Results tagged ‘ American Association ’

This Just In…From 1894

You might not like the Wild Card, and you might not like the World Series extending into November, and you might promise you will not like this expanded version of the playoffs Bud Selig is hinting at. But your displeasure will be nothing compared to the most ill-fated of all of baseball’s post-season formats: The Temple Cup.

On the other hand, as of this blog post, you finally have some photographs of action from The Temple Cup.
The Temple Cup was an attempt to make the best of a monopoly. 19th Century Baseball is largely and arrogantly ignored by even the game’s historians, but nearly everything we have today was either established or contemplated then. The two-league system was up on its feet by 1882 and the World Series (literally called “The World’s Championship Series”) was  established by 1886 (and a championship trophy, “The Dauvray Cup,” was established a year later). There was also a powerful players’ union by 1890 which would have overtaken the game’s power structure had it not been betrayed by the businessmen with which it necessarily had to partner to form its own player-run league that season.
The 1890 season destroyed the still solidifying rivalry between the National League and the American Association. Most of the players of the established leagues jumped to the union-backed Players League, and even in a time of franchise fluidity and player relocation, it was too much confusion and too much betrayed loyalty and simply too much baseball for the fans to stand. The NL, AA, and probably the PL lost money, and the balance of power was so deranged that the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who as American Association Champions had lost the 1889 World Series to the NL Champion New York Giants, themselves jumped to the NL in 1890. They won the league crown, while the AA’s Louisville Cyclones – virtually untouched by the player raids because their players were thought to be so bad - went from worst to first in the Association. 
5,600 Kentucky fans showed up to see Game One of that natural Brooklyn-Louisville rivalry on display in the 1890 World Series. But the crowd for the next game was half that. By the first game in Brooklyn just 1,050 showed up. As the weather and baseball both worsened, Game Six drew just 600, Game Seven only 300. And even though the Series was tied at three games apiece with one draw, the teams called the thing off – it was that bad.
The Players League went out of business that winter, and as its talent returned home the American Association and National League squabbled (that’s why the Pirates are called the Pirates; they grabbed second baseman Lou Bierbauer when the Philadelphia Athletics failed to put in a claim for him). Within a year the weaker AA was dead, and all that was left was the NL, with four of the stronger AA franchises tacked on. The twelve-team, no-division league was so unwieldy that seven of the teams finished at least 32 games out of first.
All of which brings us back to the Temple Cup. The National League monopoly had to come up with something to fill the void of the World Series, which had died with the two-league system when the American Association folded. In 1892 they tried a split season, matching the first-half winners from Boston against the second-half victors from Cleveland. It was just as dull a prospect as it would be when the owners returned to it 99 years later after the Strike of 1981, and it was abandoned. 
There was no post-season play at all in 1893, and that didn’t work either. That’s the exiting owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chase Temple (in a neat tie-in, one of the owners who signed away Lou Bierbauer from the A’s) offered a 30-inch tall, $800 trophy to the winners of some kind of post-season championship (a team would only get it if it won three seasons in a row). But what kind of post-season championship? Naturally, the first-place finisher versus the runner-up.
Hoo boy.
They actually thought this would work, that the fans of twelve cities, having watched a 154-game season decide who was best, would accept forcing that team to then play a best-of-seven against the club they just beat. No Divisional Play, no splitting up into Six-Team Leagues or Conferences. Winner Versus Runner-Up! That the concept was inherently flawed was underscored by the fact that at its outset, the Temple Cup was designed as a challenge. As Jerry Lansche wrote in The Forgotten Championships:

The team that won the pennant would play the team that finished second in a best-of-seven series. If the first-place team declined to play, the second-place and third-place teams would compete. If the second-place team declined to play, the pennant winner would play the third-place team. If the…well, you get the idea.
I do not think it coincidental that until last week I had never before seen a photograph from any of the only four Temple Cups that were played before the idea was abandoned in the winter of 1897. Only once did the Regular Season Champs seem to take it seriously. None of the Series went longer than five games. Gate receipts for the first Cup, in 1894, were supposed to be split 65/35 but the members of the pennant winning Baltimore Orioles and runner-up New York Giants secretly agreed to go halfies on the money.
How could that possibly go wrong?
And finally we get to the point of this post. I’m not saying these are the first photographs ever discovered of The Temple Cup. I’m just saying these are the first I’ve ever seen, and that there are none in the Noah’s Ark that is the Hall of Fame Photo Archive. 
Behold! The late highlights, just 116 years after the fact!
This is from a weekly magazine called “The Illustrated American” which was published from 1887 or so until, apparently, the day headquarters in Brooklyn burned down in 1898. There is no accompanying article, and as you can see from the scans, the photographic/printing process is understandably crude (it’s 1894!). They called them “halftone photo-mechanicals” and reproducing them usually creates that herringbone effect.
Still, they are extraordinary (and possibly unique) looks into what might have become baseball’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup. Let’s look at the shots one at a time and discover that the publishers fudged, more than once.
TemplePreGame.jpg
Well, they’re a long way away from their positions if they are in fact waiting for umpire Tim Hurst’s call of “Game.” These are the 1894 New York Giants lined up in right field at the Polo Grounds before the decisive game of their sweep of the Orioles. The guy holding the flag in the middle is back-up catcher Parke Wilson, and standing to his left (our right) is the unmistakable mustache of should-be Hall of Famer, centerfielder George Van Haltren. The fellow in the striped jacket could easily be Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie. Certainly the man next to him in the dark sweater
with the big glove is catcher Duke Farrell, and, to his left, in the other sweater, is Game Four starting pitcher Jouett Meekin. At the far right of the picture, seemingly just ambling up to the line, is no less a figure than Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward. Ward is not only the Giants’ second baseman and manager, but the organizer of that first players’ union that precipitated the end of the game as they knew it and made the Temple Cup necessary.
As Ward begat the Players League and Chase Temple offered up The Temple Cup, Mrs. John Ward had a hand in this, too. As the actress Helen Dauvray, she had been such a fan that the Dauvray Cup for the Winners of the World’s Championship Series from 1887 through 1890 – manufactured by Tiffany’s – had been her idea.
Between Meekin and Ward, if you think you see a horse, I don’t think you’re wrong. Keep reading. And those are three small engines perched outside the stadium. The 8th Avenue Elevated Line not only ran directly from downtown Manhattan to the Polo Grounds on 155th Street, but the precursor to the city’s subway system had a storage yard behind leftfield. The yards would still be there in the 1940’s, and the “El Train” until the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958.
TempleFarrell.jpg
Yeah, well, maybe.

I’m thinking Duke Farrell is actually acknowledging the photographer shouting at him. And he wasn’t the only one. That’s Van Haltren again at the far left, in his quilted pants (useful both for sliding and for warmth – it is October 8, 1894, after all). A little further back is, I believe, left fielder Eddie Burke. Farrell would later become the first coach for the Yankees (1909). At the far right, still holding his flag, is backup receiver Parke Wilson. And there’s the El Train in the background, along with the confirmation of the horse. This was not necessarily some precursor to the Phillies’ on-field mounted police brigade during the 9th Inning of their World Series win in 1980; for a small fee, season ticket holders could park their Broughams and other horse-drawn affairs in the outfield. 
TempleMeekin.jpg
George Jouett Meekin is not bowing, certainly not to the “rooters.”
But he took quite a few bows that season. After three mediocre years with Louisville and Washington (29-51), Meekin flourished in his first season in New York (33-9, 41 complete games, and this while striking out 137 and walking 176 in his 418 innings of work). Meekin was one of the new generation of fireballers who had been the impetus for the last great change in baseball just a year earlier – when the pitcher was moved back from a “box” fifty feet from the plate, to a mound located sixty feet, six inches away (his teammate Rusie, who won 36 games that year, and a fellow in Cleveland named Denton “Cyrus” or “Cyclone” or just plain “Cy” Young were the others). 
Relying on a side-arm delivery and absolutely no curveball, Jouett would twice again win 20 games, then get flipped to Boston in the middle of the 1899 pennant race in a controversial and some say smelly move by the Giants to try to secure Boston the crown. Though he’d give up two in the first to the Orioles today, he finished up with a five-hit victory, his second of the Series.
TempleTiernan.jpg
Oh come on! 
I have no doubt that this wonder of photo-mechanical reproduction fooled some of the readers of a general interest magazine in 1894, but you and I have seen quite a few more game-action shots and this isn’t one of them. Firstly, Giants’ right fielder Mike Tiernan does not appear to be exerting himself very much. Secondly, it’s doubtful that the shutter speeds of the day would have caught very much of him if he had been, say, running before his “great decisive throw.”
Also the game ended 16-3 New York, and the boxscore tells us none of the Giants’ outfielders got an assist that day. Tiernan also contributed only one hit and one putout to the New York cause (our friends Farrell, Meekin, and Van Haltren had three each). But Tiernan is surely worth being singled out by the photographer. In the days when almost no ballplayer lasted, Tiernan roamed that corner of the Polo Grounds for twelve and a half years until an injury abruptly ended his career in July of 1899. He had 1,838 career hits, batted .311 and slugged .462, stole 449 bases, and in that deadball era, he not only hit 105 homers but five times managed double digits in single seasons. And considering he was one of just 24 players to get 5,000 At Bats in National League play before 1900, I think he should be in the Hall of Fame.
Note, by the way, the ads behind “Silent Mike”: for the newspaper “The New York American,” The Pennsylvania Railroad, and “White’s Yucatan Gum.” In a time-travel short story by the late Jack Finney, the hero arrives in a just-slightly altered New York of 1962 where the top-selling auto brand is the Stutz, there was a President Coopernagel, the Giants never moved to San Francisco, and the most popular gum is…Yucatan.
TempleWilson.jpg
To borrow my friend Gary Cohen’s phrase: “And the ballgame is over!”

Obviously it isn’t. The other Giants are still warming up behind the pennant and the shadows are all the same as in the “pre-game” shots. 18 hits and 16 runs by the Giants and they sweep the Temple Cup and you missed getting a single shot of the entire game? I’m not even convinced that’s Parke Murphy holding the flag. Looks more like the pitcher, Meekin. And there is that same horse, just to the right of the flag.
Why do I keep mentioning the horse? Again, from Lansche’s The Forgotten Championships:
During the seventh inning, two horses escaped from the grasp of their owners behind the ropes in center field, delaying the game several minutes before they were caught.
And today, we get worked up about a loose squirrel on the field.
TempleVictory.jpgOf course, they would have had to have taken their farewell tour before the game.

Okay, I’ll stop being so picky. These are photos of the long-forgotten Temple Cup, and its long-forgotten winners, the ’94 Giants. Some of the player ID’s are clear now: the thin guy just to the left of flag-bearer Parke Wilson appears to be Mike Tiernan. On the other side, with the ‘stache, is George Van Haltren. Not sure who’s next, but the four furthest right are Amos Rusie (I believe), Duke Farrell, Jouett Meekin, and – his stride here confirms it – Johnny Ward. Somewhere in that group is one more Hall of Famer, Giants’ third baseman George Stacey Davis. It’s too bad the Orioles didn’t wander over to the “Illustrated American” photographer. John McGraw was the third baseman on that team, and among his teammates, Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wee Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley and Wilbert Robinson all went to Cooperstown (as did non-playing manager Ned Hanlon).
In fact, if you’d attended Game Three the day before, you would have seen exactly 18 Orioles and Giants on the field, and with Rusie pitching for New York, fully half of them were to be Hall of Famers.
Of course, with these photos – you sort of did go to that game, didn’t you?
Ironically the Hall of Fame doesn’t have any Temple Cup photos, but stored in its refrigerated archives, just behind a beer vendor’s case from Arlington Stadium from the 1970’s, is…
IMG_0951.jpg
IMG_0954.jpg
…the Temple Cup. Complete with guy who broke it (not really – it’s supposed to do that).
And if you think anything has really changed from the baseball of 1894 and the Temple Cup, consider a detail from one of the magazine photos, with a detail of a shot I took after Game Six of the 2009 World Series, which took place literally the other side of the Harlem River, no more than a thousand yards from Game Four of the 1894 Temple Cup. Mr. Jouett Meekin on the left; Mr. Joba Chamberlain on the right.
TempleWilsonDetail.jpg

IMG_1402.JPG

Swinging At The Future; Whiffing At The Past

Two books to address today, one brand new, one kinda.

BASEBALL PROSPECTUS 2010
Edited by Steven Goldman and Christina Kahrl
John Wiley, $25.95
Two caveats: the publisher is putting out my next book, and this really isn’t a review, because by now if you’re a baseball fan and you don’t know what BP is, you’re working in a mine without one of those helmets with the lights on it.
This is more about the headlines from the annual phone-book-sized tub of prophecies these figure filberts put out, than it is any kind of assessment of the publication as a hole, because we don’t really know how good each year’s edition is until after the season is over. But for once, there shouldn’t be much argument about what is the Statistical Reduction crowd’s biggest forecast for the season ahead: The collapse of Derek Jeter.
OK, “collapse” is a little strong. The actuarial tables of the game again prompt the editors to call Jeter’s team “still the class of MLB,” but they pummel the Captain personally. He finished 2009 at 18-66-.334-.406-.465 with 107 runs and 30 steals. BP sees 2010 as 11-58-.286-.359-.401 with 67 runs and 10 steals. 
As I understand the formulas with which the BP numbers are calculated, there is room for a dollop of common sense and/or extenuating circumstances. But mostly the stats-to-come are generated, in Jeter’s case, by comparing him to what happened to every 14-year veteran going into his 15th season, and what happened to every 35-year-old shortstop as he turned 36, and employing every other demographic comparison in baseball history. And the loss of 48 points of batting average and 40 runs and 64 points of slugging percentage, is the evident result.
It actually gets worse. The one BP number that gives you the best overall sense of a player’s total worth to his team is VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). In short, it measures in net runs (how many more do you score, how many fewer does the other team score) what were to happen if the player in question was suddenly reduced by the average bench guy. Last year, Derek Jeter’s VORP was 71.2 (Albert Pujols’ was 100.1), meaning if he had quit on Opening Day 2009 to be replaced full-time by Ramiro Pena, the number of fewer runs the Yankees would’ve scored, plus the number of more runs they would have allowed, would’ve been 71.
Jeter’s predicted 2010 VORP is just 20 – a loss of 51.2 when nobody else in the majors is predicted to lose more than 37.2 (and that’s Joe Mauer, by the way. The BP folks readily admit that their formulae tend to punish spectacular seasons). Merging the topics of catching and the Yankees, BP sees Jorge Posada dropping from 22-81-.285-.522 to 12-49-.263-.445 (and losing 21 VORP points in the process).
If BP is right, there are similar harrowing declines ahead for Ryan Howard (to hit .249 this year), and Michael Young (.297), and Kevin Youkilis (22-86-.283), and David Aardsma (15 saves). On the other hand, it sees Nick Johnson emerging to lead the AL in On Base Pecentage, Kelly Johnson to rebound in Arizona, Jeremy Hermida to blossom in Boston, and Geovany Soto to comeback in Chicago. Certainly two of the stranger computer-generated forecasts: Chris Davis with 33 homers, and your 2010 Major League Saves leader: Joakim Soria with 43 in Kansas City.
There’s also something in here about Rickie Weeks blossoming, but I think that may have been accidentally left over from the 2009 edition. Or the 2008. Or the 2007. Or the 2006…
THE FIRST FALL CLASSIC
THE RED SOX, THE GIANTS, AND THE CAST OF PLAYERS, PUGS, AND POLITICOS WHO REINVENTED THE WORLD SERIES IN 1912
By Mike Vaccaro
Doubleday, $26.95

More than 30 years ago I made an enemy for life of a baseball writer named Maury Allen. I panned his biography of Casey Stengel because I felt he had forfeited the credibility of the book’s essence – exclusive, heretofore unpublished anecdotes and quotes – because he had made so many simple historical mistakes. Allen had the Polo Grounds in which Stengel played and managed off-and-on for 50 years overlooking the Hudson River, when it in fact overlooked the Harlem River, a no-brainer mistake that nobody who had lived in New York for more than three weeks would make.
My point was not that it was fatal to make a few dozen such flubs, but that if I as the presumably less-expert reader could spot such obvious mistakes, how many more of them were in there that I wasn’t smart enough to catch? And why would I trust the accuracy of the quotes and the stories as offered by a writer who couldn’t keep his basic geography straight? If you could switch the Hudson for the Harlem, you could – I don’t know – switch Hugh Casey for Casey Stengel.

Sadly, this dynamic is reproduced in Vaccaro’s book about the epic eight-game World Series of 1912 between the Giants and Red Sox. The Series – and the topic – had everything: a dubious tie game, the first year of Fenway Park, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, President John F. Kennedy’s grandfather, and the year Smoky Joe Wood won 37 of the 120 games (regular season and World Series) he would win in his lifetime. 
For an obsessive historian with a gift for composition, like my friend Josh Prager of The Echoing Green fame, the 1912 Series would basically sing itself and he would write down the notes as quickly as he could. I truly hoped this book would be like this (I went out and bought it retail – the ultimate sign of respect by somebody in the same business) and given the volume of startling stories and the in-the-clubhouse quotes from men dead half a century and more, Mike Vaccaro certainly seems to have tried to make it like that.

But I can’t trust him. The book is riddled with historical mistakes, most of them seemingly trivial, some of them hilarious. One of them is particularly embarrassing. Vaccaro writes of the Giants’ second year in their gigantic stadium, the Polo Grounds:

…to left field, the official measurement was 277 feet, but the second deck extended about twenty feet over the lower grandstand, meaning if you could get a little air under the ball you could get yourself a tidy 250-foot home run…

Unfortunately this wasn’t true until 1923. Any photograph of the 1912 World Series showing left field, indeed any photo of the new Polo Grounds in its first twelve years of use, clearly

Vaccaro Wood.jpg

shows that the second deck ends thirty or forty feet to the left of the foul pole, and the seats in fair territory are the bleachers. 
There are, in fact, actually at least two photos showing Joe Wood, with the Red Sox in the Polo Grounds, which show, in the background behind him, either the left field foul line leading directly to the bleachers, not a double deck, or, the left field foul pole standing like a lone tree with no “extended” deck even close to it.
One of him, warming up, is included in Vaccaro’s book, right after page 146.

That’s it, on the right. The white stripe next to
his glove, is the left field foul line.
The other photograph – the background largely washed out but with the undecked left field corner still vaguely visible – shows him shaking hands with the Giants’ Jeff Tesreau, and it was chosen for publication on the cover of Vaccaro’s book, below.

Sigh.
Vaccaro Cover.jpg
The most often-repeated of the mess-ups, and thus both the most annoying and the most damaging, is Vaccaro’s insistence about Boston Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, arch Sox fan and grandfather of the future president, around whom Vaccaro tries to develop a political thread to the book and who gets nearly as much attention from him as Tris Speaker or Mathewson. Four times in the book, Vaccaro notes that Fitzgerald liked to sing, or was singing, or was about to sing, his theme song “Sweet Adelaide.” There may have been such a song, but it wasn’t a favorite of Honey Fitz (or presumably of anybody else). The Mayor, as any political historian, or adult over 65, or anyone who’s ever encountered a Barbershop Quartet, or any Marx Brothers buff, could tell you, sang “Sweet Adeline,” an incredibly popular song published in 1903 that Groucho and company later performed in “Monkey Business.”
Of the remaining twenty or so that I caught, most have clearer connections to the sport itself. Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey becomes Rixley, 1912 Red Sox infielder Steve Yerkes becomes Sam, Redland Field in Cincinnati becomes “brand-new Crosley Field” (it wasn’t renamed Crosley Field until 1934 and the radio baron who did it was still a 20-something developing automobiles in Muncie, Indiana, when Redland Field was brand-new in 1912). 

There is a lot of historical tone-deafness – particularly distressing considering Mr. Vaccaro often covers the Yankees. He recounts a conversation among McGraw and New York sportswriters about the Giants taking in the American League New York Highlanders as tenants at the Polo Grounds for the 1913 season. Vaccaro quotes the famed Damon Runyon telling McGraw that his paper’s headline writers have a new name intended for the team: The Yankees. McGraw is quoted as wondering if it will catch on in 1913. Even if the mistake originates elsewhere, it should’ve rung untrue to Vaccaro: The name “Yankees” had been used on the baseball cards as earlyYankees1912.jpg as 1911, and on a team picture issued by one of the New York papers in 1907. If McGraw and Runyon hadn’t heard the name “Yankees” by the time of the 1912 World Series, they’d both had undiagnosed hearing problems for five years.

Vaccaro also has a lot of trouble with geography. He indicates that Giants’ owner John Brush had a mansion in “upstate Pelham Manor” even though the town is essentially parallel to 241st Street in Northern Manhattan. He mocks the nickname “Swede” for Danish-born Boston outfielder Olaf Henriksen as an indication that baseball didn’t worry about geography in assigning monickers. But until 1905 Denmark was part of a union with Norway, and as late as the early 1800’s, those two countries were trying to reestablish a medieval tripartite union with Sweden. For all we know, Henriksen might have considered himself Swedish.
There are also mistakes so convoluted as to be baffling. Vaccaro writes of the fabulous game-saving catch by the Giants’ Josh Devore in Game Three:

“I took it over my left shoulder and with my bare hand although I clapped my glove on it right away and hung on like a bulldog in a tramp,” Evans would soon tell the mountain of reporters…

Evans? The catch was by Josh Devore. Evans – Billy Evans – was the umpire who confirmed the out. Later, there is the inexplicable observation that during the tense eighth game, so much of Manhattan was at the then-popular newspaper scoreboards that “Schoolrooms were scarce.” While this was doubtless as true in the New York of 1912 as it is in the city of 2010, it wouldn’t seem to have anything to do with baseball. Students in schoolrooms, yes. The rooms themselves?
The mistakes – and there are probably a dozen more – matter only in this context. When I read Vaccaro’s account of a supposed conversation, after the Red Sox took a 3-1 lead in games, between Boston’s owner and manager that clearly implies that the owner ordered the manager to hold back his ace pitcher in hopes Boston might lose the next game and thus gain the income from one more game in Fenway, I’m not inclined to take Vaccaro’s word for it. Because, lastly and most damningly, this may be how he researched the book. Years after retirement, Boston’s Hall of Fame centerfielder Tris Speaker went back to the minors as an executive. Vaccaro writes he would:

…become a part owner of the American Association, a top Triple-A-level minor league…”

In fact, Speaker would become a part owner not of the league, but of one of the teams in the league, the Kansas City Blues.
You know where else this mistake turns up?

Post professional career
In 1929 Speaker replaced Walter Johnson as the manager of the Newark Bears of the International League, a post he held for two years. He became a part owner of the American Association. The announcement of Speaker’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame was made in January, 1937

Yep. Tris Speaker’s Wikipedia page.

How sad.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,864 other followers