P-Kid Nichols, BSN
P-Amos Rusie, NYG
P-Ted Breitenstein, CIN
P-Cy Young, CLV
P-Jack Powell, CLV
P-Win Mercer, WHS
P-Billy Rhines, CIN
P-Frank Dwyer, CIN
P-Clark Griffith, CHC
P-Brickyard Kennedy, BRO
C-Klondike Douglass, STL
C-Deacon McGuire, WHS
1B-Nap Lajoie, PHI
2B-Cupid Childs, CLV
3B-Jimmy Collins, BSN
SS-Hughie Jennings, BLN
SS-George Davis, NYG
SS-Monte Cross, STL
LF-Fred Clarke, LOU
LF-Ed Delahanty, PHI
LF-Joe Kelley, BLN
LF-Kip Selbach, WHS
LF-Mike Smith, PIT
CF-Billy Hamilton, BSN
RF-Willie Keeler, BLN
31-11, 2.64 ERA, 127 K, .265, 3 HR, 28 RBI
Hall of Fames:
ONEHOF: Yes (Inducted 1897)
Wins Above Replacement-11.3 (2nd Time)
WAR for Pitchers-10.9 (3rd Time)
Wins-31 (2nd Time)
Walks & Hits per IP-1.168 (2nd Time)
Saves-3 (3rd Time)
Strikeouts/Base on Balls-1.868 (4th Time)
Adjusted ERA+-168 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Runs-72 (3rd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.6 (3rd Time)
8th Time All-Star-After eight dominating seasons in a row — seven of which Nichols pitched his way to the top 10 in WAR; all of which he made the top six in WAR for Pitchers – of course, Kid made the ONEHOF, the One-a-Year Hall of Fame of my invention that inducts one player per calendar year. It’s more difficult to make than the Cooperstown Hall of Fame or my Hall of Fame, which will induct players at the drop of a hat. Here are the ONEHOF Nominees for 1898: King Kelly, Hardy Richardson, Buck Ewing, Charley Jones, Fred Dunlap, George Gore, Ned Williamson, Bid McPhee, Sam Thompson, Jack Clements, Billy Hamilton, Amos Rusie, Cupid Childs, and Cy Young.
As for this season, Nichols dominated, leading the league in WAR (11.3) and WAR for Pitchers (10.9). He also pitched a National League-leading 368 innings with a 2.64 ERA, second only to New York’s Rusie (2.54), and a league-leading Adjusted ERA+ of 168.
This helped the Beaneaters knock the Baltimore Orioles out of first place and take the NL crown. It wasn’t easy, as Boston won the league by just two games. Baltimore couldn’t battle for the championship either, because the days of the Temple Cup were gone. It certainly wasn’t a good start for Boston, as they were 10-10 after May 18 and seven-and-a-half games out of first. It then won 35 of its next 39 games and the Beaneaters were up by five-and-a-half games after July 6. The rest of the season was a battle between Boston and Baltimore, which the Beaneaters wrapped up by beating the Orioles two out of three towards the end of the season.
28-10, 2.54 ERA, 135 K, .278, 0 HR, 22 RBI
Hall of Fames:
1897 NL Pitching Title (2nd Time)
Earned Run Average-2.54 (2nd Time)
7th Time All-Star-Rusie, the troublemaker, is back. Read his 1895 blurb for why he missed the 1896 season and why he’s back this year. Taking a year off from pitching didn’t seem to affect the Hoosier Thunderbolt, as he finished second to Boston’s Kid Nichols in WAR (11.3-8.8) and second to Nichols in WAR for Pitchers (10.9-8.4). He pitched 322 1/3 innings with a National League-leading 2.54 ERA and a second-to-Nichols Adjusted ERA (168-163).
As for the Giants, having their ace back helped them move from seventh place in 1896 to third place this season with an 83-48 record. Bill Joyce managed his first full season for the Giants at the age of 29 and has only one season left. New York finished nine-and-a-half games behind first-place Boston, but it was never really in the hunt.
There is a good possibility this is Rusie’s last All-Star game. He would win 20 for the Giants in 1898, but his innings “fell” to 300 and his ERA “rose” to 3.03. He had good numbers and would make a billion dollars for those stats nowadays, but he was declining.
And injured. Wikipedia wraps up his career, saying, “Following the 1898 season, a combination of hearing damage from a line drive to the head, arm trouble, and personal problems kept him out of baseball for two years. In 1900, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Christy Mathewson. In 1901, Rusie pitched poorly in three games before retiring. He finished his career with 245 wins, 174 losses, 1,934 strikeouts and a 3.07 ERA.”
23-12, 3.62 ERA, 98 K, .266, 0 HR, 23 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require one more All-Star season. About 15 percent chance)
5th Time All-Star-Next season, Breitenstein wins 20 games and it’s really his last chance at making an All-Star team. However, if he does so, he’s going to make Ron’s Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame of my own creation and players like him are exactly the reason I created it. See, people like Cap Anson made Cooperstown, Ron’s, and ONEHOF with no difficulties. It’s the same with people like Cy Young and Dan Brouthers. However, Breitenstein was a left-handed workhorse who, every season, was put on the mound multiple games by whatever team for which he pitched. He would compile a 51.5 lifetime WAR and be one of the top players in the game year-after-year. He’s made this All-Star team five straight times. He’s a borderline candidate for Cooperstown, but if he makes my Hall of Fame next season, I’ll feel no guilt despite his lifetime 160-170 record.
With the Reds purchasing Breitenstein from the Cardinals, it looked like they had the one piece they needed to lead them to a league title. Unfortunately, the Reds declined from third to fourth as Buck Ewing’s squad finished 76-56. They definitely had pitching, finishing fifth in runs allowed, but they couldn’t hit, finishing eighth in the league in runs scored.
For the season, Breitenstein finished third in WAR (8.2), behind Boston pitcher Kid Nichols (11.3) and New York hurler Amos Rusie (8.8), and third in WAR for Pitchers (7.8), behind the same two, Nichols (10.9) and Rusie (8.4). He pitched 320 1/3 innings with a 3.62 ERA and a 125 ERA+.
21-19, 3.78 ERA, 88 K, .222, 0 HR, 19 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Bases on Balls per 9 IP-1.314 (6th Time)
7th Time All-Star-Once players turn 30 in this great sport of baseball, they tend to decline. In the 1800s, it was no different, especially for pitchers. There’s a whole boatload of hurlers of which I wrote who had two or three fantastic seasons and then fell apart. Cyclone turned 30 this season and had his worst season in a while. It wouldn’t have been surprising if this was the beginning of the end. However, because we can cheat and see the future, we know he’s nowhere near done and Young still has incredible career ahead. He’s up to 216 wins through 1897 and will win 295 more.
The sad part is his good pitching isn’t helping his team. Patsy Tebeau led the Spiders to a 69-62 record, 23-and-a-half games out of first. They have a couple good pitchers, but besides their All-Star second baseman, Cupid Childs, not much in the way of offense.
Young finished sixth in WAR (6.9) and fourth in WAR for Pitchers (7.5). He pitched 335 2/3 innings with a 3.78 ERA and a 123 ERA+. It was the only time from 1891-1905 that Cyclone didn’t finish in the top 10 in ERA in his league. He also threw a gem, according to Wikipedia, which says, “On September 18, 1897, Young pitched the first no-hitter of his career in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. Although Young did not walk a batter, the Spiders committed four errors while on defense. One of the errors had originally been ruled a hit, but the Cleveland third baseman sent a note to the press box after the eighth inning, saying he had made an error, and the ruling was changed. Young later said, that, despite his teammate’s gesture, he considered the game to be a one-hitter.”
15-10, 3.16 ERA, 61 K, .206, 0 HR, 12 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require five more All-Star seasons. About 80 percent chance)
1st Time All-Star-John Joseph “Red” or “Jack” Powell was born on July 9, 1874 in Bloomington, IL. He started off his long career on fire and though he’s not in the category of Kid Nichols, Amos Rusie, or teammate Cy Young, his durability is going to get him a real look at making my Hall of Fame. He’s never received even a sniff from Cooperstown, which probably looked at his lifetime 245-254 record and ignored him. But Powell pitched well for some bad teams and shouldn’t be penalized for that.
This season, he finished 10th in WAR (5.5) and fifth in WAR for Pitchers (6.0). He only started 26 games, pitching 225 innings, and had a 3.16 ERA and a 147 ERA+. Both of those latter figures are better than Young, but Cyclone pitched over 100 more innings than Powell.
Just a tidbit for your amusement. Of all the players of which I’ve written, Powell is the first one to have a color picture of himself posted on his Baseball Reference page.
Look at this story from SABR: “Perhaps no player in history experienced a more difficult major league debut than Jack Powell. He joined the Spiders in May of 1897, and saw action at first base in a game at Cleveland on Sunday, May 16. Sunday baseball was illegal in the city of Cleveland at that time, but team owner Frank Robison defied the local ordinance and scheduled the game on the Christian Sabbath. The local authorities called Robison’s bluff, and after one inning was completed, police invaded the field and arrested all the players on both teams, plus umpire Tim Hurst. They were soon released on $100 bail each, but the authorities decided to prosecute one participant in the contest to test the validity of the law. Powell, an easily expendable rookie, was the only Spider charged with violating the ban on Sunday ball, and remained in Cleveland to await trial while his teammates embarked on a road trip. In June, Powell was tried and convicted of playing ball on Sunday. He was fined five dollars, with an additional $153 tacked on for court costs.”
21-10, 3.18 ERA, 91 K, .317, 0 HR, 19 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 10 more seasons. Impossible)
Hit By Pitch-28
Def. Games as P-47
1st Time All-Star-George Barclay “Win” Mercer was born on June 20, 1874 in Chester, WV. He’s been a regular pitcher with the Senators since 1894, but this is his first All-Star team. This season, Mercer finished ninth in WAR for Pitchers (4.5), pitching 342 innings with a 3.18 ERA and a 135 ERA+. For someone with a nickname of Win, it’s ironic this is only one of two seasons in which he had a winning season.
Of course it’s hard for a pitcher to win if his team doesn’t and Mercer’s team didn’t do so too often. Gus Schmelz (9-25) and Tom Brown (52-46) led the team to a sixth place 61-17 record. After 11 seasons with five different teams, it would be the last year as a manager for Schmelz, who finished with a lifetime 624-703 record. As for Brown, it looks his managerial career is off to a heck of a start, but next season will be his last.
You might not be able to tell from the picture above, but apparently Mercer was quite a looker. Wikipedia says, “According to a biography of Mercer published by SABR, Mercer was a fan favorite, especially with women. He reportedly was ‘young and handsome with piercing dark eyes, and an outgoing personality.’ According to one account (Nash and Zullo, ‘Turnstile Turnoffs’ in “The Baseball Hall of Shame” (1985)), the ladies loved Mercer, and he ‘loved the ladies.’ Playing on Mercer’s popularity with the ladies, Washington liked to pitch Mercer on Tuesdays and Fridays, which were designated ‘Ladies’ Days.’ One Ladies’ Day game in 1897 ended in shambles when women rioted after Umpire Bill Carpenter ejected Mercer. According to Nash and Zullo, ‘an army of angry females poured out of the stands. They surrounded Carpenter, shoved him to the ground and ripped his clothing. Finally, police brought the situation under control.’”
21-15, 4.08 ERA, 65 K, .159, 0 HR, 8 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 10 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
2nd Time All-Star-It’s a big gap between Rhines’ first All-Star team and his second. After pitching 401 1/3 innings in his rookie year of 1890, it took a while before he was a fulltime pitcher again. Well, okay, he was a fulltime pitcher in 1891, but in 1892, he pitched only 74 2/3 innings for the Reds, then was off to Louisville in 1893. He didn’t pitch in the Major Leagues in 1894 and then found himself back with the Reds in 1895. In 1896, Rhimes pitched only 143 innings, but led the National League in ERA, and then doubled that amount this season, pitching 288 2/3 frames, with a 4.08 ERA and a 111 ERA+. Bunker finished sixth in WAR for Pitchers (5.2).
SABR says of Rhines’ 1897 season, “The next season Rhines compiled a 21-15 record with a 4.08 ERA. On August 7, 1897, he ‘had not only speed, but grand command and the best use of his famous underhand ball,’ in a three-hit shutout of the Louisville Colonels. Louisville’s Honus Wagner, a 23-year-old rookie, went hitless in the game.” (I get the feeling we’ll be seeing that name quite a bit in this list).
More from SABR: “Rhines pitched for an All-American team on a barnstorming tour with the Baltimore Orioles from October to December, 1897. In the midst of the tour, the Reds traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“A longtime bachelor, Rhines got married in 1912 at age 43, to 23-year-old Kozie Lorraine Milliron. By 1920 they had four children and Billy operated a taxi service. After a long illness, he died of heart disease on January 30, 1922, in Ridgway, at the age of 52.”
18-13, 3.78 ERA, 41 K, .266, 0 HR, 10 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require three more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
5th Time All-Star-My guess is you’ve never heard of Dwyer, I know I hadn’t, but in the 1890s, he consistently pitched his way to being one of the National League’s best players. He was certainly the best the Reds had to offer during that time, though this season they have three pitchers on the All-Star team. Despite the pitching of Dwyer, Ted Breitenstein, and Billy Rhines, Cincinnati finished middle of the road with a 4.09 ERA. The problem was when one of the Big Three wasn’t pitching, the team’s ERA was about one whole run higher (3.83-to-4.82). Also, the Reds’ record was 63-40 in games in which they garnered the decision and 13-16 in games they didn’t.
As for his career, Wikipedia says, “In 12 seasons he had a 176–152 win-loss record, 365 games (318 started), 270 complete games, 12 shutouts, 6 saves, 2,810 innings pitched, 3,301 hits allowed, 1,782 runs allowed, 1,202 earned runs allowed, 109 home runs allowed, 764 walks allowed, 563 strikeouts, and a 3.85 ERA. On June 23, 1896, Dwyer gave up Roger Connor‘s 123rd homer, breaking Harry Stovey‘s previous record of 122. Connor’s record of 138 would eventually be broken by Babe Ruth.
“He later served as the second manager of the Detroit Tigers, managing for one season in 1902. Dwyer briefly umpired in the NL in 1899 and 1901, and in American League in 1904; during which he umpired Cy Young‘s perfect game.
“He died on February 4, 1943 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at the age of 74.”
21-18, 3.72 ERA, 102 K, .235, 0 HR, 21 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Cooperstown: Yes as Pioneer/Executive. No as Player
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. Definitely)
3rd Time All-Star-Now Griffith did make Cooperstown as a Pioneer/Executive, though he didn’t make it as a player. And I’m sure it doesn’t matter to the Griffith family, just as Pete Rose would be happy to make the Hall of Fame in any capacity. He could go in as Best Gambler and he’d still go diving head first into the Hall, proclaiming his greatness. However, Griffith was a great pitcher and definitely should be in as a player. Don’t worry, Clark, Ron’s Hall of Fame is here to right wrongs and you’ll be inducted in within the next few years.
Cap Anson started playing Major League ball in 1871 for the National Association Rockford Forest Cities, then moved to the NA Philadelphia Athletics the next season. Then the National League formed in 1876 and Anson moved to Chicago, where he played through this season. He played 27 Major League seasons, which would be a record if the NA counted. I have no doubt Anson’s the greatest player up to this time. If I had my Hall of Fame up and running then, he would have made it in 1876, the first year of the NL.
I base my All-Star teams and Halls of Fame purely on numbers, I don’t look into the dark soul of a man. Anson receives vitriol for his part in keeping blacks out of baseball from 1884-to-1947 and that’s understandable. I’m sure if we redid the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, the writers would keep him out. But purely for what he did on the field, Cap Anson (Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds….) deserves to be in and I’m glad he is.
18-20, 3.91 ERA, 81 K, .272, 1 HR, 18 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require seven more All-Star teams. Impossible)
2nd Time All-Star-It’s been a few years since Kennedy made the All-Star team. He’s been pitching consistently for Brooklyn, but not good enough to be one of the league’s elite. This season, Kennedy tossed 343 1/3 innings, with a 3.91 ERA and a 105 ERA+. He was Brooklyn’s best player.
Well, if Kennedy’s a team’s best player, that team didn’t do too well, and it’s true of the Bridegrooms, who finished in seventh place with a 61-71 record. Billy Barnie, who last coached for the Louisville Colonels in 1894, came back to manage Brooklyn.
We know Kennedy was known as Roaring Bill and Brickyard. SABR speaks more of his many names, “According to the July 8, 1893, Sporting Life, he was also known sometimes by what some sources still today believe was his middle name: ‘They call Kennedy “Park.” He is a Bellaire, O., boy, and was once called “Wheeling’s brickyard phenomenon.” He has an arm of iron.’ However, early encyclopedias list Kennedy by the middle initial of V., full middle name unknown, and both William O’Neill in The Dodgers Encyclopedia and Kennedy’s great grandnephew Scott Thomas Kennedy bear this out. Kennedy’s obituary in his local paper, the Daily Independent of Bellaire, Ohio, on September 25, 1915, furthermore illuminates that he was known to friends not as Park, the putative middle name assigned him by Sporting Life years earlier, but as ‘Perk,’ simply a nickname.” He’s still got a shot at another All-Star team and will also pitch in the first official World Series in 1903.
.328, 6 HR, 50 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 61 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-William Bingham “Klondike” Douglass was born on May 10, 1872 in Boston, PA. He started his career with the Browns in 1896, playing mainly in the outfield. He would be primarily a catcher this season, but for the rest of his career he’d mainly play at first base. If Douglass played any other position this season, he’s not making the All-Star team. Klondike had career highs in batting average (.328) and on-base percentage (.402), along with slugging .403 and stealing 12 bases. He had a career high Adjusted OPS+ of 115.
Wikipedia has a wrap-up of his career from baseball historian Jesus Francisco Cabrera, who writes, “Douglass came to the majors in 1896 as the Cardinals’ left fielder, but fielded only .894, low even for those days, and had poor range. He was primarily a catcher in 1897, and hit .329. He was the everyday first baseman for the Phillies in 1898, and hit .258 with 105 runs scored in his best season. Moved back and forth between catcher and 1B in subsequent seasons, he was never again an everyday player.”
Can you name famous catchers from the early days of baseball? The first that leaps to mind for me is Ernie Lombardi, but he played in the 1930s. Then I think of Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella, but that’s the 1950s. It’s difficult to name catchers from this early era, because they didn’t play enough games to build up stats and also because they were so beat up, they weren’t normally good hitters.
.343, 4 HR, 53 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require five more All-Star teams. Slim)
5th Time All-Star-Back in 1891, I said McGuire had made his last All-Star team and now he’s made three more since. It is extremely difficult to just look at stats and gauge All-Star worthiness for catchers, because most of the time players played about half the games behind the plate, because of the brutality of the position. McGuire would wind up his career catching 1,612 games over 25 seasons, which was incredible for his time. He had his highest batting average ever this season at .343, along with having an on-base percentage of .386, slugging average of .474, stealing nine bases, and having an OPS+ of 127. Those are good stats for anybody, very good for those who wore the tools of ignorance.
If you go to Wikipedia, there’s an x-ray of McGuire’s hand. The article says, “In 1907, newspapers across the country published an x-ray of McGuire’s left hand, showing ‘36 breaks, twists or bumps all due to baseball accidents.’ The text accompanying the widely published photograph noted: ‘When the picture was developed the photographer was amazed to see the knots, like gnarled places on an old oak tree, around the joints, and numerous spots showing old breaks. In several joints the bones are flattened and pushed to the side.’” Teammate Sam Crane said, “His big, brawny, strong hands, now grotesquely disfigured by the continuous battering they have received from the viciously wicked inshoots, curves, slants and benders of the speediest pitchers known in the long history of the game, have acted as an unflinchable barrier to the accumulation of momentum that if concentrated would have an irresistible force capable of crushing a battleship or of pulverizing a backstop construction of Harveyized steel armor plate.”
.361, 9 HR, 127 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Will require two more All-Star seasons. Definitely)
Extra Base Hits-72
1st Time All-Star-Napoleon “Nap” or “Larry” or “Poli” Lajoie (pronounced Lah-ZWHA or LAJ-way) was born on September 5, 1874 in Woonsocket, RI. Hey, I’ve heard of him! Whenever I’ve seen his name, I pronounced it Luh-JOY. Well, I get the feeling I’m going to get plenty of chances to practice his name, because Lajoie is going to make these All-Star teams frequently. He will make the ONEHOF at some time and my Hall of Fame as one of the all-time great second basemen. He’s exactly what the Phillies needed, another great hitter. He played 39 games at first for them in 1896, before becoming the team’s regular first baseman this season. Next season, he’ll move to his regular position of second base. Larry finished seventh in WAR Position Players (5.2) and sixth in Offensive WAR (5.0). He slashed .361/.392/.569 with 20 stolen bases and a 155 Adjusted OPS+. He led the National League in slugging.
So did having two future Hall of Famers Lajoie and Ed Delahanty help the Phillies? No. They finished in 10th place, 38 games out of first. George Stallings coached for the first time ever, but he’d be around sporadically until 1920.
Baseball players didn’t have a good reputation during the 1800s. Wikipedia quotes Lajoie, as he said, “’When I told my father I had decided to take the job he was very angry. He shouted that ball players were bums and that nobody respected them, but I was determined to give it a try at least one season’, Lajoie later said. He also received the nickname ‘Larry’ from a teammate who had trouble pronouncing Lajoie. Lajoie admired baseball players such as King Kelly and Charles Radbourn.”
.338, 1 HR, 61 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Range Factor/9 Inn as 2B-6.41 (2nd Time)
7th Time All-Star-And there it is! Childs, of whom I’d never heard before starting these lists, is a Ron’s Hall of Famer. He’s also part of a small group who’ve been on the most All-Star teams at their position. They are:
P-Tim Keefe (11 All-Star teams made)
C-Charlie Bennett (9)
1B-Cap Anson (13)
SS-Jack Glasscock (11)
CF-Paul Hines (8)
RF-Sam Thompson (7)
Childs produced another great season, slashing .338/.435/.419 with 25 stolen bases and a 117 Adjusted OPS+. These weren’t necessarily dazzling numbers for this year, but no other second baseman performed like he did. Of course, next year Nap Lajoie is going to second base and people are going to say, “Cupid who?”
SABR says he deserves a look at the Hall of Fame, stating, “Cupid averaged 6.3 chances a game at second base during his thirteen-year major league career. That places him fifth on the all-time list for chances per game by a second baseman. Childs finished his major league career with a .930 fielding percentage. However, taking into consideration his outstanding offensive production and given a little luck, Childs might already be in Cooperstown. He compares favorably with many of the second baseman in the Hall of Fame. Maybe it is time to take another look at him.” The website Not in the Hall of Fame says, “Had he been the type of batter who delivered more extra base hits, it is very possible that he would have been a Cooperstown candidate. As it stands now, we expect him to remain buried among other candidates on the Veteran’s Committee desktop.”
.346, 6 HR, 132 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require five more All-Star seasons. Almost a lock)
Def. Games as 3B-134
Putouts as 3B-214
Assists as 3B-303
Double Plays Turned as 3B-20
1st Time All-Star-James Joseph “Jimmy” Collins was born on January 16, 1870 in Buffalo, NY. This is a good year for the ol’ All-Star team as two greats like Nap Lajoie and Collins were introduced. Collins started his career for Boston and Louisville in 1895 and stayed with Boston after that. He finished sixth in WAR Position Players (5.3) and fifth in Defensive WAR (1.6). He’d always be a good glove man. At the plate, Collins slashed .346/.400/.482 with 14 stolen bases and a 128 OPS+. His batting average and on-base percent would be career highs. During this crazy hitting era, a lot of players, Hall of Famers or not, had career highs. He also had his first title.
Wikipedia says, “Jimmy Collins was born in Niagara Falls, New York. After graduating St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute he went to work for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and played baseball in the Buffalo City League.
“Collins was especially regarded for his defense. He was best known for his ability to field a bunt—prior to his debut, it was the shortstop who fielded bunts down the third base line—and is regarded as a pioneer of the modern defensive play of a third baseman. As of 2012, he is second all-time in putouts by a third baseman behind Brooks Robinson.
“Collins asserted himself as a skilled player in 1897 when he held a .346 batting average and knocked in 132 runs. He led the league in both putouts and assists as well, a feat he would duplicate in 1900.”
.355, 2 HR, 79 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. 25 percent chance)
WAR Position Players-7.3 (3rd Time)
Hit by Pitch-46 (4th Time)
Fielding % as SS-.933 (4th Time)
4th Time All-Star-Because his run of excellence was relatively short, Jennings probably won’t make my Hall of Fame. But that shouldn’t take away from how good this shortstop was. Ee-yah is in the third year of a four-year stretch in which, according to bWAR, he’s the best position player in baseball every season. This season, he finished fourth in WAR (7.3); first in WAR Position Players (7.3); third in Offensive WAR (6.2), behind only teammate Willie Keeler (6.5) and Louisville’s Fred Clarke (6.3); and third in Defensive WAR (1.7), behind teammate Heinie Reitz (1.9) and Louisville’s Billy Clingman (1.7). At the plate, he slashed .355/.463/.469 with 60 stolen bases and an Adjusted OPS+ of 146. And for the fourth straight year, he took the most baseballs to his body, getting plunked 46 times.
However, Baltimore couldn’t overcome Boston this season, finishing two games out of first. Ned Hanlon’s squad finished second in runs scored and second in least runs allowed, but since the Beaneaters finished first in those two categories, Boston won. The Orioles were in first as late as September 21, but finished the season 3-5, including losing two out of three to the Beaneaters.
You might think because of the rough-and-tough reputation of the Orioles there was a lack of intelligence, but that’s not true for Jennings anyway. Baseball Reference says, “He was a close friend of John McGraw on the Orioles, and the two of them sought to remedy their lack of formal education by taking classes in the off-season. Jennings eventually attended Cornell Law School, and while he fell a few credits short of a degree, he was able to pass the bar exam and become a practicing lawyer. He practiced law in the off-seasons and built up an extensive clientele, becoming quite well off.”
.353, 10 HR, 135 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require one more All-Star season. Definitely)
Runs Batted In-135
Putouts as SS-339
Double Plays Turned as SS-67
3rd Time All-Star-Davis didn’t make the All-Star team in 1895 or 1896, but this year he was moved to shortstop and it would reenergize him. He finished seventh in WAR (6.9); third in WAR Position Players (6.9), behind Baltimore’s Hughie Jennings (7.3) and Willie Keeler (7.1); fourth in Offensive WAR (6.0); and fourth in Defensive WAR (1.6). That high ranking in Defensive WAR is impressive considering he went from an easier defensive position to a more difficult one. Davis slashed .353/.410/.509 with 65 stolen bases and a 144 OPS+. He’d never match any of those stats again and his stolen base total was his career high.
Wikipedia says, “Davis continued to perform at an elite level throughout the 1890s, regularly ranking among the league leaders in doubles, triples, RBI, and stolen bases. He had a batting average of more than .300 for nine consecutive seasons beginning in 1893. He began playing more shortstop in 1896 and moved to the position full-time the next season. In 1897, Davis hit .353 and registered a league-best 135 RBI. He led the league in double plays and fielding percentage four times each.
“During his playing career, Davis enjoyed a reputation as an intelligent and hard-working player who did not participate in dirty play. On their way to practice at the Polo Grounds on April 26, 1900, Davis and teammates Kid Gleason and Mike Grady stumbled upon a raging tenement fire. The players rushed into the building and rescued two women and a three-year-old child.”
.286, 4 HR, 55 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require 17 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Assists as SS-516
Range Factor/9 Inn as SS-6.84
1st Time All-Star-Montford Montgomery “Monte” Cross was born on August 31, 1869 in Philadelphia, PA. He always played shortstop, starting his career in 1892 playing part-time for Baltimore. He didn’t play in the Major Leagues in 1893 and then played a few games for Pittsburgh in 1894. His hitting in those 13 games (.442/.520/.837) gave him the chance to become a full time shortstop for Pittsburgh in 1895. Before the 1896 season, the Pirates traded him to the Browns, where he would remain through this season.
Cross wasn’t known for his bat, but for his glove. This season, he finished eighth in Defensive WAR (1.1) and would be in the top 10 in that category six times in his career. This was probably his best hitting season ever as all three slash numbers (.286/.378/.396) were career highs. Cross stole 38 bases and had his career high OPS+ of 107.
This is a story from Baseball History Daily about Monte Cross, who seemed to be a strange man. It says, “Even in a game dominated by superstitions some stood out. The St. Louis Star reported on what Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Montford Montgomery “Monte” Cross thought was necessary for a rally—to the annoyance of some teammates– during a game with the St. Louis Cardinals in May of 1900:
“’One of Monte Cross’ queer hobbies is that the bats must not be crossed when they lie in front of the bench…just as (Harry) Wolverton, the first man up in the fifth inning, stepped to the plate, Cross looked at the pile of bats, and at one jumped into the air, shouting: “Four runs this time. It’s a cinch. Never failed yet.”’” Why did he think four runs would be scored? You’ll have to read the rest for yourself.
.390, 6 HR, 69 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require three more All-Star seasons. Definitely)
Adj. Batting Runs-53
Adj. Batting Wins-4.9
2nd Time All-Star-Cap didn’t make the All-Star team in 1896, but he had his best season ever for Louisville this season. He finished eighth in WAR (6.6), fourth in WAR Position Players (6.6), and second in Offensive WAR (6.3), behind only Willie Keeler (6.5). Clarke finished second in batting average to Keeler (.425-.390), had an on-base percentage of .461, and a slugging percentage of .530. He also stole 59 bases and had a league-leading Adjusted OPS+ of 166.
Clarke also managed the latter part of the season for the hapless Colonels, who finished 11th with a 52-78 record. Jim Rogers (17-24) and Clarke (35-54) coached the struggling team. Cap would coach for the next 18 years and never have a worse season. Of course, it helped to have a shortstop named Honus Wagner in those years.
According to Wikipedia, “In 1897, Clarke took over managerial duties while only 24 years old. As a player, he hit a career high .390. Only the best average of Willie Keeler‘s career stopped Clarke from winning his only batting title. (For many years, Clarke’s 1897 average was listed as .406 but further research led most official sources, including MLB.com, to list it at .390.) Despite Clarke’s excellent hitting and the presence of fellow Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Rube Waddell, the team struggled for several years. While in Louisville, Clarke was teamed up with pitcher Chick Fraser. Clarke and Fraser became brothers-in-law when they married sisters. When the Colonels folded, Barney Dreyfuss became the owner of the Pittsburgh franchise and tapped Clarke, Wagner, Waddell, Deacon Phillippe and others to accompany him.”
.377, 5 HR, 96 RBI
Hall of Fames:
5th Time All-Star-Billy Hamilton had been traded to Boston before 1896 and Sam Thompson’s career was pretty much done, so the Delahanty was the last man standing of the great 1890s Philadelphia outfield. This is not ending anytime soon as Delahanty would continue to pummel the ball. This season, Big Ed finished ninth in WAR (5.7), fifth in WAR Position Players (5.7), and fifth in Offensive WAR (5.4). He slashed .377/.444/.538 with that slugging average placing third in the league behind teammate Nap Lajoie (.569) and Willie Keeler (.539). He stole 26 bases and had an Adjusted OPS+ of 161. In an era with outstanding hitting numbers, Delahanty’s consistency allowed him to stand above the rest.
So therefore Big Ed made Ron’s Hall of Fame this season in only his fifth All-Star season. Unlike the controversial pick of Cupid Childs, Delahanty’s a no-brainer. He also made the list as the most frequent leftfielder on this All-Star team. See Childs’ blurb for the full list. Because of the lack of pitching in Philadelphia during this time, he wouldn’t win any championships, but it wasn’t his fault.
Delahanty was a smart hitter, according to SABR, which says, “A pull hitter who kept opposing defenses honest by occasionally hitting to the opposite field, Delahanty once confided to a reporter that he often liked to swing at the first pitch, because a pitcher with good control usually tried to “do his business” with the first offering. Nonetheless, Delahanty could be a patient hitter too, as evidenced by his ranking among the league’s top ten in walks four times during his career. When outfielders, fearing the legendary slugger’s power, played him deeper, Delahanty responded by place-hitting the ball over the infielders’ heads. Delahanty’s ability to adjust his hitting approach to confound opposing defenses made him, in the estimation of Cincinnati Reds pitcher Red Ehret, ‘the hardest man in the league for pitchers to puzzle.’ Longtime catcher Jack O’Connor concurred, noting, ‘If Del had a weakness at the bat I never could discover it.’”
.362, 5 HR, 118 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. Low)
4th Time All-Star-Kelley made his fourth consecutive All-Star team, but the truth is this might be his last one. We’ll get to that in a second. Let’s not start out negatively. In 1897, Kelley finished eighth in WAR Position Players (5.1) and seventh in Offensive WAR (4.8). He slashed .362/.447/.489 for an Adjusted OPS+ of 147 along with stealing 44 bases. No doubt Kelley is great, but like teammate Hughie Jennings, his greatness was compacted into a few great seasons in a time in which a lot of hitters were killing the ball. Before the Veteran’s Committee admitted Kelley in 1971, he’d only received 0.4 percent of the votes twice, in 1939 and 1942. People closer to his era didn’t see him as a Hall of Fame candidate.
Since I don’t know whether he’s going to make another All-Star team, here’s a wrap-up of Kelley’s career from Wikipedia, “As a player, Kelley had 11 consecutive .300-plus seasons during his MLB career. Kelley was also known as a good base runner and stole a career-high 87 bases in 1896. He retired with a career .317 batting, .402 OBP, 65 home runs, 1,421 runs, 1,194 RBI and 443 stolen bases in 1,853 career games. His 194 triples ranks him ninth all-time. Kelley tied Fred Carroll‘s MLB record with nine hits in a doubleheader, which he presently shares with eight other players.”
.313, 5 HR, 59 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require eight more All-Star seasons. 12 percent chance)
1st Time All-Star-Albert Karl “Kip” Selbach was born on March 24, 1872 in Columbus, OH. Though he stood only five-foot-seven, he tipped the scales at 190 pounds, which means he was even more rotund than Cupid Childs. He started his career in 1894 with the Senators and wouldn’t hit under .300 until 1899 and wouldn’t hit under .289 until 1903. In 1897, he finished 10th in WAR Position Players (4.5), slashing .313/.414/.461, stealing 46 bases, and had a 131 Adjusted OPS+. In a game on May 20, he stole five bases. Selbach’s not a perennial All-Star, but he did consistently well over the course of his career.
According to SABR, he was fortunate to play this season: “It hadn’t looked as though Selbach was going to be able to play at all in 1897. The January 30 issue of Sporting Life reported that he ‘had been so severely burned as to incapacitate himself for playing next season. The incident was caused by Mrs. Selbach dropping a lighted match on the floor, the flames igniting the fringe of a lounge. Mrs. Selbach tried to extinguish the flames, but failed, and by the time Al responded to her cries, the excelsior had caught fire. Picking up the flaming piece of furniture, Al carried it down a long hall and threw it into the yard. Unfortunately, he was the victim of his bravery, for the hot varnish burned his hands terribly. The thumb of his right hand and the middle finger of his left were burned to the bone. The thumb had been broken once, and the flesh was burned away so that he could plainly see where the bones were knitted. The use of both hands was at first despaired of.’”
.310, 6 HR, 54 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. Slight chance)
5th Time All-Star-I gave a wrap up of Smith’s career in his 1896 blurb, not expecting him to be back on the All-Star team. But every team needs a representative and Smith was Pittsburgh’s, along with being the fifth leftfielder to make the team. I can’t see him making two more All-Star teams and being in my Hall of Fame, but stranger things have happened. This year, Smith slashed .310/.408/.463 with 25 stolen bases and a 133 OPS+.
For only having one All-Star, the Pirates didn’t do too badly, though they did drop from sixth in 1896 to eighth this season. Patsy Donovan coached this team to a 60-71 record, 32-and-a-half games out of first. It was his first year of 11 years managing. Pittsburgh scored the third least runs in the league as Smith was their only good hitter. As for pitching, Frank Killen and Pink Hawley, All-Stars from the previous season, both had off seasons.
Smith’s obituary says, “By 1897, Smith’s star was dimming and he was part of a trade Pittsburgh brokered with his old team in Cincinnati. Smith’s first year back in Ohio was a good one and he maintained a .342 batting average. By 1900, Cincinnati loaned Smith to Giants, from whom he would be sent to both the Pirates and the Beaneaters, from whom he ended his major league career, retiring in 1901.
“Despite the various teams for which Smith played he maintained a home on The North Side on Madison Avenue. After leaving baseball, Smith worked as an inspector for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Highways, a job from which he retired in 1931.”
.343, 3 HR, 61 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Runs Scored-152 (4th Time)
Bases on Balls-105 (5th Time)
Times on Base-285 (4th Time)
8th Time All-Star-There wasn’t much the great Billy Hamilton hadn’t accomplished in his stellar career, but he added another notch to his belt, winning his first championship. His hitting wasn’t where it was before, meaning instead of incredible, it was only dazzling. He still hit for average, still walked, and still ran. He’s got a shot at being admitted to the ONEHOF next season, the One-a-Year Hall of Fame of my making in which only the greatest player not already in the ONEHOF can be inducted. Not to mention, Hamilton’s not done making All-Star teams yet.
Sliding Billy finished ninth in WAR Position Players (4.9) and eighth in Offensive WAR (4.4), while slashing .343/.461/.414. He stole 66 bases, third behind Chicago’s Bill Lange (73) and Baltimore’s Jake Stenzel (69) and had an Adjusted OPS+ of 127. All of his slash numbers were his lowest since 1892, before the mound was moved back 10 feet and his Adjusted OPS+ was his lowest since 1889, when he played for Kansas City in the American Association. Hitting numbers were inflated in the 1890s, so it’s possible to overrate Hamilton’s feats, but when you compare him to his peers, he still shined.
If you’re wondering why Billy Hamilton’s 914 stolen bases aren’t generally regarded as the third highest of all-time, it’s because steals were counted differently before 1898. Wikipedia states, “For a time in the 19th century, stolen bases were credited when a baserunner reached an extra base on a base hit from another player. For example, if a runner on first base reached third base on a single, it counted as a steal. In 1887, Hugh Nicol set a still-standing Major League record with 138 stolen bases, many of which would not have counted under modern rules.”
.424, 0 HR, 74 RBI
Hall of Fames:
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. 75 percent chance)
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.003
Offensive Win %-.813
AB per SO-112.8
2nd Time All-Star-This was the season that put Keeler in the Hall of Fame as his primary skills – not striking out and hitting singles – all came together this year. He finished fifth in WAR (7.1); second in WAR Position Players (7.1), behind only teammate Hughie Jennings (7.3); and first in Offensive WAR (6.5). He led the National League in hitting (.424); was third in on-base percentage (.464) behind teammate John McGraw (.471) and Cleveland’s Jesse Burkett (.468); and was second in slugging (.539) behind only Philadelphia’s Nap Lajoie (.569). He set the all-time record for singles with 193, but he’d break his own record in 1898. It was Wee Willie’s best season ever.
Of course, he’s most famous for his 44-game hitting streak this year. SABR, as usual, has the details: “It was in 1897 that Keeler attained his greatest batting glory. He singled and doubled in the season opener against Boston, had at least two hits in eight of the Orioles’ first nine games, and by the end of the first week of June had collected 70 hits. His average stood at .446.
“To that point the closest any pitcher had come to stopping Keeler was St. Louis left-hander Duke Esper, who held him to a bunt single on June 5. The bunt extended Keeler’s consecutive-game hitting streak for the season to 35. He ran it to 40 against Louisville a week later, and on June 16 hit safely in his 43rd consecutive game, breaking the record set by Bill Dahlen of the Chicago Colts three seasons earlier. On June 18 he thrashed Pink Hawley of Pittsburgh for a single, double, and triple.” He was stopped the next day by Pittsburgh’s Frank Killen.