P-Jim Whitney, BSN
P-Pud Galvin, BUF
P-George Derby, DTN
P-Jim McCormick, CLV
P-Mickey Welch, TRO
P-Lee Richmond, WOR
P-Old Hoss Radbourn, PRO
P-Monte Ward, PRO
P-Tim Keefe, TRO
P-Stump Weidman, DTN
C-Charlie Bennett, DTN
C-Jack Rowe, BUF
C-Silver Flint, CHC
1B-Cap Anson, CHC
1B-Joe Start, PRO
1B-John Morrill, BSN
2B-Fred Dunlap, CLV
3B-Ned Williamson, CHC
3B-Ezra Sutton, BSN
SS-Jack Glasscock, CLV
LF-Dan Brouthers, BUF
LF-Tom York, PRO
CF-Hardy Richardson, BUF
CF-George Gore, CHC
RF-King Kelly, CHC
1881 ONEHOF Inductee-Jim O’Rourke
O’Rourke is the first inductee into the One-a-Year Hall of Fame that didn’t make it in the same year he also made the All-Star team. In case you don’t want to go back and look at 10 years of All-Star teams, here are the ONEHOF inductees thus far. The yes or no following their name will be whether or not they are part of the real Hall of Fame. The position given to them will be their most played position in their whole career:
1871-George Zettlein, P (No)
1872-Al Spalding, P (Yes)
1873-Bobby Mathews, P (No)
1874-Dick McBride, P (No)
1875-Ross Barnes, 2B (No)
1876-George Wright, SS (Yes)
1877-Cal McVey, 1B (No)
1878-Deacon White, 3B (Yes)
1879-Tommy Bond, P (No)
1880-Cap Anson, 1B (Yes)
1881-Jim O’Rourke, LF (Yes)
So far, out of the 11 players that are part of the ONEHOF, five of them (about 45 percent) also made the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. Four of the five that haven’t made the real Hall of Fame are pitchers and four of the five of them were inducted from 1871-1875 because the National Association isn’t thought of as a real major league. The only NA player that is in both HOFs is Al Spalding, who made it more for administration than for his pitching.
O’Rourke managed for the first time and maybe because he had the tutelage of Harry Wright, he led the Buffalo Bisons to a third place finish with a 45-38 record. In 1880, Buffalo finished 24-58 and in seventh place. O’Rourke would manage four other seasons and do well in all but one of them. It helped that along with the four All-Stars listed above, Buffalo also had the skill of its manager and the great Deacon White on the team.
31-33, 2.48 ERA, 162 K, .255, 0 HR, 32 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-8.7
Innings Pitched-552 1/3
Bases on Balls-90
Def. games as P-66
Errors Committed as P-28
1st Time All-Star-James Evans “Grasshopper Jim” Whitney was born on November 10, 1857 in Conklin, NY, without even realizing how many 1970s shows he would end up influencing. His first and middle names were the name of the father on “Good Times,” before he died and caused Florida to destroy her best dinnerware. His nickname, Grasshopper, was, of course, the nickname given to a character on “Kung Fu.” He also had quite an influence in the 1880s, having a great year his first season, despite his won-loss record. He finished first in WAR (8.7) and third in WAR for Pitchers (7.8). On the mound, Whitney pitched a league-leading 552 1/3 innings with a 2.48 ERA and a 107 ERA+. He also did well at the plate, slashing .255/.302/.337 with an OPS+ of 104. It was his best season ever.
The Harry Wright-led Red Stockings continued to struggle. It must have been difficult for Wright, who was so used to winning everything. Boston finished 38-45 and in sixth place. At least this season they will have three All-Stars instead of the one they had in 1880.
Grasshopper Jim set a record in 1881, according to Baseball Reference, “Jim Whitney holds the record for most wins in a season with a sub-.500 winning percentage. In 1881, pitching for the Boston Red Caps in his first major league season, he won 31 games but lost 33 and his final winning percentage was only .484. He happened to lead the league in both wins and losses that year too.”
28-24, 2.37 ERA, 136 K
Bases on Balls Per 9 IP-0.873
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-2.957
Strikeouts (As Batter)-70 (3rd Time)
Putouts as P-36
Assists as P-123
3rd Time All-Star-Galvin, easily the best Buffalo Bison of all time, continued to consistently mow down hitters in the National League. He finished third in WAR (7.6) and second in WAR for Pitchers (8.4). He pitched 474 innings with a 2.37 ERA and a 116 ERA+. Galvin is definitely a numbers accumulator, as mentioned in his 1880 blurb, but he’s a good one. He might have a case as the best pitcher ever to never lead the league in any of the three major pitching categories of wins, ERA, or strikeouts. (Technically, he led the National Association in ERA in 1875, but going by the modern qualifications, he didn’t have enough innings pitched.)
The year of 1881 was the first in which the mound was moved back five feet from 45 to 50. After a year in which good hitting was at a premium, it’s possible the league decided to try to help the batters. We’ll keep track through the year whether that happened.
Here’s SABR on Galvin’s 1881 season: “Before the 1881 season, the Buffalo ownership significantly improved the team with the addition of Dan Brouthers, Jim O’Rourke, and Deacon White. However, it was still only able to finish in third place, a disappointment for the star-studded roster. Galvin went 28-24, throwing five shutouts and completing 48 of his 53 starts, continuing to be a workhorse for his team. After the regular season ended, the Bisons played exhibition games, including a three-game series against the Philadelphia Athletics in Philadelphia. Galvin no-hit the Athletics in the final game of the exhibition series, on October 11, giving up two walks and having two men reach base on errors.”
29-26, 2.20 ERA, 212 K, .186, 0 HR, 12 RBI
WAR for Pitchers-8.8
Strikeouts per 9 IP-3.857
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.43
Adj. Pitching Runs-29
Adj. Pitching Wins-2.8
1st Time All-Star-George Henry “Jonah” Derby was born on July 15, 1857 in Webster, MA and as the biblical Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, so Derby spent just three years in the Major Leagues. Yet what a great season he had in his rookie year as he was easily the best pitcher in the league. Whitney could hit better and Galvin wasn’t bad, but Derby was the tops. Derby finished second in WAR (7.6) and first in WAR for Pitchers (8.8). He pitched 494 2/3 innings with a 2.20 ERA and a 131 ERA+. The first year Detroit Wolverines had their star, they just didn’t realize how quickly he would fade away.
According to Wikipedia, “In 1881, Detroit Mayor William G. Thompson bought most of the players from the defunct Cincinnati Reds franchise and formed the Detroit Wolverines, which joined the National League. The team finished the season with a 41–43 record, good enough for fourth place in the NL race.” Detroit was coached by Frank Bancroft, who had coached the Worcester Ruby Legs the year before. Bancroft would eventually be able to coach some better teams.
Derby would develop shoulder problems at the end of the season which would lead to his short career. However, Wikipedia described his meteoric rise during this season with this excerpt from the Detroit Free Press, “His speed was moderate, but he was the master of all the crooks and curves that can be imparted to the aerial projectiles. In obedience to his will, the ball twisted out or in, up or down. He held batsmen at his mercy to a degree equalled by no other pitcher. He was the wizard of the pitcher’s box, and within a month George H. Derby had risen from obscurity to fame in base ball circles.”
26-30, 2.45 ERA, 178 K, .256, 0 HR, 26 RBI
Hits Per 9 IP-8.281
Complete Games-57 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-The Iron Man Scot continued to ring up the innings pitched, with his third straight season of over 500 innings. He finished fourth in WAR (7.1) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (6.4), tossing 526 innings with a 2.45 ERA and a 107 ERA+. The Blues’ history was up and down, but they had the assurance of a good man on the mound every season.
After being coached by McCormick and finishing 47-37 in 1880, Cleveland handed the reins to Mike McGeary (4-7) and John Clapp (32-41) and finished 36-48. They would exist for six years and McCormick would lead the Blues in WAR every one of them, which makes this statement from Wikipedia unusual: “The Cleveland Blues was a Major League Baseball team based in Cleveland, Ohio that operated in the National League from 1879 to 1884. In six seasons their best finish was third place in 1880. Hugh Daily threw a no-hitter for the Blues on Sept. 13, 1883. Besides Daily, notable Blues players included Baseball Hall of Fame member Ned Hanlon. The team was purchased by Charles Byrne in 1885 for $10,000 and folded into his Brooklyn Grays team.” McCormick was their best player but not mentioned in this short article. It’s almost like you can’t trust Wikipedia for accurate information.
Did moving the mound back five feet in 1881 affect the runs scored in the league? In 1880, the average numbers of runs per game per team was 4.7. In 1881, it increased to 5.1. By 1882, it would jump to 5.4.
21-18, 2.67 ERA, 104 K, .203, 0 HR, 11 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Welch pitched 206 less innings in 1881 than he did in the previous season, but he still did well, finishing sixth in WAR (5.6) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (6.0). Smiling Mickey pitched 368 innings with a 2.67 ERA and a 109 ERA+. He didn’t pitch as many innings as some, but he consistently took the mound year after year for Troy and eventually the New York Gothams, which led him to the Hall of Fame. Of course, that’s the easy Hall of Fame, but will he make the ONEHOF?
Troy was once again coached by Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson and fell a little from 1880, finishing 39-45 and fifth in the league. They had two All-Stars, both pitchers, and really had no stellar position players this season.
To what did Welch credit his success? According to Baseball Almanac, he said, “I studied the hitters and I knew how to pitch to all of them. I had a pretty good fastball, but I depended chiefly on a change of pace and an assortment of curve balls.” So, he was the 1880s Jamie Moyer.
Surprisingly, Ferguson didn’t appreciate Welch when he first saw him. From SABR, “A highlight of the campaign was a ten-inning, 1-0 victory against Springfield, posted over opposing manager Bob Ferguson’s protest that Welch’s pitching motion was illegal.” That was in 1879 pitching for the Holyoke Shamrocks.
We’ll end on a sweet note from the same article: “On November 16, 1879, 20-year-old Mickey and his 18-year-old sweetheart, Mary Whelihan, were joined in marriage at St. Jerome Church in Holyoke. Their union would last 56 years and produce nine children.”
25-26, 3.39 ERA, 156 K, .250, 0 HR, 28 RBI
Earned Runs Allowed-174
2nd Time All-Star-This is possibly Richmond’s last All-Star season. He finished eighth in WAR (4.2) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (4.2). He tossed 462 1/3 innings with a 3.39 ERA and a 89 ERA+. His innings pitched put him on this team, but his skill was definitely fading.
Worcester was coached by Mike Dorgan (24-32) and Harry Stovey (8-18), for a total record of 32-50 and a last place finish. Keep the name Stovey in mind, he’s definitely got some All-Star teams coming for him.
Here’s some info on the last part of the career for Richmond from Wikipedia: “In both 1881 and 1882, Richmond pitched over 400 innings. After the 1882 season, the Worcester franchise disbanded, and Richmond played for the NL’s Providence Grays in 1883. He experienced arm problems and was primarily an outfielder that year. He finished his MLB career with a record of 75–100, a 3.06 ERA, and 552 strikeouts.
“In the winter of 1880, Richmond had begun to pursue a career in medicine, studying under a Providence physician, C. T. Gardner. He enrolled at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York a few months later, then at the University of the City of New York. After the 1883 baseball season, Richmond practiced medicine at Bellevue Hospital and with Gardner in Providence.
“Richmond then changed careers, and from 1890 to 1921, he was a high school chemistry teacher at Scott High School in Toledo, Ohio. Richmond married Mary Naomi Chapin, his former student, in 1892, and had three children: Ruth, Dorothy, and Jane. He died in Toledo in 1929.”
25-11, 2.43 ERA, 117 K, .219, 0 HR, 28 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Charles Gardner “Old Hoss” Radbourn was born on December 11, 1854 in Rochester, NY and is probably the most famous 1800s player around, due to “his” Twitter feed @OldHossRadbourn. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s a mock feed where the old-timey Old Hoss gives his 1800s point of view on modern day happenings. Check it out if you get a chance.
Meanwhile, the real Old Hoss had a great rookie season. He actually played six games at second base and the outfield in 1880 with the Buffalo Bisons, but he’s still considered a rookie this season. He finished ninth in WAR (4.0) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (4.5), pitching 325 1/3 innings with a 2.43 ERA and 108 ERA+. He and his super arm have some great seasons ahead.
Here are some tidbits on Radbourn from 19cbaseball.com: “A butcher by trade, CHARLES “OLD HOSS” RADBOURN received his moniker for his incredible endurance and dependability in an era when most teams employed a two-man pitching rotation.
“Once asked if he ever tired of pitching so often, he replied, ‘Tired out tossing a little five-ounce baseball for two hours? I used to be a butcher. From four in the morning until eight at night I knocked down steers with a 25-pound sledge. Tired from playing 2-hours a day for 10 times the money I used to get for 16 hours a day?’”
And from SABR: “Over the winter, he received several telegrams with baseball offers but ignored them. In January 1881, Bill Hunter answered a telegram from Providence pretending to be Radbourn and agreeing to join the club in the spring for the same money offered by Buffalo the previous year. Hunter then borrowed money from his father to send Rad to Hot Springs, Arkansas to get into shape. He also got Providence to advance $100 to cover the expenses. Somewhat reluctantly, Radbourn embarked on his major league career.”
18-18, 2.13 ERA, 119 K, .244, 0 HR, 53 RBI
4th Time All-Star-Ward continued his transition from pitcher to position player this season, actually playing more games in the outfield than he did on the mound. I’m still counting him as a pitcher, however. One thing we know about Ward is he was fast. They didn’t count stolen bases for eight years of his 17 year career and he still wound up with 540 and that’s as he was aging. So maybe it’s that speed that had him on the field regularly, because it wasn’t his bat. He slashed at .244/.254/.328 for an OPS+ of 82.
Ward did finish 10th in WAR for Pitchers at 2.7. He dropped from over 500 innings to 330 this season, with a 2.13 ERA and a 124 ERA+. His arm couldn’t hold up the huge amount of innings he pitched, but Ward was an incredible pitcher for the relatively short time he did it.
Wikipedia explains the lessening of his innings pitched: “The seasons of 1881 and 1882 were the first in which he played more games in the outfield than he pitched. This was due to a nagging arm injury he originally incurred sliding into a base. He still pitched well when he did pitch, winning 37 games over those two seasons and having ERAs of 2.13 and 2.59 respectively.”
There is a great article on Ward, posted by SABR, which starts: “No essay-length biography could possibly do full justice to John Montgomery Ward. His life, both on and off the diamond, was entirely too eventful. His playing career was replete with notable achievements.” Read the whole thing, it’s full of Ward info.
18-27, 3.24 ERA, 103 K
2nd Time All-Star-The Keefe and Mickey Welch combination continued to be the bright spot on the Trojans. They didn’t have an position player All-Stars, but they had two good arms. Keefe finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers with a 2.9 mark, tossing 403 innings — almost four time the amount he threw in his rookie season — with a 3.24 ERA and a 90 ERA+. This would be his highest ERA until 1889 and his lowest ERA+ until 1891. Keefe is two years from entering a monster stretch of his career.
From SABR: “Because Keefe had experienced unlimited mobility in his first three years of full-time professional baseball, he expected to parlay his brief time with Troy into a better deal with another major-league team. However, the National League ballclub owners had agreed to implement the reserve clause for the 1880 season. It allowed each club to protect five players each season from jumping to another team. Keefe was one of the five players on Troy’s reserve list for the 1881 season. Because he was reserved, Keefe was compelled to accept Troy’s salary offer of $1,500 for the 1881 season and couldn’t negotiate to play for other teams.
“For the 1881 and 1882 seasons, Keefe and Welch split Troy’s pitching duties, which then still required an underhand delivery; Buck Ewing and Bill Holbert alternated at catcher. Keefe had more opportunities to pitch in 1881, since a rule change that year moved the pitcher 50 feet from home plate, from 45 feet, which encouraged managers to use a two-man pitching staff.”
8-5, 1.80 ERA, 26 K, .255, 0 HR, 5 RBI
1881 NL Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-1.80
Walks & Hits Per IP-1.043
Fielding % as P-1.000
1st Time All-Star-George Edward “Stump” Weidman was born on February 17, 1861 in Rochester, NY and in a list of 1800s ERA leaders, his name would probably stump you. He finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers (3.2), pitching 115 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a 161 ERA+. He was another one of those players who, being only 20-years-old, looked like he was ready to take the league by storm. He wasn’t. Though he led the National League in ERA this season, his earned run average would start shooting up in his career and he’d be gone by 1888. However, I do believe he will make the All-Star team again.
Here’s some details on Weidman from Wikipedia, which has his name spelled different than Baseball Reference: “Wiedman was born in Rochester, New York, in 1861. He attended Rochester University and was a pitcher on the baseball team there in 1880. He also played for the Hop Hitters Club of Rochester, with Buck Ewing as his catcher.
“After the Albany [minor league] team folded, Wiedman joined the Detroit Wolverines and brought his catcher Sam Trott with him. Wiedman and Trott made their debut for Detroit on September 3, 1881, a 4-3 loss against Buffalo. Wiedman started 13 games for Detroit in the last month of the season, compiling an 8-5 record and 1.18 ERA in 115 innings pitched. He led the National League in ERA and had the lowest WHIP rating (walks + hits per inning pitched) at 1.043.” So is it Wiedman or Weidman?
.301, 7 HR, 64 RBI
Putouts as C-418
Range Factor/9 Inn as C-7.30
Range Factor/Game as C-7.19
Fielding % as C-.962
1st Time All-Star-Charles Wesley Bennett was born on November 21, 1854 in New Castle, PA. While in 1881, he and his mates were shouting “Wolverines!” on the diamond, his actual Major League career started as a Milwaukee Gray in 1878. He then moved to Worcester in 1880 and then finally to Detroit this season, his best season ever. He was seventh in WAR (4.3), second in WAR Position Players (4.3), fourth in Offensive WAR (3.0), and second in Defensive WAR (1.7). Speaking of his defense, his .962 fielding percentage set a record that would hold for seven years and he would then beat his own mark and hold the all-time best for another five seasons. He would play on Detroit for all eight seasons of its existence.
He also wasn’t bad with the bat, slashing .301/.341/.478 for an OPS+ of 143. For Detroit (“Wolverines!”), he would have five great seasons of hitting in a row. He’s going to be on these All-Star teams for a little while. Once he turned 30, his hitting fell apart, so he’s not Hall of Fame worthy and most likely not ONEHOF worthy. But he had a nice career.
“According to baseball historian Peter Morris, Bennett took the first recorded ‘curtain call’ in baseball during the 1881 season. After hitting a home run in May 1881, Bennett was ‘loudly applauded, and the crowd would not desist until he bowed in acknowledgment.’”
.333, 1 HR, 43 RBI
1st Time All-Star-John Charles “Jack” Rowe was born on December 8, 1856 in Hamburg, PA. He started his Major League career in Buffalo in 1879 and would play seven consecutive years with the team. Rowe had his best season ever, finishing fifth in WAR Position Players (2.8) and seventh in Offensive WAR (2.6). There were some pretty good catchers in the National League this season. Rowe slashed .333/.336/.480 for an OPS+ of 154. He would not be below a 102 OPS+ until 1889.
From Wikipedia, here’s a summary of his early years in baseball: “At age 19, Rowe began his career in organized baseball in 1876 with a club in Jacksonville, Illinois. In 1877, he played for the Milwaukee club in the League Alliance. He also played in 1877 and/or 1878 under Tom Loftus with the Peoria Reds. In 1879, Rowe and his brother, Dave Rowe, signed with the Rockford, Illinois team in the Northwestern League. At Rockford, Rowe earned a reputation as a hitter and ‘one of the best bare-handed catchers in the game.’
“After the Northwestern League folded in early July 1878, Rowe signed with the Buffalo Bisons of the National League. He made his major league debut on September 6, 1879, at age 22, and played in eight games for Buffalo that season, batting .353 in 38 plate appearances.”
We can talk more about this later, but Rowe made an interesting switch in his career in 1885 when he moved from catcher to shortstop. That is the most extreme defensive shifts you can make, as the two positions require almost opposite skill sets to play.
.310, 1 HR, 34 RBI
Def. Games as C-80 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-The defensive-minded Flint won his second consecutive championship with the White Stockings. He finished sixth in Defensive WAR (1.0), the fourth time out of six he would finish in the top 10 in that category. The season of 1881 also was the only year he finished in the top 10 in batting average with a .310 mark. He ended up slashing .310/.324/.379 for an OPS+ of 115.
Flint made the All-Star team in 1879, but didn’t make it in 1880, before again making it in 1881. What happened in 1880? He couldn’t hit! I put that exclamation point because I mean he really couldn’t hit! See, I did it again. Flint’s hitting was never his strength and so seasons like this one were an aberration, but for a non-pitcher, it’s unbelievable how terrible his 1880 season was at the plate. He slashed .162/.176/.225 for an OPS+ of 32 and an Offensive WAR of -0.7. It would be his worst season hitting ever. But it does bring up the question why manager Cap Anson kept Flint in the lineup.
Of course, you can’t really question a manager who would lead his squad to as many championships as Cap did, but it reminds me how frustrated I was when Mike Scioscia would put Jeff Mathis on the lineup card day-after-day despite his terrible hitting.
.399, 1 HR, 82 RBI
1881 NL Batting Title (Listed as 2nd Time, really 1st)
WAR Position Players-5.9 (2nd Time)
On-Base %-.442 (2nd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.952
Runs Batted In-82 (2nd Time)
Singles-108 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-38
Adj. Batting Wins-4.0
Times on Base-163
Offensive Win %-.862
AB per SO-85.8 (3rd Time)
Putouts as 1B-892
Assists as 1B-43 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.45 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.13 (2nd time)
Fielding % as 1B-.975 (2nd Time)
8th Time All-Star-If you want to have a championship season as a manager, be your own best player. That was what Anson did in a great season. I’m going to give the nod to 1889 as his best season ever only because there were more games in that season, but Anson was outstanding this season. He finished fifth in WAR (5.9), first in WAR Position Players (5.9), first in Offensive WAR (4.9) and eighth in Defensive WAR (1.0). He slashed .399/.442/.510 for an OPS+ of 192. Not counting his National Association numbers, Anson had his highest batting average of all time and his highest OPS+ of all time. If that wasn’t enough, he won his third championship – his second as a manager – and has now made his eighth All-Star team, tying him with Boston Red Stockings’ shortstop George Wright.
As for the White Stockings, they won the National League by nine games over Providence with a 56-28 record. They led the league in runs scored and least runs allowed and have five of the 25 All-Stars. They surprisingly don’t have any pitchers on the team, but Larry Corcoran (11th in Pitcher WAR) and Fred Goldsmith (12th in Pitcher War) did a good job in split duty.
SABR writes of Anson’s abrasive personality: “Two more pennants followed in 1881 and 1882 as Anson, who won the batting title in 1881 with a .399 mark, cemented his stature as the hardest hitter and finest field general in the game. He used his foghorn voice and belligerent manner to rile opponents and frighten umpires, and made himself the focus of attention in nearly every game he played. His outbursts against the intimidated umpires earned him the title ‘King of Kickers.’ His White Stockings followed Anson’s lead and played a hustling, battling brand of ball that won no friends in other league cities, but put Chicago on the top of the baseball world. As baseball grew in popularity, the handsome and highly successful Cap Anson became the sport’s first true national celebrity.”
.328, 0 HR, 29 RBI
Oldest Player-38 Years Old
7th Time All-Star-Start has made his fifth consecutive All-Star team and I’m going to predict that this great run he’s having in his career, starting at age 34, is going to put him in the ONEHOF. My guess is he has one more All-Star team coming in 1882. Start finished eighth in WAR Position Players (2.6) and sixth in Offensive WAR (2.6). He slashed .328/.345/.397 for an OPS+ of 133 while helping Providence to a second place finish. All of this as the oldest player in the league. His decline is near, but not sudden, and he will continue adding value to the Grays for many years.
A website called Hall of Stats puts Start as a reserve in the non-Hall-of-Fame National Association team. I put this up to let you see that Start was playing ball long before the National Association started: “First baseman Joe Start also makes the reserve list, thanks to his 27-year career that began in 1860. He played eleven seasons before the National Association formed, five seasons in the NA, and then another eleven in the National League, active both before the Civil War and alongside Old Hoss Radbourn in his famous 1884 season for Providence. Despite having no data for his first eleven seasons (and the short seasons played throughout his organized career), Start is still credited with 1417 hits and a 121 OPS+. He had a 110 OPS+ and 7.6 of his 32.2 WAR in the NA and was the circuit’s top RBI leader.”
.289, 1 HR, 39 RBI, 0-1, 6.35 ERA, 0 K
1st Time All-Star-John Francis “Honest John” Morrill was born on February 19, 1855 in Boston, MA just 87 short years before my dad was born. He was in his sixth season for Boston, starting as a second baseman for them in 1876, moving to third base in 1877, to first base in 1878, back to third base in 1879, and finally back to first base in 1880. He’d always been a steady player, just not All-Star quality, but in 1881, he had his best season ever. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players with a 2.5 mark. He slashed .289/.316/.379 for an OPS+ of 121. He has some good hitting years coming up and my guess is he’ll make another All-Star team.
Morrill was truly a utility player. In 1876, 1877, 1879, and 1880, he had at least two positions in which he played 10 or more games. His fielding was usually below average unless he was playing first base. Only one time in his career did he regularly play another position — third base in 1879 — in which he had a positive Defensive WAR.
Honest John had been part of two championship teams in 1877 and 1878 and would add another to his resume later. Championship teams aren’t necessarily full of All-Stars at every position. Sometimes, you also need the steadiness and the versatility of people like Morrill.
This would be Harry Wright’s last season with Boston so let’s take a look at his final record. In coaching the Red Stockings in two leagues, the National Association and the National League, over 11 seasons, Wright had a total record of 479-247 and won six championships. He was truly the game’s first great coach and he has some good seasons ahead but no more league titles.
.325, 3 HR, 24 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Dunlap is the only second baseman on the All-Star this season, having himself a pretty good year. He finished 10th in WAR (3.9), third in WAR Position Players (3.9), and second in Offensive WAR (3.6). This 22-year-old, held in high regard for his defense, had all-around skills. Sure Shot slashed .325/.358/.444 for an OPS+ of 156, his second highest of his career.
In the 1880 blurb, we talked about a couple reasons Dunlap might have the nickname “Sure Shot.” Here’s another possible explanation from Wikipedia: “One source gives an entirely different account of how Dunlap obtained the ‘Sure Shot’ nickname. In his book on the history of the home run, Mark Ribowsky wrote that the nickname dated back to a game against the Chicago White Stockings on July 10, 1880. The White Stockings had won 21 straight games until Dunlap hit a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. According to Ribowsky, ‘For this Shot Heard ‘Round Cleveland, Dunlap won the nickname “Sure Shot.”’”
Also from Wikipedia, we have a little of Dunlap’s early life: “Dunlap was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1859. Both of his parents died when he was age 10. Dunlap did not attend school after his parents died and spent his youth playing baseball. Lacking formal education, Dunlap remained illiterate throughout his life.
“Dunlap began playing semi-pro baseball at age 15 in 1874 for the Gloucester Club in Gloucester City, New Jersey. In 1875, he started the season with the Greighers of Camden, New Jersey, then joined the Kleinz Club of Philadelphia. He played for Chester at the start of the 1876 season before joining the Quicksteps of Wilmington, Delaware, as a pitcher. In 1877, he began playing professional baseball as a second baseman for the Auburns of Auburn, New York. In 1878, he played for teams in Hornellsville and Albany, New York. He remained with Albany in 1879.”
.268, 1 HR, 48 RBI, 1-1, 2.00 ERA, 2 K
Assists as 3B-194 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 3B-4.16 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 3B-4.09 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as 3B-.909 (3rd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-Williamson made his third consecutive All-Star team and continued to be a huge part of the White Stockings dominance. He won his second title this season. Williamson finished fourth in WAR Position Players (3.2) and first in Defensive WAR (1.9). He would finish in the top 10 in Defensive WAR during six seasons, so though Williamson has some gaudy offensive numbers, he was a pre-Brooks Robinson at the hot corner. At the plate, he slashed .268/.307/.347 for an OPS+ of 101. It was his lowest OPS+ in a seven year stretch from 1879 to 1885.
Isn’t it funny how we think about one particular person when it comes to good fielding? I mentioned Brooks Robinson earlier and that’s who we reference when it comes to good third base glove work. We think of Ozzie at shortstop, the Say Hey Kid in center, maybe Johnny Bench behind the plate, and, of course, Jim Kaat on the mound.
So let’s compare Ned Williamson to Brooks Robinson. Williamson finished in the top five Defensive WAR in his career six times, all between 1879 and 1885, not counting the one year he was out of the top 10 in 1883. Robinson finished in the top five in Defensive WAR nine times and in the top 10 14 times. See, that’s why we use the Human Vacuum Cleaner as a benchmark.
.291, 0 HR, 31 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Every few years Sutton reminds us he’s still in the league and still doing well. Since he last made the team in 1875, Sutton moved from the Athletics to Boston, where he will be finishing up his career. He slashed .291/.318/.351 for an OPS+ of 114. He bounced to shortstop and never made the All-Star team there. All three of his All-Star seasons have been at third base. It makes you wonder why people ever move him. He has won two championships so far and will add another in 1883. He’s also not done making All-Star teams.
Sutton used a fluke in the rules to his advantage, according to SABR: “In that fateful 1876 season, Sutton injured his strong and accurate right arm, and his throwing strength was reduced to merely average throughout the rest of his career. He moved to the right side of the infield for the remainder of the season. For the next few years, Sutton split his playing time between third base and shortstop. Throwing problems aside, Sutton was a master of the trapped-ball play by which fielders intentionally dropped pop-ups to trap runners off the bases. (The National League enacted the infield fly rule in 1894 to combat the play.)”
SABR on his Boston days: “Sutton joined the Boston Red Stockings in 1877 for a $1,200 salary, and stayed with the team through 1888. He became one of the most popular players of the era in Boston. The club won the pennant his first two years there.”
.257, 0 HR, 33 RBI
Putouts as SS-105
Assists as SS-274
Fielding % as SS-.911
1st Time All-Star-John Wesley “Pebbly Jack” Glasscock was born on July 22, 1857 in Wheeling, PA and is the only shortstop on the 1881 National League All-Star team. This season was his third for the Grays. After playing at second base in 1879, he moved to shortstop where he would remain for his 17-year career. Glasscock finished seventh in WAR Position Players (2.7) and third in Defensive WAR (1.4). He would be in the top 10 in Defensive WAR 11 consecutive seasons and finish first in that category three times. He’s off to a good career.
SABR has a great write-up on Glasscock. Here’s an example: “In 1879 Cleveland entered the National League. Glasscock became the first native of West Virginia to play in the big leagues. He was still a growing teenager, standing 5 feet, 8 inches and weighing 160 pounds, but he filled out to 5’10” and 175 pounds at the height of his career. He threw and hit right-handed. His rookie season, split between second and third base, offered little promise as he batted a paltry .209.
“Glasscock switched to shortstop in 1880 and became the pivot of one of the top infields of the 1880s. With ‘Silver Bill’ Phillips at first, and Fred Dunlap playing second they earned the nickname of ‘Stonewall infield.’ Spink remembered it as ‘perhaps the greatest infield ever known.’(Spink, 196) Faber rates the trio as the best double play combo of the 1880s. (Faber, 48) In 1881 Glasscock led shortstops in putouts, assists, and fielding average.”
.319, 8 HR, 45 RBI
Extra Base Hits-35
AB per HR-33.8
1st Time All-Star-Dennis Joseph “Big Dan” Brouthers (pronounced BROO-thurz) was born on May 8, 1858 in Sylvan Lake, NY and he is going to have a monster career as the best power hitter of his time. Get used to reading about him as he’s going to lead the league in slugging six consecutive years and also do the same in OPS. He started with Troy as a part-time first baseman in 1879, showing power from the beginning with four homers in 168 at-bats. Brouthers then played only three games for the Trojans in 1880, before coming to Buffalo this season. This would be the only season in which a position other than first base was his main position. Over the next few years, you’ll see he has no glove, but his bat will more than make up for it.
Brouthers finished third in Offensive WAR with a 3.1 mark, slashing .319/.361/.541 for an OPS+ of 181, behind only Cap Anson. It’s the last time he’ll finish below first in that category for quite a while.
Wikipedia says about Brouthers, “He got his first chance to be an everyday player in 1881, when he was signed by the Bisons, the team that he did well against the previous year. That season he batted .319, and played with them until the team folded after the 1885 season. In his first season with the Bisons, he led the National League (NL) in home runs and slugging percentage. Brouthers, along with teammates Jack Rowe, Hardy Richardson and Deacon White, became known as the ‘Big Four’.”
.304, 2 HR, 47 RBI
Games Played-85 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as OF-85 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-York came back after a mediocre 1880 season to start hitting as he had in the past. He finished ninth in Offensive WAR (2.5), slashing .304/.362/.427 for an OPS+ of 148. York has probably made his last All-Star team.
Along with playing leftfield for the Grays, York took over managing the team from Jack Farrell and did an excellent job. If he would have been coaching the whole time, there’s a good chance Providence would have beaten the White Stockings. The Grays finished 47-37 and were 24-27 under Farrell and 23-10 under York. Despite a career managing record of 56-37, York would never coach again.
“York managed Providence for parts of two seasons, including 1881. Although he and the team did well in 1881, he was replaced in 1882 when George Wright was lured to play shortstop and his brother Harry Wright lured to manage.”
York would still be a good hitter over his final four seasons, but his fielding continued to lack. He finished with a negative Defensive WAR in his last eight seasons and it’s that lack of defense which will most likely keep him off All-Star teams in the future. York died in New York City, at the age of 86 years old and though he wouldn’t make the ONEHOF or the real Hall, he proved to be one of the best outfielders in baseball’s early days.
.291, 2 HR, 53 RBI
Assists as OF-45
Range Factor/9 Inn as OF-2.92
Range Factor/Game as OF-2.84
2nd Time All-Star-Richardson was in the third year of his seven season stretch with the Bisons. After not making the All-Star team in 1880, he moved from third base to the outfield for 1881 and was once again a star. Next season, however, he’s moving to his regular position of second base, where he would play most of his games. Richardson finished 10th in WAR Position Players (2.5), slashing .291/.315/.413 for an OPS+ of 128. Buffalo sure could hit, its problem was they allowed the second most runs in the league.
Wikipedia writes about the “Big Four,” “From 1881 to 1888, Richardson was one of four Buffalo (later Detroit) infielders with Dan Brouthers, Jack Rowe, and Deacon White who were known in baseball as the ‘Big Four.’ The ‘Big Four’ played together for eight years and were ‘regarded for many years as the greatest quartette in the history of the national pastime.’ The Sporting News later wrote; ‘How the Big Four was admired! Even in hostile cities the fans praised them in the next breath after they had jeered them.’” If you click on the Wikipedia link, there’s also a chart on the production of the “Big Four” from 1881 through 1888.
Richardson was also mentioned on a modern TV show, again according to Wikipedia, “Richardson was referenced in an episode of the HBO television series, Boardwalk Empire, in October 2010. The lead character, Nucky Thompson, portrayed by Steve Buscemi, noted that he had owned an autographed catcher’s mitt signed by Hardy Richardson when he was a child. It was stolen from him by older, bigger kids. After his father made him fight four older boys to get it back, Nucky was beaten unconscious and spent 11 days in the hospital.”
.298, 1 HR, 44 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Just because Piano Legs had his best season ever in 1880 doesn’t mean he’s done making All-Star teams. He made his second consecutive one and won his second consecutive championship. Gore slashed .298/.354/.424 for an OPS+ of 138, quite a drop off from his 1880 numbers of .360/.399/.463 with an OPS+ of 185, but still good. His fielding added no value and for 10 of the next 11 seasons, would add negative WAR value.
On June 25, 1881, Gore set an unofficial record stealing. The reason it’s unofficial is because stolen bases weren’t recorded in the National League during this time. Here’s a report from SABR on Gore’s seven-steal game: “His average took a nosedive in 1881 (he finished at .298), but he was an artist at getting on and around the bases, and that Saturday game in June, a 12–8 win over the visiting Providence Grays, was probably his masterpiece.
“According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, about 2,000 fans saw an offensive outbreak that ‘was full of action and at all times interesting. … Chicago won by virtue of superiority in every point of play, but notably so in base-running. Gore’s performances in this respect were something phenomenal.’
“Gore reached base five times in five plate appearances, had three solid singles and a walk, scored five runs, and generally made life really stressful for the Providence battery, pitcher Bobby Mathews and catcher Emil Gross. Gore stole second base five times—or every time he reached base—and stole third twice.”
.323, 2 HR, 55 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Kelly got the break of a lifetime when the Cincinnati Reds folded in 1879 and he was able to come to the White Stockings. Chicago moved him from third base to rightfield and King was on his way to a string of championships, the 1881 pennant being his second consecutive with the team. Kelly finished sixth in WAR Position Players (2.8) and eighth in Offensive WAR (2.6). He was a terrible outfielder but it didn’t seem to affect the team too much. King slashed .323/.352/.433 for an OPS+ of 140. He still has many great seasons ahead.
Wikipedia on Kelly’s move to Chicago: “As of 1879, Chicago was the most important city financially in the National League, as it drew the best attendance for teams taking long train rides from the East Coast.
“Kelly was now a young, good-looking man in the big city with money in his pocket. Rather than buying a house, he immediately moved into the Palmer House, the loudest, brashest, most garish and, according to its literature, ‘fire-proof’ hotel in the world.”
And Wikipedia on his, well, cheating: “Kelly’s uniqueness was in making four attempts to cut bases, while the then-lone umpire wasn’t looking, in the apparent first prevalent year of the trick: 1881. A methodical study of trickery in early baseball found Kelly cutting bases just a few more times over the rest of his career, and none at other times through 1886, his last year with Chicago. From 1887 to 1893, four seems to be his number of cuts. One was a success. Twice he was called out. Once he went back after being spotted. From 1881 to 1893, the relevant years to compare, dozens of players cut bases.”