P-Al Spalding, BOS
P-Candy Cummings, HAR
P-Tommy Bond, HAR
P-Dick McBride, ATH
P-Cherokee Fisher, PHI
P-George Zettlein, CHI/PHI
P-Bobby Mathews, NYU
P-George Bradley, STL
P-Joe Borden, PHI
P-Mike Golden, WES/CHI
C-Deacon White, BOS
C-Tim McGinley, CEN/NHV
C-Sam Field, CEN/WAS
1B-Cal McVey, BOS
1B-Charlie Hautz, SLR
2B-Ross Barnes, BOS
2B-Bill Craver, CEN/ATH
2B-Bill Boyd, BRA
3B-Ezra Sutton, ATH
SS-George Wright, BOS
SS-Davy Force, ATH
SS-John Peters, CHI
CF-Lip Pike, STL
CF-Paul Hines, CHI
CF-Jim O’Rourke, BOS
54-5, 1.59 ERA, 75 K, .312, 0 HR, 56 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-14.2 (2nd Time)
WAR for Pitchers-12.8 (2nd Time)
Wins-54 (5th Time)
Win-Loss %-.915 (3rd Time)
Games Pitched-72 (3rd Time)
Shutouts-7 (4th Time)
Games Finished-12 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-44 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-3.9 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-72 (3rd Time)
Assists as P-133 (4th Time)
5th Time All-Star-Hall of Famer Spalding pitched Boston to its best season ever. It was also his best. You can see in the stats and the leaders list above how dominant he was. That’s why it’shard to believe he’ll no longer be playing baseball within three years.
This would be the National Association’s last season and part of the reason is the continued dominance of the Red Stockings. Led by Spalding and a slew of great hitters, Boston marched to a 71-8 record, finishing 15 games ahead of the Athletics. However, according to Wikipedia, “William Hulbert, principal owner of the Chicago White Stockings, did not like the loose organization of the National Association and the gambling element that influenced it, so he decided to create a new organization, which he dubbed the National League of Baseball Clubs. To aid him in this venture, Hulbert enlisted the help of Spalding. Playing to the pitcher’s desire to return to his Midwestern roots and challenging Spalding’s integrity, Hulbert convinced Spalding to sign a contract to play for the White Stockings (now known as the Chicago Cubs) in 1876. Spalding then coaxed teammates Deacon White, Ross Barnes and Cal McVey, as well as Philadelphia Athletics players Cap Anson and Bob Addy, to sign with Chicago. This was all done under complete secrecy during the playing season because players were all free agents in those days and they did not want their current club and especially the fans to know they were leaving to play elsewhere the next year. News of the signings by the Boston and Philadelphia players leaked to the press before the season ended and all of them faced verbal abuse and physical threats from the fans of those cities.”
35-12, 1.60 ERA, 82 K, .199, 0 HR, 15 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.087
Shutouts-7 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base On Balls-20.500
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.000
Fielding Independence Pitching-1.87
4th Time All-Star-In the last year of the National Association, Cummings produced his best season, finishing second in WAR (11.9) and WAR for Pitchers (12.6). Astonishingly, he split pitching duties with another All-Star, Tommy Bond. Cummings pitched 416 innings and Bond pitched 352. Cummings had an ERA of 1.60 and an ERA+ of 146 and Bond’s was 1.41 and 167.
Led by this amazing duo, Hartford allowed less runs per game than any team in the league. Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson coached the team to a 54-28 record, good for third in the league. Hartford lacked in hitting, not on the mound. Cummings and Bond would be their only All-Stars.
For the fourth consecutive year, Cummings pitched for a new team, moving from the Philadelphia Whites in 1874 to Hartford this season. He was a good pitcher and there were a lot of teams vying for his famous curveball.
Here’s a recap of everything I just said above from the Candy Cummings write-up in SABR: “In 1875 Cummings landed on his fifth team in five years, the Hartford Dark Blues. The 1875 season was longer than previous campaigns, so the Hartford club divided the pitching load between Cummings and 19-year-old Tommy Bond, who played right field for the first eight weeks of the campaign while learning the curveball from Cummings. Bond mastered the pitch by mid-season, and by July he and Cummings provided an effective one-two punch for the Dark Blues. Hartford finished in second place as Cummings went 35-12 and pitched seven shutouts. Bond posted a 19-16 log and batted .273 as an outfielder.”
19-16, 1.41 ERA, 70 K, .266, 0 HR, 33 RBI
Double Plays Grounded Into-6
2nd Time All-Star-Much of Bond’s season is mentioned in Candy Cummings’ blurb above. At only 19-years-old, he was third in WAR (11.5) and third in WAR for Pitchers (11.0). If he could continue to throw the way he did in the National League in the upcoming seasons, he would be the best pitcher in the league and, spoiler alert!, he does and he is.
I mentioned in last season’s write-up that Bond threw a curveball, which he didn’t learn until this season under the tutelage of Cummings. They became baseball’s first great one-two combo, long before the years of Koufax–Drysdale and Spahn–Sain.
Like Cummings, Bond also moved teams, as he pitched for the Brooklyn Atlantics in 1874. He would spend most of his NL career in Boston and wouldn’t leave the New England area except for a short time pitching for Indianapolis in the American Association in 1884.
There is a good article on the whole National Association experience on makojo.com. I again urge you to read the whole thing, though admittedly it will take you awhile. Here’s a bit on the end of the league: “The National Association allowed any team willing to pay the $10 entry fee to join the league. Unfortunately, teams that were weak both financially and on the field were a constant part of the Association. Teams with little hope of winning the pennant often declined to make costly road trips. Many teams failed to complete the expected number of games and franchises failed at an alarming rate. After the end of the 1875 season the stronger teams left the National Association and formed their own league, the National League of Professional Base Ball Players. The weaker teams could not survive on their own and the National Association passed into the pages of history.”
44-14, 2.33 ERA, 27 K, .270, 0 HR, 45 RBI
Bases on Balls-24
Fielding % as P-.955
5th Time All-Star-Year after year, McBride just misses the upper echelon of pitchers in the National Association. This season, he finished fourth in WAR (9.7) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (9.2). In a season in which run scoring was significantly down, McBride had his best hitting season ever, slashing at .270/.281/.304 for an OPS+ of 97.
McBride managed all five seasons of the Athletics, finishing with an overall record of 161-85. He would surprisingly never get another managing gig, despite finishing second this season and never lower than fourth in his previous seasons. He didn’t finish this season, however. Cap Anson took the reigns of the ballclub for the last six games, finishing with a 4-2 record. Anson, still known as Adrian not Cap, wouldn’t manage again until 1879, but then would manage every season through 1898.
In a season in which all of the major teams were sharing pitching duty, the Athletics did the same. McBride started 60 of the team’s 77 games, with 13 starts going to Lon Knight. Both had similar stats (ERA+-McBride 103; Knight 106) but McBride had to keep it up over many more innings.
McBride finished his National Association career with a 149-78 record, a 2.71 ERA, and a 111 ERA+. He pitched the team to the one championship not won by the Red Stockings and always had the Athletics in the hunt. His career was essentially over, as he lost all four games he pitched for the 1876 National League Red Stockings. He would die on January 20, 1916, at the age of 70 in Philadelphia.
22-19, 1.99 ERA, 18 K, .232, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-6
5th Time All-Star-I promised I’d get to the final years of Fisher’s life in the 1874 blurb and I won’t break my promise, because Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no no.” So I’ll get to that in a second, or more, depending how fast you read. This last season of the National Association was Fisher’s best year, as he finished fifth in WAR (7.9) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (8.2). He would finish his NA career with a 52-63 record, 2.52 ERA, and 116 ERA+. He would also make the All-Star team all five seasons.
The Whites were Fisher’s fifth team in five seasons, as he moved from the Hartford Dark Blues, where he pitched in 1874. Philadelphia was coached by Mike McGeary (34-27) and Bob Addy (3-4), for a total record of 37-31 and a fifth place finish.
According to one source, Fisher never finished the season for the Whites. Here’s an article on baseball’s first no-hitter from SABR: “In July 1875 the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, baseball’s first professional league, was midway through its fifth and final season. [Joe] Borden came to the Philadelphia club only because Cherokee Fisher, the team’s hard-drinking pitcher, had clashed with team captain Mike McGeary and was released. To fill the hole the club lured away Chicago’s George Zettlein, one of the better hurlers in the league. But Zettlein was slow to arrive in Philadelphia, so McGeary was forced to turn to the local amateur teams for an interim solution. He found Borden, whose style John Morrill would later describe as ‘so entirely different from every one else that nobody could hit him.’”
After retiring from baseball after the 1878 season, Fisher would live in Chicago, serving on the Fire Department for many years. As we’ve learned, you could stay pretty busy as a fireman in Chicago! He died on September 26, 1912, at the age of 67 in New York City.
29-22, 1.59 ERA, 31 K, .204, 0 HR, 15 RBI
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.000
5th Time All-Star-No star bounced around more than Zettlein did in the National Association. He started in 1871 with Chicago; played in 1872 with Troy and the Brooklyn Eckfords; moved in 1873 to the Philadelphia Whites; went back to Chicago in 1874; and in 1875, started with the White Stockings before going to the Whites. Zettlein finished sixth in WAR (7.7) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (8.5). His hitting, or lack thereof, continued to hurt his numbers.
The White Stockings, again coached by Jimmy Wood, finished sixth in the NA with a 30-37 record. Their pitching, led by Zettlein, was outstanding as they finished second in the league in ERA at 1.63. However, their fielding and hitting wasn’t too good. Chicago was third in the league in errors and fifth in the league in runs scored.
David Arcidiacono wrote an article for SABR about a June 19, 1875 game between Candy Cummings of the Hartford Dark Blues and Zettlein of the White Stockings. It’s a good article, I urge you to read it all, but here’s a bit about Charmer: “The Chicago crowd believed the slightly built Cummings (5-feet-9, 120 pounds) would falter against the bigger Zettlein, who outweighed him by 40 pounds. To their surprise, Cummings continued to shut out the White Stockings. Hartford nearly broke the scoreless streak in the eighth inning when, for the second time in the game, the visitors loaded the bases. But Chicago’s Scott Hastings, who had played for Hartford in 1874, saved the game with a great running catch in right field on a hit by Tom Carey. In an unprecedented development, the game remained scoreless through the entire nine innings. The two previous 1-0 games had both ended after nine innings.” Chicago won 1-0 in 11 innings.
29-38, 2.49 ERA 75 K, .182, 0 HR, 15 RBI
Innings Pitched-625 2/3
Earned Runs Allowed-173
Wild Pitches-28 (3rd Time)
Errors Committed as P-29
5th Time All-Star-After two straight seasons of leading the National Association in WAR, Mathews fell to seventh in 1875 with a mark of 7.4. He was also seventh in WAR for Pitchers at 8.1. In a league that was starting to see the benefits of adding a second pitcher, New York, for which Mathews was pitching his third season, allowed him to pitch 625 2/3 of the team’s total 636 2/3 innings. Count Gedney pitched the other 11.
Despite sending one of the best pitchers in the league to the mound game after game, the Mutuals still finished in sixth place with a 30-38 record. Catcher Nat Hicks, an 1872 All-Star, coached for his first and last time. New York would be one of the teams to move to the National League in 1876.
Mathews would throw 516 innings in 1876 for New York, but his ERA+ dropped from 90 in 1875 to 79. He would not throw over 200 innings again until his last year in the National League, 1882. He would then go back to being Rubber-Armed Mathews in the American Association, starting in 1883. He hasn’t made his last All-Star team.
From SABR: “Mathews summed up his own philosophy this way: ‘Good, straight pitching, thorough command over the ball, a good “out-curve” and a good “in-shoot” are what the great pitchers are working with today, and I, for my part, don’t believe in anything else.’ [The quote is from A Game of Inches.]” Does anybody know what an in-shoot is?
33-26, 2.13 ERA, 60 K, .244, 0 HR, 24 RBI
Putouts as P-52
1st Time All-Star-George Washington “Grin” Bradley was born on July 13, 1852 in Reading, PA. He had a good rookie season in 1875, a great sophomore season in 1876, and then would never reach that level again. Could it be because in his first two seasons he threw for over 1,000 innings? Who knows, but this season, in 535 2/3 innings, he finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers with a 3.1 mark.
Here’s a snippet from Wikipedia on the Brown Stockings’ first season: “Joining the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP), or National Association (NA), in that league’s final season, the Brown Stockings were the first of two teams to represent St. Louis in a professional baseball association in 1875 (Spink 1911). Grand Avenue Grounds – the Brown Stockings’ home field – was later the site of Sportsman’s Park…The Brown Stockings finished 39–29 and in fourth place in their only season in the NA.
“Like the White Stockings in Chicago (established 1871), the Brown Stockings adopted uniforms and acquired a nickname by descent with variation from the famous Red Stockings of Cincinnati (est. 1869), the self-proclaimed ‘original’ professional baseball team, who garnered much public interest due to an undefeated streak during a barnstorming tour in 1869 and 1870.”
Dickey Pearce, a two-time All-Star who had last partially managed the New York Mutuals in 1872, managed the Brown Stockings. Between the two managing stints, Pearce had a 49-35 record, yet surprisingly never managed again.
Grin split his duties with Pud Galvin, who, according to Baseball Reference, led the league in ERA with a 1.16 mark. Using the rules we have nowadays in which a pitcher must toss at least one inning per game played by a team, Galvin would not have qualified. Tommy Bond should be the official leader.
2-4, 1.50 ERA, 9 K, .107, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Walks & Hits per IP-0.818
Hits per 9 IP-6.409
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.000
1st Time All-Star-Joseph Emley Borden, aka Joseph Emley Josephs in 1875, was born on May 9, 1854 in Jacobstown, NJ. He had the kind of rookie season, finishing ninth in WAR for Pitchers (2.0), that would tell you this 21-year-old had a great career ahead of him. He didn’t. His ERA+ plummeted from 154 to 77 by 1876 and he’d be out of baseball.
However, in one of those flukes the game produces all the time, Borden threw the first professional no-hitter. I mentioned him in the Cherokee Fisher blurb. Here’s more from SABR about this historic game: “Borden agreed to pitch for Philadelphia but only if he was listed in game accounts and box scores as Joseph E. Josephs, evidently to keep his well-heeled family in New Jersey from discovering that he was playing baseball for pay. (He was also known to have played as Joseph Nedrob, Borden spelled backwards).
“McGeary agreed, and Borden, now Josephs, joined the club on July 24 for its game against the crosstown rival Athletics at the Jefferson Street Grounds. It was an inauspicious debut, as Borden and the White Stockings lost 11–4 before a crowd estimated at 1,000. Two days later the Chicago White Stockings arrived for the first of two scheduled games, and Borden again was defeated, this time by a score of 5–1.
“The clubs squared off again for the series finale two days later, on Wednesday, July 28, and this time Borden’s fortunes took a dramatic turn. He defeated the visitors 4–0 and in the process pitched the first no-hit game in the short history of professional baseball. His performance instantly made him a star.
“On April 22, 1876, Borden, now playing under his real name, beat Philadelphia 6–5 in the first game in National League history, making him the League’s first winning pitcher.” Two unbelievable firsts for a two-season, fairly mediocre pitcher.
7-19, 1.86 ERA, 34 K, .229, 0 HR, 15 RBI
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.000
1st Time All-Star-Michael Henry Golden was born on September 11, 1851 in Shirley, MA, 160 years before the date 9/11 would become infamous. He was the Keokuk Westerns’ best player, actually compiling a 0.7 Pitching WAR with them, with a 1.83 ERA and 134 ERA+ in 232 innings. His ERA of 1.89 for the White Stockings wasn’t much worse and that computed to a 121 ERA+.
Keokuk lasted only 13 games, winning only one of them. Joe Simmons was the manager and wouldn’t manage another team until the Union Association’s Wilmington Quicksteps in 1884. He doubled his amount of wins from the Westerns, going 2-16. This is from The History of Keokuk Baseball Web Site: “1875 – National Association of Professional Baseball Players – Keokuk’s first professional baseball team was in this league. They played in a field beyond Rand Park known as Perry Park. The National Association became the National League in 1876, although Keokuk did not become a part of it. Keokuk’s record for that year was 1-12. One famous player to play against the Keokuk team that year was one of early baseball’s greatest pitchers, Albert Goodwill Spalding. Spalding played with Boston, and was the founder of the sporting goods company that bears his name. The 1875 Keokuk Westerns entire roster included only eleven players.”
Golden would play only more year of Major League ball, for the 1878 Milwaukee Grays of the National League. He died in Rockford, Illinois at the age of 77 on January 11, 1929.
.367, 1 HR, 60 RBI
1875 NA Batting Title
Def. Games as C-75 (4th Time)
Putouts as C-355 (3rd Time)
Assists as C-87
3rd Time All-Star-With the Red Stockings winning their fourth consecutive National Association title, Deacon White continued to be the best catcher in the league. He was 10th in WAR (4.4), third in WAR Position Players (4.4), and third in Offensive WAR (4.1). He slashed at .367/.372/.453 with an OPS+ of 178, his highest yet in his career. In between two leagues, the NA and the National League, White would have 18 consecutive 100+ OPS+ seasons. It’s hard to believe he didn’t make the Hall of Fame until 2013.
Here’s more from the Slate article written by James B. Jackson, Deacon’s great-grandson: “The National Association lasted five years. Mismanagement killed it. Heavy drinking and gambling were rampant. Before the association died, Deacon played for the Boston team. While there, he batted .392 in 1873 and then .367 in 1875, the year he was awarded the first-ever Most Valuable Player award, not by the association but by the Boston fans. It was a silver chalice.” The fans thought he was even more valuable than Al Spalding.
However, SABR reports that he wasn’t that popular in 1875, because the Boston fans found out he, along with Al Spalding, Cal McVey, and Ross Barnes, were leaving the team to go to Chicago. “As could have been expected, Spalding and the three other defectors became unacceptable in Boston. They were hissed and booed from the stands; children taunted them and pelted them with stones when they walked in the streets. But all of this distraction had no effect on the play of the Boston team, unless it was to make them play harder, for the club went on to compile a 71-8 record, never equaled in league play.
“N. T. Appolonio, president of the Boston club, offered the four more money, but the situation had gone too far for turning back, even in the face of rumors that the seceders would be expelled from baseball.”
.262, 0 HR, 15 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Timothy Stanislaus McGinley was born in 1854 in Philadelphia, PA. His season, especially after he was traded to New Haven, wasn’t terrible and being only 21, he seemed to be off to a good long career. He wasn’t. He would play nine games for Boston in the National League in 1876 and he was gone.
Three managers coached the Elm Citys throughout the season. Charlie Gould (2-21), Jumbo Latham (4-14), and Charlie Pabor (1-5) led New Haven to a 7-40 record and an eighth place finish. Despite playing only one season, there is a lot of information on the internet for this team due to one man, Steve Scarpa, who dug into microfilm to compile the team’s history, including individual write-ups on the games. You should check it out.
Of New Haven’s seven wins, their most notable came against the 71-8 Boston Red Stockings. From Scarpa: “Even amongst New Haven’s biggest base ball boosters, no one thought they had much of a chance against the National Association champion Boston Red Stockings. After all, the Philadelphia Athletics, a good club in its own right, defeated New Haven by the combined score of 30-3 during the club’s brief road trip on June 23 and 24, running their tally to seven consecutive wins over Elm City. The club then followed those games with two losses to Yale and the TBs of Bridgeport (The Bridgeport Friendly United Social Club), a good amateur squad who had been providing a few players to New Haven when the team was shorthanded.
“’What man in New Haven would have ventured to bet in favor of the New Havens yesterday afternoon?’ opined the New Haven Register. ‘If any man had dared to make such a wager, ball-players would have rated him as the first of idiots.’”
.222, 0 HR, 1 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Samuel Jay Field was born on October 12, 1848 in Philadelphia, PA. Even though he only played five games for the Nationals, he was the only one of their players who added any value above replacement player for them, so here he is. He started out with the Centennials, going 1-for-11 and slashing at .091/.091/.091 before moving to Washington, where his slash numbers were .313/.313/.313. In his 27 at-bats, he never walked and never hit for an extra base hit.
Our nation’s capital wouldn’t have a team for another nine years. They then added another Nationals team to the Union Association, where they finished 47-65, and also had a team named the Statesmen in the American Association, which finished 12-51. Neither lasted past 1884.
Field would play four more games in his career, for the Cincinnati Reds in the National League. He would go 0-for-14 and his career was over. So if you’re doing the math, Field went 1-for-25 on the two teams he played for outside of Washington and 5-for-16 in D.C.
On October 28, 1904 in Sinking Spring, PA, Field died at the age of 56. According to Wikipedia, Sinking Spring’s has an interesting, though probably very common, history: “The Indians who first inhabited this area were the Lenni Lenape Indians (meaning the ‘original people’). The Tribe in this immediate area was the Minsi or Wolf tribe. They were known to be quite warlike at times. These Indians later became known as the Delawares. This name was given to them by a white man, Lorde de la Ware. Indian inhabitants in the Sinking Spring area supposedly called the main spring as the sunken spring. White settlers later called it the ‘sinking spring.’”
.355, 3 HR, 87 RBI, 1-0, 4.91 ERA, 1 K
Offensive WAR-4.4 (2nd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.873
Total Bases-201 (2nd Time)
Runs Batted In-87 (2nd Time)
Runs Created-73 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-36
Adj. Batting Wins-4.1
Extra Base Hits-48 (2nd Time)
Offensive Win %-829
4th Time All-Star-McVey made his fourth All-Star team at his third different position. He made it as a catcher in 1871 and 1873, then as a rightfielder in 1874. I deemed 1874 his best season, but you could make an argument for 1875 also, or even 1876 for that matter. He finished ninth in WAR (4.5), second in WAR Position Players (3.0), and first in Offensive WAR (4.4). His stats look a little gaudier this year because Boston played 11 more games than in 1874.
As mentioned earlier in the Deacon White write-up and on McVey’s Wikipedia page: “During the summer of 1875, Boston’s four Western stars agreed to play next season for the Chicago White Stockings: McVey, Deacon White, Ross Barnes, and Albert Spalding. Partly because the rules forbade such tampering, Chicago led the founding of a new National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (NL).”
Here’s some more information on this same event from Baseball Library: “Harry Wright‚ having lunch at Taunton‚ where the Bostons are playing‚ is told by McVey he isn’t going to play in Boston next year. Wright thinks McVey is joking until he finds out after lunch that 4 players are going to Chicago.”
And here’s an article from SABR on Boston’s dominant season: “The best winning percentage the New York Yankees ever enjoyed was .714 in their 110–44 1927 world championship season. The Yankees would have had to improve to 139–15 to match the .899 winning percentage the Boston Red Caps (71–8) held at the end of the 1875 season. It was as good a year as any team has ever had.”
.301, 0 HR, 4 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Charles A. Hautz was born on February 5, 1852 in St. Louis, MO. Despite having a 0.5 WAR in the only19 games the Red Stockings played, Hautz only played part of one other season, nine years later for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association. You would have thought someone would try out a batter, only 23 years old, who slashed at .301/.301/.337 with an OPS+ of 130 in a pitchers’ year. Not to mention Red Stocking Base Ball Park was a definite pitchers’ yard. (According to Wikipedia, they played at Compton Park.) But he wasn’t sought after for a long time.
St. Louis was managed by Charlie Sweasy, who led them to a 4-15 record and an eighth place finish. The Red Stockings were a local amateur team that went pro, but only lasted until the Fourth of July.
Despite lasting only this one season, the Red Stockings played one significant game, according to SABR: “A May 12, 1875 St. Louis Daily Globe story about the previous day’s contest there created a buzz in the sports world. The writer refers to the ‘stand made by the plucky little Red Stockings against the veteran Chicago nine’ (Red Hot 1875) at the Reds’ park. The game concluded with a then-phenomenal score of 1 – 0. Although the St. Louis club lost, the nearly thousand spectators surely relished the occasion. For, as stated in the article, ‘It was the score that for years base ball organizations have striven for, in vain…The very best on record…’”
.364, 1 HR, 58 RBI
WAR Position Players-5.1 (4th Time)
On-Base%-.375 (2nd Time)
Runs Scored-115 (3rd Time)
Hits-143 (3rd Time)
Times On Base-150 (4th Time)
Def. Games as 2B-76
Putouts as 2B-253
Assists as 2B-252 (4th Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-35 (3rd Time)
5th Time All-Star-With Ross Barnes, where do you start? It’s become cliché to say it’s another great season for the all-star second baseman. He was eighth in WAR (5.1), first in WAR Position Players (5.1), second in Offensive WAR to his teammate Cal Mcvey (4.2), and fourth in Defensive WAR (1.1). It seems like Barnes started to rely more on his ability to do the “fair-foul” hit than ever as his power numbers are down. Yet by 1876 in the National League, those numbers are coming back.
He was part of the “seceders” to Chicago as relayed by Wikipedia: “Before the 1875 season ended, Barnes and four other Boston players signed contracts with the Chicago White Stockings. When word leaked out in Boston before the end of the season, Barnes and his teammates were reviled by Boston fans, being called ‘seceders,’ a strong epithet just a decade after the Civil War. It was likely that the National Association would void the signing, but Chicago owner William Hulbert preempted the move by forming the National League and causing the NA to disband.”
You can have the argument about whether or not Barnes is the greatest National Association ballplayer. By modern metrics like WAR, the pitchers dominate the rankings, but it was a different game when pitchers were pitching underhanded and starting almost every game for their teams. I don’t know. That’s why I like my All-Star teams; it allows me to throw 20 or so of the greatest players every year out there and let you guys argue about who is the greatest.
.311, 2 HR, 45 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-One of the fun things about doing these All-Star teams is I haven’t researched ahead. I pick the team for one season at a time, so I have no idea who’s going to make the team from year-to-year. It’s a surprise to me just like you! So, in 1874, I wrote that Craver probably wouldn’t make another All-Star team and, lookee here!, he makes one again in 1875.
Craver finished seventh in Offensive WAR with a 2.9 mark, slashing at .311/.323/.455 and an OPS+ of 162 between the two Philadelphia teams. He coached all 14 games for the Centennials, guiding them to a 2-12 record. Craver, despite being at least three years older than anyone else on the squad, was easily its best hitter.
He would have one more year of managing left in him, coaching the New York Mutuals in 1876 to a 21-35 record. Maybe that’s where he picked up his gambling problem as many of New York’s players would eventually succumb to betting on or throwing games. If you want more details on Craver’s expulsion from the league in 1877, see his 1874 blurb.
For the second straight year and on three different teams, Craver played his home games in Philadelphia. In 1874, he played for the Philadelphia Whites, before moving to the Centennials and then the Athletics in 1875. According to Wikipedia: “In 1875, he moved over the Philadelphia Centennials. He played in just 13 games for them when, together with George Bechtel, he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics to replace injured players Dave Eggler and Wes Fisler in exchange for $1,500.”
.291, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 K
1st Time All-Star-William J. Boyd was born on December 22, 1852 in New York, NY. He was the best player on one of the worst teams ever. That doesn’t take away from his good season, though, as he had an OPS+ of 147 in a very difficult hitters’ yard, Union Park.
The Atlantics, despite existing for four season in the National Association, never could put it all together. In 1874, they had their best season at 22-33, but they completely fell apart in 1875. Led by the stellar coaching of Charlie Pabor (2-40) and Boyd (0-2), Brooklyn finished with a 2-42 record. With better managing, they could have won four games.
Brooklyn lost its last 31 games, which is more losses in a row than any team, National or American League, since. Surprisingly its closest game was an 8-7 loss to Boston. This put them 23 games out of first place on June 21. The Atlantics would finished 48-and-a-half games out. No team playing this amount of games would ever finish with a lower winning percentage. Needless to say, Brooklyn would not move over to the National League.
I have played on some bad slo-pitch softball teams in my life, probably more bad than good. (Wait a minute, could it be I’m to blame?) And it’s frustrating losing game after game. So I can’t imagine what this terrible team was going through. “Hey, we almost beat Boston, we’re not that bad!” According to a website at covehurst.net, the Atlantics were accused of “hippodroming” or throwing games. Who would ever bet on this team?!
.324, 1 HR, 59 RBI, 0-0, 10.50 ERA, 0 K
Assists as 3B-168
Errors Committed as 3B-74
Double Plays Turned as 3B-10
2nd Time All-Star-Sutton is the only third baseman on the All-Star team and went a long time without making one, last making it in 1871. That season, he played for the defunct Cleveland Forest Citys. In 1875, he played his third straight year for the Athletics. He finished seventh in WAR Position Players (3.1), ninth in Offensive WAR (2.5) (easily his best offensive year thus far), and tenth in Defensive WAR (0.8). He slashed at .324/.326/.402 with an OPS+ of 144. He never walked much, getting base on balls only five times in his whole National Association career.
As we work our way towards modern times, albeit very slowly, we’re bound to encounter many players like Sutton. He found himself in the lineup game after game, not garnering fame, but consistently producing. He’s your modern day Jose Uribe or Howie Kendrick. His slash line for 1875 was almost exactly equal to his slash line for his whole time in the NA: .318/.321/.408. His OPS+ for this season was higher due to the league being more of a pitchers’ league.
As told by SABR, Sutton was part of the Chicago tampering scandal mentioned in some of the blurbs above, mainly for players from the Red Stockings. “On June 26, 1875, Sutton and teammate Cap Anson were recruited by Albert G. Spalding to join the Chicago White Stockings for the 1876 season. Since the agreement was made during the season, it was illegal under National Association rules, as well as a violation of the ballplayers’ contracts. Regardless, Spalding and White Stockings owner William Hulbert forged ahead with their plans. To circumvent punishment for tampering, Hulbert set plans in motion to create a separate league for the 1876 season. The resulting National League remains today as the oldest sports league in the country. Meanwhile, amid pressure from the Philadelphia club and fans, and a promise of a bump in pay, Sutton reneged on his promise to join Chicago, and remained with Philadelphia when the Athletics joined the National League in 1876.”
.333, 2 HR, 61 RBI, 0-1, 6.75 ERA, 0 K
At Bats-408 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Wright finished his National Association career with a bang, having another outstanding season. He was slowly starting to fade, but he was so good, it wasn’t yet noticeable and wouldn’t be for a few years. In 1875, he finished fourth in WAR Position Players (4.2), fourth in Offensive WAR (3.7), and sixth in Defensive WAR (1.0). He slashed at .333/.337/.431 for an OPS+ of 159, a mark he’d never come close to again.
Wright’s NA career slash line was .350/.362/.479, with a 158 OPS+, while in his years in the National League, his line was .256/.277/.323 and an OPS+ of 93. However, it was a different league and he’s still going to be making some All-Star teams.
George’s brother, Harry, the manager of the Red Stockings, turned 40 this year and stopped playing regularly anymore, only appearing in one game as a rightfielder. But thanks to players like Al Spalding, Ross Barnes, along with George, the Red Stockings again dominated the league.
If this team would have stayed together, who knows how many National League titles it could have won. As it is, George faithfully stayed with his brother and Boston would do well in the early years of the National League.
Wikipedia has an article on whether or not the National Association should be counted as a Major League. It says, “In 1969, Major League Baseball’s newly formed Special Baseball Records Committee decided that the National Association should be excluded from major league status, citing the association’s ‘erratic schedule and procedures’ as well as a history of gambling and ‘poor newspaper coverage’. Thus, when the landmark 1969 Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia was published, National Association records were not included in totals for such early stars as Cap Anson. Arguments against including the NA as a major league generally revolve around the league’s quality of play, significant differences in the sport’s rules during the era, and the instability of the league (as many teams lasted only one season or part of a season), and the poor state of the NA records.”
.311, 0 HR, 49 RBI
Putouts as SS-116 (2nd Time)
Double Plays Turned as SS-22
Fielding % as SS-.887 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Force played on his fifth team in five National Association seasons, but made the All-Star team every time. He moved to the Athletics from Chicago and still had a great season, finishing sixth in WAR Position Players (3.5), sixth in Offensive WAR (3.0), and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.0). He ended up finishing in the top 10 in WAR Position Players and Defensive WAR all five NA seasons.
Can one man take down a league? No. But Davy Force certainly had a lot to do with the end of the National Association and the formation of the National League. From Bleacher Report (all typos are theirs): “William Hubert took control of the Chicago White Stockings in 1875 and would go on to form the National League, sparked by the Davy Force case.
“Davy Force, the shortstop for the White Stockings in 1875, was widely known as a contract jumper; he sold his talents at the end of each season and went to the club that offered the most money. Going against the rules, William Hubert signed Force to a contract for the 1875 season while the 1874 season was still taking place.
“However, the Philadelphia Athletics offered Force more money and he signed a second contract with them. Although the initial ruling went to the White Stockings, a President from Philadelphia was elected and that decision was overturned, sending Force to the Athletics.
“In a rebellious movement, Hubert vigorously protested and claimed that the Eastern based teams had a conspiracy to keep the western teams down. Even though Hubert anticipated a league disciplinary action, he signed star Boston pitcher Al Spalding as well as Cal McVey, Deacon White and Ross Barns (sic) from Boston, and Cap Anson [and] Ezra Sutton from the Philadelphia Athletics (Sutton would late renege on the contract).
.286, 0 HR, 34 RBI
1st Time All-Star-John Phillip Peters was born on April 8, 1850 in New Orleans, LA. He started his career with the White Stockings in 1874 and was held back from the All-Star team by his defense, the very area of his talents which would put him on the team this season. He finished eighth in WAR Position Players (2.8) and first in Defensive WAR (1.3).
Peters has a few more All-Star teams left in him and he was a solid player in the early days of baseball. He came along at the right time as he would stay with Chicago in the National League and join the likes of Al Spalding, Cal McVey, Deacon White, Ross Barnes, and Cap Anson. Fortunately for Peters, the man who would have taken his position, George Wright, stayed with his brother, Harry, in Boston.
I have no idea how Defensive WAR works and have no urge whatsoever to look it up, but since there weren’t films of these old days, I don’t know what Peters did to lead the league in WAR. He did have a better fielding percentage than the average shortstop of this year (.871 to .816) and a little bit better range factor (4.77 to 4.64), but is that enough?
In case you’re wondering who led the NA in Defensive WAR in its five seasons of existence, they are: 1871-Davy Force, SS; 1872-George Wright, SS; 1873-Bob Ferguson, 3B; 1874-Warren White, 3B; and Peters, SS. From the beginning of baseball, shortstop was the game’s most important defensive position.
.346, 0 HR, 44 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Pike would end his National Association career as its all-time home run leader, hitting 16. However, he didn’t hit any in 1875. No matter, he had a great season, finishing fifth in WAR Position Players (4.1) and fifth in Offensive WAR (3.7). Of course, WAR is a counting number and Pike finished below some players from Boston, which played 82 games, and players from the Athletics, who played 77 games. St. Louis played only 70. It doesn’t take away from his good season.
There are no leftfielders or rightfielders on this season’s All-Star team (the same thing happened in 1872) and it makes sense. The centerfielders are usually the best athletes in the outfield and it makes sense that they would outnumber the corner outfielders on these teams.
Speaking of centerfielders, for the first time, Dave Eggler did not make the All-Star team. He had been fading for a while and in 1875 his defense fell apart. He would never be able to get back to being a great player, despite being only 26-years-old.
Pike was hated by his former fans in Hartford, his team in 1874. From SABR: “For the 1875 season, Pike signed on with the St. Louis club, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many in Hartford:
‘Pike, never reticent, offended many in Hartford with his constant boasting of the havoc his new team would wreak on the old.’” The quote comes from Baseball Chronology. Let’s see, boasting, decent power, great speed, I think we have the 1870s Rickey Henderson!
.328, 0 HR, 36 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Hines played for Chicago for the second straight season and would be a big part of its great National League debut season in 1876. He finished his National Association career with a bang, finishing ninth in WAR Position Players (2.7). It was the first of eight times he would finish in the top 10 in that category.
In the George Zettlein write-up, I mentioned a famous game played on June 19, 1875, between Chicago and Hartford. It ended up 1-0 and it was Hines who drove in the winning run. Here’s a bit from SABR: “With Devlin standing on third and only one out, the dangerous Paul Hines stepped to the plate. Hines would lead the White Stockings in batting in 1875 with a .328 average. Cummings later recalled, ‘The man at bat was a good hitter and I was trying my best to have him hit to center field. Instead the ball was hit to left and right away I knew it was all over. I ran behind the catcher to back him up, but knew it was useless, for the man in left field [Tom York], while he could throw home, invariably sent the ball far over the catcher’s head.’ York caught the fly ball cleanly and Devlin broke from third. As Cummings had anticipated, the ball sailed over the catcher’s head, and Cummings gathered it in. ‘When at last Devlin galloped from third base across the home-plate every pair of lungs exerted themselves to the utmost, and stamping and clapping of hands were added to the vocal uproar,’ the Chicago Tribune reported. As was the custom, the inning was finished with a base hit by Glenn and a fly out to right field by Peters.”
.296, 6 HR, 72 RBI
Home Runs-6 (2nd Time)
Power-Speed #-8.9 (2nd Time)
AB per HR-59.7
3rd Time All-Star-O’Rourke was an important cog in Boston’s fourth consecutive National Association title and is one of six Red Stockings’ All-Stars on this team, the others being Al Spalding, Deacon White, Cal McVey, Ross Barnes, and George Wright. Man, oh, man, what a team! For his part, O’Rourke finished eighth in Offensive WAR (2.6), below four of the teammates listed above. Don’t feel bad for him, he’s got his own great career ahead and would eventually make the Hall of Fame.
Well, we’re on the last write-up for the National Association and many of these players are going to have good careers in the National League, so they’ll still be around. How many players made the All-Star team all five on the NA seasons? I’m so glad you asked, you’re so perceptive and wise! There are eight of them and they are Al Spalding, the great Boston pitcher who led the league in wins all five seasons; Dick McBride, the great and underrated Athletics pitcher who found himself overshadowed by Spalding; Cherokee Fisher, the hard drinking pitcher who played on five teams in five seasons and twice led the league in ERA; George Zettlein, who also bounced all over the place and was the league’s first leader in ERA and WAR; Bobby Mathews, the curveball throwing New York Mutuals’ pitcher who pitched a record 625 2/3 innings in 1875, a record which wouldn’t be beat until 1879; Ross Barnes, the greatest position player, if not greatest player, in the National Association, who hit .391 in the NA; George Wright, the great Boston shortstop and first superstar of the game; and Davy Force, the itinerant shortstop-third baseman, whose team jumping helped lead to the demise of this short-lived but wonderful, first major league.