Monday, January 31, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Considerable Money

Considerable money was made on the late championship games, and Messrs. Stearns and Von der Ahe have a neat surplus for their trouble. The following list will show about the amounts taken in and expended: At St. Louis, $9000; Detroit, $6750; Pittsburg, $2300; Brooklyn, $5800; New York, $4100; Philadelphia, $8000; Washington, $800; Boston, $3100; Baltimore, $2000; Chicago, $200. This, in round numbers, gives a total of $42,000. The estimated expenses of the trip are $18,000, leaving a balance of $24,000. This, divided at the rate of 75 and 25 per cent, would give Mr. Stearns $18,000 and Mr. Von der Ahe $6000. Mr. Stearns has promised his players $500 each, so that his share of the profits will be little more than Mr. Von der Ahe's.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 27, 1887

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Final Stats

[Above] will be found the tables showing the base hits, errors, etc., of the players in the late world's championship series. It will be seen that the Detroits outbatted and outfielded the Browns, and consequently won on their merits. The Browns team averages were: Batting, .258; fielding, .904. The Detroits: Batting, .279; fielding, .925.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 27, 1887

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Game Fifteen

And finally, at long last, we've reached the last game of the 1887 world's championship series.

The Browns' victories of late have been like angels visits, few and far between, but they come sometimes, and yesterday was one of the occasions. They outplayed the Wolverines at every point, winning the game in the first inning, and clinching it in the second, making 7 runs in the first two innings. Sportsman's Park wore a deserted look. Not over 800 people sat, shivered and watched the game, and they evidently came for the purpose of guying the home team whenever the occasion offered. But, as luck would have it, they had little chance to badger the home lads, who played ball something like the Browns of old. The home players looked in vain for sympathy from the crowd. Latham waddled up to the plate and the accustomed cheer was not forthcoming. Lyons made his appearance without attracting attention. O'Neill stalked up to the plate and the usual cry of "Kill it, Jim!" was not heard. The crowd seemed to care little whether he hit the ball or not. When Comiskey, the Browns' hard-working captain, advanced to the batsman's position, not a hand was raised. Caruthers was cheered as he stepped to the plate, and was the only one of the Browns who was noticed at all. Such is a ball player's life. The Browns have won two world's championships, and three Association pennants, and their present defeats should not dim the luster of their former great triumphs. Bill Gleason was laid off yesterday, and Lyons put in his place. The youngster batted well, but was a trifle nervous in the field, making three errors. Caruthers was fairly effective, and was well supported. Latham led at the bat, and Bushong also did good work with the stick. Baldwin pitched for the visitors and was hit hard. Ganzel and Sutcliffe caught him well. Kelly took care of the field, while Gaffney attended to the balls and strikes. The Detroits left for home last night...
[After the sixth inning,] It grew so dark and cold that the game was called.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 27, 1887

All I have to say is that I'm glad they canceled the rest of the scheduled games because, as it was, a fifteen game series was too long. It might not have been too bad if they cancelled all the games after Detroit clinched the series but these last few games were just pointless.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The 1887 World Series: The Return Of The Ex-Champions

The Browns arrived in the city yesterday morning, accompanied by their victorious rivals, the Detroits. The welcome was in marked contrast to the triumphal entry of the Wolverines into their native city last Monday. The ex-champions asked the trainmaster to bring them in very early, and at 7 o'clock the special train sneaked into the Union Depot. The players looked out of the window, and seeing the coast clear, scattered in all directions, and taking by-ways proceeded to their various domiciles. They were not the same victorious crowd which this time last year was crowing about their victory over Chicago. They returned with their banners trailing in the dust. There were few to meet them and the depot loungers cast a careless glance at them as they slunk away. Such is fame. But although defeated, the Browns are still a great ball team and will yet assert themselves. They are not as strong as they have been, as the powers of some of their old players are on the wane. Mr. Von der Ahe is very sore over his defeat, but takes it philosophically and swears that he will get even in the spring. He will spare no expense to strengthen the weak points of his team, and the Browns will once more be a championship club.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 27, 1887

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dunlap Plays Ball For The Money There Is In It

Fred Dunlap, the star second baseman of the champion League club, is to be released. New York has offered $5000 for him. Dunlap has not been entirely satisfactory. It is alleged that recent events have shown that he has been the spirit of some strife in the team, and his reputation as a disorganizer has caused him all along to be held under suspicion by many of the players. Dunlap plays ball for the money there is in it, and is willing to go to New York. His present contract calls for $4500 a year, with an extra $1000 at the end of the season. Detroit paid $1000 for him two years ago, and he has done good work for them. When he broke his leg, however, and was retired for many weeks, it was seen that Richardson was just as good a man at second and that Dunlap was not essential to the club's success, as first supposed by some.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 26, 1887

In early November, Dunlap was sold to Pittsburgh for somewhere between $4000 and $5000 dollars.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A New Player For The Browns?

Charles Alcott, short stop of the Ashland club, signed a contract to play with the St. Louis club to-day. He played with Harry Lyons and was highly recommended by the latter. He is 30 years of age, and of strong, athletic build, a good runner and a hard hitter. He played with the famous Merretts of Camden, Trendon, Syracuse, and Scranton clubs.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 26, 1887

Although the Globe's headline implied that Alcott was signed for the Browns, he never played with the club. He did, however, play with the St. Louis Whites in 1888.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Game Fourteen

Oh! it was cold for base ball at White Stocking Park [in Chicago] this afternoon. At 2:15 o'clock there were two blue-nosed shivering individuals in the grand-stand and about seventy-five cranks sought the sunny side of the bleaching boards and stamped their feet and kept their hands in their pockets to keep warm while waiting for the appearance of the great rival ball teams. The frozen ground of the base lines was raked and softened, and the whitewash marks looked positively chilly and made the poor spectators hug themselves a little tighter. There was quite a debate as to whether the game should be played or not. The money that would be taken in would certainly not pay for one-half the discomfort of the players in trying to handle a ball with the thermometer but [twenty degrees] above zero. Mr. Stearns at first decided not to play, but Mr. Von der Ahe thought it would be better to play the game anyhow, even at a great inconvenience, rather than disappoint the people who braved the wintry weather to see the champion representatives of the national game. At 2:25 there was not a sign of a ballplayer on the field. The wheezy strains of the alleged band were again heard by the crowd who had so often suffered during the past season. Time when play should have been called came and went, and there was no ball club, champion or otherwise, on the field, but it was said the game would be played, and the people waited in hope.

The Browns came out for practice at 2:50, and were welcomed with as much enthusiasm as the half-frozen spectators could give. The cheer was repeated with a little more emphasis when the Detroits appeared, but it was evident that "wild applause" would not be a feature of the description of the game. The Browns lost again after a hard struggle. King pitched a great game, striking out nine of the Wolverines. He was poorly supported, however. The errors made were excusable, owing to the cold weather. Getzein pitched for Detroit, and, although hit hard, managed to keep the hits well scattered. He was fairly well supported. Both teams left for St. Louis to-night. Owing to the cold weather the three games between the Browns and Chicago, scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, have been postponed until next spring.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 26, 1887

The Daily Inter Ocean reported that "Von der Ahe insisted upon playing the game" and that there "were possibly 250 people who considered a game of base ball better than their personal comfort." They also mentioned that the Browns wore sky-blue uniforms with red jackets and brown stockings. I have no comment on that combination of colors.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The 1936 Hall Of Fame Ballot

Some time ago, I mentioned that Fred Dunlap was on the 1936 Hall of Fame ballot. Without going into too much detail, he was on the Veterans Committee ballot that included all of the 19th century guys and he ended up with two votes. Not too bad considering everybody that was on that ballot.

The reason I bring this up is that today I was thinking a little about Charlie Bennett. It's my opinion that Bennett was the MVP of the 1887 world's series. He stopped the Browns' running game and thereby disrupted their entire offense. I'm certainly open to the idea that others could have been the MVP (Deacon White, for example) but, in going through the games, I was most impressed with Bennett, a player I hadn't given much thought to before. Looking at Bennett's stats at B-Ref, I found the link to the 1936 Hall of Fame ballot. If you haven't seen it before, it's worth taking a look at.

Of the sixty players on the ballot, thirty are now in the Hall. Fourteen of the top fifteen are in the Hall as are twenty of the top twenty-five. Among the top twenty-five who are not in the Hall is Charlie Bennett. Twenty-four of the top thirty-four are in the Hall. Among those who finished between twenty-fourth and twenty-ninth (including ties) and are not in the Hall are Ross Barnes, Fred Dunlap, Jack Glasscock and Ned Williamson.

It was a tough ballot. Lip Pike, Deacon White, Tommy Bond, Tommy McCarthy, Tim Keefe and Arlie Latham only got one vote. Candy Cummings, Lee Richmond and Silver Flint didn't receive any votes.

The player who received the most support and is not in the Hall is Herman Long, who finished eighth on the ballot.

I'm not really a big Hall kind of guy but there's at least a dozen guys on that ballot who aren't in the Hall and I'd have no problem putting in. I know my perspective is a bit different than that of the ordinary Hall voter but you could put in Dunlap, Bennett, Long, Harry Stovey, Bill Lange, Barnes, Glasscock, Williamson, Hardy Richardson, George Van Haltren, Pike, White, Bond, Doug Allison, and Latham and I'd be okay with it. And that doesn't include Bob Caruthers or Dave Foutz, who weren't on the ballot. And Von der Ahe.

Maybe I am a big Hall kind of guy. But I think my main point here is that Charlie Bennett was a really good ballplayer and among the 19th century guys not in the Hall, I think he'd be the first guy I'd put in.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rubbing Salt In The Wounds

Prior to entering on the contest for the world's base ball championship the St. Louis Browns boasted of their ability to steal bases and based their hopes of success in the contest largely on this feature of the game. In the games that have been played the Detroit boys have shown that they were capable of giving the Browns pointers on this feature of the game and have been stealing bases with an audacity that has astonished their competitors. The Browns find they are not playing an Association team.-[Cheboygan Tribune.]
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 25, 1887

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Game Thirteen

The Browns and Detroits were accorded a royal reception on their arrival [in Detroit] this morning. They were met at the depot by a delegation of the leading citizens of Detroit and a tremendous crowd of enthusiasts. As the train pulled into the depot the Detroits were greeted with prolonged cheers. Arrived at the depot the Wolverines were the recipients of many congratulations and a general hand-shaking was the result. The two teams were escorted to carriages and, headed by the Detroit Brass Band, paraded through the principal streets of the town. Everywhere the teams were applauded to the echo, and it was unquestionably a great day in the history of the City of Straits. The principal streets were handsomely decorated, and everything presented a holiday appearance. The reception committee carried huge brooms, which were the occasion of much merriment. The teams were driven to the Russell House, where a lunch was spread for them. At 7 o'clock this evening the two clubs and visiting journalists were banqueted at the Russell House, Mayor Chamberlin presiding...The teams left at 10 o'clock for Chicago. The day was really unfit for ball playing, being very cold, while a piercing wind swept across the grounds. Notwithstanding this fully, 4000 people assembled to witness the contest. Both teams were the recipients of prolonged applause as they stepped on the field.

Presentations were the order of the day. Ganzel was presented with a gold watch and Brouthers with the champion's bat for the best batter in the Detroit team. Bennett was not forgotten. In the fourth inning a delegation headed by a fife and drum marched into the grounds wheeling a barrow containing 500 silver dollars, which were presented to the great catcher. Bennett will need no advance money this year. O'Neill was presented with a bouquet of flowers. The game was close for a few innings, and then the Wolverines forged ahead and won rather easily. Caruthers was hit hard, and did not seem to exert himself as he might have done. Bushong's work was poor. Welch, Latham, Gleason and Comiskey did good work. Baldwin won his fourth game from the Browns, being as effective as usual. Ganzel caught him well. Sutcliffe, the old Maroon catcher, made his first appearance for Detroit, and did poorly. He can not bat, and is but an ordinary fielder. White had another great day, batting in great style and also fielding well. Richardson and Hanlon also did well.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 25, 1887

Do you think that Tip O'Neill was disappointed with his flowers after he saw Charlie Bennett get a wheelbarrow full of gold?

And that was kind of a harsh assesment of Sy Sutcliffe. He didn't hit at all for the Maroons but he was still young in 1884. As he got older, Sutcliffe became a much better player and hitter. Interestingly, he's listed on Detroit's 1887 roster but didn't see any League action. In 1888, he got into 47 games for them and held his own. Overall, in a short career, Sutcliffe was an effective hitter, especially for a catcher.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Training-School For The Browns

When it was first proposed to establish a Western Association club in St. Louis, objection was made to such location on the ground that Von der Ahe would use it as a training-school for the Browns, and would feel at liberty to cull from it any time when the senior organization betrayed weakness. Tom Loftus and Comiskey, who, with Von der Ahe, are factors in the new association, have given emphatic assurance that the policy hinted at would not be resorted to under any circumstances.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 25, 1887

The context of this was a meeting of the Western Baseball Association that was being held in Chicago on October 26, during which a decision was to be made on whether St. Louis or Lincoln, Nebraska, would enter the league.

I've written about the relationship between the Browns and the St. Louis Whites before and it's clear that Von der Ahe used the Whites as a farm club for his major league team. So the assurances that were given to get the club into the Western Association were either not kept or not sincere. Also, I think this is the first time I've seen Comiskey's name tied to the club and I'm not sure what his role was in the organization and management of the Whites.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sol White's History Of Colored Base Ball

I just a copy of Sol White's History Of Colored Base Ball in the mail and I'm going to try and get through it in the next day or so. Of course, the first thing I did when it arrived was to go to the index and look for "St. Louis" and, taking a quick first look through the book, I've found a few interesting things.

Left fielder. Wm. Whyte was born in Providence, April 10th, 1860, has played his position with the St. Louis Black Stockings to his great credit; he also played with the Resolutes of Boston, as left fielder and change pitcher, and made some of the finest catches that ever was seen on the Boston grounds. He joined the Cuban Giants in the season of 1885, and traveled through the South with them during the winter season, and now is in excellent condition.

Center fielder. Richmond Robinson was born in Washington, April 1, 1856, has played baseball with all the principal colored teams in the country. With the famous St. Louis Black Stockings in 1883, and '84-'85, with the Altoonas, and he is a general player, good base runner and heavy batter.

The above came from a sketch of the Cuban Giants that White wrote for the Trenton Times in 1886.

There's also a mention of the St. Louis Browns in the book. White wrote in 1930 that the Cuban Giants, during the 1886 and 1887 season, "met every big league club in the country, with the exception of the St. Louis Browns, and held their own with them." Of course, what White failed to mention was that the Browns and Cuban Giants had arranged an exhibition game in 1887 but the Browns' players refused "to play against negroes."

In that same piece from 1930, White wrote "While the East was coming along with its baseball activities, out in the West the old game was only a stride or two behind their eastern brothers. Indeed, if it came to honors being conferred on the first colored team of note, although not a professional club, the Black Diamonds of St. Louis, Mo., would have to be conceded the palm. They were given considerable publicity by the white press of the country as far back as 1884."

While I'm not certain, it's possible that White, writing fifty years after the fact, was confusing the St. Louis Maroons, who were commonly called the Black Diamonds and were formed in 1884, with another club. It's also possible (and, now that I think about it, likely) that this is a reference to the Black Stockings and White just had the names mixed up. This is something that demands a closer look.

The photo at the top of the post is of the 1887 Cuban Giants and William T. White (not to be confused with William E. White) is in the first row at the far left. There's a much better photo of White in the book, which I'm looking forward to reading.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Rush It Up

The last contest of the world's championship series in the Eastern cities was played at Washington Park yesterday in the presence of over 2,000 people, despite the fact that a cold, blustering northeast wind made it extremely uncomfortable for the spectators, the temperature being decidedly Wintry. The players felt it, too, their hands tingling again every time they fielded a ball, so chilled were they even with their active work on the field...It was no day to play ball in, and the players on both sides went into the contest to rush it up as quickly as they could and get back to their hotels.
-Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 23, 1887

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Game Twelve

The series was already decided but they played on:

About 800 people sat and shivered at Washington Park, Brooklyn, to-day, to watch the twelfth game between the Browns and Detroits for the championship of the world. The teams left Baltimore at 4 o'clock this morning, and arrived at Jersey City at 10 o'clock. The weather was simply execrable. The wind was cold and piercing, while heavy clouds kept the sun's rays from reaching and warming the bleaching boards. It was really unfit for ball-playing, but when the small crowd seemed anxious for a game, the manager called play. The audience sat wrapped in heavy overcoats, and the players never took off their heavy flannel coats. Bennett's hands were so sore that he laid off, and Ganzel went behind the bat. Brouthers made his first appearance in the series, and, besides fielding well, showed some of his skill as a batter. He was compelled to get some one to run for him. Dunlap was still too lame to play, and Richardson went to second. Twitchell played left field. The Browns, too, were switched around, Foutz covering first and Comiskey going into right. Both did well. The Browns won by outplaying the Wolverines at every point. They hit Conway hard, ran bases well, and fielded in almost perfect style. King was put into the box and again proved very effective. The Detroits were almost at the mercy of his speedy delivery, Ganzel and Brouthers being the only one who seemed to be able to gauge his curves. Bushong caught him well and also threw well to bases. Foutz did good work at first. Gleason, besides playing a perfect game in the field, batted very hard. Latham led at the bat, but marred his record in the field by a wild throw, O'Neill, Welch and Comiskey caught some difficult flys, while the trio also did some clever work with the stick. The Detroits evidently had been celebrating their victory, as they could neither field nor bat. They resembled a band of cripples, and Rowe was added to the list to-day, hurting his hand and giving way to Getzein in the fifth inning. Conway was wild and ineffective and was but indifferently supported. Ganzel caught in very fair shape for a man with sore hands. Richardson played well at second, but was weak at the stick. Rowe and White played poorly. Hanlon carried off the fielding honors, taking some very difficult fly balls in good style.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1887

"The Detroits evidently had been celebrating their victory..." I'm thinking that's probably a bit of understatement.

These last few games are just so strange. Can you imagine them playing all the games of a modern World Series after, say, a sweep or a five game victory. Crazy. It just underscores the exhibition nature of the 19th century world's series. But, on the positive side, at least Brouthers got to play.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm Taking The Day Off

Two things:

1. For those who don't know, I work in the restaurant business and we've been stupid busy since before Thanksgiving and I'm tired and worn out. Usually, I'll have a week's worth of posts queued up and ready to go but I've been struggling to keep up with the blogging since Christmas. The holidays just kicked my rear end. I'd say that I think I'm getting old but I know for a fact that I'm getting old. Don't even have to think about it.

2. I have a friend who's leaving our restaurant and taking a job elsewhere so we've been "celebrating" for two days. Let's just say that the celebration involved closing a few bars (and I freely admit that I've closed more than my share of bars over the years; but see above about the whole getting old thing).

So instead of writing about 19th century St. Louis baseball, I've been working too much and staying out too late. And I have a ton of stuff that needs to be written up. Just to give you a little preview (rather than doing anything really productive), I'm going to finish up the 1887 world's series; I'm going to go through the 1887 off-season and the Browns' big sell-off; I'll do the 1888 series; I have a bunch of cool stuff in my email inbox about the Black Stockings that has to be posted; I've been looking into VdA's background and his life before coming to America and that will make for an interesting post; I have some good stuff about the 1875 season and I think I know how Charlie Sweasy ended up in St. Louis; and I'd love to go through the Maroons' 1884 season day by day.

Looking at all of that, I think that's a year's worth of stuff. So stick around, 2011 should be a good year. But I'm taking today off. And probably Sunday, too.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Another Photo Of John Riggin

I got another great email from Norm Luppino about a month ago. Among the cool stuff he sent along was the above photo of John Riggin from Brevet Brigadier Generals In Blue. Riggin, of course, was a member of the antebellum Cyclone Club.

Norm also found Riggin's marriage certificate and his information from the 1850 census. Which, of course, is just awesome.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The 1887 World Series: The Browns Must Drink The Cup They Have So Often Held To The Lips Of Others

Although a few scheduled games between the champions of the National League and the American Association for the championship of the world remain to be played, the question at issue has been decided and the Detroit Club will wear the proud title for a season. And they deserved to win it. They played good ball from start to finish and won every game upon its merits. As for the St. Louis Browns, let them hold their peace and enter no pleas of ill-luck, poor form, and other conventional excuses. They were fairly outplayed and squarely beaten, and must drink the cup they have so often held to the lips of others. Though beaten they are not disgraced. They played splendid ball, but could not overcome the handicap of superior weight. It was trickery, agility and brilliant skill against steady skill, muscle and weight, and the latter won by virtue of superior force. For the League the triumph of the Detroits is as sweet as it is bitter to the Association, which will share the humiliation of defeat with the Browns in fullest measure; as the result will indirectly reflect lustre upon the entire League and dim the fame of the Association. In public estimation the League will now, for a season at least, rank as the stronger organization. It could not be otherwise, considering that Detroit, which has such a hard struggle with the clubs of its organization, should have had such a comparatively easy victory over a team which had a walk-over in its own class. No amount of analysis, argument and comparison can change that the the Association champion club and its fellow-clubs will have to grin and bear it, trusting to the future for a reversal of positions. Meantime we heartily congratulate the Detroit Club officials and players upon their double success. The club itself for years [struggled] against heavy odds and only got to the top by great liberality, unfailing courage and grim determination. As for the players, we regard their triumph as a victory for decent base ball. They have not only played steady ball, but have at no time given offence either to their superiors, to their home supporters or to the general base ball public, either on or off the field. In character, habits and deportment they have approached nearer the ideal professional standard than any set of players ever before collected under one club standard. They are in every sense model ball players and gentlemen, and as such we salute the "Champions of the World."
-Sporting Life, October 26, 1887

I think that last bit about the Detroits being gentlemen and professionals and never giving offense might be a shot at the Browns.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Von der Ahe's Reaction

Chris Von der Ahe says his team is getting some of the "big head" knocked out of it, and he thinks the men will be more reasonable next spring when asked to sign for another season.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1887

I think this speaks to something Comiskey once said about the reason for the player sales after the 1887 season. Comiskey specifically mentioned that one of the reasons for the sales was that some of the players' egos were out of control and that it was hurting the club. The hold-outs, the complaining about playing time, the stuff they pulled over the Cuban Giants exhibition and all of that was a problem and Von der Ahe and Comiskey attempted to address these issues by selling off some of the problem players. Caruthers was always carping about money. Bushong had problems with Boyle cutting into his playing time. Welch was a drunk and had problems getting along with some of his teammates. So they got rid of them. Foutz doesn't seem to fit into that pattern but he was sold off because the club thought, because of his injuries, that he was finished as a pitcher. The ironic thing is that, by 1889, the problems got much worse.

Von der Ahe has been complaining of the umpiring of Kelly, claiming that the Browns have got the worst of it all through. The Detroit players laugh at this, as they declare that the Wolverines have had two close decisions given against them where the Browns have had one.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1887

The problem, of course, was that Kelly lacked vim, nerve and grit. They should have gotten David Eckstein to umpire the series.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Welch Vs. Latham

Since we've reached the point in our coverage of the 1887 world series where Detroit has clinched the World's Championship, I'm going to take a short break and talk about something that's been on my mind for a few days. I'll get back to the last few games of the 1887 series and try to wrap that up as quickly as possible but at the moment I want to talk about Curt Welch and Arlie Latham.

In game ten of the 1887 series, both Welch and Latham homered and I went to Baseball Reference to see how many home runs each had hit during the 1887 season. While looking at their career numbers, it occurred to me that Latham may have been a better player than Welch. This came as a surprise because I had always considered Welch the superior player. But is that actually true?

Who was the better player, Curt Welch or Arlie Latham?

It's a rather difficult question to answer and I think the final answer depends on what weight you give to the different kinds of evidence that one brings to the argument. There are a lot of ways to slice this pie and how you slice it or what piece you look at will influence how you answer the question.

I believe that, generally speaking, their contemporaries believed that Welch was the better ballplayer. He was regarded as an outstanding outfielder and many believed that he was the best defensive outfielder in the game. He was also considered to be a smart player, a great athlete and a good base runner. While not a heavy hitter, Welch was considered to be steady at the bat and a consistent offensive contributor.

As far as Latham is concerned, the contemporary record usually focused on his personality and his on-field antics rather than on his contributions as a player. His defensive reputation was mixed. Some considered him to be an outstanding fielder with a strong arm but others noted that he was often lackadaisical at third and that his arm never recovered from a throwing contest with Doc Bushong in 1885. Everyone agreed that he was very fast and an outstanding baserunner. Offensively, he was noted for having a "scientific approach" to hitting but also for being inconsistent.

Latham was probably the better teammate. His coaching and banter was an important part of the make-up of the Browns' championship club and he was probably one of the leaders in the clubhouse. However, he had serious personal problems that leaked into the press, was accused of throwing games in 1889 and had an up and down relationship with Chris Von der Ahe. Welch, on the other hand, was a drunk who wore out his welcome in St. Louis very quickly and drank himself out of the game. It's entirely possible that Charlie Comiskey ordered Tip O'Neill to "accidentally" hit Welch with a bat in 1887. Latham could be self-centered and childish but Comiskey never ordered O'Neill to assault him.

So looking at just the contemporary evidence, I think it's a fair conclusion to say that Welch was viewed as the better player. Looking at just their on-field abilities, it was believed that Welch was the more talented baseball player.

However, things aren't that simple. Welch was a center fielder while Latham was a third baseman. I think it's safe to say that in the 1880s, a third baseman was more valuable than a center fielder. So while Welch was a better player, would you trade Latham for Welch? I'm not sure that the Browns would have done that. Latham was perfect for the kind of game that Comiskey wanted to play and he was probably more valuable to the Browns than he would have been for anybody else. As a third baseman, a lead-off man and a rabbit on the bases, Latham was probable more valuable to the Browns than Welch. That has to count for something.

But what really got me thinking about this question was their statistics and how that data is interpreted by modern baseball metrics. And the modern metrics show Latham to be a much better player than Welch.

However, before I present that data, we need to get into the caveats. While there are a lot of very smart people working on this, 19th century statistical data is full of holes. We're lacking important pieces of information such as the caught-stealing and grounding into double play numbers. The defensive data, specifically, is terribly problematic and it's difficult to evaluate a player's defense when there are questions about the number of balls in play, how many left-handed batters are in the league and how errors are assigned. There are people doing great work with the 19th century data but I'd think that even they would say that the accuracy of their analysis is not the same as the analysis we now have in modern baseball.

Also, I want to add that I'm not a sabrmetrician. I'm a historian. So I'm a bit out of my comfort zone when attempting to explain the modern metrics. However, there's nothing wrong with that and I freely admit that I have nothing more than a layman's understanding of WAR, UZR and the like. I love that stuff and think that it's added to our understand of the game. I also love the fact that there are people who are applying it to 19th century baseball. But I'm not an expert and I'd love to hear from anyone who has a better understanding of all of this.

So having said that...

Just looking at the WAR numbers at Baseball Projections, Latham had 35.1 WAR in 7495 plate appearances while Welch had 21.0 in 4939. Fangraphs has slightly different numbers but not enough to comment on. Regardless, Latham appears to have been better than Welch over their careers.

Of course, Latham had a significantly longer career and that accounts for some of the differences in their WAR. If one looks at the numbers on a season by season basis, however, Latham still looks like the better player. His five best seasons, measured in WAR, are 5.7, 5.3, 4.7, 4.7, and 3.8. Welch's five best seasons are 4.4, 3.8, 3.6, 2.7, and 2.7. Welch does not have one season that was as good as Latham's top four seasons. Measured in WAR, Latham was the vastly superior player, not only over the course of his career, but also at his peak.

Breaking the numbers down, Welch was the vastly superior offensive player and it wasn't even close, although other metrics have Latham as a better offensive player than Batting Runs does. But the argument for Latham being better than Welch never rested on his being a great offensive player. Welch was just a better hitter. He had more power, got on base more and was more consistent season to season.

As base runners, Latham was clearly better but Welch was also a very good base runner. Base running runs, again, just tell us what we already know. Welch had 453 stolen bases for his career with 215 doubles and 66 triples. Latham had 742 stolen bases, 245 doubles and 85 triples. I don't think that there's any doubt that Latham was faster than Welch and more valuable on the bases.

Where it gets interesting is in the defensive numbers. Total Zone, measuring defensive range, has them both as superior defensive players but has Latham as a historically great defensive third baseman in 1883 and 1884. I think that the modern metrics have Latham as the best defensive third baseman of the 19th century while Welch is merely one of the best defensive outfielders of the era.

This obviously goes against the accounts of contemporary observers. Is there something in the data that could skew things in this direction? I'm not sure but it's possible that 19th century ground ball tendencies and an overwhelming number of right handed batters could make Latham's defensive numbers look better than they are. Also, we don't have any data on Welch's outfield arm which would probably have a positive impact on his numbers. But the fact is that modern metrics rate Latham as a better defender than Welch and as a historically great defensive third baseman.

What puts Latham ahead of Welch as far as the modern metrics is concerned, though, is the positional adjustments that are made when calculating WAR. For some reason that I can't explain and have not been able to find an explanation for, Welch has a positional adjustment of negative fifty-three runs. Basically, they're treating him like a modern corner outfielder and that makes no sense. On the other hand, Latham, as expected, receives a positional adjustment of fifty-two runs. Also, there's a relative positional adjustment based on a league average player at that position and a replacement player. Latham cleans up on this in the 1890s when, I guess, nobody could find a decent third baseman.

While I don't claim to really understand any of that, I think (and please, dear Lord, feel free to correct me) that the bottom line is that a third baseman, according to modern metrics, was substantially more valuable than a center fielder in the 19th century. And, therefore, a great defensive third baseman like Latham, who could run and occasionally hit, was much more valuable than a good defensive third baseman like Welch who could run and hit. I think that's likely true but I'm not sure I'd put as much weight on it as we do while calculating WAR.

So, bottom line: Who was better?

The honest answer is that I have no idea. Most of their contemporaries would say that Welch was, at his best, better than Latham. But, in the end, I think you have to come to the conclusion that Latham was the more valuable player for his era. If I was ranking the greatest St. Louis baseball players of the 19th century, I'd have to rank Latham higher than Welch. His skill set was more valuable and difficult to find in the 19th century than Welch's. Latham was irreplaceable and Welch wasn't.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Stats Through Game 11

Here are the stats through game eleven. I offer no comment on the amount of luck, vim, nerve and grit it took for Detroit to outscore the Browns by twenty six runs while only getting six more hits. It's a shame we don't have handy information on caught stealing, slugging percentage and the number of times a Brownie made an out trying to grab an extra base. But that's not all that important. If the Browns had just had nine guys chock-full of David Eckstein grittiness, they would have won this series in eight. Heck, if Detroit had had Eckstein instead of Rowe, they would have won the fifteen game series in six. It's all about the grittiness. And luck.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Change Is In The Air

This is actually a continuation of the article that I quoted from yesterday and, while it doesn't have much to do about the 1887 series, I thought it was interesting given what was going to happen after the series. I'm going to get to the last few games of the series, although it's basically garbage time and the only thing of real interest is what kind of crowds show up, and I hope to have my post on Arlie Latham and Curt Welch up by Wednesday. But in the meantime, change is in the air for the St. Louis Browns and a fire sale is brewing.

The present series has set Mr. Von der Ahe to thinking, and he has agents now out on a still hunt for players. There will probably be a new short-stop in the team next year, a new right-fielder, a couple of pitchers, and another good catcher. The latter has been secured in the person of Gibson, late of the Philadelphia club. A new pitcher has been signed. He comes from the Eastern league, and is said to be a first class twirler. Hudson will no doubt be sold and Knouff released. Foutz, too, will be called on to do better work, or he may also receive his walking papers. The Browns may be deprived of the services of Bushong next season. The Doctor told a Globe-Democrat representative lately that he was going to California this winter, and it was very questionable if he returned. The Browns can ill-afford to lose the great catcher.

An Offer For Caruthers.

Caruthers, too, claims that he will quit ball playing next year. This will weaken the Browns beyond measure. Caruthers, besides being a great pitcher is a reliable batter and one of the finest fielders in his position in the world. It will be a sorry day for the Browns when they lose Caruthers. The trouble with Caruthers is this, that an Association manager, presumably Charley Byrne, of the Brooklyn Club, has made him dissatisfied by offering him a fabulous salary if he could secure his release from the Browns. Caruthers gets but $3000 with the Browns, while Mr. Byrne has offered him $4500.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1887

Von der Ahe also had an offer for Latham from the Louisville club. While it was noted that he turned down the offer, it kept coming up in the press during October so it's possible that there was some kind of negotiation going on.

Putting that aside, however, it's interesting how much change the Globe foresaw for the team. While they weren't completely accurate in their speculation, they had a lot of the pieces of the puzzle a month before everything went down. Somebody was obviously talking to somebody and that leads me to think that the sales may have been arranged (or at least initial talks began) when the Browns went East for the series.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The 1887 World Series: The Browns Lower Their Colors

The Browns have lowered their colors to Detroit. The admission of the superiority of the Wolverines is a galling one but nevertheless it must be made. The Browns themselves feel disgusted with their showing and can not account for it. They did not go into the contest with a great amount of confidence. After running up a record of victories unparalleled in the history of the national game, they became crippled during the summer months and made a very weak finish. Detroit, on the other hand, made a great finish and knew her strength. There is no club in the country that has had such a run of hard luck during the past season as have the Browns, and their wonderful work under the circumstances stamp them as one of the pluckiest aggregations in the world. To begin with, in the early spring Foutz came back from California with a dead arm and only in condition to sign-nothing else. He has not pitched his game this season, and it is evident that his powers as a twirler are on the wane. Then a number of new men who were signed proved to be failures, King and Boyle being the only good men out of the lot. When Foutz broke down Mr. Von der Ahe turned to Hudson, of whom much was expected. After securing this pitcher at much expense he proved to be a dire failure. Then followed a chapter of accidents, sufficiently great to almost turn the team into a hospital. O'Neill was hit by a pitched ball and forced to lay off, Bushong had his finger broken, Comiskey his thumb broken, Welch was hit in the face with a bat, Caruthers stricken with fever and Robinson's hands made so sore that he was forced to lay off. It was, indeed, a sorry aggregation that started from St. Louis for the last Eastern trip. There were but nine men in the party, including two pitchers and a catcher, yet this team played good ball, showing the marvelous strength and pluck of the Brown Stocking team.

Only One Pitcher.

Scarcely had the team become united again than the series with Detroit commenced, and the russet-hosed lads were on the field with their confidence considerably shaken. After the first game, in which Caruthers pitched and won the Browns took hope, seeing that they had one pitcher at least on whom they could depend. The next game, however, showed them that Foutz would be practically useless to them. Whenever Caruthers pitched the Browns played a strong, steady game, and gave the Wolverines all they could to to win. Caruthers won three of the games he pitched, and had Foutz held up his end the result might have been different. King, after his pummelling at Pittsburg, pitched good ball, and in the game at Philadelphia, showed a steadiness that was really wonderful in so young a player. Behind the bat the Browns were weak, neither Bushong nor Boyle catching good ball. Detroit, on the other hand, had three pitchers in magnificent condition, and all were equally effective. Bennett caught almost all the games, and his work was perfect. He had a very sore hand, too, and showed wonderful pluck. In the field positions it is hard to compare the teams. This much, however, may be said: Those of whom much was expected realized the least. O'Neill was the weakest of infants at the bat. Caruthers and Foutz were but chance hitters, too. Robinson played the game of the team. His work was simply marvelous, and made thousands of friends in the cities visited. He kept up his good work at the bat, too. Welch, too, did good batting, but did not show up as strongly in the field as expected. Gleason's work was very poor, and many of his errors were costly in the extreme. Latham played the game of his life in the field, but was very weak at the bat. His base-running, however, was always a feature of the game. Comiskey was not steady as usual at first, although he batted well. The Detroits played better ball than they knew how.

The Detroits' Great Work.

That old fossil, Deacon White, in the first part of the series played one of the most marvelous games ever seen on a ball field. Nothing was too hard for him. He also did some opportune batting. Rowe's work throughout has been steady and reliable, while his work with the stick has been first-class. Dunlap's play, like Robinson's, was brilliant and generally reliable, and "Denny" has lost none of that wonderful skill which earned for him the title of "king-pin of second baseman of the world." Bennett and Ganzel alternated at first, and both did good work. The outfield is wonderfully strong, while every man is a good batter. Hanlon, the weakest hitter of the club, makes up for his weakness by his wonderful base-running powers. Taken all in all, the Detroits, as at present constituted, are a wonderfully strong aggregation. They were not seen in their full strength either, as Brouthers, their heavy hitter, was incapacitated from work by a sprained ankle. How fortunate it is that the series of games did not see-saw in regard to victories and defeats, as it would have given the chronic kickers a chance to cry "Fraud," "hippodrome," and such like absurdities. As a matter of fact, the League had a question of the greatest importance to determine and they took the present series of games to settle it. It is a well-known fact that in a number of League cities people are compelled to pay 50c to see base ball games. These people naturally ask how it is that they are compelled to pay twice as much as patrons in the Association cities. The answer has been, "We furnish you a better article of ball." This the League managers called on Detroit to prove in the last series, and their orders to the Wolverines were to defeat the Browns as often and by as large scores as possible, so as to prove their arguments by facts. Then, too, there was too much feeling among the players to even arrange a hippodrome.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1887

It took the Globe awhile and some excuse making but I think they eventually reached the proper conclusions about what happened in the series. Detroit was indeed "wonderfully strong" and it's a bit frightening to think what they would have done with Brouthers in the lineup.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Game Eleven

The second game of the doubleheader was played in Baltimore and the victory by Detroit was their eighth win, clinching the series.

The Browns have lost their title as World's Champions, having given up that proud title to Detroit. They played very little like a champion club this afternoon, and an amateur team could have defeated them. They could not hit a balloon or catch anything, while the indifference of Foutz was disgusting. he seemed to care little whether he won or lost, and played a slovenly, don't care sort of game that disgusted even his warmest admirers. The whole team played poor ball, with the exception of Robinson, Latham and Comiskey. The former's work was really brilliant. He fielded in marked contrast to his associates, and made half the hits credited to his side. The Detroits played poorly in the field, but batted well and won in this way. Kelly was in the field this afternoon and Gaffney behind the bat. The weather was clear, but cold, and the attendance 2500.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 22, 1887

I don't have much to say about this game except that it was an old fashioned whipping.

Foutz had a bad game and, while I wouldn't say that his play was indifferent, I would say he appears to have been rattled in the middle innings when the game was lost. After giving up a two-run homer in the fourth, he walked two guys and missed a return throw from Boyle. In the fifth, he missed a cut-off throw because he had his back turned to the outfield and then later failed to cover first on a grounder, all of this while allowing four runs. In the sixth, he gave up four more runs, had a wild pitch, hit a batter and walked one. The Globe called his play "execrable" and his play was so bad that reading the game account made me wince.

And I'm not sure if I've mentioned this or not but there were rumors in St. Louis of game fixing and by calling Foutz's play "indifferent," I think the Globe may have been implying that Foutz was throwing the game. There is no evidence of game fixing and these rumours always started flying when a favored team lost or a good player made a couple of errors in a game. Is it possible that the Browns threw the series? Yes. Is there any real evidence to support this? No.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The 1887 World Series: A Game Ten Post Full Of Luck, Nerve And Vim

On October 20th, St. Louis and Detroit played a world series doubleheader, with the first game in Washington, D.C., and the second in Baltimore. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only World Series doubleheader in the history of baseball.

The Browns won a game from Detroit this morning. It was a long and weary wait for victory, but it came at last and was appreciated beyond measure by the admirers of the world's champions. The Browns played ball as of yore, and put up a game which could have beaten any club in the country. They knocked Getzein all over the field and practically knocked his pretzels out of the box. The game was full of incidents. Bennett's sore hand at last became so painful that he retired in favor of Ganzel. Dunlap was run into by Robinson and his broken leg again was hurt. The lively batting and sharp fielding dept up the interest to the close. Latham, Welch and Richardson made home runs and Foutz a three-bagger. Gleason's triple play was a magnificent piece of work, while his batting was a feature of the game. Brother Bill seems to have recovered his nerve, and much may now be expected of him. Caruthers, although suffering from a very sore arm, kept the Wolverines down in good shape. It looked as though they were going to knock him out of the box in the first inning, when they opened with a home run and a single, but after that they could do but little with him. The Detroits did not play with the same vim that has characterized their work on the trip, and seemed badly rattled by the Browns' new showing. Kelly called the balls and strikes and Gaffney took care of the field. Owing to the fact that the game took place in the morning, only about 3000 people attended. The grounds were soft from last night's rain and many of the errors were caused on this account.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 22, 1887

Only good things happen when a ball club recovers its luck and nerve and their opponent loses its vim. A couple of home runs and a triple doesn't hurt either. Where's Ken Tremendous and the boys when you need them?

Here's the Globe's description of the triple play, which occurred in the top of the third:

Richardson hit a high fly, which dropped between O'Neill and Gleason. Ganzel drove a corker to right for a base, Richardson going to second. Rowe also popped up a high fly and once more did the ball fall on vacant ground, this time between Foutz and Comiskey. The bases were full, and with Thompson at the bat the prospect looked blue for the Browns, but the St. Louis lads completed a play which happens but seldom on a ball field. Thompson drove a terrific liner at Gleason, who caught the ball. Richardson had started for home and Rowe for third, and the ball flew to Latham and then to Robinson and a triple play was the result. The crowd applauded vociferously.

Besides starting a triple play, Gleason, all full of newly recovered nerve, also had three hits.

Yank Robinson also had an interesting game. In the first, he took a ground ball to the mouth, off the bat of Thompson. Then in the fourth, he tried to advance from first to second on a passed ball and took out Dunlap, who had to retire from the game and was unable to recover for the afternoon game.

Dunlap, of course, suffered a series of leg injuries throughout his career and they eventually forced him to retire. I bring this up because I just noticed that Dunlap's number one comp at B-Ref is Fernando Vina, who also suffered numerous leg injuries throughout his career. With this being the dead of winter, I really have nothing else to do but wonder what Freddy Vina would have hit if he had played for the 1884 Maroons.

I guess I should also mention the home runs by Welch and Latham. Welch's was in the fifth and cleared the fence. Latham's was in the sixth and was an inside-the-parker. Welch hit three home runs in the regular season for the Browns in 1887 and Latham hit two so I guess you could say that both home runs were a pleasant surprise.

A quick bit of trivia: Who hit more home runs in their career, Welch or Latham? Don't cheat and go to B-Ref because I'll give you the answer in a second. But I was surprised by the answer. Welch hit 16 home runs in 1107 games over his career. Latham hit 27 in 1629 games. Latham also had more career doubles and triples than Welch, although Welch had a higher career slugging percentage.

It's always been my perception that Welch was a vastly better player than Latham but now I'm not certain that it's true. Over their careers, they created about the same number of runs (77 for Latham and 73 for Welch) and both averaged 4.0 runs created per game. Now RC is hardly the end-all and be-all of baseball analysis but it certainly gives us a good idea of the general value of a player and it has Welch and Latham as being equally valuable. If you measure them by WAR, I think Latham might come out a bit ahead.

I really am having a difficult time getting my head around the idea that Latham was measurably as good or better than Welch. There's a lot of ways to slice the pie and I can see both sides of an interesting argument here. I think I'm going to have to write up a post in the near future taking a closer look at this. While I'm at it, I should also do a Caruthers vs. Foutz post because I really don't see much difference between the two even though the general wisdom insists that Caruthers was the better player.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Rained Out

A heavy rain set in early this morning [in Washington, D.C.] and continued all day, so that it was impossible to play, and the game scheduled for this city was postponed until to-morrow morning. It was determined that if the weather permitted the two games would be played to-morrow, the morning game at Washington and the afternoon game at Baltimore.

The revised schedule of games reads as follows: To-morrow, Washington and Baltimore; Saturday, Brooklyn; Monday, Detroit; Tuesday and Wednesday, St. Louis; Thursday, Chicago; Friday and Saturday, Kansas City. The Browns are feeling very sore over their defeats. It is evident that they have not been playing their game for several months back; in fact ever since they were so badly crippled on their last Eastern trip. In three of the seven games lost to Detroit a few sacrifice hits would have turned the tide in the Browns' favor, but they were not forthcoming, and defeat was the result. Then, too, they have had to depend on Caruthers almost entirely, although King may be expected to do good work the rest of the series. Comiskey, too, is bothered with a very sore face, the result of the old trouble in his left cheek, which was lanced in New York recently. The players spent the day in lounging on the train, which was side-tracked. Gaffney, the popular umpire, and late manager of the Washingtons, was to-day presented with a handsome diamond pin, the gift of the players he has had under him the past year in the Washington club.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 21, 1887

So the 1887 world series included a weird two city, one day doubleheader. That's kind of neat. It's also interesting to note that they scheduled games in Chicago and Kansas City that didn't come off. I'll double check everything but I thought the series ended in St. Louis on October 26th after the fifteenth game.

And it's good to see that the Globe has moved off the bad luck excuse and moved on to the slightly more plausible injury excuse. Of course, they failed to mention that Dan Brouthers was also hurt and hadn't played in the series at all.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Game Nine (And Taking A Close Look At The Question Of Luck)

Who is the Browns' Jonah? It seems as though they can not win a game, and despite good playing they go down day after day before the Detroits. Again to-day did they outbat, outfield and outplay the Wolverines at every point, and yet again were they defeated. The day was dark and threatening [in Philadelphia], and heavy clouds no doubt kept many from attending, but despite this there were fully 4000 people on the grounds when game was called. Both teams arrived on their special train from Boston at 9 o'clock this morning. The Browns were slightly discouraged at their poor showing in Boston, and braced up wonderfully, putting up a fine game, but it was useless. The usual luck was with the Detroits, and they won from a superabundance of that article, so necessary in base-ball. Kelly attended to the field to-day, while Gaffney took care of the balls and strikes. Both did well. To King belongs the honors of the day. The Browns' young pitcher did magnificent work in the box, striking out nine of the Detroit sluggers. They made out six hits off him, but they made every one of those count. Boyle caught him in splendid style, and also batted well. Comiskey played a great game at first and batted well, also making the first two hits scored in the game. Robinson batted well and did good work in the field. Latham had but little to do. Gleason played in his old-time form, and also handled the willow with good effect. The outfield had but little to do. Welch led at the bat, and is improving in his work in this department. Conway pitched for Detroit, and was effective, being also magnificently supported. Bennett's hand being sore, Ganzell went behind the bat, while Bennett went to first. Both did well. Dunlap marred his record by a wild throw. White kept up his great work at third, and made several marvelous stops. Rowe also played well. The outfield had but little to do in the field, but earned the victory by their timely hitting.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 20, 1887

Since the Globe (and Arlie Latham) keeps talking about the Browns' bad luck, lets look at this game a little closer and see what part random chance played in the outcome:

Top of first: Latham thrown out at first on close play; Gleason strikes out but reaches first on passed ball; O'Neill grounds out to the pitcher and Gleason is forced out at second but breaks up a double play; Comiskey base hit; Foutz grounds to short and Comiskey is forced at second to end inning.

Bottom of first: Richardson strikes out, Boyle the fourth strike but throws him out at first; Ganzell grounds out to Gleason; Rowe strikes out.

First inning luck meter: Leaning towards the Browns; you could say the Latham play was a bit of bad luck but his bunt was foul before cutting fair so the roll of the ball neutralizes the close call going against them; they got some good luck when Gleason broke up the double play and when Boyle recovered to throw Richardson out at first.

And just for fun, let's track men left on base: Browns-1, Detroit-0

Top of second: Welch grounds out to White; Robinson strikes out; Boyle grounds out to White.

Bottom of second: Thompson grounds out to Comiskey; White grounds out to Gleason who had to one-hand the ball to make the play; Dunlap strikes out.

Second inning luck meter: Neutral. Nice infield defense by both clubs.

LOB: Browns-0, Detroit-0

Top of third: King strikes out; Latham grounds out to Conway; Gleason fouls out to Ganzell.

Bottom of third: Bennett pops up to Boyle; Hanlon grounds out to Robinson; Conway pops up to Boyle. King was pitching very well. At this point, he had three strike outs, two pop ups to the catcher and four infield ground outs. Very nice.

Third inning luck meter: Very neutral.

LOB: Browns -0, Detroit-0

Top of fourth: O'Neill grounds out to White; Comiskey hits to right; Foutz hits a slow-roller to third and beats the throw, Comiskey going to second; Welch hits to right, Comiskey scores, Foutz to second; Robinson pops out to Richardson; Boyle hits a slow-roller to Conway and is thrown out at first, stranding two runners.

Bottom of fourth: Richardson doubles to left (first extra base hit of the game and Detroits' first base-runner); Ganzel grounds out, Richardson goes to third; Rowe gets a hit to left and drives in Richardson; 1-1; Thompson bounces to short, forces Rowe at second; Thompson tried to steal, Boyle threw the ball into the outfield and Thompson ended up at third; White flies out to Foutz.

Fourth inning luck meter: Leaning towards the Browns; Boyle's throw was bad baseball not bad luck and they were lucky that the error didn't come back to hurt them.

LOB: Browns-2 [3], Detroit-1 [1]

We should also track extra base hits: Browns-0, Detroit-1 (and Thompson went first to third on the steal and error)

Top of fifth: King flies out; Latham strikes out; Gleason singles down the third base line; O'Neill grounds to Dunlap, who throws the ball away; O'Neill safe at first but Gleason is thrown out at third by Bennett.

Bottom of fifth: Dunlap strikes out [tough inning for the King of Second Basemen]; Bennett strikes out; Hanlon pops up to Gleason.

Fifth inning luck meter: Leaning towards the Browns; Dunlap gave them an extra out and they would have had guys on first and second with two outs with a chance to score another run if not for...

Bad baseball meter: Leaning towards the Browns; Gleason making the last out at third is what Whitey Herzog called (and forgive the language) "Horse Shit Baseball."

LOB: Browns-1 [4], Detroit-0 [1]

And the Browns still don't have an extra base hit.

Top of sixth: Comiskey grounds out to third; Foutz flies out to Rowe; Welch hits a line drive down the third base foul-line and makes it into second when Dunlap muffs the throw; Robinson hits to left, Welch scores; Boyle hits to left but Robinson is thrown out trying to go first to third; Browns lead 2-1.

Bottom of sixth: Conway struck out; Richardson grounded out to Gleason; Ganzell flies out to Welch.

Sixth inning luck meter: Leaning toward the Browns; if Dunlap holds onto the throw, Welch is out at second, the inning is over and the Browns don't score; which again leads us to the...

Bad Baseball Meter: In the red, full tilt, for the Browns; we can argue about Welch trying to go to second but he was out if Dunlap holds on to the throw; and, with Robinson's base-running error, the Browns again end the inning by making the final out at third; they were playing Horse Shit Baseball (and I love that term; I use it all the time; you have to love Whitey).

LOB: Browns-1 [5], Detroit-0 [1]

And the Browns still don't have an extra base hit because the Welch play was a single and an error.

Top of seven: King grounds out to Rowe; Latham grounds out to White; Gleason singled to right; O'Neill flies out to Thompson.

Bottom of seven: Rowe singles to center; Thompson singles to center, Rowe to third; Thompson advances to second on passed ball; White grounds out to Comiskey, Rowe scores; Dunlap struck out [really tough game for Fred]; Bennett singles to center, Thompson scores; passed ball by Boyle but he recovers to throw out Bennett trying to advance to second.

Seventh inning luck meter: I think it's neutral; single, single, passed ball, ground out (run scores), K, single (run scores), passed ball/caught stealing; you could argue that the first passed ball was a bit of bad luck but it has to be balanced by the second passed ball that turned into the third out; also, it's very possible that Detroit still scores two without the passed ball (Rowe and Thompson could have advanced to second and third on White's ground out and then scored on Bennett's single; maybe Comiskey tries to do something with White's grounder and goes to second with the ball but at the very least, Detroit gets one run out of the inning; if we want to be generous we can say that the luck o'meter leaned slightly to Detroit in this inning but, overall, it still has to be leaning St. Louis.

Bad Baseball Meter: Leaning St. Louis; the passed ball was a killer (and that's more bad baseball than bad luck) but it's balanced by Bennett getting thrown out at second to end the inning.

LOB: Browns-0 [5], Detroit-0 [1]

And the Browns still don't have an extra base hit.

Top of eight: Comiskey flies out to Richardson; Foutz grounds out to first; Welch flies out to Conway.

Bottom of eight: Hanlon hits a triple to right and scores on a passed ball; Conway strikes out; Richardson strikes out; Ganzell grounds out to second.

Eighth inning luck meter: Leaning Detroit; again, the passed ball was a killer and I think you'd have to say that Boyle had a worse game than Dunlap; but, I'm being generous here because...

Bad Baseball Meter: Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding for the Browns; not to be Captain Obvious but the catcher's job is to catch the ball and while I understand how difficult that was in this era, Boyle just killed his club with poor play; is it bad luck that your catcher can't catch or is it bad baseball?

LOB: Browns-0 [5], Detroit-0 [1]

And the Browns still don't have an extra base hit.

Top o'nine: Robinson flies out to center; Boyle popped out to White; King struck out to end the game (and they didn't play the bottom of the ninth).

Ninth inning luck meter: Neutral.

Bad Baseball Meter: Neutral.

LOB: Browns-0 [5], Detroit-0 [1]

And the Browns didn't have an extra base hit in the entire game.


Where was the bad luck? Overall, as far as random luck was concerned, I think it was a pretty fair game. Making errors at crucial moments in the game isn't bad luck. That's baseball. Running into outs isn't bad luck. That's just bad baseball. Hitting nothing but singles is not bad luck. It's bad baseball and a perfect way to lose a game. As far as I can tell, the Browns lost the game because they had to string together three singles to score a run, they ran themselves out of innings and Boyle made a couple of errors at crucial moments. That's not bad luck. That's Horse Shit Baseball.

King obviously pitched a good game but Conway pitched well, too. And did King really pitch a good game? He was obviously bringing it but doesn't he have to take some of the blame for the passed balls? This is 1887 and Boyle is back there without a glove and unprotected. A smart pitcher in the 19th century would realize that he had a young guy behind the plate who couldn't handle his best pitches and take something off the ball. King didn't do that. Yes, he struck out nine but, in the end, his pitching wasn't as effective as Conway's because Boyle couldn't handle what he was throwing. That's not bad luck. It's inexperience on the part of the 19 year old King and the 21 year old Boyle.

Also, Comiskey has to take some of the blame. He's the captain. He's running the team and should have told King to take something off his pitches. Maybe he should have had Bushong behind the plate. A good manager puts people in a position to succeed. If someone can't do the job you're asking them to do, that's not their fault. That's the fault of the manager who put them in that position. And that may have been the case here with regards to Boyle catching King.

But regardless of how you want to slice up the blame, in the end, the Browns didn't lose because of bad luck. There was no Jonah. They just made more mistakes than Detroit. Detroit got a couple of extra-base hits and the Browns didn't. Detroit was a very good team and the Browns' game wasn't working against them. That's the way it goes sometimes. But it has nothing to do with luck.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The 1887 World Series: More On Game Eight

The eighth game in the World's championship series between the St. Louis and Detroit base ball teams was played in this city to-day and was won easily by the Detroit men. Caruthers was not nearly as effective as usual, and the Detroiters kept the ball going all over the field, their batting throughout the contest being terrific. The St. Louis players fielded very brilliantly at times, but at others their playing was rather loose. Caruthers fielded his position splendidly, and his playing, with that of Robinson and Bushong, comprised the chief feature for the visitors. Robinson did fine work with the stick, making three two baggers, but he was the only one of the visitors who struck the ball for more than one base. He was presented, when he first came to the bat, with a fine gold-headed cane by his Boston friends, the presentation being made by Samuel Wise, of the Bostons. Thompson's two home runs and the slugging of the Detroits players generally were features, although their fielding, with the exception of two unimportant errors by Ganzel, was absolutely perfect, and White's third-base play was superb. About four thousand people witnessed the game.
-The North American, October 19, 1887

The Inter Ocean's headline for their game account was "Von Der Ahe Alarmed." They never mentioned Von der Ahe in the story or why, specifically, he was alarmed but the Inter Ocean had a nice habit of always twisting the knief when it came to St. Louis baseball. I think one of the pillars of their editorial policy was if it was bad for St. Louis, it was good for Chicago. Therefore, in their view, every Detroit win was a victory for Chicago.

And it's kind of strange talking about a St. Louis/Chicago/Detroit 19th century sports rivalry given (and forgive the hockey talk) the nature of the relationship between the Blues, Blackhawks and Red Wings. That relationship (and the vile hatred that defines it) is central to my sports world and has been for a long time. I can't imagine what would happen if we moved the Tigers to the NL Central or the Rams to the NFC North. It would be St. Louis/Chicago/Detroit sports Armageddon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Game Eight

The Detroits and Browns were due [in Boston] at 8:30 this morning but owing to delay on the route did not arrive until 11 o'clock. The day was warm, and sultry and threatening clouds no doubt kept many from the grounds. Notwithstanding this drawback there were fully 5000 people present. Owing to the fact that the seats and grand stand at the Boston League grounds had been torn down to make way for a new stand, the game was played on the old Boston Union grounds, on which a professional game has not been played since 1884. The grounds were in wretched condition. The stand was small and in miserable repair, and the accommodations generally very poor. The stand filled up early, and the crowd which still poured in formed a line around the entire field. The Browns feeling that Caruthers was their best chance to win, asked that he be put in the box. The little pitcher was anxious to play, and his wish was gratified. Bushong caught him. It was intended to put Conway in the box for Detroit, but at the last moment Getzein was put in. Bennett caught him. During the first inning a drizzling rain set in which continued throughout the day, making it very uncomfortable for the players and spectators in the open seats. The grounds too, were so narrow that a number of balls were lost, and delays occurred on that account. Every one was glad when the game was ended. It proved to be a bad policy to put Caruthers in the box. He was wild, and was also hit very hard. He was well supported, considering the condition of the ground. Bushong caught well, Caruthers keeping him busy by his irregular delivery. Comiskey played a good first base. Robinson did some fine fielding at second, and led his team at the bat. His three hits were hard drives along the left foul line. Latham had but little to do in the field, but he did some clever batting. His bunt hit set the crowd wild. Gleason was put back at short, and he did good work. He also batted hard, but always at some one. O'Neill, Welch and Foutz were kept busy chasing leather, but they reached only a few of the drives into their territories. Getzein was hit hard but he managed to keep the hits scattered. He was, as usual, magnificently supported. Bennett's hand is very sore, but he caught again, and was just as great as usual. To single out any Detroit player for praise would an injustice. All were great. Thompson's batting, however, is worthy of notice. His two home runs were terrific drives, the one over the fence being one of the longest hits ever seen in Boston. Gaffney stopped over in Worcester and did not arrive until late. Until he came Kelly did all the umpiring. After his arrival Kelly called the balls and strikes, while he took care of the field. Robinson was presented with a gold-headed cane by the McCarthy Club, and Richardson received a bouquet of flowers.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 19, 1887

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The 1887 World Series: More On Game Seven

Base-ball, as our esteemed contemporary the New York Herald recently observed, is "a glittering uncertainty-a glowing inconsistency." The young man who wrote that aphorism-an aphorism that will be served up in various shapes until Barnie's Baltimore Bucks win the Association pennant-was doubtless inspired by just such a game as that put up by the Detroit and St. Louis combinations yesterday.

The game was very much on the machine order until the ninth inning, when with two men out Baldwin muffed O'Neill's foul fly. O'Neill evinced his gratitude by lining the second ball pitched over the centre-field fence, thereby averting a shut-out for St. Louis. The fielding of both teams was sharp and brilliant, White, Rowe, Dunlap, Lyons and Robinson all making numerous difficult stops and throws. In the outfield, Curt Welch and Hanlon easily carried off the honors. In the fifth inning the former took Richardson's fly off the fence at centre, and in the eighth the latter caught Bushong's line-fly within a foot of the ground, on which he completed a double play. The spectators, numbering between seven and eight thousand, seemed to be partial to the Browns, and cheered them whenever the opportunity offered. Latham of course came in for a great share of attention, and was subjected to considerable good-natured chaffing. The St. Louis men did some daring base running in the first two innings, but after Bennett had nailed a couple of when they hugged their bases rather closely...

The League Champions won the game in their half of the second. Thompson opened with a scratch hit to left and went to second on a wild pitch, scoring on White's hard ground drive to centre, of which Welch made a great one-handed stop. White took second on Dunlap's out. Bushong muffed Bennett's fourth strike, and instead of throwing the striker out at first, which he could easily have done, he essayed to catch White off second. He dallied too long, however, and both the Deacon and Bennett were safe. Hanlon drove a corker to right, White scoring and Bennett going to third. Hanlon stole second. Baldwin lifted a fly to right, which Foutz took in good style, and then threw home to head off Bennett. Caruthers seeing that there was no chance of catching the latter, ran up on the ball and fielded it to Latham, retiring Hanlon, who had not left second till after Foutz had thrown the ball in...
-The North American, October 18, 1887

I have the general impression that the Browns' aggressive style of play backfired on them in this series. In this game, they had a runner thrown out at the plate with two outs in the first inning and then had a runner thrown out at third with one out in the second. Bushong's play in the bottom of the second was also an aggressive, risky play that didn't work. This kind of stuff works over the course of a season when playing against weaker clubs but against a club as good and as solid as the Detroits, it just wasn't working. The Browns, trying to play their game but struggling to score runs, were giving away outs, both at the bat and in the field. Detroit, with good pitching, defense and base-running, took the Browns' game away from them and won the series handily.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Here's to 2011 being better than 2010.