P-Bobby Mathews, NYU
P-Al Spalding, BOS
P-Dick McBride, ATH
P-Candy Cummings, PHI
P-Cherokee Fisher, HAR
P-George Zettlein, CHI
P-Tommy Bond, BRA
C-Mike McGeary, ATH
C-Deacon White, BOS
1B-Jim O’Rourke, BOS
1B-Joe Start, NYU
1B-Cap Anson, ATH
1B-Wes Fisler, ATH
2B-Ross Barnes, BOS
2B-Bill Craver, PHI
2B-Levi Meyerle, CHI
2B-Jack Manning, BAL
3B-Davy Force, CHI
SS-George Wright, BOS
SS-Dickey Pearce, BRA
LF-John Hatfield, NYU
CF-Lip Pike, HAR
CF-Dave Eggler, NYU
CF-Harry Wright, BOS
RF-Cal McVey, BOS
42-22, 1.90 ERA, 101 K, .242, 0 HR, 30 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-13.6 (2nd Time)
WAR for Pitchers-13.5 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts per 9 IP-1.573 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts-101 (3rd Time)
Shutouts-4 (2nd Time)
Wild Pitches-32 (2nd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.00
Errors Committed as P-38
4th Time All-Star-People like to talk about the stretch of seasons Sandy Koufax pitched from 1962-66, when he led the National League in ERA all five seasons. But some of the pitchers here in the National Association also had groups of great seasons, including Bobby Mathews. However, during Mathews’ stretch, he pitched over 400 innings from 1872-to-1876, including 578 innings in 1874 and another 625 2/3 (!) in 1875. This season, for the second straight year, he was first in WAR (13.6) and first in WAR for Pitchers (13.5).
Led by Mathew’s rubber arm and the managing tandem of SS Tom Carey (13-12) and C Dick Higham (29-11), the Mutuals finished second in the league to the, yes, Boston Red Stockings. They were never in the lead, but as late as their 59th game, after beating Boston, 4-3, with Mathews out-pitching Al Spalding, they were only a game-and-a-half behind. However, they lost four of their next six and ended up seven-and-a-half games behind the champions.
In Mathews’ 1873 blurb, I promised we’d look at a second game Mathews was accused of throwing. Here from SABR: “The Tribune charged that an unnamed, ‘prominent’ Mutual was seen in the company of a local gambler and that the odds shifted before game time in the favor of Chicago despite the fact that New York had defeated the White Stockings five times without a loss up to that point in the season.The particular charge against Mathews was that he appeared to be in perfectly good shape but had to leave the game after the fifth inning because of a lingering groin injury. Despite the fact that Mathews was leading 4-2 at the time, the Tribune believed that he left to appease the gamblers. He was supposedly doing too well and the fans hissed as Mathews left because it meant ‘[John] Hatfield, an inferior pitcher, taking his place.’” Read the whole thing, because there is some doubt to this story.
52-16, 1.92 ERA, 31 K, .329, 0 HR, 54 RBI
Wins-52 (4th Time)
Win-Loss %-.765 (2nd Time)
Games Pitched-71 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-617 1/3 (2nd Time)
Games Started-69 (2nd Time)
Shutouts-4 (3rd Time)
Games Played-71 (2nd Time)
At Bats-362 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-71 (2nd Time)
Putouts as P-38 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-143 (3rd Time)
Fielding % as P-.854 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-In reviewing this era of baseball, I’m fascinated with Al Spalding, for many reasons. For one, he was just a great pitcher. He constantly threw more games and more innings than anyone in the league. Another reason I like him is like Babe Ruth, he could hit and pitch. In 1874, he was second in the league in WAR (10.5), second in WAR for Pitchers (8.7), and, for the only time in his career, was in the top 10 in Offensive WAR, finishing eighth (1.9).
Another reason I like him is despite being one of the all-time greats and being a playing and administrative innovator, he didn’t seem to really like baseball players all that much. I get the feeling he thought they were gauche and that he couldn’t wait to get out of the game and into the corporate offices. From 19cbaseball.com: “Albert Spalding started the trend which exists today of a player whose personality and view change once they attain a high profile front office position. Spalding simply despised the baseball player. He felt that their excessive drinking, gambling and malicious behavior as well as the fans, helped fell the National Association. He wanted clean upstanding players to promote and mold the game. Being a very successful business man, Spalding had no tolerance for the players and forget that he was once a top player. He wanted robots to play baseball and foresaw a steady stream of income from baseball and did not want that opportunity ruined. He felt that the league and its officials knew what was best for the players and that they were a necessary evil.”
From SABR, quoting Robert Tiemann, “’In the pitcher’s box, Spalding was in complete control, using a fine fastball and change of pace. He was a master at keeping hitters off balance, either by quick-pitching or by holding the ball while the batter fidgeted. In addition, he was a good batsman, adept at opposite field hitting, and a savvy fielder who helped perfect the dropped-popup double play.’”
33-22, 1.64 ERA, 37 K, .217, 0 HR, 34 RBI
1874 NA Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-1.64
Walks & Hits per IP-1.121
Hits per 9 IP-9.499
Adj. Pitching Runs-28
Adj. Pitching Wins-2.2
4th Time All-Star-McBride was a great pitcher and had been for a long time, long before the National Association formed. Yet he doesn’t seem to get the publicity of Al Spalding, Bobby Mathews, or Candy Cummings. But he finished in the top 5 in WAR every NA season, this season finishing fourth at 6.2, along with being third in WAR for pitchers at 6.7. He did all of this in a hitter’s park, Jefferson Street Grounds.
After allowing others to pitch in 1873, McBride took back the ball this season, pitching every inning for the Athletics. You can’t complain if a pitcher with a 1.64 ERA is on the mound every day. The coach and pitcher led the team to 33-22 record and third place in the NA behind Boston (of course) and the New York Mutuals.
There were still no standard amount of games played in the league. Boston played 71, New York played 65, and the Athletics played 55, just to name the top three teams. The National Association was the first major league, yes, but it still seemed very disorganized.
On 19cbaseball.com, there is an article on the 1874 World Base Ball Tour played in England during late July/early August of 1874. It was a series between Boston and the Athletics and has box scores and lineups. Very cool! It’s long, but if you have tons of free time – hey, and if you’re on this site, you do – read the whole thing.
The notations indicate that not only did the two teams play baseball, but also played cricket against some teams in England. I think it’s Great Britain’s hesitancy in giving up cricket that led to our country taking over the world. USA! USA!
28-26, 1.96 ERA, 61 K, .225, 0 HR, 19 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Cummings kept bouncing around, this year ending up with the Whites, after pitching in 1872 for the Mutuals and 1873 for the Canaries. He finished third in WAR (6.2) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (6.6). Cummings pitched 483 of Philadelphia’s 522 innings, with the others being tossed by George Bechtel, who actually had a lower ERA of 1.62.
Since Cummings fame comes from his curveball, here’s more on his pitch from SABR: “Throwing underhanded with his arm perpendicular to the ground, as stipulated by the rules at the time, Arthur practiced diligently and experimented with different grips and releases in an effort to find the secret of the curveball. In so doing, he made himself into an outstanding young pitcher in spite of his physical limitations. He grew to be about five feet and nine inches tall as an adult, but he never weighed more than 120 pounds at any time in his life. Even in that era, nearly a century and a half ago, he was small for an athlete. He also had small hands, usually a severe handicap for a pitcher. Arthur excelled on the mound anyway, perhaps due to the practice he gained from his pursuit of the elusive curveball.
“By the 1874 season, other pitchers began to make up ground on Cummings by developing curveballs of their own. Bobby Mathews, Cummings successor on the Mutuals, began throwing the pitch after learning it from Cummings. Alphonse Martin of the Troy Haymakers also threw a curve at about this time, though Martin later claimed that he had thrown it in amateur play in 1866, a year before Cummings. The controversy over the origin of the tricky pitch had already begun, with several rivals challenging Candy Cummings’ claim to preeminence in newspaper articles across the nation. Cummings, proud of his discovery, was keenly protective of his status as the inventor of the curveball, and for the rest of his life he zealously defended his claim against all doubters.”
13-23, 2.32 ERA, 25 K, .224, 0 HR, 31 RBI
Games Finished-5 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-The Cherokee Fisher tour continued as he had now pitched for Rockford (1871), Baltimore (1872), the Athletics (1873), and now the Dark Blues. He finished fifth in WAR (4.5) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2). Doing the math, you can tell what a terrible hitter Fisher was. However, this season was the first in which he didn’t hit a home run.
For the first time since 1871, Fisher was the main pitcher on his team, hurling 322 1/3 of the Dark Blues’ 481 innings pitched, with 1871 All-Star Bill Stearns tossing the rest. Cherokee started 35 of the team’s 53 games.
Fisher seemed to pitch better when not given as much workload. He two highest ERA+ seasons were 1872 and 1873 when he pitched 110 and 84 1/3 innings, respectively. This season, his ERA+ was 99.
There’s no doubt Fisher will make the All-Star team in 1875 and then his career would fall apart. He pitched a couple seasons in the National League, but finished 4-21 with an ERA+ of 71. He was gone from baseball after 1878. I’ll get to the rest of his life in his 1875 blurb. Or you could look it up.
Hartford played their home games at the Hartford Ball Club Grounds & South End Grounds I. Between the two of them, they were hitters’ parks, making Fisher’s pitching more impressive. If nothing else, all of this bouncing around allowed Fisher to see much of the Northeast United States, a part of the country I have yet to visit.
27-30, 2.43 ERA, 26 K, .193, 0 HR, 18 RBI
Bases on Balls-43
Earned Runs Allowed-139
4th Time All-Star-Zettlein was back from whence he came, to the Windy City, where he had pitched in 1871, his best season. He was 29 now, starting to fade, but not at the end yet. He finished sixth in WAR (3.3) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (3.9). He continued to be a terrible hitter.
Chicago was back, after being out of the league in 1872 and 1873, due to rebuilding the city that had been ravaged by the Great Fire. The White Stockings were coached by Fergy Malone (18-18) and Jimmy Wood (10-13) (Wood also coached their 1871 team) for a record of 28-31, good for fifth in the league. In 1871, Chicago played at Union Base-ball Grounds and Union Grounds, but in 1874, they were now at 23rd Street Park. Here’s a bit on that park from Wikipedia: “23rd Street first hosted baseball in 1872-1873, rented out by the Chicago White Stockings as the club nursed its financial wounds following the 1871 Great Chicago Fire (for two years following the fire, it did not field a team). Seven games were even relocated to Chicago by professional teams in other major cities. The Cleveland and Troy clubs played two and four home games here, respectively, in 1872, when they were struggling economically (both went out of business). The Boston Red Stockings played one in 1873 when they were flourishing.”
22-32, 2.03 ERA, 42 K, .220, 0 HR, 20 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.145
Home Runs Allowed-15
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-5.250
Range Factor/9Inn as P-2.97
Range Factor/Game as P-2.98
Youngest Player in League-18 Years Old
1st Time All-Star-Thomas Henry Bond was born on April 2, 1856 in Granard, Ireland, the first Irishman to play Major League baseball. He made this first All-Star team in his first season, but it wouldn’t be his last. He has some phenomenal years ahead of him. He finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers (0.3), but he would not have less than 10.3 in that category for the next five years. Like I said, phenomenal!
The manager which allowed an 18-year-old to throw 497 innings was Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson. He led the team to a 22-33 record, sixth in the National Association. Part of the reason Bond rates as low as he does is the relatively low ERA came in a huge pitchers’ park, Union Grounds. Bond’s 2.03 ERA comes out to only a 101 ERA+. Still, he’s 18.
Like Candy Cummings, Bond threw a curveball. That pitch allowed him to throw a four-hitter in his first Major League game, a 24-3 victory over the Canaries on May 5. He also threw a two-hitter against the Mutuals on Oct. 20, shutting them out 5-0.
I was reading the Hall of Stats website and they wondered if Bond, Tommy Bond, should be in the Hall of Fame based on only really five good seasons. Couldn’t the same be said of Sandy Koufax? And isn’t he in the Hall? Bond would finish with a record of 234-163 with an ERA+ of 115. And even if you judge his career too short to put him in the Hall of Fame, he did throw an incredible 3,628 innings in those 10 years.
.321, 0 HR, 22 RBI
2nd Year All-Star-McGeary continued his good career with the Athletics, slashing at .321/.324/.373 for an OPS+ of 116, his best year since 1872. He was seventh in Defensive WAR (0.6). If I had to take a guess, this is the last season McGeary will be an All-Star. If he makes it again, I will admit my faulty prophecy.
I have McGeary down as a catcher, but he played shortstop almost as much. He played the two toughest defensive positions, both requiring different skills. I’m trying to imagine any of the catchers playing nowadays playing at shortstop.
Being a Reds fan, I remember when, in order to try to keep Johnny Bench’s bat in the lineup, they moved him to third base. It was a disaster. He had always added defensive value to Cincinnati, but in 1982, his Defensive WAR was -1.5, the same as his Offensive WAR. In other words, he added no value to the team above a replacement player.
From Wikipedia: “McGeary was one of the most prominent players in the early days of the game. An article published in 1884 cited him as one of the players who, along with Albert Spalding, Emil Gross, and Cap Anson, had grown rich off the game of baseball. The article noted that he ‘had made enough money out of base ball to build several houses in Philadelphia.’
.301, 3 HR, 52 RBI
Double Plays Grounded Into-5
Def. Games as C-58 (3rd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Part of the problem with comparing players over different eras, especially a time like these early years of baseball, is that the games played don’t match up. White is a great catcher and had many great seasons behind the plate, but he actually will wind up his career with more games at third base than at backstop. This is because the amount of games played increased from around 60 in the National Association to over 100 in 1880s National League play.
Despite making the All-Star team this year, this was an off year for White. He was 10th in Offensive WAR (1.8), which would be great, but it was his lowest finish in the 1873-1879 seasons. Boston was already head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Imagine if White had his regular unbelievable season.
On July 24, 2013, James B. Jackson, Deacon White’s great-grandson, wrote an article in Slate about White making the Hall of Fame. It is very good. I urge you to read the whole thing. I will put a snippet here: “Deacon was, above all else, a fire and brimstone Christian of the first order, a Jonathan Edwards, sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God Puritan. He very much believed that the world is flat, based on the Biblical passage about how Jesus ‘will send the angels out to the four corners of the earth to gather God’s chosen people from one end of the world to the other.’ He did not drink, smoke, curse, gamble, or take performance-enhancing drugs of any kind, as far as anyone knows.”
.314, 5 HR, 61 RBI
Def. Games as 1B-70
Putouts as 1B-755
Double Plays Turned as 1B-40
2nd Time All-Star-This Boston team sure had its share of Hall of Famers and should be Hall of Famers (*cough* Ross Barnes *cough*). O’Rourke didn’t put up the numbers of Barnes — no one did — but he certainly was a presence in the lineup. He finished sixth in WAR Position Players (2.3) and sixth in Offensive WAR (2.3), but he was getting better. How scary is that!
Here’s the beginning of SABR’s article on O’Rourke: “During a playing career that spanned a remarkable six decades, Jim O’Rourke did much to advance baseball as our national pastime. A key member of championship teams in both the National Association and the National League, O’Rourke was a versatile performer in the field and a reliable .300 hitter at the plate. Thereafter, as his playing days wound down, O’Rourke assumed the role of baseball executive, particularly in his native Connecticut, where he established a thriving minor league. O’Rourke was also a figure of some cultural significance, rising to prominence in an era when anti-Irish prejudice still flourished in many quarters. Unlike the stereotypical brawling, hard-drinking wastrel of King Kelly stripe, O’Rourke was a sober, well-educated ballplayer whose dignified bearing both on and off the diamond was punctuated only by a proclivity for grandiloquence. In time, these rhetorical flights of fancy, which amused and bewildered his contemporaries, gave rise to the moniker by which Jim O’Rourke is known to this day: Orator.”
I don’t think it hurt Boston to have so many upstanding citizens on its team. While other teams had drunkards and itinerant players bouncing around, the Red Stockings had relative choirboys who stuck with the team.
.314, 2 HR, 46 RBI
Assists as 1B-13 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as 1B-.961 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Start was nicknamed Old Reliable for a reason. He was playing his fourth consecutive season with the New York Mutuals and would be with them through 1876. Unlike other players at this time, he didn’t bounce around to different positions, playing 1069 of his 1070 total games at first base. He finished seventh in WAR Position Players (2.2) and ninth in Offensive WAR (1.9). And the old man had some better years ahead.
In Tommy Bond’s blurb, I mentioned he threw a two-hitter against the Mutuals. Start delivered one of those hits. According to 19cbaseball, “Joe Start broke up Brooklyn Atlantic pitcher Tommy Bond’s bid to become the first professional pitcher to throw a no-hitter on October 19, 1874. Start, a left-handed batter, doubled to left field with two outs in the top of the ninth inning at Brooklyn’s Union Grounds. Brooklyn prevailed 5–0.”
During the season, he also made a classic blunder, according to Baseball Library: “Jul 10, 1874 – Joe Start‚ the Mutual 1B‚ misses the train to Hartford‚ and the Mutes are forced to play with only 8 players. Hartford wins 13-4.” Why didn’t he just set the alarm on his cell phone?
He had a reputation as a good fielding first baseman, according to Wikipedia, “Start was also regarded as an excellent fielder, although at 5’9″ he was a much smaller player than would later be typical at his position. Some even say that he originated the modern positioning of the first baseman, being the first to play away from the bag. Just like every other player of his time, Start never fielded with a glove, as modern players do, making his fielding contributions more impressive.” It’s hard to believe in an era with no gloves, Start only made 23 errors at first in 1874.
.335, 0 HR, 37 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-The great Anson continued to be a force in the league, slashing at .335/.345/.388 with an OPS+ of 128. It would be his lowest OPS+ until 1883. He’s made this All-Star team three times and is only 22 years old. While he ended up playing mostly first base for his career, he was all over the place for the Athletics, playing 24 games at first, 20 games at third, eight in rightfield, six at shortstop, and one at catcher. Truly, he was a utility player.
From SABR: “Boston Red Stockings manager Harry Wright had always dreamed of introducing baseball to England, his home country, and in 1874 Wright and his star pitcher Al Spalding organized a mid-season trip to England. The Red Stockings and the Philadelphia Athletics took a three-week respite from National Association play and sailed to the Old World, where they played both baseball and cricket for British crowds. Adrian Anson led all the players on both teams in batting during the tour, and, more importantly, began a friendship with Spalding. Both were young men from the Midwest, less than two years apart in age, and both had willed themselves to prominence in the baseball profession. Each found reasons to admire the other, and their relationship would play an important role in Anson’s life for the next 30 years.”
A great website named capanson.com has this to say about the trip across the pond: “All in all, the English public was only mildly curious about the American import. Writers covering the tour had mixed reviews of the game’s merit, but most agreed the American athletes were excellent fielders and good hitters. The tour did not prove profitable to its organizers, but it did serve to introduce baseball to the world. Anson always felt a special pride in having played a part in the tour and remembered fondly the fellow players with which he made the trip.”
.328, 0 HR, 22 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-You’re reading this right, both Cap Anson and Fisler made the All-Star team as first basemen for the Athletics. The last time Fisler made the All-Star team in 1872, he was a second baseman. That and first would be his main positions for his short career.
Fisler didn’t have the great season he did in 1872, but still managed to be fifth in Defensive WAR (0.7). He did that while playing only 37 of the Athletics’ 55 games. There isn’t anything that I can find on whether he was injured or if it was a numbers game and he couldn’t play ahead of Anson.
Even though he played 18 less games that the 22-year-old Anson, the 30-year-old Fisler almost tied him in WAR. Anson was the better hitter leading in Offensive bWAR, 1.7 to 1.0, but not as good of a fielder, finishing behind Fisler in Defensive bWAR, 0.7 to 0.2. If Fisler would have played at the full pace for 55 games, his WAR would have been approximately 2.5, which would have put him around ninth in the league.
From Baseball Reference: “The book Baseball in Philadelphia: a history of the early game, 1831-1900 has a page on him. It calls him a ‘refined, genteel intellectual’. He got his nickname ‘Icicle’ because he was cool under pressure. Cap Anson said he was a ‘fine all-around ballplayer’. As a teenager he played amateur ball in Camden and Philadelphia prior to the Civil War. After the war he was paid for his services; although he was not a large player, he was considered an excellent fielder.”
.340, 0 HR, 39 RBI
Caught Stealing-7 (2nd Time)
Assists as 2B-167 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-31 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9Inn as 2B-6.34 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-6.41 (3rd Time)
Fielding % as 2B-.856
4th Time All-Star-Now, this isn’t DeNiro making Rocky and Bullwinkle, but 1874 was an off-year for Barnes, his worst year in the National Association. He didn’t make the top 10 in WAR. (I wrote in an earlier blurb he made the top 10 in WAR all five NA seasons. I was wrong. Sue me.) He was only fifth in WAR Position Players (2.4), the only year he wasn’t number one in his first six seasons. He wasn’t in the top 10 in Offensive WAR, again the only time in his initial six seasons this would happen. He was good at defense, finishing third in Defensive WAR at 0.7.
In 2013, SABR did a salary report of all of baseball history which is fascinating. I say again, read the whole thing! Here’s what it has to say about Barnes: “Having settled the boundaries of my definition of salary, let me make a few observations about the data. The first thing to notice is the impact of inflation, free agency, and television revenues on maximum salaries over time. In 1874 the highest paid player in major league baseball was Ross Barnes, who earned the princely sum of $2000. Today, the minimum salary for a MLB player is more than 200 times that level, and this season Alex Rodriguez earned more than $56,000 per plate appearance. If he saw 28 pitches during each trip to the plate, he would have earned as much per pitch as Barnes earned in an entire season.
“Not to feel sorry for Ross Barnes though. In 1874 he was earning 2.3 times what the average American earned. And he earned it over just a few months working time, whereas the average American worked 60 hours a week for the entire year to bring in his $864.”
.343, 0 HR, 56 RBI
Extra Base Hits-30
Def. Games as 2B-54
Putouts as 2B-175
Errors Committed as 2B-75
1st Time All-Star-William H. Craver was born in June, 1844 in Troy, NY. He had his best season ever, finishing seventh in WAR Position Players (2.2) and fourth in Offensive WAR (2.6), but still wasn’t on par with Ross Barnes, even with the latter having an off season.
Craver was also manager of the Whites, leading them to a fourth place finish with a 29-29 record.
Since I don’t know whether Craver will make another All-Star team, though 1875 is certainly a possibility, here’s the report on his expulsion from the league in 1877, according to Wikipedia: “In 1877, The Grays were ahead in the league standings, with a 27-13 record with only 15 games left to play, but instead they lost their lead through horrible play, losing eight straight games at one point. The trouble reportedly began when third baseman Bill Hague was injured and needed to be replaced. George Hall suggested that team pick up his former Mutuals teammate Al Nichols. The errors by Nichols, Hall, and Craver began to accumulate, and owner Charles Chase became suspicious when he noticed that Nichols was still in the line-up, even though Hague was fully healthy. The players were soon seen around town with new clothes and jewelry. Chase confronted pitcher Jim Devlin and didn’t receive a confession, but Hall thought Devlin did confess and he made a full confession. Hall claimed that Nichols was the person in contact with the gamblers and all three had thrown games. Chase requested from each member of the team permission to see all the Western Union telegrams sent and received. Craver is the only man on the team to refuse, which caused him to be suspended. The telegrams proved the three were in open communication with the gamblers. The National League subsequently expelled all four players ‘for conduct in contravention of the objects of this League.’ Craver was banned even though it was not actually proven that he participated in throwing any games, but there were reports of his gambling and insubordination in his past, along with his refusal to cooperate with this investigation.”
.394, 1 HR, 45 RBI
Batting Average-.394 (2nd Time)
On-Base %-.401 (2nd Time)
On Base Plus Slugging-.889 (2nd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-183 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-24 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-2.4 (2nd Time)
Offensive Win %-.798 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-It was a typical Meyerle season, great hitting, terrible hands in the field. Teams continued to try to hide him in the field. He started in 1871 at third base, moved to rightfield in 1872, went back to third in 1873, and this season, his first not playing for a team in Philadelphia, played at second. He finished seventh in WAR Position Players (2.2) and second in Offensive WAR (2.8). Defensively, he had a -0.5 WAR. Like I mentioned in a previous write-up, he was made for the designated hitter.
Meyerle slashed at .394/.401/.488 for a his league-leading OPS+ of 183. He smacked 100 hits for the first and last time of his career. For seven straight seasons, from 1871 to 1877, Meyerle had an OPS+ of 140 or above and never hit below .316.
Baseball Reference says, “He was nicknamed ‘Long Levi’, presumably because at 6′ 1″, he was one of the taller players in the league. Not a star defensively, he appeared in about half his games at third base and about one quarter at second base.
“He lived to be 72 years old, dying in November 1921, the same month that Roy Campanella was born (both events happened in Philadelphia, PA). His portrait can be found in the book 19th Century Baseball in Chicago.”
There is no box score for the game of June 18, but Chicago lost that game, 38-1, and according to Bleacher Report, committed 36 errors. I wonder how many were committed by Meyerle, considering he committed 72 at four different positions during the season.
.346, 0 HR, 18 RBI, 4-16, 2.09 ERA, 12 K
1st Time All-Star-John E. Manning was born on December 20, 1853 in Braintree, MA. He was part of Boston’s championship team in 1873 before moving to Baltimore and eventually Hartford this season. After a mediocre rookie year, he came around this season, finishing seventh in WAR for Pitchers with a 1.1 mark. His win-loss record doesn’t reflect how well he really pitched. He also hit well, slashing at .346/.354/.413 with an OPS+ of 144.
Warren White managed the Canaries to a 9-38 record and a last place finish, 31-and-a-half games behind Boston. They started 1-1 before losing their next 11 and never getting back on track. Manning took over pitching duties for the terrible Asa Brainard (Pitching WAR -4.4) and at least gave them some consistency on the mound. The Canaries folded after the season.
Underbelly, a webpage from the Maryland Historical Society Library, has a little history on the Canaries. Here’s part of what they report: “Meet your Lord Baltimores a.k.a. the Yellow Stockings a.k.a the Baltimore Canaries, so called for their bright yellow uniforms. These dandies wore thick silk shirts—instead of the usual flannel—emblazoned with the Calvert arms, wide white belts, and snazzy yellow and black argyle socks.
“Finishing their first and second seasons in second and third place respectively, the future of the Lords club was looking bright. But the Panic of 1873 caught up with the team’s financiers. Funding dried up and the team they fielded in 1874 was a disgrace.” Baltimore would have a much better baseball history to come.
.313, 0 HR, 26 RBI, 0-0, 15.43 ERA, 0 K
4th Time All-Star-There is no doubt in my mind Force will make the All-Star team in 1875, so I’m going to use that write-up to discuss the debacle which led to the end of the National Association as a major league. This season, he finished 10th in WAR Position Players (2.0) and ninth in Defensive WAR (0.6). I’ve said this numerous times, but the bad reputation of Force doesn’t take away from the fact he was a heck of a ballplayer. He’s the only third baseman on the All-Star team.
Here’s a snippet on Force’s NA career from hallofstats.com: “Davy Force posted a 134 OPS+ in his National Association years and also grades as an excellent defensive shortstop by Total Zone (77.0 runs above average). Force is most well-known for being a “contract jumper”. He signed two contracts for the 1875 season with different teams. The case was the beginning of the end for the National Association.” He was picked as the shortstop on that website’s All Non-Hall of Fame National Association Team.
Is it possible that the Good Lord didn’t want baseball in Chicago? I ask because after taking off 1872 and 1873 due to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the city had another fire now that the White Stockings were back. Here’s the details from Wikipedia: “The Chicago Fire of 1874 was a conflagration in Chicago, Illinois, that took place on July 14, 1874. Reports of the extent of the damage vary somewhat, but sources generally agree that the fire burned forty-seven acres just south of the Loop, destroyed 812 structures and killed 20 people. The affected neighborhood had been home to Chicago’s community of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland, as well as to a significant population of middle-class African-American families; both ethnic groups were displaced in the aftermath of the fire to other neighborhoods on the city’s West and South Sides.”
.329, 2 HR, 44 RBI
Def. Games as SS-60 (2nd Time)
Putouts as SS-97 (3rd Time)
Errors Committed as SS-64
Double Plays Turned as SS-23 (4th Time)
4th Time All-Star-Wright continued to have no problem in this new league, finishing in the top 10 in WAR for the third consecutive season, coming in eighth at 2.7. H was second in WAR Position Players (2.7) and third in Offensive WAR (2.6). His defense fell off a bit, as shown by his league-leading 66 errors in 60 games. He was starting to fade a little at the plate also, but it wouldn’t be truly noticeable for a couple seasons. His OPS+ descended from 198 in 1871 to 160 in 1873 to 159 in 1875 to 136 in the first National League season of 1876 and it’d never be that high again.
The Boston shortstop was also the game’s first superstar and had the first sports endorsement of a product ever. Sportscollectordaily.com says, “Before Boston Garter. Before Wheaties. Before Be Like Mike and Mars Blackmon and way before Bo Knows… there was George Wright for Red Stockings Cigars.
“Some 140 years ago, the first superstar of American sports agreed to promote a local brand of stogies and now the only known surviving display poster from the dawn of American sports endorsements is about to go on the open market. It is the earliest American advertising poster featuring the endorsement of a commercial product by any player or sports figure. Robert Edward Auctions will sell the remarkably well preserved artifact in its upcoming Spring Auction.
“It isn’t known exactly how much George Wright’s endorsement pumped up Red Stockings Cigar sales in 1874, but it would be a tactic that soon gained traction, eventually transforming the relationship between sports and commerce in America as sports stars and celebrities became marketing assets in the decades that followed.”
.294, 0 HR, 26 RBI
Assists as SS-204
Fielding % as SS-.845 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Union Grounds in Brooklyn was possibly the toughest place to hit in the National Association, so Pearce’s numbers don’t look all that impressive. He slashed at .294/.310/.298 for an OPS+ of 107. But they were very passable and when added to his great glove, Pearce is back on the All-Star team for the second consecutive year. He finished ninth in WAR (2.5), third in WAR Position Players (2.5), and second in Defensive WAR (1.0). He is one of the rare players who is high in WAR due more to his glove than his bat.
Pearce was what’s known in modern times as a gamer. He would take any edge needed to succeed. From SABR: “The fair-foul was a trick play. The goal was to tap the top of the ball as it approached the plate, have it land in fair territory near the batter’s feet and roll foul out of the reach of the fielders as the batter-runner made a break for first base. Pearce increased its effectiveness by putting a spin on the ball that could take a fielder far out of his range. Third basemen occasionally set up in foul territory to combat this, but Pearce was still successful. The fake bunt or fair-foul was also an effective part of his arsenal. As the infielders inched in to field the short hits, Pearce would counter them by swinging away in an effort to get the ball by them.
“The crux of the Atlantics roster departed after the 1874 season. Bob Ferguson and rookie Tommy Bond headed to Hartford. Pearce was initially slated to return to the Mutuals, but he jumped at a better offer. In the fall of 1874, a group of civic boosters in St. Louis raised $20,000 to organize a baseball club called the Browns, the first openly professional nine in the city’s history.”
.226, 0 HR, 29 RBI, 0-1, 2.25 ERA, 0 K
2nd Time All-Star-Before going off to fight the McCoys, Hatfield made his second All-Star team on a Ron Kitchell loophole. I need 10 All-Star pitchers per year and Hatfield, in his three games on the mound, finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers at 0.1. He also had an ERA+ of 107.
While war is no joking matter, WAR does offer some guffaws. Like this one. When does -0.2+0.5+0.1=0.6? When we’re talking about Wins Above Replacement. Hatfield finished with a -0.2 Offensive WAR and his offense was truly offensive. He slashed at .226/.244/.274 for and OPS+ of 64. On defense, mainly leftfield, he was pretty good, with a mark of 0.5. He just finished out of the top 10 in Defensive WAR. But all of these numbers should add up to 0.4 not 0.6, but overall, Hatfield’s WAR was 0.6. I’m sure there’s an explanation.
On a website called the J.G. Preston Experience, there is a long article which has a lot to say about John Hatfield’s record throw. Again, I urge you, I beg you! Read the whole thing. Here’s some tidbits: “On October 15, 1872, Hatfield broke his own record when he threw a ball 400 feet 7-1/2 inches (or, as it was expressed at the time, 133 yards, 1 foot and 7-1/2 inches). It happened at the Mutuals’ home field, the Union Grounds in Brooklyn, on a day when the Mutuals were taking part in a three-team tournament involving the top professional teams, organized by William Cammeyer. The tournament had been going on for a week, and it didn’t look like gate receipts would be enough for Cammeyer to make the $4,000 he had put up in prize money.” You’ll have to go to that link to read the rest.
.355, 1 HR, 50 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-For the first time ever, Pike didn’t lead the National Association in home runs, but was still the leading slugger. Surprisingly, he did not lead the league in slugging his first three seasons, finishing second, eighth, and seventh respectively. Pike finished 10th in WAR (2.4), fourth in WAR Position Players (2.4), and fifth in Offensive WAR (2.3). In what was slightly a hitters’ park, Hartford Ball Club Grounds, he slashed at .355/.368/.504 for an OPS+ of 172. Good season for the league’s first Jewish star.
Unfortunately for Pike the manager, he didn’t have too many players as good as Pike the centerfielder and Hartford’s initial NA season was unsuccessful, as it finished in seventh place with a 16-37 record. As would happen time and time and time again in baseball history, a great player didn’t end up being a very good manager.
Some highlights from SABR about the two seasons in which Pike didn’t make the All-Stars, 1872 and 1873: “Lip Pike joined the Baltimore team for the 1872 season. Officially, the team name was ‘The Lord Baltimores’ but because of their bright yellow shirts with matching caps and hose, they were popularly known as ‘The Canaries.’ The team owners had vigorously recruited outstanding players during the off-season, and their efforts were rewarded with a second place finish (in an eleven team league). Overall, Pike, playing 56 of his team’s 58 games, led the league in home runs (with 7), and RBIs, finishing second in total bases, while hitting a respectable .298.
.318, 0 HR, 31 RBI
AB per SO-299.0
Double Plays Turned as OF-3 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as OF-.906 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-And my prophecy about Eggler making at least one more All-Star team is correct! He was fading, but the lack of depth of outfielders in the National Association helped him once again. For the first time, Eggler played on a different team than the Mutuals, moving to Philadelphia, where he slashed at .318 BA (lowest ever to this point)/.329 OBP (lowest ever to this point), and .415 SLG (2nd-highest ever, would never be matched again). His OPS+ of 135 was his second highest ever.
As did Davy Force, Eggler made the Hall of Stats All Non-Hall of Fame National Association Team (or HOSANHOFNAT, pronounced just as it’s spelled). The page’s write-up says, “Dave Eggler had an OPS+ of 133 in his NA seasons, but just 56 after that. His National Association WAR of 10.2 was powered by 62 batting runs and 35 defensive runs. Eggler played with the New York Mutuals as early as 1868.”
In 1902, Dave Eggler was hit and killed by a train at the age of 52. The accident occurred in Buffalo, NY. I thought Eggler would be more famous so as to have more information on the wreck, but in my three or four minutes of research, I’m unable to find any.
I will now make another guess and say that Eggler is done making All-Star teams. I say this hesitantly, because there are so few good outfielders in the NA. Not to mention his OPS+ in 1875 is only two below 1874. Nope, I’m sticking with it. He’s done making All-Star teams! I think.
.315, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 0-2, 2.16 ERA, 0 K
Saves-4 (4th Time)
Double Plays Turned as OF-3
2nd Time All-Star-Early baseball’s greatest manager snuck onto the All-Star team with the 10 pitcher loophole, finishing 10th in WAR for Pitchers at 0.1. He also added 0.6 WAR with his bat and glove.
Boston won its third straight championship under Harry, finishing 52-18, and believe it or not, its best season is yet to come. Wright would go on to win the 1875 National Association title and then add two more trophies to his wall in the National League, for a total of six championships in seven years.
This will be his last All-Star team, however, as he would play only one game in 1875, 1876, and 1877. Yes, he was 39 years old at this point, but he still had a great season.
There’s too much to write about Wright and you should read the SABR article on him, but I wanted to put this bit about his morality: “Wright’s reputation as the most ethical gentleman in the game – ‘There was no figure more creditable to the game than dear old Harry,’ said The Sporting News – defied the money-grubbing stereotype of what an exponent of professionalism was supposed to be. Instead, he emphasized the necessity of fair play and high ethical standards for the advancement of the game, an admonition that he heeded as well. In one 1868 home game, he reversed the blatantly errant ruling of an umpire seeking to curry the favor of the Cincinnati crowd. Owing largely to this action, the Red Stockings went on to lose the game. In later years Wright himself was entrusted to umpire games within his own league.”
.359, 3 HR, 71 RBI
WAR Position Players-3.0
Hits-123 (2nd Time)
Runs Batted In-71
Times on Base-124
3rd Time All-Star-McVey had his best season ever, even outdoing his All-Star Red Stockings teammates with the bat this year. Harry Wright, after getting him back from Baltimore, moved him from regular catcher to rightfield and not having to catch Al Spalding with bare hands seemed to rejuvenate him, though he’d never really been bad. He finished seventh in WAR (3.0), first in WAR Position Players (3.0), and first in Offensive WAR (2.9). And on top of all that, he married a 22-year-old Indiana woman named Abbey. Good year for McVey, indeed!
From SABR: “Two factions emerged on the team during 1870, divided largely by their attitudes toward drinking and discipline. McVey, the Wright brothers, and Charlie Gould (the team’s only native Cincinnatian) favored teetotaling. Despite all their success on the field, the club was not a money-making proposition. Champion resigned as president, and the club’s directors voted to return to amateur status. In March 1871 the first professional league was formed—the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA). Harry Wright became the captain of the Boston entry, which he named the Red Stockings after the famous Cincinnati club. From Cincinnati he took with him three players – his brother George, Charlie Gould, and Calvin McVey. The fact that Cal was the team’s best hitter was probably the principal reason he was included in this elite group, but Wright’s perception of the youngster’s exemplary character may have played a part in the decision.” I mentioned before the juggernaut Red Stockings were a clean-cut bunch.