Saturday, January 26, 2013

9 Players You May Not Know from the 1900's but Should

The National League owners were confident that they were the only game in town.  They had no competition.  They could do anything they wanted.  Charles Comiskey and Ban Johnson were tired of it  and decided to do something about it.  They purchased the Western League, a minor league organization, and started planning.  They set up organizations in Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Washington and Milwaukee and declared that in 1901 they would start play as the American League a Major League on par with the National League.  As an extra challenge to the National League, they placed teams in several cities where the National League already had a presence. 

In order to compete with the established National League they needed established talent.  Knowing the players in the NL were unhappy with their contract situations Johnson and Comiskey went calling.  They signed Connie Mack to run the Philadelphia organization and John McGraw as the  player/manager of the Baltimore organization,  They grabbed players like Cy Young, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Sam Crawford and George Davis.  Some of these players went directly to the cross town competition.  None caused more controversy than Napoleon LaJoie.

Nap played for the Phillies, who were very successful at the turn of the century, mostly because of LaJoie and Delahanty.  The owners could do anything they wanted so they set a ceiling on the amount of money any one player could make.  The Phillies had a secret deal with LaJoie to give him  bit of a bonus and promised him that although he couldn't tell anyone, LaJoie was the highest paid player in the league.  He soon found out that Delahanty had a similar agreement that was $1,000 higher than LaJoie's .  Nap was not happy.  Not only did he jump to the American League, he jumped to the team that would cause the most distress to the Philllies:  the crosstown Athletics. Now it was the Phillies' turn to be unhappy.  They sued LaJoie saying that he was still under contract to them and therefore he couldn't play for another team.  The Phillies won the case and the court declared that he was not permitted to play for any team unless it was the Phillies.  Fortunately for LaJoie the court injunction was only effective in Pennsylvania.  For the good of the league Connie Mack sent Lajoie to the Cleveland franchise.  Any time the Indians played in Philadelphia, Nap would get a free vacation to Atlantic City.

The original 8 franchises of the American League are all still in operation in one form or another, just not all in the same place. Boston is still the Red Sox, Cleveland is still the Indians,Chicago is still the White Sox and Detroit is still the Tigers.  The other four teams are still around just not the same as they were in 1901.  The Philadelphia Athletics eventually moved to Kansas City before moving to Oakland (and possibly to San Jose in the coming years).   The Washington franchise moved to Minnesota to become the Twins.  The Baltimore Orioles moved to New York and became the Highlanders (also called the Hilltoppers and later the Yankees).  The Milwaukee Millers moved to St. Louis and became the Browns until they moved to Baltimore in 1954 to become the current Orioles.

The American League's arrival was successful and led to an all out war with the National League.  It was bitter, it was ugly and it was dirty.  There were attempts to discredit the other league, arguments and flat out fights between the owners and both leagues claiming they were the real major league.  After a few years the National League owners had enough and begged for peace.  The owners met in Cincinnati in the winter of 1903 (the first ever owners' "hot stove winter meetings") and came to an agreement.  Both leagues would be considered Major Leagues.  At the end of each season the winner of the American League would play the winner of the National League in a series to determine the champion of the Major Leagues.  It would be considered a World's Series.

The first decade of the World Series was not always exciting.  Often the pennant races were more exciting than the championship seasons. The first ever World Series in 1903 had the Boston Pilgrims (now the Red Sox) and the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Red Sox won the best of 9 Series The 1905, 1906, 1907 and 1908 World Series were all decided in 6 games or less. 

The 1909 World Series had everything. It had the best against the best.  Tigers vs. Pirates.  Ty Cobb vs. Honus Wagner.  The best hitter in the AL vs the best hitter in the AL.  It was the first World Series to go the full 7 games and the Pirates won the World Series causing Cobb to lose his last chance at the World Series title.

For Cubs fans, still waiting for a World Series championship, these were the glory days.  The 1906 Cubs have the highest winning percentage in history, higher than the 1927 Yankees, 1929 Athletics, 1998 Yankees or 2001 Seattle Mariners.  The Cubbies reached the World Series in 1906, 1907 and 1908 becoming the first team to reach three consecutive World Series and the first to win back to back World Series.  The day before the replay of the Merkle game, Cubs manager Frank Chance made a statement that would have sent fear into the hearts of the opponents of the time, but would have sent laughter across the world had it been said today:  "Who ever heard of the Cubs losing a game they had to have?"

Although the names of Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Ed Walsh, Napoleon LaJoie and Rube Waddell will be the names that are remembered thirty, forty or fifty years from now (or more), every decade has tremendously talented, successful players who make wonderful contributions to the success of their teams, organizations and the league as a whole. Unfortunately many of the players who fall into this category will be forgotten, overlooked and generally ignored. Here are 11 players* from the decade you may not remember but you definitely should:

Johnny Kling

Career Teams:  Chicago Orphans/Cubs (1900-1908 and 1910-1911), Boston Rustlers/Braves (1911-1912) and Cincinnati Reds (1913)
MVP Voting: 1911 (27th)
The Cubs were a well oiled machine.  Year after year they kept chugging along, winning National League pennants in 1906, 1907 and 1908.  Two World Series championships. No reason to believe the winning wouldn't continue as the years went on.  Kling had a second job running a pool hall in his home town of Kansas City.  It was an expensive investment and a successful investment and he spent the 1910 season running the business, not behind the plate for the Cubs.  They suffered for it.  The Cubs missed an opportunity to become the first team to reach the World Series four straight years but without Kling to guide the pitching staff and throw out the runners the way only he could, the Pirates played in October instead of the Cubs.  Kling returned for the 1910 season and, no big shock, the Cubs returned to the World Series.  Kling was not a huge offensive threat but he fit into the style of play that Frank Chance loved.  Smart, heads up, alert baseball.  Always keeping the opposition on their toes and always taking advantage of their mistakes.  Kling is certainly not a Hall of Fame player but Chance would not have wanted anyone else behind the plate during those years.

"Prince" Hal Chase

Career Teams:  New York Highlanders (1905-1913), Chicago White Sox (1913-1914), Buffalo Feds (Federal League) (1914-1915), Cincinnati Reds (1916-1918) and New York Giants (1919)
MVP Voting:  None.
Hal Chase has been described as one of the most talented Firstbasemen in the history of the sport.  He was widely known as the best defensive first sacker in the game and immensely talented with the bat as well.  Chase even helped write an instructional manual called "How to Play Firstbase".  He had one major character flaw.  He was crooked as hell.  Frank Chance took over as manager of the New York Highlanders (still a few years from being known as the Yankees) in 1913 with Chase as his firstbaseman.  The team was going nowhere, players were not making the gigantic salaries now and Chase could always do with extra cash.  He learned to  make crooked plays look straight.  He would play a step or two farther off the line or deeper than normal and react a split second too late, letting the ball glance off his glove to allow a runner to reach the bag.  Throw just wide when the pitcher is covering first.  One day after a particularly poor fielding day for the Yankees, Chance visited the press box to find out how the game was being scored.  He was told the fielders were being charged with throwing errors.  Chance was angry.  "Those throws aren't wild." Chance said. "Chase is making them look that way."  Chance knew Chase was throwing games but the Highlander management didn't want a scandal.  Chance was not the only manager to suspect.  Christy Mathewson managed Chase with the Reds.  Mathewson was the personification of fair play, the boyhood idol of the nation.  Christy was triumphed in the press as the most honest person in the league, the man who changed the negative perception of the profession.  He saw, just as Chance did, that Chase was crooked. He was not afraid to cause a stir and complained to the owners of the Reds and the league offices.  Chase was investigated and set to have a hearing.  Luckily for Chase, Mathewson was overseas in World War I at the time of the trial and unable to testify.  Without his testimony Chase was cleared.  The Reds released him but John McGraw was willing to take anyone he believed would help him win. He made a wrong decision.  As the 1919 season unfolded McGraw saw the same things Chance and Mathewson had seen.  Chase would play out of position.  Break to the bag late.  Fail to field easy throws that then looked like they were poorly thrown.  McGraw didn't have to worry long.  As the Black Sox scandal unfolded Chase's name came up often.  The investigation made it clear that he was aware of the fix and had bet heavily on the Reds.  When Commissioner Landis made a ruling on the eight  Chicago players, Chase was also banned from baseball. His talent that could have allowed his name to live forever as a legend of baseball was wasted and used to make his name infamous as the most crooked player in history.

Johnny Evers

Career Teams:  Chicago Orphans/Cubs (1902-1913), Boston Braves (1914-1917), Philadelphia Phillies (1917), Chicago White Sox (1922) and Boston Braves (1929)
MVP Voting:  1912 (20th), 1913 (10th) and 1914 (1st)
There is always a great debate over what makes a Hall of Fame player.  Over the years the voters have developed some "automatic" qualifiers:  3000 hits, 500 Home Runs, .300 batting average.  Johnny Evers doesn't meet any of them.  There are others who feel that to reach the Hall of Fame, the story of your era cannot be told without your inclusion.  Evers certainly meets that criteria.  Still, others feel that your career needs to have one identifiable, era defining moment.  Evers has several of them.  Recently there are those who argued that Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance are not Hall of Fame caliber players and are only in the Hall of Fame because of a famous poem written about them.  The people who argue this miss the point.  The Hall of Fame is not always about sheer numbers it is about impact and legacy.  The Chicago Cubs teams from 1906-1910 were truly great teams and the Tinker, Evers and Chance combination was without a doubt the reason.  The three men worked together to develop some plays that are used today including the hit and run and an intentional bounce on the throw from shortstop to first to lower the chance of over throwing the ball.  They perfected the station to station, sacrifice bunts, stolen base one run at a time style of the day.  Alternately known as the "Crab" for his sour disposition and the way he approached ground balls and "the Trojan"  for his hometown of Troy, NY, Evers was hands down the best second baseman in the National League in his era.  His contributions were far beyond numbers.  His attitude, determination and fiery spirit were big reasons the Cubs were the best team of the decade.  Evers was not one to shy away from a night out on the town but never when it would interfere with his success on the diamond.  It was said that Evers would curl up in bed every night with a chocolate bar, the Sporting News and the league rule book.  His knowledge of the rules led to his involvement in one of the most infamous moments in baseball history, "Merkle's boner."  As the Cubs prepared for the 1910 World Series Evers broke his ankle in several places at the end of the regular season, depriving the Cubs of one of their greatest weapons  at the worst possible time.  It would be easy to claim that Evers was only effective when he had the help of the strong Cubs team, yet when he moved on to a poor Braves team that had not had any competitive success to speak of he created a miracle.  Evers came on board in Beantown in 1914 and was the driving force behind the Braves' miracle World Series win.  Evers won the MVP award in 1914 leading the Braves to their first ever World Championship.  Evers' numbers may not match up with modern day players but those who argue he does not belong in the Hall of Fame miss the point of what makes a Hall of Fame player.

George Davis

Career Teams:  Cleveland Spiders (1890-1892), New York Giants (1893-1901), Chicago White Sox (1902), New York Giants (1903) and Chicago White Sox (1904-1909)
MVP Voting: None.
It was a helpless feeling. Sitting in the stadium, watching his 1903 Giants teammates practice and not permitted to play.  He could play. Just not with the Giants.  He was one of the best Shortstops of his time.  It was the reason the White Sox wanted him so badly.  They threw money at him in 1901, more than he made from the Giants, and Charles Comiskey didn't ever throw money at anything.  Davis accepted the Chicago offer, jumped to the American League and abandoned his New York Giants contract.  He had a good season, not great, hitting .299 but he was a big help to the new franchise.  Then the winter of 1903 came and with it a visit from John McGraw.  He told Davis that legally, because of the reserve clause, he was still under contract with the Giants and, although they weren't happy about being abandoned, they were willing to forgive and forget and give him an even larger salary than Comiskey.  So Davis accepted and jumped back to the National League with the Giants.  That same winter the leagues decided to settle on peace instead of all this fighting.  As the owners discussed ways to bring about compromise they went through the list of players who had jumped leagues one by one to decide who would be sent back to the National League and whose contract would be accepted as legitimate in the American League.  When they got to George Davis it was agreed.  He would have to go back to the White Sox.  No one consulted Davis but that was that.  He played for the White Sox now.  Under his old contract, under their terms.  He refused.  He wouldn't report.  He was told it was that or nothing.  He held out as long as he could, spurred on in his rebellion by McGraw.  Against all orders McGraw even played Davis in four games.  The National League owners were furious.  All the work to bring about peace between the leagues was about to be undone because McGraw was playing Davis when he was technically a member of the White Sox.  Davis eventually went to the White Sox and they were happy to have him.  As the 1906 "hitless wonders" White Sox overcame the Chicago Cubs grizzly attack in the 1906 World Series Davis hit .308, drove in 6 runs and had 3 doubles.  Davis learned to accept his role with the White Sox, although he never earned the amount of money McGraw would have paid him in New York.

George Rohe

Career Teams: Baltimore Orioles (1901) and Chicago White Sox (1905-1907)
MVP Voting:  None.
George Rohe did not have a very long or a very successful career in the major leagues, but like Jimmy Sebring he made a major contribution to early World Series play.  As the White Sox "hitless wonders" prepared to take on the 1906 Chicago Cubs, one of the greatest teams in history, Rohe was not expected to play. The weather in Chicago that fall was bitterly cold and George Davis caught a cold.  The White Sox adapted for the first game moving Les Tannehill, their regular third baseman, to Shortstop and played George Rohe at thirdbase.  Not known as a powerful hitter Rohe tied for the team lead in hitting in the Series at .333. He not only led the team in hitting, he had timely hits.  In Game One with the score tied at 0 in the 5th Rohe tripled down the left field line.  The next batter hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. Rohe didn't hesitate.  He ran on contact.  Three Finger Brown, the Cubs pitcher, fielded the ball as Rohe tore down the line.  The ball beat Rohe to the plate as Rohe slid.  Johnny Kling, the Cubs Catcher, dropped the ball and Rohe scored the first run of the series.  The Cubs would win the game 2-1.  Game 3 was tied at 0 in the 6th with the bases loaded when Rohe stepped up.  There were two outs and with the light hitting Rohe at the plate the Cubs may have relaxed a bit.  It was a poor decision.  Rohe ripped another pitch into the gap.  There were runners flying everywhere as the Cubs tracked the ball down.  The ball was thrown back into the infield and Rohe was held at third base but only after three runs had scored giving the White Sox all the runs they would need.  Of the four wins in the series for the White Sox two of them came courtesy of George Rohe.

Jimmy Sebring

Career Teams:  Pittsburgh Pirates (1902-1904), Cincinnati Reds (1904-1905), Brooklyn Superbas (1909) and Washington Senators (1909)
MVP Voting:  None.
This was all uncharted territory.  No one had experienced this type of series before. It was quite an experience.  There was an overflow crowd, so large that the outfield was partially roped off and fans were given standing room only on the field.  Any ball hit into the roped off area was a ground rule double. For Jimmy Sebring, a rookie on a veteran Pirates team, he had already had a good day having driven in two runs earlier in the game.  In the seventh inning, with the Pirates already ahead by 5 runs, Sebring ripped into a pitch and sent it over the head of Buck Freeman.  Sebring was sprinting immediately, thinking triple.  Buck Freeman was sure it would reach the roped off area and Sebring would be held at second.  The ball rolled to within ten feet of the crowd and stopped.  Sebring kept tearing around the bases  Freeman saw it stop and realized he made a terrible misjudgement.  He sprinted toward the ball to make a desperate play on the ball.  It was too late.  Sebring, running hard the whole way, scored easily.  It was the first ever home run in World Series history, an inside the park home run.  The rest of Sebring's career was not the greatest but he will forever be remembered for the first round tripper in World Series history.

"Turkey" Mike Donlin

Career Teams: 
MVP Voting:  St.Louis Perfectos/Cardinals (1899-1900), Baltimore Orioles (1901), Cincinnati Reds (1902-1904), New York Giants (1904-1906 and 1908 and 1911), Boston Rustlers (1911),  Pittsburgh Pirates (1912) and New York Giants (1914)
"Turkey" Mike was a character, literally.  During this era it was rare that players earned enough as a player to last them the whole year.  A second income was need to get through the winter months.  Donlin reached the heights of fame playing for the Giants and decided to make some money off his fame.  He went to vaudeville and starred on the stage.  The reviews were great and he loved the job.  He not only enjoyed it but met the love of his life, Vaudeville star Mabel Hite.  Falling in love with the stage and Mabel, Donlin left the Major Leagues to manage Mabel's career.  He missed several years (McGraw's World Series losses may have been different if he had played) but when Mabel passed away from cancer Donlin came back.  His heart wasn't in it.   He played a few partial seasons but he didn't have the passion he had for acting.  He moved to Hollywood and became good friends with Lionel Barrymore.  Barrymore helped Donlin get into some movies, none very good, and Donlin loved it.  He appeared in over 60 movies starting in 1914.  Donlin died of a heart attack at the young age of 55 in Hollywood.

Patsy Dougherty

Career Teams:  Boston Pilgrims (1902-1904), New York Highlanders (1904-1906) and Chicago White Sox (1906-1911)
MVP Voting:  None.
He had never been so furious in his life.  One poor swing of the bat, one bad hop, one cloud of dust and one call all within one minute and his rage erupted.  This World Series was tied at 2 games each and the White Sox had a chance at a big inning to put this game away early.  Dougherty knew that every missed opportunity against a Cubs team that had experienced more success than anyone imagined possible, could be fatal. It was the top of the first with two outs.  George Davis stood on third base, George Rohe on second (after a ground rule double) and Jiggs Donahue at first.  This was Dougherty's chance to break it all wide open, just like he had in the 1903 World Series.  Ed Ruelbach delivered the pitch and Patsy swung.  He made contact but it wasn't good contact.  The ball went straight back to Ruelbach's feet, hit the mound and bounced straight up.  Dougherty tore down the first base line.  With two outs he had to reach first or it didn't mean anything.  Davis and Rohe crossed the plate.  At second base, Johnny Evers reacted immediately. As the ball came back to the mound, hit the mound and deflected off of Ruelbach's glove, Evers was right there to field it.  Dougherty heard the first base coach screaming this would be close.  Evers grabbed the ball, off balance, threw with whatever he could on the ball as Dougherty dove head first into the first base bag.  It was hard to hear anything over the crowd.  It seemed that everything hung on this play.  Safe and two runs had scored.  Out and it all disappeared like nothing had happened.  "Out!".  Dougherty jumped up and went right after the ump.  Fielder Jones, the player- manager, joined in.  It was too much for Dougherty.  The White Sox had worked so hard to have it all blown by this call. It didn't matter in the end.  The White Sox won Game 5 by a score of 8-6 and Game 6 by a score of 8-3 for the World Championship.  As Dougherty watched an easy ground ball to Jiggs Donahue for the final out of the 1906 World Series he may have had a sense of deja vu.  He had seen this same thing a few years earlier.  In 1903 as Honus Wagner struck out to end the World series making the Boston Pilgrims (Red Sox) the first ever World Series champions, Dougherty stood in left field.  Dougherty did not have a tremendous 1906 World Series, he hit only .100, yet he achieved something no one had done before but many would do after.  Although he was not a Hall of Fame player he was the first to do what Johnny Evers, Babe Ruth, Frankie Frisch, Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter,  Darryl Strawberry and Pat Burrell would do over the next 100 plus years.  Patsy Dougherty was the first player to win a World Series with two different teams.

Bill Dinneen

Career Teams:  Washington Senators (1898-1899), Boston Beaneaters (1900-1901), Boston Pilgrims/Americans/Red Sox (1902-1907) and St.Louis Browns (1907-1909)
MVP Voting: None.
The players of the 1903 World Series did not think of the matchup in the way we view it now.  The Pittsburgh Pirates likely viewed it as an annoyance that they had already won the championship and now had to lower themselves to face the "inferior" American League.  The Red Sox saw it as an annoyance because their contracts had already expired so they wouldn't be getting paid for the games.  Regardless, both sides wanted to win.  The honor of the league was at stake.  There was pure, genuine hatred between the leagues.  The Pirates jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the best of 9 series.  Then Bill Dinneen took over.  He won three games in the Series while allowing only 8 runs in four games and striking out 29.  As the Red Sox ran out of extra pitchers, Dinneen and Cy Young alternated pitching in the series and the two of them shut down the powerful Pirates lineup.  Dinneen's career wasn't over when he stopped playing.  Although he only played in one World Series he participated in eight more.  Dinneen was a tremendous umpire for the American League for years after he stopped pitching and was one of the best ever.  It would be interesting to know what his reaction would have been when pitchers questioned his balls and strikes calls.

Author's Note:   It is important to remember as we follow the sport that the superstars are not the only ones making contributions to the success of a team.  This is not a comprehensive list of players who fall into this category from this era, it is simply my choice of players who best represented their position and have become forgotten.  Your list is probably different.  Email me yours or leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Life of Earl Weaver: August 14, 1930-January 19, 2013

It is truly odd the way things work out sometimes.   Earl Weaver was everywhere for me this past week.  In the middle of this past week, as the Orioles announced they were extending Buck Showalter's contract as O's manager, General Manager Jim Duquette appeared on MLB Network Radio saying how striking the resemblances are when he sees Showalter standing near the statue of Earl Weaver at Camden Yards.  On Thursday I started reading a new book I recently bought about the 1970 Orioles World Championship team.  The first chapter was about Weaver's rise through the ranks to eventually become the Orioles manager.  As I was reading the book I kept thinking how much amazing material there was in Weaver's career for future articles.

Weaver once told a reporter what he wanted written on his tombstone:  "The Sorest Loser Who Ever Lived."  Weaver was legendary for his tirades.  The recordings of Weaver's arguments with umpires are legendary and can keep you laughing for hours every time you see them.  Often his rants were incoherent, tangential and seemingly pointless but Weaver never did anything without intent.  His arguing with umpires was often a plan to spark his team and get some life into a game that was seemingly without energy.  It could also serve to throw off the opposing pitcher.  If the pitcher was in a rhythm and mowing down Orioles hitters a short break of Weaver berating an umpire over a "poor call"  could distract the pitcher and lead to an advantage for Baltimore.  "The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager because it won't hurt the team if he gets thrown out."  Weaver did get thrown out often.

It may be almost impossible for younger fans or newer fans of the game to believe but Baltimore from the late 1960's through the early 1980's was one of the best run organizations in the league.  They won the American League Eastern division in five of the first six years of divisional play.  They reached the World Series four times under Weaver's leadership, winning twice and very nearly winning a third in 1979.  His teams always won with the same philosophy:  "pitching, fundamentals and three run home runs".

Weaver was a visionary in some senses.  He went against the wishes of the team owner, against the wishes of the fans and against the conventions of the day, when he chose a Shortstop.  Mark Belanger was the Orioles Shortstop for years and was good.  Not only that, he was a fan favorite.  He was a prototypical Shortstop.  Short, quick, agile, good range, not always a great bat but could hit when they needed it.  Weaver had an idea.  The Orioles had a third baseman in their system.  A tall, sturdy, not so quick third baseman with a truly strong bat. Not the body type that anyone in their right mind would consider playing at Shortstop.  Weaver didn't care he moved the player there anyways.  14 years, a Rookie of the Year Award, 2 MVP's, 13 All Star appearances, 8 Silver Slugger awards and 2 Gold Gloves later Cal Ripken, Jr moved back to third base.

Weaver's impact went beyond the city of Baltimore.  His coaching staff and players learned from him and spread out across the league and even today have a presence in the league.  Jim Frey managed the Royals to the 1980 World Series and was General Manager of the 1989 Cubs playoff team.  George Bamberger helped build the Brewers team that reached the 1982 World Series.  Joe Altobelli took over as Orioles manager and won the 1983 World Series.  Cal Ripken Sr spent decades teaching the "Orioles Way" to the younger generation.  Mike Flanagan served as General Manager of the Orioles for a few years.  Rick Dempsey and John Shelby have been coaches on teams for decades.  Frank Robinson, Don Baylor and Davey Johnson all became successful managers.

As I have written these articles over the last few months I have always attempted to keep my views neutral.  I have tried very hard not to villainize players who are traditionally portrayed as villains and not to portray legends as infallible gods as they are often portrayed.  I have tried not to let my like or dislike of certain teams as a fan influence the information I provide.  Yet, I have to be honest, as an Orioles fan for nearly 25 years it was difficult for me to write this without allowing my allegiance to show.  It is impossible to go to Orioles Park at Camden Yards and not see the shadow that was cast by Weaver's presence.  For a short man it is an incredibly large shadow, one that no manager has been able to fill in the years since Weaver left the team.  For decades Weaver was Baltimore.  The city will now need to look to his past leadership to forge into the future.

The Life of Stan Musial: November 21, 1920-January 19, 2013

Ted Williams was known as "the greatest hitter who ever lived".  Until he passed away Joe DiMaggio was known as the "greatest living ballplayer".  Willie Mays's glove was known as "the place where triples go to die".  Stan Musial was simply known as "the Man".

There was little else that needed to be said.  The Cardinals had a strong tradition of winning when Musial debuted late in the year 1941.  The Cardinals had been successful from the 1920's through the 1940's and had a reputation of having a minor league system that would routinely give them what they needed when they needed it.  Few would have expected Musial to be something special.

If they didn't expect it they soon learned what they were getting.  The man started hitting immediately.  In just 12 games in 1941 he collected 20 hits, hitting .426.  He didn't stop hitting for 22 years.  He hit in St. Louis and he hit on the road.  He hit in night games, day games, regular season games, World Series games, All Star Games.  He hit singles, doubles, triples, home runs.  He hit in the clutch and he hit when the game was already out of hand.  Anytime the Cardinals needed a hit Stan was the man.  When his career ended, after 22 magical years, all in St. Louis, he walked away with 3630 hits.  1815 on the road.  1815 at home.

Musial was, simply put, one of the greatest players in the history of the game.  24 All Star Game appearances (from 1959-1962 the league had two All Star Games per year). 7 batting titles.  The first National League player to win three MVP Awards (4 other times he finished 2nd in MVP voting). Three time World Champion.

In the 1940's he was overshadowed by Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.  In the 1950's he was overshadowed by Mantle, Mays, Snider and Robinson.  In the early 1960's he was overshadowed by Aaron.  He never quite got recognized nationally for the greatness he displayed.   

He didn't get the attention nationwide, but he certainly was adored in St. Louis.  He has a statue outside the stadium that has turned into a garden of flowers over the last few days as fans leave memorials and tributes in droves.  He was active with the team until last year and had an impact on every new player putting on the classic Cardinals uniform.  He was respected.  Albert Pujols was the only Cardinal player to even sniff the success of Stan in St. Louis and he made sure that any comparisons ended quickly.  When people started calling him "El Hombre" he quickly told them to stop because he felt it was disrespectful to Musial. 

All teams have one identifiable person.  The face of the franchise.  The ivory tower in the history of the team.  The shining beacon to the rest of the world that represents what is best about the team.  St. Louis was fortunate to get the man.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

11 Players You May Not Know from the 1910's But Should

The decade started with the end of one of the great dynasties ever and launched another of the greatest and ended with the darkest World Series in history.  The World Series was fully established as a premier sporting event by the time the Cubs and Athletics squared off in 1910.  It was not clear how it would fare in the new decade.  It got off to a grand start and never looked back. 

The 1910 World Series had everything. It had the greatest dynasty the league had ever seen in the Chicago Cubs against a young up and coming team in the Philadelphia Athletics.  The Cubs great teams would be making their final push for glory (but they would do it without their great secondbaseman Johnny Evers who broke his ankle a few days before the end of the regular season).  They would face a young Atheltics team withgreat pitching and great offense.  The Athletics would win the series leading to Connie Mack's first great stretch of winning.

The Giants were the dominant team in the National League, reaching the World Series in 1911, 1912, 1913 and 1917.  They nearly made it in 1919 but collapsed to the eventual World Champion Reds. (Later it would be found that two of their players were less than honest and may have helped the Giants collapse for their own reasons.)   Although the Giants dominated the NL the AL dominated the World Series.  The Pirates won in 1910 but the AL won in 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918. 

The Athletics dominated the American League in the early part of the decade with their $100,000 Infield.  Connie Mack paid an unheard of (for the time) $25,000 each to Harry Davis (later Stuffy McInnis) at Firstbase, Eddie Collins at Secondbase, Jack Barry at Shortstop and Frank "Home Run" Baker at Thirdbase.  Mack was judged crazy (it wouldn't be the last time) but it worked.  The A's won the World Series in 1911 and 1913 and reached the World Series in 1914.

They were a heavy favorite in the 1914 World Series but a team that would make the "Miracle Mets" of 1969 look like a heavy favorite knocked the Athletics off their throne.  The Boston Braves, who had finished 4th exactly once since 1900, shocked the world.  The Braves lost both games of a doubleheader on July 4th, the traditional mid-point of the season.  That put them 15 games behind the leader, in dead last.  Two wins in a doubleheader on July 6th seemed little consolation but they won two more after that.  They won 9 more in a row at the end of July and beginning of August.  After a loss to Pittsburgh they won another 7 straight.  From the end of August to the end of September they went 40-8.  They were called the "Miracle Braves" and they astounded the world.    They were huge underdogs against the powerhouse Athletics.  It would be reminiscent of the 1960 Pirates, 1969 Mets,  the 2011 Cardinals.  No one saw this coming.  The Braves not only beat the heavily favored, reigning World Champion Athletics, they swept them.

The other dominant team in the AL for the decade was the Red Sox. This was the glory days for Beantown.  They won the World Series in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918.  The first Red Sox Championship in the decade was one of the greatest World Series of all time.  What was scheduled as a 7 game series turned into an 8 game series when one game was called for darkness.  There were fights between players and management, players and umpires, management and management, players and players, management and the league and, ultimately, players and the league.    The 1912 World Series came down to the final 8th game.   It came down to the final 9th inning...and then some.  It would not be until 1991 that a deciding game would reach this excitement.  The Red Sox won in dramatic fashion.

Major League Baseball experienced the highs of the dramatic World Series but were not immune to competition.  Although it can be hard to imagine this far withdrawn from the time period, a third Major League started play in 1914 and 1915.  The owners raided the American and National Leagues for high profile players and were successful by paying higher salaries and removing the reserve clause.  Although they took several players from the dominant Philadelphia Athletics, they were not successful in stealing Ty Cobb or Walter Johnson.  To get better traction the Federal League sued the Major Leagues, claiming MLB was a monopoly.  The case was held up in legal procedures but was scheduled to be heard by Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis.  The delays took too long and the Federal League ran out of money.  They folded.  The eight teams released the players and most were brought back, at lower salaries, to their previous clubs.  The Chicago franchise sold everything they had to the Cubs franchise, including their stadium, Weeghman Park.  The Cubs renamed it Wrigley Field.

World War I had a major impact on the league.  As the 1918 season started it was unclear whether the league would be able to play at all or be forced to shut down as their players went to war.  They found out half way through the season as the War Department issued a "Work or Fight" order demanding that all able bodied men of draft age enter military service or a profession beneficial to the war effort.  Baseball appealed the ruling on grounds that the entertainment value of the game made it essential to the war effort.  The appeal was denied but the league was given permission to bring the season to a close by September 1.  On September 1 the Cubs were declared the National League Champions and the Red Sox were declared the American League Champions.  While the rest of the league's players enlisted or found work to benefit the cause the Cubs and Red Sox were given an extra week to play the World Series.  The Red Sox would win their fourth World Series of the decade and their last one for over 80 years.

The end of the decade began the Major Leagues' long nightmare.  When the Reds overcame a collapsing Giants team and then stunned the White Sox rumors swirled that something just wasn't right.  Betting odds had shifted just before the start of the series and there were several plays that looked funny.  A poor throw to second on a double play ball, a runner not running hard between second and third, a poor decision to cut off a ball that would have been a play at the plate, a late jump on the ball.  They were not necessarily crooked but they looked funny when you put them all together.  When these were put together with rumors that parts (or all) of the 1912, 1914, 1915 and 1918 were also played in less than honest fashion, baseball had a problem it couldn't ignore.  It still tried to ignore it but it would all come out less than a year later leading baseball to the darkest time in the long and proud history of the league.

Although the names of Tris Speaker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins and Grover Cleveland Alexander will be the names that are remembered thirty, forty or fifty years from now (or more), every decade has tremendously talented, successful players who make wonderful contributions to the success of their teams, organizations and the league as a whole. Unfortunately many of the players who fall into this category will be forgotten, overlooked and generally ignored. Here are 11 players* from the decade you may not remember but you definitely should:


Pickles Dillhoefer
Career Teams: Chicago Cubs (1917), Philadelphia Phillies (1918) and St. Louis Cardinals (1919-1921)
MVP Voting:  None.
It is usually difficult to evaluate a trade.  Your team may give up a prospect that turns out to be a great player, but in the process they get a player that helps you make a playoff run and gains immediate success but is not quite as good in the long run.  Other times you give up a star player to get a strong young talent that never reaches his expectations.  Then there is the trade the Phillies made in the off season between 1917-1918.  Pickles Dillhoefer had played a total of 42 games in his career and had hit .126.  Maybe he was a defensive specialist, you ask?  Nope.  In 38 games at Catcher he allowed 8 passed balls and caught 26 base runners while 25 stole safely.  So why is this guy someone you should remember?  Because he is part of the worst trade, no question, in baseball history.  The Phillies traded their franchise pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, who had taken them to their only World Series appearance in 1915, along with Bill Killefer, their Catcher, to the Cubs for Pickles Dillhoefer, Pitcher Mike Prendergast and $55,000.  Prendergast lasted all of a season and 38 games with Philly going 13-15 over the season and a half.  Dillhoefer played a total of 8 games in Philadelphia going 1-11 (.091) with no extra base hits, 1 walk and 2 stolen bases.  What did Alexander, the man who had already won 190 games for the Phillies, do after leaving Philadelphia?  He spent nine years in Chicago where he won another 128 games and four years in St.Louis where he won 55 more.  Those don't count the 2 games he won in the 1926 World Series for the Cardinals.  He ended his career with 373 wins.  And Killefer?  He helped the Cubs to a 1918 World Series appearance and later had a decent managerial career.  So how did this trade get made?  Were the Phillies really that stupid to allow these great players go for nothing?  Years later, after the death of Harry Grabiner, the Chicago White Sox long time team secretary, Grabiner's diary became public.  In it there was a note that one of his investigators revealed that "Alexander and Kilefer were traded because they were crooked."

Fred Merkle

Career Teams: New York Giants (1907-1916), Brooklyn Dodgers (1916-1917), Chicago Cubs (1917-1920) and New York Yankees (1925-1926)
MVP Voting: 1911 (7th) and 1912 (18th)
Few people have been portrayed as evil the way Carl Mays has throughout history.  No one has ever been portrayed more as a bumbling imbecile than Fred Merkle.  His first mistake came in 1908 as a young rookie.  In running from first to second as the winning run scored he failed to touch second base.  (The details of the story are too many to encapsulate here.  Keep checking back for a future blog on this incident in detail).  He was called out and blamed by the world.  Because of this incident the world gained the word "bonehead".  John McGraw, never known for taking a loss well, never blamed Merkle for the mistake and kept him around because he saw the talent this guy had. If only that were the end of the "bumbling" for Merkle.  The Giants were one out away from a victory over the Red Sox in the  1912 World Series.  It was one of the best World Series of all time.  It had a near mid-Series players strike, arguments and near fights between the teams, arguments and near fights between the owners and the league offices, a tie game and actual fights between several players on the Red Sox.  Game 8 was over for all intents and purposes as Tris Speaker popped a ball towards firstbase just into foul territory.  As Merkle came down the line, Christy Mathewson came over from the mound and Chief Myers, the catcher, came up the line.  Merkle settled underneath it ready to catch it.  Looking straight up he had no concept of where everyone else was so when he heard Mathewson yell out "Chief, you take it."  Merkle backed away and the ball fell at his feet.  The Red Sox rallied to win the game and the World Series.  Merkle, of course, was blamed again.  Yet for someone so prone to constant "bonehead" mistakes he stuck around in the league for a long time and was very productive. In his 16 years in the big leagues he collected over 1500 hits and hit 60 home runs in an era when the Home Run was not a major offensive weapon.  Not just a power threat, Merkle also had 81 triples and 272 career stolen bases.  The positive numbers will forever be ignored and he will be remembered forever for "Merkle's boner" in 1908.

Arnold "Chick" Gandil

Career Teams: Chicago White Sox (1910), Washington Senators (1912-1915), Cleveland Indians (1916) and Chicago White Sox (1917-1919)
MVP Voting: 1912 (11th) and 1913 (6th)
Chick Gandil grew up in poor conditions and ran away from home at a young age.  He hit the road and took jobs where he could find them, including a stint as a semi-pro boxer.  When he learned he could make money playing baseball, and that he was better than most players in the Major Leagues, he started playing professionally.  He was a good firstbaseman, one of the best in the league.  He didn't have power numbers (no one in this era had today's power numbers) but for a bigger guy he had some speed.  He stole as many as 30 bases in a season.  His fielding numbers were great too.  For a firstbaseman, involved in almost every play, he had an impressive .992 fielding percentage. Gandil had one weakness: money.  He also had a big problem:  he played for the cheapest owner in the league, Charles Comiskey.  As the 1919 World Series approached Gandil set out to do something about it.  He contacted Sport Sullivan, a Boston gambler and long time friend of Gandil's, and threw out an idea.  What if I could get you a few other guys to throw the World Series?  Would you be in?  The wheels started rolling and pretty soon he had seven other guys in the plot with him.  The problem was the gambling community seemed to all know about it too.  It quickly got around and the big money switched from the White Sox to the Reds.  The other problem?  The players weren't getting paid as planned (or depending on the version you read, the money was making it to the players but only Gandil and Swede Risberg got what they were promised and then some).  Gandil hit only .231 in the World Series but he did have 5 RBI and a triple.  In the off season after the World Series Gandil bought a new car and some jewelry for his wife, argued over his salary for the upcoming season with Comiskey and then decided to go into retirement.  When the scandal eventually hit the news Gandil was tried with the other Black Sox and banned from baseball.  It meant little to Gandil, he had already retired.

Morrie Rath

Career Teams:  Philadelphia Athletics (1909-1910), Cleveland Indians (1910), Chicago White Sox (1912-1913) and Cincinnati Reds (1919-1920)
MVP Voting: None
Looking back at the box score on October 2 most White Sox fans saw it as nothing more than a Hit By Pitch.  Looking back at the box score over 90 years later, it is the second most disgusting Hit By Pitch in league history (the most disgusting will be coming up later in this article.)  Leading up to the 1919 season Morrie Rath had only one season where he played over 100 games and it was not a great season.  He hit only.272.  The next year his playing time dropped to 92 games and his average dropped to .200.  He didn't last long but he didn't quit. The Upper Darby, PA resident bounced to Kansas City to Toronto back to Kansas City and then Salt Lake City before getting another shot with the Reds.  It wasn't a long stay but he made the most of it.  He likely had to pinch himself as he stepped in to lead off the Cincinnati half of the first inning.  Just a year ago he was a minor leaguer begging to get a job in the majors and here he was, the lead off hitter for a World Series team.  The first pitch from Eddie Cicotte came in for a called strike one.  The second pitch was inside, too far inside, and as Rath tied to avoid the pitch it hit him square in the back.  It was a signal.  The night before the game as Cicotte retired to his hotel room he found the promised money under his pillow.  Now it was his turn to earn the dirty money.  He was told to send a signal to the gamblers to let them know the fix was on:  hit the first batter of the game.  Rath took a trip to first base but didn't stay there long.  Throughout the Series he seemed to always be on base and always be moving around.  Rath had 7 hits, walked 4 times (was hit by a pitch once) and scored 5 runs.  His career was short lived.  He was out of the majors after the 1920 season but he achieved what some who play five times as long as he did never do:  he won a World Series.

Ray Chapman

Career Teams: Cleveland Indians (1912-1920)
MVP Voting: None.
Ray Chapman was one of those guys that everyone loves.  Friendly, outgoing, funny, talented, every one's friend.  He was a positive team leader in the clubhouse.  When the team was slumping he would often break into song in an operatic voice (apparently it was a very good operatic voice and he received offers to sing publicly) that would get the team laughing and relaxed.  A good batter with a good eye and good speed (he stole 52 bases in 1917) he was probably the best fielding Shortstop of the decade.  He was also one of the most unselfish ballplayers, constantly at the top of the league in sacrifices, even leading the league with 67 sacs in 1917.  Playing in Cleveland in the 1910's was frustrating.  The team always seemed to be close to overtaking the Athletics, Red Sox, White Sox or Tigers but they always seemed to fade at the end of the year.  Chapman was frustrated with the losing and was starting to think about life beyond baseball.  His father in law was a high ranking politician in Cleveland and talked about getting him a good job.  Recently married, with his first child on the way and a home being built for the family, he was ready to retire at the end of the 1920 season, just as soon as the Indians won the World Series.  Chappie didn't dislike anyone, except Carl Mays, who he often told friends and family aimed at batters heads.  The Indians, Yankees and White Sox had a tough three team battle going for first when the Indians came to New York.  In the fifth inning of the August 16th game Chapman stepped in to lead off the inning against Mays.  The first pitch came in high and tight. Chapman froze.  There was an audible crack and the ball rebounded back to Mays on the mound.  Mays fielded it.  Threw to Wally Pipp at first and retired Chapman, or so he thought.  As he turned back to the mound to get back to work he heard an audible hush come over the stadium and saw Pipp staring, frozen, at home plate, not comprehending what was happening.  The crack that Mays had heard, which he assumed had come from the bat, was actually Chapman's temple.  He hadn't moved from the batters box.  He stood still for a moment, fell to his knees then collapsed.  There were two doctors at the stadium that day, both of which immediately raced to home plate to offer assistance.  Chapman regained consciousness and assured everyone he was ok.  He was taken out of the game and as he walked toward the clubhouse (the exit was in centerfield) he reached second base and collapsed again.  He was carried to the clubhouse and taken immediately to the hospital.  He was in and out of consciousness, but not coherent, for a few hours.  X-rays revealed that the ball had shattered the skull and a large part of bone was pressing itself on the brain.  An operation was performed but was unsuccessful.  Chapman passed away before his wife could arrive by train from Cleveland.  He is still the only Major League player killed as a result of an on the field injury.

John Franklin "Home Run" Baker

Career Teams: Philadelphia Athletics (1908-1914), New York Yankees (1916-1922)
MVP Voting:  1911 (11th) ,1912 (7th), 1913 (5th) and 1914 (3rd)
For a man nicknamed "Home Run", Baker has a definite deficiency in the power department.  Purchased from the minor league Reading, PA franchise in 1908, his season high for round trippers was an anemic (by today's standards) 12 in 1913.  That led the league, as did  his 11 in 1911 and 10 in 1912.  This was the dead ball era and Home Runs were hard to come by.  Baker held down the hot corner as part of Connie Macks' $100,000 infield.  The other owners of the league were not real happy about the precedent that set for paying only four players $100,000 a season, but Mack didn't care.  It worked.  The A's won the AL in 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914 and won the World Series in three of those four years.  In fact, the 1914 loss has often been pointed to as another World Series that may have been fixed.  Baker was known as Home Run Baker less for the number of Home Runs he hit and more for when he hit them.  In Game 2 of the 1911 World Series Baker faced off against Rube Marquard with Eddie Collins on base and no score.  It didn't stay that way for long.  Baker launched one over the left field wall.  The next day, with the Giants leading the game in the ninth inning, Baker faced off against Christy Mathewson.  He launched another Home Run to tie the game.  The A's won it in 11 innings and went on to win the series.  As the Giants returned to the World Series after the devastating 1912 loss to the Red Sox, they had to face Mack's $100,000 infield again with Rube Marquard starting Game 1.  With the A's already ahead 3-1 in the 5th and with Eddie Collins (again) on second base Baker launched Marquard's second pitch for a Home Run (again).  Baker didn't only hit Home Runs in the World Series.  It seemed like he hit everything.  In the 1910 series he hit .458.  In 1911 he hit .375 and in 1913 he hit .450.  He was unstoppable in big games...until 1914 when the "miracle Braves" took out the dominant Athletics.  Baker hit only  .250 in the series, got into a salary dispute with Mack in the winter and sat out the 1915 season.  He was sent to the New York Highlanders for $37,500 for the 1916 season and helped to turn the fortunes of the bad franchise around.  Injuries and personal tragedies limited Bakers production and he missed the entire 1920 season.  (Imagine how that season may have changed with a healthy Baker hitting with Bodie, Meusel, Pipp and Ruth).  Baker returned to play the 1921 and 1922 seasons but his abilities had diminished and the competitive fires had started to fade after several personal problems.  He appeared in the 1921 World Series against the Giants but McGraw finally got the best of him.  He hit only .250 with no extra base hits, no runs and no RBI.  He made one final brief appearance in the 1922 World Series as a pinch hitter but went 0-1.  Baker was an easy choice for the Hall of Fame after retirement.

Larry Gardner

Career Teams: Boston Red Sox (1908-1917), Philadelphia Athletics (1918) and Cleveland Indians (1919-1924)
MVP Voting: 1912 (14th)
Until ten years ago it would have sounded insane to say that the Red Sox were the feared, dominant team in the game.  They were  dominant and they were almost unstoppable.  After winning the first ever World Series in 1903, the Boston franchise reached the World Series again in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918. Gardner was one of the big reasons why.  Similar to Baker, Gardner had a knack for coming through when it was needed.  After Merkle dropped Tris Speaker's foul pop in the 1912 World Series Speaker drove the next pitch for a game tying base hit. When the leftfielder overthrew the cutoff man Speaker took second bringing up Duffy Lewis with runners on second and third. The Giants walked Lewis intentionally.  No batter wants to have the guy in front of him walked intentionally, even when it makes good baseball sense, and Gardner was no exception.  Even if he had gotten out he knew the game was tied and they could win the game in extra innings.  He didn't wait around.  He got a game winning base hit to give the World Series to the Red Sox.  Gardner also contributed greatly to the 1915 and  1916 World Series champion Red Sox teams and the 1920 Indians World Series Champions.  Gardner was a great fielder and was the only Thirdbaseman Ty Cobb was afraid to bunt against.  "Gardner would be in there pouncing on that ball before I was ten strides down the line."  Years after they were retired Cobb asked Gardner how he did it.  "You clenched your jaw and clamped your lips together when you were going to bunt.  The minute I saw that I came running."

George Whiteman

Career Teams: Boston Red Sox (1907), New York Highlanders (1913) and Boston Red Sox (1918)
MVP Voting:  None.
George "Lucky" Whiteman.  A veteran of 86 career Major League games.  He played in three separate seasons with breaks of six and five years in between.  When the United States entered World War I and players started getting drafted, teams started taking what they could get.  Whiteman had not played in the Major Leagues since 1913.  Since the he'd made stops in Houston, Montreal, Louisville, Toronto and back to Louiseville. With the war ramping up and the "Work or Fight" law taking effect Whiteman got one last chance.  He had a tough season in 1918 playing in 71 games and hitting only .262 but he was more of a caretaker in rightfield.  This was the first season that Ruth was playing on a regular basis (more than just when his turn came up in the pitching rotation) and Whiteman played in the outfield when Ruth did not.  Going into the 1918 World Series it was assumed that Ruth would be starting in every game, either in the field or as a pitcher, but Manager Ed Barrow surprised everyone by starting Whiteman in every game and it paid off.  Whiteman's numbers alone don't stand out.  5 hits, 1 triple, 2 runs, 1 RBI and a .250 average.  Not jaw dropping numbers, yet it seemed like he was everywhere, always on base when they needed it, putting pressure on the Cubs.  For a player who was in the lineup as a fill in he was the final reason they won their last World Series until 2004.  The Red Sox had gone ahead in the 3rd inning.  With runners on first and third Whiteman hit a fly ball to right field, an easy out.  Max Flack came in to get it, put his hands up and missed it.  He just missed it.  While Red Sox fans could point to Bill Buckner as the reason they had not won a World Series since 1918, Cubs fans can point to Max Flack as a big reason they have not won a World series since 1908.  Flack's error on the Whiteman fly ball scored two runs.  The only two Boston would need but Whiteman's heroics weren't done yet.  In the 8th inning with the baseball game turning into a chess match Turner Barber pinch hit for the Cubs thirdbaseman Charlie Deal.  Barber hit a sinking line drive into leftfield where Whiteman was playing.   Whiteman came charging in and had to make a decision.  A decision that could change the game.  Change the series.  He could let the ball fall and Barber would be on base with no one out.  He could dive for it and take a chance that the ball would get past him and Barber could get extra bases, possibly even an inside the park home run to tie the game. Hold up or dive?  No time to think.  He dove.  It's a decision you may see anytime you watch a game.  It can happen t anytime and every time it does you will have the same reaction.  You might gasp.  You'll hold your breath and wonder for what seems like forever but is really less than a second, did he make the right choice.  Whiteman's body was aimed straight towards home.  The ball smacked in his glove as he hit the ground.  His momentum carried him into a roll and he came up in a somersault holding the ball for out number one.  He rolled his neck a few times, hands on knees loosening the neck he injured in the dive.  One play later he left the game, replaced by Babe Ruth.  George Whiteman saved the last Red Sox World Series victory until 2004.

Benny Kauff

Career Teams:  New York Highlanders (1912), Indianapolis Hoosiers (Federal League) (1914), Brooklyn Tip-Tops (1915) and New York Giants (1916-1920)
MVP Voting: None
Benny Kauff played 5 games with a very poor 1912 Yankees team.  He had a total of 3 hits in 11 at bats and was sent down to the Yankees minor league affiliate in Hartford.  His 1913 season in Hartford was decent but it was against minor league pitching.  His chances of getting back to the majors were slim.  Then the Federal League came calling.  They were looking for players.  Any players.  He signed with the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the Federal League.  It wasn't quite the majors but it was close.  He was facing a number of pitchers who had jumped to the new league.  He not only did well.  He dominated. in the first year of the Federal League he led the league in Runs (120), Hits (211), Doubles (44), Stolen Bases (75), Average (.370) and On Base % (.445).  He was a clear MVP of the league. He was still  the star of the second year of the Federal League but his numbers dropped a bit.  As the Federal League went under the contracts of the players were sold for whatever the teams could get.  McGraw saw talent in the young man and bought the contract for $35,000.  There was a lot expected for the star of the Federal League.  As McGraw rebuilt with a young core of players to head into the new decade Kauff was intended to be the lynch-pin.  He didn't live up to it.  His average dropped to .265 and his strikeouts rose to 65.  Kauff  played five years with the Giants.  In 1919, as the game dealt with the rumors of the crooked World Series, Kauff and his brother were arrested. They were accused of being involved in a car theft ring that spanned several states.  The trial lasted into 1921 and the innocent decision came down during the reign of Commissioner Landis.  Landis was a previous Federal Judge and in reviewing the facts of the case made his own ruling.  Landis called the innocent ruling a "miscarriage of justice."  As he cleaned the crooked players out of the game Kauff was banished too.  On May 13, 1921 he was officially banned for life from playing in Major League Baseball or any minor league affiliate.

Eddie Grant

Career Teams:  Cleveland Naps (1905), Philadelphia Phillies (1907-1910), Cincinnati Reds (1911-1913) and New York Giants (1913-1915).
MVP Voting:  None.
Some people just have bad luck.  Call it what you want.  Cursed.  Snake bit.  Star crossed. Whatever it is it always seems to strike at the best time in their life.  Eddie Grant would seem to be someone who had it all.  Brains.  Physical talent.  Looks.  Charm.  He was a great athlete.  Excelled at all levels until he hit the Major Leagues where his talents proved that he was good but not a superstar.  He was a bit of a genius.  He loved the opera.  He read books not comic strips like other players of his time.  He was not the type to start fights or go out all night like the typical player of the era.  His playing abilities were never tremendous but he was a positive influence wherever he went and was a smart player.  He got married in 1911 and was deeply in love.  He and his new wife were on vacation less than a year after the wedding.  His wife woke up one morning, complaining of chest pains.  An hour later she had passed away of a heart attack in his arms.  He was devastated but recovered.  His baseball exploits were never grand and drew little attention. He made contributions to poor Phillies teams and bad Reds teams.  He helped the Giants in a part time role to reach the World Series in 1913.  He retired after 1915 and was starting to make headway in his private law practice.  It was starting to take off.  Then World War I broke out.  There was no "Work or Fight" rule in 1917. It was strictly a volunteer army at that point and Grant volunteered.  His unit saw heavy action.  Real action.  His brains helped him in his military career and he soon became a captain.  In early October 1918,  just a month after George Whiteman saved the Red Sox World Series, Eddie Grant's unit was given an impossible task.  There was a "lost battalion" in the Argonne Forest, surrounded completely by German troops.  Grant's unit's job was to fight their way through the Germans and open a path for the lost battalion to make it through.  It couldn't be done.  Grant's commander was wounded mortally shortly after the assault began.  Grant knelt by him to get instructions.  As he moved in action, calling for more stretchers, German (or possibly friendly) artillery came crashing through the trees.  Two shells had Grant's name on them.  He was hit directly with the shells, dying instantly..  He was the only Major League player killed in action during the war.  There was a famous headline in the papers.  "Eddie Grant sleeps in the Argonne Forrest".

Smokey Joe Wood

Career Teams:  Boston Red Sox (1908-1915) and Cleveland Indians (1917 and 1919-1920)
MVP Voting:  1912 (5th)
It felt like a firecracker had gone off in his hand.  He had delivered a  beautiful pitch.  Fastball with some movement right down the middle.  Chief Myers, the Giants Catcher, swung and drove it right back up the middle.  Wood reacted instantly, instinctively.  It's a play that happens a hundred times a year.  The pitcher delivers the ball, sees a hit coming back at him and sticks up his hand.  The fans immediately hold their breath and pray the ball makes it past.  This one didn't.  It smacked Wood on the thumb and dropped at his feet.  He picked up the ball and threw it to firstbase retiring Myers.  It was the third out in the top of the 10th inning of Game 8 of the 1912 World Series.  The Red Sox were down 2-1 but Wood's reflexes had stopped another run from scoring.  Had the ball gotten through it would have scored Fred Merkle.  Wood's thumb was broken but stopping the run from scoring allowed the Red Sox to win the World Series.  Wood's career started slowly.  There were slight improvements for Smokey Joe from 1908-1911.  His wins increased slowly from 1 to 11 to 12 to 23.  In 1912 everything clicked.  EVERYTHING clicked.  There have been few better pitching seasons in the history of baseball in any league at any level.  He was nearly unbeatable.  He won 34 games and lost only five.  He had 10 shutouts, a 1.91 ERA and at one time he even won 12 straight decisions without a loss, still a league record.  In several appearances in the 1912 World Series, Wood was unhittable against a scary Giant lineup who knew how to win and knew how to wait out a pitcher.  He won three games in the World series and had the world ahead of him before that line drive smashed his thumb.  It healed in the off season but in spring training he fell on wet grass during drills and hurt the thumb and his throwing arm.  He never fully recovered.  He won only 11 games in 1913, 10 in 1914 and 15 in 1915.  He was finished by 1916.  Out of baseball.  The Red Sox had given up on him.  Tris Speaker had not.  Speaker had been traded to the Indians and he needed an outfielder with a strong throwing arm and a good bat.  Wood got his feet wet in 1917 with 10 games but by 1918 he was playing full time.  Wood continued to play the outfield until 1922.  There were rumors at the end of the career. He was already retired but he was implicated with Cobb and Speaker by Dutch Leonard of throwing a game. He denied it and Leonard's accusations went nowhere.  Wood didn't live up to his promise on the diamond but he lived a long life.  He passed away just a few months short of his 96th birthday.

Author's Note:  Just as in the last few weeks, and as may be seen in the next few weeks as we move through this series of articles, I did my best to keep this to one player per position, however, the farther we move from these eras, the easier it is to forget these types of players (and even some hall of fame players).  It is important to remember as we follow the sport that the superstars are not the only ones making contributions to the success of a team.  This is not a comprehensive list of players who fall into this category from this era, it is simply my choice of players who best represented their position and have become forgotten.  Your list is probably different.  Email me yours or leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

11 Players You May Not Know from the 1920's but Should

The 1920's could not have started on a worse note.  As the sport overtook horse racing and boxing as the most popular sports of the day, it suffered a major set back at the turn of the decade.  The game had suffered through the unfathomable collapse of the 1919 White Sox in the World Series to lose to the Reds.  Rumors had swirled all winter but were quieted by the major bomb shell when Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees.  The talk of a "fix" died down as the Sox fought for the pennant in 1920.  Everything seemed to be back to normal except that the White Sox couldn't quite seem to pull away from the pack the way they had the year before. 

The Yankees and Indians were fighting with each other and the White Sox for the AL Pennant and were facing off on August 16th when an unthinkable tragedy struck.  Ray Chapman, the Indians Shortstop, leaned in to face Carl Mays when the pitch sailed high and inside, crushing Chapman's temple and leading to Chapman's death.  The world was stunned.  The Indians were devastated. 

There was little time to recover.  Just a few weeks later the sport faced the biggest threat it would ever face, (even bigger than the steroid scandal we see now). On August 31st before a meaningless late season game between the Cubs and Phillies, neither of which had a chance at the pennant, there was a late shift in betting odds to favor the Phillies, the worst team in the league.  A total of $50,000 dollars were bet on the game that had little interest to anyone.  Rumors of a fix reached the league office and an investigation was launched leading to a Grand Jury in Chicago.  The Grand Jury decided to investigate not only the Cubs-Phillies game but the rumors from last October about the World Series.  The result:  the exposure that betting and throwing games was wide spread and eight members of the White Sox had taken money to lose the World Series.  Worse yet, they were still taking bribes to lose games in 1920, keeping the pennant race tight.

Baseball could have been destroyed but they organized and regrouped.  They hired Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis to take over as a Commissioner to run both the AL and NL and enforce penalties when needed.  He moved quickly and banned the White Sox players as well as other players throughout the league who were guilty of throwing games or knew of games being thrown and had kept quiet.  The league had to do some damage control.

It didn't have to wait long.  Babe Ruth turned the league on end as he turned the Home Run from a rarely used offensive weapon into the main attraction at every game.  Ruth absolutely dominated the league.  In some years Ruth was hitting more Home Runs alone than entire teams combined had hit.  Adding Ruth (and several other pieces of the late Red Sox dynasty) to the up and coming Yankees team launched the first Yankee dynasty of the century. 

The Indians won the 1920 World Series, the Senators would win the AL in both 1924 and 1925 and the Athletics would win in 1929 but the Yankees would destroy the competition by reaching the World Series in 1921 ,1922, 1923, 1926, 1927 and 1928 winning three of the World Series.  Many consider the 1927 "Murderer's Row" Yankees as the greatest team of all time.  The Athletics 1929 team is also considered one of the greatest of all time, some even think them better than the 1927 Yankees.

The National League saw a similar dominance by the New York team.  Brooklyn reached the World Series in 1920, the Pirates reached in 1925 and 1927 and the Cardinals in 1926 and 1928 but the Giants dominated the first half of the decade reaching the World Series in 1921, 1922, 1923 and 1924.  It would be John McGraw's last dominant period.

Although the names of Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Frank Frisch, George Sisler and Grover Cleveland Alexander will be the names that are remembered thirty, forty or fifty years from now (or more), every decade has tremendously talented, successful players who make wonderful contributions to the success of their teams, organizations and the league as a whole. Unfortunately many of the players who fall into this category will be forgotten, overlooked and generally ignored. Here are 11 players (+) from the decade you may not remember but you definitely should:

Ray "Cracker" Schalk
Career Teams: Chicago White Sox (1912-1928) and New York Giants (1929)
All Star Appearances*: None
MVP Voting#:  1913 (20th), 1914 (6th), 1922 (3rd) and 1925 (12th)
When we hear players of the 1919 White Sox team mentioned the immediate reaction is to think "he was one of the guys who threw the World Series".  For the casual fan it is assumed it was a team wide plot to throw the games, yet, only 8 players of the 25 man roster were involved in the plot.  Ray Schalk was definitely not.  Schalk was an intense player, often arguing with the umpires, opposing players and his own players.  As a Catcher, no one in the history of the game could handle a pitching staff better.  He knew his pitchers.  Knew when they were having a good day just by the warm up pitches.  He could yell out to them from behind the plate to keep that shoulder in, don't over stride, watch your location. As Lefty Williams and Eddie Cicotte were letting up on their pitches or "missing" signs in the 1919 World Series, Schalk knew.  He told Kid Gleason, the manager, he told Comiskey, the owner, and he told Hugh Fullerton, the reporter who tried to blow the whole scandal sky high.  When Comiskey and the other owners realized the black eye this would give to the game, he politely asked Schalk to shut his trap and retract anything he had already said.  He did so but he wasn't happy about it.  In the 1919 World Series, Schalk hit .304 (7 singles) and drove in 2 runs.  He was also ejected from one game for asking the umpire if he was crooked.  The White Sox had also played in the 1917 World Series, and won.  Schalk had hit .263 in that winning year.  After the eight players were expelled from the game, the White Sox tried to pick up the pieces and Schalk carried most of the load.  Along with Eddie Collins and Red Faber, Schalk fought with everything he had to keep the White Sox in the top half of the league.  Unfortunately for the Sox, their decline coincided perfectly with the rise of the first Yankee dynasty.  Schalk retired as a player in 1929, though he did manage after his playing days were over.  84 years after his retirement Schalk still ranks in the top 10 White Sox in games played (5th), at bats (9th), plate appearances (9th), Hits (10th), walks (8th), stolen bases (9th), singles (9th), hit by pitch (10th) and sacrifice hits (3rd).

Wally Pipp

Career Teams:  Detroit Tigers (1913), New York Yankees (1915-1925) and Cincinnati Reds (1926-1928)
All Star Appearances*: None
MVP Voting#: 1922 (8th), 1924 (14th) and 1926 (14th)
If you've been reading this blog consistently (what am I saying?  of course you have.  Who wouldn't?), you've learned that every era has a few players known for only one moment of their career, despite a career worth of hard work and positive contributions to their teams.  You may have also learned that I try to avoid summarizing entire careers into one missed ground ball, one poor pitch or one poor base running decision.  As soon as the name Wally Pipp is mentioned the first thought that comes into their mind is "that's the guy who took a day off and never got his job back".  It really isn't that simple.  Wally Pipp was a very strong hitter, leading the league in Home Runs twice (although it was in the dead ball era when home runs were less common.  His league leading totals were 12 and 9).  He had the misfortune to play for the Yankees long before they were the Yankees.  Pipp and Ping Bodie were two of the stars on the Yankee team that remained when the Red Sox dynasty was transplanted, player by player, to New York in the early part of the decade.  There was a reason he remained.  Pipp was good.  He had started to improve as a hitter in the two years prior to Ruth showing up (.304 in 1918 and .275 in 1920) but with Ruth in the lineup, Pipp saw better pitches and took advantage.  Between 1920 (the arrival of Ruth) and 1925 (his last full year in New York), Pipp hit .280 or better every year, even hitting .329 in 1922.  As the Yankees became the feared team in baseball, Pipp contributed heavily, playing first base on the first three Yankee World Series teams, including the first ever championship team in 1923. As the team moved through a bad 1925 season, Miller Huggins had to start looking at the future and assessing what he had.  What he had was one of the greatest prospects in the history of sports at first base.  The story varies as to why he sat down on July 2nd.  He either had a headache, got hit in the head by a pitch in batting practice, had the flu, or a cold or possibly just needed  a day off in the middle of the hot summer (he's not the only player in history to need a day off in mid season).  Regardless of why, Pipp sat out the game on July 2nd and Lou Gehrig started at first base.  Pipp  never got his regular job back.  Pipp was a great player but it is no insult to admit you are not Lou Gehrig.  Pipp's contract was sold to the Reds before the 1926 season and he helped the Reds stay in the pennant race (.291, 15 HR, 99RBI) before finally fading to the World Champion Cardinals.  Wally Pipp's career certainly deserves more than being "the guy who got replaced by Lou Gehrig".

Bill "Wamby" Wambsganss

Career Teams: Cleveland Indians (1914-1923), Boston Red Sox (1924-1925) and Philadelphia Athletics (1926)
All Star Appearances*None
MVP Voting#: 1922 (21st)
Pronounced Wambsganss, his name has been translated as a combination of German words meaning overcoat.  When Cleveland signed him one reporter yelled out "Holy mackerel, what a moniker!".  His teammates called him "Wamby" because who wanted to try getting that name right, but Ray Chapman told Wamby repeatedly that he never wanted to play alongside another secondbaseman.  His career started in 1914 and was a respectable career, not hall of fame caliber but likely all star potential had there been an All Star Game at that time.  As the Indians moved to the World Series in  1920, Wamby was struggling.  He started the Series 0 for his first 9 at bats then worked a walk in game 4.  It was the start of a great stretch of baseball for him.  As the Indians took Game 4 to tie the Series Wamby went 2-4 with  2 runs and 1 RBI.  Game 5 would give him his place in history.  It was the best of three amazing moments in one amazing game in World Series History.   The best of 9 series was tied at 2 games apiece. Elmer Smith, a part time Indians outfielder, had put Cleveland up 4-0 in the first with the first ever grand slam in World Series play.  Jim Bagby, Cleveland's starting pitcher, put the Tribe up 7-0 in the bottom of the 4th with a three run Home Run, the first Home Run ever by a pitcher in World Series play.  As the bottom of the 4th started, Brooklyn started to stir and show signs of life.  Pete Kilduff and Otto Miller led off with back to back singles and the heart of the order was due up with no one out.  Brooklyn was threatening to make this a game.  On a 1-1 pitch Clarence Mitchell lined a shot destined for center field as Kilduff and Miller took off running.  No one would possibly get this one and the Robins would at least have the bases loaded, possibly even a run or two with no one out.  Wamby reacted at the crack of the bat and ran towards the second base-shortstop hole.  He dove, stretched his arm as long as his name, and the ball smacked in his glove.  1 out.  Wamby saw Kilduff, almost at third, slam on the breaks and scrambling back to second.  Wamby raced to his feet and stepped on second to force Kilduff.  2 out.  Miller had been just a few steps from second when the first out call was made. He was stunned when he saw Wamby make the catch  and even more stunned when he saw how quickly Wamby got to his feet.  He just stood there in confusion.  Wamby took two steps and tagged him.  3 out.  An unassisted triple play!  It is almost unbelievable, almost impossible, but Wamby did it.  Ring Lardner, one of the great writers of the time said "It was the first time in World Series history that a man named Wambsganss had ever made a triple play assisted  by consonants only.

Glenn "Buckshot" Wright

Career Teams:  Pittsburgh Pirates (1924-1928), Brooklyn Dodgers (1929-1933) and Chicago White Sox (1935)
All Star Appearances*: None.
MVP Voting#:  1924 (11th), 1925 (4th) and 1931 (25th)
Every organization has at least one irreplaceable person.  A player so revered, adored and idolized that no matter who you put at that position, no one will match them.  The Dodgers have Jackie Robinson at Secondbase, the Giants have Willie Mays in Centerfield, the Orioles have Brooks Robinson at Thirdbase and Cal Ripken at Shortstop, the Padres have Tony Gwynn in Rightfield and the Yankees have someone at nearly every position.  For the Pittsburgh Pirates no one has ever been able to fill the shoes of Honus Wagner at Shortstop.  Between Wagner's retirement at the end of 1917 and Glenn Wright's debut in 1924 14 different players spent time at Shortstop for the Buco's.  The only player to have any success in between Wagner and Wright was Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville.  Wright had some big shoes to fill.  He didn't disappoint.  With Wright's emergence in 1925, the Pirates won the World Series in 7 games over the favored Washington Senators.  Wright was the star of the 1925 team (even over players like Pie Traynor) and led the team with 18 HR and 121 RBI while hitting .308.  He struggled at the plate in the Series (hitting just above .180 with only 5 hits) although he had his best game as the Pirates fought out of a 3 games to 1 deficit.  In Game 5, Buckshot had 2 hits, a double, a run and an RBI to keep Pittsburgh alive and swing the momentum back to the eventual World Champs.  The Pirates reached the World Series again in 1927 but faced what many consider to be the best team in history, the 1927 Yankees.  Wright again hit well below his season average hitting only .154 and getting only 2 hits in the 4 game loss.  His career was shortened significantly by arm troubles which made it difficult to make the long throws from the hole between shortstop and third.  Wright never got the attention that Traynor or the Waner brothers got in Pittsburgh but he was a big reason they were consistently in contention during the 1920's.

Roger Peckinpaugh

Career Teams: Cleveland Indians (1910 and 1912-1913), New York Yankees (1913-1921), Washington Senators (1922-1926) and Cleveland Indians (1927)
All Star Appearances*:  None
MVP Voting#: 1914 (23rd), 1922 (21st), 1923 (13th) and 1925 (1st)
If there was anyone with bad luck it was Roger Peckinpaugh.  He was unlucky enough to play for the Yankees just before they became the first Yankee dynasty and became the last lasting symbol of Yankee futility.  The Yankees (previously known as the Highlanders, previously known as the Hilltopers, previously known as the Baltimore Orioles), had been one of the symbols of poorly run teams since the start of the league.  They finally reached the World Series in 1921 and Peckinpaugh had a bad series.  In the 8th and final game (it was a best of 9 series) he became the original Bill Buckner.  In the first inning, with 2 outs and a runner on second, George Kelly hit a routine, everyday ground ball to Peckinpaugh.  The only problem was he didn't field it.  The ball rolled away and as he trotted after it to track it down, Dave Bancroft came around to score the first run of the game.  The Giants won the game 1-0.  After the season Peckinpaugh was shipped out of New York.  Some said it was because of the error while others thought it was because many of the players wanted him as manager over Miller Huggins and the Yankee owners wanted the controversy out of the locker room.  Either way, he ended up in Washington and they were happy.  He won the MVP in 1925, for his leadership as much as for his bat and glove.  In Game 7 against the Pirates, a rainy, muddy mess that would have made the 2008 World Series proud, Peckinpaugh tracked a ball by Max Carey that landed foul.  As he turned to head back to his position he was shocked to hear the umpire call it fair.  He was charged with an error that led to the Pirates tying the game.  An inning later, with Max Carey at bat again, Peckinpaugh fielded a 2 out ground ball,  possibly because of the poor fielding conditions, Peckinpaugh's throw was wild, allowing the Pirates to extend the inning and score the two winning runs.  Much like Buckner, because of Peckinpaugh's bad timing, he is remembered for the errors and not a solid 17 year career.

Heinie Groh

Career Teams:  New York Giants (1912-1913), Cincinnati Reds (1913-1921), New York Giants (1922-1926) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1927)
All Star Appearances*: None
MVP Voting#: 1914 (21st)
John McGraw rarely made mistakes, at least not many that he would admit to.  He did admit to one.  As his New York Giants won three straight NL pennants in 1911, 1912 and 1913, he was pretty comfortable with Buck Herzog at Thirdbase, but with Christy Mathewson aging and Rube Marquard being Rube, he needed pitching.  He sent three players (including Heinie Groh) to the Reds in exchange for Pitcher Art Fromme.  McGraw almost immediately regretted it.  Groh got an abundance of playing time in Cincinnati and immediately proved he could play in the Majors.  He regularly hit over .300  using a bat shaped like a bottle (he hit .320 in 1917 and .331 in 1921) and was usually near the top of the league in doubles, on base percentage and hit by pitch.  On the 1919 Reds team that defeated the Black Sox Groh played  a major part in the Reds first ever Championship.  He had 2 doubles and 2 RBI in the series.  McGraw was constantly trying to get Groh back but the Reds asking price was usually too high.  He finally succeeded in 1922 and it paid off. In the second of five straight World Series appearances by the Giants, Groh pounded Yankee pitching.  Pounded is probably an understatement:  demolished, embarrassed, annihilated, obliterated? There doesn't seem to be a word strong enough.  In the five game sweep (there was one tie game, called because of darkness), Groh hit .474.  He had 9 hits in 19 at bats and scored 4 runs. Groh continued with the Giants over the next few years but as a young group of Giants such as Bill Terry, Hack Wilson, Freddie Lindstrom and Travis Jackson began to emerge, Groh saw less playing time.  Groh hit only .182 in the 1923 World Series and saw only one at bat (he was 1-1 in the Series) in the 1924 Series.  He remained in New York for the 1925 and 1926 season but his regular playing days were over.  He finished with the Pirates for 14 games in 1927, but he was playing behind the emerging Pie Traynor.  Groh could be recognized easily for years afterwards as he drove around New York, or anywhere.  His custom plates were a dead giveaway:  MR 474.

"Long" Bob Meusel

Career Teams: New York Yankees (1920-1929) and Cincinnati Reds (1930)
All Star Appearances*: None
MVP Voting#: 1922 (15th), 1925 (18th) and 1926 (21st)
Bob Meusel stepped in for his first ever World Series at bat in the 1921 Series.  Babe Ruth had just singled in a run to give the Yankees a lead in their first ever World Series inning in their first ever World Series game.  Meusel heard shouts of encouragement from the bench.  "Keep it going Bob."  He looked around the field to assess the defense and see where he wanted to hit this ball.  His gaze turned toward left field and he likely glowered a little bit.  He knew the face out there.  It was his brother, Emil "Irish" Meusel.  Bob pulled a ground ball toward left field but it was intercepted by Frankie Frisch who turned it into an inning ending double play. The two could not be more different.  Irish was a fun loving, always smiling, affable guy who got along with everyone.  Bob was gloomy, curt, focused and the press couldn't quite figure him out.  Before there was the Ruth-Gehrig show, there was the Ruth-Meusel show and it was a big draw for New York.  The first Yankees dynasty (1921-1923) was pre Gehrig but having Ruth hitting third and Meusel fourth terrified American League pitchers and put butts in the seats.  After the 1921 World Series Ruth and Meusel defied the rules of Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis and went on a barnstorming tour of the country.  Any one going against Commissioner was going to get punished and both Ruth and Meusel got suspended for over 20 games.  With Meusel in left field the Yankees won seven American League pennants and three World Series titles.

Ross "Pep" Youngs

Career Teams:  New York Giants (1917-1926)
All Star Appearances*: None
MVP Voting#:  1924 (5th)
As John McGraw cleaned out his managerial office to turn the team over to Bill Terry, he left two things until the last.  In the long tenure of the manager, he had seen some of the greatest of all time come through his clubhouse.  Some stayed for a long time, some made short stops.  Some made major impacts on the history of the game and some became infamous.  Of the hundreds of players who played under McGraw only two were honored enough to find a place to remain forever.  McGraw kept two framed pictures of past players in his office.  One was Christy Mathewson, the other was Ross Youngs.  "I have never seen a greater outfielder."  McGraw said.  Considering how long he played and managed and the players he faced, that's a hell of a compliment.  Ford Frick, commissioner of the game who placed an asterisk next to Maris's home run record, said "everyone has Ruth, Cobb and Speaker on his all-time outfield.  But, somehow, I've got to find a place for Pep Youngs."  The name Pep came from McGraw who saw Youngs playing a "never say die", all out hustle brand of baseball that every era fears is in danger of disappearing.  As the game swung from McGraw's brand of inside baseball to the power game of Ruth, Youngs was able to keep McGraw's faith in the old style of play alive.  He was known to break up a double play with a rough style, which led to more than one confrontation and helped give the Giants their reputation for a hard nosed team.  In his ten seasons in the majors Youngs played on 4 National League Champions (two of which won the World Series) and hit well in all but the 1924 World Series.  It wasn't always with the bat that Youngs excelled.  Just as Yastrzemski would learn to play the Green Monster decades later, Youngs could play the outfield wall better than anyone.  Frankie Frisch said Youngs could play an angle off the wall "as if he'd majored in billiards."  McGraw couldn't imagine life without Youngs in the outfield.  Had he imagined that life without Youngs would come so soon, he might have held onto Hack Wilson a bit longer. As the 1926 season progressed (Wilson's first with the Cubs), Youngs wasn't feeling well and doctors couldn't quite explain why.  He pushed on and hit .306 in 95 games but he felt worse as the year went along.  The last person to ever beg out of a game, McGraw grew more concerned.  In August, McGraw sent his favorite player home to rest and recover for the 1927 season.  The off season didn't show any improvement, in fact his condition worsened and a blood transfusion was attempted in March to relieve Youngs.  It wouldn't help.  Youngs was in the late stages of Bright's Disease and would pass away in October 1927.
Sam Rice

Career Teams:  Washington Senators (1915-1933) and Cleveland Indians (1934)
All Star Appearances*: None
MVP Voting#: 1926 (4th)
The envelope had been sealed since 1965 and sat in a vault in the Hall of Fame.  When news of the passing of Sam Rice hit the news wires in 1974, the president of the Hall of Fame opened and read the contents."At no time did I lose possession of the ball."  There were 2 outs and Washington had a one run lead in the 8th. Earl Smith, the Pirates Catcher, smacked the ball to dead Centerfield.  Rice took off but quickly ran out of room.  The team had added extra seats in Centerfield to accommodate the overflow crowd.  Rice reached the temporary wall at the same time as the ball.  He leaped, the ball hit his glove and Rice flipped over the wall into the seats.  He disappeared from the view of everyone except the home town fans sitting around his landing.  He was gone for a few moments.  Then popped up with the ball in glove.  The umpire called Smith out and Bill McKechnie, the Pirates manager, went nuts.  "How the hell do you know he held onto that ball?  You can't call my guy out on a play like that!"  Commissioner Landis asked Rice after the game if he had made the catch.  "Well Judge, the umps called Smitty out."  Landis approved of the diplomatic answer and told Rice to repeat it anytime he was asked in the future. Rice was a great fielder before Gold Gloves, a stolen base threat in an era when the Home Run had become king and an All Star player before All Star Games existed.  The controversy over whether or not Rice caught the ball continued for years after the World Series.  Rice wrote the truth on a piece of paper, sealed it in an envelope and handed it to the president of the Hall of Fame to be opened at the time of his death.

Duster Mails

Career Teams: Brooklyn Robins (1915-1916), Cleveland Indians (1920-1922) and  St. Louis Cardinals (1925-1926)
All Star Appearances*: None.
MVP Voting#: None.
Duster Mails had a short career.  It was almost the opposite of Billy Williams's career.  Williams played Hall of Fame caliber baseball for the Cubs for 2213 games (from 1959-1974).  In that time frame he never reached the playoffs (he would reach the playoffs with the 1975 A's).  Duster Mails appeared in a total of 106 career games but every stop he made along the way included a pennant winner.  For the National League Champion Brooklyn Robins in 1916, Mails appeared in 11 games, though he did not make an appearance in the World Series against the Red Sox.  His next stop was in Cleveland for the World Series Champs. The Indians had a rough season that year on the way to the World Series. Ray Chapman was killed by a pitch.  Their replacement Shortstop pulled a hamstring and they had to go with a kid fresh off the college campus, and their pitchers had trouble staying healthy. Manager Tris Speaker was desperate for a pitcher.  Any one who didn't have a sore arm.  Mails got the call.  His first start in Washington did not go so well.  He was wild and lasted only a few innings.  The Indians came back and won and from that point on Mails was great.  He went 7-0 in the regular season.  As the Indians prepared to face the White Sox with the pennant on the line, Mails was confident.  He told the umpire before the game "I'm going to shut these bums out."  "Son, haven't you ever heard of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins and Buck Weaver?" the umpire asked him, unable to believe this kid's audacity.  "Of course I have.  But have they ever heard of the Great Mails?"  The umpire laughed by "the Great Mails" came through with a shutout win.  As the Indians moved on to the World Series, Mails was a big part of the team.  He started two games in the Series (won 1 and got a no decision in the second) and gave up 0 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings.  His 1921 season was good (he went 14-8) but by 1922 he had lost the magic.  He was only 4-7.  He was released by the Indians.  His career was virtually over except for another brief stop in St.Louis.  He was picked up in 1925 and went 7-7 for a Cardinals team that couldn't win on the road.  The 1926 Cardinals would shock the World by beating the Yankees but Mails would be long gone by then.  After an 0-1 record in his only appearance he was let go.

Carl Mays

Career Teams: Boston Red Sox (1915-1919), New York Yankees (1919-1923), Cincinnati Reds (1924-1928) and New York Giants (1929)
All Star Appearances*: None
MVP Voting#:  1926 (22nd)
Few players have ever been hated, despised, feared or vilainised as much as Carl Mays.  Think Bonds and Clemens have been put in a villain's role  in the recent era?  Mays has been portrayed as a racist, a cheater, a lunatic, a quitter, a dirty player and a murderer.  Mays came up to the Boston Red Sox at the same time as Babe Ruth.  Both were pitchers.  Both had bright futures.  One was outgoing, friendly, almost obscenely cocky.  The other was dour, quiet, brooding with almost insane mood swings.  When his team won he was quiet and complacent.  When his team was losing in one of his starts Mays was outwardly angry, often openly yelling, berating teammates in public. As the Red Sox began to crumble after the sale of Ruth to the Yankees, Mays struggled through a poor season and walked out on his the middle of a game he was pitching.  In between innings he walked to the dugout, picked up his coat and walked to the clubhouse, cleaned out his locker and went home.  He told the Red Sox he wouldn't play for them again and demanded a trade.  Then it got ugly.  He was suspended, traded to three different teams, sent back to Boston, unsuspended, resuspended, traded to another team, sent back to Boston.  (the details will likely be another article all by itself). He was supposed to end up in Cleveland but he ended up with the Yankees instead.  His odd "submarine" almost underhand delivery made it hard to hit against him and there were rumors that he cut the ball (not illegal at the time) and he had no problem throwing high and tight to move batters off the plate.  He came in too high, too tight and too fast in 1920, hitting Ray Chapman in the head and fracturing his skull leading to Chapman's death.  Mays always claimed he had not done it on purpose but the newspapers and players of the time thought he always tried to hit people in the head.  There were protests from other players asking the league to ban him or at least outlaw the submarine delivery.  Mays kept pitching and the league kept moving forward.  The Yankees made the World Series in  1921, 1922 and 1923.  Mays won 27 games in 1921 but had a habit of weakening in the late innings.  In the 1921 World Series Mays won game one 3-0.  He started again in Game 4 and was nearly perfect through 7 innings then amazingly lost control and gave up three runs losing the game.  After the game, and for decades later, stories went around that he had been paid off to throw the game.  An investigation was made by Judge Landis but nothing ever came of it.  Miller Huggins was convinced Mays had thrown the games. (Another blog article to come later)  Mays was traded to the Reds and had a few last decent seasons.  Mays had near Hall of Fame numbers but never got elected.  Some felt it was because of the pitch he threw to Chapman.  Others felt it was because of the question over whether or not he threw the games.  Some feel his numbers just aren't Hall of Fame caliber.

*-The All Star Game was not started until 1933.  Many of the players in this weeks articles likely would have made numerous additional All Star Game appearances if the game had been in effect their entire career.
#-Various forms of the MVP Award were given out at the start of the league until 1931 when the current format was adopted.  Between 1911 and 1914 the award was given out in both leagues but disappeared until 1922.  When it returned, only the American League chose a winner in 1922 and 1923 and from 1924-1928 both leagues awarded the MVP.  The AL failed to choose an MVP winner in 1929 and in 1930 neither team chose a winner.  The award returned for good in 1931.  From 1922-1929 the leagues did not allow a player who had already won the MVP to be considered for a second award.  Had this rule not existed Babe Ruth likely would have won all of the awards during that time period.  Because of this rule, when Ruth hit 60 Home Runs in 1927, he received 0 MVP Votes.
+-Author's Note:  Just as in the last few weeks, and as may be seen in the next few weeks as we move through this series of articles, I did my best to keep this to one player per position, however, the farther we move from these eras, the easier it is to forget these types of players (and even some hall of fame players).  It is important to remember as we follow the sport that the superstars are not the only ones making contributions to the success of a team.  This is not a comprehensive list of players who fall into this category from this era, it is simply my choice of players who best represented their position and have become forgotten.  Your list is probably different.  Email me yours or leave a comment.