I’m redoing this and all of my other pages, completely changing the format. Instead of trying to write about all of the players every year, including years in which they barely played, I’ll be picking All-Star teams for every season. It will be a 25-man All-Star team with 10 pitchers, two catchers, and at least one first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, and shortstop, along with at least three outfielders. The only rules will be there will have to be one player from each team in the league that season. So if a league happens to have a lot of good players at one particular position, so be it. Here’s 1871:
P-George Zettlein, CHI
P-Rynie Wolters, NYU
P-Dick McBride, ATH
P-Al Spalding, BOS
P-Asa Brainard, OLY
P-Al Pratt, CLE
P-Cherokee Fisher, ROK
P-Bobby Mathews, KEK
P-Bill Stearns, OLY
P-Ed Pinkham, CHI
C-Cal McVey, BOS
C-Doug Allison, OLY
1B-Joe Start, NYU
2B-Ross Barnes, BOS
2B-Jimmy Wood, CHI
2B-Al Reach, ATH
3B-Levi Meyerle, ATH
3B-Fred Waterman, OLY
3B-Ezra Sutton, CLE
SS-Davy Force, OLY
SS-George Wright, BOS
LF-Steve King, TRO
CF-Dave Eggler, NYU
CF-George Hall, OLY
RF-Lip Pike, TRO
18-9, 2.73 ERA, 22 K, .250, 0 HR, 18 RBI
1871 NA Pitching Title (Led league in ERA)
Wins Above Replacement-4.5
WAR for Pitchers-4.9
Earned Run Average-2.73
Walks & Hits per IP-1.342
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.935
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-0.880
Adj. Pitching Runs-33
Adj. Pitching Wins-2.2
1st Time All-Star-George “Charmer” Zettlein was born on July 12, 1844 in Williamsburg, NY. In this first season of the National Association, he was arguably the league’s best pitcher and best player. Back in this era of baseball, if you were the best pitcher, you were probably the best player, because you pitched game-after-game, inning-after-inning. Zettlein pitched 240 2/3 of the White Stockings’ 251 innings, with the other 10 1/3 pitched by fellow All-Star Ed Pinkham.
Would we have recognized baseball in 1871? Like all of the pitchers, Zettlein threw underhanded and had to throw it where the batter specified. The catcher stood back from the batter and caught the pitch on a bounce. The fair-foul rule was in place, meaning a hit which started out fair would always be fair, even if it rolled foul. Oh, and the fielders, including catchers, wore no gloves.
Yet the ball was the same, the bat was generally the same, and there were four bases and three outs. There are still leagues which play by ye olde rules and it still looks like baseball. They do use softer baseballs so to avoid injuries to gloveless hands.
Led by Zettlein, the White Stockings finished second in the NA. Some of you history-savvy readers might put together 1871 and Chicago and realize there was a fire in the Windy City that year. Because of that, Chicago’s stadium burnt down and Chicago didn’t have another professional team for a few seasons. By the way, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lantern is a myth. I tend to blame tragedies like this on cats.
Every year in the history of baseball, I am going to pick one person to enter the ONEHOF, the One a Year Hall of Fame. The rules are it has to be one of the best players not already in the ONEHOF. They can still be playing, though that is not necessary. This year it is Zettlein, who is not in the real Hall of Fame, but was baseball’s first great pitcher.
16-16, 3.43 ERA, 22 K, .370, 0 HR, 44 RBI
Hits per 9 IP-10.972
Runs Batted In-44
Strikeouts (as batter)-8
Def. Games as P-32
1st Time All-Star-Reinder Albertus Wolters was born on March 17, 1842 in Schantz, Netherlands, the first great Dutch player. He was the Babe Ruth of 1871, pitching well (and often) and also having a great year with the bat. What you read up there is true, as a pitcher, he led the league with 44 RBI and eight strikeouts (or what Jay Bruce usually has in a weekend). It was a different game.
The New York Mutuals finished fifth out of ninth, with a 16-17 record, powered by the Dutchman’s arm. He pitched 283 of the team’s 293 innings and started 32 of their 33 games. Earned run average is a pretty good gauge of the effectiveness of pitchers, but in these days, backed by fielders with no gloves, ERA didn’t tell the whole story. For instance, Wolters allowed 283 runs, but only 108 of them were earned. That was the story with all of the teams at this time.
Back to Wolters’ bat, he had a slash line of .370/.412/543 with an OPS+ of 182. He was easily the best hitting pitcher in the league, with 1.3 of his overall 4.3 WAR coming from the bat. That 4.3 was second in the league behind Zettlein’s 4.5. He also was fourth in WAR for Pitchers (3.0) and sixth in WAR Position Players (1.3).
What happens to pitchers as they age? When they’re playing Little League, pitchers are usually the best athletes, the best pitcher and hitter, but it eventually goes away. Of course, many leagues use designated hitters starting with high school. That might have something to do with it.
18-5, 4.58 ERA, 15 K, .235, 0 HR, 17 RBI
1st Time All-Star-John Dickson McBride was born on June 14, 1847 in Philadelphia, PA. He was the LaMarr Hoyt of 1871, winning a large percentage of games despite a mediocre ERA. McBride was third in WAR (3.7) and second in WAR for pitchers (4.0). He pitched 222 of the Athletics 249 innings, being put in game after game by the Athletics’ manager…..Dick McBride.
Philadelphia won the first National Association championship, finishing 21-7. It would be the only NA title won by any other team besides the Boston Red Stockings. He had great run support on the mound as the Athletics averaged 13.4 runs scored per game.
According to Baseball Reference, “Dick McBride was a star pitcher long before the National Association was formed. As early as 1864 he was such a star that he was allowed time off from service in the Civil War to pitch in an important series. A Philadelphia star, he had been needed in the army when Philadelphia was attacked by the Confederacy.”
In order to win the championship, Philadelphia played a title game against the Chicago White Stockings. From SABR: “’The whip pennant belongs to the Quaker City,’ the Philadelphia Press crowed, and ‘all festive Philadelphians will congratulate themselves.’ As expected, three days later the National Association’s Championship committee ruled favorably about some disputed games and ended with a toast to Athletic president James N. Kerns (‘To the president of the championship club’), who in turned raised his glass to the team’s captain and proposed ‘the health of Jonathan Dickson McBride.’ After half a decade of frustration, Dick McBride and the Athletics were finally, definitively champions.”
19-10, 3.36 ERA, 23 K, .271, 1 HR, 31 RBI
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.070
Fielding Independent Pitching-3.95
Errors Committed as P-17
1st Time All-Star-Albert Goodwill Spalding was born on September 2, 1850 in Byron, IL. He is going to make a lot of All-Star teams in his future and, of course, equip many all-stars with Spalding Sporting Goods.
He was fourth in WAR (3.3), and third in WAR for pitchers (3.4). This would be his worst season in the National Association and the only year Boston would not win the championship.
Boston was coached by Hall of Famer Harry Wright, who would have great success in the NA and the National League, which started in 1876. He probably would have won five straight crowns if his brother, George, wasn’t injured for a good chunk of this season.
According to Wikipedia, “Spalding began his career around age 17 before professional ball existed. He was lucky enough to live in Rockford, IL, a hotbed of early baseball, and joined the Rockford Forest Citys, where he made a name for himself. He especially earned attention when he beat the famous Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1870.
“He became utterly dominant in the first professional league, the National Association, where he led the league in wins during all five years of its existence. “
In this era of multiple errors, it was tough to toss a shutout, but Spalding did just that against the Fort Wayne Kekiongas on June 21, winning the game 21-0. He beat another great NA pitcher, Bobby Mathews.
12-15, 4.50 ERA, 13 K, .224, 0 HR, 21 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Asahel “Count” Brainard was born in 1841 in Albany, NY. Already 30 by the time the National Association started, his best years were behind him, but he was still an effective pitcher for the Olympics, finishing seventh in WAR (1.9) and sixth in WAR for pitchers (2.1). The Olympics themselves finished 15-15, led by manager “Swaggy P” Nick Young.
Brainard pitched 264 of the Olympics’ 282 innings, with the rest pitched by fellow All-Star Bill Stearns. He completed all 30 games he started as was the nature of the game at this time. Nowadays, we see comets more than we see complete games.
Count pitched for the great Cincinnati Red Stockings team in 1869 as their main pitcher. That team never made it to the National Association, dropping baseball in 1870, but many of its players were dispersed throughout the NA. It is rumored that the reason we see the word “ace” as meaning “number one” is from Brainard’s first name. He was that good in his day.
From Baseball Reference: “Brainard had played cricket for the American Cricket Club in 1861 and 1862, and played baseball as early as 1861 and 1862 with the Brooklyn Excelsiors and Brooklyn Atlantics. He pitched on the day that teammate Jim Creighton hit a home run and in doing so injured himself in a way that caused his death four days later. Creighton had been with Brainard as a teammate on both baseball clubs and on the cricket club.” How did Creighton die hitting a home run?
10-17, 3.77 ERA, 34 K, .262, 0 HR, 20 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-1.362
Home Runs Allowed-9
Putouts as P-22
1st Time All-Star-“Uncle Al” Albert George Pratt was born on November 19, 1847 in Pittsburgh, PA. He was the Nolan Ryan of this year, throwing more wild pitches than strikeouts. Despite that, he was sixth in WAR (1.9) and seventh in WAR for pitchers (1.9). He was a good hitter, with eight triples and 14 extra base hits.
Incredibly in a league which hit only 47 home runs, Pratt allowed nine of them. National Association Grounds and Lincoln Park Grounds combined to be a big hitters’ park, but it was still a high amount. He is most famous for losing the first National Association game on May 4, 1871. From David Pietrusza quoting Al Pratt: “’Sure, I remember that game—,’ boasted Pratt decades later, ‘look at that score and see if my catcher, Jim White, didn’t make an error that let in the first run. Jimmy Foran opened the inning with a three-bagger and White had a passed ball on the next hitter and gave them a run.’” The White he referred to was future Hall of Famer Deacon White.
From The Baseball Page: “David Pietrusza’s website has a page on Al Pratt, saying that he started pitching in 1867, and began managing in 1868. After the majors he went back to non-league games, and also was a National League umpire in 1879-80 and later an American Association umpire. He ran a bar and became manager of Pittsburgh’s entry in the Association. He was an organizer of the Union Association, and a part owner of the National League Pittsburgh club in 1890 during the Players League revolt.”
4-16, 4.35 ERA, 15 K, .228, 1 HR, 22 RBI
Putouts as P-22
Assists as P-54
Range Factor/9Inn as P-3.21
Range Factor/Game as P-3.17
Fielding % as P-.927
1st Time All-Star-William Charles “Cherokee” Fisher was born in November, 1844 in Philadelphia, PA, a city which was a hotbed of good baseball players in this era. He was the Jim Kaat of 1871, flashing a good glove. He finished eighth in WAR (1.8) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (5.5). His record doesn’t indicate how well he pitched for the last place Forest Cities.
Yes, if you’re keeping track, there are two teams named Forest Cities in this inaugural National Association season. It’s like the old Canadian Football League having two teams named Rough Riders despite having only eight teams.
Fisher’s 4.35 ERA looks high, but his ERA+ was 97, so much of that had to do with this high-scoring league. Teams averaged 10.47 runs per game in 1871, some from hitting, many because fielders were gloveless. The league averaged over seven errors a game per team. It would be this way for many years. (Wait until you read about Levi Meyerle!)
According to Wikipedia, Fisher drank like a, well, fish. It was a main reason for him bouncing around from team-to-team and probably shortened a good career.
This would be the only season for Rockford, which finished a terrible 4-21. If they had one claim to fame, it would be that Cap Anson started his long, incredible, controversial career right here. He didn’t make the All-Star team this season, but would for many years to come. He did hit .325 in his first season. However, there were a lot of good third basemen in this league.
6-11, 5.17 ERA, 17 K, .270, 0 HR, 10 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Robert T. Mathews was born on November 21, 1851 in Baltimore, MD. He pitched every inning for the Fort Wayne Kekiongas. He finished eighth in WAR for pitchers (1.8). He was only 19 at this time and would go on to have many outstanding seasons, finishing his career with a 297-248 record.
However, he would not make the Hall of Fame or, at least, hasn’t yet. That’s because the National Association and the American Association are not thought of as top-level professional leagues and those are the places he had his most success. It is true that in his five National League years he was under .500, going 60-75 with an ERA+ of 86. For me, he’s probably on the borderline, but as you’ll see, he racked up some great stats in this newly formed, first true Major League, along with throwing the first shutout, a 2-0 victory against Al Pratt and the Cleveland Forest Cities.
Also, if Candy Cummings can be in the Hall of Fame because he supposedly invented the curve ball, Mathews could be in there for his innovations. According to Wikipedia, he invented the spitball and threw the first legal pitch which broke away from the batter. He did all this despite being a diminutive 5’5”.
In these days, there seemed two types of ballplayers, the drunkards and gamblers on one side, the clean-cut players on the other. Mathews was the former, drinking and being caught up in some gambling scandals. He died in horrible shape, from syphilis, at the age of 46.
2-0, 2.50 ERA, 0 K, .000, 0 HR, 1 RBI
1st Time All-Star-William E. Stearns was born on March 20, 1853 in Washington, DC. Because my All-Star teams have 10 pitchers every year, Stearns was able to make the team despite playing just two games. He was ninth in WAR for pitchers with 0.7, so they were two good games. He was the backup pitcher to Asa Brainard.
Stearns would spend his whole career in the National Association, never pitching after 1875 when the league disbanded. And in four of those five years, he never left his hometown of Washington, D.C., pitching for the Washington Olympics (1871), Washington Nationals (1872), Washington Blue Legs (1873), and the Washington Nationals again (1875).
From a website called Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice: “William E. ‘Bill’ Stearns was born on March 20, 1853 in Washington, DC. Despite being only 12 years old at the end of the American Civil War, he served in that conflict in some capacity. Thousands of boys and girls participated in the Civil War as drummers, messengers, hospital orderlies, and often as fully fledged soldiers. They carried canteens, bandages, and stretchers, and assisted surgeons and nurses. Exactly what Stearns role was I do not know, but as a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the American Civil War), he certainly was involved.” Hey, next time your 12-year-old tells you he has it rough….
.263, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 1-0, 3.48 ERA, 0 K
Base on Balls-18
Range Factor/9Inn as 3B-5.45
Range Factor/Game as 3B-4.78
1st Time All-Star-Edwin B. Pinkham was born in August, 1846 in Brooklyn, NY. This would be the only year he played and is on the All-Star team as a pitcher, though he only pitched one game and played most of his time at third base. He actually would have been very close to making the team as a third baseman. He finished second in the league in Defensive WAR (0.5) and tenth in WAR for pitchers (0.3). His overall WAR was 1.4, which was just 0.4 from making the top 10.
Why didn’t Pinkham continue playing after this one, pretty good season? It’s tough to say. There’s only this from Baseball Reference: “Ed Pinkham, who seemed to have success as both a pitcher and a hitter, played multiple positions for the 1871 Chicago White Stockings and was only 22 in 1871. The great fire of 1871 demolished the Union Base Ball Grounds (and most of the rest of Chicago), causing the team to play the last month of the season on the road. The team could not continue financially without a stadium, and folded before the 1872 season. But Pinkham wasn’t waiting. He didn’t accompany the team on its final road trip (leaving them a player short), and didn’t catch on anywhere else. He had 1 save, placing second in the league that year.”
So once the Great Chicago Fire burned down their White Stockings’ home stadium, Pinkham left the team. He missed their championship game against Philadelphia (see Dick McBride).
.431, 0 HR, 43 RBI
Def. Games as C-29
1st Time All-Star-Calvin Alexander McVey was born on August 30, 1849 in Montrose, IA. He was a key cog in Boston’s four NA championships from 1872-1875, playing on three of those four teams. McVey finished third in WAR Position Players (1.7) and third in Offensive WAR (1.7). It doesn’t seem he added much defensively, but if you’re a catcher playing with no glove, we’re cutting you some slack, Jack! (Barbara Billingsley, we salute you!)
From the Cincinnati Daily Times, according to Wikipedia: “”He is powerfully built, with broad shoulders and barrel chest…handsome though shy, and is a favorite of the ladies. He is very conscientious and a hard worker…a good fielder, but his strength is with the ash in his hands…he is a long…good thrower…and he doesn’t drink.” I mentioned in the Bobby Mathews write-up that the league seemed to be divided between the debauched and the clean-cut and Boston had many of the latter. I don’t know if this was responsible for its success, but it certainly added a consistency not seen on other teams.
McVey’s .431 average was second to Levi Meyerle’s .492. (We’ll look at Meyerle’s awesome season later.) McVey was mainly a singles hitter, but did have enough pop to finish with a .556 slugging average. While he would never hit above .400 again (and honestly, it’s only 29 games), he would hit above .300 eight of his nine seasons, hitting only .297 in his final season in 1879. Loser.
.331, 2 HR, 27 RBI
Double Plays Turned as C-4
1st Time All-Star-Douglas L. Allison was born on July 12, 1846 in Philadelphia, PA. Despite only finishing fourth in the National Association, Washington led the league in All-Stars with six. That’s because they picked up five players from the great 1869-1870 Cincinnati Red Stockings, including Allison. He would have a 10-year career but never have a season quite as good as his initial one, as he finished with a slash line of .331/.331/.481 and an OPS+ of 133.
Allison was an innovator. According to Wikipedia, “Allison was one of the first catchers to stand directly behind the batter, as a means to prevent baserunners from stealing bases. He was considered a specialist, at a time when some of the better batsmen who manned the position normally rested, or substituted at other fielding positions. Allison was the earliest known player to have used a glove, when he donned buckskin mittens to protect his hands in 1870.”
The catcher fought in the Civil War and there is a lengthy account of it at Baseball Reference. However, there is some doubt to its validity, but it’s certainly worth a look. One thing that does seem to be true, Allison was somewhat deaf, which apparently led to many base running errors.
Michael E. Ruane at the Washington Post website wrote a lengthy article on Allison on October 5, 2014. It’s very good in bringing baseball in this era to life. I borrow just a snippet: “In a sport more rugged than today’s, he was among the early catchers to stand unprotected right behind the batter, braving foul balls, swung bats and the increasing velocity of pitches.” Read the whole thing. (Instapundit, we salute you!)
.360, 1 HR, 34 RBI
Def. Games as 1B-33
1st Time All-Star-Joseph “Old Reliable or Rocks” Start was born on October 14, 1842 in New York, NY. He would have a long, consistent career and, unlike many in his day, did not jump around too much from team to team. Start was 10th in WAR Position Players (1.2) and sixth in Offensive WAR (1.2). He finished with a slash line of .360/.372/422. Who knows how huge his career could have been had the NA not formed when he was 28 years old. He would play until he was 43. Counting the time he played baseball before the start of the National Association, he played at least 28 years.
From 19c Baseball: “Against the undefeated Cincinnati Red Stockings on June 14, 1870, at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn, Start hit a long fly ball in the bottom of the eleventh inning, with the Atlantics trailing 7–5. As Cincinnati’s right fielder, Cal McVey, caught up with the ball and attempted to corral the ball on the first bound, he was interfered with by an Atlantic supporter. Start ended up on third and Atlantic’s third baseman, Charlie Smith, who had singled and moved to third on a wild pitch, scored to cut the Red Stockings lead to 7-6. The Atlantics would score two more runs to end the Red Stockings game winning streak.” The streak had been up to 81 games.
Baseball, like life, is so often based on circumstances beyond a person’s control. Ted Williams lost many years to war. Many black players never got the chance to play in the Major Leagues or had their time limited. It can sometimes make the difference between famous and not famous. Start would almost have certainly been in the Hall of Fame if we counted his time playing before 1871.
.401, 0 HR, 34 RBI
WAR Position Players-2.1
Times On Base-76
Range Factor/Game as SS-7.20
1st Time All-Star-Charles Roscoe Barnes was born on May 8, 1850 in Mount Morris, NY and just three days short of his 21st birthday debuted in the National Association. He would inarguably be the best position player in the league’s five-year history, at least according to fWAR. He was fifth in the league in 1871 in WAR (2.1), first in WAR Position Players (2.1), second in Offensive WAR (1.7), and second in Defensive WAR (0.5). He was a great all-around player and had his career lasted longer, he would probably be in the Hall of Fame. I think there’s a good argument for him being there anyway.
Barnes would have spent fulltime at second base, his normal position, if it weren’t for the injury of the Red Stockings’ shortstop, George Wright. Even playing in this unfamiliar position, he still dazzled with the glove…um, hand.
The tricky Barnes was the acknowledged master of the fair-foul hit. At this time, if a ball started in fair territory and then went foul, it was still a legal hit. According to Baseball Reference, “He specialized in ‘fair-foul hits’, in which he chopped down on balls with a proper amount of ‘English’ on it to make it land fair and bound foul, remaining in play under the rules of the time.”
Barnes would be one of the main reasons Boston would win championships for four straight years from 1872-1875. That all-star team which would dominate the National Association and eventually lead to its downfall and the start of the National League in 1876.
.378, 1 HR, 29 RBI
Def. Games as 2B-28
Putouts as 2B-105
Assists as 2B-83
Double Plays Turned as 2B-11
Range Factor/9Inn as 2B-6.74
Range Factor/Game as 2B-6.71
Fielding % as 2B-.887
1st Time All-Star-James Leon Wood was born on December 1, 1843 (hey, he has my same birthday!) in Brooklyn, NY. He finished ninth in the league in WAR (1.8), second in WAR Position Players (1.8), fourth in Offensive WAR (1.5), and seventh in Defensive WAR (0.3). I thought the Defensive WAR would be higher, but WAR, along with being hell, is also a mystery.
Wood is another one of those players whose best days were behind him, starting in the National Association at 27 years old. He would only play three seasons and end up on four different teams. However it wasn’t his age which stopped him from playing. From Wikipedia: “In 1874, he tried to lance an abscess on his leg with a pocketknife. This caused an infection which led to an eventual amputation of the leg.”
Along with playing at second, Wood also managed the second place White Stockings. He would manage many different teams in the NA, many of which would have some kind of disaster or fold after one season. In 1871, Chicago lost its stadium to the Great Chicago Fire, in 1872, Wood managed the Troy Haymakers, which would fold during the season. He also managed the Brooklyn Eckfords, which would also disband after the season. He then moved to the Philadelphia Whites as a manager and player in 1873. They would actually last a little while, but Wood wouldn’t. He was let go as manager after the season and then, well, see above about his accident before 1874.
.353, 0 HR, 34 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Alfred James Reach was born on May 25. 1840 in London, London, United Kingdom. He helped lead the Athletics to the first National Association championship, slashing at .353/.377/.496 with an OPS+ of 146. He and Levi Meyerle, Philadelphia’s third baseman, were the top hitters on this team which played its home games in pitchers’ park, Jefferson Street Grounds. (Remember that, it’s going to make Meyerle’s hitting stats even more crazy!)
Reach, like Al Spalding above, ended up more famous for his off-the-field activities. According to Wikipedia, he formed a sporting goods store that earned millions which he eventually sold to Spalding. He would also help found the Philadelphia Phillies, before selling his interest in the club in 1899. He also published an annual baseball guide which helped develop interest in stats. So because of Reach, we now have Bill James.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Abner Doubleday starting baseball is a myth. There doesn’t seem to be any true inventor of the game like basketball’s James Naismith. It came from cricket and a game called rounders eventually melding into the game we know today. Reach, being British, was a cricket player before learning baseball.
What’s unusual about Reach playing second base is he was a left-handed thrower. You would never see that nowadays. His other positions, rightfield and first base, were more typical for a left-handed thrower.
According to verdun2’s blog, Reach had a brother, Bob, who improved the catcher’s mask which Al’s business eventually sold. Al’s son George helped perfect the modern cork-centered baseball.
.492, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 0 K
1871 NA batting title
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.200
Adj. Batting Runs-23
Adj. Batting Wins-2.0
Offensive Win %-.908
1st Time All-Star-“Long” Levi Samuel Meyerle was born in July, 1849 in Philadelphia, PA. He was one hit away from hitting .500 and, if you count this short season of the National Association as legitimate, has the highest batting average of all time. I have no problem not counting it, but Levi certainly raked in the first season of the first Major League.
Meyerle finished 10th in WAR (1.8), fourth in WAR Position Players (1.7), and first in Offensive WAR (2.1). If you do the math, you figure Meyerle was a liability in the field and you’d be right. Good job, you! His fielding percentage at third base was .646 and he made 45 errors in 26 games. Before you mock, you try to field at third base with no glove. Bad job, you!
Of course, if no one could field, it’s hard to say Meyerle’s fielding actually had that much effect on the game. In a year in which the Athletics won the championship, it would be hard not to give the MVP to a hitter with an OPS of 1.200.
Still, his fielding was so inept that the teams he went to kept trying him in different places. The DH was invented for a man like Long Levi, but it was unfortunately 102 years too late.
Remember what I wrote in the Al Reach blurb — Philadelphia’s home park, Jefferson Street Grounds, was a pitchers’ park. It’d be interesting to know what Meyerle would have done in a huge hitters’ park.
.316, 0 HR, 17 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Frederick A. Waternoose, um, Waterman, was born in 1845 in New York, NY. He finished sixth in WAR Position Players (1.3), ninth in Offensive WAR (1.1) and eighth in Defensive WAR (0.2). He finished with a slash line of .316/.357/.411 and an OPS+ of 124 and was one of seven players in the NA to finish with double digits in walks. Since pitching was underhanded and the batter could tell the pitcher where he wanted the ball, it was difficult to walk in this league.
Waterman was one of the five Cincinnati Red Stockings that came to the Olympics this season. Harry Wright seemed to get the pick of the litter and took them with him to Boston along with the name Red Stockings.
Here’s a blurb from Wikipedia about Waterman’s time in Cincinnati: “At age 22 Waterman moved to Cincinnati for the 1868 season and played for the original Cincinnati Red Stockings managed by Harry Wright. Open professionalism was one year away but the long move suggests that Waterman was somehow compensated by club members if not by the club. Cincinnati fielded a strong team that year, with five of the famous team already in place. Playing statistics suggest that Waterman was the second best batsman behind John Hatfield, another import from the Mutuals, for he was second on the team both in scoring 4.4 runs per game and in being put out only 2.3 times per game.” It would be interesting to see box scores put in only runs and outs nowadays.
.352, 3 HR, 23 RBI
Fielding % as 3B-.795
1st Time All-Star-Ezra Ballou Sutton was born on September 17, 1849 in Seneca Falls, NY. In a league full of good infielders, he held his own, finishing eighth in WAR Position Players (1.2). Sutton slashed at .352/.357/.555, with an OPS+ of 159. He had a lot of power, with 13 of his 45 hits going for extra bases, including seven triples.
From Wikipedia: “On May 8, 1871, Sutton hit the first home run in professional baseball history for the Cleveland Forest Citys against the Chicago White Stockings. He would go on to hit another home run later in the game but Cleveland still lost the game 14–12.
“The Seneca Falls, New York born Sutton came to the Cleveland Forest Citys in 1870 from the Alert club of Rochester, New York (who had played the Forest Citys twice in 1869), and then joined the Philadelphia Athletics in 1873 after the Cleveland club failed. As third baseman for each he had the unique distinction of playing in both the first National Association game on May 4, 1871 and the first National League game on April 22, 1876.” After hitting two home runs in a game in 1871, he wouldn’t even hit two home runs in a season again until 1882.
Baseball Reference reports: “The biography at baseballlibrary.com says he died crippled and impoverished. His obituary in the June 29, 1907 Sporting Life called him ‘one of the greatest base ball players the game has produced’. It stated that he started playing in 1869, and that ‘previous to 1876 he was probably the most powerful thrower that ever donned a uniform, but in that year he hurt his arm . . .’.”
.278, 0 HR, 29 RBI
Putouts as SS-46
Assists as SS-159
Fielding % as SS-.844
1st Time All-Star-David “Wee Davy or Tom Thumb” W. Force was born on July 27, 1849 in New York, NY. He was another one of the many transfers from the great Cincinnati teams of the late 1860s. He would also be one of the main reasons the National Association would fold within five years, as he had the reputation of skipping teams for other teams just for the dough. The slick-fielding shortstop finished fifth in WAR Position Players (1.5) and topped the league in Defensive WAR (0.9). His bat hadn’t caught up with his fielding yet, but by 1872, it would.
I’m pretty sure we’re going to be seeing Force again, so I won’t go into the infamous Davy Force Case here. I will say most of the ballplayers of Force’s day jumped around teams quite a bit. Boston was able to avoid this which led to its many championships.
Defensive WAR is just a quick and dirty to figure out good fielders in the different eras. Is it perfect? Yes! I mean, no, but I don’t want to spend time figuring out the good defenders when Baseball Reference has put in so much work. All that to say, Force was a force in the field.
Side note: Force would have been a superstar if he came out in the 70s. No, not the 1870s, the 1970s. How many headlines could have wrote “The Force Was With Us Today” or “Manager Tells Slumping Shortstop: Use the Force, Force!” You missed out, Davy!
.413, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Double Plays Turned as SS-8
1st Time All-Star-George Wright was born on January 28, 1847 in New York, NY. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1937 and I’m not entirely certain why. He had some great years, but it doesn’t seem to me he has the overall stats to make it. That being said, he was a key member of the Boston Red Stockings four-year championship run starting in 1872 and also the brother of coach, Harry Wright. He was ninth in WAR Position Players (1.2) and eighth in Offensive WAR (1.1). Those would have been higher if he didn’t get injured 16 games into the season. He finished with a slash line of .413/.453/.625 and an OPS+ of 198. There’s no doubt if George doesn’t get injured, Boston wins all five National Association championships.
Reading through George’s Hall of Fame page, it seems he was elected more for contributions to the game than actual career production. Here are some excerpts from his Hall of Fame write-up: “George Wright was baseball’s first superstar player – an extraordinary shortstop who excelled for the game’s first openly all-professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
“’There isn’t an infielder in the game today who had anything on George Wright when it came to playing shortstop, and certainly there was none during his time,” Hall of Famer Deacon White later said. “George fielded hard-hit balls bare-handed, gathered them up or speared them when in the air with either hand. He was an expert and accurate thrower, being able to throw with either hand.’” Well, who am I to argue with Deacon White?
.396, 0 HR, 34 RBI
Errors Committed as OF-15
1st Time All-Star-Stephen F. King was born in 1844 in Lansingburgh, NY. Because he died in 1895, we’re pretty sure this isn’t the Stephen King that wrote all of those books, unless…..HE CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD! BWAHHAHAH! No, it isn’t him. This King finished ninth in Offensive WAR (1.1).
King played only two years in the National Association before calling it quits. His 1872 definitely didn’t measure up to his 1871, but he still hit .305 with a 107 OPS+, so it’s surprising he didn’t catch on with another team.
I miss the days (not that I was ever alive for them) when cities like Troy and Fort Wayne could have teams in the Major Leagues. Troy wouldn’t last long, disbanding after 1872, despite a 15-10 record led by this year’s star pitcher, George Zettlein.
It’s why there’s still a charm in Green Bay, WI, still having a pro football team even though we know all of the teams in football are making gazillions of dollars. How ironic is it that Green Bay (pop. 104,057) has a pro football team and Los Angeles (pop. 3,884,307) doesn’t?
Troy finished 13-15 this season with good hitting, scoring the third most runs in the league, and terrible pitching, allowing the second most runs. Though Haymakers’ Grounds was definitely a hitters’ park, it was still pretty unbalanced. Troy was the only team without a pitcher that made this All-Star team. Their main pitcher, John McMullin, had a Pitching WAR of -0.8 and actually contributed more with his bat. You can understand why replacing him with Zettlein would improve this team.
.320, 0 HR, 18 RBI
Def. Games as OF-33
1st Time All-Star-David Daniel Eggler was born on April 30, 1849 in Brooklyn, NY. He would have an 11-season career but never be able to produce like he did in the National Association when he was young and free and had the whole world ahead of him. He finished 10th in WAR Position Players (1.1) and 10th in Defensive WAR (0.2).
Baseball at this time was full of good pitchers, pitchers who had to pitch every game, and good infielders, but not a lot of great outfielders. Nowadays, of course, the big sticks tend to be at the corner positions – 1B, 3B, LF, RF and Designated Hitter.
So Eggler, who slashed .302/.338/.408 with and OPS+ of 121 and decent fielding, was probably the best outfielder in the league this season. There’s isn’t a lot about him on the internet. Look at this exciting write-up from Wikipedia: “Eggler’s career began in the National Association of Base Ball Players with the New York Mutuals in 1868, and was a member of the Mutuals when they joined the professional National Association in 1871. He went on to play for the Philadelphia White Stockings and Athletic of Philadelphia in the NA.
.294, 2 HR, 17 RBI
Putouts as OF-92
1st Time All-Star-George William Hall was born on March 29, 1849 in Stepney, London, United Kingdom. My guess- former cricket player. He had a short but productive career and, though he would be known more for his bat – he was the National League’s first home run leader with five in 1876 – he finished fifth in Defensive WAR (0.4) in 1871. His career ended after the 1877 National League season when he was banned for gambling.
As a Cincinnati Reds fan, the question asked to me most often is why are you a Cincinnati Reds fan when you live in the Los Angeles area? But the second most asked question is should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame. My answer is…I don’t care, put him in and use the Hall of Fame as a memorial to the history of baseball. I would put in Rose and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens because they are, for good or bad, a huge part of the game.
Still, I don’t have a problem with Rose being on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in. Clemens, Bonds, and the other steroid users are known as cheaters, but they weren’t breaking rules that were in place during that time. Baseball turned its eyes because they liked home run races and old people who could suddenly play the sport as if dipped in the Fountain of Youth.
.377, 4 HR, 39 RBI
Extra Base Hits-21
1st Time All-Star-Lipman Emanuel Pike was born on May 25, 1845 in New York, NY. He was another one of those players born at the wrong time, playing in the wrong era. He was a home run hitter, relatively speaking, at a time home runs weren’t as coveted. He would lead the National Association for three straight seasons. Pike finished seventh in Offensive WAR (1.2), slashing at .377/.400/.654 with an OPS+ of 192. He and Dave Eggler were the main reasons Troy was such an offensive juggernaut (read the Dave Eggler blurb).
Pike was baseball’s first Jewish player and had great power and speed. According to Wikipedia, “Pike was also one of the fastest players in the league. He would occasionally race any challenger for a cash prize, routinely coming out the winner. On August 16, 1873, he raced a fast trotting horse named ‘Clarence’ in a 100-yard sprint at Baltimore’s Newington Park, and won by four yards with a time of 10 seconds flat, earning $250 ($4,920 today).” He only stole three bases in 1871.
His power came despite his small frame. He was listed at 5’8” and 158 pounds. Yet despite the power and speed, his most famous accomplishment might be becoming the first professional player. From SABR, quoting the Biographical History of Baseball: “’Pike was one of the first players to be acknowledged as a professional. While others had certainly been paid before 1866, Pike, along with two teammates on the ostensibly amateur Philadelphia Athletics, was ordered to appear before the judiciary committee of the governing National Association of Base Ball Players to answer charges that he had accepted $20 for his services. Although the matter was dropped when nobody bothered to show up for the hearing, the incident exposed for the first time the wide spread practice of paying supposedly amateur players.’”