P-Guy Hecker, LOU
P-Tony Mullane, TOL
P-Ed Morris, COL
P-Tim Keefe, NYP
P-Hardie Henderson, BAL
P-Bob Emslie, BAL
P-Will White, CIN
P-Billy Taylor, PHA
P-Jack Lynch, NYP
P-Adonis Terry, BRO
C-Jim Keenan, IND
C-Fred Carroll, COL
1B-Dave Orr, NYP
1B-John Reilly, CIN
1B-Harry Stovey, PHA
2B-Sam Barkley, TOL
2B-Pop Smith, COL
3B-Dude Esterbrook, NYP
3B-Arlie Latham, STL
3B-Pete Browning, LOU
SS-Frank Fennelly, WAS/CIN
SS-Sadie Houck, PHA
LF-Charley Jones, CIN
CF-Dick Johnston, RIC
RF-Ed Swartwood, PIT
52-20, 1.80 ERA, 385 K, .297, 4 HR, 42 RBI
1884 AA Pitching Title
1884 AA Triple Crown
Wins Above Replacement-17.8
WAR for Pitchers-15.5
Earned Run Average-1.80
Walks & Hits per IP-0.868 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-670 2/3
Adj. Pitching Runs-97
Adj. Pitching Wins-9.4
Def. Games as P-75
Putouts as P-50 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-145
3rd Time All-Star-Hecker was the best player in the crazy American Association this season, which had 13 different teams, a couple of which never even played a complete year. He had his best season ever, finishing first in WAR (17.8) and first in WAR for Pitchers (15.5). He pitched an incredible 670 2/3 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a 170 ERA+. Hecker, as always, was also a great hitter, slashing .297/.323/.430 for an OPS+ of 149.
As for the Eclipse, Mike Walsh took over from Joe Gerhardt as manager and, in his only season at the helm of a team, led the team to a third place finish with a 68-40 record, seven-and-a-half games behind first place New York.
Here’s SABR on Hecker’s great season: “Only two other pitchers in major league history have won as many as 50 games in a season. A year after Hecker’s 50-win season John Clarkson won 53. But Hecker’s real misfortune was that the all-time single-season wins record was set the same season Hecker won 52, as Charley Radbourne won 59 for Providence in the National League. Hecker’s 52-20 record in 1884 included a game against Washington in June in which he struck out the first seven batters he faced, and a one-hitter against St. Louis in August.”
Every season between 1874 and 1892 would have at least one pitcher that threw 500 or more innings. This year, Hecker’s workhorse 670 2/3 innings didn’t even match Old Hoss Radbourn’s 678 2/3 innings. After 1893, the mound was moved back to 60 feet and there would never again be a pitcher that tossed over 482 innings.
36-26, 2.52 ERA, 325 K, .276, 3 HR, (No RBI recorded)
3rd Time All-Star-Mullane continued his travels across the American Association highways and ended up this season in Toledo. No matter where he went, he was a great pitcher. This season, he had his best season ever, finishing second in WAR (13.4) and second in WAR for Pitchers (11.6). He had his highest amount of innings pitched ever with 567 and had a 2.52 ERA and a 134 ERA+. The AA certainly saved Mullane’s career.
Unfortunately, Mullane’s golden arm couldn’t help the Toledo Blue Stockings in their only year of existence. Coached by Charlie Morton, they went 46-58, 27-and-a-half games out of first. Their history is short and sweet, according to Wikipedia, which says, “The Toledo Blue Stockings formed as a minor league baseball team in Toledo, Ohio in 1883. They won the Northwestern League championship in 1883. Their home ballpark was League Park. The following year, they joined the major league American Association. That year, they finished 8th with a 46-58 record. The team returned to the minors the next year and disbanded after the 1885 season. Historically, the team is best known for being the only major league team with black players (Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother, Welday Walker) prior to Jackie Robinson‘s appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.” If you’d like more info on Fleet Walker, read this article at SABR.
Mullane missed the 1885 season due to a contract snafu. Wikipedia says, “In 1884, Mullane attempted to sign with the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association, a new independent league, even though under the reserve clause the Browns still had rights to his services. Threatened with banishment for defying his contract, Mullane relented. The Browns then sold Mullane to the expansion Toledo Blue Stockings, with whom Mullane won a career-high 36 games. The Browns attempted to reclaim Mullane after the 1884 season when both the Union Association and the Blue Stockings folded, but before the Browns could re-sign him under the rules, Mullane managed to sign with Cincinnati. For this action, the American Association suspended Mullane for the entire 1885 season. Coming in the midst of his string of consecutive 30-win seasons, this likely cost Mullane a 300-win career.”
34-13, 2.18 ERA, 302 K, .186, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Hits per 9 IP-7.017
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.40
1st Time All-Star-Edward “Ed” or “Cannonball” Morris was born on September 29, 1862 in Brooklyn, NY and would have a Koufax-esque short-lived but impressive career. He started out strong from the beginning, finishing third in WAR (8.5) and third in WAR for Pitchers (8.6). He pitched 429 2/3 innings with a 2.18 ERA and a 139 ERA+. Surprisingly, that 429 innings didn’t even finish in the top 10 of innings pitched in the American Association. There were a lot of rubber arms in the league this season.
As for Columbus, having a great pitcher certainly turned around its fortunes, at least for a season. Gus Schmelz would start his 11-year coaching career with a 69-39 record for the Buckeyes. They would finish six-and-a-half games out of first place, behind the New York Metropolitans. As late as August 12, in their 71st game, they were only a half game from the top. They then lost four in a row and never got that close again, but they battled the rest of the year. Then Columbus folded after this season for reasons I couldn’t find.
Cannonball started in the minor leagues, according to Baseball Reference, which says, “Morris was born in Brooklyn, NY but moved to San Francisco, CA as a child. He began as a catcher with the Eagles in San Francisco in 1879, then moved to the San Francisco Nationals. In 1881, he was with the San Francisco Mystics. John Ward convinced him to come try his hand playing in the East. He signed with the independent Philadelphias team initially. His next stop came with the Reading Actives in 1882, along with fellow Californians Henry Moore and Fred Carroll, the latter of whom would be his longtime battery mate. He developed a rhythm with Carroll wherein he would pitch the ball as soon as he got it back from his catcher, keeping opponents off-balance.”
Of Morris’ 1884 season, Baseball Reference says, “On May 1st, he broke Lee Richmond‘s record for strikeouts by a lefty by fanning 13 Cincinnati Red Stockings batters. On May 29th, he no-hit the Pittsburgh Alleghenys.”
37-17, 2.25 ERA, 334 K, .238, 3 HR, (No RBI recorded)
5th Time All-Star-Sir Timothy pitched another monster season, though certainly nothing to be compared to his 1883 stint, and led the Metropolitans to a first place finish and their first World Series appearance. For the year, Keefe finished fourth in WAR (8.4) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.5). He pitched 483 innings with a 2.25 ERA and a 138 ERA+. In the Series, having to square off against Old Hoss Radbourn and the National League Providence Grays, he faltered a little, starting and completing two games, pitching 15 innings with a 3.60 ERA. At the bat, he went one-for-five with four strikeouts. He has an outstanding World Series ahead, but it’s going to be a few years.
New York was coached by Jim Mutrie once again, who led them to the league title with a 75-32 record, six-and-a-half games over second place Columbus. Mutrie would be coaching in New York again in 1885, but unfortunately for the Metropolitans, it would be for the National League Giants, not in the American Association.
This was Keefe’s last year in the AA as he would be off to the National League in 1885. The two New York teams were owned by the same guy and it gave him the opportunity to shuffle players around as needed. So Mutrie and Keefe were off to the Giants the next season.
Keefe was making some good money now and it was showing in his appearance. According to SABR, “With his $2,800 salary with the Metropolitans, Keefe earned far more than he’d ever make as a carpenter. He began to wear tailored suits, to emulate a well-heeled Cambridge citizen, which distanced himself from the blue-collar background of his father, a carpenter, and his brother, a plumber. He taught himself subjects to compensate for his lack of a college education, studying accounting to understand business and shorthand to take good notes of meetings. In New York he was exposed to the theater and other social activities of wealthy people that he could never experience in ethnically stratified Boston, which provided few such opportunities for those of Irish ancestry.”
27-23, 2.62 ERA, 346 K, .227, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Strikeouts per 9 IP-7.088
Bases on Balls-116
1st Time All-Star-James Harding “Hardie” Henderson was born on Halloween, 1862 in Philadelphia, PA and his arm would indeed make him scary. He started in 1883 pitching one game for the National League Philadelphia Quakers, before moving to the Orioles. He’ll be with them for four years. This season, Hardie finished fifth in WAR (6.6) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.6). He pitched 439 1/3 innings with a 2.62 ERA and a 131 ERA+. Judging by his strikeout numbers and his lead-leading walks, Henderson must have had quite an arm.
Baltimore, still managed by Billy Barnie, had quite an improvement, moving only from eighth place to sixth place, but going from 28-68 to a 63-43 record. It finished 11-and-a-half games out of first place. Henderson had a lot to do with that.
It’s surprising that Baltimore gave Henderson a chance, considering that in his one game for the Quakers, he allowed 24 runs (19 earned) in nine innings with four wild pitches. Some of this wildness might have to do with his drinking. From Baseball Reference: “Known as a serious drinker, he was involved in a number of off-field incidents while playing for the Orioles. In September, 1883, he got into a wrangle over a girl at a masked ball at Kernan’s Theater in Baltimore, MD and was arrested along with two teammates; he was fined $150 for public drunkenness, although the fine seemed to have had little effect on his tippling habits. He was arrested again in July of 1884 when a number of players from the Orioles and the St. Louis Browns were involved in a drunken brawl at a private party in St. Louis, MO. He apparently behaved so badly on the trip to the police station that ‘extreme measures’ had to be used to restrain him and Fred Lewis of the Browns. He was issued another $150 fine by manager Bill Barnie.”
32-17, 2.75 ERA, 125 K, .190, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
2nd Time All-Star-Emslie is back and improving and only 25 years old, but….he’s fading out after this season, with his career ending in 1885. As for 1884, he had his best season ever, tossing 455 1/3 innings with a 2.75 ERA and a 125 ERA+. Part of the Orioles improvement this season was having two effective pitchers in Hardie Henderson and Emslie. According to Baseball Reference, he would have to give up pitching due to a sore arm and, according to Wikipedia, that soreness was due to “his excessive use of the curveball.” Already, early in baseball’s history, the curveball is claiming victims.
More from Wikipedia about Emslie’s umpiring career: “Emslie was involved in many of the game’s highlights, including calling four no-hitters. The first one was on August 16, 1893, when Bill Hawke of the Orioles tossed his; the second was Deacon Phillippe‘s of the Louisville Colonels on May 25, 1899. The third no-hitter came on September 18, 1903 by Chick Fraser of the Philadelphia Phillies, and the fourth was tossed on May 8, 1907, by Francis “Big Jeff” Pfeffer of the Boston Doves.”
Towards the end of his life, Wikipedia says, “He retired to St. Thomas, Ontario, where he coached youth baseball and enjoyed curling, bowling, and golf. Emslie died at age 84 in St. Thomas, Ontario, and was interred at the St. Thomas West Avenue Cemetery. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. Emslie Field in St. Thomas is named in his honor.”
34-18, 3.32 ERA, 118 K, .190, 1 HR, 11 RBI
Shutouts-7 (3rd Time)
Batters Hit By Pitch-35
7th Time All-Star-If it wasn’t for Jim McCormick having a fluky year, dominating in two different leagues, White would certainly be a ONEHOF inductee this season. As it is, he is up for it next season, along with Davy Force, Monte Ward, Charley Jones, and Pud Galvin. I think he’ll get it, but I’ve been wrong before. Hey, ONEHOF inductee or not, White was still pitching great. This season, Whoop-La pitched 456 innings, his sixth consecutive season over 400 innings, and had a 3.32 ERA, his highest ever in a full season, and a 100 ERA+.
White’s hitting was always terrible and it was again this season, but he did hit his only career home run in 1,478 at-bats. Good job, Whoop-La!
Along with pitching, White managed for his first and last time, leading the Red Stockings to a 44-27 record, before Pop Snyder took over and was 24-14 in his games. Altogether, Cincinnati finished fifth in the league with a 68-41 record, eight games behind New York. As for why White didn’t complete the season as manager, Wikipedia says it was his decision: “In August 1884, White decided to step down as manager, believing he was ‘of too easy a disposition’; he persuaded his catcher, Pop Snyder, to take over as manager.”
More from Wikipedia on White: “Baseball historian David Nemec wrote that White’s career suffered in 1884 when the American Association adopted a rule granting a batter a base if he was hit by a pitched ball. According to Nemec, the new rule deprived White of ‘one of his chief weapons – intimidation.’ White set a major league record in 1884 with 35 hit batsmen, a total that remains the ninth highest in major league history.”
(AA Stats Only) 18-12, 2.53 ERA, 130 K, .252, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
2nd Time All-Star-Taylor is the third player we’ve encountered, along with Charlie Sweeney and Jim McCormick of the National League and Union Association, that made the All-Star team in two different leagues. He will also have a write-up in the UA.
For the Athletics of the American Association, Taylor finished ninth in WAR (5.4) and eighth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2). The last time he made an All-Star team in 1882, he made it as a catcher and he was still a decent hitter. In the UA, he’s going to be an awesome batter.
After finishing first in 1883, Philadelphia fell this season to seventh with a 61-46 record, 14 games out of first place. Lon Knight learned the harsh truth, since realized by people like Marty Schottenheimer, George Karl, and many other coaches. Winning records are great, but if you don’t win it all, you’re out of here! This was Knight’s last season coaching.
This was easily Taylor’s best season ever as a pitcher and you can go look at what he compiled in the UA, it was outstanding. Wikipedia says, “Taylor’s 523 innings pitched in 1884 ended up being more than half of his major league career total of 799.2, and he never pitched more than 127 innings in any other season.
“Taylor pitched six games for the Athletics in 1885, going 1-5. Joining the Baltimore Orioles in 1886, his record was even worse, at 1-6. Taylor also played in the Southern Association that year and went 3-7 while batting .100. In 1887, he went 7-3 and batted .269 for the Eastern League‘s New Haven Blues. He also pitched (and won) one game for the Athletics on August 16, which was his final major league appearance. Taylor then ended his career with two seasons in the minors.
“Taylor died in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1900. He was 45 years old.”
37-15, 2.67 ERA, 292 K, .152, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Strikeouts/Base On Balls-6.952
Errors Committed as P-38
2nd Time All-Star-Lynch combined with Tim Keefe to give New York a phenomenal pitching staff, which led them to the American Association crown. He finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2), throwing 496 innings with a 2.67 ERA and a 117 ERA+. Those are great numbers, but there were a lot of dazzling arms in the AA in 1884.
Unfortunately, Lynch never got to play in the World Series, which the Metropolitans lost 3-0 to the National League Providence Grays. Keefe pitched two games, but the third game was pitched by Buck Becannon, who had only pitched one game during the regular season. According to SABR, “The games were scheduled to take place on Thursday through Saturday, October 23–25. Two victories would crown the champion. [Old Hoss] Radbourn was to pitch all three games, which was no surprise, given that he pitched nearly every game after [Charlie] Sweeney jumped the team. This was not good news for the Mets and their cranks. Nor was it good news that the injured Jack Lynch was unable to pitch, requiring that Keefe might have to pitch all the games.”
More from SABR on this first World Series: “There were, however, issues to be worked out: number of games, rules, where to play, and finances. As challenges started in the form of wagers, with the winning team’s players taking all, the National League was not enthusiastic and was relieved when the managers worked out a split of the proceeds. Although [Metropolitan’s Manager] Mutrie offered a five-game series of two games in each team’s city and a fifth game, if necessary, in a neutral location, [Gray’s Manager] Bancroft did not want to risk the travel expenses. Because Manhattan’s population was 1.2 million, Bancroft proposed a three game series at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, then located at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue.”
19-35, 3.55 ERA, 230 K, .233, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-William H. “Adonis” Terry was born on August 7, 1864 in Westfield, MA and he would have a decent 14-year career. This season, he made the All-Star team as the sole representative of the Atlantics. Adonis pitched 476 innings with a 3.55 ERA and a 92 ERA+.
As for Brooklyn, you might have guessed, this is the first season of the team which will eventually be the Los Angeles Dodgers. So in a franchise which will be known for its great pitching, it all started with Terry. Wikipedia says, “The Brooklyn baseball team had played as the Brooklyn Grays in the Interstate Association in 1883, where they won the championship. In 1884, Charles Byrne moved the team into the American Association, renaming them the Atlantics in tribute to the old National Association Brooklyn Atlantics team.” The team itself didn’t do so well in its initial AA year, going 40-64 under Manager George Taylor and finishing in ninth place, 33-and-a-half games out of first place. Its home field was Washington Park, a neutral park for hitting and pitching.
Adonis is, of course, the Greek God known for his beauty, so you have to figure Terry got the nickname due to his looks. Whatever it was, I can’t find it. I do know he threw heat. According to Baseball Reference, “’Such competent judges as Tom Gunning, Jack Kerins and Harry Stovey say he throws the hardest ball to hit of any pitcher living. His outcurve is the sharpest and speediest ever seen . . .but . . . delivery lames his arm so much that he has to resort to straight balls frequently. . . Terry has great speed and excellent command of the ball.’ – Sporting Life of November 1, 1890.”
.293, 3 HR, (No RBI recorded), 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 0 K
1st Time All-Star-James W. “Jim” Keenan was born on February 10, 1858 in New Haven, CT. He had started as a 17-year-old part-time player for the New Haven Elm Citys in the old National Association in 1875. His next major league season was in 1880 playing two games for the National League Buffalo Bisons. He then played 24 games for the American Association Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1882. It was with Indianapolis in 1884 that he finally started playing regularly, catching for the Hoosiers and slashing .293/.343/.418 for an OPS+ of 151. It was possibly his best season ever.
This would be the only season for Indianapolis, which finished in 12th place with a 29-78 record. Jim Gifford (25-60) and Bill Watkins (4-18) split coaching duties. Watkins, by the way, had a horrible experience on the field, according to his SABR page, which says, “On August 26, however, an errant first-inning fastball thrown by Cincinnati fireballer Gus Shallix effectively ended the playing career, and almost took the life, of Bill Watkins. Struck squarely in the head by the pitch, Watkins spent the next several days in and out of a coma before recovering.”
There have almost always been backup catchers and that was Keenan’s role over the course of his career. I’m assuming he probably has another All-Star team left in him, but even if he doesn’t, he has the privilege of being the best catcher in a league, even if it’s only the AA, for a season. Next season, Keenan is off to Cincinnati, where he’ll finish his career.
.278, 6 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Fielding % as C-.944
1st Time All-Star-Frederick Herbert “Fred” Carroll was born on July 2, 1864 in Sacramento, CA and had a great rookie year. He also displayed his great bat, which would continue to shine over the course of his eight-year career. Carroll slashed .278/.326/.440 for an OPS+ of 156. After Columbus folded despite a good season, Carroll would be off to Pittsburgh to continue playing Major League ball. He has some All-Star teams left in his future.
According to Wikipedia, “Bill James wrote in his book Baseball Abstract that Carroll was the best ‘young’ catcher before Johnny Bench. A victim of the 1890s Brotherhood, he also was a competent outfielder and played shortstop, first base and third as well. James also remarks that Carroll’s major league career was shortened by his dislike of living on the East Coast.” It’s no small thing to be compared to Johnny Bench.
Unlike the National League, which had the great Charlie Bennett and Buck Ewing, the American Association didn’t really have any superstars at catcher at this point. Jim Keenan and Carroll finished 15th and 17th in Position Player WAR respectively and Carroll only made the team because my All-Star teams have to have two catchers. The only catcher who had made both of the previous AA All-Star teams, Jack O’Brien, fell this season and would never be back to being the catcher he was.
From the beginning of baseball history, catcher was its most grueling position, requiring tough characters to wear the so-called “tools of ignorance.” Shoot, in the beginning years of the game, they didn’t even wear those tools, things we take for granted like gloves and chest protectors, and often ended up with beat-up bodies and gnarled hands.
.354, 9 HR, 112 RBI
1884 AA Batting Title
WAR Position Players-5.8
Runs Batted In-112
Adj. Batting Runs-43
Adj. Batting Wins-4.8
Offensive Win %-.836
Def. Games as 1B-110
1st Time All-Star-David L. “Dave” Orr was born on September 29, 1859 in New York, NY. He played 14 total games in 1883, for both New York teams, the American Association Metropolitans and the National League Gothams, but it was this year he started playing full time and set the AA on fire. He definitely has many All-Star teams coming in the future. As for this season, Orr finished seventh in WAR (5.8), first in WAR Position Players (5.8), and first in Offensive WAR (4.9). He slashed .354/.362/.539 for an OPS+ of 190. Truly a spectacular hitting year. However, in the World Series, Orr was flummoxed by the great Old Hoss Radbourn and went only one-for-nine with a single. He was the first of many great players over the history of baseball postseason play who would struggle when the spotlight was on. It was his last postseason appearance.
Nowadays, we disdain Runs Batted In, we say they are overrated and a terrible stat in which to rate the hitters, and that may be true. But they also give us a quick glimpse of the great power hitters of the game and Orr set the record for RBIs in a season with 112 in his rookie year.
Orr was also one of the biggest, if not the actual biggest, players in the game at his time, being five-foot-11 and 250 pounds. Wikipedia also says he had an unusual batting stance: “Orr used an unorthodox batting stance that was described by one newspaper reporter as follows:
“’Big Dave Orr has a position which seems utterly at variance with all the rules of batting. Instead of standing in the center of the plate he takes his place at the extreme edge furthest from the pitcher and almost behind it, in fact. His feet are placed in a most peculiar way. The toes of the right foot point almost toward second base, and the heel is placed in the hollow of the left. He swings his body forward, moving his feet but a few inches, all the swing he gives his bat seeming to come from the upper part of his body.’”
.339, 11 HR, 91 RBI
On-Base Plus Slugging-.918
AB per HR-40.7
Double Plays Turned as 1B-60 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-There was a lack of good catchers in the American Association, but there certainly was no dearth of great first sackers. In his second season with Cincinnati, he continued to shine, finishing third in WAR Position Players (4.7) and fifth in Offensive WAR (3.0). He slashed .339/.366/.551 for an OPS+ of 189. His weakness, which would linger throughout his career, was drawing walks, but you don’t need to do that if you hit as well as Reilly did.
There is a great story in SABR about a shipwreck in which Reilly was involved in 1880. Here’s the beginning, but I urge you to read the whole thing. “On the evening of June 11 he boarded the steamer Narragansett, sailing up Long Island Sound to begin the return voyage to Providence. Reilly later told a correspondent for the Cincinnati Enquirer (June 18, 1880) that he had retired early and was fast asleep a little before midnight when he awoke to find himself thrown from his berth amid the loud creaking of timbers. The Narragansett had collided with another ship, the Stonington.
“Reilly made his way to the already water-covered deck, where a fire had started and passengers were beginning to panic. He climbed a mast and went to work with a knife supplied by another passenger to help free the ship’s lifeboats. At one point he fell into the water and nearly drowned, for the son of a river pilot who had lived most of his life within a short walk of the Ohio River was not much of a swimmer. Fortunately, he was able to grab a ladder and climb back on board. Reilly would recall seeing a man, maddened by fear and preferring a quick death to one by fire or drowning, raise a revolver to his head and shoot himself. He encountered an agitated woman who had stepped out of her stateroom at the time of the collision, locking her small children inside, and now found herself unable to open the door. Unable to find an axe, Reilly tried to break down the door with his shoulder, but the ship was listing so that he had to push upwards and could not gain the traction he needed to break open the door. With the ship in danger of sinking, he had to give up his efforts and abandon the children to their fate. Returning to the deck, he threw a plank into the water, then jumped in himself and grabbed it.”
.326, 10 HR, 83 RBI
Runs Scored-124 (2nd Time)
Triples-23 (2nd Time)
Extra Base Hits-55
3rd Time All-Star-Stovey continued feasting on American Association pitching, finishing sixth in WAR Position Players (4.4) and third in Offensive WAR (4.7). He slashed .326/.368/545 for an OPS+ of 186. His Adjusted OPS+ was his highest ever. Stovey, a rare speedster first baseman, also set the all-time record for triples in a season (23), a record which would last a whopping two seasons before Dave Orr shattered the mark.
There’s a good article from The National Pastime Museum on Stovey. Here are some of the highlights: “He was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 20, 1856, as Harry Duffield Stow. His mother didn’t want Harry to play baseball, so after turning pro, he took the name Stovey so she wouldn’t see ‘Stow’ in the newspapers.
“That  began a seven-year stretch during which he established himself as the league’s most formidable one-man force. As noted in the New York Clipper, ‘Although he is a very hard hitter and an exceedingly clever base-runner, he more particularly excels in the outfield, being an accurate and strong thrower, a sure catch and having the ability to cover a great deal of ground. He is a strictly temperate, honest and ambitious young man and is in every respect a model professional player.’”
It’s possible Stovey was a very good defensive player, but it isn’t shown in Defensive WAR. Stovey would actually end up with a negative dWAR for his career at -2.9. It’s a good thing he added so much offensively. This season was his highest ever oWAR (4.7).
.306, 1 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Samuel W. “Sam” Barkley was born on May 24, 1858 in Wheeling, WV. It was the five-foot-11, 180 pound second baseman’s first season and best season ever. He was the American Association’s best second sacker , finishing fourth in WAR Position Players (4.7), ninth in Offensive WAR (3.4), and sixth in Defensive WAR (1.6). Barkley slashed .306/.342/.444 for his highest OPS+ ever of 151. It certainly looked like he was off to a good career and he probably has another All-Star team left for him.
Baseball Reference says, “In 1884 he had by far the highest batting average on the Toledo Blue Stockings, a team that batted .231 while Barkley batted .306. He was 9th in the league in batting average and first in doubles. The Toledo team was the one on which Fleet Walker and his brother Welday Walker, two black players, appeared. Fleet, at .263, had one of the highest batting averages on the team.
“Toledo and the St. Louis Browns made an arrangement in the off-season for a trade of several players, but the trade broke down after the waiting period and only Barkley and one other player actually played with St. Louis. A lawsuit came out of it all, and it was estimated that Barkley had been valued at $800. Chris Von der Ahe later said that Barkley’s value was $1,000, but that may have been the asking price.”
We know that Cap Anson and others led the fight against blacks playing for Toledo at this time, but I wonder how their own teammates felt about it.
.238, 6 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Assists as 2B-394
2nd Time All-Star-For the first time in his five-year career, Smith played for the same team in consecutive years. The two-time All-Star continued to show his prowess, especially with the glove. Smith finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.1) and fifth in Defensive WAR (2.1), having his best season ever. It proved to be a good move for the Buckeyes to make Pop fulltime. However, since Columbus would go defunct after the season, Smith was travelling once again, this time to Pittsburgh, where he’d spend a good chunk of time.
As a matter of fact, here’s SABR’s wrap-up of everything I just said in that last sentence: “The 1884 Buckeyes made a run at the American Association pennant, finishing second to the New York Metropolitans. Smith continued to show surprising pop with the bat hitting a career high six home runs. His average dropped to .238, but Smith’s forte as always remained his fielding and he led the league in assists by second basemen for the first time. Despite the Buckeyes on-field success the club declared bankruptcy following the season.
“Smith, along with several other Buckeyes including Tom Brown, Willie Kuehne, and Ed Morris, was transferred to Pittsburgh for 1885. Smith enjoyed five solid seasons in the Smokey City.” I’ve never heard the term “Smokey City” used for Pittsburgh before.
.314, 1 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Def. Games as 3B-112
1st Time All-Star-Thomas John “Dude” Esterbrook was born on June 9, 1857 in Staten Island, NY and Dude! He had a good season, his best ever and, most likely, his only All-Star year. He finished second in WAR Position Players (4.8), sixth in Offensive WAR (3.8), and eighth in Defensive WAR. At the bat, Dude slashed .314/.345/.428 for an OPS+ of 150. It was his only fulltime year in which his OPS+ was over 150. As a matter of fact, it was the only fulltime season for Esterbrook in which his OPS+ was over 100. It was truly an aberrant year. He also had a decent World Series, going three-for-10 with a double.
Esterbrook started his Major League career with the 1880 National League Buffalo Bisons. After a year off, he went to the Cleveland Blues in 1882, before moving to the Metropolitans the next year. In 1885, he’s off to the Giants, but the level of play in the NL seemed to hurt his game.
The Deadball Era has a copy of Esterbrook’s obituary. He died on April 30, 1901 by jumping from a train which was transporting him to a mental hospital. Look at this interesting part: “For several years he had been very eccentric. He first thought himself a great inventor, and talked of a wonderful flying machine that he had invented. Then he became religious, and finally came to believe that a man need never die.” Maybe bad biblical interpretation led to Esterbrook taking a header from the train.
.274, 1 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Defensive WAR-2.6 (2nd Time)
Assists as 3B-302
Errors Committed as 3B-70
Double Plays Turned as 3B-16 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 3B-4.07
Range Factor/Game as 3B-4.04
1st Time All-Star-Walter Arlington “Arlie” or “The Freshest Man on Earth” Latham was born on March 15, 1860 in West Lebanon, NH and, if WAR is to be believed, was the best fielder of his day. He would have a good career ahead and even get a smidge of Hall of Fame consideration. This season, he finished seventh in WAR Position Players (4.3) and first in Defensive WAR (2.6). At the bat, Latham slashed .274/.309/.367 for an OPS+ of 116.
As for the Browns, they fell after finishing second in 1883. In 1884, St. Louis, managed by Jimmy Williams (51-33) and Charlie Comiskey (16-7), finished 67-40, in fourth place, eight games behind New York. It is about to go on a tremendous winning streak, but you’ll have to read about that next year.
Latham started his Major League career as a part-time player for the National League Buffalo Bisons in 1880. His next tour of duty started with the Browns in 1883, where he will be their full-time third baseman for seven years.
He was also one of baseball’s first funny men, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Latham was considered one of the funniest players in baseball. Nicknamed ‘The Freshest Man on Earth’, Latham was a colorful player known for playing practical jokes, including on Browns owner Chris von der Ahe and manager Charles Comiskey. In one famous stunt, he lit a firecracker under third base in an effort to ‘wake himself up’, after Comiskey had been complaining about him falling asleep on the job. Also he would occasionally put on a clown’s nose while walking behind von der Ahe.”
.336, 4 HR, 47 RBI, 0-1, 54.00 ERA, 0 K
3rd Time All-Star-Gladiator made his third consecutive All-Star team at his third position. In 1882, he was an All-Star second baseman and in 1883, he was an All-Star leftfielder. This season, he moved to third base and continued to produce with the bat, though his defense again lacked. Browning finished fifth in Offensive WAR (4.3), great for any other player, but a little low for him. He slashed .336/.357/.472 for an OPS+ of 174 and yet has some greater seasons ahead.
If you read the first two blurbs about Browning (and if you haven’t, get to it!) then you realize how much this man loved his bats. Wikipedia says, “In 1884, he acquired his first custom-made bat from the Hillerich & Bradsby company, collecting three hits in his first game using it and beginning a baseball tradition.”
Wikipedia on Browning’s defense: “Other aspects of Browning’s game were less polished; he has usually been regarded as one of the worst fielders in major league history, although some recent assessments have begun to question that view. American Gladiator, his first biography, recounted numerous ‘web gems’ by Browning from the beginning of his career to the very end. The revised assessment is that Browning was a superb outfielder when he was sober and not suffering from the effects of mastoiditis, a serious infection of the inner ear usually contracted during childhood.”
There’s more on his fielding which we’ll get to next year. I will say that Browning is one of the more colorful characters from baseball’s early years and we’ll have many more seasons to learn about Gladiator!
.311, 4 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Francis John “Frank” Fennelly was born on February 18 1860 in Fall River, MA and was the best third baseman in the American Association in his rookie year. He played for the Washington Nationals in their only season of existence and was easily the best player on the team and then moved to the Red Stockings after Washington folded to finish out the season. The five-foot-eight, 168 pound Fennelly had his best season ever, finishing fifth in WAR Position Players (4.4) and fourth in Offensive WAR (4.6). He slashed .311/.367/.480 for an OPS+ of 182. His hitting really improved moving from the difficult to hit in Athletic Park in Washington to the hitters’ dream parks of League Park and Washington Park in Cincinnati.
This was the only season for the Nationals and they didn’t finish out the season, going 12-51, last place in the league. Holly Hollingshead coached the team and that would end his coaching days. His only other previous managing experience came with the 1875 National Association Washington Nationals. The team went 4-16 under Hollingshead. No wonder he’d never coach again.
Fennelly would be with the Red Stockings for a while, until 1888, and always play shortstop. While his fielding wasn’t great at this point in his career, it would continue to get better to the point where he would be regularly in the top 10 in Defensive WAR. For a small stretch of time, he was Ripken-esque as a shortstop, known as much for his bat, if not more so, than for his glove.
.297, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Assists as SS-379 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as SS-.893
1st Time All-Star-Sargent Perry “Sadie” Houck was born on Leap Day, 1856 in Washington, DC, which means that every time he had a real birthday, it was an election year in his birthplace. Sadie was tiny at five-foot-seven, 151 pounds and his power numbers, or lack thereof, show that. This is probably his only All-Star team as his hitting this year was never matched before or since.
Houck finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.2) and third in Defensive WAR (2.2). He slashed .297 (highest for him ever)/.318 (highest for him ever)/.396 (second highest for him ever) for an OPS+ of 126 (highest for him ever). Of course, Jefferson Street Grounds in Philadelphia was a huge hitters’ park this season so that couldn’t have hurt.
Sadie started his career in the National League, with Boston in 1879, Boston and Providence in 1880, and Detroit in 1881 and 1883, before moving to the American Association this season. The reason he had 1882 off, according to Wikipedia was, “He was added to the National League‘s ‘blacklist’ in September 1881, allegedly for being ‘addicted to drink’, and barred from playing for or against any National League team. He was reinstated in 1883.” There were a lot of drinkers in the AA in that day, making its acronym so ironic.
Houck would die in his hometown. According to Wikipedia (again): “Houck died in Washington, D.C., in 1919 at age 63. After a funeral at Frank Geier’s Sons chapel, his interment was at Glenwood Cemetery.”
.314, 7 HR, 71 RBI
Times On Base-195
Def. Games as OF-112
Putouts as OF-207 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Jones was aging, but it wasn’t affecting his play as he continued to be the best outfielder in the American Association. Baby finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.3) and seventh in Offensive WAR (3.8). He slashed .314/.376/.470 for an OPS+ of 168. He most likely has another All-Star team coming.
Baby Jones was still the all-time home run leader with 40 in his career after the 1884 season. He lost this title in 1885 to Harry Stovey and would wind up his career with 56.
Here’s a little information about Jones’ power, with a little added in about his personal life. From Baseball Reference: “On July 20, 1884, he became the third man to hit three triples in one game in a 17-4 rout of the Indianapolis Blues. He never played for a league champion. In 1885 Jones’ common-law wife found him with another woman and threw cayenne pepper in his face. A year later he married Louisa Horton, who had been involved in a famous divorce a year earlier.”
While Will White was the best player on Cincinnati during its beginnings, Jones was easily its best position player, not to mention its most popular. As mentioned in a previous write-up, he, like so many players in the AA, was a carouser, but it didn’t seem to be affecting his game.
.281, 2 HR, (No RBI recorded)
1st Time All-Star-Richard Frederick “Dick” Johnston was born on April 6, 1863 in Kingston, NY and made the team by being the best player on the newly-formed and soon-to-be gone Richmond Virginians this season. However, he has at least one more All-Star team coming. For this season, Johnston slashed .281/.291/.425 for an OPS+ of 131, his highest ever not counting his great season of 1888.
As for the Virginians, they only existed to complete the Washington Nationals’ (also known as the Statesmen) schedule. Wikipedia says, “The Richmond Virginians was a major league baseball team that played in the American Association in 1884. The Virginians thereby became the first major league team in the Old Confederacy, as well as the last one until the establishment of the Houston Astros in 1962.
“The Virginians began their existence in the Eastern League in 1884. When the Statesmen folded on August 2, the Virginians were brought into the American Association to complete their schedule. They played their first game on August 5 against the Philadelphia Athletics, losing 14-0. They won their first game on August 7, defeating the Brooklyn Atlantics.
“After the season, the AA contracted from 12 teams to 8, with the Virginians being one of the eliminated teams. The Virginians returned to the Eastern League, where they played the 1885 season before folding.”
On Johnston, Baseball Reference says, “Dick was considered a top center fielder, playing close to the infield in the way that Tris Speaker later did, and galloping back for fly balls hit over his head. Johnston was a printer by trade and a heavy drinker.”
.288, 0 HR, (No RBI recorded)
Hit By Pitch-15
3rd Time All-Star-As I mentioned in Swartwood’s 1883 write-up, his monstrous hitting went away this season. He would have one flashback to having that type of bat in 1890, but he’d never reach the heights of 1882 and 1883. In those two seasons, Swartwood slashed .345/.384/.482 for an OPS+ of 188. For the rest of his career, those numbers were .284/.377/.371 for an OPS+ of 126. He never had problems getting on base.
Swartwood is Pittsburgh’s lone representative this season. He slashed .288/.365/.366 for and OPS+ of 137. See what I mean, he’s still a good hitter, he’s just not the great Swartwood. Of course, if he could have fielded a lick, his hitting would have been enough to put him on the All-Star team without being the Alleghenys’ best player.
As for Pittsburgh, it continued to struggle dropping from a 31-67 record in 1883 to a 30-78 record in 1884. It had five managers, each as bad as the last. The Alleghenys were coached by Denny McKnight (4-8), Bob Ferguson (11-31), Joe Battin (6-7), George Creamer (0-8), and Horace Phillips (9-24). Maybe Battin should have been given more of a chance.
SABR says about Swartwood, “On May 24, 1884, Swartwood led off against Philadelphia rookie pitcher Al Atkinson, who hit him with a pitch. Swartwood eventually scored after stealing second base. Atkinson, though, sent the next 27 batters back to the bench for a no-hitter and near-perfect game, and a 10-1 victory. Swartwood tailed off with the bat that season. Observers said he had considerable difficulty hitting left-handed pitchers. However, it’s doubtful if this was a major contributing factor, as only three confirmed lefties (a handful of pitchers are still listed as throwing arm unknown) pitched an appreciable number of innings in the American Association in 1884. It is true that he stood within six inches of the plate, a batting style the Brooklyn Eagle deemed as ‘extreme’ and improper.”