P-Christy Mathewson, NYG
P-George McQuillan, PHI
P-Mordecai Brown, CHC
P-Hooks Wiltse, NYG
P-Nap Rucker, BRO
P-Ed Reulbach, CHC
P-Kaiser Wilhelm, BRO
P-Bugs Raymond, STL
P-Andy Coakley, CIN/CHI
P-Vic Willis, PIT
C-Roger Bresnahan, NYG
C-Johnny Kling, CHC
1B-Frank Chance, CHC
2B-Johnny Evers, CHC
3B-Hans Lobert, CIN
3B-Tommy Leach, PIT
3B-Art Devlin, NYG
SS-Honus Wagner, PIT
SS-Joe Tinker, CHC
SS-Bill Dahlen, BSN
SS-Al Bridwell, NYG
LF-Fred Clarke, PIT
LF-Sherry Magee, PHI
CF-Red Murray, STL
37-11, 1.43 ERA, 259 K, .155, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Hall of Fames:
1908 NL Pitching Triple Crown
1908 NL Pitching Title
WAR for Pitchers-11.1 (3rd Time)
Earned Run Average-1.43 (2nd Time)
Wins-37 (3rd Time)
Walks & Hits per IP-0.827 (2nd Time)
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.968
Innings Pitched-390 2/3
Strikeouts-259 (5th Time)
Games Started-44 (2nd Time)
Shutouts-11 (4th Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-6.167 (3rd Time)
Adjusted ERA+168 (2nd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-1.29 (4th Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-42 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-5.2 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-56
Assists as P-141 (3rd Time)
7th Time All-Star-It’s a joy to research Mathewson as compared to other ballplayers of his time. He was clean cut, the type of player a young person could have as his or her hero. And if you’re going to be a hero, it helps when you ply your craft heroically. Oh, I know it’s only baseball, not soldiering or firefighting, but these are the people looked up to, whether we feel that’s right or not. Mathewson had an unbelievable season and because he led in virtually everything (besides overall WAR), I don’t have to recap his stats.
Led by Big Six, the Giants moved up from fourth to second, tied with Pittsburgh with a 98-56 record. This was the season of the famous Merkle’s boner, which ended up losing the pennant for New York by one game to Chicago. New York had the best hitting in the league and some of the best pitching, but due to a base running blunder, no league title.
The one-game playoff with the Cubs at the end of the season was tragic, according to SABR, which says, “Matty’s season ended in disappointment, however, when he took a no-decision in the ‘Merkle Game’ and lost to Mordecai Brown, 4-2, in the one-game playoff. By his own admission he had ‘nothing on the ball’ in that contest, and he also felt responsible that four people had lost their lives in falling accidents at the Polo Grounds that day (according to Christy’s second cousin, Harold ‘Alvie’ Reynolds, if Mathewson had only said the word, the Giants would’ve refused to play and those tragedies would’ve been averted).”
23-17, 1.53 ERA, 114 K, .151, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 15 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-George Watt McQuillan was born on May 1, 1885 in Brooklyn, NY. The five-foot-11, 175 pound hurler started out 4-0 with Philadelphia in 1907 before having his best year ever this season. He finished third in WAR (9.2), behind Hall of Famers Honus Wagner (11.5) and Christy Mathewson (11.2); second in WAR for Pitchers (9.4), behind Mathewson (11.1); third in ERA (1.53), trailing Mathewson (1.43) and Mordecai Brown (1.47); second in innings pitched (359 2/3), behind Mathewson (390 2/3); and third in Adjusted ERA+ (157), once again behind Mathewson (168) and Brown (160).
Billy Murray coached the Phillies again, leading them to an 83-71 record that dropped them from third to fourth. Led by McQuillan, Philadelphia had the best ERA (2.10) and ERA+ (114) in the league.
SABR says of his meteoric rise, “George McQuillan was the Doc Gooden of the Deadball Era. In 1908 he enjoyed one of the best rookie seasons in history, going 23-17 for the mediocre Phillies with a sparkling 1.53 ERA in nearly 360 innings of work (in 1985 the young Gooden posted an identical ERA). An unusually fast worker even in an era of briskly paced games, McQuillan pitched with ‘supreme self-confidence’ according to Baseball Magazine, becoming known as the brightest young pitcher in the game. Within three years, however, his career came crashing down in a sordid web of alcoholism, sexual escapades, and financial troubles.” He still has a shot at making one more All-Star team, but his career is an example of someone too good, too fast and the pressures of handling it.
29-9, 1.47 ERA, 123 K, .207, 0 HR, 4 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. 99 percent chance)
Hits per 9 IP-6.167 (2nd Time)
Putouts as P-35
4th Time All-Star-Three Finger Brown pitched his third of six consecutive 20-win seasons, again helping his team to the league championship, his third one. He finished fourth in WAR (8.1); third in WAR for Pitchers (8.2), behind Christy Mathewson (11.1) and George McQuillan (9.4); second in ERA (1.47), behind Mathewson (1.43); seventh in innings pitched (312 1/3); and second in Adjusted ERA+ (160), trailing Mathewson (168).
In the World Series, Brown relieved for two innings in game one, allowing an unearned run and garnering the win. Then, with the Cubs up 2-1, he pitched a four-hit shutout in game four as the Cubs would go on to win the Series.
Wikipedia says, “Brown defeated Mathewson in competition as often as not, most significantly in the final regular season game of the 1908 season. Brown had a career 13–11 edge on Mathewson, with one no-decision in their 25 pitching matchups.
“Brown’s most important single game effort was the pennant-deciding contest between the Cubs and the New York Giants on October 8, 1908, at New York. With Mathewson starting for the Giants, Cubs starter Jack Pfiester got off to a weak start and was quickly relieved by Brown, who held the Giants in check the rest of the way as the Cubs prevailed 4–2, to win the pennant. The Cubs then went on to win their second consecutive World Series championship, their last until 2016, a span of 108 years.” The National League was short of great pitchers at this time, but Mathewson and Brown held their own.
23-14, 2.24 ERA, 118 K, .236, 0 HR, 14 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 10 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-George Leroy “Hooks” Wiltse was born on September 7, 1879 in Hamilton, NY. He started his career with the Giants in 1904 and was a consistent pitcher for years, notching a 57-32 record from 1904-07. This season, he and Christy Mathewson shouldered the load for New York as Wiltse finished sixth in WAR (6.7), fifth in WAR for Pitchers (5.9), and fifth in innings pitched (330).
Wikipedia says, “’Hooks’ earned his nickname because of his exceptional curveball and was one of the earliest pitchers to have a curveball that was regarded as more effective than his fastball. From 1904 to 1914, he pitched for the National League‘s New York Giants. During that time, he combined with teammate Christy Mathewson for 435 wins, making them one of the best lefty-righty duos in history.
“On July 4, 1908, Wiltse pitched a perfect game through 26 batters until he hit Philadelphia Phillies pitcher George McQuillan on a 2–2 count in a scoreless game. This was the only occurrence of a pitcher losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning by hitting a batter until Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer did so on June 20, 2015. Like Wiltse, Scherzer eventually completed a no-hitter, but unlike Wiltse, Scherzer had a 6-0 lead and was able to retire the next batter to end the game. Umpire Cy Rigler later admitted that he should have called the previous pitch strike three, which would have ended the inning. Wiltse pitched on, winning 1–0 in ten innings, with the hit-batsman the only lapse separating him from a perfect game. Wiltse’s ten-inning complete game no-hitter still remains a Major League record.”
17-19, 2.08 ERA, 199 K, .179, 0 HR, 6 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require five more All-Star seasons. 99 percent chance)
Bases on Balls-125
2nd Time All-Star-Rucker continues to be on his way to a Ron’s Hall of Fame career, which as you know, is incredibly prestigious and includes a ceremony in Carter Lake, IA. He finished ninth in WAR (5.7); sixth in WAR for Pitchers (5.8); and third in innings pitched (333 1/3), behind Christy Mathewson (390 2/3) and George McQuillan (359 2/3). Sometimes good seasons are achieved by just putting in the work and that was certainly the case for Rucker.
SABR says, “Rucker’s teammates on the 1905 Augusta team included Eddie Cicotte, Clyde Engle, and a 19-year-old Ty Cobb. The two Georgians roomed together and often went to the park early so Cobb could practice hitting against left-handed pitching. That season Nap became one of the first players to experience his roommate’s fury firsthand. When they arrived home after each game, Cobb would bathe first, then Rucker, but one day Nap was knocked out of the game and left the park early. Cobb arrived home to find Nap already in the bathtub and flew into a rage, attempting to choke the naked Rucker. ‘You don’t understand,’ Cobb seethed, ‘I’ve just got to be first–all the time.’
“[Before the 1907 season], the Brooklyn Superbas drafted Rucker for $500. The 22-year-old rookie quickly established himself as the staff’s ace, more than earning his $1,900 salary by going 15-13 and leading the team in innings (275), strikeouts (131), and ERA (2.06). Rucker was even better in his sophomore season, somehow winning 17 games for a team that lost 101. The highlight came at Washington Park on September 5, 1908, when he pitched a no-hitter, striking out 14 Boston Doves.”
24-7, 2.03 ERA, 133 K, .232, 0 HR, 9 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require five more All-Star seasons. 40 percent chance)
Win-Loss %-.774 (3rd Time)
4th Time All-Star-For the fourth consecutive season, Reulbach made the All-Star team and also won his third straight league crown. Big Ed finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers (4.9), ninth in innings pitched (297 2/3), and 10th in Adjusted ERA+ (116). In the World Series, he started the first game, allowing four runs in six-and-two-thirds innings before being pulled. He also relieved Jack Pfiester in the third game, shutting out Detroit in his one inning in the only loss for the Cubs.
Wikipedia states, “His best year was 1908, when he won 24 games for the National Leagueand World Series champion Cubs, their last Series championship until they won it again in 2016. He pitched two shutouts in one day against the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 26, 1908. No other pitcher has ever accomplished this feat in the major leagues.”
And SABR says, “Reulbach remained one of the NL’s most dominant pitchers through 1909. In 1906 he pitched 12 low-hit games (five hits or fewer), not including the one-hitter he threw against the White Sox in Game Two of that year’s World Series, and started a 17-game personal winning streak that didn’t end until June 29, 1907, when Deacon Phillippe defeated him, 2-1. It was the post-1900 record for consecutive victories until Rube Marquard broke it in 1911-12, and it remains the fourth-longest streak in history.
“Reulbach also set an NL record with 44 consecutive scoreless innings late in the 1908 season and led the league in winning percentage each season from 1906 to 1908, a feat matched only by Lefty Grove.”
16-22, 1.87 ERA, 99 K, .108, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 166 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-Irvin Key “Kaiser” Wilhelm was born on January 26, 1877 in Wooster, OH. He started with Pittsburgh in 1903, winning a league title. It released him and he was picked up as a free agent by the Beaneaters before the 1904 season. He pitched for them for two seasons and then didn’t play in the Majors in 1906 or 1907. This season, easily his best ever, Wilhelm finished fourth in WAR for Pitchers (6.1), seventh in ERA (1.87), fourth in innings pitched (332), and seventh in Adjusted ERA+ (124). His overall WAR would have been higher if not for his atrocious hitting.
Of course, if you look up Wilhelm in 1908, you don’t find much on him, but you do get a lot on the German Kaiser. The website faculty.virginia.edu says “In 1908 William caused great excitement in Germany by giving, after a visit to England, a tactless interview to The Daily Telegraph, telling his interviewer that large sections of the German people were anti-English. He had sent the text beforehand to Bülow, who had probably neglected to read it and who defended his master very lamely in the Reichstag. This led William to play a less prominent role in public affairs, and, feeling that he had been betrayed by Bülow, he replaced him with Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg. Bethmann’s attempts to reach agreement with Britain failed because Britain would not promise neutrality in a war between Germany and France unless Germany would limit its fleet. This the Kaiser and Tirpitz refused to allow. The Moroccan (Agadir) crisis of 1911, in which Germany again tried to intervene in Morocco against French encroachment, might have led to war if Germany (with the encouragement of the Kaiser) had not given way.”
15-25, 2.03 ERA, 145 K, .189, 0 HR, 6 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 42 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Errors Committed as P-8
1st Time All-Star-Arthur Lawrence “Bugs” Raymond was born on February 24, 1882 in Chicago, IL. His Major League career started with Detroit in 1904, before he ended up with St. Louis in 1907. This was easily his best year ever in a very weak year for National League pitchers. Raymond finished seventh in WAR for Pitchers (5.2), 10th in ERA (2.03), and sixth in innings pitched (324 1/3).
For the second straight season, the Cardinals finished last as John McCloskey led them to a 49-105 record. They couldn’t hit or pitch but besides that, they were terrible. After getting five chances to manage, McCloskey would be done after this year, finishing with a career record of 190-417.
SABR says, “New York Giants manager John McGraw considered Bugs Raymond one of the greatest pitchers he ever managed–or tried to manage. ‘What a terrific spitball pitcher he was,’ teammate Rube Marquard later reminisced. ‘Bugs drank a lot, you know, and sometimes it seemed the more he drank the better he pitched. They used to say he didn’t spit on the ball; he blew his breath on it and the ball came up drunk.’ But after only two successful seasons–1908, when he was the ace of the dreadful St. Louis Cardinals, and 1909, when he went 18-12 for the Giants–Raymond drank himself out of the National League in 1911. One year later he was dead at the age of 30.
10-18, 1.78 ERA, 68 K, .085, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 36 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-Andrew James “Andy” Coakley, also known as Jack McAllister in 1902, was born on November 20, 1882 in Providence, RI. He started with the Athletics from 1902-06, before coming to Cincinnati in 1907. This season, he was 8-18 with Cincinnati and 2-0 with Chicago. He finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (4.2), fifth in ERA (1.78), and sixth in Adjusted ERA+ (130). Except for the great Christy Mathewson and a couple of good pitchers on Chicago, there weren’t a lot of pitchers on the National League All-Star team this season who would go on to much in their careers.
Cincinnati, managed by John Ganzel, rose from sixth to fifth this year, finishing 73-81. Its hitting was mediocre, though the Reds’ pitching held its own.
Wikipedia says, “Coakley was born on November 20, 1882 in Providence, Rhode Island. He helped the Athletics win the 1902 and 1905 American League Pennants and the Cubs win the 1908 World Series, and although he didn’t play in the latter, he was the last surviving member of the 1908 team. His only postseason appearance was a complete game 9–0 loss to the New York Giants in the 1905 World Series. Although the Athletics gave up nine runs that day, Coakley was only charged with three earned runs, as the A’s committed five errors behind him.” I’m thinking being the last surviving member of the 1908 Cubs team wasn’t a good thing as it just meant more years of awkward questions when the Cubs failed to win the World Series for so many years.
23-11, 2.07 ERA, 97 K, .165, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Hall of Fames:
7th Time All-Star-Pitchers during this time had the unfortunate burden of being compared to Cy Young, who was still effective even at the age of 41. Yet Young was an aberration. Most of the pitchers were like the last three on the list – Kaiser Wilhelm, Bugs Raymond, and Andy Coakley – pitchers who had occasional good seasons here and there, not dominating two decades like Cyclone. Willis certainly had a good stretch, being mostly outstanding from 1898 through 1909. He wasn’t Cy Young, but nobody was. In the National League at this time, he certainly stood out.
Willis finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (3.7) and eighth in innings pitched (304 2/3). He most likely has one more All-Star team left and he’ll be part of a pennant winner that season.
SABR states, “The famous 1908 National League pennant race came down to the last game of the season for the Pirates. On Sunday October 4, the Pirates faced the Cubs in Chicago’s old West Side Park in front of 30,247 fans, the most to have ever seen a baseball game up to that point and 6,000 more than had ever previously crowded into that park. A win for the Pirates and they would win the pennant; a loss and they would, for all intents and purposes, be eliminated.”
“Pirate manager Fred Clarke selected the well-rested Willis to start against the Cubs’ Three-Finger Brown, another future Hall of Famer. Brown was on his way to an excellent 29-9 record but this would be his third game in six days…Unfortunately for Willis and the Pirates, Brown singled in Tinker with the go ahead and winning run. The Cubs later added two insurance runs including another RBI from Brown and won the contest 5-2.”
.283, 1 HR, 54 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. Slim chance)
Bases on Balls-83
Putouts as C-657
Passed Balls-17 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-One thing about being the best at your position is you have the cache to make decisions and they will be heard. Bresnahan made many contributions to the position of catcher of his years, like face masks and shin guards, and they were adopted. Most likely they wouldn’t have been had they come from a man with less talent. This season was his best season ever as he finished eighth in WAR (5.9); fourth in WAR Position Players (5.9); third in Offensive WAR (5.8), behind Honus Wagner (11.5) and Hans Lobert (6.4); eighth in Defensive WAR (1.3); 10th in batting (.283); third in on-base percentage (.401), trailing Wagner (.415) and Johnny Evers (.402); and seventh in Adjusted OPS+ (138). That’s what happens when you catch 139 of a team’s 154 games.
SABR says, “At the end of the 1908 season, in which Bresnahan caught a career-high 139 games, St. Louis owner Stanley Robison expressed interest in obtaining Roger to serve as player-manager of the Cardinals. McGraw didn’t want to stand in the way of his 29-year-old protege-as long as the Giants benefited in the process. On December 12, 1908, New York traded Bresnahan to St. Louis for the Cardinals’ best pitcher, Bugs Raymond, their best hitter, Red Murray, and catcher Admiral Schlei, whom the Cards had obtained from Cincinnati (at the Giants’ insistence) for promising pitchers Art Fromme and Ed Karger.” That must have been a shocking trade for its time. Once Bresnahan started with the Cardinals, his amount of games played went down dramatically, which is why his admittance to the Ron’s Hall of Fame is no sure thing.
.276, 4 HR, 59 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require eight more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Range Factor/Game as C-6.37
5th Time All-Star-So if you’re a young boy growing up in the 1900s, would you rather be Roger Bresnahan or Johnny Kling? Bresnahan was better offensively and the best catcher in the league yearly, but Kling was no slouch at the bat and now won his third straight pennant. This season, he finished seventh in Defensive WAR (1.3) and ninth in slugging (.382). In the World Series, Kling hit .250 (four-for-16) with a double. It was his best performance ever in the Fall Classic.
Wikipedia explains why he missed the 1909 season: “Although he once again told Cubs’ management he was considering giving up baseball for pool before the 1907 season, he once again returned to play for the Cubs, who won the World Series in both 1907 & 1908. Then, in early 1909, after several solid years with Chicago, he engaged in another dispute with the management over salary and this time decided to spend some time away from the club. During that time he continued to compete in pool, winning the world billiards championship, and played semi-pro baseball with a Kansas City team. He sat out the entire 1909 season, and in early October competed against Charles ‘Cowboy’ Weston and won the world’s championship of pool. When he decided to come back to baseball in early 1910 and asked to be reinstated, a debate ensued as to whether he should be permitted to return since he had not honored his contract during the 1909 season. National League President Thomas J. Lynch wanted him fined or possibly traded; in the end, he was fined $700 and allowed to return.”
.272, 2 HR, 55 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require one more All-Star season. Slim chance)
6th Time All-Star-How important of part should fame play in the Hall of Fame? If we’re judging by fame, Chance, as a player, certainly deserves to be in Cooperstown. (No doubt the Peerless Leader is definitely in as a manager.) He was part of the most famous double-play combo in baseball history and he was the best first baseman for his time. Chance’s opportunity to be in Ron’s Hall of Fame will be based on whether he is an All-Star first baseman in 1909 or 1910, seasons in which he played less than 100 games. Chance made the list this year on a fluke, based wholly on him being the league’s best first sacker in a league bereft of talent at that position.
Chance did have an outstanding World Series in 1908. Not only did he lead the first place Cubs to third straight National League pennant, he hit .421 (eight-for-19) in the Series with five stolen bases. As you well know, the Cubs wouldn’t win a Fall Classic again until 2016.
Wikipedia wraps up his life, saying, “Chance died at age 48. Some sources simply said that he died after a ‘long illness’, while others attributed it to heart disease brought on by severe spasms of bronchial asthma. He was survived by his wife, mother, sister, and three brothers. Chance was interred in the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles. His death was greatly mourned, and his funeral received widespread publicity in Los Angeles and Chicago. Among his pallbearers were [Los Angeles Angels owner John. F] Powers and race car driver Barney Oldfield. His estate was valued at $170,000 ($2.35 million today).”
.300, 0 HR, 37 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require three more All-Star seasons. 99 percent chance)
4th Time All-Star-One of the smallest men to ever play baseball made his third straight All-Star team, finishing 10th in WAR (5.6); fifth in WAR Position Players (5.6); sixth in Offensive WAR (4.9); fifth in batting (.300); second in on-base percentage (.402), behind Honus Wagner (.415); fifth in steals (36); and
fourth in Adjusted OPS+ (144). In the Cubs’ World Series victory over the Tigers, Evers hit .350 (seven-for-20 with a double and two stolen bases.
Wikipedia breaks down Evers’ role in Merkle’s boner, stating, “During the 1908 pennant race, Evers alerted the umpires to Fred Merkle‘s baserunning error in a game against the New York Giants, which became known as ‘Merkle’s Boner’. Al Bridwell hit what appeared to be the game-winning single for the Giants, while Merkle, the baserunner on first base, went to the clubhouse without touching second base. Evers called for the ball, and the umpire ruled Merkle out. NL president Harry Pulliam ruled the game a tie, with a makeup to be played. The Cubs won the makeup game, thereby winning the pennant. The Cubs then won the 1908 World Series over Detroit, four games to one.”
Evers’ Hall of Fame page says of him, “At 5-foot-9 and 125 pounds, Johnny Evers wasn’t built to hit home runs.
“Instead, the acrobatic Evers used his impressive knowledge of the rules and his scrappy, determined style of play to lead his teams to five National League pennants and three World Series titles in the first years of the 20th Century.”
.293, 4 HR, 63 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 13 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-John Bernard “Hans” or “Honus” Lobert was born on October 18, 1881 in Wilmington, DE. He’s one of the rare players from his time who was still alive when I was. He died in 1968, I was born a few years earlier. Lobert started playing five games for Pittsburgh in 1903, then didn’t play in the Majors until 1905, when he played 14 games for the Cubs. Then before the next season, he was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds from the Chicago Cubs. He started playing regularly in 1907 at shortstop, but moved to third base this season and had his best season ever, finishing seventh in WAR Position Players (5.1); second in Offensive WAR (6.4), behind only Honus Wagner (11.5); sixth in batting (.293); fourth in slugging (.407); third in steals (47), trailing Wagner and St. Louis centerfielder Red Murray (48); and fifth in Adjusted OPS+ (143).
Wikipedia says, “During his career, Lobert was known as one of the fastest players in the game. He once raced a racehorse around the bases before a game, an event that he recounted in The Glory of Their Times. On September 27, 1908, Lobert became the first Reds player to steal 2nd base, 3rd base, and home plate in the same inning. At 26 years old, he was the top player almost every offensive category for the Reds and played all 155 games; he batted an average of .293, 570 at-bats, had 71 runs, 167 hits, 17 doubles, 18 triples, 4 home runs, had an RBI of 63, and 47 stolen bases, his new career high.”
.259, 5 HR, 41 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require three more All-Star seasons. 33 percent chance)
4th Time All-Star-Leach moved back from the outfield to third base and made the All-Star team for the second straight season. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.8), eighth in Offensive WAR (4.8), and 10th in slugging (.381). The little man had pop and also had enough speed to garner up extra bases.
In Christy Mathewson’s book, Pitching in a Pinch: Or, Baseball From the Inside, he wrote about how often clubs in his day used the double steal with runners on first and third. As the catcher drew back his arm to throw to second, the man on third would break for home. Mathewson wrote, “’Tommy’ Leach of the Pittsburg (sic) club was probably caught oftener on this bluff throw than any other man in baseball. For some time he had been making the play against clubs which used the short throw, and starting as the catcher drew back his arm, as that was the only chance he had to score. One day in the season of 1908, when the Pirates were playing against the Giants, Clarke was on first and Leach on third, with one run required to balance the game. McGraw knew the double steal was to be expected, as two were out. Bresnahan was aware of this, too.
“McGinnity was pitching, and with his motion, Clarke got his start. Bresnahan drew back his arm as if to throw to second, and true to form, Leach was on his way to the plate. But Bresnahan had not let go of the ball, and he shot it to Devlin, Leach being run down in the base line and the Pittsburg club eventually losing the game.”
.253, 2 HR, 45 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. 25 percent chance)
Def. Games as 3B-157
Putouts as 3B-203
Assists as 3B-331 (3rd Time)
Fielding % as 3B-.947
5th Time All-Star-I wonder why there are so few great players from the hot corner. I would guess if someone can field at shortstop, he doesn’t have to do much hitting to provide value, while at third, the player needs to be able to hit and field in order to contribute to the team. Devlin wouldn’t make the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and won’t make mine either, but it’s no mean feat making five straight All-Star teams at third base. This season, Devlin finished fifth in Defensive WAR (1.4). He didn’t contribute a lot offensively, but played every game and consistently gave the Giants their money’s worth.
SABR says, “The 1907 season, with the Cubs winning the pennant again and the Giants dropping into fourth place, was a prelude to 1908, the season of infamy to all Giant fans. Devlin fell off at the plate, but he showed off his glove work. On May 23, he tied a record by handling 13 chances at third; unfortunately, he made two errors, and the Cardinals won, 6-2. The errors and the loss were bad enough, given the outcome of the season, but Devlin made one off the field, too. With the Giants seemingly in first place for good, Harry Niemeyer of the New York Globe reported from Pittsburgh on August 26 that the players were spending money before getting it. Playing along, Devlin promised his wife a Persian lamb coat.” That’s how that story ends on SABR, leaving us with questions like, “Did Mrs. Devlin ever get the coat?”
.354, 10 HR, 109 RBI
Hall of Fames:
1908 NL Batting Title (6th Time)
Wins Above Replacement-11.5 (4th Time)
WAR Position Players-11.5 (8th Time)
Offensive WAR-11.5 (8th Time)
Batting Average-.354 (6th Time)
On-Base %-.415 (3rd Time)
Slugging %-.542 (5th Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.957 (6th Time)
Total Bases-308 (5th Time)
Doubles-39 (6th Time)
Triples-19 (3rd Time)
Runs Batted In-109 (3rd Time)
Stolen Bases-53 (5th Time)
Adjusted OPS+-205 (5th Time)
Runs Created-126 (6th Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-66 (5th Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-7.8 (5th Time)
Extra Base Hits-68 (6th Time)
Times on Base-260 (2nd Time)
Offensive Win %-.880 (5th Time)
Putouts as SS-354
10th Time All-Star-While perusing Wagner’s stats, it’s difficult to tell one season from another. Most of them are spectacular, not to mention far above the stats of mortal men, meaning, of course, pretty much every other player who played during this time. Yet of all of his great seasons, 1908 might have been the best. He led in just about every significant stat which means I don’t have to spend my time recapping this year. If I had to guess, the great shortstop has five or six All-Star teams left.
Of this incredible season, Wikipedia says, “Shortly before the 1908 season, Wagner retired. Starting to panic, owner Barney Dreyfuss offered him $10,000, making him the highest paid Pirate for many years. He returned to the Pirates early in the 1908 season, and finished two home runs short of the league’s Triple Crown, leading the league in hitting (for the sixth time)‚ hits‚ total bases‚ doubles‚ triples‚ RBI‚ and stolen bases. Wagner took over the batting lead from the New York Giants‘ flamboyant outfielder Mike Donlinduring a July 25 game against the Giants and their star pitcher Christy Mathewson. Wagner was 5-for-5 in the game; after each hit, he reportedly held up another finger to Donlin, who went hitless, and who had just beaten runner-up Wagner by a wide margin in a ‘most popular player’ poll.
“Bill James cites Wagner’s 1908 season as the greatest single season for any player in baseball history. He notes that the league ERA of 2.35 was the lowest of the dead ball era and about half of the ERAs of modern baseball. Since Wagner hit .354 with 109 RBI in an environment when half as many runs were scored as today, he asks, ‘if you had a Gold Glove shortstop, like Wagner, who drove in 218 runs, what would he be worth?’”
.266, 6 HR, 68 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No. (Would require three more All-Star seasons. No doubt)
Defensive WAR-4.3 (3rd Time)
Def. Games as SS-157
Assists as SS-570 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as SS-.958 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-With the year Honus Wagner had in 1908, no one was going to talk about a .266 hitter like Tinker. Yet he had his best season ever, finishing fifth in WAR (7.9); second in WAR Position Players (7.9), behind Wagner (11.5); fifth in Offensive WAR (4.9); first in Defensive WAR (4.3); eighth in slugging (.391); and sixth in steals (30). He also did something Wagner didn’t, make the World Series. In it, Tinker hit .263 (five-for-19) with a home run. With no score in the second game, Tinker unloaded a two-run dinger to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. It was the first World Series home run since the initial Fall Classic in 1903.
SABR says, “It was during the 1908 season that Joe Tinker became a household name. Playing in all 157 games, Tinker held the Cubs together during a rash of injuries that forced several of his teammates to miss significant portions of the season. He batted .266 and led the Cubs in hits (146), triples (14), home runs (6), RBIs (68), and slugging percentage (.391), and his outstanding defensive play drew frequent mention in the newspapers. Joe also had key hits in the two biggest games of 1908. On September 23, in the so-called ‘Merkle Game,’ he hit a home run off Christy Mathewson for the only Cubs run in a game that was declared a 1-1 tie. In the one game play-off against the Giants on October 8–arguably the most famous game of the Deadball Era–the Cubs defeated Mathewson, 4-2, with Tinker’s triple the key hit in a four-run third inning. The great Giants pitcher was at his best that season, establishing a career high with 37 wins, but Tinker was his personal nemesis. The Cub shortstop hit over.350 against Matty over his career, but he hit over .400 against him in 1908.”
SS-Bill Dahlen, Boston Doves, 38 Years Old
.239, 3 HR, 48 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Double Plays Turned as SS-58 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-6.09 (4th Time)
Range Factor/Game as SS-5.86 (4th Time)
10th Time All-Star-According to WAR, Dahlen is one of the greatest players of all time. Yet before the 1908 season, he was traded by the New York Giants with Frank Bowerman, George Browne, Cecil Ferguson and Dan McGann to the Boston Doves for Al Bridwell, Tom Needham and Fred Tenney. This made Boston his fourth team in his career and this would be his last full season. This will be his last All-Star team and as of Feb. 21, 2018, he still hasn’t made the Hall of Fame, maybe the Hall’s most egregious exclusion, not including the steroids gang.
This season, Dahlen finished sixth in WAR Position Players (5.2) and second in Defensive WAR (3.6), behind only Joe Tinker (4.3). Not bad for a 38-year-old. As for his team, the Doves, Joe Kelley managed the team into a sixth place finish, up one position from 1907. They finished 63-91 thanks to the worst pitching in the league.
SABR states, “SABR’s 19th Century Committee selected Dahlen as its “Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend” for 2012. The Society’s article cited his skills as both a great defensive shortstop and an offensive shortstop. Another article, from SportingNews.com in 2015, pointed to Dahlen’s strong ranking on a newer statistic: Wins Above Replacement (WAR), again in terms of both offense and defense. Behavioral issues, if they are influencing Dahlen’s selection, should not necessarily overshadow results.
“Bill Dahlen died in Brooklyn on December 5, 1950 after a long illness. His daughter Corinne survived him. His final resting place is a currently unmarked grave in Brooklyn’s Cemetery of the Evergreens.”