P-Charlie Ferguson, PHI
P-Lady Baldwin, DTN
P-Tim Keefe, NYG
P-Jim McCormick, CHC
P-John Clarkson, CHC
P-Dan Casey, PHI
P-Old Hoss Radbourn, BSN
P-Jim Whitney, KCN
P-Mickey Welch, NYG
P-Dupee Shaw, WHS
C-Charlie Bennett, DTN
C-Buck Ewing, NYG
1B-Dan Brouthers, DTN
1B-Roger Connor, NYG
1B-Cap Anson, CHC
2B-Fred Dunlap, SLM/DTN
3B-Jerry Denny, SLM
SS-Jack Glasscock, SLM
SS-Jack Rowe, DTN
LF-Hardy Richardson, DTN
CF-George Gore, CHC
CF-Paul Hines, WHS
CF-Jim O’Rourke, NYG
RF-King Kelly, CHC
RF-Sam Thompson, DTN
30-9, 1.98 ERA, 212 K, .253, 2 HR, 25 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-11.8
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-2.95
2nd Time All-Star-When you see someone has a WAR of 11.8, you figure they led in multiple categories, but that wasn’t the case with Ferguson. He had a great season, maybe the best in the league, but he didn’t put up monster stats, at least compared to his contemporaries. He did lead the league in WAR (11.8) and finish second in WAR for Pitchers (10.5). Ferguson tossed 395 2/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA and a 161 ERA+. It was his best season ever.
As for his team, the Quakers, they had a great year, finishing 71-43. The great manager Harry Wright guided them, but surprisingly that gaudy record only led them to a fourth place finish. Philadelphia allowed less runs than any other team, but its hitting lacked a bit.
We’ll look at Ferguson’s tragic end next season. Here’s some highlights from SABR, which has an outstanding article on him: “Despite all the success he enjoyed on the mound, the season was not free of controversy for Ferguson. On August 27, upon the Quakers’ arrival in Chicago for a three-game set, the young right-hander jumped the team and headed back to Charlottesville. The situation suggests that all may not have been well with the Quakers’ star. Ferguson began explaining his actions by stating, ‘It is true that I jumped the Philadelphia club at Chicago, but I did not take “French leave” because I feared the Chicago batsmen.’The lineup of the first-place Chicago club was indeed one to be feared as they tallied 13 runs in each of the three contests against the Quakers.”
42-13, 2.24 ERA, 323 K, .201, 0 HR, 25 RBI
WAR for Pitchers-10.8
Walks & Hits per IP-0.967 (2nd Time)
Hits per 9 IP-6.856
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.69 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-57
Adj. Pitching Wins-5.4
2nd Time All-Star-Detroit would be a team known for its “Big Four” hitting crew and would definitely be dominant at the plate this season. But thanks to Lady Baldwin, the Wolverines also did well on the mound. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t beat a dynamic, All-Star-filled Chicago squad.
As for Baldwin, the 27-year-old would have won the Cy Young this season had Cy Young yet existed in baseball. (He’s actually not that far out. Ooo, exciting!) He pitched 487 innings with a 2.24 ERA and a 144 ERA+. However, after this season, he would never be the same and it’s his last All-Star team.
Back to Detroit. Bill Watkins managed the team to an outstanding 87-36 record that still fell behind the White Stockings by two-and-a-half games. The Wolverines were in first place through their 90th game on August 25, before losing ground for good to Chicago. It’s not like the team fell apart, going 23-12 from this point. But the White Stockings were in the midst of a 14-game winning streak druing this stretch and never looked back.
Back to Baldwin. Are you keeping up? Speaking of looking back, it was at this point in his career he would look back and realize he’d never be the same. Well, I should mention he has one more highlight in his career, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Baldwin had his best season in 1886 when he compiled a 42–13 record and a 2.24 earned run average (ERA), threw 55 complete games, and led the National League with 323 strikeouts. Baldwin’s 42 wins in 1886 set the major league record for a left-handed pitcher and remains the second highest single season total by a southpaw. Baldwin also pitched five complete games for a 4–1 record and a 1.50 ERA in the 1887 World Series. Arm troubles cut short Baldwin’s major league career at age 31.”
42-20, 2.56 ERA, 297 K, .171, 1 HR, 20 RBI
Games Pitched-64 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-535.0 (2nd Time)
Games Started-64 (2nd Time)
Complete Games-62 (2nd Time)
Batters Faced-2,173 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-64 (2nd Time)
7th Time All-Star-It’s always a synergetic joy when a member of ONEHOF is also a member of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and that is the case with Smiling Tim Keefe. He was not a difficult selection, especially having yet another gigantic year on the mound this season. As for next year’s ONEHOF nominees, they are Charley Jones, Pud Galvin, Fred Dunlap, George Gore, Davy Force, Monte Ward, Ned Williamson, Ezra Sutton, King Kelly, Mickey Welch, Old Hoss Radbourn, Charlie Bennett, Jack Glasscock, and Dan Brouthers. It’s a crowded field and it goes to show how many great players never got their recognition in the 1800s.
For this season, Keefe finished third in WAR (9.5) and third in WAR for Pitchers (10.1). He pitched an incredible 535 innings with a 2.56 ERA and a 174 ERA+.
Giants’ owner John B. Day’s plan to use his two teams to shuffle players around and win a pennant was foiled again. New York, coached again by the outstanding skipper, Jim Mutrie, finished in third place with a 75-44 record, 12-and-a-half games out of first. Led by Keefe, it had great pitching, but its hitting didn’t match the top tier teams.
From Keefe’s Hall of Fame page: “’Keefe was one of the first pitchers celebrated for his head work,’ Hall of Fame historian Lee Allen said. ‘Teaming with…Mickey Welch, he assured the Giants of a well-pitched game almost every day.’
31-11, 2.82 ERA, 172 K, .236, 2 HR, 21 RBI
9th Time All-Star-After seven consecutive years of making the All-Star team, including making two of them in 1884, McCormick didn’t make it in 1885, despite having a 21-7 record between two clubs, Providence and Chicago. He did pitch in the World Series in 1885, going 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA. This season McCormick, who is making his last All-Star team, finished seventh in WAR (7.0) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.3). He pitched 347 2/3 innings with a 2.82 ERA and a 126 ERA+. He didn’t quite the same success in the World Series this season, pitching in just one game and allowing 12 runs (six earned).
In 1887, McCormick would go to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and go 13-23 with a 4.30 ERA. According to Wikipedia, he was traded because, “In March, McCormick was still the property of Chicago when Spalding said ‘the only trouble between McCormick and the club has been a difference of opinion between him and me as to his habits. Anson is and always has been very partial to “Mac,” and wants him this season.’ Ten days later in Louisville, Anson said, ‘I desire his services very much, however, for I think that, under the new [pitching] rules [allowing for unrestricted overhand throwing], he will be the best pitcher on the diamond. If he is released, it will only be for a good sum of money.’ About a week after that, Spalding sold him.”
He would end up his career with a 265-214 record over 10 years, with a 2.43 ERA and a 118 ERA+. He has already made the ONEHOF, but is a longshot for the real Hall of Fame, despite having the second highest WAR among those who have not been admitted. Not counting steroid users, of course.
36-17, 2.41 ERA, 313 K, .233, 3 HR, 23 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-19 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-3.640
Assists as P-114 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-19 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-It’s not often a team has two pitchers of the caliber of Jim McCormick and Clarkson, but of course Chicago did and was able to win the league. Clarkson finished fifth in WAR for Pitchers (7.1), tossing 466 2/3 innings with a 2.41 ERA and a 147 ERA+.
He also pitched in the World Series, starting four games and finishing 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA, including one shutout. However, he was on the mound when the White Stockings lost, according to this from Wikipedia, “The sixth game, at St. Louis, was considered one of the greatest games ever played to that time. With the Browns ahead three games to two, Anson called on Clarkson to start his fourth game in six days. Clarkson responded with seven shutout innings, but gave up three runs in the eighth inning, and the game went to extra innings. In the bottom of the tenth inning, the Browns’ center fielder Curt Welch singled (only the fourth hit off Clarkson) and moved to third on a sacrifice. Welch and Browns’ third base coach Arlie Latham tried to distract Clarkson with heckling and faking moves toward home. When Welch finally attempted the steal, Chicago’s catcher, King Kelly, had called for a pitchout, but Clarkson threw a wild pitch, and Welch scored the World Series winning run.”
Clarkson had an amazing stretch in his career of eight years, from 1885-to-1892, in which he went 293-146 with a 2.64 ERA and a 137 ERA+. Though his career was only 12 years long, he definitely deserves to be in the Hall.
24-18, 2.41 ERA, 193 K, .152, 0 HR, 9 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Daniel Maurice “Dan” Casey was born on November 20, 1862 in Binghampton, NY. Was he the “Casey” of “Casey at the Bat?” No. That was probably King Kelly. However, Wikipedia says, “In his later years, Casey claimed to be the Casey about whom Ernest L. Thayer wrote his famous poem, ‘Casey at the Bat.’ Casey was given a parade honoring him as the famed ‘Casey’, was featured on a national radio broadcast, and participated in a ‘re-enactment’ of ‘Casey at the Bat’ when he was age 78. The poem’s author denied that his work was based on any real player, and several sources have called Casey’s claim into doubt. Casey had a career batting average of .162 and one home run.” Read the whole article about the furor over who the real Casey was. It’s fascinating!
He was the Casey who started his career with the Union Association Wilmington Quicksteps in 1884, before pitching 12 games for Detroit in 1885, and then moving to Philadelphia this season. As the sidekick to Charlie Ferguson, he helped Philadelphia to a fourth place finish.
Casey finished sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.2), pitching 369 innings with a 2.41 ERA and a 132 ERA+. When Casey was at the bat, however, he was awful, bringing no joy to Mudville by slashing .152/.200.192 for an OPS+ of 21. He couldn’t have been the famous Casey, because if he came up in a clutch situation, no doubt the manager would have put in a pinch-hitter.
27-31, 3.00 ERA, 218 K, .237, 2 HR, 22 RBI
Putouts as P-39
6th Time All-Star-I mentioned way back in Radbourn’s 1882 blurb whether he would have the longevity to make the ONEHOF. I try not to look so much at one or two dominant seasons as much as a good breadth of work over a career. I’m going to say, yes, Radbourn will make the ONEHOF, but it’s going to be close. If he had a good season in 1887, there’s no doubt he’d be there, but it’s going to be a few seasons before he makes another All-Star team.
Radbourn moved from Providence to Boston this season after the Grays folded. He finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (4.6), pitching 509 1/3 innings with a 3.00 ERA and a 104 ERA+, his lowest Adjusted ERA+ to that time. It’s going to get lower.
As for Boston, John Morrill coached the team to a 56-61 record and fifth place finish. He’s got three more years of managing left, but would never win another pennant.
Radbourn’s most famous act of 1886 was giving the finger in Boston’s 1886 team picture. From History by Zim, “In a 1886 photograph of the Boston Beaneaters (Radbourn was their pitcher) and their rivals, the New York Giants, Radbourn was photographed extending his middle finger to the camera, the earliest known photograph of a public figure using this gesture.” Due to the family nature of this page, I will not be showing that photo, but it’s easy to find online. Of course, you could say that about anything nowadays, couldn’t you? Kids, get off my lawn!
12-32, 4.49 ERA, 167 K, .239, 2 HR, 23 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-1.260 (4th Time)
Range Factor/Game as P-2.76
5th Time All-Star-For the second time in his career, Whitney made the All-Star team with a losing won-loss record. That’s mainly because Kansas City needed a representative. It’s not like he wasn’t effective. Pitching in hitter-friendly Association Park, Whitney pitched 393 innings with a 4.49 ERA and an 83 ERA+.
Kansas City entered the National League this season and would exit afterwards. Coached by Dave Rowe, the Cowboys finished seventh in the league with a dismal 30-91 record. The Cowboys, coached by Rowe, would be part of the American Association in 1888, but he wouldn’t last all season.
Here’s Wikipedia on the short history of the Cowboys: “The Cowboys were admitted to the National League on a trial basis for the 1886 season. The team went out of business in February, 1887, having been forced to sell its players back to the league for $6,000. They were replaced in the league by the Pittsburg Alleghenys, which moved to the league from the American Association.”
At this point in his career, Whitney might be the only five-time All-Star who has three sub-.500 seasons. Despite his pinpoint control, he would wind up his career with a 191-204 record. There will more about the end of his career later, but I will tease this: He doesn’t live a long time.
Whitney would wind up with five consecutive years of leading the league in Bases on Ball per 9 IP. That wouldn’t be matched until the 1890s when the great Cy Young would pitch.
33-22, 2.99 ERA, 272 K, .216, 0 HR, 18 RBI
Bases on Balls-163 (3rd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Smiling Mickey continues to make the All-Star team year-after-year and he’s not done. The Hall of Famer will almost no doubt be a ONEHOFer in the future. Welch won 30 games for the third consecutive year, but it would be the last time he does so. Because of how commonplace 30-win seasons are in this era, I forget how impossible it seems such a mark will ever be reached again. Even as I write this, Clayton Kershaw is having a great season, but he’s headed for “only” 22 wins.
Welch finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers (4.9), tossing 500 innings for the third time in his career, with a 2.99 ERA and a 107 ERA+. He also set the National League record for walks that wouldn’t be broken until 1889. Toad Ramsey of the American Association set the Major League mark this season with 207. During this season, the NL required seven balls to walk and the AA required six. In 1887, both leagues are going to require five and the walk totals are going to jump. By 1889, both leagues would be down to the current four balls to walk.
The card at the top is Welch’s 1886 baseball card. Look at the spelling of his name – it’s Welsh not Welch. Nowadays children can collect baseball cards, some with gum in them. In the 1880s, apparently kids would have had to buy cigarettes in order to build up their card collection. Do kids nowadays even collect baseball cards anymore?
13-31, 3.34 ERA, 177 K, .088, 0 HR, 6 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Shaw continued to move around, as he was picked up by Washington this season. He pitched well, finishing seventh in WAR for Pitchers (5.4), throwing 385 2/3 innings with a 3.34 ERA and a 96 ERA+. At that bat, however, Dupee stunk. He went 13-for-148 for an .088 average and ended up with a -14 OPS+. There are bad hitting pitchers nowadays, but they never get the amount of at-bats they did in the 1800s.
The Washington Nationals were new this season and played like an expansion team, finishing last with a 28-92 record. They were coached by Mike Scanlon (13-67) and John Gaffney (15-25). Both men would manage two seasons each in their career. Ironically on the team at this time was a man who would coach more seasons than anyone, backup catcher Connie Mack, who would eventually coach 53 seasons in his life, the last one when he was 88 years old in 1950.
Shaw would finish his career with Washington, playing his last Major League game in 1888. After that, according to Wikipedia, “After retiring from baseball, Dupee lived in the Boston area and was successful in business there. At the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, he was employed as a bartender in Boston, and in 1910 he was a grocer there. He also continued to follow baseball and to participate in ‘old timers’ games in Boston. He died at age 78 in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and was interred at Glenwood Cemetery in Everett, Massachusetts.”
.243, 4 HR, 34 RBI
Putouts as C-425 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as C-13 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as C-.955 (3rd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Bennett’s hitting is starting to decline, but his defense continued to be stellar. This despite how beat up his hands were at the time (see the 1885 blurb). At the plate, Bennett slashed .243/.371/.391 for an OPS+ of 131. That’s not terrible, but it’s because of his glove that he’s on the All-Star team for his sixth straight season.
Nowadays, a lot of teams will move their good-hitting catchers to first base to keep them from wearing themselves out at an earlier age. How much better could have Bennett’s career have been had that strategy been employed with him? Go back and read his past write-ups and see how tough this man was. No doubt, his beat-up hand started affecting his hitting.
As for his fielding, however, Wikipedia says, “Putouts. In 1886, Bennett set a major league, single-season record with 445 putouts by a catcher. His career total of 5,123 putouts was also a major league record that stood until 1901.
“In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, sports historian Bill James wrote that Bennett was perhaps the best defensive catcher of the era. In comparing Bennett to Buck Ewing, James noted: ‘Buck Ewing was supposedly a brilliant catcher, but Bennett caught 50% more innings than Ewing, with a lot fewer mistakes: per 1000 defensive innings, Ewing was charged with 59 errors and 66 passed balls, while Bennett was charged with 46 errors and 43 passed balls.’ Although James ranked Ewing ahead of Bennett as an overall player, he chose Bennett as the catcher on his Gold Glove Team for the 1880s. On the offensive side, Ewing compiled a .303 career batting average, 47 points higher than Bennett. However, with Bennett’s talent for drawing walks, Ewing’s career on-base percentage (.351) was only 11 points higher than Bennett (.340).”
.309, 4 HR, 31 RBI
5th Time All-Star-I wonder if back in this day there were heated arguments about who the best catcher was? Was it the defensive-minded Charlie Bennett or the better hitter, Ewing? This is the fourth straight season both men have made the National League All-Star team at catcher.
Ewing actually slumped with the bat a little this year, the key word there being a little. He slashed .309/.347/.444 for an OPS+ of 137. It was his highest batting average and on-base percentage thus far in his career, but his slugging was the lowest it’d been since 1882.
I mentioned in Mickey Welch’s blurb that Old Judge Cigarettes started offering baseball cards with their product. Here’s a little about the early history of baseball cards from Wikipedia: “During the mid-19th century in the United States, baseball and photography were both gaining popularity. As a result, baseball clubs began to pose for group and individual pictures, much like members of other clubs and associations posed. Some of these photographs were printed onto small cards similar to modern wallet photos. As baseball increased in popularity and became a professional sport during the late 1860s, trade cards featuring baseball players appeared. These were used by a variety of companies to promote their business, even if the products being advertised had no connection with baseball. In 1868, Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods store in New York, began producing trade cards featuring baseball teams. Peck and Snyder sold baseball equipment, and the cards were a natural advertising vehicle. The Peck and Snyder cards are sometimes considered the first baseball cards.”
.370, 11 HR, 72 RBI
WAR Position Players-8.2 (3rd Time)
Offensive WAR-8.0 (3rd Time)
Slugging %-.581 (6th Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.026 (5th Time)
Total Bases-284 (3rd Time)
Home Runs-11 (2nd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-208 (5th Time)
Runs Created-126 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-67 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-7.0 (3rd Time)
Extra Base Hits-66 (4th Time)
AB per HR-44.5 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-Brouthers dominated again (yawn) and I can’t help but think how many home runs this man would have hit in a different era. He’s definitely the dominant hitter of his day and it’s not even close. This season, he and the rest of the Big Four – Brouthers, Hardy Richardson, Jack Rowe, and Deacon White – all came to the Wolverines this season after Buffalo folded and Detroit improved from sixth to second.
As for Brouthers, he finished fourth in the National League in WAR (8.2), first in WAR Position Players (8.2), and first in Offensive WAR (8.0). He slashed .370/.445/.581 for his highest ever OPS+ of 208. For this season, anyway, Recreation Park in Detroit was a hitters’ park, but it was generally neutral.
During the 1886 season, according to Wikipedia, Big Dan had a big game. “On September 10, 1886, Brouthers hit three home runs‚ along with a double and a single, to set the NL record with 15 total bases in one game. This mark tied the Major League record at the time, as Guy Hecker of the Louisville Colonels totaled 15 the previous month in the American Association.”
Wikipedia also says, “During the off-season, on November 11, 1886, The Executive Council of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players‚ formed in 1885 as the first organized players’ union, met and re-elected John Montgomery Ward as president, and elected Brouthers as vice president.” Unfortunately for ballplayers, they never were able to get rid of the Reserve Clause, at least until the Curt Flood era, a rule that allowed teams to put a hold on five players and not allow them to switch clubs.
.355, 7 HR, 71 RBI
Triples-20 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Starting next season, Connor is about to go on a home run tear which would allow him to be the all-time home run leader until Babe Ruth came around. As it was, he did hit his career high thus far with seven this year. He wouldn’t dip below that total until 1897. If Connor wouldn’t have had to contend with Dan Brouthers, he would have led in many more categories.
For the year, Connor finished sixth in WAR (7.1), third in WAR Position Players (7.1), and fourth in Offensive WAR (6.4). He slashed .355/.405/.540 (his highest slugging so far) for an OPS+ of 183. I’ve always been one to favor great offense over great pitching, so Connor and Brouthers would have probably been among my favorite players.
Speaking of the big man’s homer power, Wikipedia says, “On September 11, 1886, Connor hit a ball completely out of the Polo Grounds, a very difficult park in which to hit home runs. He hit the pitch from Boston’s Old Hoss Radbourn over the right field fence and onto 112th Street. The New York Times reported of the feat, ‘He met it squarely and it soared up with the speed of a carrier pigeon. All eyes were turned on the tiny sphere as it soared over the head of Charlie Buffinton in right field.’ A group of fans with the New York Stock Exchange took up a collection for Connor and bought him a $500 gold watch in honor of the home run.”
.371, 10 HR, 147 RBI
Runs Batted In-147 (6th Time)
Def. Games as 1B-125 (2nd Time)
Assists as 1B-66 (5th Time)
Errors Committed as 1B-48 (4th Time)
Double Plays Turned as 1B-69 (2nd Time)
12th Time All-Star-You can say what you will about Anson’s character and you’d certainly be justified, but he was a phenomenal ballplayer. He has made more All-Star teams than anyone so far and not only succeeded as a player, but also a manager. First, his props as a player. Anson finished 10th in WAR (6.9), sixth in WAR Position Players (6.9), and third in Offensive WAR (6.8). He slashed .371/.433/.544 (his highest slugging percentage ever) for an OPS+ of 180. He also set the all-time record for runs batted in with 147, which will be broken next season by Sam Thompson. It should be noted that Anson was the all-time RBI leader from 1881-through-1932, when Babe Ruth took the lead.
As for the White Stockings, they won their sixth National League pennant, five of them under Cap, and their second straight. It would be Anson’s last crown. They finished 90-34, finished two-and-a-half games ahead of the Wolverines. However, in the World Series, Chicago lost four games to two to the American Association St. Louis Browns. Cap, who tended to rise to the occasion in big situations, didn’t do so against St. Louis, going five-for-21 (.238) with a double. The White Stockings, to a man, were stymied by the Browns’ pitching, slashing .195/.254/.300, this for a team that hit .279 during the regular season. According to SABR, “In 1886 Anson drove in 147 runs in 125 games and led the White Stockings to the pennant once again, but his charges lost the six-game World’s Series against the Browns when some of the Chicago players appeared to be inebriated on the field.”
.274, 7 HR, 69 RBI
Assists-393 (2nd Time)
Assists as 2B-393 (4th Time)
7th Time All-Star-From my 1885 Dunlap blurb: “Without doing what many call ‘research,’ I can only guess that it’s possible the 26-year-old superstar has made his last All-Star team.” Well, there you go, I am a false prophet, break out the stones. The reason Sure Shot made the All-Star team for his seventh consecutive year is because there was a lack of good second basemen in the National League. Dunlap slashed .274/.335/.387 for an OPS+ of 123. His hitting was similar whether playing for the Maroons or the Wolverines.
St. Louis, managed by Gus Schmelz, still couldn’t reach the playing level of its one Union Association season. The Maroons finished 43-79, in sixth place, 46 games out of first.
Why would the Maroons trade their best player? According to Wikipedia, “In early August 1886, Dunlap was sold to the Detroit Wolverines for $4,700, the most expensive purchase price at the time. In addition to the sum paid to the Maroons to grant the release, the Detroit team signed a contract to pay Dunlap $4,500 a season for two seasons, with an advance of $1,500 on the first day of November 1886 and 1887, respectively. The mid-season sale led to concerns about the Maroons: ‘The transfer of Dunlap to Detroit is a small thing in itself, but its bearing on the entire base ball world is so great as to almost revolutionize the present order of things. He was the king pin of the St. Louis Club and his sale makes a certainty of the dissolution of the Maroons.’” The answer, of course, is money.
.257, 9 HR, 62 RBI
Putouts as 3B-182 (3rd Time)
Assists as 3B-270
Double Plays Turned as 3B-22
Range Factor/9 Inn as 3B-4.08 (2nd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 3B-3.86 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Jeremiah “Jerry” Dennis Denny born Jeremiah Dennis Eldridge was born on March 16, 1859 in New York, NY, went across the country to attend St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga before starting his Major League baseball career with the Providence Grays in 1881. Third base was always Denny’s position, but he didn’t make an All-Star team until moving to the Maroons this season. He finished fourth in Defensive WAR (1.5), which is where his true value was. At the plate, he slashed .257/.278/.389 for an OPS+ of 108. It wasn’t a great season, but considering the lack of good third basemen in the National League, it was good enough.
“At the time Denny began his professional career, fielding gloves had not yet become standard equipment, other than padded mitts for catchers and first basemen. Fielding gloves gradually gained acceptance between 1885 and the mid-1890s, but Denny refused to adapt. He was one of the few ambidextrous major league players; although he threw primarily with his right arm, he could also toss with his left. This gave him a defensive advantage at his customary field position—in ranging to his left on a ground ball, if he saw a play at second base, instead of having to transfer the ball to his right hand while pivoting and repositioning his body (as third basemen would customarily do), Denny could dispatch the ball to second with his left hand. This skill contributed to his refusal to wear a glove in the field, long after most players considered gloves essential.”
.325, 3 HR, 40 RBI
AB per SO-37.4
Assists as SS-392 (4th Time)
Fielding % as SS-.906 (4th Time)
6th Time All-Star-There are many players from this era that are not in the Hall of Fame for various reasons. There are some pitchers not there because of the proliferation of innings pitched during this time leading to them being overrated. There are others which did well in other leagues, but not so well in the tougher National League. None of this applies to Pebbly Jack Glasscock, who played only 38 games outside of the NL, played the toughest position, and played it well. It’s baffling to me.
St. Louis had a terrible season, but they had a great infield with Fred Dunlap (for part of the year), Jerry Denny, and Glasscock. Glasscock finished eighth in WAR (7.0), fourth in WAR Position Players (7.0), sixth in Offensive WAR (6.1), and second in Defensive WAR (1.8). He slashed .325/.374/.432 for an OPS+ of 153, his highest Adjusted OPS+ outside of his 38 games in Union Association. It was a great year, but it was typical for great Glasscock.
In 1941, Glasscock wrote an autobiographical letter which you can see at cycleback.com, but if you don’t want to spend the energy to click on the link, here’s a sample: “Well, I was in St. Louis in 1880 to 1886, and Mr. Lucas lost money and throwed up the franchise. And then the Indianapolis step in. The fans at St. Louis presented me with a diamond pin. And that fall when Lucas quit, I could have gone to Boston. Theys offered to give me, the St. Louis club, $7,500 for me. And the league stepped and paid us players. And no clubs buy us. That was done so no club to get us and sell us. That was the way we went to Indianapolis, under those conditions.” The whole letter is over 1,000 words and one continuous paragraph. Which you’d know if you clicked the link.
.303, 6 HR, 87 RBI
4th Time All-Star-Catchers in the 1800s could only tolerate so much, excluding Charlie Bennett, of course. Their hands were beat up and many of them just partially played behind the plate, spending the rest of the time at other positions. Well, in 1885, after playing six seasons as the catcher for Buffalo, Rowe moved to short. Then this season, with the folding of the Bisons, he moved to Detroit. Now it’s hard to picture someone like Johnny Bench moving from catcher to shortstop. It was hard enough watching him play third base. Yet Rowe was more a typical shortstop size, being five-foot-eight and 170 pounds, so maybe it wasn’t such a big deal.
For this season, Rowe finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.2), 10th in Offensive WAR (4.1), and seventh in Defensive WAR (1.0). He slashed .303/.340/.425 for an OPS+ of 130. He wasn’t the best player on the team, but he helped add to Detroit’s already powerful arsenal.
According to the Detroit Wolverines article at Wikipedia, its owner was trying some shenanigans. “In 1885, new owner Frederick Kimball Stearns began spending heavily in an attempt to create a ‘super-team’ by buying high-priced players. Most notably, he purchased the entire Buffalo Bisons franchise that August, to secure the services of its stars: Dan Brouthers, Jack Rowe, Hardy Richardson, and Deacon White, the so-called ‘Big Four’. This strategy quickly met resistance from his fellow owners, who changed the league’s rules governing the splitting of gate receipts, reducing the visiting team’s maximum share to $125 per game. Detroit was not yet the Motor City, and its population was too small to support a highly paid team. The Wolverines’ home gate receipts were not sufficient to sustain their payroll, and Stearns was forced to sell his stars to other clubs.”
.351, 11 HR, 61 RBI, 3-0, 4.50 ERA, 5 K
5th Time All-Star-For the first time in his career, Richardson made an All-Star team two years in a row and also made one in an even-numbered year. It’s Old True Blue’s fifth All-Star team and he’s now made one at four different positions (3B, CF, 2B, and LF). This season was Richardson’s best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR (7.0), fifth in WAR Position Players (7.0), and fourth in Offensive WAR (6.4). At the plate, he slashed .351/.402/.504 for an OPS+ of 173. All four of those numbers are career highs.
Richardson did something that has only been done four times in all of the history of baseball this season, and never since the live-ball era. He led the league in singles and home runs. The only others to do it were Nap Lajoie in the American League in 1901, Ty Cobb in the American League in 1909, and Dave Robertson in the National League in 1916. It was a little easier to do it when home runs weren’t as plentiful. Richardson ripped 11 home runs, Lajoie launched 14, Cobb crushed nine, and Robertson rocked 12.
My guess for Richardson is he has one or two more All-Star seasons left and is not going to make the ONEHOF. As for the real Hall of Fame, Old True Blue got 1.3 percent of the votes from the veterans committee in 1936. As the years roll on, it will get more difficult to make my One-A-Year Hall of Fame, in which only one player can make the Hall of Fame each year. If Richardson had started his career earlier, there’s a chance he would have made it.
.304, 6 HR, 63 RBI
Bases on Balls-102 (3rd Time)
7th Time All-Star-Gore made the All-Star team for the seventh consecutive time and was the league’s best centerfielder. He was part of the crew that led Chicago to another league title. Yet he was 32 years old and he played his last season with the White Stockings. Gore might have also made his last All-Star team.
For this season, Gore finished seventh in WAR Position Players (4.5) and eighth in Offensive WAR (4.6). He slashed .304/.434(highest ever)/.444 for an OPS+ of 154. But after seven consecutive seasons of having an Adjusted OPS+ of 138 or higher, it will dip significantly next season.
In the World Series, Gore didn’t produce up to his standards, going four-for-23 with a home run and three walk. After the loss to the American Association Browns in the Series, Wikipedia says, “In the aftermath of the St. Louis series, there were not only charges of drunkenness among many of the players, but also allegations that players intentionally lost games for money, known then as “hippodroming“.King Kelly had the reputation as being the hardest drinker, as well as the having the most active social life, which management tolerated due to his stellar play. However, that meant instilling discipline in the other players, who used Kelly as an example, was extremely difficult. On November 24, 1886, Gore was the first to go, when he was sold to the New York Giants for approximately $3,500. Writer Henry Chadwick said Gore ‘cannot play in harmony with Captain and Manager Anson, and Mr. Spalding has wisely released a discontented player whose skill as a fielder, batter, and base runner was offset by his unpleasant relations with the team captain.’”
.312, 9 HR, 56 RBI
9th Time All-Star-After eight years on Providence, Hines was obtained by Washington after the Grays folded. He continued to be productive in what was now his 15th year of Major League baseball. Hines finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.1) and seventh in Offensive WAR (4.9). He slashed .312/.358/462 for an OPS+ of 157, his highest adjusted OPS+ since his 177 in 1879. I’ve been writing about Hines for so long now, it’s incredible to me he’s only 31-years-old as this point.
In the early days of baseball, things seemed to happen so fast. I’m not talking about all of the firsts or the records, but how quickly things could change. In 1884, the Providence Grays were the National League champions. After the 1885 season, due to financial problems, they folded. This happened frequently in 1800s, so give credit to the National League that it stayed solid enough to last for 140 years and running.
Here’s some anecdotes from Baseball Reference: “In 1885, it was reported that Hines had accepted the challenge to catch a ball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument but this was canceled a week later.
“He lost some hearing after being hit in the head by a pitch from Jim Whitney in 1886 according to a source published 49 years later.” On his hearing loss, I did write something about that in an earlier blurb that I’m too lazy to look up, but it seems to me he had lost some hearing long before 1886.
.309, 1 HR, 34 RBI
10th Time All-Star-Remember when I said in O’Rourke’s 1885 write-up it would probably be his last All-Star team? Fuhgeddaboudit! He’s back! He slashed .309/.365/402 for an OPS+ of 131. He’s certainly having quite a run here towards the end of his career.
The National League had its share of good first basemen, people like Cap Anson and Dan Brouthers, but it also has quite a few good centerfielders, like George Gore, Paul Hines, and O’Rourke. The NL didn’t have a lot of great outfielders, but the ones that did perform well tended to be in centerfield.
O’Rourke incredibly played minor league ball until he well-advanced in age. SABR says, “Baseball was not the only thing taking a smaller place in Jim O’Rourke’s life. His children were now mostly married and out of the house. So was his mother, Catherine O’Donnell O’Rourke, who had died in 1907, aged about 85. But the real blow came on June 14, 1910, when Annie, Jim’s wife of 38 years, died from the lingering complications of a fall. A year later that loss was compounded by the death of brother John, felled by a heart attack while handling baggage on a Boston railway platform. Jim endeavored to fill the void by remaining engaged in the affairs of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players and the Connecticut State League. And on September 14, 1912, Connecticut State League president O’Rourke donned the pads a final time, catching nine innings for the New Haven Wings in a game against Waterbury. He was then 62 years old.” Read SABR’s whole article on the incredible life of Orator Jim.
.388, 4 HR, 79 RBI
1886 NL Batting Title
Batting Average-.388 (2nd Time)
On-Base%-.483 (2nd Time)
Runs Scored-155 (3rd Time)
Times On Base-258 (2nd Time)
Offensive Win %-.878 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-King had his best season ever and also was part of his fifth league title, all for the White Stockings. He finished fifth in WAR (7.3), second in WAR Position Players (7.3), and second in Offensive WAR (7.5). He slashed .388/.483/.534 for an OPS+ of 193. All four of those numbers would be career highs. In the World Series against the American Association St. Louis Browns, Kelly didn’t perform as well as he did the previous year, going five-for24 with a home run. Chicago lost the Series, 4-2.
More on Kelly’s, um, competiveness from Baseball Reference: “’His convenient way of forgetting that there is a third bag in the circuit has astonished many base ball enthusiasts. . . John Morrill broke into a laugh and said: — “Kelly gets caught sometimes. We were playing in Chicago one day when he tried to cut off third. I did not see him although I was covering first, but I happened to look at Billy Hawes, who was umpiring, and he was pointing at Kelly and laughing as hard as he could. That was the first I knew that anything was wrong. Billy Hawes was too smart for him, and he was so amused to think that he had caught Kelly in one of his tricks, that all he could do was to dance up down and to poke fun at him.” ‘ – Sporting Life of Feb. 3, 1886, in which George Wright and John Morrill swapped stories about Mike Kelly.”
.310, 8 HR, 89 RBI
Double Plays Turned as OF-11
1st Time All-Star-Samuel Luther “Big Sam” Thompson was born on March 5, 1860 in Danville, IL and was on his way to a Hall of Fame career. This season, he finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.1), slashing .310/.355/.445 for an OPS+ of 141. It was his second year with Detroit and he, in addition to “The Big Four,” would provide great hitting to the Wolverines for numerous years.
Big Sam lived up to his nickname. The left-handed hitter stood six-foot-two, 207 pounds, gigantic for the time he played. He came right into the Major Leagues hitting. In 1885, his first season, he slashed .303/.344/.500 for an OPS+ of 171. He would have probably made the All-Star team, but only played 63 games. Thompson’s hitting will always be his top asset to the game. That and that sweet, sweet mustache!
How did Detroit acquire Thompson? Chicanery, of course! From Wikipedia: “Thompson later told the colorful story of his acquisition by Detroit. Detroit sent two representatives (Marsh and Maloney) to Indianapolis, principally to sign the Hoosiers’ battery of Larry McKeon and Jim Keenan. The Wolverines were outbid by the Cincinnati Reds for McKeon and Keenan but wound up with the Hoosiers’ manager (Bill Watkins) and the rest of the team’s starting lineup. The only catch was that a 10-day waiting period would allow other teams to outbid Detroit. Marsh and Maloney promptly sent the players to Detroit and quartered them in a hotel there. The next morning, the players were told that the team had arranged a fishing trip for them. The players boarded the steamship Annette and enjoyed the first day and night of successful fishing. After three days, the players became suspicious, but the ship captain laughed when asked when they would return to Detroit. As the players became mutinous on the sixth day, the captain admitted he had been ordered to keep them ‘out at sea’ for 10 days.”