P-Silver King, CHI
P-Mark Baldwin, CHI
P-Old Hoss Radbourn, BOS
P-Gus Weyhing, BWW
P-Ben Sanders, PHQ
P-Harry Staley, PBB
P-Tim Keefe, NYI
P-Ad Gumbert, BOS
P-Phil Knell, PHQ
P-John Sowders, BWW
C-Buck Ewing, NYI
C-Fred Carroll, PBB
1B-Roger Connor, NYI
1B-Jake Beckley, PBB
1B-Henry Larkin, CLE
1B-Dan Brouthers, BOS
2B-Lou Bierbauer, BWW
3B-Billy Nash, BOS
SS-Monte Ward, BWW
LF-Pete Browning, CLE
LF-Hardy Richardson, BOS
CF-Dummy Hoy, BUF
RF-Hugh Duffy, CHI
RF-Harry Stovey, BOS
RF-Jim O’Rourke, NYI
30-22, 2.69 ERA, 185 K, .168, 1 HR, 16 RBI
1890 PL Pitching Title (2nd Time)
Wins Above Replacement-13.0 (2nd Time)
WAR for Pitchers-13.8 (2nd Time)
Earned Run Average-2.69 (2nd Time)
Hits per 9 IP-8.200
Games Started-56 (2nd Time)
Shutouts-4 (2nd Time)
Adjusted ERA+-162 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-82 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.9 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-139
4th Time All-Star-Because we live in a time where utility players and relief pitchers earn millions of dollars, we forget how long the fight for money for the players went on in baseball. From almost the very beginning of baseball history, players had to play under the reserve clause, which limited player mobility and also player earnings. So to battle that, they formed the Players League in 1890, of which Wikipedia says, “The Players’ National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, popularly known as the Players’ League (sometimes rendered as Players League), was a short-lived but star-studded professional American baseball league of the 19th century. It emerged from the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players, the sport’s first players’ union.
“The PL was well-attended, at least in some cities, but was underfunded, and its owners lacked the confidence to continue beyond the one season.
“Although the league was started by the players themselves, essentially as an elaborate job-action to improve their lot, the venture proved to be a setback for them in the longer term. The infamous reserve clause remained intact, and would remain thus for the next 85 years or so. The already-shaky AA had been further weakened by the presence of the PL. The Lou Bierbauer incident caused a schism between the NL and the AA, and the AA failed a year later, reducing the total number of major league teams (and players) significantly, giving the remaining owners much greater leverage against the players.”
King finished 1st in WAR (13.0) and 1st in WAR for Pitchers (13.8), pitching 461 innings with a 2.69 ERA and a 162 ERA+. Chicago, coached by Charlie Comiskey, finished in fourth place with a 75-62 record, 10 games out of first.
33-24, 3.35 ERA, 206 K, .212, 1 HR, 25 RBI
Games Played-58 (2nd Time)
Innings Pitched-492.0 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts-206 (2nd Time)
Games Started-56 (2nd Time)
Bases on Balls-249
Batters Faced-2,242 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-58 (2nd Time)
Putouts as P-26 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-139
2nd Time All-Star-Fido was always one of the most out-of-control pitchers in the league, having set the all-time mark for wild pitches with 83 in 1889. He also would have allowed the most walks in a season ever with 274 in 1889, but Amos Rusie of the National League New York Giants walked 289 and set the all-time record which still holds to this day. Don’t let that lack of control make you think Baldwin couldn’t pitch. He could. This season, he finished second in WAR (8.0) and second in WAR for Pitchers (8.5), finishing behind only Silver King in both categories. He pitched a league-leading 492 innings and finished with a 3.35 ERA and a 130 ERA+.
Did having the two best pitchers allow Chicago to have the best pitching in the Players League? As a matter of fact, yes. The team allowed the least runs and had the best ERA in the PL. However, the Pirates scored the second least runs and that’s what kept them from doing better.
Baldwin did not seem to like Cap Anson, who released him before the 1889 season. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia, “’A year ago when Spalding released him, [Baldwin] declared that the ambition of his life was to play in opposition to Anson’s team. He then thought only of a rival national league team and did not dream of a local rival for public patronage. Now that he is with the Chicago Players’ team he says his ambition is gratified beyond his most fanciful hope, and he proposes to do all in his power to make his services to the new team valuable.’
A writer for The Chicago Tribune on Baldwin’s career after the White Stockings.”
27-12, 3.31 ERA, 80 K, .253, 0 HR, 16 RBI
8th Time All-Star-It’s amazing how many great players the Players League snatched up. The great Old Hoss came to the league and did Old Hossy stuff. He finished third in WAR (8.0), behind Silver King and Mark Baldwin, and third in WAR for Pitchers (8.2), behind the same two men. Radbourn pitched 343 innings with a 3.31 ERA and 127 ERA+. It certainly didn’t look like he’d lost his stuff, but next season would be less productive and also be his last.
As for the Reds, they were the PL’s only champions. Coached by King Kelly, Boston finished 81-48, six-and-a-half games ahead of Brooklyn. It scored the second most runs in the league and allowed the second least. It helps to have six All-Stars on the team.
Radbourn is yet another 1800s player to die young, at the age of 42. Here’s the end of his life, according to Wikipedia, and as with everything in his life, it’s colorful: “After retiring, Radbourn opened up a successful billiard parlor and saloon in Bloomington, Illinois. Dating back to his playing days, he had always had a reputation for being a bit vain.
“Radbourn was seriously injured in a hunting accident soon after retirement, in which he lost an eye, spending most of his remaining years shut up in a back room of the saloon he owned, apparently too ashamed to be seen after the injury.
“Radbourn died in Bloomington in 1897 and was interred in Evergreen Cemetery. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. In 1941 a plaque was placed on the back of his elaborate headstone, detailing his distinguished career in baseball.”
30-16, 3.60 ERA, 177 K, .164, 1 HR, 15 RBI
1st Time All-Star-August “Gus” or “Cannonball” or “Rubber Arm Gun” or “Rubber-Winged Gus” Weyhing was born on September 29, 1866 in Louisville, KY or just a little bit before I started this sentence. How many nicknames does a person need? Weyhing is actually a victim of my fluky rules for the All-Star team, mainly the one which says “Every team must have a representative.” He could have already made the American Association All-Star team in 1887 and 1889, but was blocked by lesser representatives from teams which needed a player on the squad. Sorry, Gus or sorry, Cannonball or sorry, Rubber Arm Gun or sorry Rubber-Winged Gus.
Weyhing finished fourth in WAR (7.0) and fourth in WAR for pitchers (8.0) pitching 390 innings with a 3.60 ERA and a 123 ERA+. It was his third consecutive year of having an Adjusted ERA+ of 120 or more and his fourth consecutive season of 20 wins. I don’t know how to categorize it, but he might have the best previous career of a first-time All-Star representative ever.
Rubber Arm Gun’s previous years were spent with the American Association Philadelphia Athletics, from 1887-89. Ed Seward was the dominant pitcher in those years and he made the All-Star team in 1887 and 1888.
Here’s Wikipedia’s sum up of his pre-All-Star career: “Weyhing was a solid pitcher, though he never led the league in any specific categories. He did have a few career highlights, however. In one memorable week in the 1888 season, Weyhing pitched three consecutive complete game victories against Brooklyn to eliminate that team from the pennant race. In addition, Weyhing came close to throwing a perfect game when he hurled a no-hitter on July 31, 1888, against the Kansas City Cowboys. He walked one batter and another reached base via an error. He set the record for most hit baseman [with] 278.”
19-18, 3.76 ERA, 107 K, .312, 0 HR, 30 RBI
3rd Time All-Star-“Big Ben [TM]” made his third consecutive All-Star team, and most likely his last, finishing sixth in WAR (5.7) and seventh in WAR for Pitchers (4.7). His hitting, as always, added a lot of value to his season. On the mound, he pitched 346 2/3 innings with a 3.76 ERA and a 115 ERA+ while at the dish, he slashed .312/.347/.407 for an OPS+ of 98. Not great, but certainly fantastic for a pitcher.
As for the Athletics…Before I go there, how many Philadelphia baseball teams were called the Athletics? There was the 1871-75 National Association team, 1876 National League team, the 1882-90 American Association team, the 1890-91 Players League/AA team, and later, the 1901-50 American League team. These Athletics named themselves the Athletics despite the AA already having a team called the Athletics. I’m glad the city had more creativity when coming up with the Declaration of Independence.
Sanders would finish his career with the Athletics when they moved to the AA in 1891 and then pitched his final year at the age of 27 with the NL Louisville Colonels. Wikipedia says, “He finished his career with the Louisville Colonels of the National League, playing his final game on October 14, 1892. He had a record of 12-19, but on August 22, 1892, he pitched a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles, a 6–2 victory, the first no-hitter in the National League which the losing team in a no-hitter scored at least one run.”
21-25, 3.23 ERA, 145 K, .207, 1 HR, 25 RBI
Walks & Hits per IP-1.202
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-1.718
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-1.960
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.99 (2nd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Henry Eli “Harry” Staley was born on November 3, 1866 in Jacksonville, IL. He started his career with the National League Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1888 and 1889, before moving over to the Players League this season. He finished eighth in WAR (5.3) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2), pitching 387 2/3 innings with a 3.23 ERA (second in the league to Silver King) and a 122 ERA+. He most likely has one more All-Star team left in his arm.
Hall of Fame Manager Ned Hanlon guided the Burghers (awesome!) to a 60-68 sixth place finish, 20-and-a-half games out of first, in their only season of existence.
There were 32 shutouts in the Players League in 1890, with three coming from Staley. In the book “The Shutout in Major League Baseball: A History” by Warren N. Wilbert, he writes, “Two of the three blankings occurred on October 3, one at Pittsburgh, where the Burghers, behind Harry Staley, beat the Old Hoss, Charley Radbourn, 4-0. Staley that day had to be at his best to beat Radbourn, who, in his last great season, led his Boston team to the Players’ League pennant with a 27-12 mark. The win was Staley’s 21st for the seventh-place Pittsburghs.”
It’s interesting people are writing whole books on shutouts in Major League history. Next thing you know, people will have websites with their own All-Star teams and Hall of Fames for all of baseball history. Can you imagine how time-consuming something like that would be?
17-11, 3.38 ERA, 89 K, .109, 2 HR, 11 RBI
11th Time All-Star-Keefe was now pitching for his third New York team in three different leagues, but still kept being effective. He’s made his 11th straight All-Star team with his fourth different squad, finishing ninth in WAR (4.4) and sixth in WAR for Pitchers (5.0). Smiling Tim pitched “only” 229 innings with a 3.38 ERA and 134 ERA+ (second to Silver King). Keefe’s done all a pitcher can do, made double-digit All-Star teams, been inducted into the ONEHOF and the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, but he’s not done yet, even at the age of 33.
Yet his most noble, if not fruitless, deed was co-organizing the Players League. Wikipedia says, “Keefe was very well-paid for his career, yet he was a leading member of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, an early players’ union that fought for the welfare of players. He assisted his brother-in-law Monte Ward to form the Players’ League for the 1890 season. As a co-organizer of the Players’ League, he recognized that he might be financially vulnerable if the league failed to make money. Keefe transferred ownership of his real estate assets to his mother so that they would remain safe from any legal rulings.
“Shortly before the Players’ League was founded, Keefe had started a sporting goods business in New York with former W. H. Becannon, a former employee of baseball owner and sporting goods entrepreneur Albert Spalding. Keefe and Becannon manufactured the Keefe ball, the official baseball of the league. Spalding and the other NL owners fought against the new league, employing legal and financial maneuvers (such as slashing NL ticket prices) that made competition difficult. The Players’ League folded after one season.”
23-12, 3.96 ERA, 81 K, .241, 3 HR, 20 RBI
Home Runs Allowed-18
1st Time All-Star-Addison Courtney “Ad” Gumbert was born on October 10, 1867 in Pittsburgh, PA. He started his Major League career with the National League Chicago White Stockings in 1888 and 1889. He was always an effective pitcher, but a lack of talent in the Players League helped him make the All-Star team this season. Gumbert finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (3.2), pitching 277 1/3 innings with a 3.96 ERA and a 106 ERA+. He also slashed .241/.333/.366 for an OPS+ of 84, which wasn’t good, but was great for a pitcher and once of his worst seasons hitting during this stretch of his career. All of this helped lead the Reds to the only Players League title.
Wikipedia gives the beginning of his life: “Addison Gumbert was born on October 10, 1867, or 1868, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Robert and Henrietta Gumbert. At the 1880 United States Census, Robert worked as a dispatcher, while Henrietta was unemployed, with her occupation listed as a “keephouse”. The family lived on Frankstown Avenue in the 21st Ward of Pittsburgh.”
After this season, Gumbert would go back to the NL Chicago Colts in 1891 and 1892, move on to the NL Pittsburgh Pirates in 1893 and 1894, then go to the NL Brooklyn Grooms in 1895 and 1896, and then finish with the NL Philadelphia Phillies, going there in the middle of 1896. He finished his career with a winning record, going 123-102, though Gumbert’s career ERA+ finished under 100 (95). He died in Pittsburgh on April 23, 1925 at the age of 57.
22-11, 3.83 ERA, 113 ERA+, .220, 1 HR, 18 RBI
Hit By Pitch-28
1st Time All-Star-Philip Louis “Phil” Knell was born on March 12, 1865 in Mill Valley, CA. He pitched three games for the National League Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1888, before pitching for Philadelphia this year. He finished eighth in WAR for Pitchers (3.7), tossing 286 2/3 innings with a 3.83 ERA and 113 ERA+. Next year would be even better for him.
It’s always interesting to me that people born in California played in the Major Leagues in the 1800s. I live in California and I know the state didn’t have any Major League teams until 1958, so it just seems strange that in this time of low tech and brutal travel, people would make it from one coast to the other. Or be scouted by teams way out west. But it happened and Knell was one of the best. He still has another All-Star team coming most likely.
If you’re wondering about Mill Valley, Knell’s birthplace, and who wouldn’t be, here’s Wikipedia on the modern-day city: “In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Mill Valley tenth on its list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States. In 2007, MSN and Forbes magazine ranked Mill Valley seventy-third on its ‘Most expensive zip codes in America’ list.”
“John Lennon and Yoko Ono summered in a Mill Valley home on Lovell Ave. near the library in the early 1970s, having left some of his own graffiti on the wall of the residence ‘The Maya the Merrier’.” Imagine that.
19-16, 3.82 ERA, 91 K, .189, 1 HR, 20 RBI
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.087
1st Time All-Star-John Sowders was born on December 10, 1866 in Louisville, KY. He pitched three innings for the National League Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1887, was a hurler for the American Association 1889 Kansas City Cowboys, then pitched his last ever Major League season here in the Players League in 1890. Sowders finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (3.5), pitching 309 innings with a 3.82 ERA and a117 ERA+. Sowders was tall and lean at six-foot, 150 pounds. His brothers, Bill and Len, also pitched in the Major Leagues.
Little Bill Sowders pitched three seasons in the Major Leagues from 1888-90 for the NL Boston and Pittburgh squads. Like his brother, John, he, too, was tall and skinny at six-foot, 155 pounds. And like John, he, too, led a league, the NL, in Home Runs per 9 IP, allowing only 0.085 per nine innings in 1888. Len only played one season, for the AA Baltimore team, but didn’t pitch like his brothers. He was a centerfielder who slashed .263/.364/.329 for an OPS+ of 121 and if you’re wondering why he only played one season, he was dead by the age of 27 in 1888, dying of typhoid malaria. According to the Baseball Bloggess, “Typhoid was rampant in the 19th century and there was a spike in cases in 1888 due, it was thought, to an especially rainy summer and fall in the northern states. According to one New York report at the time, one in four cases was fatal. Typhoid’s progression can be slow and painful, with a fever often dragging out for weeks, slowly getting higher and higher, before intestinal bleeding or sepsis causes death.”
.338, 8 HR, 72 RBI, 0-1, 4.00, 2 K
Fielding % as C-.949
8th Time All-Star-Ewing is yet another one of the greats who abandoned the National League ship to jump abound the Players League train. He had another great season, but it’s possibly his last All-Star team. Ewing finished seventh in WAR Position Players (3.5), 10th in Offensive WAR (3.1), and fifth in Defensive WAR (0.8), all very good for someone who played in the brutal catcher position for so many years and who only played 83 of the team’s 132 games. He slashed .338/.406/.545 for an OPS+ of 144, the on-base percentage and slugging average were his highest ever. This would be the last season Ewing would be primarily behind the plate as he’d play mainly rightfield and first base for the rest of his career.
Buck managed a team for the first time ever and did well, leading the Giants to a third place finish with a 74-57 mark, eight games behind first place Boston. He would manage the Reds from 1895-99 and do very well, though he never won a league title.
After this season, Ewing would head back to the NL, playing two more seasons with New York, then play two with Cleveland, and finish off his career playing three with Cincinnati.
As for Ewing’s return to the National League in 1891, SABR says, “Buck was reappointed to his old captain’s role but no longer commanded his former respect when he refused to play, limiting himself to just 14 games after admitting that even though his shoulder no longer hurt, it lacked the strength to make throws, a fault he attributed to a spring training mishap.” Read the whole SABR article, it has a lot to say about this injury.
.298, 2 HR, 71 RBI
4th Time All-Star-Carroll now made the All-Star team for the fourth time in his third league, finishing ninth in WAR Position Players (3.2) and ninth in Offensive WAR (3.2). He slashed .298/.418/.394 for an OPS+ of 125 before moving to the outfield as a 26-year-old in 1891 for the National League Pittsburgh squad. It was his last major league season. With his hitting, Carroll definitely had a shot at the Hall of Fame if he could’ve prolonged his career. It was tough to have lengthy careers as catchers in the 1800s.
A few days before I’m writing this, another young man with great potential died. Yordano Ventura died in an accident in the Dominican Republic at the age of 25. This follows the death of Miami’s Jose Fernandez at the age of 24 a few months ago, as of this writing. The point is there have many good players in baseball whose careers were cut short for one reason or the other. Sometimes it’s a sudden death like the two mentioned above or Charlie Ferguson, the Philadelphia phenom who died at the age of 25 after winning 99 games over his four-year career.
I wonder how well Carroll could have done for his lifetime if he had been moved to first base or the outfield, instead of playing catcher. His lifetime slash numbers are .284/.370/.408 for an OPS+ of 136, which are great numbers. This is what makes baseball so interesting, it’s got a lot of numbers and has been going for so long, there’s never any lack of discussions to have about the sport.
.349, 14 HR, 103 RBI
WAR Position Players-6.0 (3rd Time)
Slugging %-.548 (2nd Time)
On-Base Plus Slugging-.998
Runs Created-119 (2nd Time)
Offensive Win %-.788
AB per HR-34.6
Putouts-1,335 (2nd Time)
Putouts as 1B-1,335 (2nd Time)
Assists as 1B-80 (2nd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 1B-79 (3rd Time)
Range Factor/9 Inn as 1B-11.67
Range Factor/Game as 1B-11.50
Fielding % as 1B-.985 (2nd Time)
9th Time All-Star-Connor led the Players League in home runs and it was the first and last time he ever led any league in long balls. Why do I sound surprised? Because until Babe Ruth came along, Connor was the all-time home run king. At this point in his career, he was behind Harry Stovey 101-80 in career homers. As for the season, the 33-year-old continued in his greatness, finishing fifth in WAR (6.0), first in WAR Position Players (6.0), fourth in Offensive WAR (4.4), and first in Defensive WAR (1.6). Can a first baseman really be the best fielder in the league? I don’t believe so, but that doesn’t take away from Connor being a dazzling glove man for his day. At the plate, he slashed .349/.450/.548 (his highest OBP ever) for an OPS+ of 156. Because of his big numbers, no one would have thought Connor was starting to falter, but it was his lowest Adjusted OPS+ since 1884 and it would continue to generally fall over the next few seasons.
By the way, a confession. I picked Connor to be 1890’s ONEHOF Inductee in my 1889 write-up, but it ended up being Jack Glasscock. I have to stop predicting things, I’m a bad prophet.
Here’s a tidbit on Connor’s 1890 season from Wikipedia: “Connor experimented with some changes to his batting style that year. He hit more balls to the opposite field and he sometimes batted right-handed, though he did not have much success from the right side.”
.324, 9 HR, 120 RBI
Extra Base Hits-69
2nd Time All-Star-I brought up this theme last season for Buckley and I don’t want to beat it to death, but here’s the thing. Those triples and extra base hits you see above are two of three times Beckley ever led in any offensive categories and he played for 20 seasons. My question is does Buckley really belong in the Hall of Fame? Don’t get me wrong, he’s not as bad of choice as Tommy McCarthy and he had some good seasons, but it’s close. His lifetime WAR is 61.1 and I will not argue with anyone with a Wins Above Replacement over 60 being a definite Hall of Fame-worthy player, but it’s a close call. I don’t know why the Hall of Fame gets me so riled up!
For the Burghers, Beckley had his best season ever, finishing fourth in WAR Position Players (3.9) and fifth in Offensive WAR (3.9). He slashed .324/.381/.535 (his highest SLG ever) for an OPS+ of 152 (his highest full season Adjusted OPS+ ever). All of this in a new diluted league. Oh, I’m just getting myself upset again, let’s continue.
I can’t be too upset at Beckley, because I like this quote from his Hall of Fame page, “’He was a big, happy, healthy, good-natured, small-town boy who had his full share of good luck in the game and left behind him a big army of pals among players, fans, and writers and who was never guilty of doing a dirty act, never tried to cut down a player or used obscene language against an umpire.’-Daguerreotypes, 1941”
.330, 5 HR, 112 RBI
4th Time All-Star-This is the write-up I’ve been waiting for because Cleveland’s nickname in the Players League was Infants. There has to be a great story behind this, but I’ll get to it in a minute. First, let’s look at Larkin, who finished fifth in WAR Position Player (3.8) and second in Offensive WAR (4.6), behind only teammate Pete Browning. He slashed .330/.419/.482 (his highest batting average ever) for an OPS+ of 148. He’s going to fall off after this season and has probably made his last All-Star team. I’ve been wrong before, many times.
As for the Infants (tee-hee), Larkin (34-45) and Patsy Tebeau (21-30) coached them to a seventh place 55-75 season, 26-and-a-half games out of first place. Larkin would never manage again, but Tebeau would actually be very successful for the National League Cleveland Spiders. Oh, and about the name, I couldn’t find anything about it. (So much for a great story). So if either of my two readers knows how Cleveland came to be called the Infants, send me a note.
After this season, Larkin went back to the American Association Philadelphia Athletics in 1891 and had his only double-digit home run season (10). Then he finished off his career with the National League Washington Senators in 1892 and 1893. His hitting never faltered as in his 10 seasons, Larkin never had an OPS+ under 123. While he’s not Hall of Fame worthy and definitely not ONEHOF worthy, he proved to be one of the best hitters in early baseball history in all three leagues in which he played.
.330, 1 HR, 97 RBI
On-Base %-.466 (4th Time)
Times on Base-269 (5th Time)
Errors Committed as 1B-49 (2nd Time)
10th Time All-Star-In a new league with watered-down competition, the great Brouthers had his worst hitting year since he became a full-time player. As it is, according to WAR, he’s only the fourth best first baseman in the league, but don’t worry, he’ll be back and I don’t believe he’s even had his best season yet. I sometimes wonder how long Mike Trout can keep up his dominance and looking at Big Dan’s career gives me a lot of hope.
This season, Brouthers finished sixth in WAR Position Players (3.7) and third in Offensive WAR (4.4), behind Infants Pete Browning and Henry Larkin. He slashed .330/.466/.454 for an OPS+ of 143. He did lose some power this season, hitting only one home run, which is probably why his Adjusted OPS+ dipped. He also was part of his second league-winning team.
Here’s a clip from “Big Dan Brouthers: Baseball’s First Great Slugger” written by Roy Kerr: “One of the most intriguing discoveries about ‘Big Dan’ is the more than four dozen nicknames invented by the press to express wonder at his size, strength and hitting prowess – a quantity and variety exceeded by no other player in baseball history…Viewed collectively, these condensed verbal portraits provide a unique glimpse of ‘the Champion Batsman of the World,’ ‘the Mighty Irish King,’ ‘the Fence-Smasher of the 80s’ and the ‘the Grand Old Man of the Game,’ who was one of the most talented and respected players of his era.” I really have to pick up this book. Good job, Roy Kerr!
.306, 7 HR, 99 RBI
Def. Games as 2B-133
Assists as 2B-468 (2nd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 2B-77
1st Time All-Star-Louis W. “Lou” Bierbauer as born on September 28, 1865 in Erie, PA. His value was primarily defensive as he flashed a good glove throughout his career. For the four seasons previous to this one, he played for the American Association Philadelphia Athletics, but couldn’t make the All-Star team despite finishing eighth in Defensive WAR (1.0) in 1888. He finally made it this year, having a great fielding year with a fourth place 1.1 dWAR, while doing decently at the plate. It helped there was a dearth of good second basemen in the Players League. Bierbauer slashed .306/.350/.431 for an OPS+ of 103. He’d never have an Adjusted OPS+ above 100 in his final eight seasons.
Bierbauer is responsible for the Pirates nickname in Pittsburgh, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Alfred Spink, the founder of the Sporting News, wrote about the incident in his 1910 book ‘The National Game’. According to Spink, the Alleghenys’ manager, Ned Hanlon, traveled to Presque Isle in the dead of winter to sign him, crossing the ice on the harbor during a snow storm. He finally reached Bierbauer’s home and got him to sign a contract with Allegheny.
“The Athletics, upon learning of this deal, objected to Bierbauer’s signing and stated that he should return to the A’s, since that was the team that employed him before his defection to the failed Players’ League. An official for the American Association also objected to Bierbauer signing with the Alleghenys and called the act ‘piratical.’ However the Alleghenys contended that since ‘the [American Association] did not reserve Bierbauer, he was a free agent’. An arbitrator agreed, and soon players and fans alike were calling the team the ‘Pittsburg Pirates.’”
.266, 5 HR, 90 RBI, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 K
Assists as 3B-307
Double Plays Turned as 3B-37
4th Time All-Star-Nash made his fourth consecutive All-Star team and was easily the best third baseman of his time. Only Ned Williamson and Ezra Sutton have made more All-Star teams at his position. Nash slashed .266/.383/.379 (his highest OBP thus far) for an OPS+ of 101. If there was an outstanding third sacker at this time, Nash wouldn’t have made the team, but there wasn’t and he did.
Speaking of Williamson and Sutton, I’ve been working on keeping an updated all-time All-Star team and through 1990, these are the players on it:
3B-Ned Williamson, Ezra Sutton
As of now, only Keefe, Anson, Glasscock, and Hines have made the ONEHOF, which shows how tough it is to make the Hall of Fame if you can only pick one player a year. I’ll keep updating it as new players are added.
Nash was known for his defense and did make the Defensive WAR top 10 three times, but those three seasons were the only ones of his 15 seasons in which he did so. He wound up having a Baseball Reference dWAR of 7.4 over those years, which is good, but a little lower than I would have anticipated for someone who is one of the best third basemen of his era. In 1891, he’s going have a 0.0 Defensive WAR and will have to make his fifth All-Star team with his bat. Fortunately for him, he had a good 1891 at the plate, but we’ll have to see whether he makes the cut or not.
.335, 4 HR, 60 RBI
Putouts as SS-303 (4th Time)
Assists as SS-450
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-5.93
8th Time All-Star-When Ward first started out in baseball and was a dominating pitcher, he made the All-Star teams six consecutive years and looked to be one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. However, after becoming a shortstop, Ward only made the All-Star team once, in 1887, before this season. Since then, he continued being at short for the Giants, before moving to the Players League this year. He finished eighth in Offensive WAR (3.3), one of two seasons he did so. That’s quite a feat considering he never was much of hitter. In 1890, Ward slashed .335/.393/.426 (his highest OBP and SLG ever) for an OPS+ of 113.
Along with that, Ward managed Brooklyn to a second-place 76-56 record. He’d coach in the New York area for five more seasons. The Ward’s Wonders, named after their manager, had the fifth highest run differential in the league, yet still managed to finish second, so some of that credit has to go to Monte.
There would be no Players League without Ward, according to Wikipedia, which says, “Ward realized that negotiations with the owners were going nowhere and threatened to create a Players’ League. The owners thought of it as nothing more than an idle threat but had failed to realize Ward’s connections in the business community, and he began to launch the new league. This new Players’ League included a profit sharing system for the players and had no reserve clause or classification plan.
“The season began in 1890 with over half of the National League’s players from the previous year in its ranks.”
.373, 5 HR, 93 RBI
1890 PL Batting Title (3rd Time)
Offensive WAR-4.9 (2nd Time)
Batting Average-.373 (3rd Time)
Adjusted OPS+-169 (2nd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-53 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Wins-4.9 (3rd Time)
6th Time All-Star-I don’t know why the Hall of Fame is so fascinating to me, but I can fret for hours over the people who did and didn’t make it. Now it’s borderline over whether or not I would put Browning in the Hall of Fame, but if he’s kept out because he played a majority of his games in the American Association, that’s bunk. This season, surrounded by stars from the National League, he still dominated the Players League with his bat. Like I said, it’s a tough choice, his career WAR is only 40.4, but he was dominating for his day.
Browning left Louisville, where he spent his whole career for the Players League and the Infants. He finished seventh in WAR (5.3); second in WAR Position Players (5.3), to the Giants’ Roger Connor; and first in Offensive WAR (4.9). He’d never be this great again, playing for the National League the rest of his career. He played for Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in 1891, Louisville and Cincinnati in 1892, Louisville in 1893, and St. Louis and Brooklyn in 1894. He finished his career with a .341 average and a 163 OPS+.
As for his death, Wikipedia says, “He died in Louisville on September 10 of that year at age 44. The specific cause of death was listed as asthenia (a weakening of the body), a cover-all medical term used by doctors of that time. However, he no doubt suffered from a wide variety of serious physical complaints. In addition to the mastoiditis, he was afflicted with cancer, advanced cirrhosis of the liver, alcohol-related brain damage, and according to some sources, paresis. Some sources erroneously report that he died in an insane asylum; he was in Lakeland Asylum a short time before he died. He is buried in historic Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.” It was a sad life for the great hitter.
.326, 13 HR, 146 RBI
Runs Batted In-146
8th Time All-Star-Boston sure was able to pile up the All-Stars, which is why it won the league title. Richardson finished 10th in WAR Position Player (3.1), slashing .326/.384/.494 for an OPS+ of 130. Old True Blue was back in the outfield after playing most of the last few seasons at second base. In 1891, Richardson would stay with the American Association Boston Reds, but his hitting would decline and 1892 would be his last year in the Majors, playing part time for the National League Washington Senators and the 1892 New York Giants.
Wikipedia says of Richardson’s loyalty to the PL: “Richardson was a strong supporter of the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players, the union that represented the players and organized the Players’ League in response to unfair treatment by team owners. In January 1890, he spoke out against players like teammate John Clarkson who had joined the Brotherhood but remained with their old clubs. Richardson said he would remain loyal to the Players’ League even if it could only pay him $10 a week and added: ‘I held up my hand and swore that I would stick to the brotherhood… I respect my word and regard my oath as sacred. You have no idea how hot it makes me to think of the way some of these players have acted.’”
And on his later years: “By 1930, Richardson was retired and living with his wife in Utica as boarders at the home of cement salesman, Robert C. Weaver. Richardson died in January 1931 at age 75 in Utica, New York. He was buried at the Forest Hill Cemetery in that city.”
.298, 1 HR, 53 RBI
2nd Time All-Star-Hoy is the only Bisons’ player to make the All-Star team which is why he made the team. He played one game at second base this season, the only time in his 1,797 games he ever played anywhere but the outfield. He didn’t do bad, taking three chances in four innings without an error, rare for that era. (I’m picturing Vin Scully saying that last sentence with “error” and “era” sounding almost exactly alike.) Hoy slashed .298/.418/.371 for an OPS+ of 119. Hoy was always great at taking pitches.
Your guess would be with one All-Star, Buffalo would be terrible and your guess would be right on the nose! The Bisons were the league’s worst team as Jack Rowe (27-72) and Jay Faatz (9-24) led them to a 36-96 record, 46-and-a-half games out of first. On a team with two managers who were one-and-done in their coaching career, there was a catcher who would end up managing more years than anyone in baseball history, one Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack. I’m going to be writing about him quite a bit.
Here’s a little about the last two seasons from Wikipedia: “Hoy’s speed was a great advantage in the outfield, and he was able to play shallow as a result. On June 19, 1889, he set a Major League record (which has since been tied twice) by throwing out three runners at home plate in one game, with catcher Connie Mack recording the outs.” Hoy still has a long career left, with sporadic appearances on this list.
.320, 7 HR, 82 RBI
Games Played-137 (2nd Time)
At Bats-596 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as OF-137
1st Time All-Star-“Sir Hugh” Duffy was born on November 26, 1866 in Cranston, RI. His Hall of Fame career started with the 1888 and 1889 National League Chicago White Stockings, where his .312 batting average in 1889 showed he had better years to come. This was one of them, as he finished 10th in WAR (4.2); third in WAR Position Players (4.2), behind only Roger Connor and Pete Browning; and sixth in Defensive WAR (0.8), the only year he’d make the top 10 in that category.
Duffy’s Hall of Fame page says of him, “Hugh Duffy was one of the top batsmen of the 1890s recording more hits, home runs and runs batted in during the decade than any other player in the game. He teamed with fellow Hall of Famer Tommy McCarthy to form the ‘Heavenly Twins’ outfield tandem for the Boston Beaneaters that captured two league pennants and a pre-modern World Series Championship in 1892 and 1893.” This brings up the question, did Hugh Duffy deserve to make it to the Hall of Fame? Well, I would say if we had modern stats in his day, probably not, as his batting average provided almost all of his value and he was a terrible fielder according to dWAR. But since we didn’t have those stats and he had a lifetime .326 average, with a .440 average in 1894, over 17 years of ball, I can live with him being in there. Much more so than the other half of the Heavenly Twins.
.299, 12 HR, 84 RBI
Stolen Bases-97 (2nd Time)
Power-Speed #-21.4 (2nd Time)
9th Time All-Star-Stovey made his ninth consecutive All-Star team in helping lead the Reds to the Players League pennant. He finished eighth in WAR Position Players (3.3), slashing .299/.406/.472 for an OPS+ of 131. It’s strange a player moves from first base to the outfield, but Stovey would be roaming the field for the majority of the rest of his career. He still wasn’t a very good outfielder, according to dWAR.
Stovey will possibly make the ONEHOF, but will he ever make the real Hall of Fame? It will depend on whether they accept the American Association as a legitimate Major League. According to SABR, “The man who could do it all has been overlooked by the National Baseball Hall of Fame despite calls for his election from many who are familiar with the history of our national pastime. Perhaps one day, he will get his due and be honored by the game’s ultimate shrine.” One day.
Wikipedia tells of a feat of Stovey this season: “In 1890, the Players’ League, a rival league to the National League and the American Association, began, and it attracted many of the game’s star players, including Stovey who ‘jumped’ to the Boston Reds. He had a good season, batting .299, hit 11 triples, and 12 home runs. On September 3, 1890, Stovey became the first player to hit 100 homers for a career, off of Jersey Bakely in a game against Cleveland, a significant milestone in a day when home runs were relatively rare.”
.360, 9 HR, 115 RBI
12th Time All-Star-Arguably the second greatest player in the early days of baseball, behind only the stellar Cap Anson, O’Rourke continues to make All-Star teams, now at the age of two score minus one. He slashed .360/.410/.515 (his highest OBP and SLG ever) for an OPS+ of 137. Will he make teams even into his 40s? I would have said no, but Orator Jim continues to surprise me.
Since the last time O’Rourke made the All-Star team in 1887, he continued to play in New York and would do so until his last full season of 1893 in Washington. There are arguments for who should and shouldn’t make the Hall of Fame, but Orator Jim’s case is crystal clear which is why he’s made the Hall of Fame and the ONEHOF. He was selected to Cooperstown by the Old Timers Committee in 1945. I’m shocked he didn’t make it sooner.
SABR says of O’Rourke: “Playing for the Ewing-led Big Giants, Jim O’Rourke registered exceptional numbers during the 1890 season. In addition to a .360 batting average, the 40-year-old posted career-best figures in hits (172), doubles (37), home runs (9), RBIs (115), slugging (.515), and on-base percentage (.410), all achieved while playing in only 111 games. O’Rourke’s performance, however, was not duplicated by his team (third place). Nor did the Players League prosper as a whole. In fact, the season had been a catastrophe for the new circuit’s financial backers. That fall they were outmaneuvered in peace settlement negotiations by A.G.Spalding, the hard-nosed de-facto leader of the National League, and bluffed into dissolving the Players League.”