P-Scott Stratton, LOU
P-Sadie McMahon, PHA/BAL
P-Egyptian Healy, TOL
P-Jack Stivetts, STL
P-Red Ehret, LOU
P-Bob Barr, ROC
P-Fred Smith, TOL
P-Toad Ramsey, STL
P-Billy Hart, STL
C-Jack O’Connor, COL
C-Deacon McGuire, ROC
1B-Perry Werden, TOL
1B-Harry Taylor, LOU
1B-Mox McQuery, SYR
2B-Cupid Childs, SYR
3B-Denny Lyons, PHA
3B-Jimmy Knowles, ROC
3B-Charlie Reilly, COL
SS-Phil Tomney, LOU
LF-Spud Johnson, COL
CF-Jim McTamany, COL
RF-Chicken Wolf, LOU
RF-Ed Swartwood, TOL
RF-Tommy McCarthy, STL
RF-Ed Daily, BRG/LOU
34-14, 2.36 ERA, 207 K, .323, 0 HR, 24 RBI
1890 AA Pitching Title
Wins Above Replacement-11.4
Earned Run Average-2.36
Walks & Hits per IP-1.065
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-1.274
Strikeouts/Base On Balls-3.393
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.56
Adj. Pitching Runs-67
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.3
Fielding % as P-.977
1st Time All-Star-Chilton Scott Stratton was born on October 2, 1869 in Campbellsburg, KY. As much as the creation of the Players League gutted the National League, it did much worse to the American Association. That’s why 18 of the 25 players on the AA All-Star team are first-timers, including the hard throwing Kentuckian, who had his best season ever, but also most likely his only All-Star appearance. Hey, if you’re going to only make one All-Star team, do it with gusto as Stratton did.
Stratton led the league in WAR (11.4) and was second in WAR for Pitchers (9.7), behind only Sadie McMahon (10.0). On the mound, he pitched a career-high 431 innings with a league-leading 2.36 ERA and a league-leading ERA+ of 164. At the plate, Stratton slashed .323/.385/.392 for an OPS+ of 129, not bad for a pitcher.
On top of all this, he led the Colonels to the pennant and a World Series appearance against the National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The series ended up in a 3-3-1 tie and Stratton started three games, going 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA. Louisville was coached by Jack Chapman to an 88-44 record, his only pennant in 11 years of coaching.
Wikipedia says of this season, “Stratton’s greatest season was his third, in 1890. As a 20-year-old, he pitched 431 innings for Louisville, going 34–14 and setting a major league record for starting 25 consecutive games that his team won.” He would die in Louisville, Kentucky of a heart attack in 1939.
36-21, 3.27 ERA, 291 K, .206, 2 HR, 20 RBI
WAR for Pitchers-10.0
Earned Runs Allowed-185
Hit By Pitch-26
Def. Games as P-60
Putouts as P-31
Assists as P-139
Range Factor/Game as P-2.83
1st Time All-Star-John Joseph “Sadie” McMahon was born on September 19, 1867 in Wilmington, DE. He started in 1889 with Philadelphia and stayed with them this season, until being traded to Baltimore later in the year. He had his best season ever and was the best player on both teams. Sadie finished second in WAR (10.0) behind Scott Stratton (11.4) and first in WAR for Pitchers (10.0). He was an ironman with a league-leading 509 innings pitched in which he had a 3.27 ERA and a 120 ERA+. He will be around these All-Star teams for a while.
Baltimore took over for the Brooklyn Gladiators, which didn’t finish out the season. The Orioles finished 15-19 under the leadership of manager Billy Barnie. You might be saying, hey, you’ve been talking about Baltimore in the American Association for years and you’d be right. Very good, you! According to Wikipedia, “After several years of mediocrity, the team dropped out of the league in 1889, but re-joined in 1890 to replace the last-place Brooklyn Gladiators club which had dropped out during the season. After the Association folded, the Orioles joined the National League in 1892.”
McMahon hasn’t made his last All-Star team as he had quite a few years of good pitching. As to why the Athletics would get rid of such a good pitcher, SABR says, “In 1890 he was by far the A’s best pitcher and had won 20 games by the Fourth of July, but the Philadelphia club was running into financial problems and sold McMahon along with catcher Wilbert Robinson and outfielder Curt Welch to the Baltimore Orioles in September. His combined record with the two teams was 36 wins and 21 losses. He led the American Association in wins, games pitched, innings, and strikeouts. Both McMahon and Robinson were rather plump, leading to their being dubbed the Dumpling Battery.”
22-21, 2.89 ERA, 225 K, .218, 1 HR, 10 RBI
1st Time All-Star-“Long John or Egyptian” J. Healy was born on October 27, 1866 in, of course, Cairo, IL. He started as an 18-year-old for the 1885 National League St. Louis Maroons, then moved to Indianapolis for 1887 and 1888. In 1889, he pitched for Washington and Chicago, before finally having best season ever this year. The six-foot-two, 158 pound Long John finished third in WAR (8.2) behind Scott Stratton and Sadie McMahon and third in WAR for Pitchers (7.3), behind the same two gentlemen, though reversed. He pitched 389 innings with a 2.89 ERA and a 138 ERA+. He’s probably made his first and last All-Star teams.
Toledo existed for just this one season and did relatively well, finishing fourth with a 68-64 record, while being coached by Charlie Morton, who would never coach in the Major Leagues again.
Like so many players of this era, Healy wasn’t long for this earth, dying at the age of 32. The Washington Post’s obituary from the Deadball Era says, “St. Louis, March 17.—John Healy who ten years ago was known as a great baseball player, died to-day in this city of consumption. In 1887 he was one of the American players who made the trip around the world and played in Europe, Asia, and Australia. He quit the diamond two years ago and became a policeman, but was obliged to give up his position last year on account of ill-health.” Healy finished his career with a 78-136 record and a 3.84 ERA.
27-21, 3.52 ERA, 289 K, .288, 7 HR, 43 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-14
2nd Time All-Star-Happy Jack Stivetts continued to throw bullets for the Browns, though with an increase in innings from 191 2/3 in his rookie season to 419 1/3 this year, his ERA did rise. Still, no one is going to complain about a 3.52 ERA and a 124 ERA+, all while finishing fourth in WAR (7.8) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (6.0). Along with that, Stivetts could hit, slashing .288/.337/.500 while finishing third in the league in home runs with seven despite playing only 67 games. He finished behind only Count Campau (nine) and Ed Cartwright (eight).
Wikipedia has a lot to say about Stivetts’ 1890 season, so I’ll pilfer a bit of it, which says, “On June 10, against Fred Smith and the Toledo Maumees, he hit two home runs in one game, the first of three times in his career he accomplished the feat. The first was a two-run home run in the fifth inning, and the second came with his team down by three runs in the bottom half of ninth inning and the bases loaded. It was the first, and only, grand slam of his career, and the second ‘ultimate grand slam’ in history. In a game versus the Brooklyn Gladiators on July 6, manager Chris von der Ahe removed the Browns’ starting pitcher Ramsey in the third inning and replaced him with Stivetts. Though the crowd momentarily interrupted the game in protest, the move proved successful. Stivetts hit a home run in the fifth inning to give the Browns a 3 runs to 1 advantage, leading the team to an eventual 7–2 victory. The home run was his sixth of the season, and he added another on August 9 for number seven: his final season total. His seven home runs in a season by a pitcher was neither broken nor tied until 1931, when Wes Ferrell hit nine for the Cleveland Indians.”
25-14, 2.53 ERA, 174 K, .212, 0 HR, 10 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Louisville had an amazing turnaround, from finishing 66 games out in 1889 to winning the American Association title this season and Ehret had much to do with it. Yes, he made the All-Star team last season on a fluke, but this season was all talent, as he had his best season ever. Ehret finished eighth in WAR (5.1) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (5.4) while pitching 359 innings with a 2.53 ERA and 153 ERA+. He also dazzled in the World Series against the National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms, pitching three games and going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA, helping the team tie the series, 3-3-1.
Louisville as helped by the formation of the Players League, according to SABR, which says, “In 1889, the Louisville Colonels of the American Association finished in last place, compiling an unenviable record of 27 wins and 111 losses. The following season, Louisville pulled off one of the most amazing turnarounds in the history of our national pastime, clinching the American Association pennant on October 6, 1890 with a 2–0 victory over Columbus.
“That turnaround was assisted by a seismic shift in the baseball landscape during the winter of 1889–90 that included the formation of a third major league…
“The Association’s instability ran even deeper. Two entire teams—including the champions from Brooklyn—switched over to the National League…
“To make matters worse, on March 27, 1890 a cyclone tore through Louisville, killing over 100 people…
28-24, 3.25 ERA, 209 K, .179, 2 HR, 15 RBI
Bases on Balls-219
1st Time All-Star-Robert McClelland “Bob” Barr was born in December, 1856 in Washington, DC, the year James Buchanan was elected as President of the United States. Just some bonus material to keep you focused. Barr started his career in 1883 with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, before pitching for both Washington and Indianapolis in 1884. He didn’t pitch in the Majors in 1885, but came back in 1886 for the National League Washington Nationals. At this point in his career, Barr had pitched three seasons and compiled a 21-70 record. He was 29 years old and most likely done as a Major League player.
Then came 1890 and the formation of the Players League and teams in three leagues desperately scrambling for players and, despite his past failures, Barr had a job and did very well, having his best season ever, while finishing 10th in WAR (4.8) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (4.8), despite walking more people, 219, than he struck out, 209. Barr pitched 493 1/3 innings with a 3.25 ERA and a 111 ERA+.
It also helped he was playing for a newly-formed team, the Rochester Broncos, who finished at .500, 63-63. They were coached by Pat Powers, who would get one more chance to manage later, for the 1892 New York Giants. Rochester finished fifth in the league.
It’s worth noting Barr did well when pitching in the minor leagues, where Rochester spent all but one of its seasons. Scott Pitoniak of the Rochester Business Journal writes, “With a 97-58 record, Barr ranks as the winningest pitcher in the nearly 130 years Rochester has been fielding professional baseball teams. According to BaseballReference.com, he won a franchise record 35 games in 1888 and 30 the following season. But his most intriguing season—and one of the most historically significant seasons in Rochester’s extraordinarily rich baseball history—occurred in 1890, when Barr went 28-24 for our town’s major-league club. That’s right, for one spring and summer, Rochester fielded a big-league team. As famed manager Casey Stengel was fond of saying, ‘You can look it up.’” It’s a good article, read the whole thing.
19-13, 3.27 ERA, 116 K, .167, 0 HR, 10 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Fred Christopher Smith was born in May, 1865 in Baltimore, MD, just a month after Abraham Lincoln was just down the road in Washington, D.C. Sometimes I have to debate whether ballplayers had their best season ever, but not with Smith. This was his only Major League season, thanks to the Players League. He did well, finishing seventh in WAR for Pitchers (4.7), pitching 286 innings with a 3.27 ERA and a 122 ERA+.
From Wikipedia, here’s a short history of the Maumees: “The Toledo Maumees were a baseball team originally formed in 1888. The team was based in Toledo, Ohio, and formed part of the Tri-State League for one season. Their home games were played at Speranza Park in Toledo.
“In 1889, the Maumees moved to the International Association, where they were also known as the Toledo Black Pirates. Managed by former player Charlie Morton, the team finished in fourth place with a 54-51 record. Toledo first baseman Perry Werden won the batting title with a .394 average while leading the league in hits (167).
“In 1890 the team joined the American Association. Again with Morton at the helm, the Maumees won 68 games, lost 64, and finished fourth in the nine-team league. Their top hitters were right fielder Ed Swartwood, who batted .327 with a slugging percentage of .444, and first sacker Werden, who had a .295 batting average and slugged .456. Egyptian Healy (22-21, 2.89) and Fred Smith (19-13, 3.27) led the pitching staff.
23-17, 3.69 ERA, 257 K, .228, 0 HR, 11 RBI
Strikeouts per 9 IP-6.634 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-16 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-Ramsey is back on the All-Star team after being gone for two seasons. Again, the formation of the Players League gets the credit. He pitched for Louisville in 1888 and 1889. It was in that latter season, he was 1-16 for the Colonels with a 5.59 ERA. He was then traded to St. Louis for Nat Hudson, who refused to report to Louisville. He did better for the Browns in 1889, finishing 3-1 with a 3.95 ERA. Apparently, Ramsey did good enough to get this last final shot for St. Louis and ended up finishing eighth in WAR (4.2), pitching 348 2/3 innings with a 3.69 ERA and a 118 ERA+.
It’s hard to believe a pitcher who had this decent season and was only 25 years old would never pitch in the Major Leagues again, but it’s true. He did pitch in the minors until 1895, but never a lot of innings and never effectively. He was done with baseball by the age of 30.
Still, it wasn’t a career to complain about. His 1886 and 1887 seasons are some of the best of all-time from the mound and he still has the second-most single-season strikeouts of all-time with 499 in 1886. Ramsey would have been a great movie character, with an awesome nickname and a dazzling pitch. Doesn’t Toad Ramsey sound like a name that would be in one of those cheesy baseball movies, where a kid takes over the team by either managing it or pitching because of a fluke injury or waving his arms to summon angels?
12-8, 3.67 ERA, 95 K, .192, 1 HR, 8 RBI
1st Time All-Star-Robert Lee “Billy” Hart was born on May 16, 1866 in Palmyra, MO. He is the third St. Louis pitcher to make the All-Star team, though the team’s pitching still didn’t match that of Louisville and Columbus. Hart was again one of those players happy about the creation of the Players League, because it gave him the opportunity to be a Major League pitcher, which he was, and to prove himself, which he did, therefore thriving and having a long baseball career, um, which he didn’t. This was his only Major League season but he made the best of it, finishing 10th in WAR for Pitchers (4.0), pitching 201 1/3 innings with a 3.67 ERA and a 119 ERA+. Once the leagues are condensed from three to two in 1891, he would be squeezed out, but I’m not sure why another team didn’t give him opportunity.
In reading an article on one-season players at Baseball: Past and Present, I came across this: “3. Harry Moore, 1884: Bill James notes in his Historical Abstract that Moore led the Union Association in games played with 111 while finishing third in batting average at .336 and third in hits at 155. James also notes that Moore, like a quarter of other UA regulars, never played a game in another major league. It’s part of the reason UA greats like Jack Glasscock still aren’t recognized by Cooperstown. The quality of competition just isn’t considered to have been as strong as the other two major leagues in existence at its time, the National League and American Association.” No offense, but is this article saying Jack Glasscock has to prove himself because of his half season in the Union Association? Because I think he has.
.324, 2 HR, 66 RBI
Def. Games as C-106
Putouts as C-539
Double Plays Turned as C-13
Fielding % as C-.962
1st Time All-Star-John Joseph “Jack” or “Rowdy Jack” or “Peach Pie” O’Connor was born on June 2, 1866 in St. Louis, MO. He started in limited time as an outfielder for Cincinnati in 1887 and 1888, before moving to Columbus in 1889, where he became a fulltime catcher. It took him one more year (and the creation of another league which sucked the talent out of his league) before he was the best catcher in the league. Peach Pie finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.0), eighth in Offensive WAR (3.5), and seventh in Defensive WAR (1.1). He slashed .324/.377/.411 for an OPS+ of 137. He is going to have a long career, mainly as a catcher, but it’s debatable whether he makes another All-Star team as, according to WAR, his defense and his bat would falter. Since it was hard to find catchers in those days, Rowdy Jack continued to play year-after-year, all the way through 1910.
Columbus had a great sophomore year, finishing second in the American Association. Al Buckenberger (39-41), Gus Schmelz (38-13), and Pat Sullivan (2-1) guided the team to a 79-55 record, 10 games out of first place. The Salons were never in the running, but, as can be seen, caught on fire under the hand of Schmelz. Next year, Schmelz would coach for the whole season for Columbus, but not be as successful.
What is O’Connor most famous for? Hating Ty Cobb, according to Wikipedia, which says, “O’Connor was the player-manager of the Browns in 1910, finishing a dismal 47–107. He is best known for trying to help Nap Lajoie win the batting title and the associated 1910 Chalmers Award over Ty Cobb in the last two games of the season, a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park. Cobb was leading Lajoie .385 to .376 in the batting race going into that last day. O’Connor ordered rookie third baseman Red Corriden to station himself in shallow left field. Lajoie bunted five straight times down the third base line and made it to first easily.”
.299, 4 HR, 53 RBI, 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 1 K
1st Time All-Star-James Thomas “Deacon” McGuire was born on November 18, 1863 in Youngstown, OH. He would have the longest career in baseball history (26 years), according to years played, until it was beaten by Nolan Ryan, who played 27. Tommy John tied McGuire. Between the two catchers on the All-Star team, they played 48 years in the majors, which might be some kind of record if I had a way to define it. Anyway, I’m being distracted by petty things when I should be saying McGuire finished 10th in Defensive WAR (0.9) and slashed .299/.356/408 for an OPS+ of 130. He might have another All-Star team left, depending on the competition from other catchers.
McGuire started in 1884 for Toledo, before moving to the National League Detroit Wolverines in 1885. Next year, 1886, he was on the move again, playing three seasons for the NL Philadelphia Quakers. In the middle of 1888, he moved back to Detroit and then, in the same season, he was off to Cleveland of the American Association. He then played for Rochester this season in its only year of existence. Starting in 1891, he would play with the AA Washington Statesmen, follow them to the NL, and remain with them for another nine years. His was his longest stretch with any team.
As for his nickname, Wikipedia says, “However, the origin of the ‘Deacon’ nickname appears to date back to 1896. In February of that year, The Sporting Life, a national baseball newspaper, reported a dispatch from Michigan that McGuire ‘has experienced religion at a revival meeting and is thinking of giving up base ball and devote his time to preaching, perhaps.’ The Sporting Life closed with this observation: ‘ If Mac felt bent on doing missionary work his duty is to remain right where he is. But he will be back next April doing just as brilliant work behind the bat as last year.’”
.295, 6 HR, 72 RBI
Errors Committed as 1B-35
1st Time All-Star-Percival Wheritt “Perry” or “Moose” Werden was born on July 21, 1861 in St. Louis, MO. He never played fulltime before this season, playing a total of 21 games for the Union Association St. Louis Maroons in 1884 and the National League Washington Nationals in 1888. Now a fulltime first baseman, Moose was the best at that position in the league, finishing seventh in WAR (5.1); third in WAR Position Players (5.1), behind only Cupid Childs (6.3) and Chicken Wolf (5.2); and fifth in Offensive WAR (4.4). Werden garnered his best hitting season ever, slashing .295/.404/.456 for an OPS+ of 149. It’s possible he still has another All-Star team left, but this was his best season ever.
According to SABR, Werden’s most famous season took place in the minor leagues. Joel Rippel writes, “The home run was his 44th of the season, breaking his record of 43 set the previous season. On September 19, Werden went 5-for-6 and hit his 45th home run of the season in a 20–10 victory over Grand Rapids. His 45 home runs would stand as the record in Organized Baseball until Babe Ruth hit 54 for the New York Yankees in 1920.
“In 24 seasons in professional baseball, he had 2,897 hits, 195 home runs and 500 recorded stolen bases (as then defined) (four times he stole more than 50). But the exclamation point on Perry Werden’s long and productive baseball career was his record-setting 1895 season in which he set a long-standing home run mark and hit in 40 consecutive games.”
.306, 0 HR, 53 RBI
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.37
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.46
1st Time All-Star-Harry Leonard Taylor was born on April 4, 1866 in Halsey Valley, NY. He had this sensational rookie season and then will probably never make another All-Star team. This season, he finished sixth in Defensive WAR (1.2), impressive for a first baseman. At the plate, Taylor slashed .306/.383/.344 for an OPS+ of 114. In the World Series against the National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms, he had similar stats, batting .300 with a double.
SABR says of Taylor, in an article written by Charlie Bevis, “In the early 1890s Harry Taylor played four seasons of major-league baseball to earn money to pay for the law-school education that he pursued during the offseason. While his exploits as a first baseman on the baseball diamond are now unmemorable, Taylor made a more lasting but unsung contribution to baseball history through his legal services that helped to elevate the American League to major-league status in 1901. As the lawyer for the Players Protective Association, an early ballplayers union, Taylor issued the crucial legal opinion to his ballplayer constituents that it was his belief that the reserve clause in the National League’s standard player contract had ‘no legal value.’ Taylor’s legal analysis set the stage for Napoleon Lajoie, Jimmy Collins, and dozens of other ballplayers to jump from the National League and establish the American League as a serious competitor to the then-monopoly National League. Taylor went to serve as a judge in New York state for nearly four decades.” He started playing in a year another league, the Players League, tried to do the same thing, but would help establish a league that is still going to this day.
.308, 2 HR, 55 RBI
1st Time All-Star-William Thomas “Mox” McQuery was born on June 28, 1861 in Garrard County, KY. He started his career with the Union Association Cincinnati Outlaw Reds in 1884, went to the National League Detroit Wolverines in 1885 and the Kansas City Cowboys in 1886 before taking three seasons off from the Major Leagues. He came back this year and, thanks to the dilution of talent due to the Players League, made his first and last All-Star team. Mox finished 10th in Offensive WAR (3.1), slashing .308/.383/.384 for an OPS+ of 135.
This was Syracuse’s only year of existence and they weren’t too successful. George Frazier (51-65) and Wally Fessenden (4-7) coached the team to a seventh-place 55-72 record. Neither ever coached before and would never coach again. The Stars’ hitting wasn’t too bad, but their pitching was some of the worst in the league. It’s probably why they don’t a pitcher on the All-Star team. This despite pitching in pitchers’ parks.
McQuery died young as a hero, according to Wikipedia, which says, “McQuery was a patrol officer for the Covington Police Department when he was killed in the line of duty. He had stopped a horse-drawn streetcar that contained two men wanted for murder. The criminals opened fire, striking him in the chest, and he later died as result of his injuries. ‘Big Mox’ was buried at Linden Grove Cemetery in Covington, Kentucky.” I’ve actually been to Covington, staying in a hotel there while taking a trip to watch my beloved Reds. The city resides right across the river from Cincinnati.
.345, 2 HR, 89 RBI
WAR Position Players-6.3
Adj. Batting Runs-51
Adj. Batting Wins-5.3
Extra Base Hits-49
1st Time All-Star-Clarence Lemuel “Cupid” Childs was born on August 8, 1867 in Calvert County, MD and said this baseball stuff is easy, having his best season ever in his rookie year. Childs also had the highest WAR on Syracuse. He will be making more of these All-Star teams and is yet another great player of which I’ve never heard. This season, Cupid finished fifth in WAR (6.3), first in WAR Position Players (6.3), and first in Offensive WAR (6.4). See, easy game. At the plate, Childs slashed .345/.434/.481 for an OPS+ of 180. His slugging average and OPS+ ended up being career highs.
Of Childs, SABR says, “While growing up in Baltimore, Cupid learned to play baseball on the local sandlots. Clarence eventually grew to 5’8″ and weighed a solid 185 pounds. In later years, his playing weight was listed at 192 pounds. It’s safe to assume that his resemblance to the fictional matchmaker was the reason for his cherubic nickname. He is also referred to in various newspaper accounts as ‘Fats,’ ‘Fatty,’ ‘Paca,’ and even ‘The Dumpling.’”
From the same article, this is about Childs trying out for Kalamazoo in 1888, “When he reported to the Kalamazoo club he came in on a ‘side-door Pullman’ and presented himself to the management of the ‘Celery Eaters’ and asked for a trial. The manager thought he was joking after looking at his short length and broad girth, telling him he would make a better fat man in a side show than a ball player. Showing them he was anxious for a trial he was told to go to the grounds and practice with the rest of the team. A search was made for a uniform that would fit him, but none could be found, the only thing of that nature large enough for him being a pair of divided skirts, which he put on, cutting them off at the knees. His appearance with this costume on can be imagined and was so ludicrous that it threatened to break up the practice. However, as soon as he got out on the diamond and began to practice they began to open eyes and wonder. Such stops and throws were made as they never saw before and with such ease and grace that all were at once convinced he was a wonder.”
.354, 7 HR, 73 RBI
On-Base Plus Slugging-.992
Offensive Win %-.842
Fielding % as 3B-.909
4th Time All-Star-Lyons made his fourth straight All-Star team with the Athletics and would have had his best season ever except he missed a stretch of the 1890 season. Still, despite playing only 88 of the team’s 132 games, he finished fifth in WAR Position Players (4.7) and second in Offensive WAR (4.7). Lyons slashed .354/.461/.531 for an OPS+ of 193. It would have been interesting to see what this man, still in his prime, could have done in a full season. He was released, according to Wikipedia, which says, “During the season, the team struggled financially and wound up selling or releasing most of their players. They were able to finish the season with a pickup team and were subsequently expelled from the league following the season. They were replaced by a new Philadelphia Athletics team that had played in the Players’ League the previous season.” The St. Louis Browns purchased him towards the end of the season, but he never played for them until 1891.
Philadelphia fell from its third place finish in 1889 to an eighth place finish this season. Bill Sharsig coached the team to a 54-78 record.
As good of player as Lyons was, it’s puzzling why there’s not more information about him on the web. Sure, I could do research using, you know, books, but then I’d have to get up from this chair, put on shoes and drive to a library and that sounds like a bit of a hassle. If anyone reading this knows why Lyons missed so much of the 1890 season, let me know. (I like to pretend I have readers.)
.281, 5 HR, 84 RBI
1st Time All-Star-James “Jimmy” or “Darby” Knowles was born on September 5, 1856 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and had been around baseball for quite a while before making this, his first All-Star team. He played first base for Pittsburgh and Brooklyn in 1884, moved to the National League Washington Nationals in 1886, went back to the American Association and played for New York in 1887, before ending up with Rochester this season. He had his best season ever, finishing seventh in WAR Position Players (4.2), ninth in Offensive WAR (3.2) and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.4). Darby slashed .281/.359/.369 for an OPS+ of 120. After this season, he had just one more year, for the National League New York Giants in 1892.
Knowles had an unusual season, probably due to the dilution of talent because of the Players League. This was the only season he ever hit about .250, had an on-base percentage over .262, had a slugging average over .319, or had an OPS+ over 86. All of this at the age of 33.
While this is the only season Rochester, New York, ever had a Major League team, the Red Wings, formerly the Hustlers, Colts, and Tribe, have been part of the Minor League International League since 1912. According to Wikipedia, “Founded in 1899, it is the oldest continuously operating sports franchise in North America below the major league level.” They’ve been affiliated with the Twins since 2002 after being linked with the Baltimore Orioles for 42 years.
.266, 4 HR, 77 RBI
Def. Games as 3B-137
Putouts as 3B-206
Assists as 3B-354
Errors Committed as 3B-67
Double Plays Turned as 3B-26
Range Factor/9 Inn as 3B-4.25
Range Factor/Game as #B-4.09
1st Time All-Star-Charles Nelson Reilly (j/k)…Charles Thomas “Princeton Charlie” Reilly was born on February 15, 1867 in (surprise!) Princeton, NJ. He started with the Solons, playing six games for them in 1889, before becoming a full-time third baseman this season. If we go by things like stats, Princeton Charlie played a dazzling hot corner. He had his best season ever, finishing eighth in WAR Position Players (4.1) and first in Defensive WAR (2.7). After this season, he moved to the National League Pittsburgh Pirates in 1891 and then to the NL Philadelphia Phillies in 1892, staying with them through 1895. He finished his career with the NL Washington Senators in 1897.
Reilly played only six games for Columbus in 1889, but he certainly stood out, going 11-for-23 (.478) with one double and three home runs. Incredibly, he’d never hit more than four home runs in any full season after that one. Wikipedia says of 1889, “Reilly was the first of two players to have four hits that included at least one home run (he hit two) in their first major league game. J.P. Arencibia is the only player in the baseball’s modern era to equal this feat. Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies also hit two home runs in his first ever Major League game (and a third home run in his second game).” In those six games, he had a 0.6 Offensive WAR, something he’d only beat once, in 1890, in any full season. If judged just by that season, you would have thought he’d be the best player of all time, but it’s the danger of making judgments with too little data.
.277, 1 HR, 58 RBI
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-5.48
Range Factor/Game as SS-5.43
1st Time All-Star-Philip H. “Phil” or “Buster” Tomney was born on June 17, 1863 in Reading, PA. He started with the Colonels in 1888 and finished with them, along with his whole Major League career, this season. He played stellar defense, finishing second in Defensive WAR (2.1), behind only Charlie Reilly. At the plate, he slashed .277/.357/.376 for an OPS+ of 116 and is the only shortstop on the All-Star team. In the World Series against the National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms, Tomney played in limited action, going one-for-five with three walks. Like so many players of this era, Tomney died young. According to Wikipedia, “Tomney died in his hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania in 1892 at the age of 28 due to a lung infection brought on by Pulmonary Phithisis (tuberculosis), and is interred at Aulenbach’s Cemetery in Mount Penn, Pennsylvania.”
WAR is a great shortcut statistic to give a general overview of the game’s best players, but it’s impossible to know how accurate it was this far back in baseball history. For instance, Tomney’s range factor per 9 innings was 6.19 in 1889 and 5.48 this season, yet his Defensive War was 0.1 in 1889 and 2.1 this year. Of course, it could have to do with the 114 errors he made in 1889, second in the league to Kansas City shortstop Herman Long, who had 122. That was tied by third baseman Billy Shindle of the Players League Philadelphia Athletics this season and is still the all-time record. Tomney’s 114 errors in 1889 are the fourth most of all time.
.346, 1 HR, 113 RBI
Runs Batted In-113
Def. Games as OF-135
1st Time All-Star-James Ralph “Spud” Johnson was born in December, 1856 in Canada. When in December? We don’t know. Where in Canada? We don’t know. When did he die? We don’t know that either. What do we know? We know he started with Columbus in 1889 and finished with the National League Cleveland Spiders in 1891 and had his best season ever this year. He finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.1) and sixth in Offensive WAR (4.3), while slashing .346/.409/.461. I don’t know how it would be phrased but 113 RBI with only one home run has to be close to some kind of record. He is also the first Johnson to make an All-Star team.
Here’s Wikipedia’s report on Spud: “Johnson was signed by the Solons on January 15, 1889, when after the 1888 season the Kansas City team of the Western Association folded and was sold to the Kansas City team of the American Association. A dispute quickly surfaced between the two teams about Johnson and his rights. On March 19, Columbus settled the dispute by paying Kansas City $500. His best season came in 1890 when he led the Association in runs batted in with 113, while finishing in the top five in most offensive categories including his .346 batting average, 18 triples, and 186 hits.
“Nothing much is known of his whereabouts after he left organized baseball.” If he lived nowadays, every detail of his life would be reported on social media. Of course, since we don’t know when he died, he could be alive at 160 years old!
.258, 1 HR, 48 RBI
Bases on Balls-112
Double Plays Turned as OF-8
1st Time All-Star-James Edward “Jim” McTamany was born 87 years after the birth of the United States in Philadelphia, PA. He played his rookie year with Brooklyn in 1885, then moved to Kansas City in 1888 and Columbus in 1889. He had his best season ever this year, slashing .258/.405/.352 for an OPS+ of 128. He’d never had much power but was always good at drawing bases on balls. Wikipedia says, “As a hitter, McTamany drew a lot of walks, finishing in the top three of the American Association each year from 1888 to 1891. He led the league with 140 runs scored in 1890.
“McTamany was also a good defensive outfielder. He played mostly center field and was among the league leaders in putouts and assists for several seasons.” He’d then play for Columbus and Philadelphia in 1891 and his career would be finished.
Louisville won the title by beating the Solons, 2-0 A book called “Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games That Shaped the 19th Century” says of the game, “The pennant was finally clinched when Louisville left fielder Charlie Hamburg tracked down a long fly ball off the bat of Jack Doyle for the final out. [Hank] Gastright pitched a good game in the tough 2-0 loss, allowing five hits and tossing shut-out ball for the last eight innings.” McTamany went one-for-four in the game, getting his hit in the third inning, but the rally fizzled out and Columbus never got close again. His single was one of six Solon hits in the game.
.363, 4 HR, 98 RBI
1890 AA Batting Title
2nd Time All-Star-Wolf made his second All-Star team and his first in eight years. He played on Louisville from 1882-91, before playing three games with the National League St. Louis Browns in 1892. Chicken had his best season ever, finishing sixth in WAR (5.2); second in WAR Position Players (5.2), behind only Cupid Childs; and third in Offensive WAR (4.7), behind only Childs and Denny Lyons. He slashed .363/.421/.479 for an OPS+ of 166. He’s yet another player who’s grateful for the creation of the Players League. In the World Series in which Louisville tied the National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms, Wolf did great, going nine-for-25 (.360), with three doubles and a triple, also driving in eight runs.
SABR says of Wolf, “The 1890 season was a tumultuous one for professional baseball. It was the year of the Players War, with three major leagues operating and rosters completely changed from 1889. This turned out to be a blessing for Louisville. Although Browning and Hecker were gone, the play of a few rookies and career years by some veterans lofted the club to its only major league pennant. No player had a bigger season than Jimmy Wolf.”
Wikipedia says, “Wolf died in 1903 at the age of 41, from the effects of brain trauma he suffered a few years before in a fire-fighting accident, and is interred at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. This cemetery is where other Louisville ballplayers have been buried as well, including childhood friend and teammate Pete Browning.”
.327, 3 HR, 64 RBI, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 1 K
5th Time All-Star-Swartwood didn’t make the All-Star team in 1887 and then didn’t play in the Major Leagues in 1888 and 1889. However, with the formation of the Players League in 1890, Swartwood was back in the Majors. For Toronto, he finished eighth in WAR (5.1), fourth in WAR Position Players (5.0), and seventh in Offensive WAR (4.3). At the plate, Swartwood slashed .327/.444/.444 for an OPS+ of 157. He had his best ever defensive year, with a Defensive WAR of 0.0. Oh, I know that doesn’t look good, but for Swartwood, one of the worst fielders of all time, it’s incredible.
According to SABR, Swartwood still had his power: “The right-field wall at Toledo’s ballpark, Speranza Park, was 20 feet high and a considerable distance from home plate. On May 3 off Jack Easton, according to Sporting Life, ‘Swartwood was the first player to knock a fair ball over Toledo’s right field fence.’ For the feat he won a new suit, a hat, and haircuts through the summer.”
And on his life after baseball: “As early as 1904, Swartwood was assisting during legal executions. He became known as a local executioner or hangman. Over the years, he assisted during many locally and even traveled to neighboring counties to assist in others.
“On May 15, 1924, Edward Swartwood died ‘after a long illness’ at the age of 65. He was buried at the Union Dale Cemetery in Pittsburgh.” He’s not going to make the ONEHOF, but for a little while there wasn’t a better hitter in baseball than Swartwood.
.350, 6 HR, 69 RBI
Plate Appearances-625 (2nd Time)
Times on Base-269
1st Time All-Star-Thomas Francis Michael “Tommy” McCarthy was born on July 24, 1863 in Boston, MA and my guess is he’s of Irish descent. He started in 1884 with the Union Association Boston Reds, moved on to the National League Boston Beaneaters in 1885, found himself with the NL Philadelphia Quakers in 1886 and 1887, before coming to the Browns in 1888. I am shocked to see he’s a member of the Hall of Fame and it is baffling as to why. This year will most likely be his only All-Star team and, oh, never mind, the Hall of Fame is so frustrating, instead of pure and perfect like the ONEHOF.
Along with playing, McCarthy managed the team for 27 games, guiding them to a 15-12 record. The Browns were also coached by John Kerins (9-8), Chief Roseman (7-8), Count Campau (27-14), and Joe Gerhardt (20-16) and they ended up with a 78-58 record and third place finish.
This was McCarthy’s best season ever as he finished sixth in WAR Position Players (4.6) and fourth in Offensive WAR (4.5). He slashed .350/.430/.467 for an OPS+ of 148. Certainly it was a good season, but if this is your best season, what are you doing in the Hall of Fame? Frustrating.
So, um, why?!! According to The Hall of Miller and Eric, “The more insidious among us might guess something else. There were only six members on the powerful Old-Timers Committee. They included Connie Mack, Yankee President Ed Barrow, Hall founder Stephen C. Clark, and three others. Let me introduce those three. First, there’s Boston baseball writer, Mel Webb. Second, we have and a man who previously owned the Boston Red Sox and at the time had ownership interest in the Boston Braves, Bob Quinn. And finally, there’s one-time writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and road secretary for the St. Louis Browns, Sid Mercer. Almost all of McCarthy’s career was for the Boston Beaneaters and St. Louis Browns. Interesting.” Read the whole thing.
(AA Stats Only) .241, 1 HR, 48 RBI, 16-17, 3.45 ERA, 113 K
2nd Time All-Star-Daily last made the All-Star team in 1885. Since then he moved to the National League Washington Nationals in 1887 and then Columbus in 1889. This season, he played for three teams including four games in the National League. In the American Association, Daily finished 9th in WAR for Pitchers, pitching 328 2/3 innings with a 3.45 ERA and a 114 ERA+. He also pitched in the World Series, going 0-2 with a 2.65 ERA against the NL Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who Louisville tied in the Series. His hitting against Brooklyn, as always, was terrible, as Daily went three-for-22, with a double and a triple.
The Gladiators, which is an awesome nickname, by the way, never finished the season, going 26-73 under Manager Jim Kennedy. Or as Wikipedia says, “The 1890 Brooklyn Gladiators baseball team finished with a 26–73 record, last place in the American Association during their only season in existence. The team failed to finish the season, folding after their game against the Syracuse Stars on August 25. They were replaced by the resurrected Baltimore Orioles franchise, which had left the league at the end of the 1889 season.”
Another Wikipedia article adds, “Of the 23 men who played for the Gladiators, only three—Daily, second baseman Joe Gerhardt, and third baseman Jumbo Davis—played professionally beyond the 1890 season. None played past July 1891.” Hey, not to too my own horn, but all three of the players who played past 1890 have made the All-Star team at some point.