P-Tim Keefe, NYP
P-Will White, CIN
P-Tony Mullane, STL
P-Jumbo McGinnis, STL
P-Bobby Mathews, PHA
P-Guy Hecker, LOU
P-Jack Lynch, NYP
P-Bob Emslie, BAL
P-Denny Driscoll, PIT
C-Rudy Kemmler, COL
C-Jack O’Brien, PHA
1B-Ed Swartwood, PIT
1B-Harry Stovey, PHA
1B-John Reilly, CIN
1B-Charlie Comiskey, STL
2B-Pop Smith, COL
3B-Hick Carpenter, CIN
3B-George Bradley, CLE (N)/PHA (A)
SS-John Richmond, COL
SS-Candy Nelson, NYP
SS-Bill Gleason, STL
SS-Mike Moynahan, PHA
LF-Pete Browning, LOU
LF-Jim Clinton, BAL
CF-Charley Jones, CIN
41-27, 2.41 ERA, 359 K, .220, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Wins Above Replacement-20.1
WAR for Pitchers-19.7
Walks & Hits Per IP-0.963 (2nd Time)
Hits Per 9 IP-7.095 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts Per 9 IP-5.220
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.74
Adj. Pitching Runs-83
Adj. Pitching Wins-7.8
Def. Games as P-68
Assists as P-142
4th Time All-Star-Well, if Wins Above Replacement is the tool used to judge the all-time great seasons, we have met the greatest, Tim Keefe’s 1883 American Association season with the Metropolitans. A lot of the high WAR seasons come from great players from strong leagues moving over to weaker leagues and that’s what happened with Keefe. Of course, it helped that he started all 68 games he pitched and finished all 68 games he started. Keefe finished first in WAR (20.1) and first in WAR for Pitchers (19.7). He pitched 619 innings, 42 more than the second-place finisher, Will White, and had a 2.41 ERA and a 145 ERA+. It’s incredible that after this season, Keefe still has 3,546 innings left in his Hall of Fame arm.
New York now had two teams in the Major Leagues after having none the year before, the Gothams in the National League and this one. The Metropolitans unfortunately had to put Jack Lynch on the mound when Keefe didn’t pitch and he went 13-15 with a 4.09 ERA. This led New York to a fourth place finish, 11 games out of first. Jim Mutrie managed the team and was off to good coaching career, as he would coach teams in New York for the next nine seasons, to three pennants and two World Series titles.
Among all of the incredible feats done by Keefe this season, Wikipedia mentions, “On July 4 of that year, Keefe pitched both ends of a doubleheader against Columbus, winning the first game with a one-hitter; the second a two-hit gem.”
43-22, 2.09 ERA, 141 K, .225, 0 HR, 23 RBI
Earned Run Average-2.09
Wins-43 (2nd Time)
Shutouts-6 (2nd Time)
Home Runs Allowed-16 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-White was really enjoying the lower play quality of the American Association and, because of that, his chances of making the ONEHOF have gone from “outside chance” to “probably going to make it.” He finished second in WAR (9.1) and 8.9 in WAR for Pitchers (8.9). He pitched 577 innings with a 2.09 ERA and a 156 ERA+. These first two years of the AA were White’s best and he’s going to falter somewhat from this point, but you have to be impressed with his 83-34 record over two seasons.
As for my Red Stockings, they had another outstanding season, but didn’t finish first. Managed by Pop Snyder, Cincinnati finished 61-37, five games behind Philadelphia. It had good hitting, scoring the second most runs in the league, and great pitching, maybe the best in the league, but still didn’t win it all. Incredibly, the Red Stockings had winning records against every team except New York, which beat them 10 out of 14 times. They just couldn’t beat Tim Keefe. Of course, not many could.
I’ve been asked by, well, nobody, but I like to pretend people ask me questions and one of the questions they’re not asking is “Should Will White make the ONEHOF when his best seasons are in the weaker American Association?” Good question, Nobody! Well, of course he should, because the ONEHOF is the anti-Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s not based on morality or the competition you’ve faced. It’s just a history of the game and Will White and his brother, Deacon, were great players and an important part of the early days of baseball.
35-15, 2.19 ERA, 191 K, .225, 0 HR, 33 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Count is the first player on this list whose fame came because of the American Association and not because of his performance in the National League. Mullane pitched a great season, finishing third in WAR (6.5) and third in WAR for Pitchers (6.4). He pitched 460 2/3 innings with a 2.19 ERA and a 160 ERA+.
The Apollo of the Box was now pitching on his third team in three seasons. Next season will be his fourth team in four seasons. He’s not going to pitch in 1885, due to reasons we’ll get to at a later time, and then in 1886, he’s finally going to settle in with his fifth team in five seasons, but stick with Cincinnati for many years. I mentioned it last year, but I’ll say it again, Mullane has a good shot at the ONEHOF.
Baseball sure has changed, hasn’t it? Mullane led the league in saves with one. And they didn’t even track them at that point, this is something researchers added later. According to Wikipedia, “The term save was being used as far back as 1952. Executives Jim Toomey of the St. Louis Cardinals, Allan Roth of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Irv Kaze of the Pittsburgh Pirates awarded saves to pitchers that finished winning games but were not credited with the win, regardless of the margin of victory. The statistic went largely unnoticed.” Later on, a save with more criteria, the save we’re more familiar with, was invented and relief pitchers went “Cha-Ching!” and have been happy ever since.
28-16, 2.33 ERA, 128 K, .200, 0 HR, 14 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Jumbo pitched his best season ever, finishing fourth in WAR (5.6) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (6.2). He pitched 382 2/3 innings with a 2.33 ERA and a 150 ERA+. You put together Jumbo and The Apollo of the Box and St. Louis had good pitching and a good season, which we’ll look at later.
After this season, McGinnis turned 30 and slowly started declining. Yes, he finished 24-16 in 1884 and his ERA was only 2.84, but his ERA+ fell and would continue to do so. McGinnis had a short six-season career, but it was decent, as he finished 102-79 with a 2.95 ERA and a 111 ERA+.
Wikipedia has a baseball card, the one I’m showing above, that shows Jumbo McGinnis as a catcher. According to Baseball Reference, McGinnis never caught a game. There was no other McGinnis that played in that era, so I’m not sure why the card shows him in catchers gear and lists that as his position.
When I was a younger man, a boy, really, I used to love baseball cards. I remember one year getting baseball cards that listed the Padres as being in Washington D.C., because there was a rumor they were going to move there. My older brother told me to keep them safe, they’d be valuable someday because they had a mistake on them. I didn’t, of course, but I wonder how much they’re worth nowadays.
Well, according to California Sports Cards, I’ve lost out on $12.50 and that’s if I had Willie McCovey. Most of the others are between two and four dollars.
30-13, 2.46 ERA, 203 K, .186, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.732 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-6.548 (2nd Time)
9th Time All-Star-Mathews’ life would make a great, but tragic, movie. He started pitching in the majors at the age of 19 for the Fort Wayne Kekiongas and it was the start of an incredible career which had highs, like his pitching in the National Association and the American Association, and lows, like his pitching in the National League. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for the existence of the AA, Mathews would probably be on his way out. However, this league and its weaker competition revived Mathews and he had a throwback season.
The diminutive drunkard finished fifth in WAR (4.5) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2). He tossed 381 innings and had a 2.46 ERA and a 141 ERA+. It was his highest Adjusted ERA+ ever to this point, but not the highest he’d ever have.
Led by Mathews, Philadelphia won the AA crown with a 66-32 record. Lon Knight, coaching his first season, took the Athletics from fourth place in 1882 to the top spot this season. It was his first year managing and surprisingly, he has only one more season left. Mathews now had his second (and last) league crown.
SABR writes, “Mathews’ career took an upward turn in 1883 when he joined the Philadelphia Athletics in the American Association, a rival major league in its second season. Immediately, he reassumed his ace status after six years, at age 31. The specifics of how Mathews joined the Athletics shed some light on the secret workings of the game at the time. Philadelphia owner Bill Sharsig later told the New York Telegram, ‘In 1882 when the association was just making itself felt, and there was no National Agreement, there was a demand for players. I met Matthews in the Bingham House, this city, during August that year, and made an arrangement with him by which he agreed to play with the Athletic club next season. I then gave him $1,000 to bind the bargain.’”
28-23, 3.34 ERA, 164 K, .271, 1 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Putouts as P-40
2nd Time All-Star-Hecker made the American Association All-Star team in 1882 as a first baseman, but switched to primarily pitching this year and had a good season. (But, spoiler alert!, nothing like next year). Hecker finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers with a 1.2 mark, pitching 469 innings with a 3.34 ERA and an 89 ERA+. That’s not a great year, but he added value by his bat, slashing .271/.297/.334 for an OPS+ of 110. He has better hitting seasons and pitching seasons ahead.
Despite finishing second in the AA’s inaugural year, the Eclipse switched managers from Denny Mack, who would never coach again, to the old veteran, Move Up Joe Gerhardt, a two-time All-Star, who had never managed before. The record this season was better, 52-45, compared to 42-38 the year before, but the finish was worse, as Louisville dropped from second to fifth, 13-and-a-half games out of first place.
The truth of the matter for Louisville was it couldn’t match the pitching of the four teams above it. It had good hitting, finishing third in the league in runs scored, but Hecker hadn’t reached his peak as a hurler and old veteran Sam Weaver already had.
Now to show that I don’t have the intelligence of baseball people, I probably would have moved Hecker to being a position player to help the team’s hitting, but the Eclipse kept him on the mound and that’s certainly going to work out for them in 1884. Maybe I should just stick to writing.
13-15, 4.09 ERA, 119 K, .187, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-John H. “Jack” Lynch was born on February 5, 1857 in New York, NY. He started in 1881 for the National League Buffalo Bisons and then didn’t play in the majors in 1882. The Metropolitans picked him for this season and though I made a snide remark about Lynch in the Tim Keefe write-up, the truth is this was his best season ever. There was an extreme lack of good pitching in the American Association this year and Lynch did well, taking that into consideration. He finished seventh in WAR for Pitchers (2.0), pitching 255 innings with a 4.09 ERA and an 86 ERA+. No, he wasn’t great, but he especially looked bad when compared to his own great teammate, Keefe.
“The New York Clipper wrote of Jack Lynch:
“’Studying the in-and-out curves, rises, and drop deliveries, he rapidly acquired a reputation as an effective and puzzling pitcher…He has complete control of the ball, with all the curves and varying paces in delivery, and is cool and self-possessed.’”
The Mets played in Polo Grounds II (Southwest Diamond) and Polo Grounds I (Southeast Diamond) and neither of those places was good for pitchers. It’s why Keefe’s incredible season is so awesome and why the New York pitching staff of Keefe and Lynch deserves some props, as the team allowed the least runs in the league. Baseball history is so interesting as we already see a team called the Mets way back in the 1880s, along with a park called the Polo Grounds.
9-13, 3.17 ERA, 62 K, .165, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Robert Daniel “Bob” Emslie was born on January 27, 1859 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada and was off to a good start. Guelph? Anyway, Emslie finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers with a 1.4 mark, pitching 201 1/3 innings with a 3.17 ERA and a 109 ERA+. He’ll be back on this team next season.
Baltimore unfortunately could not improve from their last place 1882 debut season. They once again finished at the bottom this season, going 28-68. Bald Billy Barnie managed the team and you would think, in the fashion of the day, he’d be dismissed quickly. He wasn’t. Barnie is going to manage the Orioles for many seasons and they’re actually going to do well eventually. I like teams that don’t panic and stick with a plan to see if it pans out.
Emslie would achieve more fame as an umpire than as a player and was involved in the famous “Merkle’s Boner.” Wikipedia describes it: “Emslie was the base umpire on September 23, 1908, when controversy erupted at the end of the New York Giants–Chicago Cubs game at the Polo Grounds. With the score tied and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Giants had Moose McCormick on third base and Fred Merkle on first base; Al Bridwell smashed a single to center to drive home McCormick with the apparent winning run, but Merkle failed to touch second base. Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed this error, and tagged second base and appealed to Emslie. Emslie claimed that he had to duck out of the way of Bridwell’s line drive and did not see the play, and home plate umpire Hank O’Day declared Merkle out and the game a tie.
“New York manager John McGraw, with whom Bob had a long and tempestuous history, bestowed upon Emslie his nickname ‘Blind Bob’ after the controversy.”
18-21, 3.99 ERA, 79 K, .182, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-3.03
Range Factor/Game as P-2.76
2nd Time All-Star-After having a great rookie season in 1882, Driscoll slipped a bit this season. Oh, he still made the All-Star team and that’s very prestigious, but it’s mainly because of the weakness of pitching in the American Association this year. Driscoll finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (1.2), pitching 336 1 /3 innings, 135 more than his rookie year, with a 3.99 ERA, 2.78 above his rookie year, and an 80 ERA+, 138 below 1882. He has only one season left after this.
After finishing at .500 in 1882, the Alleghenys fell to seventh place this season. They were coached by Al Pratt (12-20), Ormund Butler (17-36), and Joe Battin (2-11) to a total 31-67 season. Only Battin would ever coach again and that was only in interim capacities.
Driscoll would fade after this season. SABR says, “Since 1884 was the first year of overhand pitching in the major leagues, Driscoll apparently was unable to successfully make the transition from underhand delivery. With 28 teams vying for a championship in three major leagues in 1884, Driscoll should otherwise have been able to catch on with another team looking for a capable pitcher.
“Driscoll died of consumption in Lowell on July 11, 1886. The disease, known today as tuberculosis, claimed numerous lives in Lowell during that time, including both of Driscoll’s parents, his father in 1874 and his mother in 1878. A brief obituary about Driscoll in the Lowell Courier noted, He was well known as a base ball player, serving as pitcher for the old Bartlett nine several years ago, and more recently with clubs in Louisville and other parts of the southwest.”
.208, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Def. Games as C-82
Errors Committed as C-71
Double Plays Turned as C-10
1st Time All-Star-Rudolph “Rudy” Kemmler born Rudolph Kemler was born in January, 1860 in Chicago, IL. This will most likely be his only All-Star team, but due to his defense, he was the best catcher in the American Association. It was the second straight year a catcher led the AA in dWAR. At the bat, Kemmler didn’t provide much, slashing .208/.239/.478 for an OPS+ of 60. This was higher than his all-time OPS+ of 52. His oWAR was 0.2.
Kemmler played for the newly formed Columbus Buckeyes. There isn’t a lot on this obscure franchise, but there is this from the Columbus Dispatch, “In 1876, the national pastime was solidified in Columbus as the Columbus Buckeyes became the first professional baseball team in the city, after a decade of amateur play as the Buckeye Baseball Club.
“After one year of playing an independent schedule, the Columbus Buckeyes joined the nation’s first minor league, the International Association of Baseball, which was organized by Columbus native James ‘Jimmy’ Williams. Williams, who is considered to be the ‘Father of Minor League Baseball,’ also was the association’s first executive secretary.
“A few years later, in 1883, the Buckeyes made their first major-league appearance in the newly formed American Association.
“But after just two years, the Buckeyes disbanded, and throughout the next several years, Columbus saw other teams such as the Senators, the Reds and the Statesmen play in various minor league and major league associations.” The Buckeyes finished 32-65 and in sixth place in the league.
.290, 0 HR, 70 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Well, I am a false prophet, predicting in his 1882 blurb that O’Brien would not make another All-Star team, so I recapped the rest of his career and life last year. So now what the heck am I going to write about? O’Brien was the anti-Rudy Kemmler this season. Kemmler was all-defense, no bat, and O’Brien was all bat and no defense. At the plate, O’Brien slashed .290/.333/.377 for an OPS+ of 121. His hitting was always his strong point.
Oh, I know something I can mention, this was O’Brien’s first and last league title. He would continue playing for Philadelphia through 1886, before moving to Brooklyn in 1887, Baltimore in 1888, and back to Philadelphia in 1890. He didn’t play in the majors in 1889.
Catching was a weakness in the AA this season. In 1882, four catchers made the All-Star team. This season, two made it and they were 15th and 16th in the league in Position Players WAR. What happened to the remaining three from last season? Pop Snyder was 20th in the league in WAR Position Players, Billy Taylor’s terrible fielding dropped him to 64th, plus he moved to mainly playing outfield, and Dan Sullivan dropped to 53rd.
I talked about the Athletics season a little bit in the Bobby Mathews blurb, but here’s a little more. Philadelphia came into a four-game series from Sept. 3-6 a half-game ahead of St.Louis. They then lost the first game and found themselves down by a half-game. However, they swept the remaining trio of games, winning 11-1, 5-4, and 4-3, and never lost the lead again.
.357, 3 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1883 AA Batting Title
WAR Position Players-3.8
On-Base Plus Slugging-.869
Adj. Batting Runs-40
Adj. Batting Wins-4.3
Times on Base-172
Offensive Win %-.807
2nd Time All-Star-Swartwood moved from rightfield to first base this season and his hitting dominated the league. This was definitely the definition of a fluke year. See all of those categories above in which he led the league. This was the only season Swartwood would ever lead in any of those categories for his career. He’d never hit again like he has the last two seasons. In this, his best season ever, Swartwood was sixth in WAR (3.8), first in WAR Position Players (3.8), and first in Offensive WAR (4.5). He slashed .354/.394/.476 for an Adjusted OPS+ of 188.
One thing Swartwood couldn’t do was field. Whether he roaming the outfield or playing at first base, his dWAR continued to be below zero, meaning you could yank someone up from the minor leagues and have him do a better job. In 1882, as an outfielder, his dWAR was -0.7 and in 1883, as a first baseman, his dWar was -0.9. You can bet in that picture above, he’s going to drop that ball. It was a good thing he could hit as well as he did. SABR mentions this bad glove work: “[T]he club didn’t know where to place the extra-large slugger in the field. The Rocky Mountain News in Denver illustrated the point in February before spring training began: ‘The Alleghenys will try to make a catcher out of Swartwood, who is a very poor fielder, but a strong hitter.’ He actually ended up splitting most of his time between first base and center field.”
.304, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 4 K
Home Runs-14 (2nd Time)
Extra Base Hits-51 (2nd Time)
AB per HR-30.1
Fielding % as 1B-.965
2nd Time All-Star-Stovey moved from the National League Worcester Ruby Legs to the American Association Athletics after the Ruby Legs folded. Coming to the weaker league helped his hitting, but it’s not like his bat had been dormant before. Stovey finished seventh in WAR (3.7), second in WAR Position Players (3.8), and third in Offensive WAR (3.4). He slashed .304/.346/.506 for an OPS+ of 163. He seemed to lead in every category Ed Swartwood didn’t and also garnered his first league title.
Stovey did break Charley Jones’ 1879 record of nine home runs with his 14 dingers. He’ll hold this for one year when a fluke in the way home runs are recorded in Chicago in 1884 will blow this record out of the water and then not be broken again until the days of Babe Ruth. I doubt there were many huzzahs or hurrahs when Stovey did this; home runs just weren’t a big deal in the early days of baseball.
SABR writes about Stovey, “Stovey, who set the single-season home run record with 14 during that championship season in 1883, was considered the best base-stealer in the game. It is said that he was the first to make feet-first sliding popular and invented sliding pads to protect an often bruised left hip. As a fielder, he was said to have had sure hands and a strong accurate arm with great range. Today, Stovey would be called a five-tool player for his all-around game.”
.311, 9 HR, 79 RBI
Def. Games as 1B-98
Double Plays Turned as 1B-50
1st Time All-Star-“Long John” Good Reilly was born on October 5, 1858 in Cincinnati, OH and vowed on that day, you heard me, that very day, that he would never leave Cincinnati even if he became a major league player someday and he kept that vow. He was born in Cincinnati, died in Cincinnati, and played his entire Major League career in Cincinnati. The six-foot-three, 178 pound Queen City native started as a first baseman for the National League Reds in 1880 and then took two years off before hooking up with the Red Stockings here in 1883. He finished fifth in WAR Position Players (3.5) and fifth in Offensive WAR (3.0). Reilly slashed .311/.325/.485 for an OPS+ of 151. He is going to be a good hitter for a long time.
Reilly’s highlight for 1883 was a week or so in September in which Long John went on a tear. Here’s SABR’s description of it: “In the opener Cincinnati pounded out a 12-6 victory over the Alleghenys’ Denny Driscoll, who had been a Reds’ nemesis all year. Reilly sparked the win by homering in each of the first two innings, both times driving in Hick Carpenter ahead of himself. The next day, Reilly singled in another easy victory for the Reds. On September 12, Cincinnati rolled over the Alleghenys, beginning with a nine-run first inning. Even among a host of impressive offensive performances, Reilly’s line in the box score stood out, with six hits in seven at bats as well as two stolen bases and six runs scored. In the bottom of the eighth, he drove an opposite field line drive to right field to score Carpenter again with Cincinnati’s fourth home run of the game. The hit finished the scoring in a 27-5 victory, and also completed a cycle for Reilly, who had already hit a double and triple to go with his three singles.” You’ll need to read the whole thing, it’s very good and extremely descriptive, but he did hit for another cycle on Sept. 19.
.294, 2 HR, 64 RBI
Putouts-1,085 (2nd Time)
Putouts as 1B-1,085 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.54
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.51
1st Time All-Star-Charles Albert “Charlie” or “Commy” or “The Old Roman” Comiskey was born on August 15, 1859 in Chicago, IL. Like Cap Anson, we in the modern day look at him with our own morals and mentality and judge him harshly. He was the skinflint, the miser, whose cheapness led to the 1919 Chicago White Sox revolting and throwing the World Series. There’s probably some truth mixed in with half-truths in there somewhere, but, for our purposes, Comiskey is a six-foot, 180 pound young man playing first base for his second consecutive season with the Browns. The other stuff will have to wait.
It’s tough to say whether Comiskey will ever make another All-Star team, because this was probably his best year hitting. He slashed .294/.313/.397 for an OPS+ of 122. Of course, there was also a season in which Comiskey stole 117 bases and twice that he had 100 RBI, so we’ll just have to see. I’m predicting one more.
As for Comiskey’s defense, Wikipedia says, “Comiskey is sometimes credited with the innovation of playing the first base position behind first base or inside the foul line, a practice which has since become common.”
From Baseball Reference: “Comiskey was the son of Chicago alderman ‘Honest John’ Comiskey. The senior Comiskey disapproved of his son’s interest in baseball and tried several tactics (including sending him to college and getting him an apprenticeship) to prevent him from playing. Charlie remained interested in the game, and jumped at a chance to play for a team in Dubuque, IA. He moved to the St. Louis Browns when they joined the new American Association in 1882.”
The Browns just missed winning the league, finishing one game behind Philadelphia. They were coached by Ted Sullivan (53-26) and Comiskey (12-7). Comiskey would take over the team in 1885 and prove to be a great manager.
.262, 4 HR, (No RBI recorded), 0-0, 6.35 ERA, 0 K
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-7.09
1st Time All-Star-Charles Marvin “Pop” Smith was born on October 12, 1856 in Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada. He is the American Association’s only All-Star second baseman this season. He’s had an interesting career leading up to his first All-Star selection. Smith started with the National League Cincinnati Reds in 1880, then played on three NL teams in 1881 – Cleveland, Buffalo, and Worcester. In 1882, he moved to the AA and played with Philadelphia and Louisville. Except for his first season with the Reds, in which he played full-time second base, all of these stints included very little playing time. But the newly formed Columbus Buckeyes gave him a chance to play everyday and he made the most of it, finishing seventh in Offensive WAR with a 2.7 mark. Smith slashed .262/.300/.410 for an OPS+ of 135. He’s probably got another All-Star team left in him.
Smith’s greatest fame in 1883 came not from playing, but umpiring, according to SABR, which says, “Smith’s fortunes began to look up after the 1882 season. The Columbus Buckeye club, preparing to enter the American Association, signed Smith for the 1883 season. It proved fortuitous that he was in Columbus at the time. The first post-season playoffs, precursor of the World Series, between the National League champion Chicago White Stockings and Cincinnati, winners of the first American Association pennant, took place in Columbus at the end of the 1882 season. Because Smith was known by both managers, having played in each league, and was generally well-liked and considered impartial, he was selected to umpire the two-game series. Emotions ran high as the two league champions split the series, but the Cincinnati Commercial credited Smith with umpiring ‘in splendid style’ (Lansche, 31), no easy task.”
.299, 3 HR, 40 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-For the second consecutive year, Carpenter was the best third baseman in the American Association. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (2.8), slashing .299/.328/.379 for an OPS+ of 122. In one game this season, according to Wikipedia, “On September 12, 1883, Cincinnati beat the Pittsburg Alleghenys 27-5 collecting a club-record 33 hits. Hick and Long John Reilly each collect six hits‚ while Reilly scores six runs and hits for the cycle.” He’s probably made his last All-Star team, but I’ve been wrong before, many, many, many times.
From SABR: “It is said that Carpenter was blessed with astonishing physical dexterity. A Louisville sportswriter penned this tribute: ‘It isn’t much use to hit it in the neighborhood of third base when Old Hickory is holding it down. Hickory doesn’t think any more of stopping a base hit than Jack Leary does of striking out.’ One of Carpenter’s gems came a few days later. On June 18 thoughts of a no-hitter were in the air as Will White, Cincinnati’s ace hurler, retired the first 13 Philadelphia batters in a row. Edward Achorn wrote: ‘Carpenter preserved the string with a phenomenal leaping catch of a line drive in the fourth inning, a play that made spectators in the pavilion leap to their feet and wave their hats.’
“Walter William ‘Hick’ Carpenter died in San Diego on April 18, 1937, at the age of 81. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego.” You need to read the whole SABR article, there is a lot of good stuff in it.
(Combined) .238, 1 HR, 37 RBI, 16-7, 3.15 ERA, 56 K
5th Time All-Star-What an interesting career Bradley has had. He started his career as one of the best pitchers in the game. He still is tied for most shutouts thrown in a season with 16 for the 1876 National League Brown Stockings. However, after that season, his innings fell and he’d bounce around baseball. Since his last All-Star team in 1880, Bradley split the 1881 season between Detroit and Cleveland and stayed in Cleveland in 1882 and 1883. However in June of 1883, he was purchased by the Athletics and split time between third base and the mound. It’s because of his pitching Bradley made the All-Star team and his pitching also led him to his first championship ever.
On the mound, Bradley finished sixth in the American Association in WAR for Pitchers (2.7), pitching 214 1/3 innings with a 3.15 ERA and a 110 ERA+. He’s probably made his last All-Star team, though he did have a good season in 1884.
SABR has this to say about Bradley’s contribution to Philadelphia’s league title: “With the A’s Bradley won 16 games as the team’s primary backup pitcher to Bobby Mathews; when not pitching he played third base. In September, when Mathews was out with arm problems, Bradley and Jumping Jack Jones put together a string of pitching performances that enabled the A’s to win seven in a row on their way to the pennant. Despite his heroics, Bradley was released after the season, telling one interviewer, ‘They sent me adrift, just as you would a broken down horse. But that was strictly business, you know.’”
.283, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Assists as SS-304
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-4.88
Range Factor/Game as SS-4.68
Fielding % as SS-.877
1st Time All-Star-John H. Richmond was born on March 5, 1855 in Philadelphia, PA. He hung around awhile before having his best season ever in 1883 and making his first All-Star team. Richmond probably has a shot at one more. It’s borderline. He’s another player that had the weaker competition of the American Association revive his career. It was his third league, as Richmond started with the National Association Athletics as a second baseman in 1875. He then took three years off of Major League ball until playing centerfield for the National League Syracuse Stars in 1879. He then played for Boston in 1880 and 1881, moved to Cleveland in 1882, and then went to the AA Athletics at the end of that year. This year, he found his spot with the newly-formed Buckeyes and was arguably the best shortstop in the league. He finished ninth in WAR (3.4), fourth in WAR Position Players (3.4), eighth in Offensive WAR (2.7), and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.2). It was a total aberration from all the seasons which came before. He slashed .283/.327/.343 for an OPS+ of 124, far above his career Adjusted OPS+ of 96.
Richmond is one of those arguments against American Association players making the Hall of Fame, not that he had any shot at it or the ONEHOF, the more prestigious one-a-year Hall of Fame of this page. In his four years in the NL, Richmond slashed .221/.248/.290 for an OPS+ of 80, while in his four years in the American Association, he slashed .253/.312/.326 for an OPS+ of 112.
.305, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-John W. “Candy” Nelson was born on March 14, 1849 in Portland, ME and is, yes, yet another player who thanked the Lord often for allowing the American Association to exist. Nelson had been around a long time, starting with the National Association Troy Haymakers and Brooklyn Eckfords in 1872, moving to the New York Mutuals from 1873-75, taking a couple years off and then playing with the National League Indianapolis Blues in 1878, the Troy Trojans in 1879, and then taking another year off. In 1881, he played for the Worcester Ruby Legs, taking yet another year off in the Majors, before finally ending up with the Metropolitans this season.
With the Mets, Nelson finished sixth in WAR Position Players (3.0) and sixth in Offensive WAR (2.8), slashing .305/.353/.379 for an OPS+ of 128, his highest ever. All of this was as the third oldest player in the league. After struggling as an outfielder and second baseman for most of his career, he found his niche at shortstop and was a decent fielder during his AA career.
According to Baseball Reference, “His Sporting Life obituary in 1910 called him ‘Johnnie’ Nelson, and said he had started in baseball with the Eckfords at age 16. He played about 30 years, according to the article, for minor league clubs, and also managed.”
Nelson had a penchant for walking and at this time in baseball, it required eight balls to walk. According to Wikipedia’s Base on Balls page: “In 1880, the National League changed the rules so that eight balls instead of nine were required for a walk. In 1884, the National League changed the rules so that six balls were required for a walk. In 1886, the American Association changed the rules so that six balls instead of seven were required for a walk; however, the National League changed the rules so that seven balls were required for a walk instead of six. In 1887, the National League and American Association agreed to abide by some uniform rule changes and decreased the number of balls required for a walk to five. In 1889, the National League and the American Association decreased the number of balls required for a walk to four.”
.287, 2 HR, 42 RBI
Def. Games as SS-98 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-Gleason continued to be a steady shortstop in the American Association, having his best season ever. He finished seventh in WAR Position Players (2.9), 10th in Offensive WAR (2.3), and seventh in Defensive WAR (1.2). He slashed .287/.311/.393 for an OPS+ of 120. He might have another All-Star team left in him, it’s difficult to say.
There were a lot of good shortstops in the AA at this time. Gleason is the only one to repeat as an All-Star in 1883. Over the last two season, the AA has six different men as All-Star shortstops – Gleason, John Peters, Chick Fulmer, John Richmond, Candy Nelson, and (spoiler alert!) Mike Moynahan, who will be written about next.
In the National League, it’s premier position is first base as between 1882 and 1883, there were nine different All-Star seasons by six different players. If you go to the 1882 National League page, you’ll see who those six players are. What? Are you saying I’m lazy? You’re probably right.
Gleason was one of those rare players who pretty much stuck at one position for his career. As a matter of fact, he played only two games at third and one game at first, outside of his time at shortstop.
St. Louis is going to have a lot of success in upcoming years and you can see why. Not one of its regular position players is above the age of 28 and its oldest pitcher is Jumbo McGinnis at 29. As mentioned in Charlie Comiskey’s blurb, he’s going to take over as coach eventually and have a lot of success.
.310, 1 HR, 67 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Michael “Mike” Moynahan was born in 1856 in Chicago, IL. He played his only full season in 1883 and had his best season ever. Moynahan started with the National League Buffalo Bisons in 1880 as a shortstop. In 1881, he played third base and outfield for the Cleveland Blues and Detroit Wolverines (one game). Then he took a year off and came back this season to finish eighth in WAR Position Players (2.9) and fourth in Offensive WAR (3.1). Moynahan slashed .310/.360/.413 for an OPS+ of 140. He also won his first and only championship in this, his best season ever.
I don’t know why Moynahan never played fulltime the rest of his career after seeing what he could do this season. On a team that won the league, he was its leading hitter. He finished in the top 10 in 30 categories playing every day, but never finished in the top 10 in any category in any other season.
Maybe it’s the accident he had. According to Baseball Reference, “Shortstop Mike Moynahan played four years in the big leagues, and three of the four were good years with the bat. He broke a finger while playing in 1882, and while he had to have part of the finger amputated, he went on to hit quite well in 1883-84.
.338, 4 HR, (No RBI recorded)
2nd Time All-Star-Gladiator dipped quite a bit from his rookie season in 1882, but just because it wasn’t as good as the previous year, doesn’t mean it wasn’t impressive. He finished eighth in WAR (3.4), third in WAR Position Players (3.4), and second in Offensive WAR (3.7). Browning slashed .338/.378/.464 for an OPS+ of 179. If this would have been his rookie season, there would have been many huzzahs and hurrahs, but since it was such a drop off from 1882, people tend to say, “Can’t you do better?” Let me assure you, very few people can do better than the Gladiator. He was one of the American Association’s first stars.
I mentioned in Browning’s 1882 write-up he was a horrendous fielder and that was true this season. He moved from second base to leftfield, but he was still terrible. He would have a negative dWAR from 1883-90.
We talked about his strange habits regarding his bats last year, but from Wikipedia, here’s more on that: “Browning was a man of eccentric personal habits, particularly in relation to his bats. He spoke to them, and gave each one a name, often that of a Biblical figure. In the belief that any individual bat contained only a certain number of hits, he would periodically ‘retire’ bats, keeping vast numbers of the retired ones in the home he shared with his mother. These bats were 37 inches long and 48 ounces in weight, enormous even by the standards of the time. He also habitually stared at the sun, thinking that by doing so, he would strengthen his eyes. He also ‘cleansed’ his eyes when travelling by train by sticking his head out the window in an effort to catch cinders in them. Browning also computed his average on his cuffs on a regular basis, and was not above announcing to all when his train arrived at a depot that he was the champion batter of the American Association.”
.313, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-James Lawrence “Big Jim” Clinton was born in August 10, 1850 in New York, NY. He’s another one of those who had been around awhile, but 1883 was his first full year. He played part-time for the 1872 National Association Brooklyn Eckfords; the 1873 NA Elizabeth Resolutes; the 1874-75 NA Brooklyn Atlantics; and the 1876 National League Louisville Grays. He then didn’t play Major League ball until 1882, when he played part-time for the NL Worcester Ruby Legs. Finally, Clinton was given a full-time chance this season. He made the most of it. Clinton slashed .313/.357/.393 for an OPS+ of 140. All of those figures are his highest ever.
Surprisingly, Big Jim was only five-foot-eight, 174 pounds. Who knows why he had the nickname and who knows why teams refused to give him more of a chance until this season. Unlike Mike Moynahan, Clinton has a couple full-time seasons left, but I doubt he’s going to make another All-Star team. (I just noticed this but Moynahan and Clinton are names of famous Democratic politicians. And both would end up in New York.)
Big Jim would stay in the American Association the rest of his career, staying with Baltimore in 1884, moving to Cincinnati in 1885, and then back to Baltimore in 1886. He’d never have as good of season again, but he’d be a reliable outfielder wherever he played.
Clinton died on September 3, 1921 in Brooklyn, NY. One thing about these old time ballplayers, so many of them are like elephants and end up right back where they were born when they leave this earth.
.294, 10 HR, 80 RBI
Runs Batted In-80 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-There’s a tendency nowadays to think the modern ballplayer has too much power. They go around from city to city looking for the next big paycheck. But it’s important to remember there was a very long era where ballplayers had very little power over the money they received or the places they played. In 1880, Jones was one of the best players in baseball and yet didn’t play for two years in the majors because as Baseball Reference tells us, “After the 1880 season he was suspended by the club and blacklisted for refusing to play. He countered that he had not been paid and sued for his salary; he even had the local sheriff attach Boston’s share of the gate at Cleveland on May 14, 1881. A jury sided with the club. Tit for tat, the team had him blacklisted for 1881 and 1882. On December 7, 1881 at the National League annual meeting the owners rejected the applications of Jones and Phil Baker for reinstatement. Subsequently he played for an outlaw team in Portsmouth, OH.
“He signed with the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the new American Association in 1882 when the AA said they would ignore the NL’s blacklist. They honored it that year, though, and Jones remained with Portsmouth, even as he had helped put together the Cincinnati team that would win the 1882 AA pennant. The NL and AA came to an agreement in 1883 under the pressure of Opie Caylor.”
Now that he’s back, Jones made the best of it, finishing 10th in WAR Position Players (2.7). He slashed .294/.328/.471 for an OPS+ of 148. He still has good seasons left and has a shot at the ONEHOF.