P-Charlie Buffinton, PHI
P-Tim Keefe, NYG
P-Ben Sanders, PHI
P-Mickey Welch, NYG
P-Pete Conway, DTN
P-Gus Krock, CHC
P-Pud Galvin, PIT
P-Ed Morris, PIT
P-John Clarkson, BSN
P-Hank O’Day, WHS
C-King Kelly, BSN
C-Buck Ewing, NYG
C-Charlie Bennett, DTN
1B-Roger Connor, NYG
1B-Cap Anson, CHC
1B-Dan Brouthers, DTN
2B-Fred Pfeffer, CHC
3B-Billy Nash, BSN
3B-Deacon White, DTN
SS-Ned Williamson, CHC
SS-Jack Glasscock, IND
CF-Jimmy Ryan, CHC
CF-Dick Johnston, BSN
CF-Dummy Hoy, WHS
RF-Mike Tiernan, NYG
Wins Above Replacement-12.0
WAR for Pitchers-12.1
Putouts as P-31
Assists as P-122
Range Factor/9 Inn as P-3.44
Range Factor/Game as P-3.33
4th Time All-Star-After missing the All-Star team the last two seasons, Buffinton is back, baby! (I just like the alliteration.) He had an underwhelming year in 1886 and then was purchased by Philadelphia in April of 1887. Buffinton had a winning season that year, finishing 21-17, but had a 3.66 ERA. This season, he finished first in WAR (12.0) and first in WAR for Pitchers (12.1), throwing 400 1/3 innings with a 1.91 ERA and a 154 ERA+. It was his best season ever, but he’s still going to make this team a couple more times.
Not too many managers stuck around for even two or three years, but Quakers manager Harry Wright was now in his 18th season of coaching. This season, he led Philadelphia to a 69-61 record and a third place finish, 14-and-a-half games out of first.
The website, Not in the Hall of Fame, wonders if Buffinton should be there. It says of him, “Throughout his career, Buffinton relied on a particularly effective sinkerball and would fan 1,700 batters and win 233 games. He also finished with a career WAR of 56.1 which is another impressive career tally. Buffinton retired mid-season in 1892 at the age of 31, when he was asked to take a pay cut. Although he was having the worst season of his career (and the following season would have the mound pushed back ten feet), it is conceivable that Buffinton would have continued to add to his statistics that would have made him a Hall of Famer. As it stands now, he is one of many who are enjoying a renewed look at his career, and way back in a long line for a Veteran’s Committee to look at.”
35-12, 1.74 ERA, 335 K, .127, 2 HR, 8 RBI
1888 NL Pitching Title (3rd Time)
1888 NL Triple Crown
Earned Run Average-1.74 (3rd Time)
Wins-35 (2nd Time)
Walks & Hits per IP-0.937 (4th Time)
Hits per 9 IP-6.569 (5th Time)
Strikeouts per 9 IP-6.942 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts-335 (2nd Time)
Adjusted ERA+-156 (3rd Time)
Fielding Independent Pitching-1.89 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-48 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-5.0 (2nd Time)
9th Time All-Star-Smiling Tim made his ninth consecutive All-Star team with another dominant season. If I had a Cy Young vote back in 1888, I would have said, “Who’s Cy Young?” and then cast my ballot for Keefe. If pitching is judged by WAR, the crown would have gone to Charlie Buffinton. I’ll compare them in a bit, but first, here are the stats for Keefe: He finished second in WAR (9.1) and second in WAR for Pitchers (10.3). He pitched 434 1/3 innings pitched with a 1.74 ERA and a 156 ERA+. Another incredible season for this Hall of Fame (and ONEHOF) pitcher.
As for Keefe’s team, the Giants, they finally broke through and won the pennant. Jim Mutrie managed the team to an 84-47 record, nine games ahead of the always dangerous White Stockings. New York’s hitting wasn’t as good as the White Stockings or Wolverines, but it easily had the best pitching. In the World Series, the Giants won six games to four over the American Association St. Louis Browns. Keefe won four of those games, completing all of them, with a 0.51 ERA.
Let’s compare the 1888 seasons of Buffinton and Keefe. Keefe led the league in ERA with a 1.74 mark, Buffinton was third at 1.91. Keefe pitched more innings 434 1/3 to 400 1/3. Keefe had a 156 Adjusted ERA+, which led the league and Buffinton’s was 154, good for third. Keefe’s home park, the Polo Grounds, tended towards favoring the pitcher, but in 1888, skewed heavily in that direction. Buffinton’s home park, Philadelphia Baseball Grounds, usually was a big hitters’ park, but this season, abnormally favored the hitter. It’s probably ballparks that give Buffinton the edge in WAR (12.1-10.3).
19-10, 1.90 ERA, 121 K, .246, 1 HR, 25 RBI
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-1.079
1st Time All-Star-Alexander Bennett “Ben” Sanders was born on February 16, 1865 in Catharpin, VA. The Quakers needed pitching to make up for the tragic loss of Charlie Ferguson, who died of typhoid fever in the offseason. They got it from veteran Charlie Buffinton, who had a bounce back year and from the rookie Sanders. Sanders, who was six-foot, 210 pounds, and surprisingly wasn’t nicknamed “Big Ben,” pitched 275 1/3 innings with a 1.90 ERA and 156 ERA+. He finished third in WAR (8.8) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.8). Sanders was off to a fantastic start, but this was his best season ever.
Wikipedia says of him, “As a pitcher, he displayed good control, but he used an unorthodox delivery which ended with him off-balance, and with his back turned toward home plate. This made it difficult for him to react quickly on batted balls in his area of responsibility, particularly bunts. On September 18 of that rookie season, Sanders lost a perfect game when his pitching opponent, Gus Krock, singled with one out in the 9th inning for the Chicago Colts. Sanders still achieved a 6–0 shutout victory.” That would have been fun to watch.
Sanders, like Ferguson before him, also could hit the ball. Though not nearly at Ferguson’s level, he still slashed .246/.276/.322 for an OPS+ of 86. He was a good enough hitter that he played 25 games in the outfield and would continue many games in the outfield throughout his short career.
26-19, 1.93 ERA, 167 K, .189, 2 HR, 10 RBI
8th Time All-Star-We look back fondly on the pitching duo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale or even Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, but the combo of Tim Keefe and Welch might be the best of them all. That pair finally won their first pennant this season, but, more importantly, Welch is now a member of ONEHOF, the Hall of Fame which allows only one entry per year. The nominees for 1889 are King Kelly, Charlie Bennett, Jack Glasscock, Dan Brouthers, Charley Jones, Fred Dunlap, George Gore, Monte Ward, Ned Williamson, Roger Connor, and Harry Stovey.
Welch finished fourth in WAR (7.9) and third in WAR for Pitchers (8.0). He pitched 425 1/3 innings with a 1.93 ERA and a 141 ERA+. In the World Series, Welch pitched two of the 10 games, completing both and going 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA.
Wikipedia writes of him, “Author David Fleitz writes that Welch did not swear, smoke or drink hard liquor. Welch liked beer enough that he would write poems about it, reciting them for sportswriters or for fans on the carriage ride to the ballpark on game days. Sometimes his poetry also advertised local bars and restaurants.” In my old days, I drank a lot of beer, but never wrote verses about it.
Speaking of the combo plate of Welch and Keefe, there’s this from Wikipedia: “Welch and Keefe remained friends long after they retired from baseball.” The only reason they didn’t pitch more seasons together is that Welch was a homebody, sticking with the Giants his whole career (once he got there from Troy) and Keefe occasionally had wanderlust, going to the American Association for a couple of seasons and to the Players League in 1890.
30-14, 2.26 ERA, 176 K, .275, 3 HR, 23 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Peter J. “Pete” Conway was born on October 30, 1866 in Burmont, PA. He started with Buffalo in 1885 and had a 4.67 ERA. In 1886, he pitched for Kansas City and Detroit with a 4.95 ERA. He finally clicked in 1887 for the Wolverines, as his ERA dropped to 2.90 and he went 2-2 in the World Series with a 3.00 ERA. This season, most likely his only All-Star season, Conway finished sixth in WAR (6.9) and eighth in WAR for Pitchers (5.6). He pitched 391 innings with a 2.26 ERA and a 122 ERA+. He was Detroit’s only regularly effective pitcher.
That’s why, despite Detroit’s powerful hitting, the Wolverines finished in fifth place with a 68-63 record. Bill Watkins (49-44) started as manager, before being relieved by Bob Leadley (19-19). Detroit finished 16 games out of first despite finishing second in the league in runs scored.
This would be the last season for the Wolverines, as they folded at the conclusion of the season, due to heavy financial losses. Still, they hold an important record, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Though they folded after only eight seasons, the Wolverines occupy an important place in baseball history. On September 6, 1883, they conceded 18 runs in a single inning against the Chicago White Stockings, the most ever in MLB.” In its history, Detroit certainly had some great players including Charlie Bennett and Dan Brouthers, among others. It’s hard to believe the team folded just one season after being the World Series champion. Of course, in 1901, Detroit would have a long-lasting team start in the American League.
25-14, 2.44 ERA, 161 K, .164, 1 HR, 11 RBI
1st Time All-Star-August H. Krock was born on May 9, 1866 in Milwaukee, WI and made his first All-Star team (and likely last) in his rookie season. The six-foot, 196 pound pitcher finished ninth in WAR (6.3) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (6.8) for his best season ever. On the mound, he tossed 339 2/3 innings with a 2.44 ERA and a 123 ERA+ and, now that John Clarkson was on Boston, was Chicago’s best pitcher.
Krock played only two more seasons, pitching for Chicago, Indianapolis, and Washington in 1889 and then for the Players League Buffalo Bisons in 1890. Whatever he had this season was gone for the rest of his career. His ERA in 1889 was 5.57 and in 1890, in a weak league, was 6.12. Then he was out of the league and would be dead by the age of 38.
You don’t meet too many people named Gus nowadays. I’m 51 years old, as of this writing, and I only know one, who I haven’t seen in years. I could count it as two if you count Burton Guster on the TV show, Psych. I miss that show. And even in that show, Shawn, the lead character, never wanted to call his crime-solving partner Gus, but by increasingly silly nicknames.
Who’s the most famous Gus? Well, it’s six in the morning right now and I can’t think of one. Gus always seemed the kind of name seen more on TV and the movies than it did in real life. Maybe because it’s a shortening of August and there are even fewer of those around.
23-25, 2.63 ERA, 107 K, .143, 1 HR, 3 RBI
9th Time All-Star-Though Galvin has 60 wins left in his stellar career, this is probably the last All-Star team for the 1887 ONEHOF inductee. In his fourth year with Pittsburgh, Pud finished 10th in WAR (5.7) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (6.6). He threw over 400 innings for the ninth and last time in his career, tossing 437 1/3 innings with a 2.63 ERA and a 100 ERA+. We can’t even imagine a pitcher throwing 400 innings. The last time a pitcher pitched even 300 was Steve Carlton throwing 304 in 1980.
As for the Alleghenys, Horace Phillips led the team to a 66-68 sixth place finish. Their pitching was great, as they allowed the third lowest amount of runs in the league, but their hitting was anemic, second worst in the National League.
According to SABR, “Galvin lasted four more seasons, retiring after the 1892 campaign with 365 victories to his credit, 361 of them in recognized major leagues. By that time Tim Keefe, Mickey Welch, Hoss Radbourn, and John Clarkson had also reached 300. But not until 1903 was Pud’s victory total surpassed, by Denton True Young, and only a handful have passed it since.
“Pud was not done with record-setting. Four seasons later, in his final major-league tour, he founded an even more exclusive club – only Cy Young has joined since then – when he became the first pitcher to lose 300 games.”
Wikipedia says of his end, “Galvin died poor at age 45 on March 7, 1902 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and, as a Roman Catholic, is buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965 by the Veterans Committee. In honor of his achievements in Buffalo, Galvin was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.”
29-23, 2.31 ERA, 135 K, .101, 0 HR, 6 RBI
Games Pitched-55 (2nd Time)
Games Started-55 (2nd Time)
Complete Games-54 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-55 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as P-.940
4th Time All-Star-Pittsburgh must have looked at its pitching, with the great Pud Galvin and the impressive Cannonball Morris, and thought to themselves they’d be competitive for a long time. But as for Galvin and Morris, this is most likely their last All-Star season. But let’s not be negative, Morris still had a good year, after not making the All-Star team in 1887. This season, he finished seventh in WAR for Pitchers (6.4). In 480 innings pitched, he had a great 2.31 ERA and a 114 ERA+. His arm, which had pitched over 429 innings for four of the last five seasons, would finally give out after this. For Morris’ last two seasons, one with the Alleghenys and one with the Players League Pittsburgh Burghers, his ERA was 4.13 and 4.86 respectively.
Wikipedia wraps up Morris’ career: “Career totals for 317 games played (311 as a pitcher) include a 171–122 record, 307 games started, 297 complete games, 29 shutouts, 4 games finished, and 1 save. His lifetime ERA was 2.82. At the plate he was 179-for-1,113 (.161) with 1 home run, 63 runs batted in, and 100 runs scored. Author David Nemec described Morris as ‘the first truly outstanding southpaw pitcher in major league history.’
“Morris died from an infection that began in an injured toe.”
Pittsburgh gives us both sides of pitcher careers in the 1800s. Some were like Pud Galvin, able to have long careers despite the incredible amount of innings pitched they had and some were like Morris, stars which burst onto the scene, but couldn’t handle the burden of being put on the mound every other day or, sometimes, every day, and quickly faded out.
33-20, 2.76 ERA, 223 K, .195, 1 HR, 17 RBI
Innings Pitched-483 1/3 (3rd Time)
Bases on Balls Allowed-119
Batters Faced-2,029 (3rd Time)
Errors Committed as P-19 (3rd Time)
5th Time All-Star-In 1887, Boston finished 16-and-a-half games out of first place, so when it was able to purchase Clarkson, arguably the best pitcher in the league, it must have thought it would contend in 1888. Well, they did improve, finishing only 15-and-a-half games out. Longtime manager John Morrill coached the team to 70-64 record and left the team after this season.
The story of Clarkson’s purchase by the Beaneaters is in his 1887 blurb. How much do personal catchers actually help? Clarkson led the league in WAR in 1885 and 1889 with King Kelly as a catcher, but also led the league in WAR in 1887 without him. As for 1888, the season I’m supposed to be writing about, he finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (4.3), his worst season in that category since 1884. He pitched a league-leading 483 1/3 innings with a 2.76 ERA and 105 ERA+. While Clarkson’s ERA looked good, the truth is the league-wide ERA was 2.83. He did get some help from pitching in a hitters’ park.
This website is slowly creeping towards the time of the Players League in 1890. Clarkson’s purchase by Boston had much to do with the creation of that league. As SABR says, “A lot of money was being thrown around between the owners, but the reserve clause was helping to hold down salaries and personal freedoms as well. The prevailing players union, the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players, was busy solidifying its ranks in response to the disgruntlement. Clarkson joined his colleagues, pledged his support to the Brotherhood in early 1889, and paid his dues. Oddly, he did so at the urging of Boston Beaneaters director William Conant, who believed that the other men would play better behind him during the season if he did. According to Boston Globe sportswriter Tim Murnane, ‘The pitcher promised at the time that he would never hurt the Boston club.’”
16-29, 3.10 ERA, 186 K, .139, 0 HR, 6 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Henry M. “Hank” O’Day was born on July 8, 1859 in Chicago, IL. He started his career with the 1884 American Association Toledo Blue Stockings, then went to the AA Pittsburgh Alleghenys, before joining the National League in 1886 with the Nationals. This will most likely be his only All-Star season, as he finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (4.3). O’Day pitched 403 innings with a 3.10 ERA and a 90 ERA+.
As for the Nationals, Walter Hewett (10-29) and Ted Sullivan (38-57) led the team to a 48-86 eighth place finish. At least Washington was consistent, scoring the least runs and allowing the most in the NL.
You might have heard O’Day made the Hall of Fame in 2013, but not for his pitching, but his umpiring. Wikipedia says, “O’Day was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on December 3, 2012 by the Hall’s new Pre-Integration Era Committee, which considers candidates from the era prior to 1947 once every three years, and was inducted the following July. His induction speech was given by his grandnephew Dennis McNamara, a former Chicago police officer with his own connection to baseball history, having introduced Hall of Famer Ron Santo to his wife Vicki.”
O’Day was the umpire on the field for the famous Merkle’s Boner play of 1908. He called Fred Merkle out at second base for not touching the bag. It led to Chicago beating the New York Giants, which led them to the World Series, where they would win for the last time until….to be determined.
.318, 9 HR, 71 RBI
Errors Committed as C-54
8th Time All-Star-At this point in Kelly’s career, he’s already made the All-Star team as a third baseman, shortstop, and outfielder, but this is the first season he made it as a backstop. Catcher would be Kelly’s main position for the rest of his career, but he always done some catching with his former team, the White Stockings. This season, Kelly finished eighth in WAR Position Players (4.5) and fifth in Offensive WAR (5.5). He slashed .318/.368/.480 for an OPS+ of 165 in what was a hitters’ league.
Kelly was certainly one of the most interesting players of his time. For instance, Wikipedia says, “One day in 1888, Boston player-manager John Morrill fined him $100 for not reporting to the grounds one day. After dinner the night before, Kelly had told Morrill he was ill, and Morrill said he should still report. The Boston Herald said, ‘Every man on the team thinks [the $100 fine] was deserved.’ The Herald also said of Kelly, ‘At times he goes in and plays with his whole spirit, and he puts life into the team. A sample of that was seen in yesterday’s game, a game that he won for the Bostons. At other times he plays carelessly and indifferently, puts on a spirit of independence, disobeys Morrill on instructions at will, and does as he pleases.’” Kelly seems to me to be more unpredictable Bryce Harper, who’s the best player when he wants to be, than Mike Trout, steady and solid every day.
.306, 6 HR, 58 RBI, 0-0, 2.57 ERA, 6 K
Double Plays Turned as C-12
6th Time All-Star-Ewing’s streak of five consecutive All-Star teams ended in 1887, but he was back this year as one of the best catchers in the league. (I would still give the edge to the hard-nosed, ironman Charlie Bennett.) The Hall of Famer finished seventh in WAR Position Players (4.8) and sixth in Offensive WAR (5.3). Ewing’s defense, always a strong point, was diminishing. At the plate, he had arguably his best season, slashing .306/.348/.465 for an OPS+ of 158. That Adjusted OPS+ was his highest ever. His great hitting continued in the World Series, where he slashed .346/.370/.615 with two triples and a homer in the 10 games played against the American Association St. Louis Browns.
Here’s SABR on his 1888 season: “In 1888 he began the season at second base, replacing the popular Joe Gerhardt, and later took over the third base slot again. At both positions he heard a constant stream of digs for his shoddy work in the field and his increasingly gingerly approach to the game in general from his shortstop neighbor and main disparager, John M. Ward.
“But it may simply have been that Ewing was aware by then that catching less frequently would prolong his career and had begun saving his efforts there for when it counted most. By midseason in 1888 he was back behind the plate on a regular basis when it appeared that the Giants would be a serious pennant contender. With Ewing playing in 100 games (103) for the first time in his career, New York marched to its initial NL flag.”
.264, 5 HR, 29 RBI
Fielding % as C-.966 (4th Time)
8th Time All-Star-The tough guy Bennett made his eighth consecutive All-Star at catcher and it’s tough to say how long this will last since his value is coming mainly from defense at this time. This year, he finished second in Defensive WAR (2.2). At the plate, he slashed .264/.347/.399 for an OPS+ of 137. It would be his last year of having an Adjusted OPS+ over 100 again.
Speaking of his last year, this was his last year with Detroit, mainly because it was the Wolverines’ last season of existence. In those eight years, which included one World Series victory, Bennett was the team’s all-time leader in WAR with 31. Dan Brouthers finished second with 20, though, in his defense, he played only two seasons in Detroit.
Of this season, Wikipedia says, “During the 1888 season, Bennett rebounded with one of the best seasons of his career. His overall 4.2 WAR rating was the third highest of Bennett’s career, and his 2.2 Defensive WAR rating was the highest of his career and the second highest in the National League. Despite being the eighth oldest player in the league, he broke his own major league record with a .966 fielding percentage. The Wolverines as a whole finished in fifth place with a 68-63 record. With high salaries owed to the team’s star players, and gate receipts declining markedly, the team folded in October 1888 with the players being sold to other teams. On October 16, 1888, the Wolverines sold Bennett, Dan Brouthers, Charlie Ganzel, Hardy Richardson and Deacon White to the Boston Beaneaters for a price estimated at $30,000.”
.291, 14 HR, 71 RBI
WAR Position Players-7.5 (2nd Time)
Bases on Balls-73
7th Time All-Star-In 1887, Connor’s beloved daughter died, but he just kept plugging along. This season, the giant of all Giants finished fifth in WAR (7.5), first in WAR Position Players (7.5), third in Offensive WAR (6.3), and fourth in Defensive WAR (1.4). It was certainly a great all-around season. At the dish, Connor slashed .291/.389/.480 for an OPS+ of 176. In the World Series win over the American Association St. Louis Browns, Connor went seven-for-23 with a double and two triples. At this point in his career, Connor has 53 long balls, trailing Dan Brouthers, who is at 74.
SABR on Connor’s season: “In 1888 the star-laden Giants roster finally played to its potential, coasting to the pennant. Apart from a substandard .291 batting average, Connor placed in the league top five in almost every offensive category. And as in years past, Connor’s performance was largely taken for granted, with press coverage of the team focused on more colorful personalities like manager Jim Mutrie and stars Buck Ewing and John Montgomery Ward. The lack of attention had no visible effect on Connor. He was his same reliable self in the postseason, batting .303 as the Giants topped the American Association champion St. Louis Browns in the 1888 postseason series.”
It’s no surprise he didn’t complain, considering the Baseball Hall of Fame webpage, quoting an article from the New York Clipper, says, “’Connor’s honorable and straightforward conduct and affable and courteous demeanor towards all with whom he is brought into contact have won him deserved popularity both on and off the ball field.’”
.344, 12 HR, 84 RBI
1888 NL Batting Title
Batting Average-.344 (2nd Time)
On-Base %-.400 (3rd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.899 (2nd Time)
Runs Batted In-84 (7th Time)
Singles-133 (3rd Time)
Offensive Win %-.837 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as 1B-134 (3rd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 1B-85 (3rd Time)
Fielding % as 1B-.986
14th Time All-Star-There would no longer be a dominant White Stockings team under manager Cap Anson, but his best player continued to be his first baseman, one Cap Anson. He finished seventh in WAR (6.9), second in WAR Position Players (6.9), and second in Offensive WAR (6.4). At the age of 36, he slashed .344/.400/.499 for an OPS+ of 176.
Manager Anson, however, suffered through a disappointing year, as the White Stockings finished in second place with a 77-58 record, nine games behind the New York Giants. Ironically, the Giants used the same strategy as the White Stockings did, going around the leagues and snatching up the best players, sometimes stealing from their own American Association team. This time it worked against Chicago. As late as July 20, it was one-and-a-half games up in first place in the National League, but then lost six straight, including three to the weak Indianapolis squad and never sniffed the top of the league again.
Anson, who I mentioned before would have been a great reality show star, started his acting career this year. Wikipedia says, “Anson began acting during his baseball career. In 1888, he made his stage debut with a single appearance in Hoyt’s play A Parlor Match at the Theatre Comique in Harlem. He also played himself in an 1895 Broadway play called The Runaway Colt, written to take advantage of his fame. Later, Anson began touring on the vaudeville circuit, a common practice for athletes of the time, which lasted up until about a year before his death. He first appeared in vaudeville in 1913 doing a monologue and a short dance. In 1914, George M. Cohan wrote a monologue for him, and in 1917, Cohan, with Chicago Tribune sportswriter Ring Lardner wrote another piece for him, titled First Aid for Father. Anson appeared with two of his grown daughters, Adele and Dorothy, and would bat papier-mâché baseballs made by Albert Spalding into the audience. He appeared in 1921 accompanied by his two daughters in an act written by Ring Lardner with songs by Herman Timberg.”
.307, 9 HR, 66 RBI
Offensive WAR-6.8 (5th Time)
Runs Scored-118 (2nd Time)
Doubles-33 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-48 (5th Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-5.5 (5th Time)
Times on Base-240 (4th Time)
AB Per SO-40.2
Errors Committed as 1B-42
8th Time All-Star-Brouthers made the All-Star team for the eighth consecutive season and it will be his last one for Detroit. It doesn’t matter, he’s not done yet. Is it surprising to you that the dominant Brouthers has not made the ONEHOF, my Hall of Fame in which only one player a year gets inducted. Well, my thought is that making the ONEHOF should be tough. It should take a long stretch of excellent play. I do think he’s got a good shot next year.
This season was considered an off-year for Brouthers and every player wish they could have an off-year like this one. He finished eighth in WAR (6.6), third in WAR Position Players (6.6.), and first in Offensive War (6.8). He slashed .307/.399/.464 for an OPS+ of 174. The batting average was his lowest ever as a fulltime player, the on-base percentage was his lowest from 1885-through-1894, and his slugging was his lowest since 1880.
According to a book called Big Dan Brouthers: Baseball’s First Great Slugger, “Detroit’s simmering pot of debt, discord and discontent boiled over in 1888, and the result was a fall from first to fifth place in the standings, the resignation of manager Bill Watkins, the sale of the club’s star players, and the demise of the franchise. Through it all, Big Dan played on.”
.250, 8 HR, 57 RBI
Assists-457 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as 2B-135 (3rd Time)
Putouts as 2B-421 (5th Time)
Assists as 2B-457 (3rd Time)
Errors Committed as 2B-65 (5th Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-78 (5th Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-6.67 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/Game as 2B-6.50 (3rd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-It’s been four years since Pfeffer made the All-Star team, but this season he not only made it but is the only second baseman on the National League team. Since Dandelion last made the team, he’d participated in the 1885 and 1886 World Series’, going 17-for-48 with two doubles and two homers. This season, it was his glove that put him on the team as he finished eighth in Defensive WAR (1.1). At the plate, Pfeffer slashed .250/.297/.377 for an OPS+ of 107, his highest Adjusted OPS+ since his All-Star season of 1884.
Bleed Cubbie Blue names Pfeffer the 55th greatest Cub of all time and has this to say about him: “Pfeffer has been credited with several fielding innovations. He was the master of intentionally dropping the soft line drive for an easy double play, and that’s a big reason why such a maneuver is no longer legal today. He’s credited with being the first to cut off the catcher’s throw to second for a play at the plate on a double steal of second and home. Additionally, along with Anson and Ned Williamson, Pfeffer played a role in developing what we now know as the proper way to operate a rundown, with running the runner back to the base and having a third fielder covering the base the fielder with the ball left vacant.”
I’ve always preferred hitters over glove men and I’m not sure how great Pfeffer actually was. He might have one All-Star team left in him, but I’m not so sure. His best hitting year was 1884, but that was the year Chicago designed its home stadium like a Little League park and balls were flying out of there like a home run derby.
.283, 4 HR, 75 RBI
Double Plays Turned as 3B-20
Fielding % as 3B-.913
2nd Time All-Star-Nash made his second consecutive All-Star team and had his best season ever, finishing fifth in WAR Position Players (5.3), eighth in Offensive WAR (4.4), and third in Defensive WAR (1.5). He slashed .283/.350/.397 for an OPS+ of 134 in a pitchers’ year. He would continue his solid play in Boston for many years. My prediction is he has an All-Star team or two left.
The runs scored in the National League really plummeted this season, from an average of 6.1 runs scored per game in 1887 to 4.5 this season. By 1889, it’s going to be up to 5.8 per game again. So what happened in 1888? That’s going to require what I like to call, research.
This is from The Pecan Park Eagle, which says, “Back in the 19th century, the rules of baseball scoring changed radically from year to year. The leaders of the professional movement responded to the complaints and criticisms of others in an ongoing struggle to fine tune the game to just the right balance between offense and defense as that sort of thing was perceived to be for that day at a time.
“In 1887, for example, the rules makers gave the batter a fourth strike before he could be retired. In 1888, they took it back, The batter was back to the key spot of ‘three strikes and you’re out’ in plenty of time to not mess up Jack Norworth’s and Albert Tilzer’s 1908 baseball anthem, ‘Take Me Out To the Ball Game’ – or that wonderful Mudville lament about the absence of joy after Casey took strike three.” Is that enough to explain it? Then why did they go up again in 1889? Research is hard!
.298, 4 HR, 71 RBI
Errors Committed as 3B-65 (2nd Time)
Oldest-40 Years Old (2nd Time)
9th Time All-Star-It was just three years ago, as of this writing, that the great Deacon White made the Hall of Fame. There are those who object. (In an earlier blurb, I mentioned Joe Posnanski being against it.) I think it’s a great thing, but I can see the point of view of those who dislike it. His greatest years were in the National Association and the early years of the National League. Since 1879, this is just the second All-Star team Old Man White has made and I’m surprised he’s on this team. As a matter of fact, in his 1884 blurb, I said he’d probably made his last All-Star team. I’m such a false prophet.
Deacon would have liked that language, being a hard-nosed dedicated Christian. When his National Association Boston teams were doing well, it had much to do with the consistency the choirboy players gave to the team. Most of the other teams, if not all of them, didn’t look so much for character in their squad and found they couldn’t count on players from one day to the next. Look up the career of Cherokee Fisher as an example. He was a great pitcher but a drunkard who bounced around from team to team.
Now I’m not using this as a blanket rule. Even here in 1888, Chicago and its owner, Al Spalding, tired of the rabble-rousers on its team and traded people like King Kelly to bring more stability to the White Stockings. They might have had more stability, but they didn’t have more wins. How to develop a winning squad in baseball is a whole study in itself, for which I don’t have the time or the smarts.
.250, 8 HR, 73 RBI
Def. Games as SS-132
Assists as SS-375
Double Plays Turned as SS-48
7th Time All-Star-And the bad prophecies keep on coming! After stating in Williamson’s 1885 blurb that he probably wouldn’t make another All-Star team and even going so far as to give details of his death at the age of 36, heeee’s back! It helped it was a bad year for shortstops, but he was going to make the team either way. It’s the first of his seven All-Star teams at shortstop, or at any position other than third base. Bill James pointed out that players tend to go right-to-left on the defensive spectrum (or is it left-to-right?), but that didn’t always happen in these early days of the sport.
For the season, Williamson slashed .250/.352/.385 for an OPS+ of 128. I know the numbers don’t look that great, but his Adjusted OPS+ this season was his highest since his aberrant year of 1884. As I mentioned in Billy Nash’s write-up, hitting was significantly down this year in the National League.
Since Williamson didn’t make the All-Star team in 1886, I didn’t get a chance to go over his World Series. It was bad….again. In 1885, he hit only .087 with no extra base hits in the Series, while in 1886, he hit even worse at .056 with a triple. It would be his last World Series. He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last great player who stumbles in postseason play.
Here’s a sad story from 1888 by Wikipedia, which says, “It was during a game played on at the Parc Aristotique in Paris, France on March 8, 1889, when Williamson suffered a torn knee cap which forced him to be bedridden in England on doctor’s orders, missing the tour through Britain. Though players in the 19th century were responsible for their own medical care, Williamson asked Spalding to help him financially with the mounting medical costs. Spalding refused, citing that he was not obligated to assist, and Williamson never forgave him for this.”
.269, 1 HR, 45 RBI, 0-0, 54.00 ERA, 1 K
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-5.19 (4th Time)
Fielding % as SS-.901 (5th Time)
8th Time All-Star-Pebbly Jack made his eighth consecutive All-Star team, despite having an off year. His hitting declined as he slashed .269/.302/.328 for an OPS+ of 100. But don’t count him out! He still has some hits in his bat. How hard is it for a great player like Glasscock to keep playing on these terrible teams year after year? Does this make him any less valuable? I’ve mentioned it in previous Glasscock blurbs, but it’s incredible he’s not in the Hall of Fame.
Did I say terrible team? Glasscock was its only All-Star member as Manager Harry Spence led the Hoosiers to a 50-85 seventh place finish. They had decent hitting, but their pitching allowed the most runs in the league. Glasscock didn’t help that cause, allowing three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning.
According to SABR, Glasscock was not having a good time for the Hoosiers. It says, “Personally, the Indiana experience created considerable stress for Glasscock. Sporting Life reported him ‘anxious…to get away from Indianapolis’ (SL, 9/28/1887) in June 1887, and still ‘not satisfied here’( SL, 9/28/1887) in September. Back home in Wheeling, he was jailed for being drunk and disorderly. As manager he drove his players and baited and bullied umpires. A Sporting Life reporter wrote ‘I have heard [him] swear and act like a blackguard before and [sic] audience partly composed of ladies.’ (SL, 3/2/90).” What a cad! When you’re giving it your all and the team around you doesn’t perform, the expletives will apparently fly!
.332, 16 HR, 64 RBI, 4-0, 3.05 ERA, 11 K
AB per HR-34.3
Games Finished-5 (2nd Time)
Assists as OF-34
1st Time All-Star-James P. “Jimmy” or “Pony” Ryan was born on February 11, 1863 in Clinton, MA. The small Ryan (five-foot-nine, 162 pounds) started by playing three games for Chicago in 1885 and until 1902, would never leave the Windy City. He played every year with the National League team, except for 1890, when he played for the Players League Chicago Pirates. Pony was with the White Stockings when they made the 1886 World Series, where he went-five-for-20 with a double.
In 1888, Ryan had his best season ever, finishing fourth in WAR Position Players (5.7) and fourth in Offensive WAR (6.1). He slashed .332/.377/.515 for an OPS+ of 174. Also, according to Wikipedia, “In that season, he also hit for the cycle on July 28. Ryan also appeared in that game as a pitcher, becoming the only player in major league history to hit for the cycle and pitch in the same game. The White Stockings beat the Detroit Wolverines 21–17.” All of this in a terrible year for hitters. He’ll be around these teams for a while.
Wikipedia also mentions Pony wasn’t afraid of scrapping: “On the tough side, Ryan was one of the few players to punch a reporter at least twice. After his first episode, in 1887, Charlie Seymour of the Chicago Herald wrote, ‘Ryan slugged the magnificent Chicago reporter in Pittsburg [sic] (Pittsburg was spelled without the H in the 19th century) the other day.’ In the other, in 1892, he took exception to George Beachel of the Chicago Daily News. In the clubhouse after a game, Ryan ‘picked a quarrel with [Beachel], and then attacked him, using him up pretty badly. No arrests have been made.’ In 1896, he punched a train conductor after losing his place and his teammates had gone to bed. A conductor who intervened was ‘called down by Mr. Ryan, who got in one upper cut before [his longtime-captain manager Cap] Anson stopped the fun’, wrote Tim Murnane of the Boston Globe.”
.296, 12 HR, 68 RBI
Extra Base Hits-61
2nd Time All-Star-Johnston joined Boston after his 1884 All-Star season and added very little to the team from 1885-to-1887. Then he woke up for this one season, easily having his best season ever, finishing ninth in WAR Position Players (4.5) and ninth in Offensive WAR (4.2). He slashed .296/.314/.472 for an OPS+ of 144. How strange was this season? Well, let’s compare his 1888 numbers with the second highest in a few categories. In 1888, he had 102 runs, in 1887, he had 87. In 1888, he had 173 hits, in 1887, he had 131. In 1888, he had 31 doubles, in 1886, he had 18. In 1888, he had 12 homers, in 1891, he had 6. In 1888, he hit .296, in 1884, he hit .281. In 1888, he had an OBP of .314, in 1891, it was .301. In 1888, he slugged .472, in 1884, he slugged .425. In 1888, he had an OPS of .786, in 1884, it was .715. In 1888, his OPS+ was 144, in 1884, it was 131. And in 1888, he had 276 total bases, he had 199 in 1887.
The Beaneaters must have thought they struck gold. Johnston was only 25 and starting to figure out Major League pitching. Yet, he ended up playing one more year for Boston, in the National League anyway, as he moved to the Players League in 1890, playing for the Boston Reds and the New York Giants, then finished his career at the age of 28 for the American Association Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers. (Whoa, is that really that team’s name?!)
.274, 2 HR, 29 RBI
Def. Games as OF-136
1st Time All-Star-William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy was born on May 23, 1862 in Houcktown, OH and is the poster child for why political correctness isn’t always a bad thing. The tiny (five-foot-six, 160 pounds) and fast Hoy got his nickname because he was deaf. Wikipedia says, “In Hoy’s time, the word ‘dumb’ was used to describe someone who could not speak, rather than someone who was stupid; but since the ability to speak was often unfairly connected to one’s intelligence, the epithets ‘dumb’ and ‘dummy’ became interchangeable with stupidity. Hoy himself often corrected individuals who addressed him as William, and referred to himself as Dummy. Said to have been able to speak with a voice that resembled a squeak, he was actually one of the most intelligent players of his time, and is sometimes credited with developing the hand signals used by umpires to this day, though this view is widely disputed.”
Hoy started quickly, though at 26-years-old, he was an old rookie. He finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.3) and seventh in Offensive WAR (4.5), slashing .274/.374/.338 for an OPS+ of 134, all while leading the league with 82 stolen bases. It would start a stretch of 13 seasons of 27 or more steals.
SABR has more on Hoy: “Hoy would have been an exceptional man with or without his handicap. After his baseball career was over, he used his celebrity status to foster the needs and concerns of the deaf. He had a zest for life and once walked 72 blocks at the age of 80 to see his son, Judge Carson Hoy, preside in court. At that advanced age he also danced the Charleston and pruned trees on his farm.”
.293, 9 HR, 52 RBI
Fielding % as OF-.960
1st Time All-Star-Michael Joseph “Silent Mike” or “Mike” Tiernan was born on January 21, 1867 in Trenton, NJ. As a rookie with the Giants in 1887, he showed right away he could rake, slashing .287/.344/.452 for an OPS+ of 123. In his second season, Tiernan finished sixth in WAR Position Players (4.8) and 10th in Offensive WAR (4.1), slashing .293/.364/.427 and helping lead the Giants to the World Series, where he went 13-for-38 (.342) with a home run and five steals.
Here’s SABR on Tiernan: “During the final decade of the 19th century, the right field post on the New York Giants was manned by Mike Tiernan. A quiet, amiable man, Tiernan was well liked by teammates, fans, and the baseball press. But he was not without aspects of a contrary streak. On a team where sporting a prominent moustache was virtually de rigueur, Tiernan remained resolutely clean-shaven. In an era when verbal abuse of opponents and noisy disagreement with umpires were ballpark norms, Tiernan was a gentleman, a player who spoke so infrequently on the field that he was dubbed Silent Mike. And at a time when discontent with management ran so deep that the players formed their own league, Tiernan was one of the few to spurn the movement and remain with his old team. Indeed, Mike Tiernan was one of only a handful of 19th century players to spend his entire major league career in a single city.” Ironically in the picture on the SABR article, Tiernan has a mustache.