P-Jim Devlin, LOU
P-Tommy Bond, HAR
P-Al Spalding, CHC
P-George Bradley, STL
P-Candy Cummings, HAR
P-Bobby Mathews, NYU
P-Flip Lafferty, ATH
P-Foghorn Bradley, BSN
C-Deacon White, CHC
C-John Clapp, STL
1B-Cal McVey, CHC
2B-Ross Barnes, CHC
2B-Mike McGeary, STL
3B-Cap Anson, CHC
3B-Joe Battin, STL
3B-Levi Meyerle, ATH
SS-John Peters, CHC
SS-George Wright, BSN
LF-George Hall, ATH
CF-Lip Pike, STL
CF-Paul Hines, CHC
CF-Jim O’Rourke, BSN
CF-Charley Jones, CIN
RF-Dick Higham, HAR
RF-Joe Blong, STL
30-35, 1.56 ERA, 122 K, .315, 0 HR, 28 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-18.6
WAR for Pitchers-18.0
Adj. Pitching Runs-59
Adj. Pitching Wins-5.4
Def. Games as P-68
Assists as P-100
1st Time All-Star-James Alexander Devlin was born on June 6, 1849 in Philadelphia, PA. Oh, the legend he could’ve been! How many lives are ruined by greed and vice? His was. We’ll look at Devlin’s expulsion from the league next season. Devlin had his best season and one of the best seasons ever for a pitcher. He had no run support, but he was on the mound day-after-day, game after game. He set the record for WAR (18.6) and strikeouts (122). Of course, if you consider the National League the only Major League, then every leader in the league set records this season.
The Grays were coached by Jack Chapman to a 30-36 record and a fifth place finish. Led by the pitching of Devlin, they were fourth in the league in runs allowed, but second to last in runs scored. You can see from the list above that Devlin is their only All-Star.
From Wikipedia on Devlin’s career up to this point: “Jim Devlin began his career in the first organized professional league, the National Association, as an infielder for his hometown Philadelphia White Stockings team in 1873, and the Chicago White Stockings in the 1874 and 1875 seasons. In 1876, the National Association folded and was replaced by the National League that lives on to this day. In this year, Devlin began pitching for the Louisville Grays, starting 68 games with an impeccable 1.56 ERA and leading the Grays in batting with .315. His best pitch was a ‘drop pitch,’ now known as a sinker, which Devlin may have been the first to throw.”
31-13, 1.68 ERA, 88 K, .275, 0 HR, 21 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-1.941
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-6.769 (2nd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-1.96
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-2.60 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as P-2.62 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-The young Bond stayed with the Dark Blues as they moved from the National Association to the National League. He had his second straight phenomenal year, finishing second in WAR (10.3) and WAR for Pitchers (10.3). His 1.68 ERA worked out to a 143 ERA+ and he had better years ahead.
With Bond and Candy Cummings doing the pitching, Hartford finished second in the league in the standings with 47-21 record. They were coached for the second consecutive season by Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, who would coach 16 years and never lead a team to a title. He never had a better season than this one.
From the Baseball Almanac, there is this quote from historian Bob Richardson in Nineteenth Century Stars, written in 1989: “Like most young fireballers, (Tommy) Bond had control problems early in his career, as well as a reputation for ‘ruining’ catchers with his ‘cannonball’ delivery.”
According to a letter to the editor in the Hartford Courant, Bond left this team early because he couldn’t stand Ferguson. The letter states that if Bond didn’t leave, Hartford would have won the pennant. It finished just six games behind the all-star Chicago White Stockings. According to Baseball Library, Ferguson suspended Bond because the pitcher accused him of throwing games. There’s also this from Baseball Library: “Aug 21, 1876 – The strain of pitching almost every game is taking its toll on Tommy Bond‚ the 20-year-old‚ sore-armed hurler of Hartford. Candy Cummings takes his place and beats Boston 10-4. SS George Wright pitches a scoreless 9th for the Red Caps. Dick Higham of Hartford starts a 24-game hit streak that will end on the last day of the season.” Who knows what the truth is?
47-12, 1.75 ERA, 39 K, .312, 0 HR, 44 RBI
Wins-47 (6th Time)
Win-Loss %-.797 (4th Time)
6th Time All-Star-Spalding, along with many of his teammates from the old Red Stockings, came to Chicago and, no surprise, led them to the first National League title. The great pitcher was third in WAR (10.0) and third in WAR for Pitchers (9.2). He pitched 528 2/3 innings with a 1.75 ERA and 137 ERA+. Yet this was his last season as a regular pitcher and most likely his last year as an All-Star.
Along with pitching, Spalding also managed the White Stockings to 52-14 record, which allowed them to finish six games ahead of the Dark Blues and the Brown Stockings. The hitting for Chicago, led by Ross Barnes and five other All-Stars, gave them the championship. The White Stockings averaged almost three runs a game more than every other team in the league.
From Wikipedia about Spalding: “Albert Goodwill Spalding (September 2, 1849 – September 9, 1915) was an American pitcher, manager and executive in the early years of professional baseball, and the co-founder of A.G. Spalding sporting goods company. He played major league baseball between 1871 and 1878. In 1877, he became the first well-known player to use a fielding glove; such gloves were among the items sold at his sporting goods store.”
According to the Hall of Fame page, the reason Spalding stopped pitching was the lack of a curveball: “He went on to record a 47-13 record in that inaugural season, but with curveball pitching becoming the order of the day – something Spalding never was able to master – his playing days were limited. By the league’s second season, his time as an active player drew to a close at age 26.”
45-19, 1.23 ERA, 103 K, .249, 0 HR, 28 RBI
1876 NL Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-1.23
Walks & Hits per IP-0.887
Hits per 9 IP-7.382
Putouts as P-50 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Bradley, playing in his second season for the Brown Stockings, had his best ever season, finishing fourth in WAR (9.0) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (8.6). He pitched 573 innings with a 1.23 ERA and a 170 ERA+. As all good ballplayers did, he would end up with the White Stockings in 1877, but his pitching started to fade. His 16 shutouts is still a record, since tied by Pete Alexander in 1916.
St. Louis finished third in the National League with a 45-19 record, coached by Mase Graffen (39-17) and George McManus (6-2). Despite his gaudy record, Graffen never coached before or after this season. McManus would be back in 1877 but without the success, or Bradley, for that matter.
Wikipedia says Bradley pitched the first NL no-hitter: “Bradley threw the first official no-hit, no-run game in major league history. He pitched for the St. Louis Brown Stockings in the club’s victory over the Hartford Dark Blues on July 15, 1876. The score ended 2-0 without a hit being allowed by Bradley.”
According to SABR, Bradley came close to tossing a second consecutive no-hitter: “For a while, it looked as though Bradley was going to secure yet another place in baseball history in his next start, three days later against Cincinnati, also at Grand Avenue Park. He was perfect through seven innings and took another no-hitter into the ninth. Center fielder Charley ‘Baby’ Jones broke up that opportunity with a double. Jones scored on a hit by catcher Amos Booth, and although the Brown Stockings won 5–1, Bradley’s scoreless innings streak ended at 37. That mark stood until Christy Mathewson tossed 39 straight scoreless innings for the New York Giants in 1901.”
16-8, 1.67 ERA, 26 K, .162, 0 HR, 7 RBI
Home Runs Per 9 IP-0.000 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-As a 27-year-old, Cummings’ career was almost over. This was his last good season. For the first and only time in his career, he stayed with the same team two consecutive years. Pitching for the Dark Blues, Cummings finished ninth in WAR (3.5) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (4.3). He pitched “only” 216 innings with a 1.67 ERA and 144 ERA+, second only to his great 1875 season in both categories. Though Tommy Bond was doing a majority of the pitching for Hartford, according to SABR, Cummings still pitched two complete-game victories on Sept. 9, 1876, in the National League’s first doubleheader.
Here’s SABR on Cummings’ life after baseball, “At the age of 28, Candy Cummings came to the end of the line. Other pitchers had learned to throw the curveball, and by 1877 batters had figured out how to hit it. Cummings, with his slender frame and small hands, no longer threw a curve well enough to fool the batters, and his arm was sore from ten years of top-level amateur and professional play. He pitched briefly in the International Association in 1878, but soon dropped back to the amateur and semipro ranks. Later that year he returned to his hometown of Ware, Massachusetts, where he learned the painting and wallpapering trade. He played ball sporadically until 1884, when he moved to Athol, Massachusetts, and opened his own paint and wallpaper company, which he operated for more than 30 years. He and his wife, the former Mary Augusta Roberts, whom he married in 1870, raised five children.”
21-34, 2.86 ERA, 37 K, .183, 0 HR, 9 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-8
Hits Allowed-693 (2nd Time)
Earned Runs Allowed-164 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-28 (3rd Time)
6th Time All-Star-If a pitcher throws enough innings, they can accomplish great things and that was the case with Mathews. He is the second on the list to have made the All-Star team all six seasons and he did so by finishing sixth in WAR for Pitchers (3.3). He pitched 516 innings, the third straight season he pitched over 500 innings, with a 2.86 ERA and an ERA+ of 79. As mentioned in other Mathews’ write-ups, he did great in the National Association and the American Association and not too good in the National League.
New York finished sixth in the NL with a 21-35 record. It was coached by Bill Craver, who was coaching his fifth and last team. He finished with a career 91-101 record. This would be the Mutuals’ only season in the National League. According to SABR’s Bobby Mathews write-up, “New York refused to finish its schedule, ignoring a road trip in mid-September, and was consequently ousted from the league over the winter.”
Also from that same SABR article, “He relied a great deal on psychology, intellect, and confusion, strong pitching weapons. For one, Henry Chadwick noted in the New York Clipper that Mathews had a ‘habit of throwing away the first ball to each striker by tossing it over the batsman’s head.’ Second, Sporting Life noted, ‘Bobby hid the ball under his arm before pitching and turned his back to the batsman. It was a feat to be remembered.’ The weekly went on to comment, ‘Matthews pitched with his head as well as with his arm, and that explains in a large measure why he lasted so many years. There never stood in the box a cooler and nervier man than Matthews. In a tight place he had no equal, because there never has been a pitcher yet who had as good a pitching head upon his shoulders as did the subject of this sketch. As a strategist he was a marvel.’”
0-1, 0.00 ERA, 0 K, .000, 0 HR, 0 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Frank Bernard “Flip” Lafferty was born on May 4, 1854 in Newark, DE. Because all of my All-Star teams need 10 pitchers, Flip made it on a fluke despite pitching only one game. In that one game, he lost despite allowing only three runs (none earned) in nine innings pitched. That one performance allowed him to finish eighth in WAR for Pitchers (0.4). The rookie would play just one more season, in 1877 for Louisville, and not pitch, but play four games in centerfield in which he would have only one hit in 17 at-bats.
Philadelphia moved from the National Association to the National League, but this would be its only season. Coached by Al Wright, they finished seventh with a 14-45 record. It would be Wright’s only season managing.
Now I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of WAR (or of war, for that matter), but the Athletics had two other pitchers who, from their basic stats, seemed to pitch well, but had negative WARs. The first was Lon Knight, who had a 10-22 record but a 2.62 ERA, which was eighth in the league. Yet he had a pitching WAR of -3.3. The second pitcher is one we’re familiar with, George Zettlein, who, after making the All-Star team all five seasons of the National Association, pitched his final season and had a 4-20 record with a 3.88 ERA. His Pitching WAR was -0.9. WAR’s a strange stat but it leads to interesting All-Star teams!
9-10, 2.49 ERA, 16 K, .232, 0 HR, 8 RBI
1st Time All-Star-George H. “Foghorn” Bradley was born on July 1, 1855 in Medford, MA. He was part of a three-headed pitching staff along with Joe Borden and Jack Manning. Bradley finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (0.4), tossing 173 1/3 innings with a 2.49 ERA and 89 ERA+. There were not a lot of good pitchers in this first year of the National League. Despite this decent rookie year and being only 20-years-old, this was Bradley’s first and last season.
Boston moved over from the National Association after winning its last four championships and fell to fourth in the National League with a 39-31 record. As Harry Wright discovered, it’s easier to coach a team full of All-Stars to a pennant than a team with no Al Spalding or Deacon White.
According to Wikipedia, Bradley stopped playing after this season to pursue another baseball career: “The following season he did not continue to play, but instead served as a replacement umpire, as he had in 1875 in the National Association. He did not get promoted to full-time umpire until 1879, when he officiated games in the National League until 1883. He would again umpire in the majors in the American Association in 1886. During that era umpires generally worked games single-handedly, and Bradley was no exception, as he worked as the lone umpire in every game of his career.
“Although his career as an umpire was short, he was involved a couple of historic games. On June 12, 1880 he was the umpire when Lee Richmond pitched the first perfect game in major league history, which was also the second no-hitter ever tossed. Later, in that same season, on August 20, he was the umpire for another no-hitter, this time by future Hall of Famer Pud Galvin, throwing the fifth no-hitter in major league history.”
.343, 1 HR, 60 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 K
Runs Batted In-60 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as C-63 (5th Time)
4th Time All-Star-The great catcher moved from Boston to the all-star Chicago White Stockings and continued to dominate on the field. He finished seventh in WAR (3.7), third in WAR Position Players (3.6), sixth in Offensive WAR (2.7), and, for the only time in his career, finished in the top 10 in Defensive WAR at sixth (1.2). He slashed .343/.358/.419 with an OPS+ of 148 and pitched for the first time in his career. He got the save and struck out three people in two innings. Add another 0.1 WAR for that performance!
According to Wikipedia, leading the league in RBIs is a rare thing for a catcher: “White led his league in batting average twice (including the NA in 1875), and in RBI three times (including the NA in 1873); not until 1953, when Roy Campanella topped the NL, would another catcher lead his league in RBI.”
He does not have many years left as a regular catcher, 1879 would be the last season in which it was his primary position, but his peers considered him the greatest. From Joseph Overfield in Baseball Almanac: “As a catcher he was the bare-handed batterymate of some of the game’s greatest pitchers. At Cleveland he teamed with Al Pratt to form the first famous battery. He then caught Al Spalding at Boston and Chicago. At various other stages of his career, he was behind the bat for such greats as his brother Will White, with whom he formed the first brother battery, and Tommy Bond and Jim (Pud) Galvin. It was the latter who said: ‘You can talk all you want about your great catchers, but the best man who ever worked behind the plate was Jim White. I have seen all the good ones, but I place him first.'”
.305, 0 HR, 29 RBI
Putouts as C-333
Double Plays Turned as C-5
Range Factor/Game as C-6.38
1st Time All-Star-John Edgar Clapp was born on July 15, 1851 in Ithica, NY. He started his career in the National Association, playing for the Middletown Mansfields in 1872 and the Philadelphia Athletics 1873-1875. He’d always been a solid player, especially defensively, but put it together offensively and defensively in this first National League season. He finished seventh in WAR Position Players (3.0), 10th in Offensive WAR (2.4), and 10th in Defensive WAR (1.0). He slashed at .305/.324/.332 with and OPS+ of 127 and was the catcher for the great George Bradley when he threw the NL’s first no-hitter.
In that game, Clapp scored the first run of the game, according to SABR: “His teammates gave Bradley the only run he would need in the top of the first inning. With one out, catcher John Clapp drove a clean single to center, reached third on a wild throw by Bond, and scored on Mike McGeary’s fly ball.” Clapp would wind up with three of the Brown Stockings’ six hits.
One thing I like about doing this page is being able to read writing from the 1800s era of baseball. This is about Clapp from the New York Clipper on Sept. 10, 1881, as noted on This Game of Games: “John E. Clapp commenced playing ball in 1870 when he caught for the Atletics of Mansfield, Ohio. The following season he filled the same position for the Clipper Club of Ilion, N.Y. His first regular professional engagement, however, was with the Mansfield Club of Middleton, Ct., in 1872, when he proved himself to be a first-class catcher and a fine batsman. Several clubs were anxious to secure his services in 1873, and held out flattering inducements; but he accepted an engagement with the Athletics of Philadelphia, Pa., remaining three consecutive seasons with that organization. Clapp played in over two hundred games during the three years he was connected with the Athletics, and his catching could scarcely be improved on, while his coolness and courage also won him many favorable encomiums. Although he accompanied the Athletics on their European trip in 1874, he took part in but one of the cricket games played there. Clapp caught for the St. Louis Club in 1876 and 1877, handling with remarkable success Bradley’s swift delivery during the former year.”
.347, 1 HR, 53 RBI, 5-2, 1.52 ERA, 9 K
5th Time All-Star-McVey was one of the many all-star players that moved from the National Association perennial champion Red Stockings to the new National League champion White Stockings. He had a great year, not only at bat, but on the mound. He finished eighth in WAR (3.6) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (1.4). At bat, McVey slashed at .347/.352/.406 for an OPS+ of 142 and on the mound pitched 59 1/3 innings with a 1.52 ERA and a 160 ERA+. McVey was certainly a man of many talents. He’s made five All-Star teams at three different positions and would have made it as a pitcher this year even if he had never played in the field.
Baseball Almanac has this quote from McVey about the great Cincinnati Red Stockings of the 1860s, the team that had a record 84-game winning streak: “There would be brass bands, torches and fireworks, then a big banquet for the players (when they returned to Cincinnati from a road-trip). Once we were met at the railroad station by a horse-drawn bus shaped like a baseball bat, all gilded and draped with flags.”
One thing that keeps jumping out in this era is the influence of that great Cincinnati 1860s team. Many of the great players of the young NA and NL came from that team and it was the first team that brought baseball to the forefront of the nation. It also seemed like teams wanted to follow its example and build super teams, like this Chicago White Stockings team.
.429, 1 HR, 59 RBI, 0-0, 20.25 ERA, 0 K
1876 NL Batting Title (3rd Time)
WAR Position Players-6.0 (5th Time)
Offensive WAR-5.1 (3rd Time)
Batting Average-.429 (3rd Time)
On-Base %-.462 (3rd Time)
Slugging %-.590 (3rd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.052 (3rd Time)
Runs Scored-126 (4th Time)
Hits-138 (4th Time)
Total Bases-190 (4th Time)
Doubles-21 (3rd Time)
Triples-14 (2nd Time)
Bases on Balls-20 (2nd Time)
Singles-102 (2nd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-235 (3rd Time)
Runs Created-88 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-48 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-5.1 (3rd Time)
Extra Base Hits-36 (3rd Time)
Times On Base-158 (5th Time)
Offensive Win %-.913 (3rd Time)
Fielding % as 2B-.910 (4th Time)
6th Time All-Star-I will say it, though I may be wrong, this is Ross Barnes’ greatest season ever. I don’t think I have to go through the stats because they’re all above. I will note he was fifth in WAR (5.7), first in WAR Position Players (6.0), first in Offensive WAR (5.1), and ninth in Defensive WAR (1.1). Along with all of that, he hit the first homer in National League history. He did have an Achilles’ heel, though, he couldn’t pitch, allowing eight runs, three earned, in one-and-a-third innings pitched. It lowered his overall WAR by 0.4.
So you look at his stats, dominating, and you look at his age of 26, you have to figure he has a great career ahead. He doesn’t. After this season, he would only ever lead in one more category, leading the National League in errors by a shortstop in 1881 with 52. What happened?
According to Wikipedia, “In 1877, he fell ill with what was then only described as an ‘ague’ (fever), played only 22 games, and did not play well when he was in the lineup. The illness robbed Barnes of much of his strength and agility, and shortened his career. While many baseball histories originally blamed the change in rules that outlawed the ‘fair-foul’ hit, of which Barnes was an acknowledged master, his illness has become a more widely accepted explanation for his loss of productivity.
“A bachelor for most of his life, he married Ellen Welsh in 1900. Barnes held a variety of white-collar jobs in the Chicago area after his baseball career ended until his death from heart disease in 1915.”
.261, 0 HR, 30 RBI
AB per SO-276.0 (3rd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-If you’ve taken the time to click on McGeary’s 1874 write-up, you will note I wrote the following, “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.” Okay, I’m admitting it, but this still doesn’t seem like that great of a season. He did great defensively, finishing third in Defensive WAR at 1.3. Offensively, he was a 1.0 WAR and slashed at .261/.266/.272 with an OPS+ of 86.
This webpage has become a fascinating study of Wins Above Replacement. It seems whenever a season looks overrated by WAR, it’s because the player has a high defensive WAR. Joe Posnanski, who along with Bill James, is my favorite baseball writer, brought this up in an article he wrote about Ben Zobrist. Posnanski said, “In 2009 and again in 2011, Ben Zobrist led the American League in Wins Above Replacement, which in some households translated to him being the best player in the league. People have strong opinions both ways about WAR as a statistic, and Zobrist was a perfect case study. In 2011, for instance, his WAR according to Baseball Reference was slightly higher than Jose Bautista’s.
“A look at basic offensive statistics does not seem to allow for this possibility:
Bautista: .302/.447/.608, 43 homers, 103 RBIs, 105 runs, 9 stolen bases.
Zobrist: .269/.353/.469, 20 homers, 91 RBIs, 99 runs, 19 stolen bases.
“So why did WAR give Zobrist the edge? Well, agree or disagree, Zobrist’s defense — he played right field and third base — won him an extra three wins. And, according to WAR, Bautista’s defense cost the Blue Jays a win. That’s a four-win swing, more than enough to make up three or so win difference in their offense.”
.356, 2 HR, 59 RBI
Putouts as 3B-135 (2nd Time)
Assists as 3B-147
Double Plays Turned as 3B-8
4th Time All-Star-Anson moved from the Athletics to the White Stockings and would be here the rest of his career through 1897, a total of 22 seasons with Chicago. He finished sixth in WAR (3.7), second in WAR Position Players (3.7), and third in Offensive WAR (3.1). He slashed at .356/.380/.450 for an OPS+ of 165 and hit his two first ever home runs. It would be his highest amount of home runs until 1884.
I’ve argued in the past the Hall of Fame merits of Ross Barnes, who had about six great seasons, but a relatively short career, and I still think he belongs there. But you could certainly understand when you compare Barnes’ career to Anson’s why there would be protests. Yes, Barnes had some phenomenal seasons, but Anson put together a whole career of those and lasted until he was 45 years old. There’s something to be said for longevity.
From Wikipedia: “In 1876, when Anson was playing for Philadelphia, Spalding and William Hulbert lured Anson to the Chicago team, which Spalding now managed. After signing the contract, Anson had second thoughts (his future wife did not want to leave her family in Philadelphia), and offered Spalding $1,000 to void the contract. Spalding held Anson to the contract, and Anson came to Chicago in March 1876.
“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. For the first seven years of their marriage the couple lived in Chicago during the baseball season and Philadelphia during the off-season, but eventually moved to Chicago on a year-round basis.”
.300, 0 HR, 46 RBI
Double Plays Turned as 3B-8
1st Time All-Star-Joseph V. Battin was born on November 11, 1853 in West Bradford, PA. He had been playing since 1871 – one game in 1871 and 1873 and then regularly for the Athletics in 1874 and St. Louis in 1875. This first season of the National League was easily his best season ever. He finished 10th in WAR (3.4), fourth in WAR Position Players (3.4), and second in Defensive WAR (1.4). It would be the only time he’d hit above .250, or have an OPS above .542. He slashed at .300/.315/.367 for an OPS+ of 135. However, looking ahead, it’s possible he makes next year’s team due to a fluke.
Battin received one Hall of Fame vote in 1936 and I can only assume he had a family member on the voting committee. I could write pages and pages about the lunacy of the Hall of Fame, but seriously who would vote for Battin? He played 10 seasons and slashed at .225/.241/.281. This season of 1876 was his closest ever to a good season. He would even fail in the much weaker American Association and Union Association. Again I ask, who would vote for him?
He also was part of the last out of the first no-hitter, talked about in George Bradley’s write-up. According to SABR, “The St. Louises went quietly in their half of the ninth, leaving Hartford one final opportunity. Jack Remsen grounded to Dickey Pearce at short for the first out, but Battin muffed Burdock’s groundball for the Brown Stockings’ eighth error of the game. Dick Higham was the next man up for the Hartfords and he hit a shot to Battin at third, who caught it and doubled Burdock off first to end the game. Grin Bradley now had his no-hitter and his place in baseball history.”
.340, 0 HR, 34 RBI, 0-2, 5.00 ERA, 0 K
4th Time All-Star-Meyerle moved from the Whites of the National Association to the Athletics of the National League and would have his last good season. Actually, 1877 isn’t bad, but he only played in 27 games. This season, he finished ninth in Offensive WAR (2.4) while slashing at .340/.347/.449 for an OPS+ of 162. He’ll probably never make another All-Star team, but let’s give credit to Long Levi for being one of the great early day hitters. Ross Barnes was probably better, but Meyerle gives him a run for his money.
Strangely, in his 1877 season for the Cincinnati Reds, his most frequently played position was shortstop. Really, Reds? You take one of the worst fielders around and put him at the most important defensive position? Before 1877, Meyerle played just seven games at shortstop, in that season, he played 18 of them.
This season is the story of two 26-year-olds, Barnes and Meyerle. Both were outstanding ballplayers, both dominated the National Association and National League, both were still young…and both were having their last great season. If you lived back then, you might have thought you were going to see these two hot-hitting infielders battle it out for years, kind of like we get to with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. But, as usual, you would be wrong. And so would I.
.351, 1 HR, 47 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 K
Double Plays Turned as SS-16
Fielding % as SS-.932
2nd Time All-Star-Peters making the All-Star team completes an incredible feat for the White Stockings. All four of their infielders made the All-Star team — the first time this has happened — and all four of them led their positions in WAR. Peters had his best season ever, finishing fifth in WAR Position Players (3.3) and fourth in Offensive WAR (2.8). Surprisingly, his defense was not in the top 10 of WAR, though it was still good. Peters slashed at .351/.357/.418 for an OPS+ of 148, his career high.
I’m wondering if all four of a team’s infielders leading their respective positions in WAR will ever happen again. Oh, sure, I could look it up, but what fun would that be? I know the Dodgers are famous for their vaunted Steve Garvey–Davey Lopes–Bill Russell–Ron Cey infield, but I doubt all of them would lead their positions in WAR. There was a Tony Perez–Joe Morgan–Dave Concepcion–Pete Rose infield for a little while, but again, I don’t think so. It’ll be something to look for in the future.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, up to this point, the team that came closest to this feat was the Red Stockings of 1874 and 1875. In 1874, first baseman Jim O’Rourke, second baseman Ross Barnes, and shortstop George Wright made the All-Star team and led their positions in WAR, but their third baseman Harry Schafer didn’t make the cut. In 1875, first baseman Cal McVey, second baseman Barnes, and shortstop Wright again led their positions in WAR, but once again, Schafer didn’t do it.
.299, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 K
At Bats-335 (3rd Time)
Plate Appearances-343 (2nd Time)
Assists-253 (3rd Time)
Def. Games as SS-68 (3rd Time)
Assists as SS-251 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as SS-16 (5th Time)
6th Time All-Star-Wright remained faithful to his brother, the Red Stockings’ manager Harry Wright, and thus his string of four straight championships ended. He was sixth in WAR Position Players (3.1) and seventh in Offensive WAR (2.6). He slashed at .299/.315/.397 for an OPS+ of 136. Wright’s hitting is starting to fade, but he hasn’t made his last All-Star team.
From Wikipedia: “On April 22, 1876, he became the first batter in National League history, and grounded out to the shortstop. Elder brother Harry Wright managed both Red Stockings teams and made George his cornerstone; the brothers are now both in the Hall of Fame. George helped define the shortstop position and on-field teamwork, but his main work as a sporting developer came after retiring from baseball. After arriving in Boston he entered the sporting goods business, soon under the name Wright & Ditson’s. There he continued in the industry, assisting in the development of golf, tennis, and hockey.”
Some of these great National Association hitters were fading due to the increase of the curveball being pitched, along with the “fair-four” hit being disallowed. It will be giving the National League a whole new set of stars from the National Association, though there will be exceptions like Cap Anson.
.366, 5 HR, 45 RBI
AB per HR-53.6
Errors Committed as OF-39
3rd Time All-Star-There was a gap between All-Star teams for Hall as he last made in 1872, but even in years he didn’t make it, he was still a productive hitter. Hall was playing his second straight year for the Athletics and would move to the Louisville Grays in 1877. He was second in the league in Offensive WAR (3.1) but was so horrible in the field, making 39 errors as an outfielder, that he didn’t make the WAR Position Players top 10. He had a great year with the bat, though, slashing at .366/.384/.545 for an OPS+ of 204.
From Wikipedia about the 1876 season: “One of the bright spots that year for the Athletics was the hitting prowess of their star hitter, George Hall. He led the team in almost all major hitting categories including a .366 batting average, 51 runs scored, and a league leading five home runs. On June 17, 1876, he became the first Major League baseball player to hit two home runs in one game. Those five home runs stood as the single season home run record until Charley Jones hit nine in 1879.”
Since I doubt we’re going to be seeing Hall again, here’s what Wikipedia had to say about his banishment from the game: “On October 26, 1877, Louisville club vice president Charles Chase confronted Hall and fellow Gray Jim Devlin with charges that they threw some road games in August and September. Both admitted only to throwing non-league games, one of which was an exhibition game in Lowell, Massachusetts, on August 30, and another in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 3. The admissions also implicated teammates Al Nichols and Bill Craver. Hall claimed that he and Devlin helped in losses to the Cincinnati Reds on September 6 and to the minor league Indianapolis Blues on September 24‚ but he argued that since the Reds were about to be suspended and the games nullified‚ it amounted to an exhibition game. As a result of the scandal, all four players were banned for life from Major League Baseball.”
.323, 1 HR, 50 RBI
Double Plays Turned as OF-5 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-Pike played his second consecutive year with the Brown Stockings and continued to be one of the league’s best hitters. He finished eighth in WAR Position Players (2.7) and fifth in Offensive WAR (2.8). He never was great defensively. He slashed at .323/.341/.472 for an OPS+ of 179. He was in his sixth year of nine straight seasons with an OPS+ of 129 or above, despite being one of the National League’s oldest stars.
Though this era wasn’t known for its home run hitting, Pike had some fame due to his power. According to Wikipedia, “Pike was one of the premier players of his day. He was a great slugger and one of the best home run hitters, so much so that stories about balls he hit were told for quite some time after he stopped playing.
“Pike began in baseball when he was thirteen. Pike first rose to prominence playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, whom he joined in 1866. He brought an impressive blend of power and speed to the team, hitting many home runs as well as being one of the fastest players around. On one occasion he hit 6 home runs in one game.”
Pike would be the first of many great players in baseball named after fish, including “Catfish” Hunter, Tim Salmon, and Mike Trout. The amount of good players with a body part in their names seems to be considerably smaller. I can’t think of any at this time.
.331, 2 HR, 59 RBI
Fielding % as OF-.923
3rd Time All-Star-Hines made his third All-Star team at 21-years-old and has many more ahead. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, he was already on Chicago when Al Spalding and Ross Barnes and the rest were added to the team, giving Hines his first championship. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (2.7) and slashed at .331/.333/.439 for an OPS+ of 146.
Hines is one of seven Chicago All-Stars and one of six All-Star position players. He’s the only All-Star outfielder on the team. He’s also the youngest of all of the White Stockings’ All-Stars. You would have predicted this team was in for a long run of success. Sorry, but you would have been wrong. They would not win a pennant for another four years. After that, Cap Anson would start leading them to regular championships.
It is a lesson how quickly things can change in baseball. The oldest of the seven All-Stars on the White Stockings in 1876 was 28-years-old and you would never predict this team would fall apart. It was put together to be a dynasty like the National Association Red Stockings and even featured many of that team’s players. But by next season, Al Spalding, the team’s best pitcher, and Ross Barnes, the team’s best position player, would fall apart due to various reasons and that was the beginning of the end. But let’s salute this team which slashed at .337/.353/.417 and had an OPS+ of 146. That’s incredible for a whole team.
.327, 2 HR, 43 RBI
4th Time All-Star-O’Rourke didn’t get the benefit of moving to Chicago like so many of his all-star teammates did, but it will eventually pay off for him. Wait until you see his 1877 season! For 1876, O’Rourke finished 10th in WAR Position Players (2.5) and eighth in Offensive WAR (2.5). He slashed at .327/.358/.420 for an OPS+ of 159. He was well on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Wikipedia says on April 22, 1876 Orator Jim had the first hit in the National League. It also has a quote from the Sporting Life about O’Rourke: “O’Rourke has made a brilliant record for himself as an outfielder, being an excellent judge of a ball, a swift runner, and making the most difficult running catches with the utmost ease and certainty. As a thrower, too, he stands pre-eminent, being credited with a throw of 365 feet, the next to the longest yet accomplished by any player.” That may all be true but it doesn’t reflect in his defensive stats. As a matter of fact, every season from 1875-1885, O’Rourke would have a negative Defensive WAR.
From Baseball Almanac: “’Years later, O’Rourke would sign a contract with the New York Giants with the stipulation that the team pay for him to attend Yale Law School. It did and he graduated in 1887, becoming a lawyer in the offseason. But baseball was his passion. And the educated man stood in stark contrast to his often bawdier teammates. His eloquent colloquies earned him the nickname “Orator Jim.”’ – Columnist Les Carpenter in the Washington Post (A House Caught in the Rundown, 04/21/2006).”
.286, 4 HR, 38 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Charles Wesley “Baby” Jones was born on April 30, 1852 in Alamance County, NC. He’s the lone Reds’ representative on the All-Star team, slashing at .286/.304/.420 for an OPS+ of 158. He started in 1875 in the National Association getting 51 at-bats between the Keokuk Westerns and Hartford Dark Blues, before coming to the Reds this season.
Cincinnati’s first year in the National League wasn’t successful as they finished in last place with a 9-56 record. Charlie Gould, who in 1875 coached the New Haven Elm Cities to a 2-21 record, was the manager of the Reds. It was his last season managing.
It’s time for a confession, the Reds are my favorite team. When I first started watching baseball, Cincinnati always played the first game of the season because they were the first professional team in 1869. This made it sound like the Reds I was watching at that time had a straight lineage to the 1869 Cincinnati team. They didn’t. As a matter of fact, even this 1876 team doesn’t lead to the 2015 Reds. It will last just five seasons, through 1880, and then fold. The current iteration of the Reds started as the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1882 in the American Association.
Of the teams that started in the NL in 1876, two still exist, the Chicago White Stockings are today’s Cubs and the Boston Red Stockings are today’s Atlanta Braves. Unbelievably, the Red Stockings were also part of the National Association meaning they have existed as a continuous team from 1871 through the current day.
.327, 0 HR, 35 RBI
Assists as OF-16
1st Year All-Star-Richard Higham was born on July 24, 1851 in Ipswich, Suffolk, United Kingdom. He had been playing in the National Association since 1871, mostly for the New York Mutuals, but this is his first All-Star team. Higham slashed at .327/.331/.407 for an OPS+ of 136. He’s the only Hartford position player to make the All-Star team.
From Wikipedia: “Higham’s family immigrated to the United States when he was two years old, and settled in Hoboken, New Jersey. During his career he was a very versatile player, fielding multiples positions, mainly as a right fielder and catcher with notable playing time as a second baseman as well. In 1871, he joined the New York Mutuals of the National Association during its inaugural season and played until the league was dissolved after the 1875 season, serving as player-manager in 1874. He then moved on to the newly formed National League, baseball’s first recognized major league, where he hit in the first NL triple play against the Mutuals on May 13, 1876. In 1877, he served as captain of the Syracuse Stars in the inaugural year of the International League, which was part of the League Alliance, with whom the National League had a working relationship.
“After his playing days were over, he served as an umpire for two years (though rumors abounded that he was fixing games as a player). However, in 1882, William G. Thompson, owner of the Detroit Wolverines (and also mayor of Detroit) got suspicious about some of the calls Higham made against his team. He hired a private detective, who turned up several letters between Higham and a well-known gambler. Higham outlined a simple code—if the gambler received a telegram from him saying ‘Buy all the lumber you can,’ the gambler was to bet on Detroit. No telegram meant that the gambler was to bet on his opponent.
“As a result of this evidence, Higham was fired as an umpire and banned from baseball. To date, he is the only umpire to have been banished from the game.”
.235, 0 HR, 30 RBI, 0-0, 0.00, 0 K
1st Time All-Star-Joseph Myles Blong was born on September 17, 1853 in St. Louis, MO. He made the team on a fluke, since I have to have 10 pitchers and this was a week year for hurlers. He finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (0.2), allowing no runs on two hits in four innings. Those four innings of work means Joe Blongs to the All-Star team. It wasn’t because of his hitting. He slashed at .235/.241/.292 for and OPS+ of 83.
Blong started in 1875 for the National Association St. Louis Red Stockings, pitching 129 innings with a 3.07 ERA. Because the NA in 1875 was a pitchers’ league, his Pitching WAR was -0.3. It’s why he wasn’t a regular pitcher this season, though he would be back on the mound more often in 1877 and my guess is going to make his second and last All-Star team.
Yes, he’s going to be yet another player kicked out of the league for what Wikipedia calls, “crooked play.” Seeing all these problems with gambling and other issues — and it only gets worse in 1877 — it’s hard to believe the National League lasted as long as it did. You have to give a lot of credit to the league officials for riding out the storm and establishing some stability.
I remember when I was young reading a book by Bill James in which he talked about how names typically don’t fit the person. He said, and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the exact wording, Frank White was black, Cecil Fielder didn’t have a good glove, and Joe Blong didn’t Blong for long.