1902...Growing Pains...and a Rube
In its second year of existence, the American League was still undergoing changes. The Milwaukee Brewers franchise had relocated to St. Louis to become the Browns before the season, And midway through the 1902 season, the Baltimore Orioles literally fell apart.
The reasoning for the move to St. Louis was allegedly to 'raid' the Cardinals team of talent to fill the Browns roster, much easier done across town. During this time, the upstart American League was constantly pirating players from the well established National League. The most famous case was the Philadelphia Athletics signing of Napoleon Lajoie from the Phillies for the 1901 season.
The Phillies were then raided again before 1902, losing Elmer Flick and Bill Duggleby to their crosstown rivals. The Phillies were understandably upset, and as such, before the 1902, filed an injunction against the Athletics which essentially forbade Lajoie from playing baseball in the state of Pennsylvania until the dispute was settled.
Lajoie played in only one game for the Athletics in 1902, before he was sold to Cleveland, along with Flick . (Duggleby was returned to the Phillies) He played in 86 games for the Cleveland Bronchos, none of those anywhere near Philadelphia.
The Orioles situation, on the other hand, was caused by the financial collapse of the team. Prior to the season, plans were made to move the Franchise to New York, but the League was unable to find a suitable venue, so the team remained in Baltimore.
Principal Owner John Mahon and manager/partial owner John McGraw were frustrated by their inability to relocate, but forged ahead with the season.
McGraw was an incendiary personality on the ball field, and was abusive towards the opposing players (and some of his own as well) and the umpires. On several occasions in the early season, McGraw was fined by American League President Ban Johnson for his actions. Those fines did not stop McGraw's continued bad behavior, so Johnson suspended McGraw indefinitely. Several other Orioles players had been fined/suspended by Johnson through the first third of the season.
McGraw (“Little Napoleon”) resigned as manager of the Orioles, and jumped leagues to become manager of the New York Giants.
In July of 1902, it was revealed that Mahon was deeply in debt, to the tune of approximately $15,000. At that point, he purchased shares from his son-in-law Joe Kelley, and McGraw, giving him a majority stake in the team, which he then sold to two men: Andrew Freedman and John Brush.
Freedman, who was the principal owner of the New York Giants, and Brush, who was the principal owner of the Cincinnati Reds, then dismantled the Orioles by taking the best players from the team to fill their own rosters.
Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan, Jack Cronin and Dan McGann joined the Giants, while Cy Seymour and Joe Kelley joined the Reds.
The day after this took place, the Orioles had only five players available for a game against the St. Louis Browns, and were forced to forfeit.
Ban Johnson then used a league rule to join with the remaining Oriole minority owners to fill the roster by asking the other American League teams to volunteer players to play for Baltimore. This met with very little success, as teams would 'lend players' but ask for them back before they had to play the Orioles.
The Orioles stumbled to finish with a 50-88 record, 34 games behind the pennant winning Philadelphia Athletics.
On the last game of the season at Orioles Park, only 138 fans passed through the turnstiles.
But let's not make McGraw out to be a bad guy. In fact, he tried (unsuccessfully) to integrate the game long before Branch Rickey did. He attempted to sign a native American player named “Chief Tokahama”, a full-blooded Cherokee. In reality, he was trying to sign Charlie Grant, a second-baseman for a Negro League team that played in Chicago.
White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey discovered the ruse, and called McGraw on it, so that's why Chief Tokahama isn't in your Baseball Encyclopedia.
The Baltimore franchise would then, in fact, move to New York for 1903, becoming the Highlanders (later the Yankees) and they found a home at Hilltop Park in Washington Heights. The stadium was approximately half a mile or so from the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants.
With all that aside though, the American League was outdrawing the National League by almost a thousand fans per game. The National League owners were very worried, combining the loss in revenue and the player raids, and they decided to negotiate a peace treaty between the two leagues, which resulted initially in the first World Series to be played in 1903.
And peace and calm would level the playing field.
And on the field, the pennants were won by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were led by Honus Wagner; and the Philadelphia Athletics, led by Rube Waddell.
George Edward “Rube” Waddell enjoyed some moderate success in the National League, bouncing between a couple of teams. The left-hander won a combined twenty-nine games for Louisville, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
He was playing for a semi-pro team when he was signed by the Athletics and brought east. He went on to lead the American League in strikeouts, while winning twenty-four games. He established the American League record for strikeouts in a season in '02, striking out 240 batters. That record would fall in 1903, when Rube would fan 302 batters. Then he struck out 349 batters in 1905.
That American League record would stand until Nolan Ryan's 383 in1973.
If Waddell were playing today, he would be described as 'being in the spectrum' for being mentally challenged. He had a fascination with firetrucks, and would sometimes leave the ballpark to follow them if they were responding nearby to a fire. One teammate recalled being at the scene of a fire, and saw Waddell, in full gear, leaning out the third floor window of a building that was fully engulfed.
He was also known to leave games to go fishing, whether he was pitching or not.
Some opposing players and managers would distract him by placing toys in front of their dugout with the hopes of breaking his concentration. Sometimes it worked.
There was one time when Rube disappeared for days, finally showing up at the ballpark wearing a drum major's uniform and “a look of ineffable bliss on his face”.
Waddell battled with alcohol for most of his short life, and was purported to have spent his first signing bonus on a drinking binge. He, like a few other stars in their time, had his salary given to a trusted teammate, who would dole it out to Rube in small amounts, lest he spend it all on a week long bender.
While he may have had some mental issues, he was not considered to be illiterate. Just sometimes he might forget how many women he had married.
On the field, playing in an era when 'small ball' was the way of the game, his strikeout numbers are monumental. This was a time when players were embarrassed to be struck out, and would choke up on the bat, shorten swings, bunt at the ball, anything to keep from being struck out. But Rube got them.
Connie Mack said the Rube was the “...atom bomb of baseball long before the atom bomb was discovered.”
Mack also summed up Rube's life, saying; “He had four passions and four only: He loved to fish. He loved the stuff that the vintners sell. He loved fires. And he loved to pitch ballgames. In about that order,”
Rube was living in the Kentucky town of Hickman when the town began to flood. Twice. First in 1912 and then the next year. He was credited with helping to save the town, but caught pneumonia in the process, both times. He eventually came down with tuberculosis, and was sent to live with his sister until his passing.
He was born on Friday the 13th of October, 1876, and died on April Fool's day, 1914.
Waddell and Honus Wagner were teammates in Louisville, before that team was disbanded and merged with the Pittsburgh franchise.
Wagner, one of the original five inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame was in just his fifth season in the major leagues. In fact, he tied with Babe Ruth for second place in the voting. Primarily known as a shortstop, he played all over the field (except as catcher) as needed. By all accounts, he excelled at each of the positions he played.
He pitched in one game in '02, coming in as a reliever, he pitched five and a third innings, striking out five, and allowing four hits walking two and allowed no earned runs. He pitched before in 1900, going three innings to finish a game. He struck out one, walked four allowed three hits, and no earned runs.
While “The Flying Dutchman” didn't win the batting title in 1902 (teammate Ginger Beaumont took that honor), he would do so in 1903, and win the title in six of the following seven seasons, and seven of the next nine. (He is the only player named Honus to play in the major leagues. Almost nineteen thousand men have played in the majors, and only one Honus. Litearlly.
Ty Cobb called Wagner “maybe the greatest ballplayer to ever take the diamond”.
Card collectors know Wagner well. His T-206 card is the most valuable card out there. In 2016, one of these cards sold for $3.12 million.
Why so rare?
Well, the cards were distributed by tobacco companies then, so to get a card, one had to purchase tobacco. Wagner, who was a non-smoker, did not wish to have his name on any packaging of cigarettes. But the company, the American Tobacco Company had already started production of the cards. They did stop printing the cards once they learned of Wagner's wish, but some of the cards had already been distributed by that time.
There are only fifty-seven of these cards known to exist.
One of these cards in the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the Jefferson Burdick Collection.
So, the season at hand...
The leagues were still in their infancy, so there were plenty of firsts, and plenty of unusual happenings as well. Let's go around the league:
In Pittsburgh, Tommy Leach became the first to lead the league in homers and triples. That has only been done six times. He set the still standing record for triples by a third baseman (22) and became the first to lead the league in homers with 25 or more stolen bases.
Pitcher Jack Chesboro recorded 20 more wins than losses.
The Pirates had three 20 game winners: Chesboro, Deacon Phillippe and Jesse Tannehill.
Ginger Beaumont became the first to lead the league in batting without hitting a homer. It has only been done one other time, by Rod Carew in 1972.
The Pirates never lost more than 2 consecutive games all season en route to a 103-36 record.
For the Philadelphia Athletics, Dave Fultz became the first player to steal 2nd, 3rd and home in the same inning.
Rube Waddell became the first to strikeout the side on nine pitches.
Socks Seybold became the second Athletic to led the American League in homers (Nap Lajoie led the league in 1901)
Seybold established the home run record with 16, which lasted until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919.
Danny Murphy made six hits in a game, and it was his first game with the Athletics.
Lave Cross remains to this day, the only player to drive in 100 or more runs without hitting a home run.
Harry Davis, who was on first base while there was a runner on third, stole second base to try to draw a throw from the catcher. It didn't work. So then he stole first base, again trying to draw a throw. Again it didn't work. So he tried to steal second a second time, this time drawing the throw, but that throw got him out.
In Cincinnati, the “Palace of the Fans” opened as the home ballpark of the Reds.
Catcher Johnny Kling set a record for stolen bases by a catcher, which was broken by John Wathan in 1982.
All nine batters collected at least two hits in a 24-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Cy Seymour established a record of four sacrifice flies in a game.
Rube Vickers set a record for six passed balls in a game. This happened in a game that was a farce. Playing in Pittsburgh, on a field that was in bad shape, the Reds had hoped the game would be postponed. It wasn't. The Reds then played all their players out of position. Vickers, who was behind the plate, was a pitcher by trade. He never caught another game again.
As a result of the farcical play by the Reds, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss refunded the money to the fans in attendance.
In Boston, Red Sox ace Cy Young had 20 more wins than losses for the second time. He won 41.6% of the Red Sox games.
Bill Dineen was the first pitcher on a winning team to lead the league in losses.
Patsy Dougherty set the American League record for batting average by a rookie, hitting .342. That record stood until Joe Jackson hit .408 for Cleveland in 1911.
Across town, Vic Willis and Togie Pittinger combined for 74% of the Beaneaters wins.
Vic Willis would establish the still unbroken record of 45 complete games, and he was the first Boston pitcher to lead the National League in strikeouts. Warren Spahn would be the next to do so in 1949.
In Detroit, pitcher Ed Siever led the league in ERA, becoming the first to do so with a losing record, and the first to do so with less than 10 wins. He was 8-11.
In Cleveland, the Bronchos were the first team to hit three consecutive homers in a game (Nap Lajoie, Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman, Bill Bradley) A remarkable feat, especially considering the era in which it happened, and that the Bronchos only hit 33 homers on the season.
Bradley would establish a record by hitting a hoe run in four consecutive games.
Bill Armour, one of the rare managers who wore street clothes during the game, was the first lawyer to become a major league manager.
Future Hall of Famer Addie Joss pitched a one-hitter in his major league debut, a feat not matched again until 1949.
Zaza Harvey had six hits in a game.
Cleveland committed six errors during one inning against Baltimore, a record that still stands.
In Baltimore, Jimmy Williams made six hits in a game, and Roger Bresnahan hit two inside the park homers against Cleveland in the same game.
Chicago Orphans (soon to be Cubs) pitcher John Menaffee became the first pitcher to steal home in a game.
Philadelphia Phillies slugger Shad Barry was responsible for 60% of the Phillies total homers for the season. For the record, he hit three of the team's five.
In St. Louis, Cardinals pitcher Mike O'Neill, the pride of Maam, in County Galway, Ireland, is credited with hitting the first ever pinch-hit grand slam home run.
And in lower classifications, the Corsicana Oil City's beat the Texarkana Casketmakers by a score of 51-3. The game, which was played on a Sunday, was moved to small park in Ennis, Texas, where the right field fence measured just 210 feet from home plate.
The resulting onslaught tallied 21 homers among the 53 hits registered that day. Future big leaguer Nig Clarke hit eight homers in eight consecutive at bats.
During Clarke's nine year big league career, he recorded just six homers, two less than he did in the one afternoon in 1902.
But on to the season at hand.
We'll take a look at the team overall rankings first, the top three in offense for each league were:
And the top three teams in pitching were:
- BostonPiratesBrownsBrooklynAthleticsChicago Orphans
That brings the 1902 power rankings to this:
- PiratesNL ChampsAthleticsAL ChampsBoston Americans3rd in ALWhite Sox2nd in ALBrowns4th in AL
Looking at these rankings show us that the American League must have been a stronger league through and through, and further numbers support this. More offense in the AL, which statistically tallied 19.3% better than in the National League. Conversely, the National League pitchers enjoyed a 28.2% statistical advantage over their Junior Circuit counterparts.
But where the great discrepancy arises is in the league comparisons.
In ranking the teams, much the same as I do with the players, I reach a mean number. The pitchers in the NL made an average score of 1.3108, while the offense averaged 1.3008, giving the pitchers a slight statistical edge of .77%. But in the American League, the hitters average was 1.5516 against the pitcher average of 1.0221. The American League batters fared 51.8% better than the league's pitchers, which would justify the above numbers.
A good reason for that huge discrepancy is Baltimore. Their pitching staff finished with a Runs Allowed factor of over 6 per game. They allowed over one hundred more hits than their nearest rival, which was the Washington Senators. In using the same average numbers from above, the Orioles pitching average was 0.3959 and the Senators was 0.6727. The Boston Americans average was 1.3188.
So, we'll take a look at the initial pitching rankings first, with Runs Per Game featured, beginning with the American League.
- PitcherTeamW-LRPGERARube WaddellAthletics24-72.932.05Cy YoungBoston32-113.182.15Bill BernhardAthletics/Cleveland18-53.152.15Red DonahueBrowns22-113.812.76Roy PattersonWhite Sox19-143.733.06Jack PowellBrowns22-173.953.21Bill DineenBoston21-213.762.93Addie JossCleveland17-134.012.77George WinterBoston11-94.122.99Ned GarvinWhite Sox10-103.492.21
Garvin also spent part of his season pitching for the Brooklyn Superbas, but these are just the American League numbers.
Now, looking at how the pitchers fared against their team's average performance, we get this list:
- Joe McGinnityOrioles13-104.533.44Bill BernhardAboveRube WaddellAboveAl OrthSenators19-185.033.97Ed SieverTigers8-113.491.91Cy YoungAboveWin MercerTigers15-184.123.04Addie JossAboveCasey PattenSenators18-175.594.05Red Donahueabove
This makes the top rated pitching performers in the American League look like this:
(Note that McGinnity also pitched for the Giants in the National League, but as above, these are his American League statistics only, pitching for a very pitching poor team.)
And speaking of the National League, our initial rankings are:
- Jack ChesboroPirates28-62.552.17Jack TaylorChicago Orphans23-112.321.29Jesse TannehillPirates20-63.041.95Noodles HahnReds23-122.721.77Bill DohenyPirates16-43.252.53Deacon PhillipePirates20-92.982.05Ed PoolePirates/Reds12-43.142.10Sam LeeverPirates15-72.962.39Vic WillisBoston Beaneaters27-203.122.20Togie PittingerBeaneaters27-163.212.52
And against their team averages, we get this list:
- Noodles HahnAboveDoc WhitePhillies16-203.712.53Mike O'NeillCardinals16-154.252.90Jack TaylorAboveEd PooleAboveChristy MathewsonGiants14-173.732.12Ed MurphyCardinals10-64.723.02Vic WillisAboveTogie PittingerAboveJack ChesboroAbove
That brings our final National top ten pitching ranking as such:
We'll move on to the offensive side of the game, where as I mentioned above, the American League hitters held a pretty significant advantage over the National League. Again, in an era when home runs are scarce, only five players reached double digits in long balls, and they were all in the American League (and all in the following list). Tommy Leach led the National League with six.
The preliminary American league list is as follows:
- PlayerTeamHRRBIAVGSBNap LajoieCleveland Bronchos765.37820Ed DelahantySenators1093.37616Charlie HickmanCleveland/Boston11110.3619Lave CrossAthletics0108.34225Buck FreemanBoston Americans11121.30917Bill KeisterSenators990.30027Bill BradleyCleveland1177.34011Socks SeyboldAthletics1697.3166Jimmy WilliamsOrioles883.31314Harry DavisAthletics692.30728
And against their team averages, we get this ranking:
- Nap LajoieAboveEd DelahantyAboveCharlie HickmanAboveBuck FreemanAboveCharlie HemphillBrowns/Cleveland669.30827Emmet HeidrickBrowns356.28917Bill BradleyAboveGeorge DavisAthletics393.29931Bill KeisterAboveJimmy WilliamsAboveJimmy CollinsBoston661.32218
So our final ranking for American League hitters is as follows:
Over to the National League, our initial performance rankings bring us this:
- Honus WagnerPirates391.33042Fred ClarkePirates253.31629Ginger BeaumontPirates067.35733Tommy LeachPirates685.27825Sam CrawfordReds378.33316Jake BeckleyReds569.33015Kitty BransfieldPirates069.30523Johnny KlingChicago Orphans059.28925Heinie PeitzReds160.3157John DobbsReds/Chicago151.29910
As you can see from the National League lists, the Pirates were the dominant team in the league. The top five hitters, and four of the top six pitchers didn't spread much joy among their National League opponents.
But, since the Pirates offense was so far ahead of the rest of the league, it means that players that performed well for under-performing teams populate our next list, the players measured against their team's averages.
- George BrownePhillies/Giants040.28624Johnny KlingAboveSam CrawfordAboveGeorge BarclayCardinals353.30030Steve BrodieGiants342.28111Shad BarryPhillies358.28714Roy ThomasPhillies024.28617Frank BowermanGiants027.24912Jake BeckleyAboveDuff CooleyBrooklyn Superbas058.29627
So, our final National League offensive rankings are:
No voting for post season awards during this era, so I will put forth my hypothetical ballot in each league.
American League Offensive Player of the Year
American League Pitcher of the Year
National League Offensive Player of the Year
National League Pitcher of the Year