 ERA while hitting .200 with a double and a triple. As mentioned in Caruthers’ blurb, St. Louis went on to win the World Series, 4-2.
The Sporting News, according to Wikipedia, has this to say about a particular play made by Foutz this season: “’During) Sunday’s game between St. Louis (and) Louisville, and in the presence of 6,000 persons, Foutz played the sharpest trick ever seen on the ball field. Browning was on first base and Kerins on second, with no one out. Pete played far off from the base, while Comiskey took a stand back into right field. Pete had his back turned toward second base, and was keeping an eye on the movements of Comiskey, while he eagerly pranced back and forth to show the crowd that he was not afraid to steal off a bag. Foutz pretended not to watch Browning, but suddenly Bushong signaled, and Foutz dashed over toward first base with the ball in hand, touching Browning before the latter knew what had happened. Such a play was never before seen, and the spectators howled with delight. Pete was mighty mad, and, as he has a faculty for being caught napping, the play was doubly embarrassing.’ The Sporting News, September 13, 1886.”
41-20, 2.45 ERA, 326 K, .167, 1 HR, 24 RBI
Walks & Hits per IP-1.032 (2nd Time)
Shutouts-12 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-Morris didn’t have as good of season as he did in 1885, but not too many pitchers have. He still pitched great, tossing 555 1/3 innings with a 2.45 ERA and a 135 ERA+. He’d never have this good of season again, though I have no doubt he has another All-Star team left in his quickly deteriorating arm.
As for Pittsburgh, led by Morris, it finished in second place with an 80-57 record. Horace Phillips managed the team for the third straight season and continually improved. But in 1887, coaching became more difficult as the Alleghenys moved to the National League, where they are to this day, though now they’re buccaneers not rivers.
Morris is not going to make the ONEHOF and certainly not make the real Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, according to the American Association article in Wikipedia, “No player who spent the majority of his career in the AA is in the Hall of Fame. The living legacy of the old Association is the group of teams that came over to the National League to stay. The Pirates moved to the NL after the 1886 season, the Bridegrooms/Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds after the 1889 season, and the Browns/Cardinals after the American Association folded following the 1891 season. Following the reorganization and contraction of the NL from 12 teams down to 8 in 1900, half of the eight surviving teams were former members of the AA. Several of the AA’s home-field venues survived into the 1960s: The ballpark used by the 1891 Washington club evolved into Griffith Stadium; the home of the St. Louis Browns, Sportsman’s Park; and the city block occupied by the Reds, which evolved into Crosley Field. Crosley was the last physical remnant of the AA to go, other than the clubs themselves, when it was replaced by Riverfront Stadium in mid-1970.”
26-23, 2.87 ERA, 133 K, .341, 4 HR, 48 RBI
1886 AA Batting Title
5th Time All-Star-In his best season, 1884, Hecker threw 670 2/3 innings. Since that time, his innings pitched dropped to 480 in 1885 and then to 420 2/3 innings this season. Starting next season, he going to be more of a first baseman than a pitcher, which makes sense with the way he hit. This year, Hecker finished sixth in WAR (6.2), ninth in WAR for Pitchers (3.3), and 10th in Offensive WAR (3.3). From the mound, he had a 2.87 ERA and a 126 ERA+. At the plate, he slashed .341/.402/.446 for an OPS+ of 161. My guess is he has made his last All-Star team since his pitching and hitting would both fade after 1886. As far as I know, he’s the only pitcher to lead the league in batting.
Hecker would continue playing for Louisville for the next three seasons. In 1890, his last season, he moved to the National League to play with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys.
The pitcher did have one great game on August 15, 1886. Bob Bailey of SABR writes, “The trail of statistics was not as well marked in 1886 as it is today, so some of the details of Hecker’s record run have been lost. But we do know he set single-game records for runs scored (7), total bases (15), and home runs by a pitcher (3). Those three homers also tied the single-game record by a player at any position, and Hecker’s six hits equaled the existing single-game record in that category as well.”
29-34, 3.37 ERA, 513 K, .174, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-7.919
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-2.819
Def. Games as P-68
Assists as P-116
Errors Committed as P-28
1st Time All-Star-Matthew Aloysius “Matt” or “Matches” Kilroy was born on June 21, 1866 in Philadelphia, PA. A man I had never heard of had an incredible rookie year. He finished seventh in WAR (5.9) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (6.0). He pitched an arm-numbing 583 innings with a 3.37 ERA and a 101 ERA+. Oh, and he struck out more people in a season than anyone ever has or ever will.
Kilroy’s team, the Orioles, did much better with him on the mound, going 29-34, than they did without him, going 19-49. Altogether, Manager Billy Barnie led the team to a last-place 48-83 record, 41 games out of first. Surprisingly he would coach the team for another five seasons.
More on the strikeout record from SABR: “In 1886 the pitcher’s box was made a foot deeper and the rule requiring the pitcher to keep both feet on the ground when delivering a pitch was lifted, prompting an increase in strikeouts in both the American Association and the National League.
“Nowhere did this change have more impact than in Baltimore, where Matt ‘Matches’ Kilroy, a rookie pitcher for the American Association Orioles, set a record for strikeouts in a season with 513. On October 3, in a game against Louisville, Kilroy surpassed the previous strikeout record of 483, set in 1884 by Hugh ‘One Arm’ Daily.
“The hard-throwing 19-year-old made his debut in Baltimore on April 7, 1886, in an exhibition game against Washington, and struck out 15 while earning the win. ‘He pitched a speedy and curved ball, and gave promise of good work,’ the Washington Post wrote. The Baltimore American noted, ‘His curves are peculiar and deceptive, especially the in and out shoots.’”
33-27, 3.70 ERA, 250 K, .225, 0 HR, 39 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-11
4th Time All-Star-After missing a year due to a suspension (see his 1884 blurb), Mullane was back with his fifth team in five seasons of pitching, now throwing for Cincinnati. He’d finally settle down and be here for quite a while. This season, the Apollo of the Box finished eighth in WAR (5.4) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2). He tossed 529 2/3 innings with a 3.70 ERA and a 94 ERA+. It was going to be his worst season, at least according to Adjusted ERA+, for quite a stretch.
The Red Stockings finished fifth in the American Association with a 65-73 record. Ollie Caylor managed them for the second consecutive season, but was gone after the season.
Tony Mullane was inducted in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2010. They introduced him by saying “Born in County Cork, January 30, 1859, Tony Mullane is often remembered for being one of the handful of ambidextrous pitchers in the history of Major League baseball. While pitching for Louisville in the American Association in 1882, Mullane suffered an injury to his right arm and resorted to pitching a few games left-handed, a practice he employed on a few other occasions throughout his long career. Interest in Mullane’s feat of pitching effectively with both arms has, for many fans, reduced Mullane to little more than an answer to a trivia question. Lost in this limited focus on Mullane’s career is one of the finest resumes ever compiled by a Major League pitcher.”
29-21, 2.67 ERA, 72 K, .253, 0 HR, 21 RBI
Base on Balls per 9 IP-1.553 (2nd Time)
7th Time All-Star-Galvin pitched in the American Association just two seasons – in 1885, when he pitched a partial season for Pittsburgh and this one. That 1885 season was the first time he missed making the All-Star team since he became a regular pitcher, but now getting to face the AA competition, Pud is back. He finished ninth in WAR (5.1) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (4.8). He was no longer the Gentle Jeems that threw 500 innings, this season throwing “only” 434 2/3, but in those innings, he had a 2.67 ERA and a 124 ERA+, his second highest Adjusted ERA+ in his career.
In a league and season in which the two highest strikeout performances of all-time were pitched, Galvin surprisingly had only 72 Ks. As mentioned in SABR, “Galvin’s inability to throw a curveball may have been a blessing in disguise, as he perfected a simple approach to pitching that yielded consistent results. Watching Tony Mullane struggle while throwing breaking pitches one day in 1886, Galvin remarked, ‘Just watch them slug Tony with his ups and downs, while I keep right on winning with my little old straight-ball delivery.’ Additionally, Galvin’s limited repertoire may have been a factor in his longevity during an era in which pitchers had very short careers, because his arm did not sustain the stress of throwing hard breaking pitches.
“Galvin also relied on good defense and a devastating pickoff move. He was one of the premier fielding pitchers of the era, consistently recognized for his fielding prowess in the press. His pickoff move was extraordinarily effective and incontrovertibly the most successful of the 19th century.”
17-21, 3.12 ERA, 167 K, .151, 0 HR, 5 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Because every team needs a representative on my All-Star teams, Cushman made the Union Association squad in 1884 despite pitching only four games for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1885, he pitched for the American Association Athletics and Metropolitans. He kept pitching for New York this season, finishing eighth in WAR for Pitchers (4.6). In 425 2/3 innings pitched, Cushman had a 3.12 ERA and a 108 ERA+.
The Metropolitans, coached by Jim Gifford (5-12) and Bob Ferguson (48-70), finished 53-82, seventh place in the AA. Their pitching, led by Cushman, wasn’t too bad, as they allowed the third least runs in the league, but their hitting definitely lacked, with only big Dave Orr giving them any pop at the plate.
After this season, Cushman pitched one more season with New York and then, according to Wikipedia, “For the 1888 season he returned to the minors, this time in the Western Association and played for Charlie Morton‘s Des Moines team. When Morton took over the minor league Toledo Maumee team, he moved several of his Des Moines players with him, including Cushman, who would play for that team through the 1889 season, and in 1890 season when the team earned Major League status by joining the American Association. This was the only season the Maumees played in the Majors.
“After his playing days, he worked as a conductor on the New York Central Railroad, and was also a restaurant owner at one time. Ed died in Erie, Pennsylvania at the age of 63, and was buried in Erie Cemetery.”
18-16, 3.09 ERA, 162 K, .237, 2 HR, 39 RBI
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.031
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-2.66
Range Factor/Game as P-2.50
2nd Time All-Star-After having an off-year for Brooklyn in 1885, Terry is back on the All-Star team this season. He never was one to rack up 400 or more innings (not counting his rookie year), but he consistently pitched well throughout his 14-year career. In 1886, he finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (2.4), throwing 288 1/3 innings with a 3.09 ERA and a 113 ERA+. I mentioned in his 1884 blurb, he’s the start of many great Dodgers pitchers over their history. Oh, what the great Vin Scully could have done with the name Adonis!
Brooklyn did well in the American Association, despite allowing the same amount of runs as it scored, which should have led to a .500 record. Instead the Grays were 76-61, as Charlie Byrne must have done some great managing. Part of the reason is that Brooklyn went 15-8 in one run games, but was 23-25 in blowouts, games decided by five runs or more. As late as June 12, Brooklyn was in first with a 24-16 record, but faltered at that point, never getting back into the race.
Interestingly, the first place St. Louis Browns had six All-Stars, the second place Pittsburgh Alleghenys had five, but third place Brooklyn just had two, Terry and rightfielder Ed Swartwood. It had the same amount of All-Stars as last place Baltimore.
Of Terry, Wikipedia says, “Over the next three seasons [starting in 1885], Terry had average-to-good seasons, had a combined record of 40 wins and 49 losses, even throwing a no-hitter against the St. Louis Browns on July 24, 1886.”
.288, 5 HR, 64 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-After being an All-Star rookie for the Columbus Buckeyes in 1884, Carroll moved to Pittsburgh where he would spend most of the rest of his career. This season, he had his best season ever, finishing sixth in WAR Position Players (4.0) and sixth in Offensive WAR (3.8). He continued his hot hitting, slashing .288/.362/.422 for and OPS+ of 150. Also, according to Baseball Reference, “Fred Carroll holds the major league record with 95 passed balls in the 1886 season.” He also had nine hits in a doubleheader on July 5 which is still tied for Major League record.
Carroll got into a brouhaha this season, according to Wikipedia, which says, “In August 1886, Carroll was briefly suspended after fighting with a teammate, first baseman Otto Schomberg. Schomberg was unpopular with his teammates, and the fight started after Carroll referred to him with what The Sporting News subsequently termed ‘vile names’. The pair were separated by Frank Ringo and Ed Glenn, and while Carroll was immediately suspended, the suspension was short-lived. The directors of the Pittsburg Alleghenys convened a meeting that night, and after the players refused to testify, Carroll was reinstated and his penalty was reduced to a $50 fine.”
It is tough to be a good hitting catcher, which is why so much of Carroll’s eight-year career is impressive. He will be over 150+ Adjusted OPS+ half of those eight seasons, including this year, and he will end up with impressive overall stats. He didn’t add much defensively, but it didn’t hurt the team too much.
.244, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 0 K
1st Time All-Star-Christopher “Chris” Fulmer was born on the Fourth of July, 1858, just 82 years after the birth of the United States, in Tamaqua, PA. Just 73 years later, on November 9, 1931, he died in that same hometown. He didn’t burst onto the scene with fireworks, starting as a catcher for the 1884 Union Association Washington Nationals. He took a season off before coming back this season and having his best season ever. Fulmer finished 10th in WAR Position Players (3.9) and second in Defensive WAR (2.2). I mentioned in Fred Carroll’s write-up that Baseball Reference said he holds the all-time record for passed balls, but that turns out not to be true. And it’s not Fulmer either. It’s actually Rudy Kemmler, who had 114 for the American Association Columbus Buckeyes in 1883. Fulmer fell one short. Missed it by that much! (Don Adams, we salute you!)
During the season, Fulmer slashed .244/.363/311 for an OPS+ of 115. His main contribution at the plate was walks, as he walked 48 times in 80 games. He’d never play 80 games again, finishing his career as a part-time catcher and outfielder for Baltimore. He played his last Major League game in 1889. Though his career was short, it was decent, as he wound up with a final slash line of .247/.343/.313 for an OPS+ of 105. He never hit for much power, with only one home run in his career. Defensively, he would never add much to a team after this season.
.269, 4 HR, 50 RBI
Assists as C-157
Range Factor/9 Inn as C-9.21
Range Factor/Game as C-9.91
1st Time All-Star-John Nelson Kerins was born on July 15, 1858 in Indianapolis, IN. It’s rare that these All-Star teams have three catchers, but this season is an exception. Well, not rare, but more often than not it’s just the two that are required. Kerins made it in his best season ever, finishing eighth in Defensive WAR (1.0). His bat was adequate, as he slashed .269/.360/.370 for an OPS+ of 125.
Kerins played his entire career in the American Association, starting with his hometown Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1884, before moving to Louisville the next season. Starting in 1889, he played limited duty with Louisville, Baltimore, and St. Louis.
Baseball Reference says, “’John Kerins had a solid year in 1886 for Louisville. He was headed for an even better one in 1887 before breaking his right hand . . . Kerins . . . was never the same player.’ – from the book The Beer and Whisky League, which features a baseball card of him.
“He died in Louisville in 1919.”
The Louisville franchise started as the Eclipse in 1882, before becoming the Colonels for the rest of its existence, from 1885-to-1891 in the AA and from 1892-to-1899 in the National League. As you’ll read about sometime down the road, it was the first franchise for the great Honus Wagner, before he moved permanently to Pittsburgh.
.338, 7 HR, 91 RBI
WAR Position Players-6.3 (2nd Time)
Offensive WAR-5.4 (3rd Time)
Slugging %-.527 (2nd Time)
Hits-193 (2nd Time)
Total Bases-301 (2nd Time)
Triples-31 (2nd Time)
Runs Created-108 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-48 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-5.2 (2nd Time)
Extra Base Hits-63
Putouts as 1B-1,445
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.31
Range Factor/Game as 1B-10.88
Fielding % as 1B-.981
3rd Time All-Star-Orr was on the wrong New York team, the 250-pounder should have been on the Giants, not the Metropolitans. The big man had his best season ever, finishing fifth in WAR (6.3), first in WAR Position Players (6.3), and first in Offensive WAR (5.4). At the plate, Orr slashed .338/.363/.527 for an OPS+ of 185. Incredibly the large Orr led the league in triples with 31, which set a record which would last until 1912, when Chief Wilson set the all-time record with 36.
I put part of Dan Brouthers’ quote about Orr in his 1885 write-up, but here’s the full quote from Wikipedia, “Though largely forgotten in the modern era, Orr was remembered by both fellow players and sports writers as one of the greatest hitters of the 19th century. In 1894, Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dan Brouthers opined that Orr was the greatest hitter to ever play the game:
“’The greatest hitter that ever played ball was old Dave Orr. He didn’t care whether they were over the plate or not. If they were within reach of that long bat of his he would hit them out, and when he hit them there was no telling whether they would be found again or not. I have always held that Dave Orr was the strongest and best hitter that ever played ball.’”
.294, 7 HR, 59 RBI, 0-0, 27.00 ERA, 0 K
AB per HR-69.9
5th Time All-Star-Mr. Power-Speed continued to produce for the Athletics at the plate and on the base paths. This season he finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.0) and fourth in Offensive WAR (4.2). Stovey slashed .294/.377/.440 for an OPS+ of 158. He also stole 68 bases but they didn’t count caught stealings in these days, so it’s hard to know how effective all of that running was.
His great play didn’t help the Athletics do too well, as they finished 63-72, in seventh place, while being coached by Lew Simmons (41-55) and Bill Sharsig (22-17). Did Sharsig’s good record allow him to keep managing the team? Not in 1887, but he’d be back in 1888 and lead the team to a good record, though not a title.
Why isn’t a player of Stovey’s caliber in the Hall of Fame. According to Baseball Reference, “Stovey has been overlooked for the Hall of Fame because his greatest years were in the American Association, deemed by most (and all research on the subject) to be an easier league than the National League. However, he was also well above average as a young player in the National League and as a player in the Players League in 1890.
“He played all three outfield positions as well as first base. He managed in 1881 (when he was 24 years old) and 1885. He was said to be well-behaved and articulate.
“John Shiffert argues that Stovey is the very best player who is not yet in the Hall of Fame.”
.268, 8 HR, 70 RBI
Putouts as 2B-529 (4th Time)
Assists as 2B-464 (2nd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-90 (5th Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-7.21 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-7.09 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as 2B-.939 (4th Time)
1st Time All-Star-John Alexander “Bid” McPhee was born on November 1, 1859 in Massena, NY. The little man, standing five-foot-eight, 152 pounds, would eventually make the Hall of Fame. Bid started with the Red Stockings in 1882 and was their regular second baseman from the beginning. He’d always been a great defensive player, but this year put it all together. McPhee finished sixth in WAR Position Players (4.0) and 10th in Defensive WAR (0.9). At the plate, he slashed .268/.343/.395 for an OPS+ of 129.
At most, McPhee seems to be a weak Hall of Famer. Oh, there are worse *cough* Candy Cummings *cough* but while he was a great defensive player, it doesn’t seem that he produced enough with the bat to put him in Cooperstown. Your mileage may vary.
McPhee was the last second baseman who didn’t wear a glove. SABR says, “McPhee’s offensive accomplishments aside, it was his bare-handed wizardry at second base that continued to set records and brought him fame. In an 1890 interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, McPhee stated, ‘No, I never use a glove on either hand in a game. I have never seen the necessity of wearing one; and besides, I cannot hold a thrown ball if there is anything on my hands. The glove business has gone a little too far. It is all wrong to suppose that your hands will get battered out of shape if you don’t use them. True, hot-hit balls do sting a little at the opening of the season, but after you get used to it there is no trouble on that score.’”
.274, 3 HR, 71 RBI, 0-1, 3.00 ERA, 1 K
Errors Committed as 2B-95
1st Time All-Star-William H. “Yank” Robinson was born on September 19, 1859 in Philadelphia, PA. He was born about 20 years too soon to be a Yankee which would have been the ultimate in symbiosis. Oh, well, he’d have to settle for winning his second pennant. Yank finished 10th in WAR Position Players (3.9) and seventh in Offensive WAR (3.8). Robinson slashed .274/.377/.385 for an OPS+ of 135, his highest Adjusted OPS+ ever.
Yank started off his career as a part-time player for the 1882 National League Detroit Wolverines, then didn’t play Major League ball (or as Bill James would put it, “major league ball”) until 1884 for the Union Association Baltimore Monumentals. He was one of the rare players who lasted from that league and then got to be part of the pennant-winning Browns of 1885. In that season’s World Series, he went four-for-23 (.174) with a triple, but in 1886’s Series, which St. Louis won, he did well, going six-for 19 (.316) with a double and a triple.
As with many of these old-time players, modern metrics tend to expose fielding lapses in players who had good reputations by the eyeball test. Robinson’s overall dWAR would be -1.6, but Wikipedia says, “At least two modern accounts support the notion that Robinson was a good fielder. In his 1999 book on the early St. Louis Browns, J. Thomas Hetrick stated:
“’Performing gloveless at second base, Robinson was known for his range, accurate throwing arm, and double-play acrobatics. Ambidextrous, Robinson sometimes startled the opposition with lefthanded throws across his chest to nail base runners heading to third.’”
.266, 1 HR, 69 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Again my prophetic talents are lacking as I said Barkley would make no more All-Star teams, but he did. He was purchased by the Alleghenys from St. Louis for a thousand dollars and continued to play well for his new team, slashing .266/.345/.370 for an OPS+ of 129. His OPS+ would never be above 91 again in the three seasons he has left, one with Pittsburgh (National League) and two with Kansas City (American Association).
Here’s Wikipedia on the finale of his career: “That first season with Pittsburgh, the 1886 season, he hit .266 with 31 doubles, and he also stole 22 bases, while playing in 122 games. He stats declined significantly in 1887, only playing in 89 games, hitting only .224. After the season was over, Pittsburgh sold him to the Kansas City Cowboys of the American Association.
“He was given good playing time in 1888 by the Cowboys, playing in 116 games, but his batting average slid further down, to .216, but the season was not uneventful. On June 13, he hit for the cycle, and he was given the managerial reins, which lasted 58 games and 21 wins.”
According to Baseball Reference, Kansas City really wanted him: “The Wheeling Daily Register from March 30, 1888 carried this about him (Barkley was from Wheeling):
“Kansas City, of the Association, is making a big effort to secure Sam Barkley, and the wires were burthened with telegrams regarding the affair. Barkley has been signed with Pittsburg, but it is understood that that club is anxious to release him. All the clubs in the League will have to consent to his release . . .”<
.301, 1 HR, 47 RBI
Errors Committed as 3B-88 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Latham didn’t make the All-Star team in 1885, but his team won the American Association pennant, so there’s always that. No, the years you want are like this one, in which you win the pennant AND make the All-Star team. The Freshest Man on Earth finished fourth in WAR Position Players (4.3) and fifth in Offensive WAR (3.9), slashing .301/.368/.374 for an OPS+ of 129. All of this while having baseball’s best nickname.
In the World Series, which his team won, Latham couldn’t match his season success, going four-for-23 (.174) with a triple and two stolen bases. This didn’t match his 1885 World Series success in which he hit .318 with three doubles.
SABR says, “Arlie Latham, known as ‘The Freshest Man on Earth’ or the ‘Dude,’ would drive St. Louis Browns owner Chris Von der Ahe so crazy that Von der Ahe would blame Arlie when things spun out of control even if Latham wasn’t involved. He would yell ‘dot Latams is driving me crazy.’ Arlie was a carefree guy who loved life and baseball. Before Nick Altrock and Al Schacht, Arlie was the clown prince of baseball.
“Latham’s mischievous behavior on the diamond earned him the name as the ‘Freshest Man on Earth,’ a popular song at that time.
“Arlie jockeyed and taunted opposing players not only from the bench but also as a third base coach. At that time there was no coaching box that the third base coach was supposed to stay in, so Arlie took full advantage of it by running up and down the third base line while yelling invectives at the pitcher while he was in the middle of his windup. The rule makers, taking notice of Arlie running up and down the line like a lunatic, soon put into the rules the coaching box.”
.249, 6 HR, 72 RBI
Hit By Pitch-18
Assists as SS-485
Errors Committed as SS-117
Double Plays Turned as SS-54 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-In 1871, Harry Schafer, playing third base for the National Association Boston Red Stockings committed 59 errors in 31 games. That record was broken in 1872 when John Radcliff, playing shortstop for the Baltimore Canaries, committed 74 errors in 56 games. Then the year after that, Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, playing third base for the Brooklyn Atlantics, committed 110 errors in 51 games.
That’s the record which was broken in 1886 by Fennelly, who booted the ball 117 times in 132 games. Just for fun, if we extrapolate Ferguson’s 1873 errors over 132 games, he would have committed 284 errors! At least Fennelly has the excuse of playing a long season.
Remember in the BBJ era (before Bill James), when we used to think the worst fielders were those with the worst fielding percentage. We’ve grown up a lot now and know that you can commit errors and still be a great fielder. That was Fennelly.
As for this season, Fennelly finished ninth in WAR Position Players (3.9), ninth in Offensive WAR (3.5), and seventh in Defensive WAR (1.1). See, good fielder.
At the plate, he slashed .249/.351/.380 for an OPS+ of 127, his worst hitting season ever. He’s pretty much done providing value from the plate, but his fielding would shine for many years.
This only has to peripherally to do with Fennelly, but, well, who cares! SABR, in an article written by Paul Browne, mentions a game between the first formed black baseball team beating the Red Stockings. Read the whole thing, it’s very good, but here’s the beginning of the article: “Formed by Frank P. Thompson, headwaiter of the Argyle Hotel in Babylon, Long Island, New York, and Stanislaus Kostka ‘Cos’ Govern, who acted as manager, the Cuban Giants were the first salaried black baseball team. They began play in August of 1885 and took on their first major-league opponent, the American Association Metropolitans, on October 5 of that year.”
.217, 2 HR, 57 RBI
Fielding % as SS-.895
3rd Time All-Star-Much has happened to Smith’s career since making the All-Star team in 1884. Colorado folded at the end of that season and Smith was purchased by the Alleghenys. Then he was moved to shortstop this season, for the first time ever in full season. He did well at his new position, where he would remain for the majority of his career.
For this season, Smith had his best defensive season ever, finishing third in dWAR (2.0). He wasn’t great with the bat, slashing .217/.288/.308 for an OPS+ of 91, but his hands more than made up for it.
SABR speaks about his early life: “Little is known of Smith’s family or his early years. His birth in the coastal city of Digby, Nova Scotia, on October 12, 1856, belies the fact that he may never have played baseball there. Boys in Nova Scotia played baseball using New York rules by 1872, but it is not known if young Smith was one of them, because his family moved to Boston sometime in the 1870s, likely when the commercial economy of Nova Scotia crashed with the financial panic of 1873 (Howell, 24).
“Young Smith had little time for school. Working class children in the Canadian Maritimes typically left school around age ten to contribute to the family income (Howell, 38). By 1874 he worked as a laborer and played baseball on amateur teams in the Massachusetts Bay area.” It’s interesting to read about these times which came before drafts or free agency and yet people from many different places still made Major League rosters.
.328, 3 HR, 107 RBI
Runs Batted In-107
1st Time All-Star-James Edward “Tip” or “The Woodstock Wonder” O’Neill was born on May 25, 1858 in Springfield, Ontario, Canada. He would have an outstanding, though short, career. O’Neill started as a part-time pitcher for the 1883 National League New York Giants, then moved to the outfield for the 1884 American Association St. Louis Browns, where he would remain for the majority of his career. Playing only 52 games in 1885, O’Neill slashed .350/.399/.466 for an OPS+ of 166 and then hit .208 with no extra base hits in the World Series. Had he played more, this would have been his second All-Star team.
Once he played fulltime this season, O’Neill showed the world his skills. He finished 10th in WAR (4.9), second in WAR Position Players (4.9), and eighth in Offensive WAR (3.6). He slashed .328/.385/.440 for an OPS+ of 155. In the World Series against the National League Chicago White Stockings, Tip went crazy, hitting .400 with two triples and two homers in 20 at-bats. He slashed .400/.500/.900.
You might remember another Tip O’Neill from an episode of “Cheers” or maybe his long run as a congressman. Well, according to Wikipedia, “Years later, the future American politician and Speaker of the House, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill (1912–94), was given the nickname ‘Tip’ as a boy, due to his shared surname with the 19th century baseball player.”
Baseball Reference has this quote: “I think that the golden age of batting was from 1885 to 1891. . . The hits that Brouthers, O’Neil and Browning made were the real thing. They fairly smoked as they sped along. . . I think that those three fellows . . . if they could be back in the game, and as husky as they were then, would beat .350 easy . . .” – Hall of Famer Jake Beckley, who broke into the majors in 1888 and was still around in 1903 to make this comment comparing O’Neill to more modern players.
.319, 2 HR, 74 RBI
Doubles-36 (2nd Time)
Times on Base-246
Def. Games as OF-139
Errors Committed as OF-44
2nd Time All-Star-Larkin continued to be one of the best hitters in the American Association. He moved from centerfield to leftfield this season to lessen the effects of his bad fielding and would eventually wind up at first base, for the same reason. Larkin finished third in WAR Position Players (4.4) and third in Offensive WAR (4.2). Ted slashed .319/.390/.450 for an OPS+ of 165.
Philadelphia played its games in Jefferson Street Grounds, a neutral park for hitters and pitchers.
SABR, in an excellent article about the park, says, “The Athletics began the 1886 season with an advertisement claiming to be the ‘oldest playing organization in the United States.’ They asserted that they gave the Jefferson Street patrons ‘honest ball playing’ when they posted the opening season schedule of games. These contests began at 4:00 pm and admission remained at 25 cents. Even the train schedule from Broad Street was publicized. Despite this confidence, the ballfield was again threatened by city officials. These ambitious politicians were deterred when they were reminded that no one except the Athletics was willing to pay the $2,000 lease for the grounds. Once this issue was settled the Athletics re-dedicated their resources to repairing the grounds. They raised the infield, put in new cinder paths, and purchased ‘an immense canvas to cover the entire infield.’ Two years later, Mason and Simmons, looking for revenue, changed the ticket prices. General admission became 50 cents, and for an extra quarter women and their escorts could sit on cushioned seats in parts of the grandstand. This new revenue was intended to cover the expenses of erecting a new fence, replacing old floorboards, and re-painting the pavilions. In spite of these changes, the growing threat of a players’ strike put the Athletics and their ball park in jeopardy.” Read the whole thing.
.281, 2 HR, 95 RBI
Putouts as OF-297 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/Game as OF-2.29 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as OF-.952 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Curtis Benton “Curt” Welch was born on February 10, 1862 in Williamsport, OH. He started with the 1884 American Association Toledo Blue Stockings before coming over to St. Louis to be a part of their two pennant winning teams. In 1885, he hit only .148 in the World Series, with a double and a triple. This season, he slashed .281/.332/.393 for an OPS+ of 124. In the 1886 World Series, he turned it on, hitting .350 with two doubles and two stolen bases. He’d have a decent if not great career.
Here’s more on Welch’s part in the World Series. According to SABR, St. Louis needed one more win to take the series when, “Welch led off the bottom of the tenth and was hit by a pitch. But Anson protested that he had made no effort to avoid the pitch, and the umpire made him bat again. On the next pitch Welch lined a single to center. A fumble by shortstop Williamson put two men on. Yank Robinson calmly bunted the men to second and third, bringing up Bushong. On the second ball pitched, catcher King Kelly signaled for a low ball outside. But Clarkson’s pitch sailed in high and inside, bouncing to the backstop. Welch ran home with the championship-winning run as Sportsman’s Park turned into a madhouse.
“Although the winning run has come down in history with the label ‘Curt Welch’s $15,000 Slide,’ there is no contemporary evidence that he actually slid. In fact, the Missouri Republican said he ‘trotted home,’ and the Globe-Democrat said that ‘Kelly made no effort to get (the ball), and … in a dazed manner stood and watched Welch come in.’As for the money, the Chicago News put the winnings at ‘exactly $13,781.95.’ These discrepancies notwithstanding, the 1886 St. Louis Browns were world champions, the only American Association team with an undisputed claim to that title.”
.280, 3 HR, 58 RBI
Bases on Balls-70
Assists as OF-32
4th Time All-Star-For his first two seasons, there weren’t too many better hitters than Swartwood. Even now, far below that level, he’s still good enough to make the All-Star team after not making it the previous season. He slashed .280/.377/.369 with his ability to walk his best attribute.
Of Swartwood, SABR says, “By some standards, Ed Swartwood toiled in relative obscurity, playing nearly his entire career in the American Association, an under-appreciated major league in the 19th century. Even the teams he played on weren’t impressive. During the league’s inaugural season, 1882, he came up with the Pittsburg Alleghenys, a poor club during his three summers there. Of the teams he played for, only the 1886 Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers finished as high as third place, yet still a distant 16 games behind.” Baseball Reference has them listed as the Grays. Was this team already the Trolley Dodgers?
More from SABR: “Over the winter, Swart worked out at home in Pittsburgh with teammates Germany Smith and Steve Toole at a ‘large rink.’ In March 1886, the Brooklyn Eagle looked forward to a new season from Swartwood: ‘He gave such satisfaction as captain of the team last year that the management has determined to place the team in his hands again this year. His fairness and considerate treatment have won him the respect and goodwill of all the players and it is believed good teamwork will naturally result. He is a good coach for his men, a powerful batter and last year he made a great reputation as a base runner.’ He appeared in 122 games in 1886, mostly in right field, and led the league in bases on balls with 70. After the season, he was chosen as one of the players to sit on the combined National League and American Association rules committee.”
P-Charlie Ferguson, PHI
P-Lady Baldwin, DTN
P-Tim Keefe, NYG
P-Jim McCormick, CHC
P-John Clarkson, CHC
P-Dan Casey, PHI
P-Old Hoss Radbourn, BSN
P-Jim Whitney, KCN
P-Mickey Welch, NYG
P-Dupee Shaw, WHS
C-Charlie Bennett, DTN
C-Buck Ewing, NYG
1B-Dan Brouthers, DTN
1B-Roger Connor, NYG
1B-Cap Anson, CHC
2B-Fred Dunlap, SLM/DTN
3B-Jerry Denny, SLM
SS-Jack Glasscock, SLM
SS-Jack Rowe, DTN
LF-Hardy Richardson, DTN
CF-George Gore, CHC
CF-Paul Hines, WHS
CF-Jim O’Rourke, NYG
RF-King Kelly, CHC
RF-Sam Thompson, DTN
30-9, 1.98 ERA, 212 K, .253, 2 HR, 25 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-11.8
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-2.95
2nd Time All-Star-When you see someone has a WAR of 11.8, you figure they led in multiple categories, but that wasn’t the case with Ferguson. He had a great season, maybe the best in the league, but he didn’t put up monster stats, at least compared to his contemporaries. He did lead the league in WAR (11.8) and finish second in WAR for Pitchers (10.5). Ferguson tossed 395 2/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA and a 161 ERA+. It was his best season ever.
As for his team, the Quakers, they had a great year, finishing 71-43. The great manager Harry Wright guided them, but surprisingly that gaudy record only led them to a fourth place finish. Philadelphia allowed less runs than any other team, but its hitting lacked a bit.
We’ll look at Ferguson’s tragic end next season. Here’s some highlights from SABR, which has an outstanding article on him: “Despite all the success he enjoyed on the mound, the season was not free of controversy for Ferguson. On August 27, upon the Quakers’ arrival in Chicago for a three-game set, the young right-hander jumped the team and headed back to Charlottesville. The situation suggests that all may not have been well with the Quakers’ star. Ferguson began explaining his actions by stating, ‘It is true that I jumped the Philadelphia club at Chicago, but I did not take “French leave” because I feared the Chicago batsmen.’The lineup of the first-place Chicago club was indeed one to be feared as they tallied 13 runs in each of the three contests against the Quakers.”
42-13, 2.24 ERA, 323 K, .201, 0 HR, 25 RBI
WAR for Pitchers-10.8
Walks & Hits per IP-0.967 (2nd Time)
Hits per 9 IP-6.856
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.69 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-57
Adj. Pitching Wins-5.4
2nd Time All-Star-Detroit would be a team known for its “Big Four” hitting crew and would definitely be dominant at the plate this season. But thanks to Lady Baldwin, the Wolverines also did well on the mound. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t beat a dynamic, All-Star-filled Chicago squad.
As for Baldwin, the 27-year-old would have won the Cy Young this season had Cy Young yet existed in baseball. (He’s actually not that far out. Ooo, exciting!) He pitched 487 innings with a 2.24 ERA and a 144 ERA+. However, after this season, he would never be the same and it’s his last All-Star team.
Back to Detroit. Bill Watkins managed the team to an outstanding 87-36 record that still fell behind the White Stockings by two-and-a-half games. The Wolverines were in first place through their 90th game on August 25, before losing ground for good to Chicago. It’s not like the team fell apart, going 23-12 from this point. But the White Stockings were in the midst of a 14-game winning streak druing this stretch and never looked back.
Back to Baldwin. Are you keeping up? Speaking of looking back, it was at this point in his career he would look back and realize he’d never be the same. Well, I should mention he has one more highlight in his career, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Baldwin had his best season in 1886 when he compiled a 42–13 record and a 2.24 earned run average (ERA), threw 55 complete games, and led the National League with 323 strikeouts. Baldwin’s 42 wins in 1886 set the major league record for a left-handed pitcher and remains the second highest single season total by a southpaw. Baldwin also pitched five complete games for a 4–1 record and a 1.50 ERA in the 1887 World Series. Arm troubles cut short Baldwin’s major league career at age 31.”
42-20, 2.56 ERA, 297 K, .171, 1 HR, 20 RBI
Games Pitched-64 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-535.0 (2nd Time)
Games Started-64 (2nd Time)
Complete Games-62 (2nd Time)
Batters Faced-2,173 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-64 (2nd Time)
7th Time All-Star-It’s always a synergetic joy when a member of ONEHOF is also a member of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and that is the case with Smiling Tim Keefe. He was not a difficult selection, especially having yet another gigantic year on the mound this season. As for next year’s ONEHOF nominees, they are Charley Jones, Pud Galvin, Fred Dunlap, George Gore, Davy Force, Monte Ward, Ned Williamson, Ezra Sutton, King Kelly, Mickey Welch, Old Hoss Radbourn, Charlie Bennett, Jack Glasscock, and Dan Brouthers. It’s a crowded field and it goes to show how many great players never got their recognition in the 1800s.
For this season, Keefe finished third in WAR (9.5) and third in WAR for Pitchers (10.1). He pitched an incredible 535 innings with a 2.56 ERA and a 174 ERA+.
Giants’ owner John B. Day’s plan to use his two teams to shuffle players around and win a pennant was foiled again. New York, coached again by the outstanding skipper, Jim Mutrie, finished in third place with a 75-44 record, 12-and-a-half games out of first. Led by Keefe, it had great pitching, but its hitting didn’t match the top tier teams.
From Keefe’s Hall of Fame page: “’Keefe was one of the first pitchers celebrated for his head work,’ Hall of Fame historian Lee Allen said. ‘Teaming with…Mickey Welch, he assured the Giants of a well-pitched game almost every day.’
31-11, 2.82 ERA, 172 K, .236, 2 HR, 21 RBI
9th Time All-Star-After seven consecutive years of making the All-Star team, including making two of them in 1884, McCormick didn’t make it in 1885, despite having a 21-7 record between two clubs, Providence and Chicago. He did pitch in the World Series in 1885, going 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA. This season McCormick, who is making his last All-Star team, finished seventh in WAR (7.0) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.3). He pitched 347 2/3 innings with a 2.82 ERA and a 126 ERA+. He didn’t quite the same success in the World Series this season, pitching in just one game and allowing 12 runs (six earned).
In 1887, McCormick would go to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and go 13-23 with a 4.30 ERA. According to Wikipedia, he was traded because, “In March, McCormick was still the property of Chicago when Spalding said ‘the only trouble between McCormick and the club has been a difference of opinion between him and me as to his habits. Anson is and always has been very partial to “Mac,” and wants him this season.’ Ten days later in Louisville, Anson said, ‘I desire his services very much, however, for I think that, under the new [pitching] rules [allowing for unrestricted overhand throwing], he will be the best pitcher on the diamond. If he is released, it will only be for a good sum of money.’ About a week after that, Spalding sold him.”
He would end up his career with a 265-214 record over 10 years, with a 2.43 ERA and a 118 ERA+. He has already made the ONEHOF, but is a longshot for the real Hall of Fame, despite having the second highest WAR among those who have not been admitted. Not counting steroid users, of course.
36-17, 2.41 ERA, 313 K, .233, 3 HR, 23 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-19 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-3.640
Assists as P-114 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-19 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-It’s not often a team has two pitchers of the caliber of Jim McCormick and Clarkson, but of course Chicago did and was able to win the league. Clarkson finished fifth in WAR for Pitchers (7.1), tossing 466 2/3 innings with a 2.41 ERA and a 147 ERA+.
He also pitched in the World Series, starting four games and finishing 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA, including one shutout. However, he was on the mound when the White Stockings lost, according to this from Wikipedia, “The sixth game, at St. Louis, was considered one of the greatest games ever played to that time. With the Browns ahead three games to two, Anson called on Clarkson to start his fourth game in six days. Clarkson responded with seven shutout innings, but gave up three runs in the eighth inning, and the game went to extra innings. In the bottom of the tenth inning, the Browns’ center fielder Curt Welch singled (only the fourth hit off Clarkson) and moved to third on a sacrifice. Welch and Browns’ third base coach Arlie Latham tried to distract Clarkson with heckling and faking moves toward home. When Welch finally attempted the steal, Chicago’s catcher, King Kelly, had called for a pitchout, but Clarkson threw a wild pitch, and Welch scored the World Series winning run.”
Clarkson had an amazing stretch in his career of eight years, from 1885-to-1892, in which he went 293-146 with a 2.64 ERA and a 137 ERA+. Though his career was only 12 years long, he definitely deserves to be in the Hall.
24-18, 2.41 ERA, 193 K, .152, 0 HR, 9 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Daniel Maurice “Dan” Casey was born on November 20, 1862 in Binghampton, NY. Was he the “Casey” of “Casey at the Bat?” No. That was probably King Kelly. However, Wikipedia says, “In his later years, Casey claimed to be the Casey about whom Ernest L. Thayer wrote his famous poem, ‘Casey at the Bat.’ Casey was given a parade honoring him as the famed ‘Casey’, was featured on a national radio broadcast, and participated in a ‘re-enactment’ of ‘Casey at the Bat’ when he was age 78. The poem’s author denied that his work was based on any real player, and several sources have called Casey’s claim into doubt. Casey had a career batting average of .162 and one home run.” Read the whole article about the furor over who the real Casey was. It’s fascinating!
He was the Casey who started his career with the Union Association Wilmington Quicksteps in 1884, before pitching 12 games for Detroit in 1885, and then moving to Philadelphia this season. As the sidekick to Charlie Ferguson, he helped Philadelphia to a fourth place finish.
Casey finished sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.2), pitching 369 innings with a 2.41 ERA and a 132 ERA+. When Casey was at the bat, however, he was awful, bringing no joy to Mudville by slashing .152/.200.192 for an OPS+ of 21. He couldn’t have been the famous Casey, because if he came up in a clutch situation, no doubt the manager would have put in a pinch-hitter.
27-31, 3.00 ERA, 218 K, .237, 2 HR, 22 RBI
Putouts as P-39
6th Time All-Star-I mentioned way back in Radbourn’s 1882 blurb whether he would have the longevity to make the ONEHOF. I try not to look so much at one or two dominant seasons as much as a good breadth of work over a career. I’m going to say, yes, Radbourn will make the ONEHOF, but it’s going to be close. If he had a good season in 1887, there’s no doubt he’d be there, but it’s going to be a few seasons before he makes another All-Star team.
Radbourn moved from Providence to Boston this season after the Grays folded. He finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (4.6), pitching 509 1/3 innings with a 3.00 ERA and a 104 ERA+, his lowest Adjusted ERA+ to that time. It’s going to get lower.
As for Boston, John Morrill coached the team to a 56-61 record and fifth place finish. He’s got three more years of managing left, but would never win another pennant.
Radbourn’s most famous act of 1886 was giving the finger in Boston’s 1886 team picture. From History by Zim, “In a 1886 photograph of the Boston Beaneaters (Radbourn was their pitcher) and their rivals, the New York Giants, Radbourn was photographed extending his middle finger to the camera, the earliest known photograph of a public figure using this gesture.” Due to the family nature of this page, I will not be showing that photo, but it’s easy to find online. Of course, you could say that about anything nowadays, couldn’t you? Kids, get off my lawn!
12-32, 4.49 ERA, 167 K, .239, 2 HR, 23 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-1.260 (4th Time)
Range Factor/Game as P-2.76
5th Time All-Star-For the second time in his career, Whitney made the All-Star team with a losing won-loss record. That’s mainly because Kansas City needed a representative. It’s not like he wasn’t effective. Pitching in hitter-friendly Association Park, Whitney pitched 393 innings with a 4.49 ERA and an 83 ERA+.
Kansas City entered the National League this season and would exit afterwards. Coached by Dave Rowe, the Cowboys finished seventh in the league with a dismal 30-91 record. The Cowboys, coached by Rowe, would be part of the American Association in 1888, but he wouldn’t last all season.
Here’s Wikipedia on the short history of the Cowboys: “The Cowboys were admitted to the National League on a trial basis for the 1886 season. The team went out of business in February, 1887, having been forced to sell its players back to the league for $6,000. They were replaced in the league by the Pittsburg Alleghenys, which moved to the league from the American Association.”
At this point in his career, Whitney might be the only five-time All-Star who has three sub-.500 seasons. Despite his pinpoint control, he would wind up his career with a 191-204 record. There will more about the end of his career later, but I will tease this: He doesn’t live a long time.
Whitney would wind up with five consecutive years of leading the league in Bases on Ball per 9 IP. That wouldn’t be matched until the 1890s when the great Cy Young would pitch.
33-22, 2.99 ERA, 272 K, .216, 0 HR, 18 RBI
Bases on Balls-163 (3rd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Smiling Mickey continues to make the All-Star team year-after-year and he’s not done. The Hall of Famer will almost no doubt be a ONEHOFer in the future. Welch won 30 games for the third consecutive year, but it would be the last time he does so. Because of how commonplace 30-win seasons are in this era, I forget how impossible it seems such a mark will ever be reached again. Even as I write this, Clayton Kershaw is having a great season, but he’s headed for “only” 22 wins.
Welch finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers (4.9), tossing 500 innings for the third time in his career, with a 2.99 ERA and a 107 ERA+. He also set the National League record for walks that wouldn’t be broken until 1889. Toad Ramsey of the American Association set the Major League mark this season with 207. During this season, the NL required seven balls to walk and the AA required six. In 1887, both leagues are going to require five and the walk totals are going to jump. By 1889, both leagues would be down to the current four balls to walk.
The card at the top is Welch’s 1886 baseball card. Look at the spelling of his name – it’s Welsh not Welch. Nowadays children can collect baseball cards, some with gum in them. In the 1880s, apparently kids would have had to buy cigarettes in order to build up their card collection. Do kids nowadays even collect baseball cards anymore?
13-31, 3.34 ERA, 177 K, .088, 0 HR, 6 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Shaw continued to move around, as he was picked up by Washington this season. He pitched well, finishing seventh in WAR for Pitchers (5.4), throwing 385 2/3 innings with a 3.34 ERA and a 96 ERA+. At that bat, however, Dupee stunk. He went 13-for-148 for an .088 average and ended up with a -14 OPS+. There are bad hitting pitchers nowadays, but they never get the amount of at-bats they did in the 1800s.
The Washington Nationals were new this season and played like an expansion team, finishing last with a 28-92 record. They were coached by Mike Scanlon (13-67) and John Gaffney (15-25). Both men would manage two seasons each in their career. Ironically on the team at this time was a man who would coach more seasons than anyone, backup catcher Connie Mack, who would eventually coach 53 seasons in his life, the last one when he was 88 years old in 1950.
Shaw would finish his career with Washington, playing his last Major League game in 1888. After that, according to Wikipedia, “After retiring from baseball, Dupee lived in the Boston area and was successful in business there. At the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, he was employed as a bartender in Boston, and in 1910 he was a grocer there. He also continued to follow baseball and to participate in ‘old timers’ games in Boston. He died at age 78 in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and was interred at Glenwood Cemetery in Everett, Massachusetts.”
.243, 4 HR, 34 RBI
Putouts as C-425 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as C-13 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as C-.955 (3rd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Bennett’s hitting is starting to decline, but his defense continued to be stellar. This despite how beat up his hands were at the time (see the 1885 blurb). At the plate, Bennett slashed .243/.371/.391 for an OPS+ of 131. That’s not terrible, but it’s because of his glove that he’s on the All-Star team for his sixth straight season.
Nowadays, a lot of teams will move their good-hitting catchers to first base to keep them from wearing themselves out at an earlier age. How much better could have Bennett’s career have been had that strategy been employed with him? Go back and read his past write-ups and see how tough this man was. No doubt, his beat-up hand started affecting his hitting.
As for his fielding, however, Wikipedia says, “Putouts. In 1886, Bennett set a major league, single-season record with 445 putouts by a catcher. His career total of 5,123 putouts was also a major league record that stood until 1901.
“In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, sports historian Bill James wrote that Bennett was perhaps the best defensive catcher of the era. In comparing Bennett to Buck Ewing, James noted: ‘Buck Ewing was supposedly a brilliant catcher, but Bennett caught 50% more innings than Ewing, with a lot fewer mistakes: per 1000 defensive innings, Ewing was charged with 59 errors and 66 passed balls, while Bennett was charged with 46 errors and 43 passed balls.’ Although James ranked Ewing ahead of Bennett as an overall player, he chose Bennett as the catcher on his Gold Glove Team for the 1880s. On the offensive side, Ewing compiled a .303 career batting average, 47 points higher than Bennett. However, with Bennett’s talent for drawing walks, Ewing’s career on-base percentage (.351) was only 11 points higher than Bennett (.340).”
.309, 4 HR, 31 RBI
5th Time All-Star-I wonder if back in this day there were heated arguments about who the best catcher was? Was it the defensive-minded Charlie Bennett or the better hitter, Ewing? This is the fourth straight season both men have made the National League All-Star team at catcher.
Ewing actually slumped with the bat a little this year, the key word there being a little. He slashed .309/.347/.444 for an OPS+ of 137. It was his highest batting average and on-base percentage thus far in his career, but his slugging was the lowest it’d been since 1882.
I mentioned in Mickey Welch’s blurb that Old Judge Cigarettes started offering baseball cards with their product. Here’s a little about the early history of baseball cards from Wikipedia: “During the mid-19th century in the United States, baseball and photography were both gaining popularity. As a result, baseball clubs began to pose for group and individual pictures, much like members of other clubs and associations posed. Some of these photographs were printed onto small cards similar to modern wallet photos. As baseball increased in popularity and became a professional sport during the late 1860s, trade cards featuring baseball players appeared. These were used by a variety of companies to promote their business, even if the products being advertised had no connection with baseball. In 1868, Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods store in New York, began producing trade cards featuring baseball teams. Peck and Snyder sold baseball equipment, and the cards were a natural advertising vehicle. The Peck and Snyder cards are sometimes considered the first baseball cards.”
.370, 11 HR, 72 RBI
WAR Position Players-8.2 (3rd Time)
Offensive WAR-8.0 (3rd Time)
Slugging %-.581 (6th Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.026 (5th Time)
Total Bases-284 (3rd Time)
Home Runs-11 (2nd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-208 (5th Time)
Runs Created-126 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-67 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-7.0 (3rd Time)
Extra Base Hits-66 (4th Time)
AB per HR-44.5 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Brouthers dominated again (yawn) and I can’t help but think how many home runs this man would have hit in a different era. He’s definitely the dominant hitter of his day and it’s not even close. This season, he and the rest of the Big Four – Brouthers, Hardy Richardson, Jack Rowe, and Deacon White – all came to the Wolverines this season after Buffalo folded and Detroit improved from sixth to second.
As for Brouthers, he finished fourth in the National League in WAR (8.2), first in WAR Position Players (8.2), and first in Offensive WAR (8.0). He slashed .370/.445/.581 for his highest ever OPS+ of 208. For this season, anyway, Recreation Park in Detroit was a hitters’ park, but it was generally neutral.
During the 1886 season, according to Wikipedia, Big Dan had a big game. “On September 10, 1886, Brouthers hit three home runs‚ along with a double and a single, to set the NL record with 15 total bases in one game. This mark tied the Major League record at the time, as Guy Hecker of the Louisville Colonels totaled 15 the previous month in the American Association.”
Wikipedia also says, “During the off-season, on November 11, 1886, The Executive Council of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players‚ formed in 1885 as the first organized players’ union, met and re-elected John Montgomery Ward as president, and elected Brouthers as vice president.” Unfortunately for ballplayers, they never were able to get rid of the Reserve Clause, at least until the Curt Flood era, a rule that allowed teams to put a hold on five players and not allow them to switch clubs.
.355, 7 HR, 71 RBI
Triples-20 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Starting next season, Connor is about to go on a home run tear which would allow him to be the all-time home run leader until Babe Ruth came around. As it was, he did hit his career high thus far with seven this year. He wouldn’t dip below that total until 1897. If Connor wouldn’t have had to contend with Dan Brouthers, he would have led in many more categories.
For the year, Connor finished sixth in WAR (7.1), third in WAR Position Players (7.1), and fourth in Offensive WAR (6.4). He slashed .355/.405/.540 (his highest slugging so far) for an OPS+ of 183. I’ve always been one to favor great offense over great pitching, so Connor and Brouthers would have probably been among my favorite players.
Speaking of the big man’s homer power, Wikipedia says, “On September 11, 1886, Connor hit a ball completely out of the Polo Grounds, a very difficult park in which to hit home runs. He hit the pitch from Boston’s Old Hoss Radbourn over the right field fence and onto 112th Street. The New York Times reported of the feat, ‘He met it squarely and it soared up with the speed of a carrier pigeon. All eyes were turned on the tiny sphere as it soared over the head of Charlie Buffinton in right field.’ A group of fans with the New York Stock Exchange took up a collection for Connor and bought him a $500 gold watch in honor of the home run.”
.371, 10 HR, 147 RBI
Runs Batted In-147 (6th Time)
Def. Games as 1B-125 (2nd Time)
Assists as 1B-66 (5th Time)
Errors Committed as 1B-48 (4th Time)
Double Plays Turned as 1B-69 (2nd Time)
12th Time All-Star-You can say what you will about Anson’s character and you’d certainly be justified, but he was a phenomenal ballplayer. He has made more All-Star teams than anyone so far and not only succeeded as a player, but also a manager. First, his props as a player. Anson finished 10th in WAR (6.9), sixth in WAR Position Players (6.9), and third in Offensive WAR (6.8). He slashed .371/.433/.544 (his highest slugging percentage ever) for an OPS+ of 180. He also set the all-time record for runs batted in with 147, which will be broken next season by Sam Thompson. It should be noted that Anson was the all-time RBI leader from 1881-through-1932, when Babe Ruth took the lead.
As for the White Stockings, they won their sixth National League pennant, five of them under Cap, and their second straight. It would be Anson’s last crown. They finished 90-34, finished two-and-a-half games ahead of the Wolverines. However, in the World Series, Chicago lost four games to two to the American Association St. Louis Browns. Cap, who tended to rise to the occasion in big situations, didn’t do so against St. Louis, going five-for-21 (.238) with a double. The White Stockings, to a man, were stymied by the Browns’ pitching, slashing .195/.254/.300, this for a team that hit .279 during the regular season. According to SABR, “In 1886 Anson drove in 147 runs in 125 games and led the White Stockings to the pennant once again, but his charges lost the six-game World’s Series against the Browns when some of the Chicago players appeared to be inebriated on the field.”
.274, 7 HR, 69 RBI
Assists-393 (2nd Time)
Assists as 2B-393 (4th Time)
7th Time All-Star-From my 1885 Dunlap blurb: “Without doing what many call ‘research,’ I can only guess that it’s possible the 26-year-old superstar has made his last All-Star team.” Well, there you go, I am a false prophet, break out the stones. The reason Sure Shot made the All-Star team for his seventh consecutive year is because there was a lack of good second basemen in the National League. Dunlap slashed .274/.335/.387 for an OPS+ of 123. His hitting was similar whether playing for the Maroons or the Wolverines.
St. Louis, managed by Gus Schmelz, still couldn’t reach the playing level of its one Union Association season. The Maroons finished 43-79, in sixth place, 46 games out of first.
Why would the Maroons trade their best player? According to Wikipedia, “In early August 1886, Dunlap was sold to the Detroit Wolverines for $4,700, the most expensive purchase price at the time. In addition to the sum paid to the Maroons to grant the release, the Detroit team signed a contract to pay Dunlap $4,500 a season for two seasons, with an advance of $1,500 on the first day of November 1886 and 1887, respectively. The mid-season sale led to concerns about the Maroons: ‘The transfer of Dunlap to Detroit is a small thing in itself, but its bearing on the entire base ball world is so great as to almost revolutionize the present order of things. He was the king pin of the St. Louis Club and his sale makes a certainty of the dissolution of the Maroons.’” The answer, of course, is money.
.257, 9 HR, 62 RBI
Putouts as 3B-182 (3rd Time)
Assists as 3B-270
Double Plays Turned as 3B-22
Range Factor/9 Inn as 3B-4.08 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 3B-3.86 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Jeremiah “Jerry” Dennis Denny born Jeremiah Dennis Eldridge was born on March 16, 1859 in New York, NY, went across the country to attend St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga before starting his Major League baseball career with the Providence Grays in 1881. Third base was always Denny’s position, but he didn’t make an All-Star team until moving to the Maroons this season. He finished fourth in Defensive WAR (1.5), which is where his true value was. At the plate, he slashed .257/.278/.389 for an OPS+ of 108. It wasn’t a great season, but considering the lack of good third basemen in the National League, it was good enough.
“At the time Denny began his professional career, fielding gloves had not yet become standard equipment, other than padded mitts for catchers and first basemen. Fielding gloves gradually gained acceptance between 1885 and the mid-1890s, but Denny refused to adapt. He was one of the few ambidextrous major league players; although he threw primarily with his right arm, he could also toss with his left. This gave him a defensive advantage at his customary field position—in ranging to his left on a ground ball, if he saw a play at second base, instead of having to transfer the ball to his right hand while pivoting and repositioning his body (as third basemen would customarily do), Denny could dispatch the ball to second with his left hand. This skill contributed to his refusal to wear a glove in the field, long after most players considered gloves essential.”
.325, 3 HR, 40 RBI
AB per SO-37.4
Assists as SS-392 (4th Time)
Fielding % as SS-.906 (4th Time)
6th Time All-Star-There are many players from this era that are not in the Hall of Fame for various reasons. There are some pitchers not there because of the proliferation of innings pitched during this time leading to them being overrated. There are others which did well in other leagues, but not so well in the tougher National League. None of this applies to Pebbly Jack Glasscock, who played only 38 games outside of the NL, played the toughest position, and played it well. It’s baffling to me.
St. Louis had a terrible season, but they had a great infield with Fred Dunlap (for part of the year), Jerry Denny, and Glasscock. Glasscock finished eighth in WAR (7.0), fourth in WAR Position Players (7.0), sixth in Offensive WAR (6.1), and second in Defensive WAR (1.8). He slashed .325/.374/.432 for an OPS+ of 153, his highest Adjusted OPS+ outside of his 38 games in Union Association. It was a great year, but it was typical for great Glasscock.
In 1941, Glasscock wrote an autobiographical letter which you can see at cycleback.com, but if you don’t want to spend the energy to click on the link, here’s a sample: “Well, I was in St. Louis in 1880 to 1886, and Mr. Lucas lost money and throwed up the franchise. And then the Indianapolis step in. The fans at St. Louis presented me with a diamond pin. And that fall when Lucas quit, I could have gone to Boston. Theys offered to give me, the St. Louis club, $7,500 for me. And the league stepped and paid us players. And no clubs buy us. That was done so no club to get us and sell us. That was the way we went to Indianapolis, under those conditions.” The whole letter is over 1,000 words and one continuous paragraph. Which you’d know if you clicked the link.
.303, 6 HR, 87 RBI
4th Time All-Star-Catchers in the 1800s could only tolerate so much, excluding Charlie Bennett, of course. Their hands were beat up and many of them just partially played behind the plate, spending the rest of the time at other positions. Well, in 1885, after playing six seasons as the catcher for Buffalo, Rowe moved to short. Then this season, with the folding of the Bisons, he moved to Detroit. Now it’s hard to picture someone like Johnny Bench moving from catcher to shortstop. It was hard enough watching him play third base. Yet Rowe was more a typical shortstop size, being five-foot-eight and 170 pounds, so maybe it wasn’t such a big deal.
For this season, Rowe finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.2), 10th in Offensive WAR (4.1), and seventh in Defensive WAR (1.0). He slashed .303/.340/.425 for an OPS+ of 130. He wasn’t the best player on the team, but he helped add to Detroit’s already powerful arsenal.
According to the Detroit Wolverines article at Wikipedia, its owner was trying some shenanigans. “In 1885, new owner Frederick Kimball Stearns began spending heavily in an attempt to create a ‘super-team’ by buying high-priced players. Most notably, he purchased the entire Buffalo Bisons franchise that August, to secure the services of its stars: Dan Brouthers, Jack Rowe, Hardy Richardson, and Deacon White, the so-called ‘Big Four’. This strategy quickly met resistance from his fellow owners, who changed the league’s rules governing the splitting of gate receipts, reducing the visiting team’s maximum share to $125 per game. Detroit was not yet the Motor City, and its population was too small to support a highly paid team. The Wolverines’ home gate receipts were not sufficient to sustain their payroll, and Stearns was forced to sell his stars to other clubs.”
.351, 11 HR, 61 RBI, 3-0, 4.50 ERA, 5 K
5th Time All-Star-For the first time in his career, Richardson made an All-Star team two years in a row and also made one in an even-numbered year. It’s Old True Blue’s fifth All-Star team and he’s now made one at four different positions (3B, CF, 2B, and LF). This season was Richardson’s best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR (7.0), fifth in WAR Position Players (7.0), and fourth in Offensive WAR (6.4). At the plate, he slashed .351/.402/.504 for an OPS+ of 173. All four of those numbers are career highs.
Richardson did something that has only been done four times in all of the history of baseball this season, and never since the live-ball era. He led the league in singles and home runs. The only others to do it were Nap Lajoie in the American League in 1901, Ty Cobb in the American League in 1909, and Dave Robertson in the National League in 1916. It was a little easier to do it when home runs weren’t as plentiful. Richardson ripped 11 home runs, Lajoie launched 14, Cobb crushed nine, and Robertson rocked 12.
My guess for Richardson is he has one or two more All-Star seasons left and is not going to make the ONEHOF. As for the real Hall of Fame, Old True Blue got 1.3 percent of the votes from the veterans committee in 1936. As the years roll on, it will get more difficult to make my One-A-Year Hall of Fame, in which only one player can make the Hall of Fame each year. If Richardson had started his career earlier, there’s a chance he would have made it.
.304, 6 HR, 63 RBI
Bases on Balls-102 (3rd Time)
7th Time All-Star-Gore made the All-Star team for the seventh consecutive time and was the league’s best centerfielder. He was part of the crew that led Chicago to another league title. Yet he was 32 years old and he played his last season with the White Stockings. Gore might have also made his last All-Star team.
For this season, Gore finished seventh in WAR Position Players (4.5) and eighth in Offensive WAR (4.6). He slashed .304/.434(highest ever)/.444 for an OPS+ of 154. But after seven consecutive seasons of having an Adjusted OPS+ of 138 or higher, it will dip significantly next season.
In the World Series, Gore didn’t produce up to his standards, going four-for-23 with a home run and three walk. After the loss to the American Association Browns in the Series, Wikipedia says, “In the aftermath of the St. Louis series, there were not only charges of drunkenness among many of the players, but also allegations that players intentionally lost games for money, known then as “hippodroming“.King Kelly had the reputation as being the hardest drinker, as well as the having the most active social life, which management tolerated due to his stellar play. However, that meant instilling discipline in the other players, who used Kelly as an example, was extremely difficult. On November 24, 1886, Gore was the first to go, when he was sold to the New York Giants for approximately $3,500. Writer Henry Chadwick said Gore ‘cannot play in harmony with Captain and Manager Anson, and Mr. Spalding has wisely released a discontented player whose skill as a fielder, batter, and base runner was offset by his unpleasant relations with the team captain.’”
.312, 9 HR, 56 RBI
9th Time All-Star-After eight years on Providence, Hines was obtained by Washington after the Grays folded. He continued to be productive in what was now his 15th year of Major League baseball. Hines finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.1) and seventh in Offensive WAR (4.9). He slashed .312/.358/462 for an OPS+ of 157, his highest adjusted OPS+ since his 177 in 1879. I’ve been writing about Hines for so long now, it’s incredible to me he’s only 31-years-old as this point.
In the early days of baseball, things seemed to happen so fast. I’m not talking about all of the firsts or the records, but how quickly things could change. In 1884, the Providence Grays were the National League champions. After the 1885 season, due to financial problems, they folded. This happened frequently in 1800s, so give credit to the National League that it stayed solid enough to last for 140 years and running.
Here’s some anecdotes from Baseball Reference: “In 1885, it was reported that Hines had accepted the challenge to catch a ball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument but this was canceled a week later.
“He lost some hearing after being hit in the head by a pitch from Jim Whitney in 1886 according to a source published 49 years later.” On his hearing loss, I did write something about that in an earlier blurb that I’m too lazy to look up, but it seems to me he had lost some hearing long before 1886.
.309, 1 HR, 34 RBI
10th Time All-Star-Remember when I said in O’Rourke’s 1885 write-up it would probably be his last All-Star team? Fuhgeddaboudit! He’s back! He slashed .309/.365/402 for an OPS+ of 131. He’s certainly having quite a run here towards the end of his career.
The National League had its share of good first basemen, people like Cap Anson and Dan Brouthers, but it also has quite a few good centerfielders, like George Gore, Paul Hines, and O’Rourke. The NL didn’t have a lot of great outfielders, but the ones that did perform well tended to be in centerfield.
O’Rourke incredibly played minor league ball until he well-advanced in age. SABR says, “Baseball was not the only thing taking a smaller place in Jim O’Rourke’s life. His children were now mostly married and out of the house. So was his mother, Catherine O’Donnell O’Rourke, who had died in 1907, aged about 85. But the real blow came on June 14, 1910, when Annie, Jim’s wife of 38 years, died from the lingering complications of a fall. A year later that loss was compounded by the death of brother John, felled by a heart attack while handling baggage on a Boston railway platform. Jim endeavored to fill the void by remaining engaged in the affairs of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players and the Connecticut State League. And on September 14, 1912, Connecticut State League president O’Rourke donned the pads a final time, catching nine innings for the New Haven Wings in a game against Waterbury. He was then 62 years old.” Read SABR’s whole article on the incredible life of Orator Jim.
.388, 4 HR, 79 RBI
1886 NL Batting Title
Batting Average-.388 (2nd Time)
On-Base%-.483 (2nd Time)
Runs Scored-155 (3rd Time)
Times On Base-258 (2nd Time)
Offensive Win %-.878 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-King had his best season ever and also was part of his fifth league title, all for the White Stockings. He finished fifth in WAR (7.3), second in WAR Position Players (7.3), and second in Offensive WAR (7.5). He slashed .388/.483/.534 for an OPS+ of 193. All four of those numbers would be career highs. In the World Series against the American Association St. Louis Browns, Kelly didn’t perform as well as he did the previous year, going five-for24 with a home run. Chicago lost the Series, 4-2.
More on Kelly’s, um, competiveness from Baseball Reference: “’His convenient way of forgetting that there is a third bag in the circuit has astonished many base ball enthusiasts. . . John Morrill broke into a laugh and said: — “Kelly gets caught sometimes. We were playing in Chicago one day when he tried to cut off third. I did not see him although I was covering first, but I happened to look at Billy Hawes, who was umpiring, and he was pointing at Kelly and laughing as hard as he could. That was the first I knew that anything was wrong. Billy Hawes was too smart for him, and he was so amused to think that he had caught Kelly in one of his tricks, that all he could do was to dance up down and to poke fun at him.” ‘ – Sporting Life of Feb. 3, 1886, in which George Wright and John Morrill swapped stories about Mike Kelly.”
.310, 8 HR, 89 RBI
Double Plays Turned as OF-11
1st Time All-Star-Samuel Luther “Big Sam” Thompson was born on March 5, 1860 in Danville, IL and was on his way to a Hall of Fame career. This season, he finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.1), slashing .310/.355/.445 for an OPS+ of 141. It was his second year with Detroit and he, in addition to “The Big Four,” would provide great hitting to the Wolverines for numerous years.
Big Sam lived up to his nickname. The left-handed hitter stood six-foot-two, 207 pounds, gigantic for the time he played. He came right into the Major Leagues hitting. In 1885, his first season, he slashed .303/.344/.500 for an OPS+ of 171. He would have probably made the All-Star team, but only played 63 games. Thompson’s hitting will always be his top asset to the game. That and that sweet, sweet mustache!
How did Detroit acquire Thompson? Chicanery, of course! From Wikipedia: “Thompson later told the colorful story of his acquisition by Detroit. Detroit sent two representatives (Marsh and Maloney) to Indianapolis, principally to sign the Hoosiers’ battery of Larry McKeon and Jim Keenan. The Wolverines were outbid by the Cincinnati Reds for McKeon and Keenan but wound up with the Hoosiers’ manager (Bill Watkins) and the rest of the team’s starting lineup. The only catch was that a 10-day waiting period would allow other teams to outbid Detroit. Marsh and Maloney promptly sent the players to Detroit and quartered them in a hotel there. The next morning, the players were told that the team had arranged a fishing trip for them. The players boarded the steamship Annette and enjoyed the first day and night of successful fishing. After three days, the players became suspicious, but the ship captain laughed when asked when they would return to Detroit. As the players became mutinous on the sixth day, the captain admitted he had been ordered to keep them ‘out at sea’ for 10 days.”
P-Ed Morris, PIT
P-Bob Caruthers, STL
P-Guy Hecker, LOU
P-Henry Porter, BRO
P-Hardie Henderson, BAL
P-Bobby Mathews, PHA
P-Dave Foutz, STL
P-Larry McKeon, CIN
P-Will White, CIN
P-George Pechiney, CIN
C-Doc Bushong, STL
C-Jocko Milligan, PHA
1B-Dave Orr, NYP
1B-Harry Stovey, PHA
1B-Bill Phillips, BRO
2B-Sam Barkley, STL
3B-Frank Hankinson, NYP
SS-Candy Nelson, NYP
SS-Germany Smith, BRO
SS-Frank Fennelly, CIN
LF-Charley Jones, CIN
CF-Pete Browning, LOU
CF-Henry Larkin, PHA
CF-Chief Roseman, NYP
RF-Tom Brown, PIT
39-24, 2.35 ERA, 298 K, .186, 0 HR, 14 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-13.0
WAR for Pitchers-13.6
Walks & Hits per IP-0.964
Hits per 9 IP-7.017 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-63
Errors Committed as P-20
2nd Time All-Star-When the American Association went down from 13 teams to eight, Pittsburgh fortunately acquired Morris, who had his best season ever and was the best pitcher in the league. He finished first in WAR (13.0) and WAR for Pitchers (13.6), tossing 581 innings with a 2.35 ERA and a 138 ERA+. No sophomore slump for Cannonball.
Horace Phillips, who had never managed a team to a winning record before, finally did it with the Alleghenys. They finished in third place with a 56-55 record, 22 games out of first. Who knows where they would have been without Morris.
Baseball Reference says, “Ed Morris was a star left-handed pitcher who set several records, some of which stand. One of the first players from California to star in the major leagues, he was the ace of the Pittsburgh Alleghenies in the mid-1880s. He was arguably the top southpaw hurler of the 19th Century. He played for Pittsburgh in three different leagues. He was nicknamed ‘Cannonball’ for the velocity with which he threw. He was a temperamental player who would often sulk, earning him accusations of not trying his best. Off the field, he had jobs ranging from the ownership of a billiards hall to deputy warden of a jail.”
Can you throw 581 innings and stick around for a while? Not if you’re Ed Morris, whose blazing fastball would give him another good year or two, but, even at 22, he’s going to start heading downhill. Well, after next year anyway.
40-13, 2.07 ERA, 190 K, .225, 1 HR, 12 RBI
1885 AA Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-2.07
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.056
Adj. Pitching Runs-63
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.1
1st Time All-Star-Robert Lee “Parisian Bob” Caruthers was born on January 5, 1864 in Memphis, TN. He was tiny, standing at five-foot-seven and weighing in at 138 pounds. He would be one of the great two-way players, mowing down batters from the mound and also impressive in rightfield. He started in 1884 for the Browns, playing 16 games in rightfield and pitching 13 games. This season, he focused on pitching, playing 53 of his 60 games at that position. He finished second in WAR (10.0) and WAR for Pitchers (9.5). Had there been a Cy Young pitching yet, he had a good argument for winning that award. Caruthers pitched 482 1/3 innings while leading the league in both ERA (2.07) and Adjusted ERA+ (160). He would have a short but significant career.
As for his team, the Browns, they came back from a fourth place finish in 1884 to win the division this season. Coached by the wily Charlie Comiskey, they finished 79-33, 16 games ahead of the second place team. They would garner four All-Stars.
In the World Series against the National League White Stockings, Caruthers started three of the seven games, finishing 1-1 (with one tie), pitching 26 innings with a 2.42 ERA. The Series ended up deadlocked, 3-3-1.
Caruthers received his nickname after the season. According to SABR, “During the offseason Caruthers and a teammate, Doc Bushong, vacationed in France. While overseas Caruthers engaged in lengthy contract negotiations via trans-Atlantic cable, earning for himself the nickname Parisian Bob.” His high winning percentage and the greatness of the teams he played on make him a candidate for the Hall of Fame to some. But more importantly, will he make the ONEHOF?
30-23, 2.18 ERA, 209 K, .273, 2 HR, 35 RBI
4th Time All-Star-After his outstanding 1884 season in which he won 52 games, Hecker settled down this year, though he still played great. He finished third in WAR (8.5) and WAR for Pitchers (7.5). Hecker threw “only” 480 innings this season, after tossing 670 2/3 in 1884, with a 2.18 ERA and a 149 ERA+. He had his worst season hitting yet, slashing .273/.287/.337 for an OPS+ of 96, the first time his Adjusted OPS+ had ever been below 100.
In 1885, the Eclipse became the Colonels and fell from their third place 1884 year. Coached by Jim Hart, managing for his first time, the team went 53-59 and finished sixth.
Of this season for Hecker, SABR says, “But records were not something players or fans thought much about in the 1800s, and Hecker opened the 1885 campaign ready to continue his mastery of the American Association. However, after a game on April 21 he complained of a sore arm. He tried to pitch though the arm trouble and had flashes of his old brilliance. There were various conjectures as to the cause of his troubles, including the enforcement of the rule requiring a pitcher to keep his delivery below his shoulder level. But no medical cause was ever announced, and Hecker compiled a 30-23 record in 480 innings pitched. His decline concerned the Louisville management enough that they purchased the contract of a young lefty from Chattanooga, Tom (Toad) Ramsey, late in the season. Hecker’s decline as a pitcher was matched in the batter’s box as his average dropped to .273 and his slugging average dropped nearly 100 points to .337.”
33-21, 2.78 ERA, 197 K, .205, 0 HR, 16 HR
1st Time All-Star-Walter Henry Porter was born in June, 1858 in Vergennes, VT. He started in 1884, pitching six games for the Union Association Milwaukee Brewers and was one of the rare players to find a place in the National League. There, Porter had his best season ever and, most likely, his only All-Star season. He finished fifth in WAR (6.1) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.4). In 481 2/3 innings pitched, he had a 2.78 ERA and 120 ERA+.
As for the Grays, which would someday be the Dodgers, Charlie Hackett (15-22) and Charlie Byrne (38-37) led them to a 53-59 fifth place finish. Brooklyn’s two other pitchers, John Harkins and Adonis Terry, couldn’t match the success of Porter, with neither having ERAs under 3.75.
Baseball Reference says of Porter, “He was one of the earliest major leaguers born in Vermont, and the only one through 2008 born in Vergennes, VT, located in northwest Vermont not far from Burlington, VT. As of 1892 he was living in southern New Jersey.
“His obituary in Sporting Life called him ‘a crack pitcher on the old Brooklyn team’, saying he first became prominent in baseball in 1880, was later with Bay City, and also Milwaukee.
“’The new rule permitting a new man to be put in at the end of any even inning is certain to add to the interest of the game. . . Time and again have I seen Henry Porter pitch an invincible game for six or seven innings and then be pounded out of the box. A dozen times last season Kansas City had games won up to the eighth inning with Henry twirling, when all of a sudden he would let down and be a perfect picnic for the opposing team.’ – from Sporting Life’s Kansas City correspondent, December 5, 1888.”
25-35, 3.19 ERA, 263 K, .223, 1 HR, 21 RBI
Bases on Balls-117 (2nd Time)
Earned Runs Allowed-191
Wild Pitches-51 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-When you look at the categories in which Henderson led the league, you’re not thinking All-Star pitcher. But when you consider that it was a weak pitching year for the league in general and that Hardie still had a relatively low ERA in numerous innings pitched, well, here he is. As a matter of fact, I would dub this his best season ever. He was fourth in WAR (7.6) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers. Henderson tossed 539 1/3 innings with a 3.19 ERA and a 103 Adjusted ERA+. All that being said, he has most likely made his last All-Star team.
Speaking of teams, Henderson pitched for the worst one in the league. Billy Barnie was back as manager, but the team dropped from 63-43 to 41-68. Most of the problems occurred when Henderson was not on the mound, as the Orioles’ other pitchers combined for a 4.80 ERA.
“Henderson made his Brooklyn pitching debut on August 19, 1886 against the New York Metropolitans, losing the game 5-1. He would pitch in 14 total games for Brooklyn in 1886, finishing with a 10-4 record and a 2.90 earned run average. Brooklyn finished in third place in the American Association that season. Henderson would play the 1887 season in Brooklyn, but he was acquired by the Pittsburg Alleghenys for 1888, pitching in five games for Pittsburgh. He would not play in the major league again. He finished with an 81-121 win-loss record, a 3.50 earned run average, and 930 strikeouts. Over Henderson’s 230 major league games, 210 of them were as a pitcher, 16 of them as an outfielder, two as a shortstop, and one as a second baseman and third baseman. After not playing at any level in 1889, Henderson returned to baseball in 1890, playing for Sioux City in the minor league Western League, now known as the American League.”
30-17, 2.43 ERA, 286 K, .168, 0 HR, 12 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-6.095 (4th Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-5.018 (3rd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.17 (3rd Time)
10th Time All-Star-And finally, 14 years after he started, I believe we are seeing Mathews making his last All-Star Team. He’s surprisingly only 33 years old, but his innings and effectiveness are going to go down after this season. As for this year, Mathews finished sixth in WAR (5.8) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (6.5). He pitched 422 1/3 innings with a 2.43 ERA and an all-time career high 142 ERA+. Quite a feat for the old man.
Mathews would remain with Philadelphia for the remainder of his career, pitching for the Athletics for the next two seasons. His ERA inflated to 3.96 in 1886 and 6.67 in 58 innings as a 35-year-old in 1887. He would no longer pitch in the majors after that.
Because of his vices, Mathews would not have a good end to his life. According to SABR, “By the middle of 1895, Mathews was virtually penniless, living and working at a roadhouse outside Providence owned by his ex-teammate of six years Joe Start. In May 1897, the first indication that Mathews was ill was found in Sporting Life: ‘According to the veteran, George Wood, that once famous pitcher, Bobby Matthews, is at Joe Start’s roadhouse, near Providence, a physical wreck.’ In July, he was moved to Maryland General Hospital under the care of Dr. T.P. Lloyd for a brain disorder. Lloyd held out no hope for his recovery, proclaiming that he was ‘suffering from organic brain trouble, not paresis,’ (a sexually-transmitted disease) as had been rumored.” He died at the age of 46 in 1898.
33-14, 2.63 ERA, 147 K, .248, 0 HR, 34 RBI
Assists as P-101
1st Time All-Star-David Luther “Scissors” Foutz was born on September 7, 1856 in Carroll County, MD and started his Major League career late, at the age of 27 as a pitcher-outfielder for the 1884 American Association St. Louis Browns. By 1885, he was one of the best pitchers in the AA. He finished eighth in WAR (5.1) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (4.5). Scissors pitched 407 2/3 innings with a 2.63 ERA and a 126 ERA+. In the World Series, Foutz pitched four games, going 2-2 with a 0.62 ERA. However, terrible defense behind him caused him to allow 18 unearned runs. At the plate, he hit two singles in 12 at-bats.
Wikipedia says of Foutz’ early life: “[H]e was asthmatic all his life. When he was 21 Foutz drifted out to Leadville, Colorado and worked for a while in the lead mines. While in Leadville, Foutz started playing baseball, pitching for the Leadville Blues, an amateur team. Shortly after, he signed with the Bay City, Michigan minor league team, where he played until 1884. By 1884, Foutz’s talent had been spotted by Chris von der Ahe, the owner of the American Association St. Louis Browns. He wanted Foutz’s contract so badly he bought the entire Bay City, Michigan franchise. Before joining the major league, Foutz acquired a reputation as a gambler and drinker, figuring if he was going to die young, he would enjoy himself before.
20-13, 2.86 ERA, 117 K, .165, 0 HR, 8 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Lawrence G. “Larry” McKeon was born on March 25, 1866 in New York, NY and had his best season and only All-Star appearance this year. He started as a pitcher for the American Association Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1884, leading the league in losses with 41. This year, with his innings cut significantly, from 512 to 290, he pitched much better, finishing eighth in WAR for Pitchers (4.5). He had a 2.86 ERA and a 115 ERA+.
With McKeon and Will White leading the way from the mound, the Red Stockings finished second in the league with a 63-49 record. Ollie Caylor took over as manager from Will White and Pop Snyder and improved the team from fifth to second. It should be noted the Red Stockings’ record was worse than 1884, however.
Though McKeon had a short career, it was an interesting one and there’s an excellent SABR article on him. Read the whole thing. Here, I put just a smidge: “When the rebel Union Association ceased operations after the 1884 season and the AA trimmed to eight teams, McKeon‘s Indianapolis club was among the casualties and descended to the minor Western League in 1885. In June 1885, the Detroit National League entry bought out the Indianapolis franchise for $4,000 in cash but a total of $5,000, the additional $1,000 being stock in the Detroit club, with the proviso that $2,000 would be paid immediately and the rest would come only if all the key Indianapolis players signed with Detroit as agreed. But when the two most coveted members of the Hoosiers, McKeon and Keenan, made a deal on their own and jumped to Cincinnati in the AA instead, Detroit reduced its buy-out price to $2,000 and the transaction became the subject of a lawsuit.”
18-15, 3.53 ERA, 80 K, .169, 0 HR, 10 RBI
Hit By Pitch-27
8th Time All-Star-Welcome to the ONEHOF, Whoop-La! He finally made it due to a decent 1885 season in which he was ninth in WAR for Pitchers (2.2), pitching “only” 293 1/3 innings – remember, he’s the record holder for innings pitched in a season with 680 in the 1879 National League – with a 3.53 ERA and a 93 ERA+. He would not have made the All-Star team in a league with more depth in pitching.
Does Will White deserve the prestigious One-a-Year Hall of Fame honor? His career WAR was 34.3, tied with people like B.J. Surhoff and Rick Sutcliffe. His best years were in the American Association, though it should be noted that his Adjusted ERA+ was 116 in his five NL seasons, not that far below his 124 in the AA. He also was a train wreck at the plate. It’s a close call, but he’s been a consistent pitcher for many years throughout two leagues, won 40 games three times, and has a lifetime ERA of 2.28, so he’s going in. It should be noted that, as of this time, Will and his brother, Deacon, have the same amount of All-Star teams made, 8.
White’s life ended tragically, according to Wikipedia, which says, “White died in August 1911 at his summer home in Port Carling, Ontario, Canada. The cause of death was drowning. According to one account, he was teaching his niece to swim, suffered a heart attack while in the water and died. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.”
7-4, 2.02 ERA, 49 K, .150, 0 HR, 1 RBI
1st Time All-Star-George Adolphe “Pisch” Pechiney was born on September 20, 1861 in Cincinnati, OH and would never leave Ohio for his Major League career. The season of 1885 was Pisch’s best season ever as he finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (1.9), pitching 98 innings with a 2.02 ERA and a 163 ERA+. It was a good season, but wouldn’t have been an All-Star season in a year where the American Association had more depth on the mound.
Wikipedia says about this season, “He began the 1885 season with the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League. He also played for the Columbus Stars of the Southern League in 1885 before joining the Major Leagues with the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association later that year. He made his Major League debut for the Red Stockings on August 4, 1885. With the Red Stockings in 1885, Pechiney pitched in 11 games, starting and completing all of them, with a win-loss record of 7–4, a 2.02 earned run average and 49 strikeouts in 98 innings pitched. His winning percentage of .636 ranked 4th in the American Association behind just Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz and Bobby Mathews.
“On June 12, 1925, Pechiney appeared at the Golden Jubilee celebration of Redland Field, along with other former Reds and Red Stockings players. Pechiney died at the age of 81 in Cincinnati and is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.”
.267, 0 HR, 21 RBI
Def. Games as P-85
Putouts as C-429
Assists as C-122 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Albert John “Doc” Bushong was born on September 15, 1856 in Philadelphia, PA. Though this is his first All-Star team, he’d be around quite a while. He started with the National Association Brooklyn Atlantics in 1875, moved to the National League Philadelphia Athletics in 1876, then took three years off from the Major Leagues. He was back in 1880 catching for the Worcester Ruby Legs and stayed there for three seasons. In 1883, he moved to the Cleveland Blues, where we would last for two seasons. This season, he found himself on the league champion Browns.
The reason he hasn’t made an All-Star team before now wasn’t his fielding, which was always stellar. No, Doc couldn’t hit. His highest average coming into 1885 was .236. He finally had a decent year at the plate, slashing .267/.297/.343 for an OPS+ of 97. That, along with his defense, in which he ranked second in Defensive WAR (1.7), propelled him onto the team.
I have a feeling he could make it again next year, wholly on his defense. He led the league in Defensive WAR in 1886 (2.5), so we’ll see.
And just to solidify his reputation, in the World Series, Bushong again stunk at the plate, going two-for-13, both singles.
Wikipedia has a long article on Bushong, but here’s a little bit about his part in inventing the catcher’s mitt: “But it is easy to believe that on September 18, 1887 when he returned, Bushong had seriously padded a mitt to protect his hand as well his dentistry profession.”
.268, 2 HR, 39 RBI
Double Plays Turned as C-11
Range Factor/9 Inn as C-8.07
Range Factor/Game as C-8.25
1st Time All-Star-John “Jocko” Milligan was born on August 8, 1861, exactly 94 years before my brother, Ernie, in Philadelphia, PA, meaning both All-Star catchers were born in the City of Brotherly Love. Jocko was in his second year with the Athletics and would prove to be a steady catcher over a 10-year career. This season, he finished third in Defensive WAR (1.6). At the plate, Milligan slashed .268/.289/.377 for an OPS+ of 104. His offense would improve over the years.
I wish I could write as well as those at SABR. Here’s Ralph Berger’s opening salvo on Milligan: “Life is an accident. We are born to parents not of our choosing. We bear up under the tragedies and events that we have no control over. Then we are faced with our life. What to do with it? How to live it? Who to turn to? The questions multiply when both parents die before one is barely eight years old. This was the task John Milligan faced. Luckily, he was enrolled in Girard College, a school for orphans in Philadelphia. There he was educated, learned a trade, and played baseball and other sports. At the age of eighteen he was graduated and walked out the gates of the institution to make his life-no easy task for anyone, let alone a parentless boy. The sadness turned to happiness for John Milligan, who went on to carve out a productive life despite the odds that were initially against him.
“Philadelphia in the late 1800s was crazy for baseball. Dozens of local teams competed with each other for the honor of being the best team in the area. School teams were few and far between, with playing areas limited and no permanent organizations for recreation for children of that day. Moreover, sweatshops still employed a great number of children, greatly limiting their recreational time.” There will more All-Star teams for Milligan and more chances to read Berger’s prose.
.342, 6 HR, 77 RBI, 0-0, 7.20 ERA, 1 K
Offensive WAR-5.4 (2nd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-202 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as 1B-107 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Orr continued to pound the ball in American Association. He was arguably its best hitter. Orr finished ninth in WAR (4.5), second in WAR Position Players (5.0), and first in Offensive WAR (5.4). He slashed .342/.358/.543 for an OPS+ of 202. The big man could certainly hit, though his fielding definitely lacked.
As for the Metropolitans, they dropped from first to seventh. Losing the great pitcher Tim Keefe will do that to a team. They allowed more runs than any other team and ended up finishing 44-64. New York also lost Jim Mutrie as a coach and instead were coached by Jim Gifford.
Well, you couldn’t put the blame on Orr. According to Wikipedia, “On June 12, 1885 Orr hit for the cycle for the first time in his career; he accomplished the feat again on August 10, 1887.” For a man who weighed was under six feet tall and weighed 250 pounds, he still had the speed to leg out triples.
It’s incredible to imagine what Orr would have done if his career wasn’t cut short (more on that in future posts). His contemporaries certainly admired him. Baseball Reference has this quote: “’. . . the greatest hitter that ever played ball was old Dave Orr. . . I have always held that Dave Orr was the strongest and best hitter that ever played ball.’ – Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers, quoted in Sporting Life of September 22, 1894, after discussing Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley, Sam Thompson and himself.”
.315, 13 HR, 75 RBI
Runs Scored-130 (3rd Time)
Home Runs-13 (3rd Time)
AB per HR-37.4 (2nd Time)
Assists as 1B-28
4th Time All-Star-Stovey, the 1800s version of Bobby Bonds, brought speed and power into every game. In 1886, the American Association is going to start counting stolen bases and it will be apparent how fast Stovey was. As for this season, he finished sixth in WAR Position Players (3.7) and third in Offensive WAR (4.1). He slashed .315/.371/.488 for an OPS+ of 163 and was now the all-time career home run leader with 50. According to Wikipedia, “The offensive explosiveness continued throughout his stay in Philadelphia, leading the league in runs scored four times, doubles once, triples three times, and home runs three times. The accumulation of home runs led to him becoming the career home run leader, overtaking Charley Jones with his 51st career homer on September 28, 1885.” Did he have 50 or 51?
Along with playing at first base, Stovey managed the team to a fourth place finish with a 55-57 record. It’s hard to rate how much managers affect the team, but the Athletics scored 73 more runs than they allowed and yet still finished two games under .500. According to the Pythagorean W-L, the Athletics should have finished 61-51. Can that be blamed on Stovey?
The Athletics could bash the ball, leading the AA in scoring. It was their fielding which killed them. They were fourth in the league in ERA, but allowed more runs than any team, due to letting 331 unearned runs score. Second baseman Cub Sticker committed 81 errors, while shortstop Sadie Houck booted 77 balls.
.302, 3 HR, 63 RBI
Putouts as 1B-1,109
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.48
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.44
Fielding % as 1B-.973
1st Time All-Star-William B. “Bill” Phillips was born in April, 1857 in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada and had a decent, if not noteworthy career. According to Wikipedia, “A native of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, he has the distinction of being the first Canadian to play in the major leagues.” I’m not sure that’s true, I know there have been other All-Stars born in the Great North. Also from Wikipedia, “He was later enshrined into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988 for his accomplishments, and is considered by some to be greatest Canadian first baseman in baseball history.” Um, Joey Votto anyone? It’s like you can’t trust Wikipedia anymore!
Before this season, Phillips played six straight seasons with the National League Cleveland Blues. In 1885, his first season in the American Association, he makes the All-Star team. Before you get all up in my grill and start saying “See, the AA is a minor league! Why do we even have to read about it!,” let me say that after this season Phillips was back down to mediocre hitting.
As for this season, his best year ever, Phillips finished ninth in WAR Position Players (2.9) and first in Offensive WAR (3.0). He slashed .302/.364/.422 for an OPS+ of 146. All four of those numbers were the highest in his career.
As for his demise, back to Wikipedia (we’ve made up): “Phillips never married, and he died on October 7, 1900 in Chicago at the age of 43, of syphilitic locomotor ataxia, and he is interred at Graceland Cemetery.”
.268, 3 HR, 53 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Barkley got a break and was purchased by the American Association champion St. Louis Browns and was an All-Star for his second (and most likely) last time. He finished 10th in WAR Position Players (2.9) and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.4). He slashed .268/.312/380 for an OPS+ of 113. His hitting was down from 1884, but his defense continued to shine. In the World Series, Barkley’s “hitting” was pathetic. He went two-for-23 with two walks.
The second baseman sure had his share of legal difficulties. You can read about one of them in the 1884 blurb. There’s also this from Wikipedia: “In March 1886, Browns owner Chris von der Ahe offered Barkley for $1000 to the first team to pay the money. Billy Barnie was able to have Barkley sign an undated contract with the Baltimore Orioles and wired the asking price to Von der Ahe, but he had already secured a deal with owner of the Pittsburg Alleghenys, Denny McKnight, and Sam was convinced to play for the Allegheny club instead. The American Association suspended and fined Barkley for signing with Pittsburgh this action. Barkley sued the Association, but they settled out of court with suspension being lifted although the fine stayed in place. Baltimore was offered and accepted Milt Scott as payment.
“After his career in baseball ended, Barkley became a cigar maker. He died at the age of 53 in his hometown of Wheeling, and was buried in Peninsula Cemetery.” Do you know any cigar makers?
.224, 2 HR, 44 RBI, 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 0 K
Range Factor/9 Inn as 3B-3.56
Range Factor/Game as 3B-3.38
Fielding % as 3B-.906
2nd Time All-Star-It’s been six years since Hankinson made an All-Star team. He last made it in 1879 as a pitcher for the National League Chicago White Stockings. He then played moved to third base for the Cleveland Blues in 1880 and would be at that position for most of the remainder of his career. In 1881, he played for Troy and then didn’t play Major League ball in 1882. In 1883, Hankinson was back, playing for the Gothams for two years before taking his first tour in the American Association here in 1885.
‘Twas Hankinson’s glove that put him on the team as he finished sixth in Defensive WAR (1.0). He might have a shot at one more All-Star team due to his fielding. As for his bat, Hankinson slashed .224/.251/.285 for and OPS+ of 103. One thing that helped him is that Polo Grounds were brutal on hitters, one of the worst hitters’ parks of all-time.
The reason the Metropolitans sank and the Giants thrived was because of some foul play by the owner, John Day. This will be long but instructive. From Day’s SABR page: “Events during the offseason manifested Day’s intention to make a champion of the Gothams. And to that end, the Mets would be sacrificed. First, manager Mutrie was transferred to the NL team. Then he and Day engaged in some rule-bending chicanery to bring Mets stars Keefe and Esterbrook over. Shortly before the start of the 1885 campaign, Mutrie chaperoned the two on a vacation voyage to Day’s onion farm in Bermuda, the trip ostensibly a reward for sterling work during the previous season. Once Keefe and Esterbrook were safely at sea, the MEC released them from the Mets roster. While Keefe and Esterbrook were incommunicado somewhere on the Atlantic, the ten-day period that other teams had to sign them as free agents elapsed. Once that happened, Mutrie inked the two to Gothams contracts. Upon discovery that star players had been slipped out of its league, the American Association executive board howled in protest. But all it could do was ban Mutrie from the league, an empty gesture as Mutrie had already left for the National League. The American Association directors also voted to expel the Mets franchise, but quickly reconsidered. Instead, the Mets were fined $500 for the manner in which Keefe and Esterbrook had been released.”
.255, 1 HR, 30 RBI
Bases on Balls-61 (3rd Time)
Oldest-36 Years Old
2nd Time All-Star-Nelson might be the first player whose main value was walking. Due to that skill, he made another All-Star team, probably his last one. He had his best season ever, finishing fifth in WAR Position Players (3.9), fifth in Offensive WAR (3.7), and ninth in Defensive WAR (0.9). He slashed .255/.353/.310 for an OPS+ of 126 in the pitcher-friendly Polo Grounds. After this season, he would continue to draw bases on balls, but his average would start going down.
Nelson concluded his career playing for the Metropolitans in 1886 and 1887, moving over to the Giants for one game that season. After two years off in the majors, he finished by playing for the American Association Brooklyn Gladiators in 1890.
In 1885, 1886, and 1890, Nelson was the AA’s oldest player. We’re used to having at least a player or two who is 40-years-old or older, but it wasn’t always like that in the early days of baseball. Even at 36, Nelson played outstanding defensive shortstop. I’d say even better than Derek Jeter at that age. Ooo, burn!
“His Sporting Life obituary in 1910 called him ‘Johnnie’ Nelson, and said he had started in baseball with the Eckfords at age 16. He played about 30 years, according to the article, for minor league clubs, and also managed. He died of heart failure.”
.258, 4 HR, 62 RBI
Assists as SS-455
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-5.85
Range Factor/Game as SS-5.70
2nd Time All-Star-Smith’s last All-Star appearance was with the Union Association Altoona Mountain City, mainly because every team needed a representative. It wouldn’t have been my guess he would continue to have a productive career, but I was wrong. He did and it was because of his outstanding fielding. As a matter of fact, over his career, Smith is going to make the top 10 in Defensive WAR 12 times. Also, because of the era in which he played, he would end up fourth all time in errors committed. He was one of the original all glove-no bat shortstops.
This year was his best season ever, as he finished seventh in WAR Position Players (3.4) and first in Defensive WAR (2.4). Smith slashed .258/.275/.379 for an OPS+ of 104. He would have only one other season in which his OPS+ was higher, 107 in 1887.
There was one sour note to this season, according to Wikipedia, which says, “On June 17, 1885, Germany reportedly committed seven errors intentionally, when his team decided to punish new pitcher, Phenomenal Smith, losing the game 18-5. All 18 runs against the brash left-hander were unearned‚ due to a total of 14 Brooklyn ‘errors’. ‘Phenomenal’ gave himself his nickname before he joined the team‚ saying that he was so good that he didn’t need his teammates to win. The intentional misplays of his teammates caused club President Lynch to fine the guilty players $500 each‚ but he reluctantly agrees to release Smith to ensure team harmony.”
.273, 10 HR, 89 RBI
Runs Batted In-89
Def. Games as SS-112
Double Plays Turned as SS-46
2nd Time All-Star-Remember back in the Stone Ages when we Neanderthals used to judge ballplayers by primitive stats such as batting average and runs batted in. Why it wasn’t too long ago that Most Valuable Player awards used to be handed out based on such nonsense. Yet there is still a part of me, having grown up during those ancient times, that still likes to think the best players have the best counting stats.
You look, for instance, at the All-Star shortstops for the American Association this season. They are Candy Nelson (WAR 3.9), Germany Smith (WAR 3.4), and Fennelly (WAR 3.3). Fennelly beat both of the others in those counting stats yet is below them in WAR. Yet if I’m picking a starting shortstop for my team, it would be hard to resist the allure of 10 home runs and 89 runs batted in. Hey, I’m just being honest!
Fennelly finished eighth in WAR Position Players (3.3) and sixth in Offensive WAR (3.6). He will be improving defensively very soon. He slashed .273/.333/.445 for an OPS+ of 141. He’d never hit this well again over a full season.
This Red Stockings team would end up with a history of shortstops who could hit. Certainly in my era there was Dave Concepcion and the great Barry Larkin. Both of those were great with the glove, too. Or were they? I haven’t actually looked that up. (OK, I checked. Concepcion, excellent in the field, Larkin, more than decent. My eyes weren’t lying.)
.322, 5 HR, 35 RBI
Games Played-112 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as OF-112 (2nd Time)
7th Time All-Star-There is no doubt that, had I been alive in this era, Jones would have been my favorite player. For one thing, I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan and, secondly, I also like hitters over pitchers. My favorite players over the years have been Johnny Bench, Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, and Joey Votto. (Though my actual favorite player at this time is a non-Red, Mike Trout.) Baby Jones was the best player in this early iteration of the Reds and proved it year after year.
In 1885, Jones finished fourth in WAR Position Players (3.9) and seventh in Offensive WAR (3.2). He slashed .322/.362/.462 for an OPS+ of 155. It was another great season, but it’s most likely his last All-Star team.
I promised in Charley Jones’ 1884 blurb that I would talk about his death and I don’t want to break my promise, so here goes.
From Baseball Reference: “Charley Jones was the best-known player for whom no death details were known. One could only assume he was dead, because otherwise he would have been over 150 years old. SABR researchers solved the mystery about his death in 2012 – 100 years after the event.
“In late 2011, researcher Greg Perkins, who was interested in the Ludlow team from northern Kentucky on which Jones had been the star player in the early 1870s, took an interest in Jones’s case. Digging through the file on Jones held by the Hall of Fame, he found a letter addressed to National Commission chairman Garry Herrmann in 1913 from a reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer that mentioned he had written an article about Jones. Perkins found the article, in which it stated that Jones had died at Bellevue Hospital in New York City in July of 1911. That lead allowed Perkins to narrow his search in the New York City death index and to uncover a listing for a Charles W. Jones, who died on June 6th that year. The death certificate in the city archive had names for Charles’ parents matching those in earlier census records, confirming that this person was the ballplayer. It also rectified Jones’s year of birth.”
.362, 9 HR, 73 RBI
1885 AA Batting Title
WAR Position Players-5.2 (2nd Time)
Batting Average-.362 (2nd Time)
On-Base %-.393 (2nd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.923 (2nd Time)
Runs Created-100 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-48 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-5.3 (2nd Time)
Times on Base-199 (2nd Time)
Offensive Win %-.846 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as OF-112
4th Time All-Star-When you look over Browning’s stats by looking at his Baseball Reference page, it is amazing he is not in the Hall of Fame. Especially because he excelled in that one area the Hall of Fame adores, batting average. In over 1100 career games, Gladiator would hit .341. However, he was hurt by playing his career in the lower American Association.
Also interesting is that Browning is 24 years old, with a lifetime .352 average at this point, and easily the dominant outfielder in the AA. And with all this, Browning drew a salary of $1,800. By the end of his career, he would be up to $4,000. What would this man be paid nowadays?
For the year, Browning was seventh in WAR (5.2), first in WAR Position Players (5.2), and second in Offensive WAR (4.8). Again I don’t pretend to understand WAR, but how does an Offensive WAR of 4.8 added to a Defensive WAR of -0.2 add up to 5.2. It must be Common Core!
Speaking of his inept fielding, I promised more on that this year. Wikipedia says, “After being used primarily as an infielder in his first three seasons, playing every position except catcher over that span, he was shifted to the outfield on a permanent basis in 1885. While the inferior equipment of the time is somewhat of a mitigating factor, Browning’s playing record presented various evidence against any hidden defensive prowess. So did his unusual habit of playing the infield while standing on one leg, which he claimed to have adopted in order to avoid collisions with other players; however, some sources have noted that his probable rationale was to gain an advantage against baserunners he could not hear by aiming one leg toward them, and that he continued to do so in the outfield because he couldn’t hear his teammates on either side. An oft-reported story, possibly apocryphal, features one of Browning’s managers claiming that the team would be better off with a wooden statue of an Indian in the outfield, since there was at least a slim chance that a batted ball might strike the statue and rebound back in the direction of the field.”
.329, 8 HR, 88 RBI
Extra Base Hits-59
Double Plays Turned as OF-9
1st Time All-Star-Henry E. “Ted” Larkin was born on January 12, 1860 in Reading, PA. He started his short, but efficient, career in 1884 with the Athletics, with a decent 136 OPS+. This season, he caught on fire, having his best season ever. Ted finished 10th in WAR (4.2), third in WAR Position Players (4.2), and fourth in Offensive WAR (3.9). He slashed .329/.373/.525 (his highest slugging ever) for an OPS+ of 175. He would always be able to hit, though, like Pete Browning, his glove lacked.
He was a doubles machine, according to, well, stats, but also Wikipedia, which says, “At age 24, Larkin started his career with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1884. On June 16, 1885 he hit for the cycle. That same year in a single game he recorded four doubles, still a major league record that has been tied many times, but never broken.”
“He worked as a boilermaker and played amateur ball with the Hibernians in the late 1870’s. In 1881 he began play as a second baseman for the professional Actives of Reading, an independent team.
“In the off-season, it was said he swung a sledge hammer in a boiler shop.” If you have your name in the same sentence as Babe Ruth, you must be doing something right.
.278, 4 HR, 46 RBI
1st Time All-Star-James John “Chief” Roseman was born exactly 80 years after the country was born, on July 4, 1856, in Brooklyn, NY. Ironically, exactly 82 years after that, Chief Roseman would leave this mortal coil, dying in Brooklyn. But we come not to bury Chief, but to praise him. The diminutive New Yorker (five-foot-seven, 167 pounds) had his best season ever, finishing eighth in Offensive WAR (3.0). He slashed .278/.335/.407 for an OPS+ of 150, all of this in the hitters’ graveyard, Polo Grounds.
Roseman started with the National League Troy Trojans in 1882, before moving to the Metropolitans the next season. After good hitting years in 1884 and 1885, Roseman would falter. He had batting averages of .227 in 1886 and 1887 and then took two years off of the Majors, before coming back in 1890 with a very good season. He then retired, having played seven seasons, six in the American Association, with a lifetime slash line of .263/.312/.360 for an OPS+ of 109.
Like so many of these old-time outfielders, Roseman’s fielding marks are not good. He never was above 0.0 dWAR in any season and ended up his career with a lifetime -5.2 mark in the field. Teams in this era seemed to put their good gloves in the infield.
One stat in which Chief was always around the leaders was in being plunked. He was in top 10 in Hit by Pitches four times, including an incredible 29 times in 1890. He wasn’t first that year, however. Curt Welch was nailed by pitchers 34 times.
.307, 4 HR, 68 RBI, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 2 K
Errors Committed as OF-43
1st Time All-Star-Thomas Tarlton “Tom” Brown was born on September 21, 1860 in Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom. Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles! Just kidding, he was born about a century before England’s greatest band formed in his birthplace. Hey, but this Liverpoolian had some hits, too! (See what I did there.) He finished 10th in Offensive WAR (2.9), slashing .307/.366/.426 for an OPS+ of 151.
The Englishman would bounce around for his career, starting in 1882 for the American Association Baltimore Orioles, moving to Columbus in 1883, and then being purchased by the Alleghenys this season, along with the rest of the Buckeyes team.
It’s possible this All-Star team has the worst fielding outfield of any of the teams. Brown committed 43 errors this season and, as an outfielder, still holds the career mark of 491 errors. Of course, it wasn’t until the mid-1890s that gloves were the norm, so it’s possible Brown was still bare-handing it in these days.
Brown wasn’t done travelling. He’d play for a total of nine teams, all of which probably appreciated his decent hitting, but none of which wanted his putrid fielding. He would play in three different leagues, the National League, the AA, and the Players League in its one season of existence in 1890. He’s probably got another All-Star team left in him.
P-John Clarkson, CHC
P-Mickey Welch, NYG
P-Old Hoss Radbourn, PRO
P-Charlie Ferguson, PHI
P-Tim Keefe, NYG
P-Ed Daily, PHI
P-Charlie Buffinton, BSN
P-Lady Baldwin, DTN
P-Dupee Shaw, PRO
P-Henry Boyle, SLM
C-Charlie Bennett, DTN
C-Buck Ewing, NYG
1B-Roger Connor, NYG
1B-Dan Brouthers, BUF
1B-Cap Anson, CHC
2B-Fred Dunlap, SLM
2B-Hardy Richardson, BUF
3B-Ned Williamson, CHC
3B-Ezra Sutton, BSN
SS-Jack Glasscock, SLM
LF-Abner Dalrymple, CHC
CF-George Gore, CHC
CF-Jim O’Rourke, NYG
CF-Ned Hanlon, DTN
RF-King Kelly, CHC
53-16, 1.85 ERA, 308 K, .216, 4 HR, 32 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-13.0
WAR for Pitchers-13.1
Home Runs Allowed-21
Adj. Pitching Runs-69
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.9
Def. Games as P-70
Assists as P-174
Errors Committed as P-20
2nd Time All-Star-Clarkson went from barely making the All-Star team in 1884 to wow! He finished first in WAR (13.0) and WAR for Pitchers (13.1). In 623 innings pitched, Clarkson had a 1.85 ERA and a 163 ERA+. His Adjusted ERA+ would be his highest ever. All of this helped lead Chicago to the National League crown and onto the World Series, where, against the American Association St. Louis Browns, Clarkson, despite being the starter in 70 of Chicago’s 113 games, only started two games of the seven. Jim McCormick, last year’s ONEHOF Inductee and a great pitcher himself, started the rest. In Clarkson’s two games he was 0-1 with a 1.13 ERA, but had absolutely no help from his defense. He allowed 14 runs, but only two were earned.
Wikipedia tells of a highlight from Clarkson’s incredible season. “On July 27, 1885, he pitched the only no-hitter of his career with a 4-0 win over the Providence Grays.”
SABR says, “After the season, Clarkson barnstormed in St. Louis before returning to Chicago for the winter. He stayed in Chicago to split the distance with his girlfriend, Ella Moorhead McKenna. Ella, from Detroit, was born in May 1860. They met when he was with Saginaw. On March 4, 1886, the couple married. She traveled with the club that spring to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and back. Over the years she attended many games. It’s probably good that she did since Clarkson attracted more than his share of women to the park. He was a good-looking Irishman with dark hair and bluish-gray eyes. And he was a bit of a dandy when it came to his attire, as the Sporting Life noticed: ‘All of the Chicago players dress well off the field but Clarkson is the bright particular dude of the team. He is very scrupulous about his dress, and there is considerable of the English in his style.’ The Detroit Free Press said, ‘His uniform was always immaculate, his linen always possessed the fresh-from-the-laundry touch, he was always smoothly shaved, his manners were always faultless.’ He also wore a silk handkerchief on the outside of his uniform.”
44-11, 1.66 ERA, 258 K, .206, 2 HR, 19 RBI
Bases on Balls-131 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Smiling Mickey pitched his best season ever, despite a dreadful strikeout-to-walk ratio, especially for this era in which six balls constituted a base on balls. Despite that 258/131 ratio, Welch finished second in WAR (10.7) and second in WAR for Pitchers (10.5). He pitched 492 innings with a 1.66 ERA and a 164 ERA+ — both of those last two figures are career highs. He still has some good seasons left.
As for the newly-named Giants (they were the Gothams the year before), they battled with Chicago and fell two games short. Still, Jim Mutrie, who came over from the American Association champion New York Metropolitans, led New York to a 85-27 record. Mutrie and the Giants have some good seasons ahead.
The Giants had a winning record against every team in the rest of the league, and not only a winning record, but their lowest percentage was against the league-winning White Stockings, beating them 10 out of 16 times. Yet Chicago still did better. This was certainly Goliath vs. Goliath.
Wikipedia says about Welch, “After the 1885 season, Welch was one of nine Giants players to form baseball’s first union, which was known as the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players. The players were upset about the way they had been treated by baseball owners. The reserve clause, which restricted player movement and tempered increases in player salaries, had been instituted in 1880. The union spent the next several years recruiting new members and talking about the cause of player salaries. Though Welch was still an active player, he began saving money with the goal of opening a hotel.” Since the reserve clause stuck around until the 1970s, it’s hard to gauge how much good that union did.
28-21, 2.20 ERA, 154 K, .233, 0 HR, 22 RBI
5th Time All-Star-When you look at even the basic stats above, your first reaction isn’t that it’s a bad year, and it wasn’t. But it wasn’t an Old Hoss season. He had been the dominant pitcher in the National League in 1883 and 1884, but almost looked mortal this year. He dropped to third in WAR (8.4) and third in WAR for Pitchers (7.2). Radbourn pitched 445 2/3 innings with a 2.20 ERA and a 123 ERA+. The only way you would say “meh” to those numbers is if you’re comparing them to his past seasons.
As for Hoss’s team, Providence fell from first to fourth, finishing 53-57 under manager Frank Bancroft. It would also fall out of the NL as this was the Grays’ last year. They lasted eight seasons, with 1885 being the only season they finished under .500. Altogether, Providence went 438-278 with two pennants and one World Series victory.
Baseball was strange in the 1880s. Pitchers were expected to pitch sensationally every game, as least according to this from SABR, “Rad butted heads with management once again at the end of the season. On September 11, he was hit hard, giving up 15 hits and three wild pitches in a 9-1 loss to New York. The club directors suspended him for ‘indifferent work.’ Said Radbourn, ‘I tried to pitch the best I could.’ As the New York Times noted, that wasn’t good enough for club management. ‘Director (J. Edward, “Ned”) Allen (of the Providence club) said that all his players would be summarily dealt with in the future, and he would compel them to play good ball or they would not play at all.’”
26-20, 2.22 ERA, 197 K, .306, 1 HR, 27 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Charles J. “Charlie” Ferguson was born on April 17, 1863 in Charlottesville, VA. He is going to have a short career that will end in tragedy. More on that in later write-ups. He played four years, from 1884-to-1887, all with the Quakers. This season, he finished fifth in WAR (8.0) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (5.8). On the mound, Ferguson threw 405 innings with a 2.22 ERA and a 126 ERA+. He also threw a no-hitter against Providence on August 29. He also did well at the plate, slashing .306/.368/.379 for an OPS+ of 145. At 22 years old, with a great arm and a good bat, he looked like he was off to a long, prosperous career. Just a little taste of what’s upcoming – Charlie is still in the top 20 players in WAR in the Phillies’ history, despite playing only four seasons.
The Quakers were one of three teams which finished above .500 in the National League. Led by Harry Wright, Philadelphia went 56-54, still 30 games back of first.
Ferguson rescued the Quakers from being disregarded in Philadelphia, according to SABR, which says, “The Quakers finished their inaugural season in 1883 with a dismal 17-81 record, while their swashbuckling crosstown rivals had just captured the Association pennant in a thrilling race with the St. Louis Browns that went down to the season’s final days. Al Reach, owner of the Quakers, knew he needed something to turn the team around.
“That something came in the form of Charles Ferguson. He signed with the Quakers in the spring of 1884 for a salary of $1,500 and made his major-league debut against the Detroit Wolverines on May 1 at Recreation Park in Philadelphia. What a debut it was! Providing a preview of his all-around abilities, Ferguson pitched a complete game, tripled and singled twice to lead the Phillies in a 13-2 thrashing of the Detroit Wolverines. The young right-hander finished the season at 21-25 with a 3.54 ERA as he hurled 417 innings for a team that posted a 39-73-1 record.”
32-13, 1.58 ERA, 227 K, .163, 0 HR, 12 RBI
1885 NL Pitching Title (2nd Time)
Earned Run Average-1.58 (2nd Time)
Hits per 9 IP-6.750 (3rd Time)
Adjusted ERA+-174 (2nd Time)
Putouts as P-30
6th Time All-Star-There was chicanery going on in New York since the National League Giants and the American Association Metropolitans were owned by the same man. Having won the AA crown in 1884, John B. Day moved Manager Jim Mutrie and Keefe from the Metropolitans to the Giants for 1885 to see if they could lead the Giants to the NL pennant. If it weren’t for the outstanding White Stockings, that plan would have worked.
Keefe continued to dazzle on the mound. He finished sixth in WAR (6.7) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (6.9). In “only” 400 innings pitched (his lowest amount in a stretch of six years), he had a 1.58 ERA and a 174 ERA+. The Hall of Fame has got its share of players wrong, but they got it right with Keefe.
More on the deceitfulness of Day from SABR: “Keefe’s performance with the Metropolitans led Day to hatch a plan to reunite Keefe with his former Troy teammate Mickey Welch as the pitchers for the 1885 season on his National League team, to be managed by Mutrie. Day orchestrated a ruse to transfer Keefe and teammate Dude Esterbrook from Day’s American Association team to his National League team by having Mutrie take them both on a boat trip to Bermuda. On the ship Mutrie gave both players their ten-day release from their contracts with the Metropolitans, and then 11 days later signed them to National League contracts. Day and Mutrie had to hide the two players from the other major-league teams because at the time the ten-day release worked like today’s waiver wire, so any team could acquire the player’s contract during that ten-day period before the player was freed from the reserve clause and could negotiate with other teams.”
26-23, 2.21 ERA, 140 K, .207, 1 HR, 13 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Edward M. “Ed” Daily was born on September 7, 1862 in Providence, RI. The five-foot-10, 174 pound rookie had his best year ever, but he’ll be around for a while. Most of his career would be spent in the outfield, but he always managed to pitch a few games a year. As for this season, Daily finished seventh in WAR (6.4) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (6.5). He pitched 440 innings with a 2.21 ERA and a 126 ERA+. He would never have a season in which he pitched this well again.
Why Daily was given so much time in the outfield is a mystery. He never was a good hitter, not once did he ever have a season in which his Adjusted OPS+ was above 100. Of course, after this season, he also went through a long stretch in which his pitching wasn’t great either.
At least Daily was interesting. According to Baseball Reference, “He pitched with a handkerchief hanging out of his back pocket. Was it a way to distract the hitters?
“He is both pitcher and DH on one website’s All Rhode Island Team. He is listed in some sources as the brother of contemporary catcher Con Daily, although census records disprove this.” It’s a good thing he was born in Rhode Island, because Daily is not making the All-Star team in California or New York or Pennsylvania.
Even though Daily only pitched seven seasons, he is in the all-time top 100 in wild pitches, most of them coming this year (40). That sounds like a lot and it is, because the record will be set in 1889 by Mark Baldwin, who threw 83 wild pitches. Since then, no one has ever had more than 36 in a season.
22-27, 2.88 ERA, 242 K, .240, 1 HR, 33 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Buffinton had a losing season, but it wasn’t bad. It certainly didn’t compare to his stellar 1884 season, but on a struggling team, he still managed to finish eighth in WAR (6.0) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (5.8). Buffinton pitched 434 1/3 innings with a 2.88 ERA and a 94 ERA+. Don’t worry, he’ll eventually bounce back to being a great pitcher.
John Morrill coached the Beaneaters *snicker* to a fifth place finish, with a 46-66 record. Boston was 41 games out of first. Morrill would never have the success he did in his first two years (1883-84).
You might be wondering what happened to Jim Whitney, who has been such a great pitcher the last four years. He fell a little this year and didn’t make the All-Star team, but he still had a 2.98 ERA, though that only works out to a 91 ERA+ in 1885. Part of the problem is that the ERA for the entire league was 2.82. It’s all about the context.
There were still plenty of errors in these times. Even though the league ERA was 2.82, the average amount of runs scored per game was 5.0. There were 4,407 runs scored in the National League, but only 2,442 of them were earned or 55 percent. In 2015, 92 percent of runs scored were earned. The lesson is that it’s easier to field when you wear gloves.
What would be the earliest year in which someone alive now would have seen baseball and remembered it? Let’s say you had to be six-years-old to remember a game you saw. If there’s a 115-year-old alive today, it means he would have remembered something from 109 years ago, or 1907. Yes, it’s true, there is possibly someone alive who might have watched the Cubs win the World Series in 1908.
11-9, 1.86 ERA, 135 K, .242, 0 HR, 18 RBI
Walks & Hits per IP-.0920
Strikeouts per 9 IP-6.775
Fielding Independent Pitching-1.99
1st Time All-Star-Charles B. “Lady” Baldwin was born on April 8, 1859 in Oramel, NY and is a tribute to the days which lacked political correctness. So, since his nickname Lady is the elephant in the room, let’s start with that. According to Wikipedia, “Baldwin was given the nickname ‘Lady’ because of his ‘quiet ways’ and his refusal to swear or to come into contact with either tobacco or liquor.” James “Deacon” White must have been happy about his nickname considering what it could have been. Of course, you must be a little subdued to let the nickname Lady stick in the first place.
Oh, his season? Not bad. He finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (3.9), tossing 179 1/3 innings with a 1.86 ERA and a 154 ERA+. He has a great year ahead before his career would start petering out.
Detroit was managed by Charlie Morton (7-31, terrible) and Bill Watkins (34-36, not bad) to a 41-67 sixth place finish, 44 games out of first. Stump Weidman and Pretzels Getzien couldn’t get it together on the mound this season and it affected the team. The Wolverines were actually a good hitting team, third in the league in runs scored per game. Next year, they’re going to be even better at the plate.
More on Baldwin. He was actually a rare transfer from the Union Association, where he played seven games for the Milwaukee Brewers. Detroit acquired him because of his work in the minor leagues, however. For the Western Association Brewers, Lady went 11-4 with a 0.68 ERA.
23-26, 2.57 ERA, 194 K, .133, 0 HR, 9 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Shaw was one of the rare players to make a successful jump from the Union Association to the National League. While he didn’t strike out 451 batters as he did combined between two teams in 1884, he still had a decent season and, besides that, strikeouts were down all around anyway. Dupee finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers (4.3), throwing 399 2/3 innings with a 2.57 ERA and a 105 ERA+. He probably has one more All-Star team left in him.
I mentioned strikeouts being down. In 1884, the league leaders were Old Hoss Radbourn in the NL with 441; Guy Hecker in the American Association with 385; and Hugh Daily in the UA with a record 483. This season, the NL leader was John Clarkson with 308 and Ed Morris in the AA with 298. I’m not exactly sure why, except that in 1884, all rule restrictions were taken off of a pitcher’s delivery and maybe by this season, batters were starting to get used to it. Another rule the NL adopted by the way is that one side of that bat could be flat. That would last until 1893. I’m not sure how that would have changed the game, but it would have been interesting to watch.
One of those unusual deliveries by the way belonged to Shaw, according to Wikipedia, which quotes Alfred Henry Spink, founder of The Sporting News as saying, “After considerable swinging and scratching around with his feet, during which he would deliver a lengthy speech to the batter, to the effect that he was the best pitcher on earth and the batter a dub, he would stretch both arms at full length over his head. Then after gazing fixedly at the first baseman for a moment, he would wheel half around and both arms would fly apart like magic… [H]e would wind his left arm around again and let the ball fly, running at the same time all the way from the box to the home plate.”
16-24, 2.75 ERA, 133 K, .202, 1 HR, 21 RBI
1st Time All-Star-“Handsome Henry” J. Boyle was born on September 20, 1860 in Philadelphia, PA. When the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association were finding every good player they could in order to dominate that league, Boyle was one of those chosen. He didn’t make the All-Star team in the UA, but he had a good 1884. He was 15-3 with a 1.74 ERA and a 174 ERA+ in 150 innings pitched. Of course, as we’ve seen, doing well in the UA doesn’t necessarily relate to doing well in the National League, but Boyle did, and he’s got other good years ahead.
Handsome Henry finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (3.0), pitching 366 innings with a 2.75 ERA and a 101 ERA+. He might not have had a winning record but he had a decent year nonetheless.
Along with pitching 42 games, Boyle also played 31 games in the outfield and two games at second base. While he was a better hitter than many pitchers, he still didn’t seem to be good enough to regularly put him in the lineup. He slashed .202/.240/.256 for an OPS+ of 62. The Maroons probably wish the UA had lasted.
Baseball Reference is an incredible website, isn’t it? If I wanted to get all of this information in my youth, I would have had to buy a Baseball Encyclopedia, which was great, but not nearly as comprehensive as BR. Anyway, they list similarity scores telling which player is most similar to the other. Henry Boyle is most similar in his career to George Winter, who pitched eight seasons in the American League from 1901-08 and is also third in similarity to Dupee Shaw.
.269, 5 HR, 60 RBI
Range Factor/9 Inn as C-7.48 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as C-7.00 (3rd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Bennett, the great Wolverine, was aging, but was once again the best catcher in the National League and has now made the All-Star team five consecutive years. Most teams’ leader in WAR was a pitcher because of all the innings pitched during this era, but for Detroit, it was their iron man catcher. Bennett finished fifth in WAR Position Players (4.5) and seventh in Offensive WAR (4.0). He slashed .269/.356/.456 for his highest OPS+ ever of 162.
Whatever you want to say about Bennett, you can’t question his toughness. I mentioned in a previous blurb for Bennett that there were other catchers in his day, but none of them played as many games behind the plate as him. He played over 80 percent of his games behind the plate. This led to a beat-up, bloodied body, according to Wikipedia, “Accounts of Bennett’s mangled or gnarled hands and fingers are common. In his book, Catcher: The Evolution of an American Folk Hero, Peter Morris cited one such account:
Bennett ‘declared that only a sissy would use a padded glove with the fingers and thumb cut off. During one of the games in which he figured a foul ball split the left thumb of Bennett’s hand from the tip right down to the palm. The flesh was laid open right to the bone. A doctor who examined it immediately told Bennett that it would be necessary for him to quit the game until such time as the thumb healed sufficiently. The physician pointed out … that blood poisoning might set in which would cause him the loss not only of the thumb but perhaps a hand or an arm. But despite all the doctor’s caution Bennett remained in the game catching day after day with his horribly mangled finger. He kept a bottle of antiseptic and a wad of cotton batting on the bench and between innings would devote his time to washing out the wound.’” Wow.
.304, 6 HR, 63 RBI, 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 0 K
Assists as C-102 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-Sometimes when you get to the greats like Ewing, writing becomes repetitive. Ewing did great, would do great for many years, he’s great! He’s just so good that there isn’t a lot new to say. So let’s go through the drill again. Ewing finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.1). He slashed .304/.330/.471 for an OPS+ of 156. It was his highest OPS+ ever and he would beat it just once in his career in 1888.
The Baseball Hall of Fame, of which Ewing is part, fascinates me and upsets me and saddens me. All of the above really. Writers much better than I, like Joe Posnanski or Bill James, have written much on the Hall of Fame and I don’t want to belabor points they’ve made like: Is the Hall of Fame for the morally good or a place to tell baseball history?
It irritates me that the BBWAA writers get to choose players to go in based on their own conceptions of morality. I’m all for morality, I’m a born-again Christian, but how do the writers get to determine who’s in and who’s out by who’s “good” and who’s “bad?” That being said, I think Pete Rose should not be in the Hall of Fame because he clearly broke the rules established at the time. He will be in mine, however, since the ONEHOF is based only on exploits on the field of play. I do think Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be in, because baseball had unclear and unenforced rules on steroids at the time they played.
.371, 1 HR, 65 RBI
1885 NL Batting Title
WAR Position Players-8.1
Offensive WAR-6.8 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-52
Adj. Batting Wins-5.8
Times on Base-220
AB per SO-56.9
Assists as 1B-42
Double Plays Turned as 1B-66 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-After not making the All-Star team in 1884, a year in which 75 different people made the teams (well, a few less, because some players made them in two different leagues), Connor is back and had his best season ever. He finished fourth in WAR (8.1), first in WAR Position Players (8.1), and first in Offensive WAR (6.8), and, for the first time, made the top 10 in Defensive WAR, finishing sixth (1.4). The man for whom the Giants were allegedly named had a gigantic season. As a matter of fact, his 8.1 WAR for a position player was the highest ever. Well, until next season, when Dan Brouthers would barely edge that mark (8.2). In case you’re wondering and you don’t want to wait until I’m 100 years old and writing up the 1923 season, Babe Ruth holds the all-time record for WAR Position Players with 14.1.
SABR writes about Connor’s 1885 season: “Perhaps even more remarkable, the lusty swinging lefty had struck out only eight times in 506 plate appearances. Connor even began to exhibit signs of fielding prowess. Relocated to first base, he posted a respectable .975 fielding average, an augury of the fine defensive play that he would soon become respected for. Another under-recognized Connor talent was also coming to the fore: baserunning. Fleet afoot for so large a man, Roger unnerved opposing infielders with base path daring and a hard pop-up slide, a maneuver he was the first to popularize.” Read that again, he struck out only eight times!
.359, 7 HR, 59 RBI
Slugging %-.543 (5th Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.951 (4th Time)
Adjusted OPS+-203 (4th Time)
Extra Base Hits-50 (3rd Time)
Offensive Win %-.860 (3rd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Big Dan, the Buffalo Basher, continued to be the National League’s best slugger.He was the Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, or Rogers Hornsby of the 1800s. He will eventually make the Hall of Fame, but not until 1945 by the Old Timers Committee. He wouldn’t have his induction ceremony until 2013. It would have been fun to watch this man play. For 1885, Brouthers was ninth in WAR (5.2), second in WAR Position Players (5.2), and second in Offensive WAR (6.0). He slashed .359/.408/.543 for an OPS+ of 203, his highest ever, well, until next season. I want to also point out he’s doing this all in the strongest league of all, the NL, and not in one of the other weaker leagues of the time.
Next season, he will not be on the Bisons, who folded after the season. In its last season, Buffalo finished seventh with a 38-74 record. They had two different managers, Pud Galvin (7-17) and Jack Chapman (31-57), in three different ballparks – Olympic Park, Maple Avenue Driving Park, and Wright Street Grounds. According to Wikipedia, “At the end of the 1885 season, Buffalo was going through financial trouble and were forced to sell off their players, so ‘The Big Four’ were sold to the Detroit Wolverines of the NL for US$7,000.” The “Big Four” consisted of Brouthers, Jack Rowe, Hardy Richardson, and Deacon White.
This season for the Bisons saw the fall of Pud Galvin, who made the All-Star team six consecutive seasons. He had pitched over 445 innings six straight years and won 20 or more every one of those seasons. In 1885, however, his ERA ballooned to 4.09 for Buffalo and he was traded to the American Association to pitch for Pittsburgh. Don’t fret for him, he still has some good seasons left.
.310, 7 HR, 108 RBI
Doubles-35 (3rd Time)
Runs Batted In-108 (5th Time)
Putouts-1,255 (3rd Time)
Def. Games as 1B-112
Putouts as 1B-1,253 (3rd Time)
Errors Committed as 1B-57 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.54 (4th Time)
11th Time All-Star-There were some great first basemen at this time in the National League. So much so, that Anson had a good year and is still only the third best first baseman in the league. He finished fifth in Offensive WAR (4.3), slashing .310/.357/.461 for an OPS+ of 149. Unlike Dan Brouthers, who tended to just have great season after great season, Anson’s were sometimes great and sometimes just very good. I would put 1885 in the latter category.
Hey, Cap can’t worry about hitting, he was too busy managing Chicago to the National League title, with an 87-25 record, two games ahead of the Giants. They then played in the World Series against the American Association St. Louis Browns and in seven games, they tied, winning three, losing three, and tying one. It was an upset, considering how much stronger the NL was than the AA. You couldn’t blame the tie on Anson, though. He was 11-for-26 for a .423 average and also hit a double and a triple. SABR says the following about the matchup: “However, Anson’s team played poorly in a postseason ‘World’s Series’ against the St. Louis Browns of the American Association. The series ended, officially, in a tie after a disputed Browns victory caused no end of controversy.”
You might know RBI was not an official stat at this time, though researchers have retroactively gone back to fill in many of the blanks. SABR says, “The Chicago Tribune introduced a new statistic, runs batted in, in 1880 and reported that Cap Anson led the league in this category by a healthy margin. The statistic was soon dropped, but later researchers have determined that Anson led the National League in RBIs eight times. He is credited with driving in more than 2,000 runs, behind only Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth on the all-time list despite the fact that National League teams played fewer than 100 games per season for much of Anson’s career.”
.270, 2 HR, 25 RBI
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-6.71 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as 2B-.934
6th Time All-Star-If there would have been snarky Internet blogs in the 1880s, one of the headlines would have surely read, “Union Association folds, Sure Shot Dunlap hardest hit.” It’s not that he wasn’t still a great player. He’s easily the best second baseman of this era. It’s just that his 1884 UA numbers so dwarf his other accomplishments. Still, in 1885, Dunlap finished sixth in WAR Position Players (4.3) and fourth in Defensive WAR (1.5). This will be the last season he’s in the top 10 in any of the WAR categories. At the plate, he slashed .327/.334/.333 for an OPS+ of 119. Compare that to his 1884 UA numbers of .412/.448/.621 for an OPS+ of 256. Totally different league, totally. (Square Pegs, we salute you! Oh, and apparently we’re saluting Hee Haw, too!)
Or maybe the headline would have read, “Union Association folds, Maroons hardest hit.” In the UA, the Maroons were stacked with the greatest players available. In the NL, that great lineup was only good for a last place finish. Led by Dunlap (30-40) and Alex McKinnon (6-32), St. Louis ended the season with a 36-72 record. Just to rub salt in the wounds, the American Association St. Louis club finished first and went on to play in the World Series against Chicago.
Without doing what many call “research,” I can only guess that it’s possible the 26-year-old superstar has made his last All-Star team. He’s going to actually be part of winning teams with Detroit in future years, but his hitting and his fielding started to decline. He never was above 1.0 Defensive WAR after 1885, nor above 2.0 Offensive WAR. So I’ll give the final word to Bill James, from Wikipedia, “However, Bill James, in his 2001 book The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, ranked Dunlap as the 89th greatest second baseman of all time (and the 8th best of those who played the majority of their careers in the 19th century). James wrote that Dunlap was ‘never a legitimate star in a legitimate major league, but a good second baseman and a .275 hitter.’” Way to end us on a downer note, James!
.319, 6 HR, 44 RBI, 0-0, 2.25 ERA, 1 K
4th Time All-Star-Richardson continued his unusual pattern of making All-Star teams only in odd-numbered years. He continued being part of the “Big Four” for Buffalo, but like Dan Brouthers, he’s off to Detroit in 1886. For this season, he finished eighth in Offensive WAR (3.9) and slashed .319/.350/.458 for an OPS+ of 157. Richardson also pitched for the first time ever, relieving in a game and tossing four innings. He allowed two runs, one of which was earned. Detroit would use him more as a pitcher in 1886.
Since Richardson didn’t make the All-Star team in 1884, let me relay this story from Wikipedia about that season: “Richardson was involved in another unusual circumstance in a game against the Chicago White Stockings on August 13, 1884. Chicago’s George Gore was instructed by player-manager Cap Anson to avoid the double play. When the next batter hit a ground ball, Gore tackled Richardson at second base before he could complete the relay throw. The umpire called both the batter and the runner out, and Anson protested the ruling and refused to resume play, leading the umpire to declare the game forfeited to Buffalo. The two teams then agreed to resume a game which had been postponed earlier in the season, as a way of placating the dissatisfied fans. In the later game, Anson decided to demonstrate of the right way to break up the double play. He reached first base, and when the next batter hit a ground ball to Richardson, Anson waved his arms while running to second in an effort to interfere with Richardson’s throw. Possibly flustered by this display, Richardson in turn struck Anson square in the head with his throw, which was delivered hard enough that it bounced all the way into the grandstands. A woozy Anson was forced to leave the game.”
.238, 3 HR, 65 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 K
Games Played-113 (2nd Time)
Bases on Balls-75
Def. Games as 3B-113 (2nd Time)
Assists as 3B-258 (6th Time)
Double Plays as 3B-18 (5th Time)
Fielding % as 3B-.892 (5th Time)
6th Time All-Star-Williamson continued to be the best third baseman in the National League and now was part of his fourth league-winning team. He finished seventh in WAR Position Players (4.1) and second in Defensive WAR (2.0). He slashed .238/.357/.324 for an OPS+ of 110. He had a bad World Series, going two-for-23, with no extra base hits and four walks. At the age of 27, Williamson has made six All-Star teams and yet it’s possible this is his last one.
After playing 1884 in Lake Front Park with all its short fences and setting many home run records, the White Stockings moved to West Side Park in 1885. Wikipedia says of it, “The park was located on a small block bounded by Congress, Loomis, Harrison and Throop Streets, with the diamond toward its western end. The elongated shape of the block lent a bathtub-like shape to the park, with foul lines reportedly as short as 216 feet. The stadium held roughly 10,000 fans. In addition to the diamond, the park held a bicycle track which encircled the playing field, at the height of the contemporary bicycle craze.” It still had close fences, but not nearly to the extent of the previous park. Surprisingly, West Side Park was even more of a hitters’ park than Lake Front Park. The home runs were down, but Chicago scored the same runs per game this season as they did the one before.
Since I don’t know if we’ll see Williamson again, here’s how he perished from Wikipedia, “In the spring of 1894, Williamson traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas, in hopes that he could recover from a liver ailment and lose some weight as well, but the treatments did not work. Williamson died on March 3 of that year, at the age of 36 in Willow Springs, Arkansas, of dropsy (edema) complicated by consumption (tuberculosis). He is interred in an unmarked grave at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.”
.313, 4 HR, 47 RBI
Double Plays Turned as 3B-10 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-You can’t talk about 18th century third basemen without Ezra Sutton, who made his sixth and, most likely, last All-Star team. He finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.0) and third in Offensive WAR (4.5). His defense, which had often been his strong suit, was fading and his offense would fall after this season. Sutton slashed .313/.338/.425 for an OPS+ of 149.
From SABR, here’s some notes on the end of his career: “Over the winter of 1884-85, Sutton, John Morrill, Jack Manning, Art Irwin, Arlie Latham and Joe Knight formed a polo team, playing the top clubs in the New England area. In 1886 the 35-year-old Sutton spent a good deal of time in the outfield, as young Billy Nash covered third. Nash became Boston’s starting third baseman, a job he kept through 1895. Sutton was relegated to a utility role. Tired of sitting on the bench, he was agitating for his release by 1887. He did have one of his final hurrahs on August 27, 1887, scoring six times against Pittsburgh in a 28-14 romp.”
Now go back and look at Sutton’s 1884 blurb, it’s okay, I can wait. Okay, you’re back, now read this, also from SABR, “Unable to care for himself, Sutton was admitted to Homeopathic Hospital, a long-term-care facility, in Rochester on April 3, 1906. A couple of months later, he wrote former teammate Tim Murnane, now a sportswriter for the Boston Globe, appealing for help: ‘I am at the Homeopathic Hospital in Rochester. I came here April 3 suffering from locomotor ataxia. I cannot go out. My sickness was brought on by overwork. The doctor says I used up all my money trying to get cured. My wife was burned to death last January through the explosion of a lamp.’ Sadly, he signed the letter ‘E.B. Sutton, a ball player in distress.’
“Sutton’s plight in his final years illustrated to many in the game a need for a system to help indigent ballplayers. The game had always done so, but through individual efforts on a case-by-case basis via fundraising efforts by fans, ex-teammates or league owners and officials. It wasn’t until the formation of the Association of Professional Ball Players of America in 1924 that an organized effort took hold.”
.280, 1 HR, 40 RBI
Defensive WAR -2.2 (2nd Time)
Assists-404 (2nd Time)
Assists as SS-397 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-5.23 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as SS-.917 (3rd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Glasscock shuffled off to the Union Association in 1884, had an impressive All-Star season in just 38 games, but now he was back to the toughest league in baseball and he still played All-Star ball. I’m going to be writing about Pebbly Jack for a long time — his career is amazing and yet unbelievably he’s not in the Hall of Fame. I have no doubt he’ll make the ONEHOF, which is much more prestigious anyhow.
For the Maroons, Glasscock finished 10th in WAR (5.1), third in WAR Position Players (5.1), ninth in Offensive WAR (3.7), and, as mentioned above, first in Defensive WAR (2.2). At the plate, he slashed .280/.324/.341 for an OPS+ of 118, but it was really his glove which put him on this list.
Wikipedia notes, “He returned to the NL with the St. Louis Maroons for the next two years, becoming team captain. In 1885 he set an NL record for assists (397), breaking Arthur Irwin‘s 1880 mark of 339, and led the league in fielding average (.917); he also moved ahead of Davy Force to become the major league career leader in games at shortstop.”
His fielding is also heralded on the webpage, Baseball Hot Corner, which gives a list of the top 300 pre-1900 moments in the sport. At number 14 is Glasscock, of whom it is written, “Jack Glasscock revolutionizes the shortstop position with things like hand signals, shifts and backing up plays.” His only fault is he played outstanding ball for a lot of weak teams. Maybe that’s why he’s not in the Hall.
.274, 11 HR, 61 RBI
At Bats-492 (4th Time)
Plate Appearances-538 (3rd Time)
Extra Base Hits-50
AB per HR-44.7
Outs Made-357 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as OF-113 (3rd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-If you look at the 1880 write-up, I once again made a wrong prediction, saying that would be Dalrymple’s last All-Star team. And yet, five years later, here he is again. He slashed .274/.336/.445 for an OPS+ of 138 and helped Chicago to its fifth National League title, four of which Dalrymple was a part. In the World Series, Dalrymple hit .269 with one of the team’s two homers and two doubles. As a reminder, Chicago tied in the World Series with the American Association St. Louis Browns, both teams winning three games and tying in one more.
Dalrymple was one of the game’s first regular lead-off hitters, despite only having a lifetime .323 on-base percentage. Yes, even from the beginning of the sport, managers used criteria other than on-base percentage to pick leadoff hitters. Maybe he was fast, though for much of his career there were no stolen bases tracked, making it difficult to ascertain this.
From Baseball Reference: “Abner Dalrymple was the Opening Day lead-off hitter for the Chicago White Stockings each year from 1879 to 1886. George Gore batted second behind him on Opening Day each year. In 1887, Billy Sunday replaced him on the team as the Opening Day lead-off batter.”
And now a story that’s probably not true from Verdun2’s Blog: “He is credited with one of the more infamous plays of the 19th Century. The Sox were in Buffalo (which had a NL team from 1879-1885) playing in smokey conditions. It was late, making it even more difficult to see, when a Bisons player hit a long fly with two outs and the bases loaded. Dalrymple went back to the fence, leaped, and came out of the haze with the ball to end the inning. Later he admitted the ball went over the fence and he’d hidden a ball in his shirt, pulled it out, and held it high, knowing no one would be able to tell what actually happened in the haze. Great story, right? There are several problems with it. There is no date given, no batter mentioned, the inning is left in doubt. So maybe it’s true (it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility in 19th Century ball), or maybe it’s not, but it’s still a fun story.”
.313, 5 HR, 57 RBI
6th Time All-Star-Here’s the strange thing about Abner Dalrymple batting leadoff for the White Stockings. Right below him in the lineup was George Gore, who would have been a phenomenal first batter. He got on base often, finishing in the top 10 in OBP 10 times and was also fast, once stealing seven bases in a game and stealing 170 bases in his career, despite the fact SB weren’t recorded until Gore was 32 years old. Well, Cap Anson won a lot more titles than I ever have, so who am I to question his managing acumen.
For the season, Gore was the league-winning White Stockings’ leading position player, finishing fourth in WAR Position Players (4.9) and fourth in Offensive WAR (4.4). He slashed .313/.405/.454 for an OPS+ of 163, made his sixth consecutive All-Star team, and won his fourth National League title. Wikipedia says, “On July 9, 1885, in a games against the Providence Grays and their pitcher Charles Radbourn, he gathered five extra-base hits, three doubles and two triples. He is the first player to accomplish this feat, which has since been equalled many times, but never surpassed.”
In the World Series, Gore batted only three times, going oh-for-three, with a walk and a run scored. The reason he didn’t play more, according to Wikipedia, is because “After the tie game, Gore was suspended for drunkenness and indifference, and was replaced for the rest of the series by Billy Sunday. Sunday later converted to Christianity and became a well-known evangelist.”
.300, 5 HR, 42 RBI
9th Time All-Star-After four years with Buffalo, O’Rourke moved to the Big Apple and had another great season, though it’s possible it’s his last All-Star appearance. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.0) and sixth if Offensive WAR (4.3). Orator Jim slashed .300/.354/.442 for an OPS+ of 156. His hitting would never be so good again, but it’s not like it was terrible. For the next seven seasons after this one, until he was 41 years old, O’Rourke would have an Adjusted OPS+ of 114 or higher. Only in his last full season when he was 42, did it drop below 100.
O’Rourke would also play one season in 1904, according to Wikipedia, which says, “In 1904 he made a final appearance with the New York Giants under manager and friend John McGraw, becoming at age 54 the oldest player ever to appear in the National League, and the oldest player to hit safely in a major league game. O’Rourke is one of only 29 players in baseball history to appear in Major League games in four decades.”
After this season, O’Rourke would play six more seasons with the Giants, a partial season in 1890 with the Players League Giants, and one season in 1893 with the Washington Senators before retiring. Then, again according to Wikipedia, “After leaving the major leagues following the 1893 season he continued to play in the minor leagues until he was over 50 years old. As an executive of the Bridgeport team in the Connecticut League, in 1895 O’Rourke hired the first African American minor league baseball player in history.” He was always a man of principles.
.302, 1 HR, 29 RBI
Errors Committed as OF-38 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Edward Hugh “Ned” Hanlon was born on August 22, 1857 in Montville, CT. This is his first and, most likely, last All-Star team. The only category he led in was errors made. He never finished in the top 10 in any of the WAR categories. Yet, Ned Hanlon is in the Hall of Fame. However, it is as a manager, not a player. As a player, he started with the Cleveland Blues in 1880, went to Detroit the next season and stayed with it until 1888. In 1889, he played for the National League Pittsburgh Alleghenys, moved to the Players League Pittsburgh Burghers the next season, then went back to the Alleghenys in 1891, and finally finished his career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1892.
At the plate, Hanlon slashed .302/.372/.389 for an OPS+ of 147. For his career, he played mostly centerfield and, according to dWAR, didn’t do too well, having a career dWAR of -6.5.
Hanlon has a long article about him on Wikipedia, saying he’s sometimes referred to as “The Father of Modern Baseball” and then goes on to explain why: “During his years in Baltimore, Hanlon became known as ‘Foxy Ned’ and was credited with inventing a new strategy that came to be known as “inside” baseball. The strategy focused on teamwork, speed and execution, and encompassed the hit and run play, the squeeze play, the sacrifice bunt, the double steal, and the Baltimore chop. The Sporting News wrote that Hanlon’s ‘introduction and perfection of “inside baseball”’ had ‘initiated and brought to their highest point of efficiency the hit and run, bunt, sacrifice, chop hit, and base running, always doing the unexpected.’ A writer in The Baltimore Sun noted, ‘It occurred to [Hanlon] that a run gained by strategy counted as big as a run gained by slugging. Accordingly, he evolved an offensive technique that made baseball into something of an art.’”
.288, 9 HR, 75 RBI
Runs Scored-124 (2nd Time)
Assists as OF-29
5th Time All-Star-There’s that advertising campaign, “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” for some beer. That could have been King Kelly. He was a great player on a great team in a major city and this all contributed to his popularity. For 1885, in which he played for his fourth league champion, Kelly slashed .288/.355/.436 for an OPS+ of 142. It wasn’t his best season ever, that’s coming up, but it was good enough for the All-Star team and that’s all that matters.
Kelly wasn’t blinded by the bright lights in the World Series. He hit .346 (nine-for-26), with nine runs scored and three doubles.
As for the World Series, according to Wikipedia, Game 1 was tie called by darkness and then the White Stockings and Browns split the remaining six games. Interestingly, Game 5 was not played in St. Louis or Chicago, but Pittsburgh, and Game 6 was played in Cincinnati. So if I’m reading this right, the World Series was almost like the Super Bowl, held in neutral cities.
I’d look at this article if I were you. I just want to mention two games, Game 2 and Game 7.
“Game 2 (Oct. 15), Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis — With Chicago leading 5–4 in the sixth inning, Browns manager Charles Comiskey called his team off the field to protest a ruling made by umpire Dave Sullivan. The game was forfeited to Chicago.
“Game 7 (Oct. 24), Cincinnati Base Ball Grounds, Cincinnati — Behind pitcher Dave Foutz, St. Louis defeated Chicago 13–4 in the 7th and final game. The Browns claim the game 2 forfeit didn’t count and therefore claim the championship. The two clubs split the $1000 prize.”
P-Jim McCormick, COR
P-Bill Sweeney, BLU
P-Dupee Shaw, BOS
P-Billy Taylor, SLM
P-Hugh Daily, CPI/WHS
P-Charlie Sweeney, SLM
P-Dick Burns, COR
P-Bill Wise, WHS
P-Ed Cushman, MIL
P-The Only Nolan, WIL
C-Fatty Briody, COR
C-Charlie Ganzel, STP
1B-Jumbo Schoeneck, CPI/BLU
1B-Phil Baker, WHS
1B-Thomas Gorman, KCC
2B-Fred Dunlap, SLM
3B-Jack Gleason, SLM
SS-Jack Glasscock, COR
SS-Germany Smith, ALT
LF-Henry Moore, WHS
LF-Buster Hoover, PHK
LF-Buttercup Dickerson, SLM
LF-Emmett Seery, BLU/KCC
CF-Dave Rowe, SLM
RF-Orator Shafer, SLM
(UA Stats Only) 21-3, 1.54 ERA, 161 K, .245, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Led in (UA Only):
1884 UA Pitching Title (2nd Time)
WAR for Pitchers-7.8 (3rd Time)
Earned Run Average-1.54 (2nd Time)
Walks & Hits per IP-0.786
Hits per 9 IP-6.471 (2nd Time)
Adjusted ERA+-213 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-3.9 (3rd Time)
8th Time All-Star-McCormick proved to be the reason Doc Brown would yell, “Great Scot!” as the Scotsman dominated in two leagues this season, which is enough of a reason to hand him his trophy to the ONEHOF (The One-Inductee-A-Year-Hall-of-Fame). In the Union Association, he finished second in WAR (7.8) and first in WAR for Pitchers (7.8). Coming from a “real” Major League to a “Major League” certainly helped his stats.
What is this Union Association, you ask? Baseball Reference says, “The Union Association was launched by Henry Lucas in 1884. Lucas rigged the schedule to make things easier for his St. Louis Maroons, who dominated the league. Only five of the league’s original eight teams survived the season, while four (or five, depending on how you figure things) others appeared at one point or another. Only two teams survived the season in sound financial shape – Lucas’s Maroons joined the National League, while Justus Thorner‘s Cincinnati Outlaw Reds failed in an attempt to replace Detroit in the NL. When the league failed to set up for a second season, two teams, the Milwaukee Cream Citys and Kansas City Cowboys formed a new Western League out of its ashes, but it failed to complete the 1885 season.
“The UA has often been included in lists of major leagues, but Bill James devoted several pages in his Historical Baseball Abstract to argue otherwise.” Sorry, Bill, I don’t have time to read “several pages,” so I’m counting it.
As for the Outlaw Reds, they finished third in the league by winning percentage, but number two was the Milwaukee Brewers, who only played 12 games. Man, this was a fun league! The Outlaw Reds, coached by Dan O’Leary (20-15) and Sam Crane (49-21), finished 21 games out of first.
40-21, 2.59 ERA, 374 K, .240, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Home Runs Allowed-13
Def. Games as P-62
Assists as P-133
Errors Committed as P-34
1st Time All-Star-William J. “Bill” Sweeney was born in 1858 in Philadelphia, PA and had his best season ever….then left Major League baseball for good. In this season, the lanky five-foot-11, 160 pound pitched finished third in WAR (7.7) and second in WAR for Pitchers (7.7). His season in Baltimore was monumental.
Oh, and speaking of monumental (you gotta love that segue!), the Monumentals finished fourth in the league (technically, third) with a 58-47 record. Coached by Bill Henderson, they were only 32 games out of first. Just a break here or there and they’re right back in this thing!
Here’s some info on Sweeney from Baseball Reference: “Bill Sweeney was a star in the 1884 Union Association, winning 40 games as a pitcher. He had previously pitched for the 1882 Philadelphia Athletics in the first season of the American Association.
“In 2009 at a SABR regional meeting there was a presentation on Sweeney’s 18-strikeout game in 1884.
“Sweeney’s 374 strikeouts in 1884 put him in the top ten of all time for single-season strikeouts, although several of the pitchers above him on the list also achieved their totals in 1884.”
The year 1884 was unusual in that six of the highest pitchers’ strikeout totals of all-time occurred that year. They are Hugh Daily, UA, 483; Dupee Shaw, NL/UA, 451; Old Hoss Radbourn, NL, 441; Charlie Buffinton, NL, 417; Guy Hecker, AA, 385; and Sweeney, UA, 374. Also unusual is that Charlie Sweeney of the NL Providence Grays struck out 19 batters in one game, while Bill Sweeney of the UA had 18 in one game.
(UA Stats Only) 21-15, 1.77 ERA, 309 K, .242, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Led in (UA Only):
Strikeouts per 9 IP-8.810
Fielding Independent Pitching-1.71
Adj. Pitching Runs-42
Adj. Pitching Wins-3.9
1st Time All-Star-Frederick Lander “Dupee” Shaw was born on May 31, 1859 in Charlestown, MA. The little man, five-foot-eight and 165 pounds, started his career with the National League Detroit Wolverines in 1883 and began 1884 with them also, before being coaxed to the Union Association by the opportunity to face Little Leaguers at the plate. It helped, too! He had his best season ever (if we only count the UA and we do), finishing fourth in WAR (6.9) and third in WAR for Pitchers (6.6). Shaw pitched 315 2/3 innings for the Reds with a 1.77 ERA and a 171 ERA+. He has a couple of good seasons left in the National League.
Boston, coached by Tim Murnane, finished fifth (technically fourth) with a 58-51 record, 34 games out of first place. But only it was led by a pitcher named Dupee, so there’s that.
As mentioned in Bill Sweeney’s write-up, Shaw had the second highest total of pitcher strikeouts of all time, combining in the NL and UA to throw 451 Ks. Or as Wikipedia puts it, “Shaw had an unusual windmill delivery and claimed to have been the first pitcher to use a wind-up before throwing the ball. Some attributed his success in striking out batters to his confusing delivery. He once struck out the great slugger, Orator Shafer, five times in a single game, and in 1884, he struck out 451 batters, a total that remains the fourth highest total in major league history. He also holds the major league record for the most strikeouts, 18, in a game as the losing pitcher.”
(UA Stats Only) 25-4, 1.68 ERA, 154 K, .366, 3 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Led in (UA Only):
3rd Time All-Star-Unlike many players we’ve encountered who started in a better league, like the National League or the American Association, and then went onto the lesser Union Association, Taylor did the reverse. He started with the Maroons, the dominant UA team, but would depart before the season ended. For St. Louis, Bollicky Bill finished fifth in WAR (6.2), eighth in WAR for Pitchers (3.5), fifth in WAR Position Players (2.4), and fifth in Offensive WAR (2.7). Taylor could always hit. He pitched 263 innings for St. Louis with a 1.68 ERA and a 180 ERA+. At the plate, he slashed .366/.389/.548 for an OPS+ of 212(!). Maybe the UA isn’t a major league.
As for his nickname Bollicky, I can’t find how he got it. According to the slang dictionary, bollicky means completely naked. Did he pitch naked? My guess, no.
Nicknames have toned down nowadays. They aren’t as mean-spirited as they used to be. I’d say they’re pretty lame to tell you the truth. Nicknames formed by taking the first letter of the player’s first name and first three letters of the last name aren’t that creative. I’m looking at you, A-Rod! They’re no Bollicky, that’s for sure. According to Baseball Reference, Mike Trout’s nickname is the Millville Meteor. I live in the Southern California area and watch almost every game Trout plays and I’ll guarantee you I’ve never heard this nickname. But he should really have one. Hammerin’ Hank had one. The Say Hey Kid had one. Why doesn’t the greatest player of our time?
28-28, 2.43 ERA, 483 K, .214, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
2nd Time All-Star-I remember when Nolan Ryan threw 383 strikeouts and being so impressed. That’s because I didn’t know about One Arm Daily and his record-setting 1884 season. We’ve already talked about a lot of pitchers who threw a record number of strikeouts, but Daily tops them all and no one would (or will) ever beat him. In the season, Daily finished seventh in WAR (4.7) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (4.5). Those 483 strikeouts came over 500 2/3 innings. Daily’s ERA was 2.43 and his ERA+ was 126. Oh, and all of this when he was 36 years old.
Daily did most of this pitching for Chicago/Pittsburgh team, which finished 41-50, 42 games out of first. Ed Hengel (34-39), Joe Battin (1-5), and Joe Ellick (6-6) managed the team. Here’s the story of the team’s season from Geni: “The Chicago Browns/Pittsburgh Stogies (also known as Chicago/Pittsburgh) were a short-lived professional baseball team in the Union Association of 1884. They were to battle the Chicago White Stockings, of the National League, for the Chicago baseball market, however the Browns lost that battle to the White Stockings. After a Baltimore mattress maker gave the club a degree of financial support, the Browns then tried to entice the White Stockings’ Larry Corcoran, one of the 1880s top pitchers, to join the team. However the club did not succeed in doing so. The Chicago Browns disbanded after a game on August 22, 1884. The club then moved to Pittsburgh and became the Stogies, which disbanded after a game played on September 18, 1884. Many of the club’s players then joined the Baltimore Monumentals. Altogether, they won 41 games, lost 50 (including one forfeit), and tied 2, finishing sixth in the twelve-team league.”
(UA Stats Only) 24-7, 1.83 ERA, 192 K, .316, 1 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Led in (UA Only):
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.432
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-14.769
Fielding % as P-.943
2nd Time All-Star-Sweeney made two All-Star teams in one year and he pitched for two teams that both won their league crown. I’m sure Sweeney would take the credit. We talked about Sweeney’s National League season in that write-up, so we’ll focus here on the Union Association. He finished sixth in WAR (4.2), seventh in WAR for Pitchers (2.5), and 10th in Offensive WAR (1.5). He was an all-around good player, in the UA, at least. On the mound, he pitched 271 innings with a 1.83 ERA and a 165 ERA+ and at bat, he slashed .316/.354/.439 for an OPS+ of 165.
Wikipedia has a long story on Sweeney’s grudge with teammate Old Hoss Radbourn, which needs to be read, but since this is his last All-Star team, I wanted to tell you about his life after 1884, also from Wikipedia. “On 12 June 1886, Sweeney gave up seven home runs in one game, which still stands as the MLB record.
“As with his old teammate Radbourn, Sweeney’s life was meteoric. In 1894, he killed a man in a saloon and was convicted of manslaughter. In 1898, he was pardoned by the Governor of California, James Budd. Shortly after being released from prison, he died from tuberculosis in his hometown San Francisco, California, nine days short of his 39th birthday. He is interred at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.”
So incredibly, Sweeney had the record for strikeouts in a game for many years, until Roger Clemens came along, and also still holds the record for dingers allowed in a game.
23-15, 2.46 ERA, 167 K, .306, 4 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Putouts as P-34
1st Time All-Star-Richard Simon Burns was born the day after Christmas, 1863 in Holyoke, MA. The dimuntive Burns (five-foot-seven, 140 pounds) did well in the haphazard Union Association, finishing ninth in WAR (4.0) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (2.7), having his best season ever. He pitched 329 2/3 innings with a 2.46 ERA and a 134 ERA+.
Burns had started his career in 1883 with the National League Detroit Wolverines (Wolverines!), going 2-12 with a 4.51 ERA. Fortunately for him, the UA came along in 1884 to give him one shot of glory, before he played just 14 games for the NL St. Louis Maroons in 1885 and was out of Major League baseball.
For a man who pitched just one good season and only played in three total, Wikipedia sure has a long article on him. Here are some excepts: “Baseball historian Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract has cited Burns as one of the players supporting his view that the UA was not a true major league. James noted that Burns did not make the grade with Detroit in 1883, became ‘one of the best players’ in the UA, earning him ‘another look’ in the National League, lasting only 14 games. In support of his contention that Burns was not able to compete at a major league level, James asserts that Burns was ‘released by Detroit in mid-summer, 1883.’ The latter statement by James is erroneous. An account published in the Detroit Free Press on October 1, 1883, reports that Burns was Detroit’s right fielder in the final game of the season. Other game accounts show him playing in games for Detroit in August 1883 (right field on August 7 and 8, 1883; right and center field on August 9, 1883) and September 1883 (right field on September 5, 1883).”
23-18, 3.04 ERA, 268 K, .233, 2 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Double Plays Turned as OF-5
2nd Time All-Star-After squeaking onto the American Association All-Star team in 1882, Wise had his only decent season, in the Union Association, finishing eighth in WAR for Pitchers (2.3). He pitched 364 1/3 innings with a 3.04 ERA and a 99 ERA+. He might be the only pitcher to make two All-Star teams who never even had a 100 ERA+.
As for the Nationals, Mike Scanlon managed the team to a 47-65 seventh place finish, 46-and-a-half games out of first place. Despite their terrible record, they will end up with three full-time All-Stars on the team, along with a short stint from Hugh Daily.
I mentioned this in Wise’s 1882 blurb, but he had a strange career, playing with three teams over five years, only in even-numbered years. All three teams he played on were in three different leagues and all three were in the Maryland area.
So Wise would be born in the nation’s capital, play all three of his seasons in the Beltway, and then die on May 5, 1940 in Washington, DC. Some people don’t like to move. In my life, I’ve lived in California, Iowa, and Guam (for one year). My dad was in the Navy so there was a lot of moving around early in my life, but there were also long stretches of time in the same location. However, I was born in California and lived most of my life (45 out of my 51 years) here. The place of my demise is TBD.
4-0, 1.00 ERA, 47 K, .091, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Edgar Leander “Ed” Cushman was born on March 27, 1852 in Eagleville, OH. I’m the first to admit he wouldn’t have made the Union Association All-Star team without the fluke of every team needing a representative, but that doesn’t mean the four games he pitched weren’t awesome. We’ll get to that in a minute. Cushman’s career began with the National League Buffalo Bisons in 1883, before pitching for the Brewers this season. In those four games, he completed them all, allowing just four runs in 36 innings, all earned, and striking out 47 batters . He has another All-Star team left in him.
The Brewers technically finished in second place in the UA with an 8-4 record. Tom Loftus held the reins for the team, which was a replacement team that started playing on September 27.
More on Cushman from Wikipedia: “[In 1884], He completed all four starts and pitched two shutouts, one of which was a no-hitter thrown on September 28, 1884, vs. the Washington Nationals, a 5-0 victory. It was the second and last no-hitter thrown in the Union Association, and was the second game the Brewers had played since joining the league as a late season replacement. He followed up his no-hitter with eight more hitless innings on October 4, against the Boston Reds, when he finally surrendered a hit, a ninth inning bloop single, but holds on for the 2-0 shutout victory.” He almost did a Vander Meer. Those four games would get the 32-year-old more work in the future.
1-4, 2.93 ERA, 52 K, .273, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Edward Sylvester “The Only” Nolan was born on November 7, 1857 in Canada. Sure, there might be those out there (I like to pretend I have readers) who are saying, “Because of your terrible rule about every team having an All-Star, The Only Nolan is keeping out someone more deserving.” I would say, “Yeah, but now I get to right about someone named The Only Nolan!” I have actually written about this man before, in Jim McCormick’s 1878 write-up. You can look that up.
The Only Nolan started in 1878 with the National League Indianapolis Blues, played again with the NL Cleveland Blues in 1881, lost seven straight games for the American Association Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1883, before trying his luck with Wilmington this season. He pitched 40 innings with them and had a 2.93 ERA and a 116 ERA+. Not terrible and certainly the best player on Wilmington.
Wilimington started in August and lasted 18 games, going 2-16. They were coached by Joe Simmons, who on two teams, this one and the 1875 National Association Keokuk Westerns, had a total record of 3-28 as a manager. Needless to say, he never managed again.
Wikipedia talks about Wilmington’s short history: “Late into the season, Henry Lucas, the Union Association founder and owner of the St. Louis Maroons, convinced Simmons and the Quicksteps to cross over into his league when the Philadelphia Keystones folded due to lack of attendance. After winning their first game 4-3 over Washington, it was all downhill for the Quicksteps. Many Wilmington players no longer felt bound by their contracts and signed for more money with other teams in their new league; shortstop and team Captain Oyster Burns jumped to the Baltimore Monumentals for $900 a month, and outfielder Dennis Casey also jumped to Baltimore for $700 a month; each had been making about $150 a month in Wilmington. Catcher Andy Cusick went to the Philadelphia Phillies for $375 a month, and the only star player to remain in Wilmington was pitcher Ed “The Only” Nolan, who went on to beat Washington for Wilmington’s second and last victory. But the Quicksteps could not survive the loss of Burns, Casey and Cusick; the team finished with a batting average of only .175 in the Union Association.”
(UA Stats Only) .337, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Charles F. “Fatty” or “Alderman” Briody was born on August 13, 1858 in Lansingburgh, NY. This nickname wouldn’t fly nowadays. Right, Pudge? He was probably a little chunky, being five-foot-eight, 190 pounds, but he wasn’t Engelberg. I mean, he could button his uniform up, so that’s good. Anyway, Briody had started in 1880 playing one game for the National League Troy Trojans, took a year off and then went to the Blues in 1882. He jumped midseason to go to the easier-to-hit-in Union Association, where he went from slashing .169/201/.230 in the NL to .337/.344/.404 with the Outlaw Reds. He also finished second in Defensive WAR (1.5).
Briody was more proof for Bill James’ vitriolic crusade against the UA being a major league. He never hit above .258 in his stints in the NL or American Association, ending up with a .220 lifetime average in those leagues. However, it seems his success in the UA will get him a few more seasons of ball.
According to Wikipedia, and his nickname “Alderman,” it seems Briody went into politics. “After his playing career was over, Briody returned to Lansinburgh, New York, where he was the Committeeman for the Seventeenth Ward for many years. He also conducted a trucking business, doing work for various companies. He died in 1903 at age 44 of dilation of the heart.”
Interestingly, in the obituary shown for Briody on The Deadball Era, they call him Frank, which must be what the F stands for, and they never mention his Major League career.
.217, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Charles William “Charlie” Ganzel was born on June 18, 1862 in Waterford, WI. He’s on the team because the White Caps need a representative. He only played seven of St. Paul’s nine games, slashing .217/.217/.217 for an OPS+ of 81. However, it should be noted, after this rookie season, Ganzel would play for 13 more years, having a steady, if not noteworthy career.
Here’s a recap of St. Paul’s season from Wikipedia: “The St. Paul Saints, also known as the Apostles or the White Caps, were a replacement Major League Baseball team that represented St. Paul, Minnesota in the short-lived Union Association, which existed for the 1884 season only. The team began the 1884 season in the Northwestern League as the Apostles. In September of that year, after compiling a 24-48 record, the team jumped to the Union Association along with the Milwaukee Brewers. The club finished its short stint in the Association with a 2-6-1 record in nine road games, earning the distinction of being the only major league team not to play a single home game. The team was managed by Andrew Thompson. They played their home games at Fort Street Grounds.”
Wikipedia says this about Ganzel’s later years: “After retiring from baseball in 1897, Ganzel managed a shirt factory in Boston. He also remained active in coaching and organizing baseball teams around New England. He married Alice Maude Cartee of Dubuque, Iowa, in 1885. They had two daughters and six sons. Ganzel lived in Quincy, Massachusetts, for many years. He died from cancer in 1914 at the home of his daughter in the Norfolk Downs section of Quincy. He was buried at Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy.”
.308, 2 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Def. Games as 1B-106
Putouts as 1B-1,063
Fielding % as 1B-.957
1st Time All-Star-Louis W. “Jumbo” Schoeneck was born on March 3, 1862 in Chicago, IL. This was his rookie season and he wouldn’t play Major League ball again until 1888-89 with the National League Indianapolis Hoosiers. Well, if nothing else, he has the honor of being the Union Association’s best first baseman, finishing sixth in WAR Position Players (2.6) and seventh in Defensive WAR (1.1). He slashed .308/.320/.387 for an OPS+ of 136 between his two teams. He hit much better for Chicago/Pittsburgh (.317/.332/.404/146) than he did in his 16 games with Baltimore (.250/.250/.283/71).
Was Jumbo jumbo? Yes, certainly when compared to his contemporaries. He was tall at six-foot-two and weighed in at 223 pounds. He was two inches taller than Cap Anson, but four pounds lighter. Those two were definitely big for their time.
Baseball Reference says, “His 1884 season split between two teams, Schoeneck posted a batting average, OBP and SLG that were all in the top ten in the Union Association. Later, when he came back to the majors to play in 1888 and 1889 with the Indianapolis Hoosiers his stats were not as impressive. Bill James in his New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract mentions Shoeneck in his essay about the Union Association not being as high-quality a league as other major leagues.”
There’s that Bill James again! Always picking on the poor UA. Of course, he’s right. I’m going to end up spending over 6,000 words on this league and most of the time, I’ll be writing about players that will never make another All-Star team, but it was a fun league. Teams that came-and-went, a team, the St. Louis Maroons, that was purposely set up to dominate the league. Jumbo. The Only Nolan. Come on, Bill, at least embrace the quirkiness!
.288, 1 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Philip “Phil” Baker was born on September 19, 1856 in Philadelphia, PA. He started with the American Association Baltimore Orioles in 1883, before seeing if he could be a star in the Union Association, and he was! He slashed .288/.309/.356 for an OPS+ of 125. He would play one more season, in 1886, for the National League Washington Nationals.
“For reasons unknown, he was blacklisted but reinstated at the 1882 meetings of the American Association.
“Even though he caught only 50 games, he is tenth on the all-time list of ‘most games caught by a left-handed catcher.’
“He died at age 83 at his daughter’s home in Washington, DC after a long illness and is buried at Glenwood cemetery in Washington.”
That was the great thing about 1800s baseball is that there were still experiments going on. Rules changed frequently, left-handers were put at positions like third base and catcher. Today’s game seems so static.
Baseball is unusual in that your dominant hand can determine which position you’re playing. Yes, in hockey, they might use a left-hander at a certain forward position, but left and right handers can play forward. Quarterbacks and every other football position can be either hand. Only in baseball does being left-handed banish you to only a, um, handful of positions. Just think, if third base was first base, then left-handers would be valuable because you would need them at catcher, shortstop, third base, and second base.
.321, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Thomas Gorman was born in St. Louis, MO and very little is known about him. We’re sure he was born and that he died, but we don’t know the dates of either. We also know that he played only one season of Major League baseball and that he made the All-Star team as the Kansas City Cowboys’ best player. Gorman slashed .321/.345/.396 for an OPS+ of 162 and surprisingly wasn’t ever given another chance, despite the fact his OPS+ would have been fourth in the league if he had more at-bats.
As for the Cowboys, they were the worst team of a bunch of bad teams in this only season of the Union Association. They went 16-63, 61 games out of first. Harry Wheeler (0-4), Matthew Porter (3-13), and Ted Sullivan (13-46) were the managers. Here’s the strange thing about Sullivan. He actually started this year as St. Louis’ manager and had led that team to a 28-3 record, before coming over to Kansas City. Why? Apparently, just because he wanted to.
More on the Cowboys from Wikipedia: “They began play as a replacement for the Altoona Mountain City, which collapsed in May, and played out the remainder of the season. Despite a 16-63 (.203 WL percentage) finish, the franchise was one of only two (the St. Louis club being the other) in the league to make a profit. In contemporary newspaper reports, the team had Altoona’s record (6-19) combined with their own and were considered to have finished last in an eight-team league. The Unions disbanded shortly after the Union Association voted to dissolve.”
.412, 13 HR, (No RBI Recorded), 0-0, 13.50 ERA, 1 K
1884 UA Batting Title
Wins Above Replacement-7.8
WAR Position Players-7.9
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.069
Adj. Batting Runs-77
Adj. Batting Wins-8.4
Extra Base Hits-60
Times on Base-214
Offensive Win %-.918
AB per HR-34.5
Putouts as 2B-341 (2nd Time)
Assists as 2B-300 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-54 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-6.61
Range Factor/Game as 2B-6.41 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as 2B-.926
5th Time All-Star-Here’s one formula for a monster season. Take a player who was a star in a high quality league. Move that man to a much lower level league. Then watch him go nuts. And Dunlap did. It was an outstanding season for Sure Shot, as he became the first position player ever to lead a league in WAR. Nowadays, it happens all the time, of course. Dunlap finished first in WAR (7.8), first in WAR Position Players (7.9), first in Offensive WAR (6.6), and third in Defensive WAR (1.4). He slashed .412/.448/.621 for an OPS+ of 256. Wow! Yes, he was facing mediocre pitching in a mediocre league, but it does show us how great of player Dunlap was.
He also managed the first place Maroons, taking over for Ted Sullivan, who went 28-3 and then just left the team to go to the Kansas City Cowboys. Dunlap was 66-16 as a manager and St. Louis finished 94-19 altogether, 21 games ahead of the second place Cincinnati Outlaw Reds.
Here’s Wikipedia on the Union Association’s best team: “The St. Louis Maroons debuted on April 20, 1884, at the Union Base Ball Park, defeating the UA Chicago club, 7-2. Henry Van Noye Lucas, the founder of the Union Association and owner of the Maroons, stocked his team with most of the league’s best talent. They started the season 20-0, a mark that would not be topped in major American professional sports until the Golden State Warriors of the NBA surpassed it 131 years later in the 2015–16 season.”
.324, 4 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-John Day “Jack” Gleason was born on July 14, 1854 in St. Louis, MO and would end up playing most of his career around his birthplace. He started by playing one game for the National League St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1877 and then moved to the American Association where he played for St. Louis in 1882 and 1883. During the 1883 season, Gleason moved on to the Louisville Eclipse. This year, he was part of the Maroons’ plan to dominate the newly-formed Union Association. He had his best season ever, finishing 10th in WAR (3.1), third in WAR Position Players (3.1), and third in Offensive WAR (2.9). He slashed .324/.361/.441 for an OPS+ of 174.
At a website krispaulw.com, it says, “Opening Day for the American Association was May 2, 1882; the Browns started the season home at Sportsman’s Park with a 9-7 win over Louisville. The lineup featured Bill and Jack Gleason, the first brothers to play together on the same infield in the major leagues, and Jumbo McGinnis, the starting pitcher who was reportedly eighteen years old in 1882.”
Jack’s brother, Bill, actually made the All-Star team with the American Association in 1883. They’re not the first brother combo to do so. Deacon and Will White have both made multiple All-Star teams.
Spoiler Alert! There are still three Maroons that will make this All-Star team and all three play in the outfield. It really was a dominating team. We don’t have a team like that nowadays, at least in baseball.
(UA Stats Only) .419, 2 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
4th Time All-Star-In Fred Dunlap’s blurb, we talked about a formula to have a monster year. You start by already being a great player, and Glasscock was a three-time National League All-Star, and then go to a weak league. Pebbly Jack’s Union Association season would’ve been more impressive if he didn’t play just 38 games there. He started with the Cleveland Blues (NL), where he wasn’t having his typical great season before coming down the road to Cincinnati. For the Outlaw Reds, Glasscock, in just a third of a season, mind you, finished seventh in WAR Position Players (2.5) and seventh in Offensive WAR (2.1). He slashed .419/.444/.464 for an OPS+ of 221 in the UA and .313/.360/.402 for an OPS+ of 139 altogether.
For Glasscock, 1884 was the season of “Show me the money!” From SABR: “When the short-lived Union Association claimed major league status in 1884, first Dunlap and then Glasscock jumped to the new league. Robert L. Tiemann quotes Glasscock as saying ‘I have played long enough for glory, now it is a matter of dollars and cents.’ (Tiemann, 51) Tiemann claimed the Cincinnati Unions paid him $2,000 for the remainder of the season, a big jump from his $1,800 Cleveland salary, but Glasscock remembered his Cincinnati salary was $1,600 for the part of the season he played there. (Glasscock, 2) He batted .419 against inferior pitching. While with Cincinnati, sportswriter Harry Weldon gave Glasscock the nickname ‘Pebbly Jack’ for his habit of picking up stones in the infield and tossing them away. (Lanigan)”
(UA Stats Only) .315, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded), 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 1 K
1st Time All-Star-George J. “Germany” Smith was born on April 20, 1859 in Pittsburgh, PA. He had a memorable rookie year, starting out in the newly-formed Union Association for Altoona and looking like a great hitter, slashing .315/.321/.407 for an OPS+ of 142 in 25 games, before going to the National League Blues, where his hitting diminished as he slashed .254/.259/.371 for an OPS+ of 94. As it will turn out, Smith will have a long career, 15 years, but would stay in baseball due to his hands, not his bat.
Altoona lasted only to the end of May, where they would go defunct after compiling a 6-19 record. Ed Curtis managed Mountain City and, like so many UA managers, would never coach a Major League team again.
Here’s more on Altoona from Wikipedia, which says, “The Altoona Mountain Citys were a professional baseball franchise that played in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1884. The Mountain Citys were a charter member of the Union Association, but folded after 25 games with a 6–19 record. They were alternately known as the Ottawas, after the local history of the Ottawa people in the 17th and 18th centuries. At the start of the season, they were also known by the nickname Altoona Pride, and were advertised as the Famous Altoonas. By the season’s end, they were known as the Altoona Unfortunates.
“The Mountain Citys began the 1884 season by playing the top teams in the league, the St. Louis Maroons and the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds, and losing 11 straight. The Altoona teams performance against the Maroons was especially hideous; they gave up 92 runs and made 53 errors. After finally winning their first game on May 10, the Mountain Citys went 6–8 before folding. The team’s final game was on May 31, 1884. The team was a disaster – attendance was as low as 200 on some games, and averaged slightly more than 1,000 per home game, low figures even for those times.”
.336, 1 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Def. Games as OF-105
1st Time All-Star-Henry Scott Moore was born in 1862 in San Francisco, CA and in his first Major League season ever, he was sensational, finishing eighth in WAR Position Players (2.2) and sixth in Offensive WAR (2.3). He slashed .336/.363/.414 for an OPS+ of 163 and was off to a great career! Except, he wasn’t. He was never given another chance in the Major Leagues after the Union Association folded. Why?
Well, according to Wikipedia, “Moore had a quick temper, and was blacklisted by multiple major and minor leagues during his career for unsportsmanlike conduct, including refusing to field balls hit to his position, and refusing to run the bases after hits.”
John Thorn, baseball historian, has a long article on Moore that fills in many details. I’ll just borrow a smidge: “The last press mention of him alive may have come on May 26, 1905, when his 78-year-old mother, a dressmaker, was thrown out of a window by her 50-year-old female friend of two decades, in a dispute over a missing $15. Mrs. Moore ‘told her pitiful tale at the hospital, and said Mrs. Collins inflicted the wounds with her hands. Dr. Hill, who attended her, expresses but little hope for her recovery on account of her age…. Mrs. Moore is the mother of ‘Hen’ Moore, once a noted baseball player.’ San Francisco death records were incinerated in the fires following the great earthquake of 1906, but Mrs. Moore never again appeared in a city directory listing, nor did her son.”
(UA Stats Only) .364, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-William James “Buster” Hoover was born on April 12, 1863 in Philadelphia, PA and was another player thankful for the Union Association. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (2.1) and fourth in Offensive WAR (2.7), slashing .364/.390/.495 with an OPS+ of 207 for the Keystones and .190/.261/.286 for an OPS+ of 77 for the Quakers. Hoover has a couple of partial seasons left, but he’d never have the success he had in the UA.
The Keystones were yet another UA team which didn’t last the full season. Coached by Fergy Malone, they finished 21-46 and were out of the league by August 7, already 37-and-a-half games out of first. Hoover was their best player.
Wikipedia says of Hoover, “The following season, Hoover joined the Union Association‘s Philadelphia Keystones and made his major league debut on April 17, 1884. The Keystones played 67 games, and Hoover appeared in 63 of them, mostly in left field. Hoover was one of the best players in the Union Association that year. He hit .364 to finish second in the league batting race and also ranked third in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage. However, he was the only player on the Keystones ‘who was any offensive threat’. The team folded in August, before the end of the season.
“In late 1892, Hoover received his final shot in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds. He lasted 14 games and batted .176. In 1893, Hoover batted .322 in the Southern Association. He ended his professional baseball career in 1894 in the Eastern League.”
(UA Stats Only) .365, 0 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Lewis Pessano Dickerson was born on October 11, 1858 in Tyaskin, MD and actually had a long and decent career before 1884. I’m surprised he hasn’t already made an All-Star team, but it’s mainly because of his fielding. The diminutive Buttercup, standing at five-foot-six, 140 pounds, started in 1878 with the Cincinnati Reds, moved to Troy at the beginning of 1880, before moving to Worcester. He took 1882 off and then played for Pittsburgh in the American Association in 1883. Dickerson started with the Maroons at the beginning of 1884 and finished ninth in WAR Position Players (2.1). In the Union Association, Dickerson slashed .365/.388/.445 for an OPS+ of 180. He then played for Baltimore and Louisville in the AA, where he did much worse. He’d be out of the Major Leagues after 1885.
Wikipedia says, “Dickerson was born in 1858. He is sometimes thought to be of Italian ancestry, but at least one historian and one family member dispute this notion. According to one of his granddaughters, he was born to William Porter Dickerson and Mary Larmore, who came to the United States from England, but who may have lived in Scotland before that. His granddaughter said that his middle name, Pessano, was given to him in honor of the physician who delivered him. She said that she was not aware of any Italian ancestry in the family.”
Despite the fact he may not have been Italian, Wikipedia continues, “Dickerson died at the age of 61 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was interred at Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore. In 1979, he was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.”
.313, 2 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
Putouts as OF-157
Assists as OF-26
Range Factor/Game as OF-1.76
1st Time All-Star-John Emmett Seery was born on February 13, 1861 in Princeville, IL. As a rookie in 1884, the tiny lefty (five-foot-seven, 145 pounds) was one of the many good leftfielders in the Union Association. He slashed .313/.342/.411 for an OPS+ of 142 combined on his two UA teams. It was the beginning of a fairly decent career, though I’m doubting he will make any more All-Star teams.
Seery played on two of the most interestingly named teams in all of baseball, according to Wikipedia, which says, “The following year, Seery joined the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders of the Players’ League, and his batting average fell to .223. In 1891, he went to the American Association. He batted .285 for the Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers, and his .423 on-base percentage was fourth-best in the circuit. In 1892, Seery went back to the National League to play for the Louisville Colonels. He batted just .201 in 42 games, and the last Major League appearance of his career was on June 10. Seery also had short stints that year in the Southern Association and the Western League. His minor league and professional baseball career ended in 1895.”
Wikipedia also shows us that people have never appreciated those who took a lot of walks, as Seery did. “Seery was a patient hitter during his at bats. In 1887, the Detroit Free Press wrote that he was ‘a good enough waiter to preside at a restaurant.’ He finished in his league’s top 10 in bases on balls five times, and he finished in the top 10 in strikeouts four times.”
.293, 4 HR, (No RBI Recorded), 1-0, 2.00 ERA, 2 K
Double Plays Turned as OF-5
Range Factor/9 Inn as OF-1.87
Fielding % as OF-.947
1st Time All-Star-David Elwood “Dave” Rowe was born on October 9, 1854 in Harrisburg, PA. He had the benefit of playing on the best Union Association team in the season he had his best season ever. Rowe had started by playing two games for the Chicago White Stockings in 1877, then didn’t play Major League ball again until 1882 when he played for the National League Cleveland Blues. His travels didn’t stop as he ended up on the 1883 American Association Baltimore Orioles. This season, for the Maroons, he slashed .293/.307/.429 for an OPS+ of 145. This helped him finish fourth in WAR Position Players (2.7) and ninth in Offensive WAR (1.6).
After this season, Rowe would follow the Maroons to the National League in 1885, playing only 16 games, then go to the NL Kansas City Cowboys as a fulltime outfielder in 1886. After one more year off from the Major Leagues, he was back for his final season, playing 32 games for the 1888 AA Kansas City Cowboys.
He had one of the worst pitching performances ever in 1882. According to Wikipedia, “He appeared in four games as a pitcher during his career, and in a game on July 24, 1882, Rowe allowed 35 runs to score, although only 12 of them were earned; it remains the record for most runs scored against a pitcher in major league history.
.360, 2 HR, (No RBI Recorded)
4th Time All-Star-The strong-armed Shafer hasn’t been on an All-Star team in a while and it took playing in the Union Association to get him another one (and probably his last). He had played for the National League Cleveland Blues from 1880-82, moved to Buffalo the next season, and now won his first (and last) championship with the Maroons. For St. Louis, he finished sixth in WAR (4.8), second in WAR Position Players (4.8), and second in Offensive WAR (4.0). He slashed .360/.398/.501 for an OPS+ of 201. Thanks, UA!
And goodbye, UA. Here are some final remarks about the league from Wikipedia: “The lopsided competition, the revolving-door nature of the franchises and the poorly drafted schedule was also a major problem; four franchises folded during the season, forcing the league to scramble to replace them with three teams from lower classification leagues and one new team, and the league was derisively dubbed ‘The Onion League’ by its detractors in the two established leagues.
“Of the 272 players in the Association, 107 (39.34%) never played in another major league, while 72 (26.47%) played very briefly (less than 300 at bats and/or 50 hits) in other major leagues, and 79 (29.04%) had longer careers but little success in other major leagues.
“A relatively modern comparison could be the World Football League of the early 1970s contrasted with the National Football League. The WFL similarly resorted to putting clubs in small cities or cities with established teams, and collapsed in the middle of a season.”
P-Guy Hecker, LOU
P-Tony Mullane, TOL
P-Ed Morris, COL
P-Tim Keefe, NYP
P-Hardie Henderson, BAL
P-Bob Emslie, BAL
P-Will White, CIN
P-Billy Taylor, PHA
P-Jack Lynch, NYP
P-Adonis Terry, BRO
C-Jim Keenan, IND
C-Fred Carroll, COL
1B-Dave Orr, NYP
1B-John Reilly, CIN
1B-Harry Stovey, PHA
2B-Sam Barkley, TOL
2B-Pop Smith, COL
3B-Dude Esterbrook, NYP
3B-Arlie Latham, STL
3B-Pete Browning, LOU
SS-Frank Fennelly, WAS/CIN
SS-Sadie Houck, PHA
LF-Charley Jones, CIN
CF-Dick Johnston, RIC
RF-Ed Swartwood, PIT
52-20, 1.80 ERA, 385 K, .297, 4 HR, 42 RBI
1884 AA Pitching Title
1884 AA Triple Crown
Wins Above Replacement-17.8
WAR for Pitchers-15.5
Earned Run Average-1.80
Walks & Hits per IP-0.868 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-670 2/3
Adj. Pitching Runs-97
Adj. Pitching Wins-9.4
Def. Games as P-75
Putouts as P-50 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-145
3rd Time All-Star-Hecker was the best player in the crazy American Association this season, which had 13 different teams, a couple of which never even played a complete year. He had his best season ever, finishing first in WAR (17.8) and first in WAR for Pitchers (15.5). He pitched an incredible 670 2/3 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a 170 ERA+. Hecker, as always, was also a great hitter, slashing .297/.323/.430 for an OPS+ of 149.
As for the Eclipse, Mike Walsh took over from Joe Gerhardt as manager and, in his only season at the helm of a team, led the team to a third place finish with a 68-40 record, seven-and-a-half games behind first place New York.
Here’s SABR on Hecker’s great season: “Only two other pitchers in major league history have won as many as 50 games in a season. A year after Hecker’s 50-win season John Clarkson won 53. But Hecker’s real misfortune was that the all-time single-season wins record was set the same season Hecker won 52, as Charley Radbourne won 59 for Providence in the National League. Hecker’s 52-20 record in 1884 included a game against Washington in June in which he struck out the first seven batters he faced, and a one-hitter against St. Louis in August.”
Every season between 1874 and 1892 would have at least one pitcher that threw 500 or more innings. This year, Hecker’s workhorse 670 2/3 innings didn’t even match Old Hoss Radbourn’s 678 2/3 innings. After 1893, the mound was moved back to 60 feet and there would never again be a pitcher that tossed over 482 innings.
36-26, 2.52 ERA, 325 K, .276, 3 HR, (No RBI recorded)
3rd Time All-Star-Mullane continued his travels across the American Association highways and ended up this season in Toledo. No matter where he went, he was a great pitcher. This season, he had his best season ever, finishing second in WAR (13.4) and second in WAR for Pitchers (11.6). He had his highest amount of innings pitched ever with 567 and had a 2.52 ERA and a 134 ERA+. The AA certainly saved Mullane’s career.
Unfortunately, Mullane’s golden arm couldn’t help the Toledo Blue Stockings in their only year of existence. Coached by Charlie Morton, they went 46-58, 27-and-a-half games out of first. Their history is short and sweet, according to Wikipedia, which says, “The Toledo Blue Stockings formed as a minor league baseball team in Toledo, Ohio in 1883. They won the Northwestern League championship in 1883. Their home ballpark was League Park. The following year, they joined the major league American Association. That year, they finished 8th with a 46-58 record. The team returned to the minors the next year and disbanded after the 1885 season. Historically, the team is best known for being the only major league team with black players (Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother, Welday Walker) prior to Jackie Robinson‘s appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.” If you’d like more info on Fleet Walker, read this article at SABR.
Mullane missed the 1885 season due to a contract snafu. Wikipedia says, “In 1884, Mullane attempted to sign with the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association, a new independent league, even though under the reserve clause the Browns still had rights to his services. Threatened with banishment for defying his contract, Mullane relented. The Browns then sold Mullane to the expansion Toledo Blue Stockings, with whom Mullane won a career-high 36 games. The Browns attempted to reclaim Mullane after the 1884 season when both the Union Association and the Blue Stockings folded, but before the Browns could re-sign him under the rules, Mullane managed to sign with Cincinnati. For this action, the American Association suspended Mullane for the entire 1885 season. Coming in the midst of his string of consecutive 30-win seasons, this likely cost Mullane a 300-win career.”
34-13, 2.18 ERA, 302 K, .186, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Hits per 9 IP-7.017
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.40
1st Time All-Star-Edward “Ed” or “Cannonball” Morris was born on September 29, 1862 in Brooklyn, NY and would have a Koufax-esque short-lived but impressive career. He started out strong from the beginning, finishing third in WAR (8.5) and third in WAR for Pitchers (8.6). He pitched 429 2/3 innings with a 2.18 ERA and a 139 ERA+. Surprisingly, that 429 innings didn’t even finish in the top 10 of innings pitched in the American Association. There were a lot of rubber arms in the league this season.
As for Columbus, having a great pitcher certainly turned around its fortunes, at least for a season. Gus Schmelz would start his 11-year coaching career with a 69-39 record for the Buckeyes. They would finish six-and-a-half games out of first place, behind the New York Metropolitans. As late as August 12, in their 71st game, they were only a half game from the top. They then lost four in a row and never got that close again, but they battled the rest of the year. Then Columbus folded after this season for reasons I couldn’t find.
Cannonball started in the minor leagues, according to Baseball Reference, which says, “Morris was born in Brooklyn, NY but moved to San Francisco, CA as a child. He began as a catcher with the Eagles in San Francisco in 1879, then moved to the San Francisco Nationals. In 1881, he was with the San Francisco Mystics. John Ward convinced him to come try his hand playing in the East. He signed with the independent Philadelphias team initially. His next stop came with the Reading Actives in 1882, along with fellow Californians Henry Moore and Fred Carroll, the latter of whom would be his longtime battery mate. He developed a rhythm with Carroll wherein he would pitch the ball as soon as he got it back from his catcher, keeping opponents off-balance.”
Of Morris’ 1884 season, Baseball Reference says, “On May 1st, he broke Lee Richmond‘s record for strikeouts by a lefty by fanning 13 Cincinnati Red Stockings batters. On May 29th, he no-hit the Pittsburgh Alleghenys.”
37-17, 2.25 ERA, 334 K, .238, 3 HR, (No RBI recorded)
5th Time All-Star-Sir Timothy pitched another monster season, though certainly nothing to be compared to his 1883 stint, and led the Metropolitans to a first place finish and their first World Series appearance. For the year, Keefe finished fourth in WAR (8.4) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.5). He pitched 483 innings with a 2.25 ERA and a 138 ERA+. In the Series, having to square off against Old Hoss Radbourn and the National League Providence Grays, he faltered a little, starting and completing two games, pitching 15 innings with a 3.60 ERA. At the bat, he went one-for-five with four strikeouts. He has an outstanding World Series ahead, but it’s going to be a few years.
New York was coached by Jim Mutrie once again, who led them to the league title with a 75-32 record, six-and-a-half games over second place Columbus. Mutrie would be coaching in New York again in 1885, but unfortunately for the Metropolitans, it would be for the National League Giants, not in the American Association.
This was Keefe’s last year in the AA as he would be off to the National League in 1885. The two New York teams were owned by the same guy and it gave him the opportunity to shuffle players around as needed. So Mutrie and Keefe were off to the Giants the next season.
Keefe was making some good money now and it was showing in his appearance. According to SABR, “With his $2,800 salary with the Metropolitans, Keefe earned far more than he’d ever make as a carpenter. He began to wear tailored suits, to emulate a well-heeled Cambridge citizen, which distanced himself from the blue-collar background of his father, a carpenter, and his brother, a plumber. He taught himself subjects to compensate for his lack of a college education, studying accounting to understand business and shorthand to take good notes of meetings. In New York he was exposed to the theater and other social activities of wealthy people that he could never experience in ethnically stratified Boston, which provided few such opportunities for those of Irish ancestry.”
27-23, 2.62 ERA, 346 K, .227, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Strikeouts per 9 IP-7.088
Bases on Balls-116
1st Time All-Star-James Harding “Hardie” Henderson was born on Halloween, 1862 in Philadelphia, PA and his arm would indeed make him scary. He started in 1883 pitching one game for the National League Philadelphia Quakers, before moving to the Orioles. He’ll be with them for four years. This season, Hardie finished fifth in WAR (6.6) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.6). He pitched 439 1/3 innings with a 2.62 ERA and a 131 ERA+. Judging by his strikeout numbers and his lead-leading walks, Henderson must have had quite an arm.
Baltimore, still managed by Billy Barnie, had quite an improvement, moving only from eighth place to sixth place, but going from 28-68 to a 63-43 record. It finished 11-and-a-half games out of first place. Henderson had a lot to do with that.
It’s surprising that Baltimore gave Henderson a chance, considering that in his one game for the Quakers, he allowed 24 runs (19 earned) in nine innings with four wild pitches. Some of this wildness might have to do with his drinking. From Baseball Reference: “Known as a serious drinker, he was involved in a number of off-field incidents while playing for the Orioles. In September, 1883, he got into a wrangle over a girl at a masked ball at Kernan’s Theater in Baltimore, MD and was arrested along with two teammates; he was fined $150 for public drunkenness, although the fine seemed to have had little effect on his tippling habits. He was arrested again in July of 1884 when a number of players from the Orioles and the St. Louis Browns were involved in a drunken brawl at a private party in St. Louis, MO. He apparently behaved so badly on the trip to the police station that ‘extreme measures’ had to be used to restrain him and Fred Lewis of the Browns. He was issued another $150 fine by manager Bill Barnie.”
32-17, 2.75 ERA, 125 K, .190, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
2nd Time All-Star-Emslie is back and improving and only 25 years old, but….he’s fading out after this season, with his career ending in 1885. As for 1884, he had his best season ever, tossing 455 1/3 innings with a 2.75 ERA and a 125 ERA+. Part of the Orioles improvement this season was having two effective pitchers in Hardie Henderson and Emslie. According to Baseball Reference, he would have to give up pitching due to a sore arm and, according to Wikipedia, that soreness was due to “his excessive use of the curveball.” Already, early in baseball’s history, the curveball is claiming victims.
More from Wikipedia about Emslie’s umpiring career: “Emslie was involved in many of the game’s highlights, including calling four no-hitters. The first one was on August 16, 1893, when Bill Hawke of the Orioles tossed his; the second was Deacon Phillippe‘s of the Louisville Colonels on May 25, 1899. The third no-hitter came on September 18, 1903 by Chick Fraser of the Philadelphia Phillies, and the fourth was tossed on May 8, 1907, by Francis “Big Jeff” Pfeffer of the Boston Doves.”
Towards the end of his life, Wikipedia says, “He retired to St. Thomas, Ontario, where he coached youth baseball and enjoyed curling, bowling, and golf. Emslie died at age 84 in St. Thomas, Ontario, and was interred at the St. Thomas West Avenue Cemetery. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. Emslie Field in St. Thomas is named in his honor.”
34-18, 3.32 ERA, 118 K, .190, 1 HR, 11 RBI
Shutouts-7 (3rd Time)
Batters Hit By Pitch-35
7th Time All-Star-If it wasn’t for Jim McCormick having a fluky year, dominating in two different leagues, White would certainly be a ONEHOF inductee this season. As it is, he is up for it next season, along with Davy Force, Monte Ward, Charley Jones, and Pud Galvin. I think he’ll get it, but I’ve been wrong before. Hey, ONEHOF inductee or not, White was still pitching great. This season, Whoop-La pitched 456 innings, his sixth consecutive season over 400 innings, and had a 3.32 ERA, his highest ever in a full season, and a 100 ERA+.
White’s hitting was always terrible and it was again this season, but he did hit his only career home run in 1,478 at-bats. Good job, Whoop-La!
Along with pitching, White managed for his first and last time, leading the Red Stockings to a 44-27 record, before Pop Snyder took over and was 24-14 in his games. Altogether, Cincinnati finished fifth in the league with a 68-41 record, eight games behind New York. As for why White didn’t complete the season as manager, Wikipedia says it was his decision: “In August 1884, White decided to step down as manager, believing he was ‘of too easy a disposition’; he persuaded his catcher, Pop Snyder, to take over as manager.”
More from Wikipedia on White: “Baseball historian David Nemec wrote that White’s career suffered in 1884 when the American Association adopted a rule granting a batter a base if he was hit by a pitched ball. According to Nemec, the new rule deprived White of ‘one of his chief weapons – intimidation.’ White set a major league record in 1884 with 35 hit batsmen, a total that remains the ninth highest in major league history.”
(AA Stats Only) 18-12, 2.53 ERA, 130 K, .252, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
2nd Time All-Star-Taylor is the third player we’ve encountered, along with Charlie Sweeney and Jim McCormick of the National League and Union Association, that made the All-Star team in two different leagues. He will also have a write-up in the UA.
For the Athletics of the American Association, Taylor finished ninth in WAR (5.4) and eighth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2). The last time he made an All-Star team in 1882, he made it as a catcher and he was still a decent hitter. In the UA, he’s going to be an awesome batter.
After finishing first in 1883, Philadelphia fell this season to seventh with a 61-46 record, 14 games out of first place. Lon Knight learned the harsh truth, since realized by people like Marty Schottenheimer, George Karl, and many other coaches. Winning records are great, but if you don’t win it all, you’re out of here! This was Knight’s last season coaching.
This was easily Taylor’s best season ever as a pitcher and you can go look at what he compiled in the UA, it was outstanding. Wikipedia says, “Taylor’s 523 innings pitched in 1884 ended up being more than half of his major league career total of 799.2, and he never pitched more than 127 innings in any other season.
“Taylor pitched six games for the Athletics in 1885, going 1-5. Joining the Baltimore Orioles in 1886, his record was even worse, at 1-6. Taylor also played in the Southern Association that year and went 3-7 while batting .100. In 1887, he went 7-3 and batted .269 for the Eastern League‘s New Haven Blues. He also pitched (and won) one game for the Athletics on August 16, which was his final major league appearance. Taylor then ended his career with two seasons in the minors.
“Taylor died in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1900. He was 45 years old.”
37-15, 2.67 ERA, 292 K, .152, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Strikeouts/Base On Balls-6.952
Errors Committed as P-38
2nd Time All-Star-Lynch combined with Tim Keefe to give New York a phenomenal pitching staff, which led them to the American Association crown. He finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2), throwing 496 innings with a 2.67 ERA and a 117 ERA+. Those are great numbers, but there were a lot of dazzling arms in the AA in 1884.
Unfortunately, Lynch never got to play in the World Series, which the Metropolitans lost 3-0 to the National League Providence Grays. Keefe pitched two games, but the third game was pitched by Buck Becannon, who had only pitched one game during the regular season. According to SABR, “The games were scheduled to take place on Thursday through Saturday, October 23–25. Two victories would crown the champion. [Old Hoss] Radbourn was to pitch all three games, which was no surprise, given that he pitched nearly every game after [Charlie] Sweeney jumped the team. This was not good news for the Mets and their cranks. Nor was it good news that the injured Jack Lynch was unable to pitch, requiring that Keefe might have to pitch all the games.”
More from SABR on this first World Series: “There were, however, issues to be worked out: number of games, rules, where to play, and finances. As challenges started in the form of wagers, with the winning team’s players taking all, the National League was not enthusiastic and was relieved when the managers worked out a split of the proceeds. Although [Metropolitan’s Manager] Mutrie offered a five-game series of two games in each team’s city and a fifth game, if necessary, in a neutral location, [Gray’s Manager] Bancroft did not want to risk the travel expenses. Because Manhattan’s population was 1.2 million, Bancroft proposed a three game series at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, then located at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue.”
19-35, 3.55 ERA, 230 K, .233, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-William H. “Adonis” Terry was born on August 7, 1864 in Westfield, MA and he would have a decent 14-year career. This season, he made the All-Star team as the sole representative of the Atlantics. Adonis pitched 476 innings with a 3.55 ERA and a 92 ERA+.
As for Brooklyn, you might have guessed, this is the first season of the team which will eventually be the Los Angeles Dodgers. So in a franchise which will be known for its great pitching, it all started with Terry. Wikipedia says, “The Brooklyn baseball team had played as the Brooklyn Grays in the Interstate Association in 1883, where they won the championship. In 1884, Charles Byrne moved the team into the American Association, renaming them the Atlantics in tribute to the old National Association Brooklyn Atlantics team.” The team itself didn’t do so well in its initial AA year, going 40-64 under Manager George Taylor and finishing in ninth place, 33-and-a-half games out of first place. Its home field was Washington Park, a neutral park for hitting and pitching.
Adonis is, of course, the Greek God known for his beauty, so you have to figure Terry got the nickname due to his looks. Whatever it was, I can’t find it. I do know he threw heat. According to Baseball Reference, “’Such competent judges as Tom Gunning, Jack Kerins and Harry Stovey say he throws the hardest ball to hit of any pitcher living. His outcurve is the sharpest and speediest ever seen . . .but . . . delivery lames his arm so much that he has to resort to straight balls frequently. . . Terry has great speed and excellent command of the ball.’ – Sporting Life of November 1, 1890.”
.293, 3 HR, (No RBI recorded), 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 0 K
1st Time All-Star-James W. “Jim” Keenan was born on February 10, 1858 in New Haven, CT. He had started as a 17-year-old part-time player for the New Haven Elm Citys in the old National Association in 1875. His next major league season was in 1880 playing two games for the National League Buffalo Bisons. He then played 24 games for the American Association Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1882. It was with Indianapolis in 1884 that he finally started playing regularly, catching for the Hoosiers and slashing .293/.343/.418 for an OPS+ of 151. It was possibly his best season ever.
This would be the only season for Indianapolis, which finished in 12th place with a 29-78 record. Jim Gifford (25-60) and Bill Watkins (4-18) split coaching duties. Watkins, by the way, had a horrible experience on the field, according to his SABR page, which says, “On August 26, however, an errant first-inning fastball thrown by Cincinnati fireballer Gus Shallix effectively ended the playing career, and almost took the life, of Bill Watkins. Struck squarely in the head by the pitch, Watkins spent the next several days in and out of a coma before recovering.”
There have almost always been backup catchers and that was Keenan’s role over the course of his career. I’m assuming he probably has another All-Star team left in him, but even if he doesn’t, he has the privilege of being the best catcher in a league, even if it’s only the AA, for a season. Next season, Keenan is off to Cincinnati, where he’ll finish his career.
.278, 6 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Fielding % as C-.944
1st Time All-Star-Frederick Herbert “Fred” Carroll was born on July 2, 1864 in Sacramento, CA and had a great rookie year. He also displayed his great bat, which would continue to shine over the course of his eight-year career. Carroll slashed .278/.326/.440 for an OPS+ of 156. After Columbus folded despite a good season, Carroll would be off to Pittsburgh to continue playing Major League ball. He has some All-Star teams left in his future.
According to Wikipedia, “Bill James wrote in his book Baseball Abstract that Carroll was the best ‘young’ catcher before Johnny Bench. A victim of the 1890s Brotherhood, he also was a competent outfielder and played shortstop, first base and third as well. James also remarks that Carroll’s major league career was shortened by his dislike of living on the East Coast.” It’s no small thing to be compared to Johnny Bench.
Unlike the National League, which had the great Charlie Bennett and Buck Ewing, the American Association didn’t really have any superstars at catcher at this point. Jim Keenan and Carroll finished 15th and 17th in Position Player WAR respectively and Carroll only made the team because my All-Star teams have to have two catchers. The only catcher who had made both of the previous AA All-Star teams, Jack O’Brien, fell this season and would never be back to being the catcher he was.
From the beginning of baseball history, catcher was its most grueling position, requiring tough characters to wear the so-called “tools of ignorance.” Shoot, in the beginning years of the game, they didn’t even wear those tools, things we take for granted like gloves and chest protectors, and often ended up with beat-up bodies and gnarled hands.
.354, 9 HR, 112 RBI
1884 AA Batting Title
WAR Position Players-5.8
Runs Batted In-112
Adj. Batting Runs-43
Adj. Batting Wins-4.8
Offensive Win %-.836
Def. Games as 1B-110
1st Time All-Star-David L. “Dave” Orr was born on September 29, 1859 in New York, NY. He played 14 total games in 1883, for both New York teams, the American Association Metropolitans and the National League Gothams, but it was this year he started playing full time and set the AA on fire. He definitely has many All-Star teams coming in the future. As for this season, Orr finished seventh in WAR (5.8), first in WAR Position Players (5.8), and first in Offensive WAR (4.9). He slashed .354/.362/.539 for an OPS+ of 190. Truly a spectacular hitting year. However, in the World Series, Orr was flummoxed by the great Old Hoss Radbourn and went only one-for-nine with a single. He was the first of many great players over the history of baseball postseason play who would struggle when the spotlight was on. It was his last postseason appearance.
Nowadays, we disdain Runs Batted In, we say they are overrated and a terrible stat in which to rate the hitters, and that may be true. But they also give us a quick glimpse of the great power hitters of the game and Orr set the record for RBIs in a season with 112 in his rookie year.
Orr was also one of the biggest, if not the actual biggest, players in the game at his time, being five-foot-11 and 250 pounds. Wikipedia also says he had an unusual batting stance: “Orr used an unorthodox batting stance that was described by one newspaper reporter as follows:
“’Big Dave Orr has a position which seems utterly at variance with all the rules of batting. Instead of standing in the center of the plate he takes his place at the extreme edge furthest from the pitcher and almost behind it, in fact. His feet are placed in a most peculiar way. The toes of the right foot point almost toward second base, and the heel is placed in the hollow of the left. He swings his body forward, moving his feet but a few inches, all the swing he gives his bat seeming to come from the upper part of his body.’”
.339, 11 HR, 91 RBI
On-Base Plus Slugging-.918
AB per HR-40.7
Double Plays Turned as 1B-60 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-There was a lack of good catchers in the American Association, but there certainly was no dearth of great first sackers. In his second season with Cincinnati, he continued to shine, finishing third in WAR Position Players (4.7) and fifth in Offensive WAR (3.0). He slashed .339/.366/.551 for an OPS+ of 189. His weakness, which would linger throughout his career, was drawing walks, but you don’t need to do that if you hit as well as Reilly did.
There is a great story in SABR about a shipwreck in which Reilly was involved in 1880. Here’s the beginning, but I urge you to read the whole thing. “On the evening of June 11 he boarded the steamer Narragansett, sailing up Long Island Sound to begin the return voyage to Providence. Reilly later told a correspondent for the Cincinnati Enquirer (June 18, 1880) that he had retired early and was fast asleep a little before midnight when he awoke to find himself thrown from his berth amid the loud creaking of timbers. The Narragansett had collided with another ship, the Stonington.
“Reilly made his way to the already water-covered deck, where a fire had started and passengers were beginning to panic. He climbed a mast and went to work with a knife supplied by another passenger to help free the ship’s lifeboats. At one point he fell into the water and nearly drowned, for the son of a river pilot who had lived most of his life within a short walk of the Ohio River was not much of a swimmer. Fortunately, he was able to grab a ladder and climb back on board. Reilly would recall seeing a man, maddened by fear and preferring a quick death to one by fire or drowning, raise a revolver to his head and shoot himself. He encountered an agitated woman who had stepped out of her stateroom at the time of the collision, locking her small children inside, and now found herself unable to open the door. Unable to find an axe, Reilly tried to break down the door with his shoulder, but the ship was listing so that he had to push upwards and could not gain the traction he needed to break open the door. With the ship in danger of sinking, he had to give up his efforts and abandon the children to their fate. Returning to the deck, he threw a plank into the water, then jumped in himself and grabbed it.”
.326, 10 HR, 83 RBI
Runs Scored-124 (2nd Time)
Triples-23 (2nd Time)
Extra Base Hits-55
3rd Time All-Star-Stovey continued feasting on American Association pitching, finishing sixth in WAR Position Players (4.4) and third in Offensive WAR (4.7). He slashed .326/.368/545 for an OPS+ of 186. His Adjusted OPS+ was his highest ever. Stovey, a rare speedster first baseman, also set the all-time record for triples in a season (23), a record which would last a whopping two seasons before Dave Orr shattered the mark.
There’s a good article from The National Pastime Museum on Stovey. Here are some of the highlights: “He was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 20, 1856, as Harry Duffield Stow. His mother didn’t want Harry to play baseball, so after turning pro, he took the name Stovey so she wouldn’t see ‘Stow’ in the newspapers.
“That  began a seven-year stretch during which he established himself as the league’s most formidable one-man force. As noted in the New York Clipper, ‘Although he is a very hard hitter and an exceedingly clever base-runner, he more particularly excels in the outfield, being an accurate and strong thrower, a sure catch and having the ability to cover a great deal of ground. He is a strictly temperate, honest and ambitious young man and is in every respect a model professional player.’”
It’s possible Stovey was a very good defensive player, but it isn’t shown in Defensive WAR. Stovey would actually end up with a negative dWAR for his career at -2.9. It’s a good thing he added so much offensively. This season was his highest ever oWAR (4.7).
.306, 1 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Samuel W. “Sam” Barkley was born on May 24, 1858 in Wheeling, WV. It was the five-foot-11, 180 pound second baseman’s first season and best season ever. He was the American Association’s best second sacker , finishing fourth in WAR Position Players (4.7), ninth in Offensive WAR (3.4), and sixth in Defensive WAR (1.6). Barkley slashed .306/.342/.444 for his highest OPS+ ever of 151. It certainly looked like he was off to a good career and he probably has another All-Star team left for him.
Baseball Reference says, “In 1884 he had by far the highest batting average on the Toledo Blue Stockings, a team that batted .231 while Barkley batted .306. He was 9th in the league in batting average and first in doubles. The Toledo team was the one on which Fleet Walker and his brother Welday Walker, two black players, appeared. Fleet, at .263, had one of the highest batting averages on the team.
“Toledo and the St. Louis Browns made an arrangement in the off-season for a trade of several players, but the trade broke down after the waiting period and only Barkley and one other player actually played with St. Louis. A lawsuit came out of it all, and it was estimated that Barkley had been valued at $800. Chris Von der Ahe later said that Barkley’s value was $1,000, but that may have been the asking price.”
We know that Cap Anson and others led the fight against blacks playing for Toledo at this time, but I wonder how their own teammates felt about it.
.238, 6 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Assists as 2B-394
2nd Time All-Star-For the first time in his five-year career, Smith played for the same team in consecutive years. The two-time All-Star continued to show his prowess, especially with the glove. Smith finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.1) and fifth in Defensive WAR (2.1), having his best season ever. It proved to be a good move for the Buckeyes to make Pop fulltime. However, since Columbus would go defunct after the season, Smith was travelling once again, this time to Pittsburgh, where he’d spend a good chunk of time.
As a matter of fact, here’s SABR’s wrap-up of everything I just said in that last sentence: “The 1884 Buckeyes made a run at the American Association pennant, finishing second to the New York Metropolitans. Smith continued to show surprising pop with the bat hitting a career high six home runs. His average dropped to .238, but Smith’s forte as always remained his fielding and he led the league in assists by second basemen for the first time. Despite the Buckeyes on-field success the club declared bankruptcy following the season.
“Smith, along with several other Buckeyes including Tom Brown, Willie Kuehne, and Ed Morris, was transferred to Pittsburgh for 1885. Smith enjoyed five solid seasons in the Smokey City.” I’ve never heard the term “Smokey City” used for Pittsburgh before.
.314, 1 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Def. Games as 3B-112
1st Time All-Star-Thomas John “Dude” Esterbrook was born on June 9, 1857 in Staten Island, NY and Dude! He had a good season, his best ever and, most likely, his only All-Star year. He finished second in WAR Position Players (4.8), sixth in Offensive WAR (3.8), and eighth in Defensive WAR. At the bat, Dude slashed .314/.345/.428 for an OPS+ of 150. It was his only fulltime year in which his OPS+ was over 150. As a matter of fact, it was the only fulltime season for Esterbrook in which his OPS+ was over 100. It was truly an aberrant year. He also had a decent World Series, going three-for-10 with a double.
Esterbrook started his Major League career with the 1880 National League Buffalo Bisons. After a year off, he went to the Cleveland Blues in 1882, before moving to the Metropolitans the next year. In 1885, he’s off to the Giants, but the level of play in the NL seemed to hurt his game.
The Deadball Era has a copy of Esterbrook’s obituary. He died on April 30, 1901 by jumping from a train which was transporting him to a mental hospital. Look at this interesting part: “For several years he had been very eccentric. He first thought himself a great inventor, and talked of a wonderful flying machine that he had invented. Then he became religious, and finally came to believe that a man need never die.” Maybe bad biblical interpretation led to Esterbrook taking a header from the train.
.274, 1 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Defensive WAR-2.6 (2nd Time)
Assists as 3B-302
Errors Committed as 3B-70
Double Plays Turned as 3B-16 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 3B-4.07
Range Factor/Game as 3B-4.04
1st Time All-Star-Walter Arlington “Arlie” or “The Freshest Man on Earth” Latham was born on March 15, 1860 in West Lebanon, NH and, if WAR is to be believed, was the best fielder of his day. He would have a good career ahead and even get a smidge of Hall of Fame consideration. This season, he finished seventh in WAR Position Players (4.3) and first in Defensive WAR (2.6). At the bat, Latham slashed .274/.309/.367 for an OPS+ of 116.
As for the Browns, they fell after finishing second in 1883. In 1884, St. Louis, managed by Jimmy Williams (51-33) and Charlie Comiskey (16-7), finished 67-40, in fourth place, eight games behind New York. It is about to go on a tremendous winning streak, but you’ll have to read about that next year.
Latham started his Major League career as a part-time player for the National League Buffalo Bisons in 1880. His next tour of duty started with the Browns in 1883, where he will be their full-time third baseman for seven years.
He was also one of baseball’s first funny men, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Latham was considered one of the funniest players in baseball. Nicknamed ‘The Freshest Man on Earth’, Latham was a colorful player known for playing practical jokes, including on Browns owner Chris von der Ahe and manager Charles Comiskey. In one famous stunt, he lit a firecracker under third base in an effort to ‘wake himself up’, after Comiskey had been complaining about him falling asleep on the job. Also he would occasionally put on a clown’s nose while walking behind von der Ahe.”
.336, 4 HR, 47 RBI, 0-1, 54.00 ERA, 0 K
3rd Time All-Star-Gladiator made his third consecutive All-Star team at his third position. In 1882, he was an All-Star second baseman and in 1883, he was an All-Star leftfielder. This season, he moved to third base and continued to produce with the bat, though his defense again lacked. Browning finished fifth in Offensive WAR (4.3), great for any other player, but a little low for him. He slashed .336/.357/.472 for an OPS+ of 174 and yet has some greater seasons ahead.
If you read the first two blurbs about Browning (and if you haven’t, get to it!) then you realize how much this man loved his bats. Wikipedia says, “In 1884, he acquired his first custom-made bat from the Hillerich & Bradsby company, collecting three hits in his first game using it and beginning a baseball tradition.”
Wikipedia on Browning’s defense: “Other aspects of Browning’s game were less polished; he has usually been regarded as one of the worst fielders in major league history, although some recent assessments have begun to question that view. American Gladiator, his first biography, recounted numerous ‘web gems’ by Browning from the beginning of his career to the very end. The revised assessment is that Browning was a superb outfielder when he was sober and not suffering from the effects of mastoiditis, a serious infection of the inner ear usually contracted during childhood.”
There’s more on his fielding which we’ll get to next year. I will say that Browning is one of the more colorful characters from baseball’s early years and we’ll have many more seasons to learn about Gladiator!
.311, 4 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Francis John “Frank” Fennelly was born on February 18 1860 in Fall River, MA and was the best third baseman in the American Association in his rookie year. He played for the Washington Nationals in their only season of existence and was easily the best player on the team and then moved to the Red Stockings after Washington folded to finish out the season. The five-foot-eight, 168 pound Fennelly had his best season ever, finishing fifth in WAR Position Players (4.4) and fourth in Offensive WAR (4.6). He slashed .311/.367/.480 for an OPS+ of 182. His hitting really improved moving from the difficult to hit in Athletic Park in Washington to the hitters’ dream parks of League Park and Washington Park in Cincinnati.
This was the only season for the Nationals and they didn’t finish out the season, going 12-51, last place in the league. Holly Hollingshead coached the team and that would end his coaching days. His only other previous managing experience came with the 1875 National Association Washington Nationals. The team went 4-16 under Hollingshead. No wonder he’d never coach again.
Fennelly would be with the Red Stockings for a while, until 1888, and always play shortstop. While his fielding wasn’t great at this point in his career, it would continue to get better to the point where he would be regularly in the top 10 in Defensive WAR. For a small stretch of time, he was Ripken-esque as a shortstop, known as much for his bat, if not more so, than for his glove.
.297, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Assists as SS-379 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as SS-.893
1st Time All-Star-Sargent Perry “Sadie” Houck was born on Leap Day, 1856 in Washington, DC, which means that every time he had a real birthday, it was an election year in his birthplace. Sadie was tiny at five-foot-seven, 151 pounds and his power numbers, or lack thereof, show that. This is probably his only All-Star team as his hitting this year was never matched before or since.
Houck finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.2) and third in Defensive WAR (2.2). He slashed .297 (highest for him ever)/.318 (highest for him ever)/.396 (second highest for him ever) for an OPS+ of 126 (highest for him ever). Of course, Jefferson Street Grounds in Philadelphia was a huge hitters’ park this season so that couldn’t have hurt.
Sadie started his career in the National League, with Boston in 1879, Boston and Providence in 1880, and Detroit in 1881 and 1883, before moving to the American Association this season. The reason he had 1882 off, according to Wikipedia was, “He was added to the National League‘s ‘blacklist’ in September 1881, allegedly for being ‘addicted to drink’, and barred from playing for or against any National League team. He was reinstated in 1883.” There were a lot of drinkers in the AA in that day, making its acronym so ironic.
Houck would die in his hometown. According to Wikipedia (again): “Houck died in Washington, D.C., in 1919 at age 63. After a funeral at Frank Geier’s Sons chapel, his interment was at Glenwood Cemetery.”
.314, 7 HR, 71 RBI
Times On Base-195
Def. Games as OF-112
Putouts as OF-207 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Jones was aging, but it wasn’t affecting his play as he continued to be the best outfielder in the American Association. Baby finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.3) and seventh in Offensive WAR (3.8). He slashed .314/.376/.470 for an OPS+ of 168. He most likely has another All-Star team coming.
Baby Jones was still the all-time home run leader with 40 in his career after the 1884 season. He lost this title in 1885 to Harry Stovey and would wind up his career with 56.
Here’s a little information about Jones’ power, with a little added in about his personal life. From Baseball Reference: “On July 20, 1884, he became the third man to hit three triples in one game in a 17-4 rout of the Indianapolis Blues. He never played for a league champion. In 1885 Jones’ common-law wife found him with another woman and threw cayenne pepper in his face. A year later he married Louisa Horton, who had been involved in a famous divorce a year earlier.”
While Will White was the best player on Cincinnati during its beginnings, Jones was easily its best position player, not to mention its most popular. As mentioned in a previous write-up, he, like so many players in the AA, was a carouser, but it didn’t seem to be affecting his game.
.281, 2 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Richard Frederick “Dick” Johnston was born on April 6, 1863 in Kingston, NY and made the team by being the best player on the newly-formed and soon-to-be gone Richmond Virginians this season. However, he has at least one more All-Star team coming. For this season, Johnston slashed .281/.291/.425 for an OPS+ of 131, his highest ever not counting his great season of 1888.
As for the Virginians, they only existed to complete the Washington Nationals’ (also known as the Statesmen) schedule. Wikipedia says, “The Richmond Virginians was a major league baseball team that played in the American Association in 1884. The Virginians thereby became the first major league team in the Old Confederacy, as well as the last one until the establishment of the Houston Astros in 1962.
“The Virginians began their existence in the Eastern League in 1884. When the Statesmen folded on August 2, the Virginians were brought into the American Association to complete their schedule. They played their first game on August 5 against the Philadelphia Athletics, losing 14-0. They won their first game on August 7, defeating the Brooklyn Atlantics.
“After the season, the AA contracted from 12 teams to 8, with the Virginians being one of the eliminated teams. The Virginians returned to the Eastern League, where they played the 1885 season before folding.”
On Johnston, Baseball Reference says, “Dick was considered a top center fielder, playing close to the infield in the way that Tris Speaker later did, and galloping back for fly balls hit over his head. Johnston was a printer by trade and a heavy drinker.”
.288, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Hit By Pitch-15
3rd Time All-Star-As I mentioned in Swartwood’s 1883 write-up, his monstrous hitting went away this season. He would have one flashback to having that type of bat in 1890, but he’d never reach the heights of 1882 and 1883. In those two seasons, Swartwood slashed .345/.384/.482 for an OPS+ of 188. For the rest of his career, those numbers were .284/.377/.371 for an OPS+ of 126. He never had problems getting on base.
Swartwood is Pittsburgh’s lone representative this season. He slashed .288/.365/.366 for and OPS+ of 137. See what I mean, he’s still a good hitter, he’s just not the great Swartwood. Of course, if he could have fielded a lick, his hitting would have been enough to put him on the All-Star team without being the Alleghenys’ best player.
As for Pittsburgh, it continued to struggle dropping from a 31-67 record in 1883 to a 30-78 record in 1884. It had five managers, each as bad as the last. The Alleghenys were coached by Denny McKnight (4-8), Bob Ferguson (11-31), Joe Battin (6-7), George Creamer (0-8), and Horace Phillips (9-24). Maybe Battin should have been given more of a chance.
SABR says about Swartwood, “On May 24, 1884, Swartwood led off against Philadelphia rookie pitcher Al Atkinson, who hit him with a pitch. Swartwood eventually scored after stealing second base. Atkinson, though, sent the next 27 batters back to the bench for a no-hitter and near-perfect game, and a 10-1 victory. Swartwood tailed off with the bat that season. Observers said he had considerable difficulty hitting left-handed pitchers. However, it’s doubtful if this was a major contributing factor, as only three confirmed lefties (a handful of pitchers are still listed as throwing arm unknown) pitched an appreciable number of innings in the American Association in 1884. It is true that he stood within six inches of the plate, a batting style the Brooklyn Eagle deemed as ‘extreme’ and improper.”
P-Old Hoss Radbourn, PRO
P-Pud Galvin, BUF
P-Charlie Buffinton, BSN
P-Mickey Welch, NYG
P-Jim Whitney, BSN
P-Charlie Sweeney, PRO
P-Jim McCormick, CLV
P-Larry Corcoran, CHC
P-Pretzels Getzien, DTN
P-John Clarkson, CHC
C-Buck Ewing, NYG
C-Jack Rowe, BUF
C-Charlie Bennett, DTN
1B-Dan Brouthers, BUF
1B-Cap Anson, CHC
2B-Fred Pfeffer, CHC
3B-Ezra Sutton, BSN
3B-Ned Williamson, CHC
3B-Deacon White, BUF
SS-Arthur Irwin, PRO
LF-Jim O’Rourke, BUF
CF-Paul Hines, PRO
CF-George Gore, CHC
RF-King Kelly, CHC
RF-Jack Manning, PHI
59-12, 1.38 ERA, 441 K, .230, 1 HR, 37 RBI
1884 NL Pitching Title
1884 NL Pitching Triple Crown
Wins Above Replacement-19.3 (2nd Time)
Earned Run Average-1.38
Wins-59 (2nd Time)
Win-Loss %-.831 (2nd Time)
Games Pitched-75 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-678 2/3
Strikeouts-441 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-110 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-10.5 (3rd Time)
Def. Games as P-75 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-This year of 1884 watched baseball go crazy. Another League, the Union Association, joined the Major League level; there would be 33 teams all together in the three leagues, some wouldn’t last; players played on multiple teams; and some of those are going to make the All-Star teams in two leagues. Along with that, there would be many records broken, including the shattering of the home run record due to a fluke in the rules. This is what you, the reader, have to look forward in reading the 1884 write-ups.
Speaking of records broken, what a phenomenal year for Old Hoss. He set the all-time record for wins in a season with 59, while finishing first in WAR (19.3) and second in WAR for Pitchers (19.1). He pitched 678 2/3 innings with a 1.38 ERA and a 205 ERA+. It was his best season ever.
Led by Radbourn’s pitching, the Grays won the National League crown easily, finishing 84-28, 10-and-a-half games ahead of second place Boston. Frank Bancroft managed the team, his fourth team managed in five years, and found it’s easier to coach when you can stick Old Hoss on the mound 75 times a year.
Also adding to the craziness of 1884, the National League and the American Association champs faced each other for the first World Series or, as it was called back then, according to Wikipedia’s World Series page, “The Championship of the United States,” “World’s Championship Series,” or “World’s Series.” Whatever it was called, Providence beat the New York Metropolitans, 3-0. Radbourn started all three games, allowing only three runs, none of them earned. He’s never going to have a season like this again, but, man, how dominant Old Hoss was this year!
46-22, 1.99 ERA, 369 K, .179, 0 HR, 24 RBI
WAR for Pitchers-20.5
Shutouts-12 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-154 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Starting in 1885, Galvin is going to start slipping. His innings are going to go down and he’ll never again finish above seventh in WAR. But why start out negative when we can look at Galvin’s outstanding 1884! Surprisingly, in a year in which Old Hoss Radbourn won 59 games and had an incredible 1.38 ERA, Galvin actually led the league in WAR for Pitchers with a 20.5 mark. He was also second in WAR at 18.4. Gentle Jeems pitched 636 1/3 innings with a 1.99 ERA and a 155 ERA+. My guess is that Galvin beat Old Hoss because Buffalo’s Olympic Park I was a much tougher place to pitch than Providence’s Messer Street Grounds, the home park of Radbourn.
Galvin beat Radbourn in an important game, according to SABR, which says, “September 9, 1884, saw Galvin turn in another significant performance, when he ended Radbourn’s personal 18-game winning streak, and Providence’s 20-game streak. Galvin led his team to a 2-0 victory that ended with an exciting double play in the bottom of the ninth inning. Jim Lillie, Buffalo’s right fielder, caught a difficult fly ball hit by Radbourn and threw the ball to second base to double off Cliff Carroll, who thought the ball would drop. One newspaper later wrote that ‘the whole country had been looking … to accomplish the defeat of Radbourn and the Grays,’ and it was Galvin who finally accomplished this feat. ‘Base ball enthusiasts are indebted to James Galvin,’ wrote another paper after he ended the winning streak, which some had grown tired of. At season’s end, Providence won the championship and Buffalo finished in third place.”
48-16, 2.15 ERA, 417 K, .267, 1 HR, 39 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-If not for the phenomenal seasons of Old Hoss Radbourn and Pud Galvin, there would be much more talk about Charlie Buffinton and his outstanding 1884 season. He finished third in WAR (16.2) and third in WAR for Pitchers (14.9). The sinkerballer pitched 587 innings with a 2.15 ERA and a 133 ERA+. Because of the dominance of the aforementioned Radbourn and Galvin, Buffinton didn’t lead in one category. He still has arguably better years ahead.
As for the team, with John Morrill at the helm, Boston actually had a higher winning percentage than in its 1883 league-winning season, but Providence was so dominating, it didn’t matter. The Beaneaters (a name that will never not be funny) finished 73-38, 10-and-a-half games out of first. They had an awesome team ERA of 2.47, but Providence’s was, yikes!, 1.61.
Wikipedia wraps up Buffinton’s great-but-not-good-enough season, “During that season, he struck out 17 batters in one game, won 13 straight games, and ended the year with 417 strikeouts, becoming one of seven pitchers that season to break the previous record of 361. Typical of the era, he completed 63 of his starts, with 8 being shutouts. Such win totals were not completely extraordinary at the time, as Buffinton’s only 30-win season ranked third in the major leagues that year as Charles Radbourn set a record with 60 wins.”
Buffinton would have probably rated higher if Boston’s South End Grounds I wasn’t a pitchers’ park, albeit by a slim margin. Of course, because of an overabundance of runs scored in Chicago’s Lake Front Park II, almost every other park seems like it doesn’t help the hitter.
39-21, 2.50 ERA, 345 K, .241, 3 HR, 29 RBI
Bases on Balls-146
4th Time All-Star-Smiling Mickey continued his stellar career in the midst of a pitching tsunami overtaking baseball. He finished fourth in WAR (12.3) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (12.1). Welch pitched 557 1/3 innings with a 2.50 ERA and a 120 ERA+. He also set the all-time record for walks allowed in a season with 146, a record which would only hold for two years. Part of the reason is because the number of balls needed to walk a batter was changed from eight to six. Imagine how many walks Welch would have had if he needed only the modern day four balls to give the batter a free pass.
The Gothams improved from their sixth place finish in 1883, moving up to fourth with a 62-50 record. Jim Price (56-42) and Monte Ward (6-8) managed the team. Polo Grounds I (Southeast Diamond) was normally a hitters’ park, but this season it helped pitchers more.
Welch set an important record in 1884, according to Wikipedia, “Welch holds the record for most consecutive batters struck out to begin a game, with 9, set on August 28, 1884. The record was not recognized for many years because of confusion over a dropped third strike. In the third inning of that game, a third strike was dropped by New York catcher Bill Loughran. As a result, that batter safely reached first base. Though modern scorekeeping would credit a pitcher with a strikeout in this situation, such an event was not always recorded as a strikeout by sportswriters of that era. Baseball historian Harry Simmons helped Welch to receive official recognition of the feat in the 1940s.”
23-14, 2.09 ERA, 270 K, .259, 3 HR, 40 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.723 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-10.000 (2nd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.37 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as P-1.000
4th Time All-Star-Grasshopper Jim continued to pitch well, but he now was the second pitcher on the team to Charlie Buffinton. Not to say Whitney couldn’t pitch. He finished fifth in WAR (8.3) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (7.4). After three straight seasons of over 400 innings pitched, he dipped to 336 this season, with a 2.09 ERA and a 137 ERA+.
Thanks to the researchers at Baseball Reference, we have a quote on the pitching motion of Whitney: “’There were no restrictions placed on (pitchers) as to delivery, and they could double up like a jack-knife and deliver the ball. That was the way Jim Whitney used to do, and he would let the ball go at terrific speed. It was a wonder that anyone was able to hit him at all. He was the swiftest pitcher I ever saw.’ – Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke, quoted in Sporting Life of December 4, 1915.”
Yet Whitney would have great control over his career, five times leading the National League in Bases on Balls per 9 IP and yet was still able to finish in the top 10 in Strikeouts per 9 IP six times. That jack-knife delivery must have worked.
With Buffinton and Whitney, it was tough to score off Boston, yet not nearly as tough as it was to score off Providence’s pitchers. The Grays, led by Old Hoss Radbourn, had a team ERA+ of 177(!) and Boston finished second in that category at 116. And that, kids, is why Old Hoss has a Twitter feed and Grasshopper Jim doesn’t.
(NL Stats Only) 17-8, 1.55 ERA, 183 K, .298, 1 HR, 19 RBI
Led in (NL Only):
Walks & Hits per IP-0.824
Hits per 9 IP-6.231
1st Time All-Star-Charles Joseph “Charlie” Sweeney was born on April 13, 1863 in San Francisco, CA and said, “Rhode Island is the place I oughta be and he caught himself a train and went to Provideee, RI that is.” And the craziness begins as the next two players will both pitch in two different leagues and make the All-Star team in both. This write-up will mainly focus on Sweeney’s National League pitching.
Before I get into his season, however, I wanted to mention whenever you bring up a players’ Baseball Reference page, there is chance that someone will sponsor their page. Since it’s near the top of the page, it’s often the first thing you see. Well, Chas19KSweeney sponsored Charlie Sweeney and wrote, “Sweeney, was a rock star before his time, revolutionizing baseball by being the first to strike out 19 on 6/7/1884. He burned too bright and lived hard with booze and women, and served time at San Quentin for murder before dying at age 38.” Woah!
As for his on-the-field exploits, Sweeney finished sixth in the NL in WAR (7.1) and eighth in WAR for Pitchers (6.3). The Californian pitched 221 innings for Providence with a 1.55 ERA and a 183 ERA+, stats at which his teammate, Old Hoss Radbourn, laughed and spit at.
I know what you’re asking, “Hey, since Sweeney and others made two All-Star teams in one season, are they given credit for making two All-Star teams?” That was a great question and the answer is yes. Which is why Sweeney will get another blurb for his time in the newly-formed Union Association.
(NL Stats Only) 19-22, 2.86 ERA, 182 K, .263, 0 HR, 23 RBI
Led in (NL Only):
Fielding % as P-1.000
7th Time All-Star-McCormick is the second player in a row on this page that is going to make the All-Star team in two different leagues. We’re going to focus on his National League season here in which he finished seventh in WAR (7.0) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.7). For the Blues, McCormick pitched 359 innings with a 2.86 ERA and a 110 ERA+. You’re going to be amazed at his stats for the Outlaw Reds. Hey, don’t go look it up yet! Have some patience, you.
Cleveland dropped from a fourth place finish with a 55-42 record to a seventh place finish and a 35-77 record. Part of the reason is that McCormick was the team’s only All-Star and he left partway through the season. With McCormick, the team ERA was 3.43. When he didn’t pitch, the Blues’ ERA was 3.75. Losing McCormick really hurt.
Baseball Reference talks about McCormick’s duel 1884 season, saying, “During the 1884 season, McCormick jumped to the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds of the Union Association for $2,500. He won 40 games between the two clubs and paced the UA with a 1.54 ERA. The circuit folded, however, after the season, and he had to pay a $1,000 fine to return to the NL.”
There is a great site called Hall of Stats, which is wrestling with whether or not McCormick should be in the Hall of Fame (he currently isn’t). There’s a lot to read on that site, but I’ll just pilfer this one sentence, “Among eligible non-Hall of Famers, only Jeff Bagwell has more career WAR than McCormick’s 75.8.” Who knew?
35-23, 2.40 ERA, 272 K, .243, 1 HR, 19 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-35 (2nd Time)
Putouts as P-47 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-24
4th Time All-Star-It’s time to speak about the elephant in the room, Chicago’s home run influx of 1884. I bring this up because, as you see above, Corcoran allowed 35 home runs this season, shattering the record set in 1883 by John Coleman, who gave up 17 dingers for the National League Philadelphia Quakers. Corcoran’s record would hold for 62 years, until 1948, when Murry Dickson gave up 39 homers for the National League St. Louis Cardinals. There are going to be many home run records set this season and we’ll look at them in individual write-ups.
So what happened? According to Hardball Times, “One of the most radical ground rule changes ever was made in 1884 by the Chicago White Stockings…[T]he team decided that fair balls hit over the fence at Lakefront Park would be home runs, not ground-rule doubles.
“So how close were those fences?
“Way, way too close…Left field foul pole: 180 feet (ballpark remodeling had rendered the distance six feet shorter than the year before!)
Left field power alley: 280 feet
Center field: 300 feet
Right field power alley: 252 feet
Right field foul pole: 196 feet.”
As for Corcoran, he might have made his last All-Star team, but he still had a good season, finishing eighth in WAR (6.6) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (6.5). He pitched 516 2/3 innings with a 2.40 ERA and 129 ERA+. He might have pitched in the worst home park for pitchers ever and still put up great numbers.
5-12, 1.95 ERA, 107 K, .109, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Home Runs Allowed per 9 IP-0.122
1st Time All-Star-Charles H. “Pretzels” Getzien (commonly misspelled Getzein) was born on Valentine’s Day, 1864 in Germany. Do they celebrate Valentine’s Day in Germany? I don’t know, but I do know they love pretzels! And over the years, baseball fans would come to love Pretzels, the five-foot-10, 172 pound pitcher for the Wolverines, who had a decent rookie season. Getzien finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers with a 3.5 mark, pitching 147 1/3 innings with a 1.95 ERA and a 147 ERA+. He was off to a good career.
As for Detroit, they continued to falter, falling from a 40-58 record in 1883 in which they finished seventh to a 28-84 last place finish this season. Jack Chapman managed the team for the second straight season, but would be gone after this terrible year.
More on Getzien from Wikipedia: “Getzein was known by the nickname ‘Pretzels’. Sources conflict as to whether the nickname was derived from his German ethnicity or from the belief that he was able to throw a ‘double curve’ following ‘the curves of a pretzel.’
“During his career, Getzein’s drew acclaim for his curveball. Getzein’s version of the pitch was sometimes referred to as the ‘pretzel curve.’ Sporting Life described Getzein’s unusual delivery as follows: ‘In delivering his “pretzels” “Getz” faces third base with one foot in either corner of the lower end of the box. Bending the left knee slightly, he draws his right arm well back. Then, straightening up quickly, he slides the left foot forward with a characteristic little skip, and, bringing his arm around with a swift overhand swing, drives the ball in at a lively pace.’”
10-3, 2.14 ERA, 102 K, .262, 3 HR, 17 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-7.780
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-3.36
Range Factor/Game as P-3.14
1st Time All-Star-John Gibson Clarkson was born on July 1, 1861 in Cambridge, MA. He’s going to have a great career, including an induction into the Hall of Fame in 1963, but I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of him, which is surprising considering how good his career was. We know it’s Hall of Fame worthy, but was it ONEHOF worthy? That’s yet to be seen.
Clarkson started in 1882, pitching three games for the Worcester Ruby Legs. He didn’t play in 1883 in the Majors, but, according to Wikipedia, “Chicago manager Cap Anson saw Clarkson pitching for Saginaw in the Northwest League in 1884. On August 24, 1884, the White Stockings purchased him from Saginaw.” He finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (1.7), pitching 118 innings with a 2.14 ERA and a 146 ERA+. He has some incredible seasons ahead.
More from Wikipedia: “Clarkson was known to be extremely sensitive to criticism. Shortly after his death in 1909, former Chicago player/manager Cap Anson noted that ‘not many know what amount of encouragement it took to keep him going.’ Anson recalled: ‘Scold him, find fault with him, and he would not pitch at all. Say to him after a game: “Grand work, John, I will probably use you again tomorrow, for we’ve got to have that game,” and he would go out the next day and stand all batters on their heads.’” Alfred H. Spink, The National Game (1910), quoted in Bill James, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (2001), p. 873.”
.277, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 0-1, 1.13 ERA, 3 K
Assists as C-127
3rd Time All-Star-Ewing continued his consistent, All-Star-worthy play, finishing ninth in WAR Position Players (4.7) and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.7). Buck slashed .277/.327/.445 for an OPS+ of 137. He would never hit that low again until 1894 or ever have a lower OBP for the rest of his career. He was the Johnny Bench of his time, a good hitting, good fielding catcher.
As a matter of fact, Baseball Reference refers to him as possibly the greatest catcher of all time. Here are its arguments: “First, it is said that he reinvented the art of catching, playing much closer to the batter and sometimes crouching. His arm was strong enough that he could afford to do so.
“Secondly, it was an era in which catchers took a beating from stray balls. Without modern equipment to protect them, catchers tended to get injuries and miss a large proportion of their teams’ games. As a result, the players who ended up at catcher were usually poor hitters: for instance, in 1883 when Ewing hit .303 and led the league in homers for Troy, other catchers in the league had these stats: Doc Bushong (Cleveland, .172, 0 homers), Barney Gilligan (Providence, .198, 0 homers), Silver Flint (Chicago, .265, 0 homers), Mike Hines (Boston, .225, 0 homers), Jack Rowe (Buffalo, .278, 1 home run); there were a couple of catchers in the league who also hit .300 that year (Charlie Bennett and Emil Gross), but neither was able to duplicate the feat year after year, as Ewing did – Gross played only 5 seasons, while Bennett ended up with a lifetime .256 average. Ewing played in more games in 1883 than any catcher in the league but Bennett, and had more at-bats than Bennett.”
.315, 4 HR, 61 RBI
Fielding % as C-.943
3rd Time All-Star-Rowe was in the midst of his sixth consecutive season with the Bisons and continued to challenge Ewing as the best National League catcher. However, this will be the last season he will be primarily behind the plate, as he’ll be moving to shortstop in 1885. It’s still to be seen whether he’s able to make All-Star teams at that position. For this season, Rowe finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.6), slashing .315/.352/.450 for an OPS+ of 149.
There hasn’t been a Major League team in Buffalo in a while, but it’s probably better there isn’t. As it is, as today’s schedule takes the teams further and further into October and sometimes November, you can imagine how cold it gets in Buffalo during those times. If you can’t imagine, I did something I like to call “Googling” to find out the average temperatures.
According to weatherspark.com, there is a 15-20 percent chance of snow towards the end of October and the beginning of November. The average temperature in that date range is between 40 and 60 degrees. It couldn’t be too pleasant to feel a ball hit the bat in those temps.
In 1884, Buffalo’s season went all the way until Oct. 15. Surprisingly, the Bisons played home games their last 20 games. Teams had long trips this season. Buffalo finished 37-18 in the frozen tundra and 27-29 on the road. Maybe it was the only team with gloves. Not fielding gloves, but Isotoners, of course. Rowe would have had a tough time behind the plate without a glove.
.264, 3 HR, 40 RBI
4th Time All-Star-It was an era of great catchers in the National League at this time, so much so that Bennett’s streak of being the best catcher in the NL halted this season, but he’s still an All-Star. As a matter of fact, he is Detroit’s only position player All-Star as the team started to fall apart. Bennett finished eighth in Defensive WAR with a 1.4 mark and his hitting started to drop a little. He slashed .264/.334/.378 for an OPS+ of 131.
Bennett was not happy with the direction of the Wolverines, according to Wikipedia, which says, “In 1884, matters got worse for the Wolverines, as they finished in last place with a 28-84 record. Bennett’s batting average fell to .264, but his on-base percentage remained high at .334, and his WAR rating remained strong at 4.1. Bennett later recalled the toll of multiple losing seasons in Detroit: ‘During the next four years [1882-1885] I wished many times I was out of Detroit, or, rather, out of that team. It was awful. I thought sometimes we were lucky to finish last. Once we lost twenty-five straight games. Every week I caught a new pitcher.’”
The catcher would remain on the team for another four years and not make it to another team, Boston, until he was 34-years-old and no longer the hitter he used to be. As it turns out, his eight years in Detroit would be the only ones in which he would have an OPS+ of 100 or above. He couldn’t do that when he first started in Milwaukee or Worcester and couldn’t do it when he finished up in Beantown.
.327, 14 HR, 79 RBI
Slugging %-.563 (4th Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.941 (3rd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-190 (3rd Time)
4th Time All-Star-Spoiler alert! Brouthers had another awesome season. He didn’t dominate in as many stats as he usually does, but that’s mainly because of the fluky Chicago home park this season. Still, he was fourth in WAR Position Players (5.4) and fourth in Offensive WAR (5.4). He slashed .327/.378/.563 for an OPS+ of 190. As it turned out, it would be his lowest on-base percentage until 1895, when he was 37-years-old. Yes, he’s going to be on these lists for quite a while.
At sportsecyclopedia.com, it says in 1884, “The Buffalo Bisons get a new place to roam as they move to Olympic Park as Dan Brouther[s] remained their top star, establishing a new team record with 14 home runs, as he had another stellar season batting .327 with 79 RBI.” Buffalo had played previous seasons at Riverside Grounds, which was a fairly neutral park in terms of runs scored. Olympic Park was definitely a hitters’ park this season, which is probably why Brouthers’ great stats don’t reflect in a higher WAR.
Because the Bisons had a good season, finishing third, it looked like they were going to be around a long time, but 1885 will be Buffalo’s last season. They are going to fall apart, mainly due to a terrible season from the great Pud Galvin, though they were going to get another Brouther-esque season from Big Dan. I liked the meritocracy involved in the 1800s baseball. If you didn’t produce good teams, you might be gone from the league. Nowadays, we have NBA teams purposely tanking their seasons with no danger of financial retribution.
.335, 21 HR, 102 RBI, 0-1, 18.00 ERA, 1 K
Runs Batted In-102 (4th Time)
Extra Base Hits-54
AB per SO-36.5 (5th Time)
Putouts-1,216 (2nd Time)
Putouts as 1B-1,211 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as 1B-58 (2nd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 1B-86
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.48 (4th Time)
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.17 (3rd Time)
10th Time All-Star-Anson is the first to make double-digit All Star teams as he continued to shine on the field. Anson finished sixth in WAR Position Players (5.1) and second in Offensive WAR (5.9). He slashed .335/.373/.543 for an OPS+ of 177. He set the National League record for runs batted in with 102 and would have set the Major League record if it weren’t for Dave Orr’s 112 RBIs in the American Association this season.
Of course, all offensive records set by players on Chicago need to be taken with a grain of salt. It had changed a rule in its home stadium (see Larry Corcoran) and its fences were incredibly short for a Major League park. So homers were flying out of Lake Front Park II all year. It didn’t help the White Stockings, who, despite having 142 homers, 103 more than second place Buffalo, still finished in sixth place with a 62-50 record. However, manager Anson is not done winning titles yet.
Well, that time has arrived to confront Anson’s racism. I’ll let Wikipedia do the dirty work: “Anson refused to play in exhibition games versus dark-skinned players. On August 10, 1883 he refused to play an exhibition game against the Toledo Blue Stockings because their catcher, Moses Fleetwood Walker, was African American. When Blue Stockings Manager Charlie Morton told Anson the White Stockings would forfeit the gate receipts if they refused to play, Anson backed down.
“In 1884, Chicago again played an exhibition game at Toledo, which was now in the American Association, a major league. Walker sat it out, and unclear is whether he did so to placate Chicago or because he was injured; Jimmy McGuire instead did the catching. Both had sore hands, the Toledo Blade had said a few days earlier. Of the two catchers, Walker was seemingly the more injured, as he did not play in Toledo’s second-most recent game. Among Anson’s incidents, this one is unique in that private correspondence provides insight. Three months before the game, Chicago Treasurer-Secretary John A. Brown wrote Toledo manager Charlie Morton that ‘the management of the Chicago Ball Club have no personal feeling about the matter, while ‘the players do most decisively object and to preserve harmony in the club it is necessary that I have your assurance in writing that [Walker] will not play any position in your nine July 25. I have no doubt such is your meaning[;] only your letter does not express in full [sic]. I have no desire to replay the occurrence of last season and must have your guarantee to that effort. Walker and his brother Welday were released from their team later that year, Welday last playing on August 6 and Fleet on September 4.”
.289, 25 HR, 101 RBI, 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 0 K
Def. Games as 2B-112
Putouts as 2B-395
Assists as 2B-422
Errors Committed as 2B-88
Double Plays as 2B-85
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-7.38 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-7.29
1st Time All-Star-Nathaniel Frederick “Fred” or “Fritz” or “Dandelion” Pfeffer was born on March 17, 1860 in Louisville, KY. Oh yeah, I’m looking up that nickname Dandelion. Okay, after minutes of research, all I found is this from Bleed Cubbie Blue: “Because of his flashy defensive play, Pfeffer’s nickname was ‘Dandelion.’ It was a different era.” Well, there you go. No doubt, it is with the glove Dandelion is going to earn his fame. He had great range, though he also made many errors. As a matter of fact, Pfeffer is the all-time leader in errors as a 2B with 857 in his career.
He had started as a weak-hitting shortstop for Troy in 1882, before coming to Chicago in 1883 and being moved to second. His hitting still lacked, however. The short fences of the White Stockings’ home park helped 1884 be Fritz’s best hitting season ever and also best season ever. He finished third in WAR Position Players (5.6), eighth in Offensive WAR (4.4), and sixth in Defensive WAR (1.5). It would be the only season he ranked in the top 10 in Offensive WAR. He would continue to hit for decent home run power in his career, ending up with 94.
From Baseball Reference: “Second baseman Fred Pfeffer, who had great defensive range and a decent bat, was picked by Cap Anson as the second baseman on Anson’s all-time team. Of course, Pfeffer had been a long-time teammate of Anson with the Chicago White Stockings, so Anson may have been a bit biased.” As Leroy Jethro Gibbs would say, “Ya think?”
.346, 3 HR, 61 RBI
Def. Games as 3B-110
Fielding % as 3B-.908 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-For the first time in his 14-year career, Sutton made consecutive All-Star teams and also for the first time, he made an All-Star team in an even-numbered year. Ezra Ballou had his best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR (6.2), second in WAR Position Players (6.2), and third in Offensive WAR (5.5). He slashed .346/.384/.455 for an OPS+ of 165. His OBP and OPS+ would be career highs. All of this at age 34.
It’s my guess Sutton has one more All-Star team left in him, but I’m going to talk a little about the end of his life now. SABR says, “Sutton enjoyed a robust career for more than 20 years. His retirement did not go as well. After a failed business, he was hit with a debilitating spinal disease characterized by a degeneration of the nervous system. Eventually, he was unable to walk or care for himself. After a horrible accident in which his wife burned to death at the dinner table before his helpless eyes, Sutton was a patient at one care facility after another, which depleted his resources to zero. His plight was only moderately lessened after his old baseball buddies took up responsibility for his care.”
Next year, (oh, man, I hope he makes it next year, I’d hate to break a promise), I’ll get into his final days and what it meant for future ballplayers.
This season of 1884 was a year that many old-time ballplayers had a revival. Cap Anson, Sutton, Deacon White, Jim O’Rourke, and Paul Hines all made the team. Many of those had been around since the 1871 National Association days.
.278, 27 HR, 84 RBI, 0-0, 18.00 ERA, 0 K
WAR Position Players-6.3
AB per HR-15.4
Assists as 3B-250 (5th Time)
Double Plays Turned as 3B-25 (4th Time)
Range Factor/Game as 3B-3.75 (4th Time)
5th Time All-Star-After not making the All-Star team in 1883 despite setting the all-time record for doubles in a season with 49, Williamson is back after setting the all-time record for homers in a season with 27. Yes, it was due to the short fences in Chicago, but it is still a record Williamson held until 1919, or 35 years. The time between Babe Ruth’s 1927 record of 60 and Roger Maris’ record of 61 in 1961 was 34 years. The time between Maris’ 61 homers and Mark McGwire’s 70 home runs in 1998 is 37 years. And the time between those 70 homers and Barry Bonds’ 73 homers in 2001 is three years and this whole example falls apart. Thanks a lot, steroids!
Let’s not let the fluke home run total take away from Williamson’s best season ever. He finished 10th in WAR (5.9), first in WAR Position Players (6.3), seventh in Offensive WAR (4.9), and third in Defensive WAR (1.9). He slashed .278/.344/.554 for an OPS+ of 170. His slugging was aberrant, but the other numbers were pure Williamson. As proved by Williamson’s record doubles total in 1883, he was always good at hitting it over the fences at Lake Front Park II, but in 1884, those counted as homers, not doubles.
Here’s more home run trivia from Wikipedia: “During this time period, the establishment of the ground rules of each park rested with the home team. In 1884, team captain and on-field manager Cap Anson decided that balls hit over the fence were to be home runs. Williamson used these short dimensions and new ground rules to set the single-season home run record by hitting 27 in a 112-game season, surpassing the record of 14 set by Harry Stovey the previous year. Of the 27 home runs he hit that year, 25 of them were hit at home.
“The first three of Williamson’s 27 home runs came on May 30, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Wolverines. Williamson became the first major league baseball player to hit three home runs in one game.”
.330, 1 HR, 52 RBI
8th Time All-Star-This could very well be the last All-Star team for James “Deacon” White as he had a renaissance of sorts in 1884. He made seven consecutive All-Star teams from 1873-79, but since moving from catcher as his regular position hadn’t made another one. It’s not like he was terrible from 1880-83. He just wasn’t the Deacon of old.
In 1880, he played for Cincinnati before moving to Buffalo in 1881, where he has been ever since. He will eventually go to Detroit in 1886, Pittsburgh in 1889, and finish up his career in the Players League, once again on the Buffalo Bisons, in 1890.
This season, White finished seventh in WAR Position Players (4.9) and sixth in Offensive WAR (5.0). He slashed .325/.370/.442 for an OPS+ of 153, his highest Adjusted OPS+ since 1879.
It’s probably my last chance to mention an article in Slate by James B. Jackson, Deacon White’s great-grandson, and it is wonderful. You have to read the whole thing, but I’m going to put a personal note from Jackson about Deacon’s long sought for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.
“Last December, as we sat in her car in a parking lot, my mother’s phone rang. It was my brother Caddy. I hoped it was not bad news. It had not been a particularly good day. When the call ended, my mother turned to me and said, ‘Grandpa White was voted into the Hall of Fame this morning.’
“And maybe I did a quick fist pump. I don’t really remember. What I do remember is my eyes turning wet as I looked out my window at the people going in and out of the Rite-Aid. And my mom said slowly, ‘After all these years. I just wish he’d lived to see it. I wish a lot of people had lived to see it.’”
.240, 2 HR, 44 RBI, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 0 K
3rd Time All-Star-Due to the great pitching of Old Hoss Radbourn, Providence didn’t need a lot of great position players to win the league title. Only two made it, centerfielder Paul Hines and Irwin. Doc is the only shortstop to make the All-Star team, due to a lack of talent at that position in the National League. He finished fourth in Defensive WAR (1.7) and also added a little with the bat, slashing .240/.289/.304 for an OPS+ of 89. Not great, but okay for a shortstop at this time.
In the World Series against the American Association New York Metropolitans, Irwin went two-for-nine with a triple. Still, his OPS was higher in the postseason than in the regular season.
I mentioned in Irwin’s 1883 write-up that he led an interesting life. He was actually involved in other sports, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Irwin was president of the American League of Professional Football (ALPF) for its lone season in 1894. The organization represented the first American professional soccer league. Teams in the league were named after their MLB counterparts in the same cities. Some of the active baseball managers served as coaches for the soccer teams, and fans were sometimes enticed by the rumor of MLB players who might participate in the league. Irwin was also involved in an attempt to popularize roller polo.” I’m sorry, roller polo!?
According to the website, Hockey Gods, the game seems similar to roller hockey. It says, “The game was fast and tough. Games started when a bright colored ball was dropped into the middle of the Roller Rink, called the spot. The Rushers (forwards) would sprint from their Cages to the centre of the rink, where there was a fierce battle for the ball.”
.347, 5 HR, 63 RBI, 0-1, 2.84 ERA, 3 K
1884 NL Batting Title
8th Time All-Star-Surprisingly, after hitting the age of 30 in 1881, O’Rourke hadn’t made another All-Star team. Orator Jim came back this season though. You see above that Baseball Reference has O’Rourke as winning the batting title, but that’s an error. King Kelly actually led the National League in hitting. It doesn’t matter, O’Rourke still had a great season, finishing fifth in Offensive WAR (5.1), slashing .347/.392/.480 for an OPS+ of 171. It was quite a comeback season for him.
Since his last All-Star team, O’Rourke signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bisons and had been there ever since, not only as a player but also a manager. This season, Buffalo finished third in the National League with a 64-47 record. After this season, he would leave the Bisons to go to the New York Giants, but as a player, not a manager. He wouldn’t manage a team until 1893, which is surprising considering his record as a manager in four seasons with Buffalo was 206-169, a .549 winning percentage.
However, according to SABR, O’Rourke’s position with the Bisons entailed more than coaching the team on the field. “Dealing with cash-strapped players fell to O’Rourke because, in addition to leading the team on the field, he also performed the tasks of club bursar, traveling secretary and prefect of discipline. A number of the pleasure-seekers on the Buffalo team – most notably mound stalwart Pud Galvin – chafed under the governance of their chief, a nondrinking, nonsmoking taskmaster who took his leadership responsibilities very seriously. But like him or not, the Bisons continued their competitive play under O’Rourke, posting winning records in both the 1882 and 1883 seasons, if not challenging for the National League pennant. Nor did the press of his off-field obligations appear to take a toll on O’Rourke. For on July 3, 1883, he appeared in his 319th consecutive game, setting a new league standard. By mid-September, Jim was near the close of a season that would see him hit .328. Then tragedy struck. On September 15, 1883, second daughter Anna died from a sudden illness. She was only 9 years old. Upon receiving the news, a grief-stricken Jim O’Rourke immediately left the team for the funeral in Bridgeport. Four days later he returned to Buffalo to guide the Bisons to the finish of a 52-45 campaign.”
.302, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 K
8th Time All-Star-Hines didn’t make the All-Star team in 1883, but he was part of something more prestigious, being the ONEHOF Inductee. That honor must have fired him up, because he’s back on the All-Star team this season. Hines finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.7) and ninth in Offensive WAR (4.3). He slashed .302/.360/.435 for an OPS+ of 151. He also won his third and last league title. In the World Series against the New York Metropolitans, Hines went two-for-eight, scoring five runs, walking three times, and stealing two bases.
Speaking of that World Series, Hines had multiple firsts in the games, according to 19cbaseball.com, which says, “He was the first National Leaguer to bat in World Series history. During that at bat he became the first batter to be hit by a pitch (the game was played under American Association rules which allowed a batter to receive his base after being hit by a pitched ball). In the third inning he got the first hit in National League World Series history, a single. He scored the first run in World Series play that same inning after a passed ball and two wild pitches by New York Metropolitans’ starter Tim Keefe. Hines’ Providence Grays beat New York three games to none to win the first World Series.”
As mentioned in the Old Hoss Radbourn write-up, the Grays dominated because of his great pitching. The final scores in the three-game sweep were 6-0, 3-1, and 12-2. Surprisingly, all three games were held at the Polo Grounds in New York.
.318, 5 HR, 34 RBI
Bases on Balls-61 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Because of Gore’s speed, Chicago just needed him to get on base and that he did, becoming excellent at walking, especially now that only six balls were needed to walk instead of eight. He made his fifth straight All-Star team, slashing .318/.404/.415 for an OPS+ of 151. The irony is that Gore had his lowest slugging average in five years in a season home run balls were rocketing out of the park in Chicago. I wouldn’t have predicted he made the team this season, but he’ll definitely be back.
I like the idea of hometown heroes and Gore was certainly that in his home state of Maine. From SABR about the 1880 season: “That there was a heartwarming degree of local pride in George’s accomplishments was reflected in the Daily Eastern Argus, Portland’s most prominent newspaper at the time. Baseball coverage was thin, but included in a now-and-again column entitled ‘Sporting Matters’ were bits and pieces of information. George Gore was mentioned more times than any other player.
“’The management of the Chicago club appears to have come to the conclusion that Gore is too good a man to keep as a substitute. He is filling the position of center field every game the club plays, and right nobly is he keeping up his reputation as a first-class base ball player. The good plays credited to him have been numerous, and we have not yet seen an error charged against his name.’ (May 13).” Read the whole SABR article for more Gore hometown tidbits.
.354, 13 HR, 95 RBI, 0-1, 8.44 ERA, 1 K
Offensive WAR-6.0 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-47
Adj. Batting Wins-5.0
Times On Base-206
Offensive Win %-.835
4th Time All-Star-I don’t know what happened to Kelly in 1883, but he had a season that was far outside his normal numbers. But let’s forget about that and just say that here in 1884, Kelly’s back, baby! He finished fifth in WAR Position Players (5.3) and first in Offensive WAR (6.0), meaning, yes, he was a disaster in the field. Chicago manager Cap Anson couldn’t hide him. Kelly played 63 games in rightfield, 28 games at catcher, 12 games at shortstop, 10 games at third base, two games at first base, two games as pitcher, and one game at second base. All of which led to a -0.7 Defensive WAR.
Back to Kelly’s offense, he slashed .354/.414/.524 for an OPS+ of 185. He actually has a better season coming, but this was a heck of a year. Though I would say it was a little inflated by the huge hitters’ park the King played in.
By the way, at this time in his career, King still went by the name Mike. He wouldn’t be King for a couple of years. He certainly was a colorful player for his time. According to Wikipedia, he actually had a record written about him: “The song, ‘Slide, Kelly, Slide’ was America’s first ‘pop hit’ record, after its release by Edison Studios, and in 1927 inspired a film version of ‘Slide, Kelly, Slide.’ Prior to that song, most recordings (cylinders), were opera, religious or patriotic in nature. Kelly is also considered to have been the first man to popularize autographing, as fans pursued him on his way to the ballpark for his signature in the 1890s. Prints of a painting of him sliding into second hung in most Irish saloons in Boston, and he was among the first athletes to perform on the vaudeville stage. His own autobiography, Play Ball, was the first written by a baseball player. The book was put together by Boston Globe reporter John Drohan.”
.271, 5 HR, 52 RBI
Double Plays Turned as OF-7
2nd Time All-Star-On my teams, I have a progressive attitude that allows all teams to have a representative. That is the reason Manning made his second All-Star team. He hadn’t made one since 1874 as a member of Baltimore and Hartford in the National Association. After that, he won a championship with Boston in 1875 as a rightfielder, stayed with the team in the National League in 1876, moved to Cincinnati in 1877, then it was back to Boston in 1878 as part of his third championship team. He then didn’t play major league ball in 1879, but played again for Cincinnati in 1880. In 1881, he played only one game with Buffalo, then didn’t play major league ball again in 1882. He came to Philadelphia in 1883 and will be there until next season. In 1886, Manning will finish off his career in the American Association, playing for Baltimore.
In 1884, Harry Wright took over in Philadelphia and would end up coaching them through 1893. This season was his worst coaching season ever, as the Quakers finished 39-73, in sixth place, 45 games out of first place. What killed them was their pitching, or lack thereof. In what was a terrific pitchers’ park, Philadelphia allowed more runs than any other team.
Manning’s biggest accomplishment came in Chicago this season, according to Wikipedia, which says, “On October 9, 1884, when his Philadelphia Quakers ballclub were visiting the Chicago White Stockings in Lakeshore Park, he hit three home runs in the same game, becoming the third player to do so. The first occasions were done by Ned Williamson and Cap Anson. All three had their big game in that hitter-friendly park in 1884.”
P-Tim Keefe, NYP
P-Will White, CIN
P-Tony Mullane, STL
P-Jumbo McGinnis, STL
P-Bobby Mathews, PHA
P-Guy Hecker, LOU
P-Jack Lynch, NYP
P-Bob Emslie, BAL
P-Denny Driscoll, PIT
C-Rudy Kemmler, COL
C-Jack O’Brien, PHA
1B-Ed Swartwood, PIT
1B-Harry Stovey, PHA
1B-John Reilly, CIN
1B-Charlie Comiskey, STL
2B-Pop Smith, COL
3B-Hick Carpenter, CIN
3B-George Bradley, CLE (N)/PHA (A)
SS-John Richmond, COL
SS-Candy Nelson, NYP
SS-Bill Gleason, STL
SS-Mike Moynahan, PHA
LF-Pete Browning, LOU
LF-Jim Clinton, BAL
CF-Charley Jones, CIN
41-27, 2.41 ERA, 359 K, .220, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Wins Above Replacement-20.1
WAR for Pitchers-19.7
Walks & Hits Per IP-0.963 (2nd Time)
Hits Per 9 IP-7.095 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts Per 9 IP-5.220
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.74
Adj. Pitching Runs-83
Adj. Pitching Wins-7.8
Def. Games as P-68
Assists as P-142
4th Time All-Star-Well, if Wins Above Replacement is the tool used to judge the all-time great seasons, we have met the greatest, Tim Keefe’s 1883 American Association season with the Metropolitans. A lot of the high WAR seasons come from great players from strong leagues moving over to weaker leagues and that’s what happened with Keefe. Of course, it helped that he started all 68 games he pitched and finished all 68 games he started. Keefe finished first in WAR (20.1) and first in WAR for Pitchers (19.7). He pitched 619 innings, 42 more than the second-place finisher, Will White, and had a 2.41 ERA and a 145 ERA+. It’s incredible that after this season, Keefe still has 3,546 innings left in his Hall of Fame arm.
New York now had two teams in the Major Leagues after having none the year before, the Gothams in the National League and this one. The Metropolitans unfortunately had to put Jack Lynch on the mound when Keefe didn’t pitch and he went 13-15 with a 4.09 ERA. This led New York to a fourth place finish, 11 games out of first. Jim Mutrie managed the team and was off to good coaching career, as he would coach teams in New York for the next nine seasons, to three pennants and two World Series titles.
Among all of the incredible feats done by Keefe this season, Wikipedia mentions, “On July 4 of that year, Keefe pitched both ends of a doubleheader against Columbus, winning the first game with a one-hitter; the second a two-hit gem.”
43-22, 2.09 ERA, 141 K, .225, 0 HR, 23 RBI
Earned Run Average-2.09
Wins-43 (2nd Time)
Shutouts-6 (2nd Time)
Home Runs Allowed-16 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-White was really enjoying the lower play quality of the American Association and, because of that, his chances of making the ONEHOF have gone from “outside chance” to “probably going to make it.” He finished second in WAR (9.1) and 8.9 in WAR for Pitchers (8.9). He pitched 577 innings with a 2.09 ERA and a 156 ERA+. These first two years of the AA were White’s best and he’s going to falter somewhat from this point, but you have to be impressed with his 83-34 record over two seasons.
As for my Red Stockings, they had another outstanding season, but didn’t finish first. Managed by Pop Snyder, Cincinnati finished 61-37, five games behind Philadelphia. It had good hitting, scoring the second most runs in the league, and great pitching, maybe the best in the league, but still didn’t win it all. Incredibly, the Red Stockings had winning records against every team except New York, which beat them 10 out of 14 times. They just couldn’t beat Tim Keefe. Of course, not many could.
I’ve been asked by, well, nobody, but I like to pretend people ask me questions and one of the questions they’re not asking is “Should Will White make the ONEHOF when his best seasons are in the weaker American Association?” Good question, Nobody! Well, of course he should, because the ONEHOF is the anti-Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s not based on morality or the competition you’ve faced. It’s just a history of the game and Will White and his brother, Deacon, were great players and an important part of the early days of baseball.
35-15, 2.19 ERA, 191 K, .225, 0 HR, 33 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Count is the first player on this list whose fame came because of the American Association and not because of his performance in the National League. Mullane pitched a great season, finishing third in WAR (6.5) and third in WAR for Pitchers (6.4). He pitched 460 2/3 innings with a 2.19 ERA and a 160 ERA+.
The Apollo of the Box was now pitching on his third team in three seasons. Next season will be his fourth team in four seasons. He’s not going to pitch in 1885, due to reasons we’ll get to at a later time, and then in 1886, he’s finally going to settle in with his fifth team in five seasons, but stick with Cincinnati for many years. I mentioned it last year, but I’ll say it again, Mullane has a good shot at the ONEHOF.
Baseball sure has changed, hasn’t it? Mullane led the league in saves with one. And they didn’t even track them at that point, this is something researchers added later. According to Wikipedia, “The term save was being used as far back as 1952. Executives Jim Toomey of the St. Louis Cardinals, Allan Roth of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Irv Kaze of the Pittsburgh Pirates awarded saves to pitchers that finished winning games but were not credited with the win, regardless of the margin of victory. The statistic went largely unnoticed.” Later on, a save with more criteria, the save we’re more familiar with, was invented and relief pitchers went “Cha-Ching!” and have been happy ever since.
28-16, 2.33 ERA, 128 K, .200, 0 HR, 14 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Jumbo pitched his best season ever, finishing fourth in WAR (5.6) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (6.2). He pitched 382 2/3 innings with a 2.33 ERA and a 150 ERA+. You put together Jumbo and The Apollo of the Box and St. Louis had good pitching and a good season, which we’ll look at later.
After this season, McGinnis turned 30 and slowly started declining. Yes, he finished 24-16 in 1884 and his ERA was only 2.84, but his ERA+ fell and would continue to do so. McGinnis had a short six-season career, but it was decent, as he finished 102-79 with a 2.95 ERA and a 111 ERA+.
Wikipedia has a baseball card, the one I’m showing above, that shows Jumbo McGinnis as a catcher. According to Baseball Reference, McGinnis never caught a game. There was no other McGinnis that played in that era, so I’m not sure why the card shows him in catchers gear and lists that as his position.
When I was a younger man, a boy, really, I used to love baseball cards. I remember one year getting baseball cards that listed the Padres as being in Washington D.C., because there was a rumor they were going to move there. My older brother told me to keep them safe, they’d be valuable someday because they had a mistake on them. I didn’t, of course, but I wonder how much they’re worth nowadays.
Well, according to California Sports Cards, I’ve lost out on $12.50 and that’s if I had Willie McCovey. Most of the others are between two and four dollars.
30-13, 2.46 ERA, 203 K, .186, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.732 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-6.548 (2nd Time)
9th Time All-Star-Mathews’ life would make a great, but tragic, movie. He started pitching in the majors at the age of 19 for the Fort Wayne Kekiongas and it was the start of an incredible career which had highs, like his pitching in the National Association and the American Association, and lows, like his pitching in the National League. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for the existence of the AA, Mathews would probably be on his way out. However, this league and its weaker competition revived Mathews and he had a throwback season.
The diminutive drunkard finished fifth in WAR (4.5) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2). He tossed 381 innings and had a 2.46 ERA and a 141 ERA+. It was his highest Adjusted ERA+ ever to this point, but not the highest he’d ever have.
Led by Mathews, Philadelphia won the AA crown with a 66-32 record. Lon Knight, coaching his first season, took the Athletics from fourth place in 1882 to the top spot this season. It was his first year managing and surprisingly, he has only one more season left. Mathews now had his second (and last) league crown.
SABR writes, “Mathews’ career took an upward turn in 1883 when he joined the Philadelphia Athletics in the American Association, a rival major league in its second season. Immediately, he reassumed his ace status after six years, at age 31. The specifics of how Mathews joined the Athletics shed some light on the secret workings of the game at the time. Philadelphia owner Bill Sharsig later told the New York Telegram, ‘In 1882 when the association was just making itself felt, and there was no National Agreement, there was a demand for players. I met Matthews in the Bingham House, this city, during August that year, and made an arrangement with him by which he agreed to play with the Athletic club next season. I then gave him $1,000 to bind the bargain.’”
28-23, 3.34 ERA, 164 K, .271, 1 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Putouts as P-40
2nd Time All-Star-Hecker made the American Association All-Star team in 1882 as a first baseman, but switched to primarily pitching this year and had a good season. (But, spoiler alert!, nothing like next year). Hecker finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers with a 1.2 mark, pitching 469 innings with a 3.34 ERA and an 89 ERA+. That’s not a great year, but he added value by his bat, slashing .271/.297/.334 for an OPS+ of 110. He has better hitting seasons and pitching seasons ahead.
Despite finishing second in the AA’s inaugural year, the Eclipse switched managers from Denny Mack, who would never coach again, to the old veteran, Move Up Joe Gerhardt, a two-time All-Star, who had never managed before. The record this season was better, 52-45, compared to 42-38 the year before, but the finish was worse, as Louisville dropped from second to fifth, 13-and-a-half games out of first place.
The truth of the matter for Louisville was it couldn’t match the pitching of the four teams above it. It had good hitting, finishing third in the league in runs scored, but Hecker hadn’t reached his peak as a hurler and old veteran Sam Weaver already had.
Now to show that I don’t have the intelligence of baseball people, I probably would have moved Hecker to being a position player to help the team’s hitting, but the Eclipse kept him on the mound and that’s certainly going to work out for them in 1884. Maybe I should just stick to writing.
13-15, 4.09 ERA, 119 K, .187, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-John H. “Jack” Lynch was born on February 5, 1857 in New York, NY. He started in 1881 for the National League Buffalo Bisons and then didn’t play in the majors in 1882. The Metropolitans picked him for this season and though I made a snide remark about Lynch in the Tim Keefe write-up, the truth is this was his best season ever. There was an extreme lack of good pitching in the American Association this year and Lynch did well, taking that into consideration. He finished seventh in WAR for Pitchers (2.0), pitching 255 innings with a 4.09 ERA and an 86 ERA+. No, he wasn’t great, but he especially looked bad when compared to his own great teammate, Keefe.
“The New York Clipper wrote of Jack Lynch:
“’Studying the in-and-out curves, rises, and drop deliveries, he rapidly acquired a reputation as an effective and puzzling pitcher…He has complete control of the ball, with all the curves and varying paces in delivery, and is cool and self-possessed.’”
The Mets played in Polo Grounds II (Southwest Diamond) and Polo Grounds I (Southeast Diamond) and neither of those places was good for pitchers. It’s why Keefe’s incredible season is so awesome and why the New York pitching staff of Keefe and Lynch deserves some props, as the team allowed the least runs in the league. Baseball history is so interesting as we already see a team called the Mets way back in the 1880s, along with a park called the Polo Grounds.
9-13, 3.17 ERA, 62 K, .165, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Robert Daniel “Bob” Emslie was born on January 27, 1859 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada and was off to a good start. Guelph? Anyway, Emslie finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers with a 1.4 mark, pitching 201 1/3 innings with a 3.17 ERA and a 109 ERA+. He’ll be back on this team next season.
Baltimore unfortunately could not improve from their last place 1882 debut season. They once again finished at the bottom this season, going 28-68. Bald Billy Barnie managed the team and you would think, in the fashion of the day, he’d be dismissed quickly. He wasn’t. Barnie is going to manage the Orioles for many seasons and they’re actually going to do well eventually. I like teams that don’t panic and stick with a plan to see if it pans out.
Emslie would achieve more fame as an umpire than as a player and was involved in the famous “Merkle’s Boner.” Wikipedia describes it: “Emslie was the base umpire on September 23, 1908, when controversy erupted at the end of the New York Giants–Chicago Cubs game at the Polo Grounds. With the score tied and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Giants had Moose McCormick on third base and Fred Merkle on first base; Al Bridwell smashed a single to center to drive home McCormick with the apparent winning run, but Merkle failed to touch second base. Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed this error, and tagged second base and appealed to Emslie. Emslie claimed that he had to duck out of the way of Bridwell’s line drive and did not see the play, and home plate umpire Hank O’Day declared Merkle out and the game a tie.
“New York manager John McGraw, with whom Bob had a long and tempestuous history, bestowed upon Emslie his nickname ‘Blind Bob’ after the controversy.”
18-21, 3.99 ERA, 79 K, .182, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-3.03
Range Factor/Game as P-2.76
2nd Time All-Star-After having a great rookie season in 1882, Driscoll slipped a bit this season. Oh, he still made the All-Star team and that’s very prestigious, but it’s mainly because of the weakness of pitching in the American Association this year. Driscoll finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (1.2), pitching 336 1 /3 innings, 135 more than his rookie year, with a 3.99 ERA, 2.78 above his rookie year, and an 80 ERA+, 138 below 1882. He has only one season left after this.
After finishing at .500 in 1882, the Alleghenys fell to seventh place this season. They were coached by Al Pratt (12-20), Ormund Butler (17-36), and Joe Battin (2-11) to a total 31-67 season. Only Battin would ever coach again and that was only in interim capacities.
Driscoll would fade after this season. SABR says, “Since 1884 was the first year of overhand pitching in the major leagues, Driscoll apparently was unable to successfully make the transition from underhand delivery. With 28 teams vying for a championship in three major leagues in 1884, Driscoll should otherwise have been able to catch on with another team looking for a capable pitcher.
“Driscoll died of consumption in Lowell on July 11, 1886. The disease, known today as tuberculosis, claimed numerous lives in Lowell during that time, including both of Driscoll’s parents, his father in 1874 and his mother in 1878. A brief obituary about Driscoll in the Lowell Courier noted, He was well known as a base ball player, serving as pitcher for the old Bartlett nine several years ago, and more recently with clubs in Louisville and other parts of the southwest.”
.208, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Def. Games as C-82
Errors Committed as C-71
Double Plays Turned as C-10
1st Time All-Star-Rudolph “Rudy” Kemmler born Rudolph Kemler was born in January, 1860 in Chicago, IL. This will most likely be his only All-Star team, but due to his defense, he was the best catcher in the American Association. It was the second straight year a catcher led the AA in dWAR. At the bat, Kemmler didn’t provide much, slashing .208/.239/.478 for an OPS+ of 60. This was higher than his all-time OPS+ of 52. His oWAR was 0.2.
Kemmler played for the newly formed Columbus Buckeyes. There isn’t a lot on this obscure franchise, but there is this from the Columbus Dispatch, “In 1876, the national pastime was solidified in Columbus as the Columbus Buckeyes became the first professional baseball team in the city, after a decade of amateur play as the Buckeye Baseball Club.
“After one year of playing an independent schedule, the Columbus Buckeyes joined the nation’s first minor league, the International Association of Baseball, which was organized by Columbus native James ‘Jimmy’ Williams. Williams, who is considered to be the ‘Father of Minor League Baseball,’ also was the association’s first executive secretary.
“A few years later, in 1883, the Buckeyes made their first major-league appearance in the newly formed American Association.
“But after just two years, the Buckeyes disbanded, and throughout the next several years, Columbus saw other teams such as the Senators, the Reds and the Statesmen play in various minor league and major league associations.” The Buckeyes finished 32-65 and in sixth place in the league.
.290, 0 HR, 70 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Well, I am a false prophet, predicting in his 1882 blurb that O’Brien would not make another All-Star team, so I recapped the rest of his career and life last year. So now what the heck am I going to write about? O’Brien was the anti-Rudy Kemmler this season. Kemmler was all-defense, no bat, and O’Brien was all bat and no defense. At the plate, O’Brien slashed .290/.333/.377 for an OPS+ of 121. His hitting was always his strong point.
Oh, I know something I can mention, this was O’Brien’s first and last league title. He would continue playing for Philadelphia through 1886, before moving to Brooklyn in 1887, Baltimore in 1888, and back to Philadelphia in 1890. He didn’t play in the majors in 1889.
Catching was a weakness in the AA this season. In 1882, four catchers made the All-Star team. This season, two made it and they were 15th and 16th in the league in Position Players WAR. What happened to the remaining three from last season? Pop Snyder was 20th in the league in WAR Position Players, Billy Taylor’s terrible fielding dropped him to 64th, plus he moved to mainly playing outfield, and Dan Sullivan dropped to 53rd.
I talked about the Athletics season a little bit in the Bobby Mathews blurb, but here’s a little more. Philadelphia came into a four-game series from Sept. 3-6 a half-game ahead of St.Louis. They then lost the first game and found themselves down by a half-game. However, they swept the remaining trio of games, winning 11-1, 5-4, and 4-3, and never lost the lead again.
.357, 3 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1883 AA Batting Title
WAR Position Players-3.8
On-Base Plus Slugging-.869
Adj. Batting Runs-40
Adj. Batting Wins-4.3
Times on Base-172
Offensive Win %-.807
2nd Time All-Star-Swartwood moved from rightfield to first base this season and his hitting dominated the league. This was definitely the definition of a fluke year. See all of those categories above in which he led the league. This was the only season Swartwood would ever lead in any of those categories for his career. He’d never hit again like he has the last two seasons. In this, his best season ever, Swartwood was sixth in WAR (3.8), first in WAR Position Players (3.8), and first in Offensive WAR (4.5). He slashed .354/.394/.476 for an Adjusted OPS+ of 188.
One thing Swartwood couldn’t do was field. Whether he roaming the outfield or playing at first base, his dWAR continued to be below zero, meaning you could yank someone up from the minor leagues and have him do a better job. In 1882, as an outfielder, his dWAR was -0.7 and in 1883, as a first baseman, his dWar was -0.9. You can bet in that picture above, he’s going to drop that ball. It was a good thing he could hit as well as he did. SABR mentions this bad glove work: “[T]he club didn’t know where to place the extra-large slugger in the field. The Rocky Mountain News in Denver illustrated the point in February before spring training began: ‘The Alleghenys will try to make a catcher out of Swartwood, who is a very poor fielder, but a strong hitter.’ He actually ended up splitting most of his time between first base and center field.”
.304, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 4 K
Home Runs-14 (2nd Time)
Extra Base Hits-51 (2nd Time)
AB per HR-30.1
Fielding % as 1B-.965
2nd Time All-Star-Stovey moved from the National League Worcester Ruby Legs to the American Association Athletics after the Ruby Legs folded. Coming to the weaker league helped his hitting, but it’s not like his bat had been dormant before. Stovey finished seventh in WAR (3.7), second in WAR Position Players (3.8), and third in Offensive WAR (3.4). He slashed .304/.346/.506 for an OPS+ of 163. He seemed to lead in every category Ed Swartwood didn’t and also garnered his first league title.
Stovey did break Charley Jones’ 1879 record of nine home runs with his 14 dingers. He’ll hold this for one year when a fluke in the way home runs are recorded in Chicago in 1884 will blow this record out of the water and then not be broken again until the days of Babe Ruth. I doubt there were many huzzahs or hurrahs when Stovey did this; home runs just weren’t a big deal in the early days of baseball.
SABR writes about Stovey, “Stovey, who set the single-season home run record with 14 during that championship season in 1883, was considered the best base-stealer in the game. It is said that he was the first to make feet-first sliding popular and invented sliding pads to protect an often bruised left hip. As a fielder, he was said to have had sure hands and a strong accurate arm with great range. Today, Stovey would be called a five-tool player for his all-around game.”
.311, 9 HR, 79 RBI
Def. Games as 1B-98
Double Plays Turned as 1B-50
1st Time All-Star-“Long John” Good Reilly was born on October 5, 1858 in Cincinnati, OH and vowed on that day, you heard me, that very day, that he would never leave Cincinnati even if he became a major league player someday and he kept that vow. He was born in Cincinnati, died in Cincinnati, and played his entire Major League career in Cincinnati. The six-foot-three, 178 pound Queen City native started as a first baseman for the National League Reds in 1880 and then took two years off before hooking up with the Red Stockings here in 1883. He finished fifth in WAR Position Players (3.5) and fifth in Offensive WAR (3.0). Reilly slashed .311/.325/.485 for an OPS+ of 151. He is going to be a good hitter for a long time.
Reilly’s highlight for 1883 was a week or so in September in which Long John went on a tear. Here’s SABR’s description of it: “In the opener Cincinnati pounded out a 12-6 victory over the Alleghenys’ Denny Driscoll, who had been a Reds’ nemesis all year. Reilly sparked the win by homering in each of the first two innings, both times driving in Hick Carpenter ahead of himself. The next day, Reilly singled in another easy victory for the Reds. On September 12, Cincinnati rolled over the Alleghenys, beginning with a nine-run first inning. Even among a host of impressive offensive performances, Reilly’s line in the box score stood out, with six hits in seven at bats as well as two stolen bases and six runs scored. In the bottom of the eighth, he drove an opposite field line drive to right field to score Carpenter again with Cincinnati’s fourth home run of the game. The hit finished the scoring in a 27-5 victory, and also completed a cycle for Reilly, who had already hit a double and triple to go with his three singles.” You’ll need to read the whole thing, it’s very good and extremely descriptive, but he did hit for another cycle on Sept. 19.
.294, 2 HR, 64 RBI
Putouts-1,085 (2nd Time)
Putouts as 1B-1,085 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.54
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.51
1st Time All-Star-Charles Albert “Charlie” or “Commy” or “The Old Roman” Comiskey was born on August 15, 1859 in Chicago, IL. Like Cap Anson, we in the modern day look at him with our own morals and mentality and judge him harshly. He was the skinflint, the miser, whose cheapness led to the 1919 Chicago White Sox revolting and throwing the World Series. There’s probably some truth mixed in with half-truths in there somewhere, but, for our purposes, Comiskey is a six-foot, 180 pound young man playing first base for his second consecutive season with the Browns. The other stuff will have to wait.
It’s tough to say whether Comiskey will ever make another All-Star team, because this was probably his best year hitting. He slashed .294/.313/.397 for an OPS+ of 122. Of course, there was also a season in which Comiskey stole 117 bases and twice that he had 100 RBI, so we’ll just have to see. I’m predicting one more.
As for Comiskey’s defense, Wikipedia says, “Comiskey is sometimes credited with the innovation of playing the first base position behind first base or inside the foul line, a practice which has since become common.”
From Baseball Reference: “Comiskey was the son of Chicago alderman ‘Honest John’ Comiskey. The senior Comiskey disapproved of his son’s interest in baseball and tried several tactics (including sending him to college and getting him an apprenticeship) to prevent him from playing. Charlie remained interested in the game, and jumped at a chance to play for a team in Dubuque, IA. He moved to the St. Louis Browns when they joined the new American Association in 1882.”
The Browns just missed winning the league, finishing one game behind Philadelphia. They were coached by Ted Sullivan (53-26) and Comiskey (12-7). Comiskey would take over the team in 1885 and prove to be a great manager.
.262, 4 HR, (No RBI recorded), 0-0, 6.35 ERA, 0 K
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-7.09
1st Time All-Star-Charles Marvin “Pop” Smith was born on October 12, 1856 in Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada. He is the American Association’s only All-Star second baseman this season. He’s had an interesting career leading up to his first All-Star selection. Smith started with the National League Cincinnati Reds in 1880, then played on three NL teams in 1881 – Cleveland, Buffalo, and Worcester. In 1882, he moved to the AA and played with Philadelphia and Louisville. Except for his first season with the Reds, in which he played full-time second base, all of these stints included very little playing time. But the newly formed Columbus Buckeyes gave him a chance to play everyday and he made the most of it, finishing seventh in Offensive WAR with a 2.7 mark. Smith slashed .262/.300/.410 for an OPS+ of 135. He’s probably got another All-Star team left in him.
Smith’s greatest fame in 1883 came not from playing, but umpiring, according to SABR, which says, “Smith’s fortunes began to look up after the 1882 season. The Columbus Buckeye club, preparing to enter the American Association, signed Smith for the 1883 season. It proved fortuitous that he was in Columbus at the time. The first post-season playoffs, precursor of the World Series, between the National League champion Chicago White Stockings and Cincinnati, winners of the first American Association pennant, took place in Columbus at the end of the 1882 season. Because Smith was known by both managers, having played in each league, and was generally well-liked and considered impartial, he was selected to umpire the two-game series. Emotions ran high as the two league champions split the series, but the Cincinnati Commercial credited Smith with umpiring ‘in splendid style’ (Lansche, 31), no easy task.”
.299, 3 HR, 40 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-For the second consecutive year, Carpenter was the best third baseman in the American Association. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (2.8), slashing .299/.328/.379 for an OPS+ of 122. In one game this season, according to Wikipedia, “On September 12, 1883, Cincinnati beat the Pittsburg Alleghenys 27-5 collecting a club-record 33 hits. Hick and Long John Reilly each collect six hits‚ while Reilly scores six runs and hits for the cycle.” He’s probably made his last All-Star team, but I’ve been wrong before, many, many, many times.
From SABR: “It is said that Carpenter was blessed with astonishing physical dexterity. A Louisville sportswriter penned this tribute: ‘It isn’t much use to hit it in the neighborhood of third base when Old Hickory is holding it down. Hickory doesn’t think any more of stopping a base hit than Jack Leary does of striking out.’ One of Carpenter’s gems came a few days later. On June 18 thoughts of a no-hitter were in the air as Will White, Cincinnati’s ace hurler, retired the first 13 Philadelphia batters in a row. Edward Achorn wrote: ‘Carpenter preserved the string with a phenomenal leaping catch of a line drive in the fourth inning, a play that made spectators in the pavilion leap to their feet and wave their hats.’
“Walter William ‘Hick’ Carpenter died in San Diego on April 18, 1937, at the age of 81. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego.” You need to read the whole SABR article, there is a lot of good stuff in it.
(Combined) .238, 1 HR, 37 RBI, 16-7, 3.15 ERA, 56 K
5th Time All-Star-What an interesting career Bradley has had. He started his career as one of the best pitchers in the game. He still is tied for most shutouts thrown in a season with 16 for the 1876 National League Brown Stockings. However, after that season, his innings fell and he’d bounce around baseball. Since his last All-Star team in 1880, Bradley split the 1881 season between Detroit and Cleveland and stayed in Cleveland in 1882 and 1883. However in June of 1883, he was purchased by the Athletics and split time between third base and the mound. It’s because of his pitching Bradley made the All-Star team and his pitching also led him to his first championship ever.
On the mound, Bradley finished sixth in the American Association in WAR for Pitchers (2.7), pitching 214 1/3 innings with a 3.15 ERA and a 110 ERA+. He’s probably made his last All-Star team, though he did have a good season in 1884.
SABR has this to say about Bradley’s contribution to Philadelphia’s league title: “With the A’s Bradley won 16 games as the team’s primary backup pitcher to Bobby Mathews; when not pitching he played third base. In September, when Mathews was out with arm problems, Bradley and Jumping Jack Jones put together a string of pitching performances that enabled the A’s to win seven in a row on their way to the pennant. Despite his heroics, Bradley was released after the season, telling one interviewer, ‘They sent me adrift, just as you would a broken down horse. But that was strictly business, you know.’”
.283, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Assists as SS-304
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-4.88
Range Factor/Game as SS-4.68
Fielding % as SS-.877
1st Time All-Star-John H. Richmond was born on March 5, 1855 in Philadelphia, PA. He hung around awhile before having his best season ever in 1883 and making his first All-Star team. Richmond probably has a shot at one more. It’s borderline. He’s another player that had the weaker competition of the American Association revive his career. It was his third league, as Richmond started with the National Association Athletics as a second baseman in 1875. He then took three years off of Major League ball until playing centerfield for the National League Syracuse Stars in 1879. He then played for Boston in 1880 and 1881, moved to Cleveland in 1882, and then went to the AA Athletics at the end of that year. This year, he found his spot with the newly-formed Buckeyes and was arguably the best shortstop in the league. He finished ninth in WAR (3.4), fourth in WAR Position Players (3.4), eighth in Offensive WAR (2.7), and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.2). It was a total aberration from all the seasons which came before. He slashed .283/.327/.343 for an OPS+ of 124, far above his career Adjusted OPS+ of 96.
Richmond is one of those arguments against American Association players making the Hall of Fame, not that he had any shot at it or the ONEHOF, the more prestigious one-a-year Hall of Fame of this page. In his four years in the NL, Richmond slashed .221/.248/.290 for an OPS+ of 80, while in his four years in the American Association, he slashed .253/.312/.326 for an OPS+ of 112.
.305, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-John W. “Candy” Nelson was born on March 14, 1849 in Portland, ME and is, yes, yet another player who thanked the Lord often for allowing the American Association to exist. Nelson had been around a long time, starting with the National Association Troy Haymakers and Brooklyn Eckfords in 1872, moving to the New York Mutuals from 1873-75, taking a couple years off and then playing with the National League Indianapolis Blues in 1878, the Troy Trojans in 1879, and then taking another year off. In 1881, he played for the Worcester Ruby Legs, taking yet another year off in the Majors, before finally ending up with the Metropolitans this season.
With the Mets, Nelson finished sixth in WAR Position Players (3.0) and sixth in Offensive WAR (2.8), slashing .305/.353/.379 for an OPS+ of 128, his highest ever. All of this was as the third oldest player in the league. After struggling as an outfielder and second baseman for most of his career, he found his niche at shortstop and was a decent fielder during his AA career.
According to Baseball Reference, “His Sporting Life obituary in 1910 called him ‘Johnnie’ Nelson, and said he had started in baseball with the Eckfords at age 16. He played about 30 years, according to the article, for minor league clubs, and also managed.”
Nelson had a penchant for walking and at this time in baseball, it required eight balls to walk. According to Wikipedia’s Base on Balls page: “In 1880, the National League changed the rules so that eight balls instead of nine were required for a walk. In 1884, the National League changed the rules so that six balls were required for a walk. In 1886, the American Association changed the rules so that six balls instead of seven were required for a walk; however, the National League changed the rules so that seven balls were required for a walk instead of six. In 1887, the National League and American Association agreed to abide by some uniform rule changes and decreased the number of balls required for a walk to five. In 1889, the National League and the American Association decreased the number of balls required for a walk to four.”
.287, 2 HR, 42 RBI
Def. Games as SS-98 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Gleason continued to be a steady shortstop in the American Association, having his best season ever. He finished seventh in WAR Position Players (2.9), 10th in Offensive WAR (2.3), and seventh in Defensive WAR (1.2). He slashed .287/.311/.393 for an OPS+ of 120. He might have another All-Star team left in him, it’s difficult to say.
There were a lot of good shortstops in the AA at this time. Gleason is the only one to repeat as an All-Star in 1883. Over the last two season, the AA has six different men as All-Star shortstops – Gleason, John Peters, Chick Fulmer, John Richmond, Candy Nelson, and (spoiler alert!) Mike Moynahan, who will be written about next.
In the National League, it’s premier position is first base as between 1882 and 1883, there were nine different All-Star seasons by six different players. If you go to the 1882 National League page, you’ll see who those six players are. What? Are you saying I’m lazy? You’re probably right.
Gleason was one of those rare players who pretty much stuck at one position for his career. As a matter of fact, he played only two games at third and one game at first, outside of his time at shortstop.
St. Louis is going to have a lot of success in upcoming years and you can see why. Not one of its regular position players is above the age of 28 and its oldest pitcher is Jumbo McGinnis at 29. As mentioned in Charlie Comiskey’s blurb, he’s going to take over as coach eventually and have a lot of success.
.310, 1 HR, 67 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Michael “Mike” Moynahan was born in 1856 in Chicago, IL. He played his only full season in 1883 and had his best season ever. Moynahan started with the National League Buffalo Bisons in 1880 as a shortstop. In 1881, he played third base and outfield for the Cleveland Blues and Detroit Wolverines (one game). Then he took a year off and came back this season to finish eighth in WAR Position Players (2.9) and fourth in Offensive WAR (3.1). Moynahan slashed .310/.360/.413 for an OPS+ of 140. He also won his first and only championship in this, his best season ever.
I don’t know why Moynahan never played fulltime the rest of his career after seeing what he could do this season. On a team that won the league, he was its leading hitter. He finished in the top 10 in 30 categories playing every day, but never finished in the top 10 in any category in any other season.
Maybe it’s the accident he had. According to Baseball Reference, “Shortstop Mike Moynahan played four years in the big leagues, and three of the four were good years with the bat. He broke a finger while playing in 1882, and while he had to have part of the finger amputated, he went on to hit quite well in 1883-84.
.338, 4 HR, (No RBI recorded)
2nd Time All-Star-Gladiator dipped quite a bit from his rookie season in 1882, but just because it wasn’t as good as the previous year, doesn’t mean it wasn’t impressive. He finished eighth in WAR (3.4), third in WAR Position Players (3.4), and second in Offensive WAR (3.7). Browning slashed .338/.378/.464 for an OPS+ of 179. If this would have been his rookie season, there would have been many huzzahs and hurrahs, but since it was such a drop off from 1882, people tend to say, “Can’t you do better?” Let me assure you, very few people can do better than the Gladiator. He was one of the American Association’s first stars.
I mentioned in Browning’s 1882 write-up he was a horrendous fielder and that was true this season. He moved from second base to leftfield, but he was still terrible. He would have a negative dWAR from 1883-90.
We talked about his strange habits regarding his bats last year, but from Wikipedia, here’s more on that: “Browning was a man of eccentric personal habits, particularly in relation to his bats. He spoke to them, and gave each one a name, often that of a Biblical figure. In the belief that any individual bat contained only a certain number of hits, he would periodically ‘retire’ bats, keeping vast numbers of the retired ones in the home he shared with his mother. These bats were 37 inches long and 48 ounces in weight, enormous even by the standards of the time. He also habitually stared at the sun, thinking that by doing so, he would strengthen his eyes. He also ‘cleansed’ his eyes when travelling by train by sticking his head out the window in an effort to catch cinders in them. Browning also computed his average on his cuffs on a regular basis, and was not above announcing to all when his train arrived at a depot that he was the champion batter of the American Association.”
.313, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-James Lawrence “Big Jim” Clinton was born in August 10, 1850 in New York, NY. He’s another one of those who had been around awhile, but 1883 was his first full year. He played part-time for the 1872 National Association Brooklyn Eckfords; the 1873 NA Elizabeth Resolutes; the 1874-75 NA Brooklyn Atlantics; and the 1876 National League Louisville Grays. He then didn’t play Major League ball until 1882, when he played part-time for the NL Worcester Ruby Legs. Finally, Clinton was given a full-time chance this season. He made the most of it. Clinton slashed .313/.357/.393 for an OPS+ of 140. All of those figures are his highest ever.
Surprisingly, Big Jim was only five-foot-eight, 174 pounds. Who knows why he had the nickname and who knows why teams refused to give him more of a chance until this season. Unlike Mike Moynahan, Clinton has a couple full-time seasons left, but I doubt he’s going to make another All-Star team. (I just noticed this but Moynahan and Clinton are names of famous Democratic politicians. And both would end up in New York.)
Big Jim would stay in the American Association the rest of his career, staying with Baltimore in 1884, moving to Cincinnati in 1885, and then back to Baltimore in 1886. He’d never have as good of season again, but he’d be a reliable outfielder wherever he played.
Clinton died on September 3, 1921 in Brooklyn, NY. One thing about these old time ballplayers, so many of them are like elephants and end up right back where they were born when they leave this earth.
.294, 10 HR, 80 RBI
Runs Batted In-80 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-There’s a tendency nowadays to think the modern ballplayer has too much power. They go around from city to city looking for the next big paycheck. But it’s important to remember there was a very long era where ballplayers had very little power over the money they received or the places they played. In 1880, Jones was one of the best players in baseball and yet didn’t play for two years in the majors because as Baseball Reference tells us, “After the 1880 season he was suspended by the club and blacklisted for refusing to play. He countered that he had not been paid and sued for his salary; he even had the local sheriff attach Boston’s share of the gate at Cleveland on May 14, 1881. A jury sided with the club. Tit for tat, the team had him blacklisted for 1881 and 1882. On December 7, 1881 at the National League annual meeting the owners rejected the applications of Jones and Phil Baker for reinstatement. Subsequently he played for an outlaw team in Portsmouth, OH.
“He signed with the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the new American Association in 1882 when the AA said they would ignore the NL’s blacklist. They honored it that year, though, and Jones remained with Portsmouth, even as he had helped put together the Cincinnati team that would win the 1882 AA pennant. The NL and AA came to an agreement in 1883 under the pressure of Opie Caylor.”
Now that he’s back, Jones made the best of it, finishing 10th in WAR Position Players (2.7). He slashed .294/.328/.471 for an OPS+ of 148. He still has good seasons left and has a shot at the ONEHOF.