P-Tommy Bond, BSN
P-Sam Weaver, MLG
P-Terry Larkin, CHC
P-Monte Ward, PRO
P-Jim McCormick, IND
P-Bobby Mitchell, CIN
P-Will White, CIN
P-Fred Corey, PRO
P-Tom Healey, PRO/IND
C-Deacon White, CIN
C-Lew Brown, PRO
C-Joe Ellick, MLG
1B-Joe Start, CHC
1B-Chub Sullivan, CIN
2B-Joe Gerhardt, CIN
3B-Cal McVey, CIN
SS-Bob Ferguson, CHC
LF-Charley Jones, CIN
LF-Abner Dalrymple, MLG
LF-John Clapp, IND
LF-Tom York, PRO
LF-Cap Anson, CHC
CF-Paul Hines, PRO
RF-Orator Shafer, IND
RF-Dick Higham, PRO
40-19, 2.06 ERA, 182 K, .212, 0 HR, 23 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-13.3
WAR for Pitchers-13.8
Wins-40 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-532 2/3
Strikeouts-182 (2nd Time)
Shutouts-9 (2nd Time)
Home Runs Allowed-5 (3rd Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-5.515 (4th Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-29
Adj. Pitching Wins-2.8
Def. Games as P-59
Assists as P-117
5th Time All-Star-Bond is in the middle of an incredible five-season stretch which compares favorably to Sandy Koufax’s 1962-66 seasons. Of course, they’re not actually comparable as Bond pitched over 352 innings every one of his five 1875-79 seasons, but also pitched underhand from a shorter distance. This season, Bond pitched 532 2/3 innings with a 2.06 ERA and a 115 ERA+. He led the league in WAR (13.3) and WAR for Pitchers (13.8).
So, on the arm of Bond and the managing of Harry Wright, Boston won its second straight National League title and its sixth in seven seasons, counting the last four seasons of the National Association. The Red Stockings finished 41-19, with the only decision that Bond didn’t pick up being a win by Jack Manning. They finished four games ahead of Cincinnati.
Bond’s 182 strikeouts set a record which would last all the way until…1879. He allowed only 33 walks with those strikeouts, leading the league in Strikeout-to-Base on Ball ratio for the fourth time. He was the Roy Halladay of his day. (In case you’re wondering, Halladay has led in that category five times.)
Boston’s South End Grounds I was pretty much a neutral park, maybe slightly favoring the hitter. Bond’s gaudy stats weren’t compiled in a Safeco Field-type environment, which makes this stretch he’s on even more impressive. I don’t believe he’s yet had his best season.
It would be almost impossible nowadays to have a championship streak like Boston had in the 1870s. For one thing, you would have to run the gauntlet of a possible Wild Card game, a division series, a championship series, and a World Series. Boston only had to have the best record in its league.
12-31, 1.95 ERA, 95 K, .200, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Walk & Hits per IP-1.023
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.494
Putouts as P-31
1st Time All-Star-Samuel H. Weaver was born on July 20, 1855 in Philadelphia, PA. He has a very interesting career. His major league career started with pitching one game for the Philadelphia Whites in the National Association in 1875. His next major league game was this season. He’s one of many pitchers who had a great season despite what their record may show. Weaver finished second in WAR (10.1) and second in WAR for Pitchers (10.3). He pitched 383 innings with a 1.95 ERA and a 135 ERA+. Milwaukee was a terrible team, but it wasn’t because of Weaver.
How terrible? The Grays, in their only season, finished 15-45, 26 games out of first. They were coached by former Louisville Grays coach Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman. As you’re going to see, two teams in this league are managed by those nicknamed “Death to Flying Things.”
According to Baseball Almanac, “…On May 9, 1878, Sam Weaver of the Milwaukee Grays threw a no-hit game according to one scorer. The scorer from the Indianapolis Blues awarded a hit to John Clapp and a debate began which laster nearly half a century.”
Seamheads.com has a long article on this disputed no-hitter. They go back and look at box scores of the era and find seven of them crediting Weaver with a no-hitter and three of them giving him a one-hitter. From that website, here’s part of the Milwaukee Sentinel’s reporting of the game: “The Milwaukee-Indianapolis contest was beautiful in the extreme, and was witnessed by a fair audience. The playing of the victors was steady and careful throughout the entire game, while the playing of Holbert behind the bat was a beautiful exhibition of catching. Weaver’s pitching was the finest ever displayed in a Hoosier diamond, the home team failing to secure a hit.” We might never know the truth.
29-26, 2.24 ERA, 163 K, .288, 0 HR, 32 RBI
Earned Runs Allowed-126
Bases on Balls (as hitter)-17
Errors Committed as P-18 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Larkin moved from the now defunct Hartfords of Brooklyn to the White Stockings and brought a great arm to the team to replace George Bradley. He also brought a good bat. All of this combined to give Larkin his best season ever. He finished third in WAR (5.5) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (4.0). As a pitcher, he pitched 506 innings with a 2.24 ERA and a 109 ERA+. With the bat, he slashed .288/.337/.363 with an OPS+ of 123.
Because I am 100 percent sure Larkin is going to be an All-Star next year, I’ll get into his criminal activities then. Right now, I’m wondering how many pitchers can toss as many innings as Larkin and have a long career. From 1877-79, he threw 500 or more innings and was done pitching by 1880 at only 24 years old. So here’s a complete list of those who pitched 500-plus innings for three or more seasons, their ages during that stretch, and their age in the last season they pitched:
|Name||Years 500 or more innings||Age during streak||Age last pitched|
Bobby Mathews was a freak of nature. Al Spalding was the best pitcher in baseball and then couldn’t throw a baseball. Only Mathews and Bill Hutchison pitched 500 or more innings three straight seasons and lasted past 30-years-old. Of course, Hutchison didn’t even throw his first 500 inning season until he was 30. Nowadays, we celebrate when a pitcher throws 200 or more innings.
22-13, 1.51 ERA, 116 K, .196, 1 HR, 15 RBI
1878 NL Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-1.51
Youngest Player in League-18
1st Time All-Star-John Montgomery “Monte” Ward was born on March 3, 1860 in Bellefonte, PA. A minute 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, he started his career on the mound and would eventually move to the outfield and middle infield, all on his way to the Hall of Fame. He would be among the all-time stolen base leaders, despite the fact they didn’t keep track of stolen bases in any of the major leagues from 1876-through-1885. He still finished with 540 steals.
In his rookie season, he finished fourth in WAR (4.8) and third in WAR for Pitchers. Ward pitched 334 innings and a 1.51 ERA and a 147 ERA+. Messer Street Grounds and Union Grounds, the home parks of Providence, were basically neutral towards pitchers, so it was an impressive start to his career.
Wikipedia speaks of his life before the major leagues: “Ward attended the Bellefonte Academy in the early 1870s and, at 13 years of age, he was sent to Pennsylvania State University. In his short time there, he helped jumpstart a baseball program and is often credited for developing the first curveball. However, he was kicked out of school for pushing an upperclassman who attempted to haze him down a flight of stairs and stealing chickens.
“The following year, in 1874, his parents James and Ruth died. He tried to make it as a travelling salesman, but when that proved unsuccessful, he returned to his hometown. It was there that he re-discovered baseball. In 1878, the semi-pro team that he was playing for folded, which opened the door for him to move on to a new opportunity. He was offered a contract to pitch for the Providence Grays of the still new National League, an all professional major league that had begun its operations in 1876.”
5-8, 1.69 ERA, 36 K, .143, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.000
1st Time All-Star-James McCormick was born on November 3, 1856 in Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom. According to Wikipedia, McCormick was the first player born in Scotland to appear in a major league game. The five-foot-10, 215 pound Scotsman has quite a career in front of him and it all started with these 15 games he played for the Blues. He finished fifth in WAR for Pitchers with a 2.3 mark, pitching 117 innings with a 1.69 ERA and a 122 ERA+.
He would have pitched more if it weren’t for an injury. Baseball Library says, “Jul 11, 1878 – Blues pitcher Jim McCormick suffers a broken bone in his forearm in the 7th inning and gives up 3 runs in the 8th and 4 in the 9th to lose to Boston 8-4. He will be out of action until the end of August.” So he breaks a bone in the seventh and still finishes the game. It was a different breed of ballplayer back then.
Among the other pitchers on the Blues was 20-year-old Edward Sylvester Nolan known as The Only Nolan. Wikipedia lists two possible reasons for this nickname: “A range of possible origins of the nickname ‘The Only’ have been claimed over the years, one states that the reason for the name derives from the fact that no other Nolans, either first or last name had played or was playing in the majors at that time, therefore he was the only Nolan. The other is slightly more elaborate. In the period following the Civil War, a wildly successful minstrel performer of the day, named Francis Leon, rose to prominence performing a burlesque act while simultaneously in both blackface and drag. His popularity prompted many imitators. In response, Leon began billing himself and his act as, ‘The Only Leon.’ The theory follows then that Ed Nolan somehow reminded an observer of Leon, thus sparking the similar nickname.”
7-2, 2.14 ERA, 51 K, .245, 0 HR, 8 RBI
Hits per 9 IP-7.763
Strikeouts per 9 IP-5.738 (2nd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.10 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Mitchell pitched his second straight season for the Reds and had his best year ever. He was seventh in WAR for Pitchers (1.5), pitching 80 innings with a 2.14 ERA and a 101 ERA+. He pitched in a big pitchers’ park, so that helped his stats.
Besides being known as the major league’s first left-handed pitcher, he’s also known for his small size. He was five-foot-five and 135 pounds. The average size of the player back then was smaller than modern times, but this was still pretty tiny.
After these two good seasons and being only 22 years old, the future looked bright for Mitchell. However, it was not to be. He would move from the Reds to Cleveland in 1879, where his ERA+ dropped to 78 and his WAR dropped to -1.5. He didn’t play again until 1882, when he pitched one game for St. Louis of the American Association. He gave up 13 runs, six of them earned, in seven innings and his pro career was done.
For the second straight season, the lefty Mitchell set the record for strikeouts per nine innings pitched. In 1877, he beat Tommy Bond’s mark of 1876 (or Jack Manning’s of 1875 if you count the National Association) and then beat his own mark, striking out 5.738 per nine innings this season. It’s a record that will hold until 1883. The all-time record by Randy Johnson of 13.410 in 2001 would more than double Mitchell’s rate, but then again Johnson wasn’t throwing underhanded.
30-21, 1.79 ERA, 169 K, .136, 0 HR, 17 RBI
Strikeouts (as Batter)-41
2nd Time All-Star-Will and his brother Deacon moved from Boston to Cincinnati this year, which was a big reason for the Reds’ improvement. White had a great year on the mound, finishing sixth in WAR for Pitchers (2.0), pitching 468 innings with a 1.79 ERA and a 120 ERA+. He was a better pitcher than his teammate Bobby Mitchell. But what hurt White this year was his hitting, it was atrocious! He had a -0.9 Offensive WAR and I certainly mean offensive! He slashed at .142/.176/.157 for an OPS+ of 14. And you’re not going to believe this, but in 1879, it’s even worse!
From Wikipedia: “In 1878, the White brothers joined the Cincinnati Reds, where they were battery-mates for the next three seasons. The 1878 season was White’s first full season in professional baseball. He appeared in 52 games for the Reds, all complete games, and compiled a 30–21 record and a 1.79 ERA. By July 1878, White had earned the nickname ‘Whoop-La.’ After pitching a four-hitter against Harry Wright‘s Boston club, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a headline, ‘WHOOP-LA, WILLIAM!’ When George Wright struck out swinging to end the eight inning, the crowd in Cincinnati ‘arose almost to a man and such cheers and waving of hats and handkerchiefs were never heard and seen on the grounds.’ When White then walked to the plate and hit the first pitch for a double, there was more ‘howling’ by screaming, frantic fans.” If that story is true, that was the only double hit all season by Whoop-La.
1-2, 2.35 ERA, 7 K, .143, 0 HR, 1 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Frederick Harrison Corey was born in 1855 in Coventry, RI. Because of the lack of quality pitchers in the National League, Corey made this team as a pitcher. He finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers (0.4), pitching 23 innings with a 2.35 ERA and a 97 ERA+. In this league, and on my team, that’s good enough. He might have another All-Star team left in him in the American Association.
Corey started his major league career later than most of the players started during this era at the old age of 23. He would not play in the major leagues in 1879 and then moved to the Worcester Ruby Legs in 1880. He would continue being a backup pitcher for a few years, though his main position over his career was third base.
Providence used eight pitchers in 1878, which is unusual for this time and might be some kind of record, but I’m too lazy to look it up. Admittedly, three of them only pitched one game apiece, but it still was very rare that so many people took the mound for one team.
Nowadays teams can easily use eight pitchers in one game, sometimes by the fifth inning. During September, it becomes ridiculous as the expanded rosters give managers a chance to use the hook multiple times, while we who watch the game look at our iPads or phones, praying for an end to this constant march to the mound. It would have been good to watch a team that threw out the same pitcher day-after-day, inning-after-inning.
6-7, 2.39 ERA, 20 K, .185, 0 HR, 6 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Thomas F. Healey was born in 1853 in Cranston, RI. He made this All-Star team in the only season he played with a total WAR of -0.2. You might complain about that, you might dispute the methodology of what I’m doing here. You might angrily click the “X” and sign off. But think how proud the Healey family is today if they’re reading this that great-great-grandpa Tom received this prestigious honor. Now don’t you feel bad.
Healey finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (0.1), pitching 113 innings with a 2.39 ERA and an 88 ERA+. He started out terribly for his home state team of Providence, going 0-3 with a 3.00 ERA and a 76 ERA+, but didn’t do too bad for Indianapolis, going 6-4 with a 2.22 ERA and a 93 ERA+.
One thing that occurred to me when I was goofing off in the first paragraph is how difficult it would be to show anger while you’re on the internet. There is no way to huffily sign off of a page, so maybe that’s why so many comment sections are full of vitriol that people would never say to each other face-to-face. That’s the point, of course. Anonymity begets courage.
Healey, like many during this time, did not have a long life ahead of him. He would die in Lewiston, ME on February 6, 1891 at the age of either 37 or 38. The men of that day worked harder, often abused their bodies with alcohol, and did not have the quality of medical care we have nowadays, so the lifespans were considerably shorter.
.314, 0 HR, 29 RBI
Range Factor/9 Inn as C-7.51 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-After a phenomenal 1877 season in which White played mainly first base, he faltered a little this season as he was put back behind the plate. For the first time since 1872, White played for a team that didn’t win the championship, moving from the Red Stockings to the Reds before this season. I should mention that a slump for White doesn’t mean he couldn’t play, he was still one of the best in the game. He finished 10th in WAR (2.4), sixth in WAR Position Players (2.4), and sixth in Offensive WAR (2.3). He slashed at .314/.340/.337 for an OPS+ of 132. I mentioned earlier Cincinnati’s home field wasn’t an easy place to hit.
I want it noted that White made my Hall of Fame 61 years before the creation of the “real” Hall of Fame and 135 years before he was inducted into Cooperstown. It is a travesty that he didn’t make it sooner, because he was a phenomenal player.
I’m too upset to write anymore so here’s more from Deacon’s great-grandson James B. Jackson’s article in Slate magazine about this wonderful player: “Grandpa White’s younger brother, Will, was a pitcher. Together they were the first brother battery in major league baseball. Will played for 10 years and came away with 229 wins—40-plus in three separate seasons.
“Deacon was his younger brother’s mentor and family lore states that he taught Will to throw the curveball. I was raised to believe that Grandpa White invented the curve, but that has never been proven.”
.305, 1 HR, 43 RBI, 0-0, 18.00 ERA, 0 K
Double Plays Turned as C-11
1st Time All-Star-Lewis J. “Blower” Brown was born on February 1, 1858 in Leominster, MA. He started his career playing for Boston in 1876 and ’77, being part of the Red Stockings’ championship team in the latter. After moving to Providence this season, the 20-year-old’s hitting came together as he finished 10th in WAR Position Players (2.1) and seventh in Offensive WAR (2.2). He slashed at .305/.324/.453 for an OPS+ of 153. I took a vote with myself and determined it was his best season ever.
Blower would play four more seasons in the National League, American Association, and Union Association. According to Wikipedia, “Brown missed the 1882 season due to being blacklisted for ‘confirmed dissipation and general insubordination.’”
Baseball Reference says, “After baseball, he was manager of a ‘sporting house’. He died young – he was wrestling with a friend, and hurt his knee. There was a ‘complication of troubles’ while in the hospital, including pneumonia, and he didn’t make it out alive. Sporting Life of January 23, 1889 has his obituary, saying that he was great at stopping the ball behind the plate, playing without equiment of any kind, and mentioning that he started in 1875 with Louisville.”
Brown’s 1878 season was one of those many seasons which are so far away from the norm, they glaringly stand out. He would never hit .300 again, he would never slug .400 again, and his highest OPS+ outside of this season was 110. You look at a 20-year-old this good and think he’s going to have an outstanding career, but it doesn’t always happen.
.154, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0-1, 3.00 ERA, 0 K
1st Time All-Star-Joseph J. Ellick was born on April 3, 1854 in Cincinnati, OH. He played seven games in the National Association in 1875 for the St. Louis Red Stockings and then didn’t play again until 1878. If you’re wondering how you can make one of these All-Star teams, it’s simple. Get yourself a DeLorean and a flux capacitor and build yourself a time machine. Then take yourself back to the 1870s and just muster the ability to pitch one good game. In a league starving for pitching talent, you have a pretty good shot.
That how’s Ellick did it. He finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers with an 0.2 mark, pitching three innings with a 3.00 ERA and a 105 ERA+. Bang, he’s an All-Star! His overall WAR was actually -0.2, making him the second player, along with Tom Healey, to make the team with an overall negative WAR.
Ellick’s fame didn’t come from his ballplaying, however, but from being an umpire. Baseball Reference said, “He umpired in the National League for part of 1886 and was involved in some controversial plays. He wrote an article called ‘Experiences of a Base-Ball Umpire.’”
Also in that same article, there is this blurb: “’Dear Joe, after witnessing the dirty conduct of the mob today, I thought best to send you to Philadelphia, rather than keep you here for three more games to receive such unjustifiable abuse.’ – National League secretary N.E. Young, writing to new umpire Joe Ellick after Ellick had to be escorted from the field by police due to hostile fans.”
.351, 1 HR, 27 RBI
Putouts-719 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as 1B-61 (3rd Time)
Putouts as 1B-719 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 1B-12.00 (2nd Time)
Oldest Player in League-35
4th Time All-Star-Start continued to have a late-in-life revival, making the All-Star team for the second consecutive year, this time as the oldest player in the league. After staying with one team, the Mutuals, for the first six seasons of his career, he was now playing on his third team in three years, having moved from the Mutuals to the Hartfords to Chicago. His travelling isn’t done yet, as he’ll be moving to Providence in 1879.
Old Reliable finished seventh in WAR Position Players (2.4) and fourth in Offensive WAR (2.5). He slashed .351/.355/.439 for an OPS+ of 152. It was his second highest batting average and on-base percentage and his highest slugging and OPS+. This was incredible at his age in this era and I believe he still has some All-Star teams ahead.
From Wikipedia: “1878 was probably Start’s best season with the bat. He led the league with 100 hits and 125 total bases. He came close to the league lead with his 12 doubles, 5 triples, and a single home run. His 58 runs that year were second in the league. These statistics all came in only 285 at bats, and at the age of 35, long after most players have begun to decline.”
.258, 0 HR, 20 RBI
Def. Games as 1B-61
Assists as 1B-23
Fielding % as 1B-.975
1st Time All-Star-John Frank “Chub” Sullivan was born on January 12, 1856 in Boston, MA. With the nickname Chub, you’re thinking he’s a big man, but he was six-foot, 164 pounds, which seems to be thin, so many Chub was ironic. This was his rookie year since he played only eight games at first base for the Reds in 1877. He’s on the team because of his glove, finishing fifth in Defensive WAR at 0.9. Batting in a tough hitters’ park, he slashed .258/.264/.291 for an OPS+ of 90.
“Sullivan became ill before  began, and eventually died on September 12 in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts at the age of 25 of consumption, later known as tuberculosis. His Worcester teammates wore a black crêpe on their jersey sleeves in his memory, for the 1881 season.” We complain a lot about our modern medicine nowadays, but just doing these All-Star teams showed me how low the lifespans were in this era. There’s a whole website dedicated to those who died young at thedeadballera.com/tooyoung.html.
At a website called Dressed to the Nines, there’s a story about memorial patches and markings worn by teams to honor deaths of those on the team in some capacity. According to this page, Worcester wore black crepe on its sleeves in 1881 to honor Sullivan.
.297, 0 HR, 28 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-“Move up Joe” Gerhardt made his second consecutive All-Star team and is the only representative at second base. This was his best season ever as he finished ninth in WAR (2.5), fifth in WAR Position Players (2.5), and seventh in Defensive WAR (0.8). He slashed .297/.316/.340 for his highest OPS+ of 124. I’ll keep reminding you, Avenue Grounds in Cincinnati was a tough place to hit.
This made Avenue Grounds the complete opposite of Gerhardt’s old park in 1877, Louisville Baseball Park. Despite Gerhardt’s higher OPS, he had a lower OPS+ because of where he played.
It’s tough to gauge whether or not Move Up will have another All-Star season. My guess would be yes, because of his defense, but his offense would pretty much fall apart at this point. At this point in his career, Gerhardt is slashing .268/.277/.328 for an OPS+ of 94. For the rest of his career, he would slash .211/.251/.251 for an OPS+ of 62. However, he would continue to be a wizard with the glove, with only a couple of seasons in which he would have a negative Defensive WAR.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about his defense: “[H]e was known as one of the best defensive second baseman of his era. He twice led his league in assists at any position and regularly ranked among the league leaders in putouts. double plays and fielding percentage by a second baseman between 1877 and 1890. His career range factor of 6.46 remains the highest in major league history for a second baseman. He also ranks eighth among all second basemen in major league history with 558 errors at second base. In a 1922 story on Gerhardt, New York sports writer John M. Foster compared Gerhardt to baseball’s other great second basemen and concluded: ‘None had anything on Move Em Up Joe Gerhardt.’”
.306, 2 HR, 28 RBI
Errors Committed as 3B-42
7th Time All-Star-I haven’t really talked much about the ONEHOF, my Hall of Fame which allows one player a year to enter the Hall of Fame, beginning in 1871. But I like it. I like the fact that McVey made it into my Hall of Fame, because he’s a great part of the history of the league in its early days. He had been part of the great 1869 Cincinnati team and continued to hit well throughout his nine-year Major League career. Yes, he only played 530 total games, but he slashed .346/.354/.447 for an OPS+ of 152 in his career. I think there are good arguments for McVey being part of the “real” Hall of Fame.
McVey managed for the second time ever. He managed the Baltimore Canaries for the first part of the 1873 season to a 20-13 record. This season he led the Reds to a 37-23 mark and a second place finish. This was after three different managers led the Reds to a last place finish in 1877. If there was such a thing as manager of the year, McVey would have won it.
Third base is the fourth position that McVey has made the All-Star team, along with catcher, rightfield, and first base. This season would be the only one in which he would regularly play at the hot corner. He finished fifth in Offensive WAR with a 2.5 mark, slashing at .306/.319/.395 for an OPS+ of 143. He was the only third baseman to make the team.
.351, 0 HR, 39 RBI
Assists as SS-226
Errors Committed as SS-40
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-5.24
Range Factor/Game as SS-5.21
3rd Time All-Star-Death to Flying Things is the only shortstop on the All-Star team. It would be the only season short would be his primary position. He had his best season ever, finishing sixth in WAR (3.1), second in WAR Position Players (3.1), second in Offensive WAR (2.6), and sixth in Defensive WAR (0.9). He slashed .351/.375/405 for an OPS+ of 149. It’s possible this is his last All-Star team.
Ferguson moved from the Hartfords of Brooklyn and took over the managing duties from Al Spalding on the White Stockings. They finished fourth place with a 30-30 record, which was an improvement from 1877’s 26-33 mark.
Is a team with Ferguson, Joe Start, Terry Larkin, and Cap Anson happy with a .500 finish? Most definitely not! And Ferguson would be gone by next season, off to manage the Troy Trojans of the National League.
This is from 19cbaseball.com: “Despite having his best overall offensive season in 1878, hitting over .300 for the only time in his professional career, Ferguson, the Manager of Albert Spalding’s Chicago White Stockings, was despised by Spalding for his managerial style and the fourth place finish. There has been no player in baseball history to have accomplished what Ferguson has. He was a Player-Manager and a respected umpire in Brooklyn before baseball became openly professional. In its second season he was elected the President of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, 1872, holding that position until the league folded in 1875. He was also an umpire in the NA, 1872-1873 and in 1875. He was a Player-Manager for 11 seasons in both the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, 1876-1883, as well as an umpire in 1878 and 1884-1885 and the American Association of Base Ball Clubs, 1884-1887 and again as an umpire from 1886-1889 and in 1891. He was also an umpire in the Players’ National League of Base Ball in 1890, in its only season. He is the only person in baseball history to have been a Player, Manager, Umpire and League President at one time and the only person to have been an Umpire in four different professional leagues. He has still not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame proving that his accomplishments and importance to the game’s early beginnings are unknown nor understood by the election committee.”
.310, 3 HR, 39 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-While the Reds went out and acquired some good players to be able to contend this year, their best hitter wasn’t Deacon White or Cal McVey, but was a man who was there all along, Charley Jones. He finished eighth in WAR (2.8), fourth in WAR Position Players (2.8), and ninth in Offensive WAR (2.1). He slashed .310/.321/.441 for an OPS+ of 158. If you could see what this man could do in a hitters’ park! Oh, wait, you can, tune in next year. Though I will give you this from Baseball Library: “Sep 8, 1878 – Impressed with his hitting in the recent sweep over them‚ Boston signs Cincy star Charley Jones to a 3-year contract for 1879-82.” Spoiler alert, he would not last all three years.
As of June 15, the Reds, with a 15-5 record, were two games up on Boston after a four-game winning streak. However, they followed this with a six game-losing streak and by July 2, they were two games out and would never get back into first. As mentioned above, they did sweep Boston towards the end of the season, drawing the Red Stockings’ eyes towards Jones, but this only got them as close as four games out.
Let’s go back to the home run race. With three home runs, Jones was still the all-time National League leader with nine. The all-time leader, counting the National Association was Lip Pike with 21. Pike was still playing. In 1878, he played 31 games for Cincinnati and five games for Providence. After this season, he would play only parts of seasons for the Worcester Ruby Legs in 1881 and the American Association’s New York Metropolitans in 1887, but wouldn’t add to his home run total.
.354, 0 HR, 15 RBI
1878 NL Batting Title
Putouts as OF-128
Errors Committed as OF-28
Range Factor/9 Inn as OF-2.29
Range Factor/Game as OF-2.28
1st Time All-Star-Abner Frank Dalrymple was born on September 9, 1857 in Gratiot, WI. Unlike so many in this era, he started his career in leftfield and finished it in leftfield and would play mostly leftfield every game in between. The five-foot-10, 175 pound outfielder never needed an adjustment period to get used to Major League pitching as he raked from the very beginning. Dalrymple finished eighth in WAR Position Players, slashing .354/.368/.421 for an OPS+ of 151 while admittedly playing in a hitters’ park, Milwaukee Base-Ball Grounds.
Baseball Reference tells us how Dalrymple started his ball playing career: “An article about Dalrymple indicates that he began working for a railroad at age 14 and was on the railroad’s baseball team. He played for a variety of other teams on his way to the majors.”
The great baseball website, Baseball Reference, has Dalrymple’s .354 average bolded meaning he led in that category. Yet, in the stats they post for that season, the leader in Paul Hines, who we’ll look at later. It’s possible Baseball Library has the explanation: “Nov 9, 1878 – The official NL averages give Milwaukee’s Abner Dalrymple the batting championship with a .356 average. These figures do not include tie games‚ however‚ and counting ties‚ Providence’s Paul Hines would have the lead .358 to .354.”
As noted in the Sam Weaver blurb, Milwaukee finished last in the National League and that’s because they only had one real position player All-Star. (If you read Joe Ellick’s write-up, you’ll see he made it on a fluke.) That was Dalrymple, who would leave the team after this season and go on to much fame with the Chicago White Stockings.
.304, 0 HR, 29 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-For the last six seasons of Clapp’s career, he’s going to be a travelin’ man, playing on six different teams. He moved from the Brown Stockings in 1877 to Indianapolis this year. He also moved himself from catcher to leftfield. It would be the only season his regular position was something other than behind the plate. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (2.1) and eighth in Offensive WAR (2.1). Clapp slashed .304/.337/.357 for an OPS+ of 141.
Along with that, he managed the Blues in their only season of existence to a 24-36 record and a fifth place finish. A website called Historic Indianapolis has the following about this season: “Then in 1878, the Blues made the jump from the International Association to the National Baseball League — but the team didn’t enjoy the same success they had known from the previous year. That year, the National League consisted of only six teams and the Blues finished fifth among them, with a record of 24 wins and 36 loses. The order of finish was: Boston Red Caps, Cincinnati Reds, Providence Grays, Chicago White Stockings, Indianapolis Blues, and Milwaukee Grays. Unfortunately, the Blues folded after one year, due to insufficient funds to pay the player’s salaries.
“The team played their home games at South Street Park on the northeast corner of Delaware and South Streets. The property was later used by Big Four Railroad. Presently, the site is a parking lot for Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.” That park gave the pitcher a huge advantage.
.309, 1 HR, 26 RBI
Extra Base Hits-30
2nd Time All-Star-As mentioned in last year’s York blurb, he moved from the defunct Hartfords of Brooklyn to Providence this season as a leftfielder and a manager. He slashed .309/.329/.465 for an OPS+ of 158, his highest ever. Starting in 1878, York’s Defensive WAR was in the negatives, so it’s probably better he was buried in leftfield.
As a manager this season, York led the Grays to a third place finish with a 33-27 record. This was a team definitely led by its outfield, as all three of them made the All-Star team. We’ll get to the others later.
Wikipedia has information on the formation of the Grays: “Rhode Island was a hotbed of baseball in the 1870s with several notable amateur clubs along with Brown University’s powerhouse collegiate team.
“The new team was officially organized on January 16, 1878 by Benjamin Douglas, who became the team’s general manager. Henry Root was hired as the team president‚ and Tom Carey was initially hired to be the on-field captain, whose duties were similar to the modern-day manager.
“On April 10, Root took over ownership of the team, fired Douglas for incompetence and insubordination, and hired Tom York to replace Carey as captain.
“While the team practiced at the Dexter Training Ground in the spring of 1878, preparations were made to provide them with ‘the best baseball plant in the country’. Construction on the Messer Street Grounds began on April 1 and took exactly one month to complete; the final nail was hammered a mere five minutes before the opening game got underway on May 1.”
.341, 0 HR, 40 RBI
AB per SO-261.0
6th Time All-Star-That’s right, for those of you counting, Anson is this All-Star team’s fifth leftfielder. Sometimes you can’t help that there are stretches of times when the league’s best players seem to come from one position. This is the first time Anson made the team as an outfielder, but starting in 1879, when he took over the reins of the White Stockings, he’s going to plant himself at first base and never move. It’s also the start of an incredible run of hitting.
As for this season, Anson finished 10th in Offensive WAR (2.1), slashing .341/.372/.402 for an OPS+ of 147. As it turns out, Adrian was a terrible outfielder, with a -0.7 Defensive WAR, which is why Anson moved himself to first base. It’s easier to play. Just ask Ron Washington in Moneyball.
A great website, Cap Chronicled, is about the life of Anson and is just an incredible project. It’s not like this page, which just cuts and pastes large swaths of text and calls it research. (Oh, no, the secret’s out!) Anyway, here’s a cut-and-paste from that page about Anson: “While some believe that Anson did more to destroy baseball than any other, noted historian Bill James makes an eye-opening observation that Anson deserves credit for saving the game in its formative years. ‘The continued existence of professional baseball, at the end of the 1878 season, was very much in doubt. Five of the original eight franchises had folded or been expelled from the league…If Chicago and Boston had dropped out of the league in the early 1880’s, to be replaced by Des Moines and Springfield, major league baseball as we now know it would never have come into being. That didn’t happen, in large part because of Anson.'” More on this next season.
.358, 4 HR, 50 RBI
1878 NL Triple Crown
On-Base Plus Slugging-.849
Runs Batted In-50
Offensive Win %-.802
AB per HR-64.3
4th Time All-Star-Hines won the first ever Triple Crown, which means, of course, he was the best player in the league. See, it’s easy to be a baseball writer. Except, Hines almost definitely wasn’t the best in the National League, despite having his best season ever. He finished seventh in WAR (2.8), third in WAR Position Players (2.8), and third in Offensive WAR (2.6). Back in Hines’ day, they weren’t talking about the Triple Crown yet, probably because home runs weren’t that important. Hines led the league with just four dingers.
There’s a long SABR article on Hines’ “unassisted” triple play. It’s all about the triples for Hines this season; Triple Crown, triple play. The article touches on the controversy about whether it was unassisted or not. Here’s a taste: “The baseball game played on May 8, 1878, between Providence and Boston would not have been considered one of the 100 greatest games of the 19th century except for one enduring and still controversial question: Did Providence center fielder Paul Hines, in the eighth inning of this match, achieve the first unassisted triple play in major-league baseball? Or was it a misunderstanding encouraged by the publicity-seeking Hines that eventually grew into a myth?
“In the earliest report of the game, printed in the Boston Evening Transcript the next day, Hines is credited with a ‘triple play’ only, with no mention of its being unassisted: ‘In the eighth inning there was great excitement, when, through errors of the Providence club, O’Rourke scored and Manning and Sutton were on bases. Burdock struck a fly—just beyond Carey—which Hines caught after a long run, ran to third base and put out Manning and threw to second, putting out Sutton and making a triple play.’ Providence won the game, 3–2. However, the story in the Providence Journal the next day reported that ‘Manning and Sutton proceeded to the home plate,’ meaning that both rounded third.
“According to 1878 rules, if both players passed third base, they would have been out when Hines stepped on the bag, and the play would have indeed been unassisted.” There’s more on the play, check it out.
.338, 0 HR, 30 RBI
WAR Position Players-3.5
Games Played-63 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-24
Adj. Batting Wins-2.6
Times on Base-103
Def. Games as OF-63
2nd Time All-Star-Shafer moved from the Blues to the Grays, covering both sides of the Civil War participants, and had his best season ever. He finished fifth in WAR (3.5), first in WAR Position Players (3.5), and first in Offensive WAR (2.9). He slashed .338/.369/.455 for an OPS+ of 184. If there would have been the sophisticated statistics of nowadays back in Shafer’s day, you can certainly imagine a stir-up between old school and new school. Old school would have said, “But Hines won the Triple Crown and his team finished third,” while new school would have said, “Yes, but Hines hit in a better park for hitters and look at the WAR on Shafer.”
Indianapolis’ three parks certainly hindered the batter. Its home parks were South Street Park, Grand Avenue Park, and Union Park. Teams in this era sometimes had more than one home field if the jurisdiction they lived in didn’t allow baseball on Sundays. Altogether, the Grays scored an average of 3.9 runs per game at home and 5.7 per game on the road. They gave up 4.3 runs per game at home and 6.5 per game on the road. Shafer would have really lit it up playing just about anywhere else.
In his four seasons spread out over five years, Shafer has now played on Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, Louisville, and Indianapolis. In 1879, he’s going to join his sixth team and in 1880, he’s on to his seventh. Only there in Cleveland, will he finally play a second season with one team.
.320, 1 HR, 29 RBI
Doubles-22 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-After missing 1877 due to serving as captain of the Syracuse Stars of the International League, Higham was back in the National League and back on the All-Star team. He finished .320/.332/.407 for a 144 OPS+. This would be his last full season, as his only time remaining was playing one game for the 1880 Troy Trojans. As noted in his 1876 blurb, after 1882, he was banned from baseball for gambling.
Here’s another comment on his gambling from Baseball Reference: “In any written account of Baseball’s early days, Dick Higham’s playing prowess and ability to lead teams certainly warrants a word or two along with the rest of early base ball pioneers. However, it is most often as an umpire that he garners unbridled verbiage to this day. He remains the only umpire to be forever disqualified from acting as such in any game of ball participated in by a National League Club. Although nothing is clearly stated in the official League minutes of a hearing held on the matter, it is assumed it had to do with gamblers. 1882 was the first year in which league umpires, as well as players and managers, were barred from betting on games. While he was definitely barred from continuing as an umpire in the National League, suffice it to say that the affair itself and the actions of the League, it can fairly be said, are open to questioning and differing determinations.” Gambling didn’t start in 1919, it’s been part of the game – and a problem for the game – since the very beginning.