P-Old Hoss Radbourn, PRO
P-Pud Galvin, BUF
P-Charlie Buffinton, BSN
P-Mickey Welch, NYG
P-Jim Whitney, BSN
P-Charlie Sweeney, PRO
P-Jim McCormick, CLV
P-Larry Corcoran, CHC
P-Pretzels Getzien, DTN
P-John Clarkson, CHC
C-Buck Ewing, NYG
C-Jack Rowe, BUF
C-Charlie Bennett, DTN
1B-Dan Brouthers, BUF
1B-Cap Anson, CHC
2B-Fred Pfeffer, CHC
3B-Ezra Sutton, BSN
3B-Ned Williamson, CHC
3B-Deacon White, BUF
SS-Arthur Irwin, PRO
LF-Jim O’Rourke, BUF
CF-Paul Hines, PRO
CF-George Gore, CHC
RF-King Kelly, CHC
RF-Jack Manning, PHI
59-12, 1.38 ERA, 441 K, .230, 1 HR, 37 RBI
1884 NL Pitching Title
1884 NL Pitching Triple Crown
Wins Above Replacement-19.3 (2nd Time)
Earned Run Average-1.38
Wins-59 (2nd Time)
Win-Loss %-.831 (2nd Time)
Games Pitched-75 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-678 2/3
Strikeouts-441 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-110 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-10.5 (3rd Time)
Def. Games as P-75 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-This year of 1884 watched baseball go crazy. Another League, the Union Association, joined the Major League level; there would be 33 teams all together in the three leagues, some wouldn’t last; players played on multiple teams; and some of those are going to make the All-Star teams in two leagues. Along with that, there would be many records broken, including the shattering of the home run record due to a fluke in the rules. This is what you, the reader, have to look forward in reading the 1884 write-ups.
Speaking of records broken, what a phenomenal year for Old Hoss. He set the all-time record for wins in a season with 59, while finishing first in WAR (19.3) and second in WAR for Pitchers (19.1). He pitched 678 2/3 innings with a 1.38 ERA and a 205 ERA+. It was his best season ever.
Led by Radbourn’s pitching, the Grays won the National League crown easily, finishing 84-28, 10-and-a-half games ahead of second place Boston. Frank Bancroft managed the team, his fourth team managed in five years, and found it’s easier to coach when you can stick Old Hoss on the mound 75 times a year.
Also adding to the craziness of 1884, the National League and the American Association champs faced each other for the first World Series or, as it was called back then, according to Wikipedia’s World Series page, “The Championship of the United States,” “World’s Championship Series,” or “World’s Series.” Whatever it was called, Providence beat the New York Metropolitans, 3-0. Radbourn started all three games, allowing only three runs, none of them earned. He’s never going to have a season like this again, but, man, how dominant Old Hoss was this year!
46-22, 1.99 ERA, 369 K, .179, 0 HR, 24 RBI
WAR for Pitchers-20.5
Shutouts-12 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-154 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Starting in 1885, Galvin is going to start slipping. His innings are going to go down and he’ll never again finish above seventh in WAR. But why start out negative when we can look at Galvin’s outstanding 1884! Surprisingly, in a year in which Old Hoss Radbourn won 59 games and had an incredible 1.38 ERA, Galvin actually led the league in WAR for Pitchers with a 20.5 mark. He was also second in WAR at 18.4. Gentle Jeems pitched 636 1/3 innings with a 1.99 ERA and a 155 ERA+. My guess is that Galvin beat Old Hoss because Buffalo’s Olympic Park I was a much tougher place to pitch than Providence’s Messer Street Grounds, the home park of Radbourn.
Galvin beat Radbourn in an important game, according to SABR, which says, “September 9, 1884, saw Galvin turn in another significant performance, when he ended Radbourn’s personal 18-game winning streak, and Providence’s 20-game streak. Galvin led his team to a 2-0 victory that ended with an exciting double play in the bottom of the ninth inning. Jim Lillie, Buffalo’s right fielder, caught a difficult fly ball hit by Radbourn and threw the ball to second base to double off Cliff Carroll, who thought the ball would drop. One newspaper later wrote that ‘the whole country had been looking … to accomplish the defeat of Radbourn and the Grays,’ and it was Galvin who finally accomplished this feat. ‘Base ball enthusiasts are indebted to James Galvin,’ wrote another paper after he ended the winning streak, which some had grown tired of. At season’s end, Providence won the championship and Buffalo finished in third place.”
48-16, 2.15 ERA, 417 K, .267, 1 HR, 39 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-If not for the phenomenal seasons of Old Hoss Radbourn and Pud Galvin, there would be much more talk about Charlie Buffinton and his outstanding 1884 season. He finished third in WAR (16.2) and third in WAR for Pitchers (14.9). The sinkerballer pitched 587 innings with a 2.15 ERA and a 133 ERA+. Because of the dominance of the aforementioned Radbourn and Galvin, Buffinton didn’t lead in one category. He still has arguably better years ahead.
As for the team, with John Morrill at the helm, Boston actually had a higher winning percentage than in its 1883 league-winning season, but Providence was so dominating, it didn’t matter. The Beaneaters (a name that will never not be funny) finished 73-38, 10-and-a-half games out of first. They had an awesome team ERA of 2.47, but Providence’s was, yikes!, 1.61.
Wikipedia wraps up Buffinton’s great-but-not-good-enough season, “During that season, he struck out 17 batters in one game, won 13 straight games, and ended the year with 417 strikeouts, becoming one of seven pitchers that season to break the previous record of 361. Typical of the era, he completed 63 of his starts, with 8 being shutouts. Such win totals were not completely extraordinary at the time, as Buffinton’s only 30-win season ranked third in the major leagues that year as Charles Radbourn set a record with 60 wins.”
Buffinton would have probably rated higher if Boston’s South End Grounds I wasn’t a pitchers’ park, albeit by a slim margin. Of course, because of an overabundance of runs scored in Chicago’s Lake Front Park II, almost every other park seems like it doesn’t help the hitter.
39-21, 2.50 ERA, 345 K, .241, 3 HR, 29 RBI
Bases on Balls-146
4th Time All-Star-Smiling Mickey continued his stellar career in the midst of a pitching tsunami overtaking baseball. He finished fourth in WAR (12.3) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (12.1). Welch pitched 557 1/3 innings with a 2.50 ERA and a 120 ERA+. He also set the all-time record for walks allowed in a season with 146, a record which would only hold for two years. Part of the reason is because the number of balls needed to walk a batter was changed from eight to six. Imagine how many walks Welch would have had if he needed only the modern day four balls to give the batter a free pass.
The Gothams improved from their sixth place finish in 1883, moving up to fourth with a 62-50 record. Jim Price (56-42) and Monte Ward (6-8) managed the team. Polo Grounds I (Southeast Diamond) was normally a hitters’ park, but this season it helped pitchers more.
Welch set an important record in 1884, according to Wikipedia, “Welch holds the record for most consecutive batters struck out to begin a game, with 9, set on August 28, 1884. The record was not recognized for many years because of confusion over a dropped third strike. In the third inning of that game, a third strike was dropped by New York catcher Bill Loughran. As a result, that batter safely reached first base. Though modern scorekeeping would credit a pitcher with a strikeout in this situation, such an event was not always recorded as a strikeout by sportswriters of that era. Baseball historian Harry Simmons helped Welch to receive official recognition of the feat in the 1940s.”
23-14, 2.09 ERA, 270 K, .259, 3 HR, 40 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-0.723 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-10.000 (2nd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.37 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as P-1.000
4th Time All-Star-Grasshopper Jim continued to pitch well, but he now was the second pitcher on the team to Charlie Buffinton. Not to say Whitney couldn’t pitch. He finished fifth in WAR (8.3) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (7.4). After three straight seasons of over 400 innings pitched, he dipped to 336 this season, with a 2.09 ERA and a 137 ERA+.
Thanks to the researchers at Baseball Reference, we have a quote on the pitching motion of Whitney: “’There were no restrictions placed on (pitchers) as to delivery, and they could double up like a jack-knife and deliver the ball. That was the way Jim Whitney used to do, and he would let the ball go at terrific speed. It was a wonder that anyone was able to hit him at all. He was the swiftest pitcher I ever saw.’ – Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke, quoted in Sporting Life of December 4, 1915.”
Yet Whitney would have great control over his career, five times leading the National League in Bases on Balls per 9 IP and yet was still able to finish in the top 10 in Strikeouts per 9 IP six times. That jack-knife delivery must have worked.
With Buffinton and Whitney, it was tough to score off Boston, yet not nearly as tough as it was to score off Providence’s pitchers. The Grays, led by Old Hoss Radbourn, had a team ERA+ of 177(!) and Boston finished second in that category at 116. And that, kids, is why Old Hoss has a Twitter feed and Grasshopper Jim doesn’t.
(NL Stats Only) 17-8, 1.55 ERA, 183 K, .298, 1 HR, 19 RBI
Led in (NL Only):
Walks & Hits per IP-0.824
Hits per 9 IP-6.231
1st Time All-Star-Charles Joseph “Charlie” Sweeney was born on April 13, 1863 in San Francisco, CA and said, “Rhode Island is the place I oughta be and he caught himself a train and went to Provideee, RI that is.” And the craziness begins as the next two players will both pitch in two different leagues and make the All-Star team in both. This write-up will mainly focus on Sweeney’s National League pitching.
Before I get into his season, however, I wanted to mention whenever you bring up a players’ Baseball Reference page, there is chance that someone will sponsor their page. Since it’s near the top of the page, it’s often the first thing you see. Well, Chas19KSweeney sponsored Charlie Sweeney and wrote, “Sweeney, was a rock star before his time, revolutionizing baseball by being the first to strike out 19 on 6/7/1884. He burned too bright and lived hard with booze and women, and served time at San Quentin for murder before dying at age 38.” Woah!
As for his on-the-field exploits, Sweeney finished sixth in the NL in WAR (7.1) and eighth in WAR for Pitchers (6.3). The Californian pitched 221 innings for Providence with a 1.55 ERA and a 183 ERA+, stats at which his teammate, Old Hoss Radbourn, laughed and spit at.
I know what you’re asking, “Hey, since Sweeney and others made two All-Star teams in one season, are they given credit for making two All-Star teams?” That was a great question and the answer is yes. Which is why Sweeney will get another blurb for his time in the newly-formed Union Association.
(NL Stats Only) 19-22, 2.86 ERA, 182 K, .263, 0 HR, 23 RBI
Led in (NL Only):
Fielding % as P-1.000
7th Time All-Star-McCormick is the second player in a row on this page that is going to make the All-Star team in two different leagues. We’re going to focus on his National League season here in which he finished seventh in WAR (7.0) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.7). For the Blues, McCormick pitched 359 innings with a 2.86 ERA and a 110 ERA+. You’re going to be amazed at his stats for the Outlaw Reds. Hey, don’t go look it up yet! Have some patience, you.
Cleveland dropped from a fourth place finish with a 55-42 record to a seventh place finish and a 35-77 record. Part of the reason is that McCormick was the team’s only All-Star and he left partway through the season. With McCormick, the team ERA was 3.43. When he didn’t pitch, the Blues’ ERA was 3.75. Losing McCormick really hurt.
Baseball Reference talks about McCormick’s duel 1884 season, saying, “During the 1884 season, McCormick jumped to the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds of the Union Association for $2,500. He won 40 games between the two clubs and paced the UA with a 1.54 ERA. The circuit folded, however, after the season, and he had to pay a $1,000 fine to return to the NL.”
There is a great site called Hall of Stats, which is wrestling with whether or not McCormick should be in the Hall of Fame (he currently isn’t). There’s a lot to read on that site, but I’ll just pilfer this one sentence, “Among eligible non-Hall of Famers, only Jeff Bagwell has more career WAR than McCormick’s 75.8.” Who knew?
35-23, 2.40 ERA, 272 K, .243, 1 HR, 19 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-35 (2nd Time)
Putouts as P-47 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-24
4th Time All-Star-It’s time to speak about the elephant in the room, Chicago’s home run influx of 1884. I bring this up because, as you see above, Corcoran allowed 35 home runs this season, shattering the record set in 1883 by John Coleman, who gave up 17 dingers for the National League Philadelphia Quakers. Corcoran’s record would hold for 62 years, until 1948, when Murry Dickson gave up 39 homers for the National League St. Louis Cardinals. There are going to be many home run records set this season and we’ll look at them in individual write-ups.
So what happened? According to Hardball Times, “One of the most radical ground rule changes ever was made in 1884 by the Chicago White Stockings…[T]he team decided that fair balls hit over the fence at Lakefront Park would be home runs, not ground-rule doubles.
“So how close were those fences?
“Way, way too close…Left field foul pole: 180 feet (ballpark remodeling had rendered the distance six feet shorter than the year before!)
Left field power alley: 280 feet
Center field: 300 feet
Right field power alley: 252 feet
Right field foul pole: 196 feet.”
As for Corcoran, he might have made his last All-Star team, but he still had a good season, finishing eighth in WAR (6.6) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (6.5). He pitched 516 2/3 innings with a 2.40 ERA and 129 ERA+. He might have pitched in the worst home park for pitchers ever and still put up great numbers.
5-12, 1.95 ERA, 107 K, .109, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Home Runs Allowed per 9 IP-0.122
1st Time All-Star-Charles H. “Pretzels” Getzien (commonly misspelled Getzein) was born on Valentine’s Day, 1864 in Germany. Do they celebrate Valentine’s Day in Germany? I don’t know, but I do know they love pretzels! And over the years, baseball fans would come to love Pretzels, the five-foot-10, 172 pound pitcher for the Wolverines, who had a decent rookie season. Getzien finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers with a 3.5 mark, pitching 147 1/3 innings with a 1.95 ERA and a 147 ERA+. He was off to a good career.
As for Detroit, they continued to falter, falling from a 40-58 record in 1883 in which they finished seventh to a 28-84 last place finish this season. Jack Chapman managed the team for the second straight season, but would be gone after this terrible year.
More on Getzien from Wikipedia: “Getzein was known by the nickname ‘Pretzels’. Sources conflict as to whether the nickname was derived from his German ethnicity or from the belief that he was able to throw a ‘double curve’ following ‘the curves of a pretzel.’
“During his career, Getzein’s drew acclaim for his curveball. Getzein’s version of the pitch was sometimes referred to as the ‘pretzel curve.’ Sporting Life described Getzein’s unusual delivery as follows: ‘In delivering his “pretzels” “Getz” faces third base with one foot in either corner of the lower end of the box. Bending the left knee slightly, he draws his right arm well back. Then, straightening up quickly, he slides the left foot forward with a characteristic little skip, and, bringing his arm around with a swift overhand swing, drives the ball in at a lively pace.’”
10-3, 2.14 ERA, 102 K, .262, 3 HR, 17 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-7.780
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-3.36
Range Factor/Game as P-3.14
1st Time All-Star-John Gibson Clarkson was born on July 1, 1861 in Cambridge, MA. He’s going to have a great career, including an induction into the Hall of Fame in 1963, but I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of him, which is surprising considering how good his career was. We know it’s Hall of Fame worthy, but was it ONEHOF worthy? That’s yet to be seen.
Clarkson started in 1882, pitching three games for the Worcester Ruby Legs. He didn’t play in 1883 in the Majors, but, according to Wikipedia, “Chicago manager Cap Anson saw Clarkson pitching for Saginaw in the Northwest League in 1884. On August 24, 1884, the White Stockings purchased him from Saginaw.” He finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (1.7), pitching 118 innings with a 2.14 ERA and a 146 ERA+. He has some incredible seasons ahead.
More from Wikipedia: “Clarkson was known to be extremely sensitive to criticism. Shortly after his death in 1909, former Chicago player/manager Cap Anson noted that ‘not many know what amount of encouragement it took to keep him going.’ Anson recalled: ‘Scold him, find fault with him, and he would not pitch at all. Say to him after a game: “Grand work, John, I will probably use you again tomorrow, for we’ve got to have that game,” and he would go out the next day and stand all batters on their heads.’” Alfred H. Spink, The National Game (1910), quoted in Bill James, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (2001), p. 873.”
.277, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 0-1, 1.13 ERA, 3 K
Assists as C-127
3rd Time All-Star-Ewing continued his consistent, All-Star-worthy play, finishing ninth in WAR Position Players (4.7) and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.7). Buck slashed .277/.327/.445 for an OPS+ of 137. He would never hit that low again until 1894 or ever have a lower OBP for the rest of his career. He was the Johnny Bench of his time, a good hitting, good fielding catcher.
As a matter of fact, Baseball Reference refers to him as possibly the greatest catcher of all time. Here are its arguments: “First, it is said that he reinvented the art of catching, playing much closer to the batter and sometimes crouching. His arm was strong enough that he could afford to do so.
“Secondly, it was an era in which catchers took a beating from stray balls. Without modern equipment to protect them, catchers tended to get injuries and miss a large proportion of their teams’ games. As a result, the players who ended up at catcher were usually poor hitters: for instance, in 1883 when Ewing hit .303 and led the league in homers for Troy, other catchers in the league had these stats: Doc Bushong (Cleveland, .172, 0 homers), Barney Gilligan (Providence, .198, 0 homers), Silver Flint (Chicago, .265, 0 homers), Mike Hines (Boston, .225, 0 homers), Jack Rowe (Buffalo, .278, 1 home run); there were a couple of catchers in the league who also hit .300 that year (Charlie Bennett and Emil Gross), but neither was able to duplicate the feat year after year, as Ewing did – Gross played only 5 seasons, while Bennett ended up with a lifetime .256 average. Ewing played in more games in 1883 than any catcher in the league but Bennett, and had more at-bats than Bennett.”
.315, 4 HR, 61 RBI
Fielding % as C-.943
3rd Time All-Star-Rowe was in the midst of his sixth consecutive season with the Bisons and continued to challenge Ewing as the best National League catcher. However, this will be the last season he will be primarily behind the plate, as he’ll be moving to shortstop in 1885. It’s still to be seen whether he’s able to make All-Star teams at that position. For this season, Rowe finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.6), slashing .315/.352/.450 for an OPS+ of 149.
There hasn’t been a Major League team in Buffalo in a while, but it’s probably better there isn’t. As it is, as today’s schedule takes the teams further and further into October and sometimes November, you can imagine how cold it gets in Buffalo during those times. If you can’t imagine, I did something I like to call “Googling” to find out the average temperatures.
According to weatherspark.com, there is a 15-20 percent chance of snow towards the end of October and the beginning of November. The average temperature in that date range is between 40 and 60 degrees. It couldn’t be too pleasant to feel a ball hit the bat in those temps.
In 1884, Buffalo’s season went all the way until Oct. 15. Surprisingly, the Bisons played home games their last 20 games. Teams had long trips this season. Buffalo finished 37-18 in the frozen tundra and 27-29 on the road. Maybe it was the only team with gloves. Not fielding gloves, but Isotoners, of course. Rowe would have had a tough time behind the plate without a glove.
.264, 3 HR, 40 RBI
4th Time All-Star-It was an era of great catchers in the National League at this time, so much so that Bennett’s streak of being the best catcher in the NL halted this season, but he’s still an All-Star. As a matter of fact, he is Detroit’s only position player All-Star as the team started to fall apart. Bennett finished eighth in Defensive WAR with a 1.4 mark and his hitting started to drop a little. He slashed .264/.334/.378 for an OPS+ of 131.
Bennett was not happy with the direction of the Wolverines, according to Wikipedia, which says, “In 1884, matters got worse for the Wolverines, as they finished in last place with a 28-84 record. Bennett’s batting average fell to .264, but his on-base percentage remained high at .334, and his WAR rating remained strong at 4.1. Bennett later recalled the toll of multiple losing seasons in Detroit: ‘During the next four years [1882-1885] I wished many times I was out of Detroit, or, rather, out of that team. It was awful. I thought sometimes we were lucky to finish last. Once we lost twenty-five straight games. Every week I caught a new pitcher.’”
The catcher would remain on the team for another four years and not make it to another team, Boston, until he was 34-years-old and no longer the hitter he used to be. As it turns out, his eight years in Detroit would be the only ones in which he would have an OPS+ of 100 or above. He couldn’t do that when he first started in Milwaukee or Worcester and couldn’t do it when he finished up in Beantown.
.327, 14 HR, 79 RBI
Slugging %-.563 (4th Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.941 (3rd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-190 (3rd Time)
4th Time All-Star-Spoiler alert! Brouthers had another awesome season. He didn’t dominate in as many stats as he usually does, but that’s mainly because of the fluky Chicago home park this season. Still, he was fourth in WAR Position Players (5.4) and fourth in Offensive WAR (5.4). He slashed .327/.378/.563 for an OPS+ of 190. As it turned out, it would be his lowest on-base percentage until 1895, when he was 37-years-old. Yes, he’s going to be on these lists for quite a while.
At sportsecyclopedia.com, it says in 1884, “The Buffalo Bisons get a new place to roam as they move to Olympic Park as Dan Brouther[s] remained their top star, establishing a new team record with 14 home runs, as he had another stellar season batting .327 with 79 RBI.” Buffalo had played previous seasons at Riverside Grounds, which was a fairly neutral park in terms of runs scored. Olympic Park was definitely a hitters’ park this season, which is probably why Brouthers’ great stats don’t reflect in a higher WAR.
Because the Bisons had a good season, finishing third, it looked like they were going to be around a long time, but 1885 will be Buffalo’s last season. They are going to fall apart, mainly due to a terrible season from the great Pud Galvin, though they were going to get another Brouther-esque season from Big Dan. I liked the meritocracy involved in the 1800s baseball. If you didn’t produce good teams, you might be gone from the league. Nowadays, we have NBA teams purposely tanking their seasons with no danger of financial retribution.
.335, 21 HR, 102 RBI, 0-1, 18.00 ERA, 1 K
Runs Batted In-102 (4th Time)
Extra Base Hits-54
AB per SO-36.5 (5th Time)
Putouts-1,216 (2nd Time)
Putouts as 1B-1,211 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as 1B-58 (2nd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 1B-86
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.48 (4th Time)
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.17 (3rd Time)
10th Time All-Star-Anson is the first to make double-digit All Star teams as he continued to shine on the field. Anson finished sixth in WAR Position Players (5.1) and second in Offensive WAR (5.9). He slashed .335/.373/.543 for an OPS+ of 177. He set the National League record for runs batted in with 102 and would have set the Major League record if it weren’t for Dave Orr’s 112 RBIs in the American Association this season.
Of course, all offensive records set by players on Chicago need to be taken with a grain of salt. It had changed a rule in its home stadium (see Larry Corcoran) and its fences were incredibly short for a Major League park. So homers were flying out of Lake Front Park II all year. It didn’t help the White Stockings, who, despite having 142 homers, 103 more than second place Buffalo, still finished in sixth place with a 62-50 record. However, manager Anson is not done winning titles yet.
Well, that time has arrived to confront Anson’s racism. I’ll let Wikipedia do the dirty work: “Anson refused to play in exhibition games versus dark-skinned players. On August 10, 1883 he refused to play an exhibition game against the Toledo Blue Stockings because their catcher, Moses Fleetwood Walker, was African American. When Blue Stockings Manager Charlie Morton told Anson the White Stockings would forfeit the gate receipts if they refused to play, Anson backed down.
“In 1884, Chicago again played an exhibition game at Toledo, which was now in the American Association, a major league. Walker sat it out, and unclear is whether he did so to placate Chicago or because he was injured; Jimmy McGuire instead did the catching. Both had sore hands, the Toledo Blade had said a few days earlier. Of the two catchers, Walker was seemingly the more injured, as he did not play in Toledo’s second-most recent game. Among Anson’s incidents, this one is unique in that private correspondence provides insight. Three months before the game, Chicago Treasurer-Secretary John A. Brown wrote Toledo manager Charlie Morton that ‘the management of the Chicago Ball Club have no personal feeling about the matter, while ‘the players do most decisively object and to preserve harmony in the club it is necessary that I have your assurance in writing that [Walker] will not play any position in your nine July 25. I have no doubt such is your meaning[;] only your letter does not express in full [sic]. I have no desire to replay the occurrence of last season and must have your guarantee to that effort. Walker and his brother Welday were released from their team later that year, Welday last playing on August 6 and Fleet on September 4.”
.289, 25 HR, 101 RBI, 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 0 K
Def. Games as 2B-112
Putouts as 2B-395
Assists as 2B-422
Errors Committed as 2B-88
Double Plays as 2B-85
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-7.38 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-7.29
1st Time All-Star-Nathaniel Frederick “Fred” or “Fritz” or “Dandelion” Pfeffer was born on March 17, 1860 in Louisville, KY. Oh yeah, I’m looking up that nickname Dandelion. Okay, after minutes of research, all I found is this from Bleed Cubbie Blue: “Because of his flashy defensive play, Pfeffer’s nickname was ‘Dandelion.’ It was a different era.” Well, there you go. No doubt, it is with the glove Dandelion is going to earn his fame. He had great range, though he also made many errors. As a matter of fact, Pfeffer is the all-time leader in errors as a 2B with 857 in his career.
He had started as a weak-hitting shortstop for Troy in 1882, before coming to Chicago in 1883 and being moved to second. His hitting still lacked, however. The short fences of the White Stockings’ home park helped 1884 be Fritz’s best hitting season ever and also best season ever. He finished third in WAR Position Players (5.6), eighth in Offensive WAR (4.4), and sixth in Defensive WAR (1.5). It would be the only season he ranked in the top 10 in Offensive WAR. He would continue to hit for decent home run power in his career, ending up with 94.
From Baseball Reference: “Second baseman Fred Pfeffer, who had great defensive range and a decent bat, was picked by Cap Anson as the second baseman on Anson’s all-time team. Of course, Pfeffer had been a long-time teammate of Anson with the Chicago White Stockings, so Anson may have been a bit biased.” As Leroy Jethro Gibbs would say, “Ya think?”
.346, 3 HR, 61 RBI
Def. Games as 3B-110
Fielding % as 3B-.908 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-For the first time in his 14-year career, Sutton made consecutive All-Star teams and also for the first time, he made an All-Star team in an even-numbered year. Ezra Ballou had his best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR (6.2), second in WAR Position Players (6.2), and third in Offensive WAR (5.5). He slashed .346/.384/.455 for an OPS+ of 165. His OBP and OPS+ would be career highs. All of this at age 34.
It’s my guess Sutton has one more All-Star team left in him, but I’m going to talk a little about the end of his life now. SABR says, “Sutton enjoyed a robust career for more than 20 years. His retirement did not go as well. After a failed business, he was hit with a debilitating spinal disease characterized by a degeneration of the nervous system. Eventually, he was unable to walk or care for himself. After a horrible accident in which his wife burned to death at the dinner table before his helpless eyes, Sutton was a patient at one care facility after another, which depleted his resources to zero. His plight was only moderately lessened after his old baseball buddies took up responsibility for his care.”
Next year, (oh, man, I hope he makes it next year, I’d hate to break a promise), I’ll get into his final days and what it meant for future ballplayers.
This season of 1884 was a year that many old-time ballplayers had a revival. Cap Anson, Sutton, Deacon White, Jim O’Rourke, and Paul Hines all made the team. Many of those had been around since the 1871 National Association days.
.278, 27 HR, 84 RBI, 0-0, 18.00 ERA, 0 K
WAR Position Players-6.3
AB per HR-15.4
Assists as 3B-250 (5th Time)
Double Plays Turned as 3B-25 (4th Time)
Range Factor/Game as 3B-3.75 (4th Time)
5th Time All-Star-After not making the All-Star team in 1883 despite setting the all-time record for doubles in a season with 49, Williamson is back after setting the all-time record for homers in a season with 27. Yes, it was due to the short fences in Chicago, but it is still a record Williamson held until 1919, or 35 years. The time between Babe Ruth’s 1927 record of 60 and Roger Maris’ record of 61 in 1961 was 34 years. The time between Maris’ 61 homers and Mark McGwire’s 70 home runs in 1998 is 37 years. And the time between those 70 homers and Barry Bonds’ 73 homers in 2001 is three years and this whole example falls apart. Thanks a lot, steroids!
Let’s not let the fluke home run total take away from Williamson’s best season ever. He finished 10th in WAR (5.9), first in WAR Position Players (6.3), seventh in Offensive WAR (4.9), and third in Defensive WAR (1.9). He slashed .278/.344/.554 for an OPS+ of 170. His slugging was aberrant, but the other numbers were pure Williamson. As proved by Williamson’s record doubles total in 1883, he was always good at hitting it over the fences at Lake Front Park II, but in 1884, those counted as homers, not doubles.
Here’s more home run trivia from Wikipedia: “During this time period, the establishment of the ground rules of each park rested with the home team. In 1884, team captain and on-field manager Cap Anson decided that balls hit over the fence were to be home runs. Williamson used these short dimensions and new ground rules to set the single-season home run record by hitting 27 in a 112-game season, surpassing the record of 14 set by Harry Stovey the previous year. Of the 27 home runs he hit that year, 25 of them were hit at home.
“The first three of Williamson’s 27 home runs came on May 30, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Wolverines. Williamson became the first major league baseball player to hit three home runs in one game.”
.330, 1 HR, 52 RBI
8th Time All-Star-This could very well be the last All-Star team for James “Deacon” White as he had a renaissance of sorts in 1884. He made seven consecutive All-Star teams from 1873-79, but since moving from catcher as his regular position hadn’t made another one. It’s not like he was terrible from 1880-83. He just wasn’t the Deacon of old.
In 1880, he played for Cincinnati before moving to Buffalo in 1881, where he has been ever since. He will eventually go to Detroit in 1886, Pittsburgh in 1889, and finish up his career in the Players League, once again on the Buffalo Bisons, in 1890.
This season, White finished seventh in WAR Position Players (4.9) and sixth in Offensive WAR (5.0). He slashed .325/.370/.442 for an OPS+ of 153, his highest Adjusted OPS+ since 1879.
It’s probably my last chance to mention an article in Slate by James B. Jackson, Deacon White’s great-grandson, and it is wonderful. You have to read the whole thing, but I’m going to put a personal note from Jackson about Deacon’s long sought for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.
“Last December, as we sat in her car in a parking lot, my mother’s phone rang. It was my brother Caddy. I hoped it was not bad news. It had not been a particularly good day. When the call ended, my mother turned to me and said, ‘Grandpa White was voted into the Hall of Fame this morning.’
“And maybe I did a quick fist pump. I don’t really remember. What I do remember is my eyes turning wet as I looked out my window at the people going in and out of the Rite-Aid. And my mom said slowly, ‘After all these years. I just wish he’d lived to see it. I wish a lot of people had lived to see it.’”
.240, 2 HR, 44 RBI, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 0 K
3rd Time All-Star-Due to the great pitching of Old Hoss Radbourn, Providence didn’t need a lot of great position players to win the league title. Only two made it, centerfielder Paul Hines and Irwin. Doc is the only shortstop to make the All-Star team, due to a lack of talent at that position in the National League. He finished fourth in Defensive WAR (1.7) and also added a little with the bat, slashing .240/.289/.304 for an OPS+ of 89. Not great, but okay for a shortstop at this time.
In the World Series against the American Association New York Metropolitans, Irwin went two-for-nine with a triple. Still, his OPS was higher in the postseason than in the regular season.
I mentioned in Irwin’s 1883 write-up that he led an interesting life. He was actually involved in other sports, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Irwin was president of the American League of Professional Football (ALPF) for its lone season in 1894. The organization represented the first American professional soccer league. Teams in the league were named after their MLB counterparts in the same cities. Some of the active baseball managers served as coaches for the soccer teams, and fans were sometimes enticed by the rumor of MLB players who might participate in the league. Irwin was also involved in an attempt to popularize roller polo.” I’m sorry, roller polo!?
According to the website, Hockey Gods, the game seems similar to roller hockey. It says, “The game was fast and tough. Games started when a bright colored ball was dropped into the middle of the Roller Rink, called the spot. The Rushers (forwards) would sprint from their Cages to the centre of the rink, where there was a fierce battle for the ball.”
.347, 5 HR, 63 RBI, 0-1, 2.84 ERA, 3 K
1884 NL Batting Title
8th Time All-Star-Surprisingly, after hitting the age of 30 in 1881, O’Rourke hadn’t made another All-Star team. Orator Jim came back this season though. You see above that Baseball Reference has O’Rourke as winning the batting title, but that’s an error. King Kelly actually led the National League in hitting. It doesn’t matter, O’Rourke still had a great season, finishing fifth in Offensive WAR (5.1), slashing .347/.392/.480 for an OPS+ of 171. It was quite a comeback season for him.
Since his last All-Star team, O’Rourke signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bisons and had been there ever since, not only as a player but also a manager. This season, Buffalo finished third in the National League with a 64-47 record. After this season, he would leave the Bisons to go to the New York Giants, but as a player, not a manager. He wouldn’t manage a team until 1893, which is surprising considering his record as a manager in four seasons with Buffalo was 206-169, a .549 winning percentage.
However, according to SABR, O’Rourke’s position with the Bisons entailed more than coaching the team on the field. “Dealing with cash-strapped players fell to O’Rourke because, in addition to leading the team on the field, he also performed the tasks of club bursar, traveling secretary and prefect of discipline. A number of the pleasure-seekers on the Buffalo team – most notably mound stalwart Pud Galvin – chafed under the governance of their chief, a nondrinking, nonsmoking taskmaster who took his leadership responsibilities very seriously. But like him or not, the Bisons continued their competitive play under O’Rourke, posting winning records in both the 1882 and 1883 seasons, if not challenging for the National League pennant. Nor did the press of his off-field obligations appear to take a toll on O’Rourke. For on July 3, 1883, he appeared in his 319th consecutive game, setting a new league standard. By mid-September, Jim was near the close of a season that would see him hit .328. Then tragedy struck. On September 15, 1883, second daughter Anna died from a sudden illness. She was only 9 years old. Upon receiving the news, a grief-stricken Jim O’Rourke immediately left the team for the funeral in Bridgeport. Four days later he returned to Buffalo to guide the Bisons to the finish of a 52-45 campaign.”
.302, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 K
8th Time All-Star-Hines didn’t make the All-Star team in 1883, but he was part of something more prestigious, being the ONEHOF Inductee. That honor must have fired him up, because he’s back on the All-Star team this season. Hines finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.7) and ninth in Offensive WAR (4.3). He slashed .302/.360/.435 for an OPS+ of 151. He also won his third and last league title. In the World Series against the New York Metropolitans, Hines went two-for-eight, scoring five runs, walking three times, and stealing two bases.
Speaking of that World Series, Hines had multiple firsts in the games, according to 19cbaseball.com, which says, “He was the first National Leaguer to bat in World Series history. During that at bat he became the first batter to be hit by a pitch (the game was played under American Association rules which allowed a batter to receive his base after being hit by a pitched ball). In the third inning he got the first hit in National League World Series history, a single. He scored the first run in World Series play that same inning after a passed ball and two wild pitches by New York Metropolitans’ starter Tim Keefe. Hines’ Providence Grays beat New York three games to none to win the first World Series.”
As mentioned in the Old Hoss Radbourn write-up, the Grays dominated because of his great pitching. The final scores in the three-game sweep were 6-0, 3-1, and 12-2. Surprisingly, all three games were held at the Polo Grounds in New York.
.318, 5 HR, 34 RBI
Bases on Balls-61 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Because of Gore’s speed, Chicago just needed him to get on base and that he did, becoming excellent at walking, especially now that only six balls were needed to walk instead of eight. He made his fifth straight All-Star team, slashing .318/.404/.415 for an OPS+ of 151. The irony is that Gore had his lowest slugging average in five years in a season home run balls were rocketing out of the park in Chicago. I wouldn’t have predicted he made the team this season, but he’ll definitely be back.
I like the idea of hometown heroes and Gore was certainly that in his home state of Maine. From SABR about the 1880 season: “That there was a heartwarming degree of local pride in George’s accomplishments was reflected in the Daily Eastern Argus, Portland’s most prominent newspaper at the time. Baseball coverage was thin, but included in a now-and-again column entitled ‘Sporting Matters’ were bits and pieces of information. George Gore was mentioned more times than any other player.
“’The management of the Chicago club appears to have come to the conclusion that Gore is too good a man to keep as a substitute. He is filling the position of center field every game the club plays, and right nobly is he keeping up his reputation as a first-class base ball player. The good plays credited to him have been numerous, and we have not yet seen an error charged against his name.’ (May 13).” Read the whole SABR article for more Gore hometown tidbits.
.354, 13 HR, 95 RBI, 0-1, 8.44 ERA, 1 K
Offensive WAR-6.0 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-47
Adj. Batting Wins-5.0
Times On Base-206
Offensive Win %-.835
4th Time All-Star-I don’t know what happened to Kelly in 1883, but he had a season that was far outside his normal numbers. But let’s forget about that and just say that here in 1884, Kelly’s back, baby! He finished fifth in WAR Position Players (5.3) and first in Offensive WAR (6.0), meaning, yes, he was a disaster in the field. Chicago manager Cap Anson couldn’t hide him. Kelly played 63 games in rightfield, 28 games at catcher, 12 games at shortstop, 10 games at third base, two games at first base, two games as pitcher, and one game at second base. All of which led to a -0.7 Defensive WAR.
Back to Kelly’s offense, he slashed .354/.414/.524 for an OPS+ of 185. He actually has a better season coming, but this was a heck of a year. Though I would say it was a little inflated by the huge hitters’ park the King played in.
By the way, at this time in his career, King still went by the name Mike. He wouldn’t be King for a couple of years. He certainly was a colorful player for his time. According to Wikipedia, he actually had a record written about him: “The song, ‘Slide, Kelly, Slide’ was America’s first ‘pop hit’ record, after its release by Edison Studios, and in 1927 inspired a film version of ‘Slide, Kelly, Slide.’ Prior to that song, most recordings (cylinders), were opera, religious or patriotic in nature. Kelly is also considered to have been the first man to popularize autographing, as fans pursued him on his way to the ballpark for his signature in the 1890s. Prints of a painting of him sliding into second hung in most Irish saloons in Boston, and he was among the first athletes to perform on the vaudeville stage. His own autobiography, Play Ball, was the first written by a baseball player. The book was put together by Boston Globe reporter John Drohan.”
.271, 5 HR, 52 RBI
Double Plays Turned as OF-7
2nd Time All-Star-On my teams, I have a progressive attitude that allows all teams to have a representative. That is the reason Manning made his second All-Star team. He hadn’t made one since 1874 as a member of Baltimore and Hartford in the National Association. After that, he won a championship with Boston in 1875 as a rightfielder, stayed with the team in the National League in 1876, moved to Cincinnati in 1877, then it was back to Boston in 1878 as part of his third championship team. He then didn’t play major league ball in 1879, but played again for Cincinnati in 1880. In 1881, he played only one game with Buffalo, then didn’t play major league ball again in 1882. He came to Philadelphia in 1883 and will be there until next season. In 1886, Manning will finish off his career in the American Association, playing for Baltimore.
In 1884, Harry Wright took over in Philadelphia and would end up coaching them through 1893. This season was his worst coaching season ever, as the Quakers finished 39-73, in sixth place, 45 games out of first place. What killed them was their pitching, or lack thereof. In what was a terrific pitchers’ park, Philadelphia allowed more runs than any other team.
Manning’s biggest accomplishment came in Chicago this season, according to Wikipedia, which says, “On October 9, 1884, when his Philadelphia Quakers ballclub were visiting the Chicago White Stockings in Lakeshore Park, he hit three home runs in the same game, becoming the third player to do so. The first occasions were done by Ned Williamson and Cap Anson. All three had their big game in that hitter-friendly park in 1884.”