P-Matt Kilroy, BAL
P-Mike Smith, CIN
P-Toad Ramsey, LOU
P-Tony Mullane, CIN
P-Ed Seward, PHA
P-Silver King, STL
P-Bob Gilks, CLE
P-Al Mays, NYP
P-Adonis Terry, BRO
C-Chris Fulmer, BAL
C-Sam Trott, BAL
1B-John Reilly, CIN
1B-Tommy Tucker, BAL
2B-Yank Robinson, STL
2B-Bid McPhee, CIN
2B-Reddy Mack, LOU
3B-Denny Lyons, PHA
3B-Jumbo Davis, BAL
3B-Arlie Latham, STL
SS-Oyster Burns, BAL
SS-Frank Fennelly, CIN
LF-Tip O’Neill, STL
LF-Harry Stovey, PHA
CF-Pete Browning, LOU
RF-Bob Caruthers, STL
46-19, 3.07 ERA, 217 K, .247, 0 HR, 25 RBI
Wins Above Replacement-11.9
WAR for Pitchers-10.8
Games Pitched-69 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-589 1/3
Games Started-69 (2nd Time)
Complete Games-66 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-69 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-157 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-There were still certain teams which pitched their players to death and the Orioles were one of them. For the second consecutive season, Kilroy pitched over 580 innings. The little man, standing at five-foot-seven and weighing in at 175 pounds, also had his best season ever. He finished first in WAR (11.9) and first in WAR for Pitchers (10.8). He pitched a league-leading 589 1/3 innings while garnering a 3.07 ERA and a 133 ERA+.
As for the Orioles, Manager Bald Billy Barnie, coaching his fifth season with Baltimore, led it to a third place finish with a 77-58 record. If you do the math, you see it went 46-19 in games pitched by Kilroy and 31-38 in the others.
Here’s SABR’s report of Kilroy’s 1887 season: “In 1887 the American Association instituted a rule requiring four strikes for a strikeout, and the number of strikeouts declined dramatically, but Kilroy’s effectiveness increased. He led the league with 46 wins and 66 complete games. He also topped the circuit in shutouts and finished second in strikeouts, third in won-lost percentage, and fourth in WHIP (walks and hits allowed per nine innings pitched). Most remarkable was his 46-19 record with a club that was 31-37 in games in which Kilroy was not the pitcher of record. This performance earned him the highest weighted rating (16,900) and the most Faber System points (138) ever attained by a pitcher of his tender years. His 46 wins is still the single-season record for a left-handed pitcher. The 75 wins he accumulated in his first two major-league seasons remain a record to this day.”
34-17, 2.94 ERA, 176 K, .253, 0 HR, 23 RBI
1887 AA Pitching Title
Earned Run Average-2.94
Hits Per 9 IP-8.048
Adjusted Pitching Runs-72
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.1
1st Time All-Star-Elmer Ellsworth “Mike” Smith was born on March 23, 1868 in Pittsburgh, PA. The five-foot-11, 178 pound pitcher started his career with Cincinnati in 1886, before becoming its ace pitcher this season. He had his best season ever, finishing third in WAR (10.6) and second in WAR for Pitchers (10.1). He pitched a very reasonable 447 1/3 innings with a league-leading 2.94 ERA and 148 ERA+.
As for my Red Stockings, Gus Schmelz took over the reins and managed the team to a second place finish, with an 81-54 record. Their pitching, led by Smith, was outstanding, but their hitting couldn’t keep up with the Browns. Surprisingly, Cincinnati didn’t struggle against St. Louis, going 12-6 against them. (Is that how far back I have to go in history for the Reds to beat the Cardinals?) They did have a losing record against third-place Baltimore and fourth-place Louisville.
For the era in which he managed, Schmelz had a fairly long career, coaching 11 seasons with six different teams. He coached the Columbus Buckeyes to a second place 69-39 record in 1884 and then would have three good seasons with Cincinnati, but the rest of his seasons weren’t as successful. He never did lead a team to a title.
After this season, Smith would slowly start pitching less and would eventually be a position player. Maybe it’s because he threw over 447 innings as a 19-year-old. He’d move to leftfield for the most part and will probably make a couple of All-Star teams there.
37-27, 3.43 ERA, 355 K, .191, 0 HR, 24 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-5.695
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-2.126
Fielding Independent Pitching-3.20 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-31
2nd Time All-Star-After his incredible 1886 season, Ramsey settled down, going only 37-27 after going 38-27 the year before and only pitching 561 innings instead of the 588 2/3 he pitched the previous season. See, he’s a whole different pitcher. Still, the Toad finished fourth in WAR (7.7) and third in WAR for Pitchers (8.2.). In those 561 innings, Ramsey had a 3.43 ERA and a 128 ERA+.
Led by the arm of Ramsey and the coaching of Kick Kelly in his first year, the Colonels finished in fourth place with a 76-60 record.
Here’s Wikipedia’s report on Ramsey’s 1887 season: “Ramsey had a similar 1887 season, pitching 561 innings and winning 37 games. His 355 strikeouts led the American Association, while his 561 innings pitched, 64 games started, and 61 complete games, were all second in the league to [Matt] Kilroy. Unfortunately, his dominant years stopped after that season, and his fortunes changed for the worse beginning during the 1888 season. His win–loss record was 8–30 in 40 starts. On July 25, 1888, Ramsey was arrested for not paying an overdue bar bill.”
The Sports Daily said Ramsey was the first person to bring up the concept of BABIP (batting average on balls in play): “The final proof that Toad Ramsey may indeed have been baseball’s equivalent of Nikola Tesla and/or was some kind of baseball terminator was his belief in BABIP.
“’If I yield up a groover and the fellow at bat gives it a slap and it goes to short, who fields it to first in time, why is that an out for the baseman and an assist for the shortstop, and all right for me, in a manner of speaking. But look at you – if that shortstop had been playing a slightly different position, and the ball had got by him, it would have counted as a hit off me. That’s funny as after the ball left my hands I had no further control over it.’”
31-17, 3.24 ERA, 97 K, .221, 3 HR, 23 RBI
Shutouts-6 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-If I would have been a Reds fan in 1887 when I was (minus)-77 years old, I would have got to see one of the Reds’ all-time greats in Mullane. Even nowadays, he’s 17th on Cincinnati in all-time WAR with 39. And no one beats the nickname of Apollo of the Box. This season, he continued his dominant pitching, finishing fifth in WAR (7.6) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (7.1). He pitched 416 1/3 innings, his lowest since his rookie year, with a 3.24 ERA and a 134 ERA+. Looking at his overall stats and the remainder of his career, he could definitely be ONEHOF-bound.
What he isn’t, however, is in the real Hall of Fame, because of many years spent in the American Association. The Hall of Fame sure is picky, isn’t it? No gamblers, no American Associationers, no steroids users! C’mon, it’s just baseball!
Hardball Times has this to say about his 1887 season, “He had no interest in accepting less than what he believed he was worth, and no compunction about telling others where they could stick it. In 1887, he informed his manager that he didn’t want to pitch a game against Brooklyn because ‘I don’t intend to do any more work than the other pitchers.’ His manager fined him $100 and suspended him indefinitely, although the dispute was smoothed over before the end of the month, and he still managed to win 31 games that year.” Should someone pitching 416 innings complain about being overused?
25-25, 4.13 ERA, 155 K, .188, 5 HR, 28 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Edward William “Ed” Seward, born Edward William Sourhardt, was born on June 29, 1867 in Cleveland, OH. He pitched one game with the 1885 National League Providence Grays, pitching six innings and allowing no runs, but didn’t play Major League ball again until this season. His 4.13 ERA doesn’t look too good, but the league average was 4.29. Seward finished sixth in WAR (7.1) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.4), tossing 470 2/3 innings pitched with a 102 ERA+. If you were going to have a so-so year in pitching, this was the season and the league to do it.
As for the Athletics, Frank Bancroft (26-29) and Charlie Mason (38-40) led them to a fifth place 64-69 season. Bancroft managed multiple teams over his career, but this would be the only managing stint for Mason.
Seward wasn’t a big man, being five-foot-seven and 175 pounds, but he would still lead the league in strikeouts in 1888 (Spoiler Alert!) He wasn’t going to have much of a career, but his 25 wins as a rookie this season still ranks as one of the high marks of all-time.
There have been a lot of Philadelphia teams, but this one isn’t the one that would eventually become the Phillies, nor the one which would eventually become the A’s. It only has three seasons left of existence, despite an over-.500 lifetime mark. Seward is actually second on this team all-time in WAR, behind only the great Harry Stovey. Most of Seward’s success came in two seasons.
32-12, 3.78 ERA, 128 K, .207, 0 HR, 19 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Charles Frederick “Silver” King, born Charles Frederick Koenig, was born on January 11, 1868 in St. Louis, MO. He started in 1886, pitching five games for the National League Kansas City Cowboys, before coming over to the great Browns this season, where, as a rookie, he was their dominant pitcher. And there’s better years to come. As for this season, King finished ninth in WAR (5.6) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (6.2). He pitched 390 innings with a 3.78 ERA and a 119 ERA+.
The Browns won their third of four consecutive league titles, finishing 95-40. Charlie Comiskey led them to the title again as he proved to be one of the best managers of all-time. We forget that because we only know him as the skinflint which caused the Black Sox to throw the 1919 World Series.
Speaking of the World Series, St. Louis lost 10-5 to the National League’s Detroit Wolverines. King pitched in four of the games, going 1-3 with a 2.03 ERA.
“King was an unusual pitcher for his time. Gripping the ball with unusually large hands, he delivered the ball without a windup. He also was one of the first pitchers in major league history to employ a sidearm delivery…His strong fastball enabled him to become a notable strikeout artist; he finished among the league’s top 10 in that category six times.”
7-5, 3.08 ERA, 28 K, .313, 0 HR, 13 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Robert James “Bob” Gilks was born on July 2, 1864 in Cincinnati, OH. The five-foot-eight, 178 pound hurler picked a good year to debut as making the All-Star team as a pitcher this season wasn’t too difficult. Still, Gilks had his best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR for Pitchers (2.7), pitching 108 innings with a 3.08 ERA and a 141 ERA+.
His team, the Blues, definitely sang the blues this season, as Jimmy Williams coached them to a last place 39-92 finish. Gilks would be the team’s only All-Star.
This team started its existence this season and would last until 1899, when, if you thought this season was bad, wait till that one! Still, they would introduce one of the greatest players of all-time. He’s a pitcher. He has an award named after him. Well, that’s going to be a few years down the road.
Wikipedia says, “The Spiders first fielded a team in the American Association (then a major league) in 1887. At the time, they were known as the Cleveland Forest Citys or Cleveland Blues. The team was organized by Frank Robison, who eventually brought his brother Stanley aboard to help run the club.”
Here’s Baseball Reference on Gilks: “Bob Gilks tried just about everything on a ballfield. He had a playing career that lasted from 1885 to 1909. He also managed in the minors between 1903 and 1914 and umpired in the South Atlantic League in 1910. Gilks also scouted for the Cleveland Indians (1911-1913), New York Yankees (1914-1926, 1929), and Boston Braves (1928).”
17-34, 4.73 ERA, 124 K, .204, 2 HR, 23 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Albert C. “Al” Mays was born on May 17, 1865 in Canal Dover, OH. He started as a pitcher for the Louisville Colonels in 1885 before moving over to the Metropolitans. He had his best season ever, finishing 10th in WAR for Pitchers (2.6), pitching 441 1/3 innings with a 4.73 ERA and a 89 ERA+. It’s probably his last All-Star team.
If New York is giving 441 innings to a pitcher with a 4.73 ERA, you’re probably guessing they didn’t do too well and I say to you, huzzah for your wisdom! Bob Ferguson (6-24), Dave Orr (3-5), and Ollie Caylor (35-60) led the team to a 44-89 seventh place finish. Mays was New York’s only All-Star. The city of New York would have a much better Mays in the future.
And thus ends the run of the Metropolitans. They won a pennant in 1884, but finished seventh their last three seasons. Wikipedia writes of the team’s demise, “Prior to the 1886 season, Day and Mutrie sold the Mets to Erastus Wiman who moved the team to cricket grounds on Staten Island in hopes of promoting ferry trade across New York harbor. This business plan did not succeed, though, and the Mets ceased operation following the 1887 season. The team was bought by the Brooklyn Dodgers to gain territorial protection and the contracts of several of the Mets’ stars, including Dave Orr and Darby O’Brien. The current minor league Staten Island Yankees play in a stadium very near the cricket ground used by the Mets.”
16-16, 4.02 ERA, 138 K, .293, 3 HR, 65 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-As my regular reader (sic) know, players can make the All-Star teams in the following manners: be the best player on their team; be either one of two catchers, an infielder, or one of three outfielders; or just be a great player who didn’t make it in the other manners. Terry would have never made the All-Star team this season if he wasn’t the best the Grays had to offer. Still, he did manage to pitch 318 innings with a 4.02 ERA and a 107 ERA+. Not to mention, on a bad team, he had a .500 record. It’s not exactly Steve Carlton’s 1972, but it’s not terrible.
Charlie Byrne led Brooklyn to a 60-74 sixth place finish in the American Association. Terry was the only All-Star for the team. It was Byrne’s last year managing.
I put Terry in as a pitcher, but he could’ve also been an All-Star in the outfield. He played 49 games and 425 innings in the outfield, playing 33 in right, 12 in left, and four in center. Terry wasn’t the greatest hitter, slashing .293/.323/.392 for an OPS+ of 96, but he would eventually get a little better. Yet for the most part, his career was spent on the mound. He has more All-Star games coming in the future.
From Greek Mythology, here’s some facts about Adonis:
“In Greek mythology, Adonis was the god of beauty and desire.
“Adonis died when he was attacked by a wild boar that was sent by Artemis, who was jealous of his hunting skills. A different version of the myth has it that the boar was sent by Ares, as he was the lover of Aphrodite. When he died, Aphrodite poured nectar over his blood, and the flower anemone emerged.”
.269, 0 HR, 32 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-I never would have though Fulmer had another All-Star team in him, but look at me, always wrong! Fulmer was just one of two Baltimore catchers to make this team. Have patience, you can read about the other in a minute. Fulmer slashed .269/.382/.363 for an OPS+ of 113. Speaking of having patience, that was Fulmer’s specialty, as he was one of the great walkers of his time.
There used to be a rivalry between Baltimore and the Eastern Association Washington team. Here’s a highlight from DC Baseball History of a game they played in 1885: “Baltimore came for wool, but was shorn. Such, in brief, is the story of the contest at Capitol Park. Reinforced by Barr, the home team played a splendid game, and won by the errors which marked the visitors’ play an eight out of the nine innings. Since the season began Manager Barnie and his supporters in Baltimore have eloquently described how they would defeat the Nationals; but, like their predecessors of the League and American Associations, their scalps are now drying in the Nationals’ wigwam. The Baltimoreans were so confident that nearly 300 of them came over here with their pockets filled with money to invest upon their Orioles. They found ready takers, and they retired at 630PM with lighter pockets. The Washington Sunday Herald states that the crowd was announced at 3,000 spectators. The Washington National Republican estimated the crowd at 4,000. Outside the fumble by Jimmy Knowles the Nationals played a faultless game, their fielding being an improvement over that of several weeks ago. The fact that the fielding was better may be attributed to Barr being in the box. Chris Fulmer backed Barr up in splendid manner, considering the bad condition of his hands. Umpire Walsh. Time 1:45.”
.257, 0 HR, 37 RBI
Fielding % as C-.915
1st Time All-Star-Samuel W. “Sam” Trott was born in March, 1859 in Maryland. He actually started his career as a 21-year-old catcher for the Boston Red Stockings in 1880, moved to the Detroit Wolverines in 1881, and finally came to the Orioles in 1884. In a year and a league with very few good catchers, Trott finally made the All-Star team. He finished seventh in Defensive WAR (0.9), while at the bat, he slashed .257/.322/.330 for an OPS+ of 86. He’d actually hit very well in 1888, but didn’t play too many games, so I doubt he’ll make the All-Star team in that, his last year.
Wikipedia says of the beginning of Trott’s life, “Trott was born in Maryland in 1859. His father, Samuel E. Trott, was a Maryland native and a carpenter. His mother, Laura J. Trott, was also a Maryland native.”
And then of the end of his life: “By 1900, Trott was living with his wife Emma in Baltimore. They had two children then living with them, Bessie (born August 1890) and Samuel (born March 1900). Trott’s occupation was listed as a cigar salesman. Ten years later, Trott was still living in Baltimore with wife, Emma, and they by then had three children, Bessie, Samuel and Dorothy. His occupation in 1910 was traveling salesman. Trott died in Catonsville, Maryland, in June 1925 at the age of 66.”
Besides pitchers, it’s rare to have a team with two players making the All-Star team at the same position. Chris Fulmer was rated the higher catcher despite Trott catching more games.
.309, 10 HR, 96 RBI
Double Plays Turned as 1B-84 (5th Time)
3rd Time All-Star-Reilly is back on the All-Star team after missing it for the last two seasons. For some reason, Long John’s power took a hiatus, but this year it returned as he hit double digit homers for the second time. Altogether this year, Reilly finished seventh in WAR Position Players (3.5) and slashed .309/.352/.477 for an OPS+ of 127. It wasn’t his greatest season, but he was still the American Association’s best first baseman.
SABR has an excellent article on Reilly. Here’s a snippet: “A free-swinging hitter who rarely walked and had difficulty adjusting his big swing to the bunting and place hitting that came into fashion during the late 1880’s, Reilly nevertheless recorded consistently high batting averages. He had a strong throwing arm and, while a man of his size would hardly be a speed demon, with his long legs he covered ground rapidly enough and appeared repeatedly on contemporary lists of the Reds’ most effective base runners. In a day when most home runs were hit inside the park, his high totals for homers as well as triples testify to his speed as well as his power. He maintained the superior defensive skills that had kept him in the major leagues before his hitting had matured. In later years he would claim to have originated the practice of first basemen playing away from the bag, a distinction that was more frequently attributed to his contemporary, Charlie Comiskey of the St. Louis Browns. In fact, though, this practice had been followed sporadically for many years before Comiskey’s and Reilly’s time.”
.275, 6 HR, 84 RBI
Hit By Pitch-29
Def. Games as 1B-136
Putouts as 1B-1,346
Errors Committed as 1B-35
1st Time All-Star-Thomas Joseph “Tommy” or “Foghorn” Tucker was born on October 28, 1863 in Holyoke, MA and had a tremendous rookie year. He finished ninth in Defensive WAR (0.8) and has some good seasons ahead. From the beginning, Tucker was good at taking one for the team. This would be one of five seasons he would lead the league in being hit by pitches. Altogether, he would finish in the top 10 in that category 11 times and be plunked 272 times in his career, behind only Hughie Jennings and Craig Biggio. However, Tucker (13 seasons) played considerably less than Jennings (18 seasons) and Biggio (20 seasons).
As someone who grew up under the tutelage of Bill James’ Baseball Abstract, I learned about the defensive spectrum, which shows that there are tougher defensive positions than others on the field, with shortstop being the most difficult and first base being the easiest. I don’t know if WAR cares about the defensive spectrum, but it’s always a surprise to me when a first sacker makes the top 10 of dWAR, like Tucker did. He must have had quite a glove.
Speaking of his fielding, Wikipedia says, “He was a flashy first baseman in an era when using two hands was normal, making one-handed scoops of wild throws and pick-ups with his small glove, in contrast to the big-sized gloves employed by today’s first basemen.
.305, 1 HR, 74 RBI, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 0 K
2nd Time All-Star-Robinson continued to be one of the reasons the Browns won the American Association pennant year after year. As the best second baseman in the young league, he finished sixth in WAR Position Players (3.5) and sixth in Offensive WAR (3.7). In the regular season, Yank slashed .305/.445/.405 for an OPS+ of 128. He was one of baseball’s first great walkers. In the World Series against Detroit, Robinson slashed .326/.446/.478 in a losing effort.
Here’s Wikipedia on Robinson’s penchant for walking: “During his peak years from 1887 to 1890, Robinson drew 472 free passes (427 walks and 45 times hit by pitch) and 400 hits in 2,115 plate appearances, giving him a ‘free pass’ percentage of .223 and an on-base percentage of .412. His Offensive WAR ratings of 3.8, 3.7 and 3.6 ranked sixth in the American Association in 1886 and 1887 and eighth in 1888.”
Nowadays, of course, walks are well-regarded, even worshiped by pagans. But there have always been those who understood the value of the base on ball. Getting on base is better than making outs; that should be obvious. Yet there’s still something psychologically wrong about watching a batter take pitches instead of going up there hacking. I’d much rather watch Mike Trout take a shot at the long ball rather than watching him jog down to first, though I know the walk is more valuable than a whiff.
So without written records, we don’t know how the fans in the beginning days of baseball liked watching batters walk. Before the sabermetric days, walks were the pitcher’s fault and not due to the caginess of the hitter.
.289, 2 HR, 87 RBI
Assists as 2B-434 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-76 (6th Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-6.95 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-6.79 (3rd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-McPhee, the gloveless wonder, continued to be a defensive wiz for the Red Stockings, finishing second in Defensive WAR (1.2). He also finished eighth in WAR Position Players (3.4), slashing .289/360/.407 for an OPS+ of 111. The Reds would have better second basemen, like Joe Morgan, but you have to appreciate someone like McPhee who did so well for so long.
I was never alive for the days where people could hit 19 triples on a regular basis. Oh, it still happens once in a while—Jose Reyes just hit 19 in 2008—but it’s not a common thing anymore and, as of this writing, that was eight years ago. From 1884-through-1906, the leading triple hitter had 19 or more. The record at this time was Dave Orr, who hit 31 in 1886.
Back to McPhee’s fielding, SABR says, “Earlier in McPhee’s career, ‘batsmen’ were permitted to choose whether they wanted the pitcher to deliver a high or low ball. As a result, McPhee and other infielders found it relatively easy to tell where the ball would be hit. When this practice was ended in 1887, McPhee used his skills and knowledge to determine proper positioning for each batter. Also, because of the efforts of McPhee and two of his outstanding contemporaries, Fred Pfeffer and Fred Dunlap, the position of second baseman evolved in the 1880s from one of playing directly on or near the bag to placing themselves to the left, ranging towards first.” And remember, this was all without a glove.
.308, 1 HR, 69 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Joseph “Reddy” Mack, born Joseph McNamara, was born on May 2, 1866, exactly 100 years before my brother, Rob, in Ireland. (Rob wasn’t born in Ireland, just in case you were wondering). The Irishman started as a 19-year-old for Louisville in 1885, learned how to draw walks in 1886, and made the All-Star team, probably his last, in 1887. He slashed .308/.415/.395 for an OPS+ of 124. As you can see, he didn’t have much power. After this season, he’s also going to lose his ability to hit for average. But Mack, you have nothing to be ashamed of, many players before you have made only one All-Star team and they are very proud of that accomplishment. Oh, wait, all of them are dead, never mind.
Despite the fact that the American Association was in its sixth season, it still had a lack of consistency in keeping players around. The National League had great stability. Only four of the 25 players on its All-Star team made the team for the first time and two players, Cap Anson and Jim O’Rourke, have been All-Stars for double-digits seasons. The AA has 11 players making the team for the first time and the most All-Star teams for it is from Harry Stovey, who has made six so far.
So you will have many people like Reddy Mack (who is so glad Chris Berman wasn’t born yet so he didn’t have to go around with the moniker “Helen” Reddy Mack or Reddy “Set, Go” Mack) who have an occasional good season, but fade out after that.
.367, 6 HR, 102 RBI
Def. Games as 3B-137
Putouts as 3B-255
Double Plays Turned as 3B-29
1st Time All-Star-Dennis Patrick Aloysius “Denny” Lyons was born on March 12, 1866 in Cincinnati, OH, the baseball capital of the world! (Editor: Check this). He started by playing four games for the National League Providence Grays in 1885, before moving to Philadelphia the next season, where he will be for a while. Another place he’ll be for a stretch of time is right here on the All-Star teams. He’s going to have a good career that will end at the age of 31.
This season, Lyons, the best third baseman in the league, finished 10th in WAR (5.1), third in WAR Position Players (5.1), and fourth in Offensive WAR (5.8). At the dish, he slashed .367/.421/.523 for an OPS+ of 162. According to Baseball Reference, “Lyons reached base by hit or walk in 52 consecutive games in 1887.” He’s got one better hitting season coming up, but you’ll have to wait just like everybody else.
Since Hick Carpenter was the top third baseman in the American Association at its start in 1882 and 1883, the AA hasn’t had anyone be the top at that position for more than one year. In 1884, it was Dude Esterbrook; in 1885, it was Frank Hankinson; in 1886, it was Arlie Latham; and in 1887, it was Lyons. D.P.A. Lyons is going to be around for a while.
.309, 8 HR, 109 RBI
1st Time All-Star-James J. “Jumbo” Davis was born on September 5, 1861 in New York, NY. When you have someone nicknamed “Jumbo,” the first thing to check is his vital stats. He’s five-foot-11, 195 pounds. That’s big, but not jumbo. Well, maybe for his time. He had his best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR Position Players (3.3) and seventh in Offensive WAR (3.5). Davis slashed .309/.353/.485 for an OPS+ of 137. He also tied for the league lead in triples. How many times does someone named Jumbo lead the league in triples? It should be mentioned Dave Orr, who was the same height as Davis but weighed 250 pounds, holds the record at this time for triples with 31. Why wasn’t Orr nicknamed Jumbo?
Davis is yet another one of those players who had one season which was an aberration from the rest of his career. He’d never have a full season again in which he slugged over .400 or hit over .300. His 19 triples this season was over half of his seven-year career total (37).
He’d finish his career bouncing around the American Association, from Kansas City to St. Louis to Brooklyn to Washington. Davis died at the age of 59 in St. Louis on Valentine’s Day of 1921. He is the first of many Davises who will be making this All-Star team over the years.
.316, 2 HR, 83 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-Latham, the crazy, fun-loving third baseman continued to bring joy to others, play on a winning team, and make All-Star teams. This season, he finished 10th in WAR Position Players (3.3) and second in Defensive WAR (1.2). At the plate, Latham slashed .316/.366/.413 for an OPS+ of 108. In the World Series, he slashed .293/.388/.310 with 15 stolen bases. In the regular season, Latham stole 129 bases, second in the league to Cincinnati rightfielder Hugh Nicol, who swiped 138.
Of those steals, Wikipedia says, “Latham stole 129 bases during the 1887 season. His career total of 742 ranks seventh all-time in the majors. As a player-coach for the 1909 Giants, Latham at age 49 became the oldest MLB player to steal a base…This record is not recognized by Major League Baseball, as stolen bases were defined differently prior to 1898.”
SABR always has amusing stories about Latham, like this one: “Arlie’s great gymnastic ability paid off from time to time. During one game Arlie laid down a bunt and the opposing team’s first baseman, a big man, was in the baseline with the ball waiting to tag Arlie. Suddenly Arlie did a complete somersault over the startled first baseman and came down safely on the bag. Arlie and the St. Louis team were a pugnacious lot and were greatly encouraged by [St. Louis Browns Owner] Von der Ahe to intimidate the other teams. When the league fined them, which was often, Von der Ahe would pay off the fines.”
.341, 9 HR, 99 RBI, 1-0, 9.53 ERA, 2 K
1st Time All-Star-Thomas P. “Oyster” Burns was born on September 6, 1864 in Philadelphia, PA. He started his Major League career with the Union Association Wilmington Quicksteps in 1884, playing two games for them before moving on to the Orioles that same year. This was his best season ever as he finished fourth in WAR Position Players (5.0) and second in Offensive WAR (6.1). Despite 1887 being his crowning achievement, he’ll be around these lists for a while.
At the plate, Burns slashed .341/.414/.519 for an OPS+ of 164. It would be his highest on-base percentage, slugging average, and Adjusted OPS+ of his whole career, all at the age of 22.
Wikipedia tells us why Burns didn’t play in the 1886 season: “His offensive struggles led him to be demoted to the Newark Domestics for the 1886 season, where he helped the Domestics win the Eastern League pennant.”
However, still from Wikipedia, Burns didn’t seem much fun to be around. Here’s a quote from an anonymous teammate of Burns on the Orioles: “He was a disturber and one of the worst that ever played ball. His disposition was very bad, and he made it unpleasant for any of the boys that crested him. He is what you would call a bulldozer. [Bridegrooms manager Bill] McGunnigle may be able to handle Burns, but I doubt it.” Well, we’ve all worked with people like that, haven’t we?
And one last tidbit from Wikipedia: “By 1887, Burns had reentered the majors for the Orioles and became the team captain until he threw a baseball at an opposing pitcher following a groundout; he was later fined $25 ($658 in 2011).”
.266, 8 HR, 97 RBI
Errors Committed as SS-99 (2nd Time)
4th Time All-Star-Fennelly made his fourth consecutive All-Star team, finishing ninth in Offensive WAR (3.0) and 10th in Defensive WAR (0.8) and he’s probably got one or two teams left in him. He certainly was the crown jewel at shortstop for the American Association for a stretch of time here and one of the first great players of my Cincinnati Reds, but heck if I knew him before I started doing this webpage.
The great shortstop would never win a league title and this year is as close as he got as the Red Stockings finished in second place. It’s the old argument, can you be a great player but not win titles? Ask Mike Trout.
This is Fennelly’s last full season with the Red Stockings. He would start with them in 1888, but be traded to Philadelphia late in the season. His hitting is really going to take a fall next season. As it is, his OPS+ in 1885 was 141, in 1886 was 127, and then this season, he slashed .266/.369/.401 for and OPS+ of 112. It’d continue to fall, his Adjusted OPS+ being only 83 in 1888.
During Fennelly’s whole career with the Red Stockings, he played in a neutral hitters’ park, League Park, so it’s not like a change of park affected him. Maybe, looking above, you see that he led the league in strikeouts and your conclusion is he started striking out too much. You might be right, because you’re very smart. But we have no tracking of strikeouts before 1887, so it’s possible Fennelly was whiffing frequently even in previous seasons.
.435, 14 HR, 123 RBI
1887 AA Batting Title
1887 AA Triple Crown
WAR Position Players-6.9
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.180
Runs Batted In-123 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-82
Adj. Batting Wins-7.8
Extra Base Hits-85
Offensive Win %-.907
AB per HR-36.9
2nd Time All-Star-Once in a while, you run into one of these seasons, where one hitter or one pitcher so dominates the league. Look at all those categories O’Neill led in. I don’t have to give his slash numbers because he was tops in all of them. I don’t have to give his Adjusted OPS+, because he finished first in that, too. I will tell you after a good 1886 World Series, Tip couldn’t keep up his great hitting in the 1887 version, slashing .200/.200/.308 as the Browns lost to the Wolverines.
According to Wikipedia, “His batting average was originally recorded at .492, bases on balls having been counted as hits during that season. At the time of his death in 1915, his unadjusted .492 average was recorded as the highest in major league history. Subsequently, batting averages for the 1887 season were adjusted by removing bases on balls from the calculations. Even after that adjustment, O’Neill’s 1887 batting average of .435 was a major league record until 1894 when Hugh Duffy established the current major league record by hitting .440. O’Neill’s adjusted average for 1887 remains the second highest single season batting average in major league history.”
As I write this, there is talk about baseball possibly limiting the number of pitcher changes allowed along with limiting the number of defensive shifts permitted. People look at those tweaks as abominations to the game of baseball, which has never changed. But the game changed all the time. In 1887, walks were counted in the batting average. I don’t know whether or not I agree with the changes, but I don’t think “the game is sacred and has never changed” is a good argument.
.286, 4 HR, 77 RBI
6th Time All-Star-Though I had Stovey at first base on the 1886 All-Star team, he actually played more outfield. This season, he’s on the team at leftfield for the first time. He has now made the team for the sixth consecutive year and has a good shot at making the ONEHOF (The One-a-Year Hall of Fame) someday. This season, Stovey slashed .286 (his lowest average in six years)/.366 (his lowest on-base percentage in four years)/.421 (his lowest slugging average in six years) for an OPS+ of 119 (his lowest Adjusted OPS+ in six years). This just shows how spectacular his career has been. Even with lower numbers, he still made the All-Star team.
In an article in philly.com in 1999 by writer Frank Fitzpatrick, he talks of Stovey being considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. I suggest you read it all, but here’s a little bit: “In the years after he left baseball, Harry Stow walked a beat in New Bedford, Mass. The policeman’s territory was the fishing city’s dingy waterfront. He broke up fights, arrested prostitutes, and, one hot summer day in 1901, rescued a drowning 7-year-old boy who had fallen between two wharves. By the time he retired in 1923, the gentlemanly Stow had been a police captain for eight years.
“He died at his daughter’s home in 1937 at 80. Until they read his obituary in the next morning’s newspaper, not many of New Bedford’s younger residents knew anything about this quiet cop’s remarkable past.” Is it possible there are superstars walking among us nowadays and we don’t know about it? I doubt that in this Twitter era.
.402, 4 HR, 118 RBI
Singles-165 (2nd Time)
Times on Base-283 (3rd Time)
Errors Committed as OF-46 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-It seems to me, reading over the past blurbs I’ve written of Browning, that more was written about his terrible defense than his amazing offense. But let’s not forget that great batting. This season, he finished eighth in WAR (6.0), second in WAR Position Players (6.0), and third in Offensive WAR (6.1). He slashed .402/.464/.547 for an OPS+ of 177. All of those categories rank second in the league behind the outstanding Tip O’Neill, except slugging, which ranks third.
Is the Louisville Slugger named after Browning? SABR says, “Of course the most widely know legend has to do with the Louisville Slugger line of bats. Browning was often referred to as the Louisville Slugger in his day. According to bat-maker Hillerich & Bradsby legend, the first custom made bat made by the now-famous firm was for Browning in 1884. This is most likely not true but it is part of baseball lore forever.” Their answer, probably not.
From a different SABR article, there’s this: “For nearly his entire life, Browning was plagued by mastoidal problems. The impact of this malady is significant. It robbed Browning of his hearing. Because he could not hear, he refused to go to school out of frustration and embarrassment; the lack of schooling made him a virtual illiterate. The resulting sense of isolation, coupled with the savage physical discomfort attendant to the condition, fueled his uncontrollable drinking. It also prompted his commitment to an insane asylum, and was a major factor in his early death –both the product of a brain infection. In short, the mastoiditis was responsible for all his personal and professional problems.” Sad.
.357, 8 HR, 73 RBI, 29-9, 3.30 ERA, 74 K
Win-Loss %-.763 (2nd Time)
Walks & Hits per IP-1.167
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-3.48
Range Factor/Game as P-3.38
Fielding % as P-.971
3rd Time All-Star-In 1887, Caruthers played 50 games in rightfield and pitched 39 games, so he’s on the All-Star team as a position player for the first time. However, it’s mainly his pitching that led to this incredible season. He finished second in WAR (11.0), sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.8), fifth in WAR Position Players (4.2), and fifth in Offensive WAR (4.0). Along with all of that, his team made the World Series again, where Parisian Bob started eight games on the mound, going 4-4 with a 2.15 ERA. At the plate, he wasn’t as valuable, slashing .239/.255/.239, much less than his regular season marks.
It was also his last season with the Browns. According to SABR, “In 1887, as they had each year since 1882, the champions of the American Association faced the National League titleholders in a postseason series. Billed as the World’s Championship Series, the contests were viewed as mere exhibition games by some of the players and with good reason. For example, the 1887 series consisted of 15 games between the Browns and the National League champion Detroit Wolverines, played in several different cities. One day the teams played a morning game in Washington and an afternoon encounter in Baltimore. In order to relieve the monotony of the travel and the meaningless (to them) games, some of the St. Louis players engaged in recreational activities that may have taken precedence over their preparations for baseball. At least that was the opinion of Chris von der Ahe, owner of the Browns. As Caruthers was an expert billiards and poker player as well as something of a carouser, the owner placed the onus on Parisian Bob for the loss of the series 10 games to 5. He put Caruthers on the market.”