P-Al Spalding, BOS
P-Candy Cummings, NYU
P-George Zettlein, TRO/ECK
P-Bobby Mathews, BAL
P-Dick McBride, ATH
P-Cherokee Fisher, BAL
P-Harry Wright, BOS
P-Charlie Pabor, CLE
P-Jim Britt, BRA
P-John McMullin, NYU
C-Mike McGeary, ATH
C-Nat Hicks, NYU
C-Scott Hastings, CLE/BAL
1B-Tim Murnane, MAN
2B-Ross Barnes, BOS
2B-John Hatfield, NYU
2B-Wes Fisler, ATH
3B-Davy Force, TRO/BAL
3B-Cap Anson, ATH
3B-Bob Ferguson, BRA
3B-Fred Waterman, OLY
SS-George Wright, BOS
CF-Dave Eggler, NYU
CF-George Hall, BAL
CF-John Glenn, NAT
38-8, 1.85 ERA, 28 K, .354, 0 HR, 47 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-12.1
WAR for Pitchers-10.9
Wins-38 (2nd Time)
Shutouts-3 (2nd Time)
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.000 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-78
Adj. Pitching Wins-5.7
Assists as P-101
Range Factor/9Inn as P-2.87
Range Factor/Game as P-2.69
2nd Time All-Star-When you have the great Hall of Famer Al Spalding as your main pitcher, you’re going to have a lot of success and Boston was now on its way to four straight championships. And in 1872, he was still only 21 years old. He led the National Association in WAR (12.1) and WAR for Pitchers (10.9) to lead the Red Stockings to a 39-8 record, finishing seven-and-a-half games ahead of second place Baltimore.
Spalding pitched 404 2/3 innings, starting all 48 games and completing 41 of them. Even though it wasn’t a home run league, it’s still incredible he didn’t allow any home runs in all of those innings. What a great season!
And Spalding couldn’t only pitch, he was an outstanding hitter. The year 1872 was probably Spalding’s best. He slashed at .354/.363/.447 and had an OPS+ of 144. It was tough enough beating Boston, but when you had to deal with a pitcher you couldn’t get out, well, no one wanted to play the Red Stockings.
Unlike pitchers nowadays, Spalding didn’t get to rest when he left the mound. Since Hall of Fame manager Harry Wright needed his bat, Spalding was put in centerfield when he wasn’t pitching. He wasn’t a great fielder, but he got the job done.
Along with everything else, Spalding was an ambassador of the game. His Hall of Fame page says, “An early dose of exhibition baseball on foreign soil no doubt planted the seeds in Spalding’s mind for his world tour of ’88-’89. The Bostons toured Canada in 1872, and then went to England in the winter of ’72-’73, playing the first baseball games ever seen by the Brits. He brought the Philadelphia team with him as opponents.”
28-14, 2.80 ERA, 34 K, .209, 0 HR, 26 RBI
Strikeouts (as batter)-14
Def. Games as P-55
Fielding % as P-.911
1st Time All-Star-William Arthur Cummings was born on October 18, 1848 in Ware, MA. As with Al Spalding, he, too, is a Hall of Famer. Unlike Spalding, his admittance is a little more controversial. He is in for contributions to the game, specifically inventing the curveball. Like so many things in this era, not everything is crystal clear. Cummings was among many pitchers, including Bobby Mathews, who were throwing a curve at this time.
Cummings finished second in WAR (8.2) and second in WAR for Pitchers (8.7). Whether he invented the curveball or not doesn’t take away from him being a great pitcher. Led by Cummings and his 497 innings pitched, New York finished in third place. It was tough to beat the All-Star Red Stockings.
Back to the curveball, from Wikipedia: “Cummings said that he discovered the idea of the curveball while studying the movement sea shells made when thrown. After noticing this movement, he began trying to make a baseball move the same way, and thus created the new pitch. He would later recall from that game: ‘I became fully convinced that I had succeeded … the batters were missing a lot of balls; I began to watch the flight of the ball through the air, and distinctly saw it curve.’
“According to a 2002 article by ESPN’s Steve Wulf, Cummings was ‘fairly well-connected’ in baseball, as evidenced by his position with the International Association, and this might explain why he received credit for inventing the pitch. Baseball leaders Chadwick, Harry Wright and Albert Spalding supported Cummings’s contention.”
15-16, 2.57 ERA, 25 K, .216, 0 HR, 22 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-George Zettlein continued to be a fantastic pitcher in the National Association. After Chicago had to fold due to their stadium burning down in the Great Fire, Zettlein started his year with the Troy Haymakers. However, the Haymakers folded, as according to this article at empireone.net: “The Haymakers’ stint in the National Association would not even last two full seasons. The Haymakers’ fifteenth victory of the 1872 season (and the final game of their existence) came on July 23 at Hampden Park, a horse racing track in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bankrupt, unable to pay its players, and unable even to organize a meeting of the stockholders to resolve the issue, the team dissolved the following day, with its players voting to cease play for the remainder of the season. (Many of the Troy players were signed by the Eckfords of Brooklyn.) During their two seasons of existence, the Haymakers compiled a record of thirty wins and twenty-five losses. The National Association, besieged with its own problems due to its organization (or rather, lack of) played its final season in 1875 and disbanded the following year.”
Zettlein’s short stint with the Eckfords wasn’t nearly as effective as his time with Troy. With the Haymakers,he was 14-8 with a 2.16 ERA, while with Brooklyn, he was 1-8 with a 3.58 ERA. All together, Zettlein finished third in WAR (6.0) and third in WAR for Pitchers (6.4). Still a good year.
Next year, Zettlein would continue bouncing around the league, moving from Brooklyn to Philadelphia.
25-18, 3.19 ERA, 57 K, .225, 0 HR, 22 RBI
Bases on Balls-52
2nd Time All-Star-The diminutive Mathews moved from the disbanded Fort Wayne Kekiongas to the Baltimore Canaries for the 1872 season. He would spend three seasons here. He finished fourth in WAR (5.4) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (6.4). Obviously, he wasn’t producing anything with the stick.
Baltimore finished in second place, well behind first place Boston. They wouldn’t have got there without Mathews’ arm. He and Cherokee Fisher gave a good one-two punch off the mound. Mathews tossed 406 of the team’s 516 innings, which was actually a lot of rest for the number one pitcher in those days.
From SABR: “At the end of August, the Kekiongas disbanded amid financial troubles. Mathews had started and complete all the club’s 19 games. He joined the [minor league Baltimore] Pastimes with [Tom] Carey and first baseman Jim Foran. The men played out the season in and around Baltimore.
“The Pastimes reorganized administratively again in 1872, now calling themselves the Lord Baltimores. From the previous year, Mathews, Carey, and [George] Hall were retained as the ballclub joined the National Association. The team adopted a colorful black, white, and bright yellow uniform, which led some to call them the Baltimore Canaries. Well-known ballplayers Bill Craver, Davy Force, Dick Higham, and Lip Pike, among others, were brought in to fill out the roster. Cherokee Fisher was hired to sub for Mathews in the box. The Baltimore Sun wrote, ‘Great care has been taken and considerable expense undergone to form for the city a first-class professional nine, with suitable playing grounds.’ (It’s interesting to note that Baltimore included Hall, Craver, and Higham, three people who would become the center of National League game-fixing scandals.)”
30-14, 2.85 ERA, 44 K, .287, 0 HR, 37 RBI
Putouts as P-34
Errors Committed as P-24
2nd Time All-Star-I know wins mean nothing and it was a different time when pitchers threw millions of innings a year and were never taken out even if they allowed 20 runs, but it’s still exciting to see records like 30-14. We live in an era when records are 15-10 and those belong to the league’s best pitchers. The Athletics fell to fourth place with that same 30-14 record and every inning of every game was pitched by McBride.
Did Philadelphia have no other pitchers? Mc Bride allowed 19 runs in the first game he pitched, but in his defense, the team won 34-19 over the Canaries. He allowed 18 runs in a game the Athletics lost to New York, 18-11. He just kept pitching.
Of course, you want to blame his manager, one Dick McBride. He must have felt more comfortable with himself on the mound than having anyone else. Did manager McBride make a mistake with pitcher McBride? Judging by today’s way of managing, yes, but in 1871, with pitchers throwing underhand from 45 feet, they seemed to be able to take the workload. McBride pitched 419 1/3 innings in 1872 and would beat that twice in the next three years, both years still as manager. If anyone could judge how his arm felt, it was McBride.
McBride finished fifth in WAR (5.1) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (4.8). He was actually a decent hitter for once, slashing at .287/.295/.318 with an OPS+ of 88. He would only best that OPS+ once, in 1875.
10-1, 1.80 ERA, 20 K, .231, 1 HR, 36 RBI
1872 NA Pitching Title (led in ERA)
Earned Run Average-1.80
Walks & Hits per IP-0.945
Hits per 9 IP-7.609
Strikeouts per 9 IP-1.636
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-1.818
Home Runs Per 9 IP-0.000
2nd Time All-Star-Cherokee Fisher will play the utility role on the All-Star team, third base and relief pitcher. Second-place Baltimore, managed by Bill Craver and Everett Mills, did a surprising thing and didn’t pitch Bobby Mathews into the ground, instead letting Fisher start 11 of the 58 games. Despite the low amount of innings pitched (110), Fisher still finished sixth in WAR for Pitchers (3.0).
After the Rockford Forest Citys folded, Fisher came to the Canaries. His drinking tended to get him shuttled from team-to-team anyhow, but this time didn’t seem to be his fault.
Fisher’s pitching was even more impressive due to Newington Park, the Baltimore Canaries’ home stadium, being a hitter’s park. The ballpark no longer exists and there are no pictures of it, but it was home to the Canaries from 1872-74 and to the Baltimore Orioles in 1882. It’s amazing there were four years of ball played there and no pictures.
Here’s an interesting note on the ballparks of those days from 247baseball.com, “Despite the painstaking research done by Philip Lowry, Michael Benson, Michael Gershman, Larry Ritter, and others, there is still much that we do not know about the parks of the nineteenth century. This is, in part, because no one kept careful records of such things. However, another reason is that, back in the very ‘old days,’ baseball fields often did not even have dimensions as such—they were essentially big pastures with the playing diamonds laid out on them.
“Some of the earliest parks lacked grandstands as well; those that did have grandstands lacked bleachers until the twentieth century. Overflow crowds were typically accommodated by allowing them to stand in foul territory or in fair territory behind the outfielders—in many pictures from the 1890s, horse-drawn carriages, holding fans, still ringed the outfield.” Read the whole thing.
.255, 0 HR, 24 RBI, 1-0, 2.10 ERA, 1 K
Saves-4 (2nd Time)
Games Finished-6 (2nd Time)
Oldest Player in League-37
1st Time All-Star-William Henry Wright was born on January 10, 1835 in Sheffield, United Kingdom. He was baseball’s first great manager, leading Boston to four straight National Association championships. Examining his style, he ran a clean ship. There seemed to be less carousing on a Harry Wright team than most of the others. He was also an innovator. He himself was the first star reliever, leading the league in saves for four straight years, from 1871-1874. Wright finished seventh in WAR for Pitchers (0.8).
From Wikipedia: “[H]e is credited with introducing innovations such as backing up infield plays from the outfield and shifting defensive alignments based on hitters’ tendencies. For his contributions as a manager and developer of the game, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952 by the Veterans Committee. Wright was also the first to make baseball into a business by paying his players up to seven times the pay of the average working man.”
Whatever Harry was doing as manager was working. Counting his time in the National League, his teams would win six of seven championships from 1872 to 1878. It helped having his brother, George, on the team. The shortstop was one of the best players of these early years.
One interesting thing during this season, Wright took the team to one of the islands in Boston’s Harbor for a 10-day vacation of hunting and fishing. Schedules weren’t written in stone yet and, after all, Boston was 22-1 at this time.
.207, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 1-1, 4.00 ERA, 0 K
1st Time All-Star-Charles Henry Pabor was born on September 24, 1846 in Brooklyn, NY. Since there were not a lot of pitchers in the National Association this year, he was able to sneak onto the All-Star team. He finished eighth in WAR for pitchers (0.4) despite pitching in only seven games.
According to Wikipedia, Pabor was nicknamed “The Old Woman in the Red Cap.” Who did he tick off? He would play through 1875 and eventually have a long career in the New Haven Police Department. Pabor had a pretty good 1873 season for the Brooklyn Atlantics, so we might see him back on this list.
Pabor played 19 games in leftfield, but didn’t hit or field particularly well. He had an Offensive WAR of -0.3 and a Defensive WAR of -0.1. His pitching saved him this season despite allowing 15 runs and eight earned runs in the two games he pitched.
Yet even that was an improvement. In 1871, Pabor went 0-2, with a 6.75 ERA and a 64 ERA+. But his hitting was better in that year, slashing at .296/.301/.366 for a 92 OPS+.
There were many of these types of players in the NA, who would have average seasons that would be okay in this league, but wouldn’t succeed in the National League, which started in 1876. Pabor didn’t even make it to that league, despite being only 28 at that time.
9-28, 4.53 ERA, 13 K, .265, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-6
Youngest Player in League-16
1st Time All-Star-James Edward Britt was born on February 25, 1856 in Brooklyn, NY and even though Baseball Reference doesn’t say so, you have to imagine his nickname was “Kid.” He was 16 in 1872 when he debuted and he would be 17 in 1873 when he retired. He would lead the league in losses both years. His pitching wasn’t all that bad, certainly not for one his age. He was ninth in WAR for Pitchers (0.3) and had a 97 OPS+.
So you want to talk about destroying young arms, Britt pitched every inning for 9-28 Atlantics in 1872. Can you imagine how much grief Manager Bob Ferguson would receive from the pundits nowadays? You’re going to wear out his arm! He’s only a kid! And while he did only pitch two seasons, that seems to be more for performance that injury. I don’t know, because there’s not a lot of information on Britt on the net.
The Atlantics played their first year in the National Association, but had been a ball club since 1855, according to brooklynatlantics.com. On that same page is this quote: “’From the day of it’s entrance upon the base ball field, it has occupied and filled a front rank position as a crack playing club… the Atlantics have always and at all times had a nine from which any rival club might most despair of winning any lasting laurels.’ -from ‘American Pastimes’ published in 1866.” This same team would eventually become the Dodgers.
.254, 0 HR, 24 RBI, 1-0, 3.60 ERA, 1 K
1st Time All-Star-John F. “Lefty” McMullin was born on April 1, 1849 in Philadelphia, PA. There were a lot of ballplayers born in Philadelphia and New York in these days. In a league bereft of much pitching talent in these days, McMullin, despite pitching just 15 innings made the All-Star team as a pitcher. He also held his own in the outfield and at the plate and would have some good years ahead. All-Star years? You’ll have to read ahead and see! (But not yet, because I haven’t determined it or written it.)
Lefty played on Troy in 1871, before moving to the Mutuals. According to Wikipedia, he and Charlie Pabor were the only left-handed pitchers in the league, which is how he received his clever nickname. Unfortunately for McMullin, he did not have a long life. He played only in the National Association, never making it to the National League, and died at the age of 32 in his hometown of Philly.
More from Wikipedia: “In 1867 the 19-year-old McMullin was one regular outfielder for the Keystone club of Philadelphia in the nominally amateur National Association of Base Ball Players. Keystone fielded Philadelphia’s second team by playing strength, behind the Athletics. Half the team scored more than three runs per game, including McMullin with 47 in 13 games now on record.” It’s fascinating to me that the extent of the statistics in the early, early days of baseball were runs scored. If you’re wondering where Wikipedia even got those stats, they were from a book, “The National Association of Base Ball Players 1857-1870” compiled by Marshall Wright.
.360, 0 HR, 35 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Michael Henry McGeary (just a guess…Irish?) was born on November 16, 1850 in Philadelphia, PA. Moving from the Troy Haymakers to the Athletics, he thrived as arguably the best catcher in the league. He was eighth in WAR Position Players (1.9) and ninth in Offensive WAR (1.6). He slashed at .360/.366/.418 for a 140 OPS+. McGeary also liked to run, though not with a lot of success. In 1871, he lead the National Association in steals with 20 and got caught only four times. In 1872, he was fourth in steals with 13, but got caught a league-leading eight times.
From Wikipedia: “McGeary was born in Philadelphia in 1851. His parents, Michael and Ann McGeary (or McGary), were both immigrants from Ireland, and his father worked as a carpenter in Philadelphia. McGeary had two older brothers, John and James (both born in Ireland), and two younger sisters, Mary and Ellen (both born in Pennsylvania).” Told ya!
Here’s a quote from the Sporting Life in 1905, also reported on Wikipedia: “’The famous Mike McGeary in his day the best runner in the profession, and the Mike Kelly of that period, in point of base ball brains was the one player who regularly practiced sliding.’”
McGeary was suspected of throwing games throughout his career, though it was never proven. There were certain games when he made four or five errors that were under suspicion. However, there were a lot of errors in these days, what with players not wearing gloves.
.307, 0 HR, 32 RBI
Double Plays Grounded Into-7
Def. Games as C-54
Putouts as C-295
Errors Committed as C-47
1st Time All-Star-Nathan Woodhull Hicks was born on April 19, 1845 in Hampstead, NY. He was a rookie in 1872 and would never hit as well as he did that season. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (1.8) and sixth in Offensive WAR (1.8), slashing at .307/.322/.367 with a 120 OPS+.
Hicks would have been the catcher learning how to catch the Candy Cummings curveball. It might have been the reason he committed a league-leading (for catchers) 47 errors. He was always a better hitter than he was a fielder. According to Wikipedia, “Hicks was one of the first catchers to stand directly behind the batter, which allowed future Hall of Fame pitcher, Candy Cummings to develop the first curveball used in baseball.”
Also from Wikipedia, “Most catchers of his era stood twenty to twenty-five feet behind the batter, which made it impossible to field a curveball. It was Hicks’ catching technique of standing directly behind the batter, that allowed Cummings to introduce his curveball. The introduction of the curveball not only caused a revolutionary change in the way catchers fielded their position, but also radically changed pitching as well.”
One last interesting tidbit from Wikipedia, which wrote a pretty long article on a man who played six fairly benign seasons in the 1870s: “After his baseball days were over, he became a professional singer and proprieter of a billiard academy.”
.362, 0 HR, 20 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Winfield Scott Hastings was born on August 10, 1847 in Hillsboro, OH. He hit great in his time with Cleveland, playing 22 games with Forest Citys and slashing at .391/.407/.426 with a 162 OPS+. With Baltimore, he played 13 games, slashing at .306/.317/.387 and an OPS+ of 112. All together, he was ninth in the league in OPS.
Along with catching for Cleveland, Hastings also managed the team, guiding them to a 6-14 record, before Deacon White took over and lost the last two games. Cleveland folded and then Hastings went to Baltimore. Hastings would bounce around quite a bit, playing for seven different teams in his seven-year career. This was probably his best season, though there are arguments that it was 1874 with the Hartford Dark Blues, in which he slashed .324/.335/.385 for an OPS+ of 126. It’s a tough call.
I’m just using the names given by Baseball Reference for the team names, but understand they weren’t used this way back in the day. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia about the name Forest Citys: “The Forest Citys were a short lived professional baseball team based in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1870s. The actual name of the team, as shown in standings, was Forest City, not ‘Cleveland.’ The name ‘Forest Citys’ was used in the same generic style of the day in which the team from Chicago, Illinois was called the ‘Chicagos.’’Forest Cities’ is incorrect usage. Modern writers often refer to the club as the ‘Cleveland Forest Citys,’ which does not reflect 1870s usage, but does distinguish the team from the Rockford, Illinois professional team that was also called ‘Forest City.’”
.360, 0 HR, 16 RBI
Range Factor/9Inn as 1B-12.76
1st Time All-Star-Timothy Hayes Murnane was born on June 4, 1851 in Naugatuck, CT, according to Baseball Reference. However, according to SABR, “He was more likely born in Ireland, however, and came to the United States with his immigrant parents around 1855. There is no record of Murnane’s birth in the Naugatuck town records. His mother reported to census enumerators in both the 1860 and 1870 federal censuses that her son Timothy was born in Ireland (as was his sister), while her two younger sons were born in the United States. Although nearly all obituaries of Murnane cite Naugatuck as his birthplace, the obituary writer for the Naugatuck Daily News, who would have had a closer knowledge of Murnane’s upbringing, reported: ‘He was born June 4, 1851, in Tipperary County, Ireland, and when he was only six years old his parents removed to Naugatuck, Conn.’”
SABR continues: “Murnane first declared to a government official that Naugatuck was his birthplace when he applied for a passport in 1874 to participate in a baseball tour to Europe… It is unclear whether he was unaware of his Irish birth, and believed he was born in Connecticut, or that he fabricated his birthplace to claim undisputed U.S. citizenship, since on the passport application he had to attest that he was ‘a native and loyal citizen of the United States.’”
He was a rookie in the debut season (and only season) for the Middleton Mansfields and the only All-Star on the team. Middletown, managed by John Clapp, finished ninth in the league with a 5-19 record.
.430, 1 HR, 44 RBI
1872 NA Batting Title
WAR Position Players-4.2 (2nd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.034
Total Bases-134 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-31
Adj. Batting Wins-3.0
Extra Base Hits-31
Times on Base-108 (2nd Time)
Assists as 2B-162
Double Plays Turned as 2B-31
Range Factor/Game as 2B-6.67
Fielding % as 2B-.904
2nd Time All-Star-What a nightmare it would have been to face Ross Barnes at the bat. He was an expert at the fair-foul ball, in which the ball would start fair and then drift foul, which counted as a hit in those days. Where would you play him if you were a first or third baseman?
Barnes finished sixth in Wins Above Replacement (4.3), first in WAR Position Players (4.3), first in Offensive WAR (3.1), and second in Defensive WAR (1.3). He slashed at .430/.452/.583 for an incredible OPS+ of 211. With Barnes leading the hitters and Al Spalding on the mound, Boston won their first of four straight National Association crowns.
SABR writes, “Ross Barnes has been selected as SABR’s Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend for 2013. The announcement was made Thursday, August 1 at the Nineteenth Century Committee’s annual business meeting held at SABR 43 in Philadelphia.
“In June, 279 members of the Society for American Baseball Research submitted their votes for the 2013 Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend — a 19th-century player, manager, executive or other baseball personality not yet inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.”
This season was the second of six consecutive in which Barnes was going to be in the top 10 of WAR. It was difficult for position players to make this list because the pitchers, with their many innings of work, dominated these lists. The season of 1872 may have been Barnes’ greatest season. However, 1871 was good and 1876 was good and 1873 was good. Did I say good, I meant great! It’s a tough choice.
.323, 1 HR, 47 RBI
Games Played-56 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as 2B-55
Putouts as 2B-157
Errors Committed as 2B-57
1st Time All-Star-John Van Buskirk Hatfield was born on July 20, 1847 in Hoboken, NJ. It was his second of six straight years he would play for the Mutuals. In what was his best year ever, Hatfield finished 10th in WAR (2.4), fifth in WAR Position Players (2.4), fourth in Offensive WAR (2.0), and 10th in Defensive WAR (0.5). It looked like the kind of year that points to a great career to follow, but it wasn’t to be. He would only have two more full seasons with the Mutuals, neither at this level.
One thing mentioned over and over about Hatfield is his throwing arm. From Wikipedia, “For a few decades after leaving the game he was famous for his ‘world record’ long-distance throw. During an 1868 exhibition at Cincinnati’s Union Grounds he threw the baseball 132 yards. On October 15, 1872 Hatfield threw a baseball 400 feet.”
Hatfield slashed at .323/.343/.399 for the season with an OPS+ of 137. Those stats don’ t jump out at you, but he played in Union Grounds in New York, a tough hitters’ park. Besides the good pitching of Candy Cummings, it was the main reason the team led the league in least runs allowed.
Until people like Bill James came along in the late 20th century, no one really talked about a player’s home field affecting his stats. It’s probably the most important thing to look at when evaluating players. It makes you wonder what Mike Trout would do in a better hitters’ park.
.348, 0 HR, 48 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Weston Dickson “Icicle” Fisler was born on July 6, 1843 in Camden, NJ. It was a good year for second basemen and third basemen in the National Association. Fisler improved much from his first season and really turned it on in 1872. He was seventh in WAR Position Players (2.4), eighth in Offensive WAR (1.7), and fourth in Defensive WAR (0.8). He slashed at .348/.359/.426 for an OPS+ of 140. He would play six seasons from 1871-76, all with the Athletics, five seasons in the NA and one in the National League. In that season in the National League, he scored the first run on April 22, 1876.
Philadelphia had another great season, but finished fourth thanks to other good teams and the juggernaut that was the Boston Red Stockings. Levi Meyerle started hitting like a human being instead of a machine this season and didn’t make the All-Star team.
There is a great article on the Athletics’ home park, Jefferson Street Grounds, at SABR, but here are a few tidbits: “The Philadelphia ballparks situated at Jefferson and Master Streets, between 27th and 25th Streets, have a significant historic importance for our national pastime. Originally, this plot of land was known as the Jefferson Parade Grounds. It was used as a bivouac and training site in the years leading up to the Civil War.
“Those attendees who could not gain admission purchased 25-cent roof-top seats on neighboring houses, or sat on the branches of overhanging trees. These fans were termed ‘tree frogs,’ and were likened to ‘living fruit.’” Read the whole thing.
.418, 0 HR, 33 RBI
Fielding % as 3B-.857
2nd Time All-Star-Force has a bad reputation in the write-ups about him online, because he would jump from team to team looking for more money. It would lead to him signing up to be on two teams simultaneously at one point in his career and lead to a big mess which would be partially responsible for the National Association folding. But don’t miss the fact the reason all those different teams wanted him is he was a heck of a ballplayer.
In 1872, his best season, he was eighth in WAR (2.9), third in WAR Position Players (2.9), third in Offensive WAR (2.5), and eighth in Defensive WAR (0.5). He would be in the top 10 in Defensive WAR every season in the NA. He hit the cover off the ball in both Troy and Baltimore. For Troy, he played 25 games, slashing at .408/.412/.492 for and OPS+ of 177. In Baltimore, he slashed at .432/.438/.495 for an OPS+ of 181. Altogether, he slashed at .418/.423/.493 for an OPS+ of 179. Like I said, great player. According to Baseball Reference, his obituary in the Sporting News said, “Force and [George] Wright were the two greatest shortstops of the early days of baseball.” It was no small feat to be compared to the great George Wright.
It’s too bad Troy didn’t last in its 1872 season, because with stars like George Zettlein and Force, they were 15-10 before they folded. We tend to think of teams folding because they’re terrible and no one comes to see them, but that’s not the case with the Haymakers.
.415, 0 HR, 48 RBI
On Base %-.455
Def. Games as 3B-46
Putouts as 3B-89
1st Time All-Star-Adrian Constantine “Pop or Cap” Anson was born on April 17, 1852 in Marshalltown, IA. This will not be the last time he makes this list. As a 20-year-old in his second season, Anson had a lot of potential and he would use it, playing for 27 years until he was 45 years old. He had a great rookie year, though he didn’t make the All-Star team, and just got better this season, slashing at .415/.455/.525 with an OPS+ of 200. Wow!
Anson’s reputation nowadays has to do more with his role in blacks not playing Major League Baseball for over 50 years than his hitting, but we can dwell into that later. It does stem from a pattern of bullheadedness from Anson. From Wikipedia, “Anson was born in Marshalltown, Iowa. Beginning in 1866, he spent two years at the high-school age boarding school of the University of Notre Dame after being sent there by his father in hopes of curtailing his mischievousness. His time away did little to discipline him. Soon after he returned home, his father sent him to the University of Iowa, where his bad behavior resulted in the school asking him to leave after one semester.”
He was also involved in something shocking in 1872 which would have him arrested today or at least, confronted by Chris Hansen. Again from Wikipedia, “In 1872, the 20-year-old Anson met 13-year-old Virginia Fiegal, the daughter of a Philadelphia bar and restaurant owner, whom he married on November 21, 1876. The marriage lasted until her death in 1915.”
.280, 0 HR, 19 RBI
Assists as 3B-178
Errors Committed as 3B-63
Double Plays Turned as 3B-8
Range Factor/Game as 3B-7.14
1st Time All-Star-Robert Vavasour “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson was born on January 31, 1845 in Brooklyn, NY. Oh, yeah, his nickname is Death to Flying Things! He was third in the league in Defensive WAR (1.3), one of six seasons in which he would be in the top 10 in that category. His contributions came mainly from his fielding.
As for his hitting, he slashed at .280/.293/.299 for an OPS+ of 73. He would almost always be a good fielding, banjo-hitting player, but he would have a few good years at the plate in the National League.
Ferguson was the manager of the Atlantics in 1872, their initial season. They went 9-28, finishing sixth in the NA.
Here’s some information on Ferguson in 1872 from Wikipedia: “For the 1872 season, Ferguson re-joined his Atlantics team, which was now a member of the National Association as well, and he would stay there through the 1874 season. In 1872, he was elected by the players to be the president of the National Association, an office he held through the 1875 season, the last season of the Association.
“On September 1, 1872, Ferguson arranged a benefit game for Al Thake, a 22-year-old left fielder for the Atlantics, who drowned during a fishing trip off Fort Hamilton, in New York Harbor. The old Brooklyn Atlantics and Members of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings played against each other in the benefit game.”
Death to Flying Things was an enigma. On one hand, he had great integrity, as displayed by arranging the Thake game, on the other hand, he was known to have a bad temper and stubbornness, which cause him much grief.
.378, 0 HR, 6 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-The Olympics lasted only nine games in 1872 before disbanding, so Fred Waterman is their sole representative despite playing only nine games. It’s surprising no one else picked him up. In those games, Waterman slashed at .378/.378/.489 for a 174 OPS+. As a matter of fact, he would hit .300 or over in all four of his major league seasons, again making it surprising that his career was so short.
Nick Young managed the Olympics to a 2-7 record and a 10th place finish before the team folded. And they were not the worst team in Washington, D.C. I have yet to write about the Nationals, who went 0-11 before they, too, disbanded. It’s a good thing the Nationals played, though, because they provided the only two wins for Olympics, who beat them 15-13 and 11-7. Can it be considered a moral victory that they allowed only eight runs to the Red Stockings, a team that averaged over 11 runs a game? Probably not, they still lost 8-1.
The Olympics’ second best hitter was their pitcher, Asa Brainard, an 1871 All-Star. He slashed at .372/.372/.442 for an OPS+ of 158. It’s a good thing he could hit because he provided nothing on the mound. For Washington, he had a 0.3 WAR as a batter and a putrid -1.9 as a pitcher. He allowed 140 runs, 56 of them earned, in his nine games and 79 innings pitched. And yet he went to another team, the Middletown Mansfields. Why not Waterman?
.337, 2 HR, 35 RBI
Defensive WAR -1.3
AB per SO-255.0
Putouts as SS-87
Assists as SS-193
Double Plays Turned as SS-25 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9Inn as SS-5.86
Range Factor/Game as SS-5.83
2nd Time All-Star-Wright was part of a dominant double play combination along with second baseman Ross Barnes. The league got to see what he could do in a full season after being injured for part of the season in 1871. He was seventh in WAR (3.0), second in WAR Position Players (3.0), sixth in Offensive WAR (1.8), and first in Defensive WAR (1.3). He was one of the game’s first superstars.
There is an article at ourgame.mlblogs.com in which Wright is quoted at length about bats in baseball’s old days. You need to read the whole thing, it is fascinating! I’ll just put a little bit of it here. He said this in 1888: “There is one curious thing in connection with base ball bats and their use by both professional and amateurs throughout the country which I think has not as yet been noticed, or at least received due attention.
“I refer to the very marked changes which have taken place within my own recollection in the size and shape of base ball bats. It is queer whit an effect experience, change in playing rules, and especially the science of curving the ball have had upon them. Formerly long bats were all the rage, and players, both professional and amateur, held up legs of wood, some of them 3-1/2 feet in length, and fanned the air in a way that would seem perfectly ridiculous to the average player to-day.
“Henry Chadwick of Brooklyn, the veteran among base ball reporters, was the first to introduce what was known as the square bat. It was forty-two inches in length, and was truly an immense affair. That was about the year 1860, away back in the days of the Knickerbocker, Eagle and Gotham clubs. Chadwick was always present at the games, sitting on the benches, invariably carrying an umbrella under his arm. The square bat, however, proved a fizzle, as the claim that more force was gained in the strike with less labor to the batsman proved untenable when put to the actual test.” Like I said, read the whole thing. There are some great illustrations.
.334, 0 HR, 19 RBI
Games Played-56 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as OF-56 (2nd Time)
Putouts as OF-154
Assists as OF-12
Double Plays Turned as OF-2
Range Factor/9Inn as OF-2.93
Fielding % as OF-.917
2nd Time All-Star-Eggler easily played his best season in 1872, finishing ninth in WAR (2.8), fourth in WAR Position Players (2.8), fifth in Offensive WAR (1.9), and seventh in Defensive WAR (0.7). In a league in which there were not a lot of good outfielders, he was the best. He is the fifth Mutual on the list. Despite all the All-Stars, they finished third behind Boston and Baltimore.
Eggler had nine years left in his career, but would never reach the heights achieved in 1872. Except for finishing seventh in WAR Position Players in 1873, he would never be in the top 10 in any WAR category after this season.
One thing that’s interesting to do is calculate the stats of these years over 162 games. Since Eggler played only 56 games and scored a league-leading 94 runs, that works out to 272 runs scored! He also would have had 862 at bats. Batters, because of errors and higher scoring, got to the plate much more often in this era. Finally, he also led the league with 18 stolen bases, which calculates to 52. There wasn’t a lot of stealing during this time.
According to Wikipedia, “Union Grounds (the Mutuals’ home park), was demolished in July of 1883. Heyward Street now runs through the site, and as of 2009 the Juan Morel Campos Secondary School stands to the north of Heyward Street and the Marcy Avenue Armory stands to the south of it, with no historical marker or any other indication of the land’s significance to the history of baseball.”
.336, 1 HR, 37 RBI
Double Plays Turned as OF-2
2nd Time All-Star-Hall might not have made the All-Star team in a stronger outfield league, but that doesn’t take away from how well he did in 1872, finishing 10th in WAR Position Players (1.5) and 10th in Offensive WAR (1.5). This was arguably his best season, yet he was only 23 years old. Hall slashed at .336/.344/.464 with an OPS+ of 142. He would have two seasons which would best that mark.
All three outfielders this year are going to be centerfielders, with the next one, John Glenn, only making it because the Washington Nationals needed a representative. Of course, Cherokee Fisher and Charlie Pabor, who made it mainly as pitchers, did play rightfield and leftfield, respectively.
I know what you’re asking, did Baltimore ever have a chance against the mighty Red Stockings? Well, after four games, they were in first place with a 4-1 record. It helped they played the winless Nationals twice during that time, but they also split against the third place Mutuals. However, after that, they lost three straight, to Philadelphia, Boston, and then New York, to make them 4-4 and two games behind Boston. They did get as close as one game out on June 3, with an 11-5 record, but then Boston beat the Canaries, 7-0 and 15-2, and they never got closer than that in the standings.
.186, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Double Plays Turned as OF-2 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-John W. Glenn was born in January, 1850 in Rochester, NY. He only made the All-Star team because every team, whether defunct or not, whether terrible or good, gets a representative. The reason I do that is to be able to have a complete history of the teams playing in every season.
Glenn had a colorful and tragic life. This is from Wikipedia: “On November 10, 1888, Glenn died from injuries sustained from being accidentally shot the week prior by a police officer in Sandy Hill, New York. Glenn was accused of robbery and rape of a 12-year-old girl, and the Officer was attempting to protect him from a lynch mob.”
The Washington Nationals, coached by Joe Miller, finished 0-11. They scored 80 runs in those game and allowed 190, or 17.3 a game. Glenn only played one game for them, going two-for-four, both singles. That was enough for him to lead this pathetic team in WAR.
From Wikipedia: “The 1872 Nationals home games were played at Olympics Grounds in Washington, D.C.. They lost all 11 games before going out of business. The manager for this season is listed as either Warren White or Joe Miller. The team’s leading players include: 1B Paul Hines, 2B Holly Hollingshead, and SS Jacob Doyle.”
There was a team called the Washington Blue Legs which played in the 1873 season, which Wikipedia says could be this same team, but how true that is in unsure. It’s tough to get information from these times.