2011 vs. 1887 Gypsy Queen #9 – Aces Wild

2 06 2011

Note that I couldn’t find a Gypsy Queen picture of Mickey Welsh, but was able to find one of him in the Old Judge set – I’ve included this as the Gypsy Queen card likely uses this or a similar photo.

Rotation of Aces

In the 1880’s, professional baseball teams usually had a rotation of just two pitchers.  In fact, usually the team had one superior pitcher and a supporting staff member.  The first pitcher would usually take up most of the starts – many times 2 out of 3 or more.  Mickey Welch became that pitcher when the New York Gothams (Giants) were formed in the 1883 season – he took over the heavier load of 54 games while Montgomery Ward, who was battling an arm injury and transitioning to a position player, took the lighter load of 30+ starts.  Welch had an even heavier load, and a better year in 1884, but the Giants weren’t good enough to compete for the National League pennant.

The next year, the owner purchased the contract of an even greater pitcher, Tim Keefe from the New York club in the American Association.  This put 2 future Hall-of-Fame, 300-game winners together on the same team.  In the first year, Welch won 44 games in a slightly heavier workload and Keefe won 32; both posted an ERA under 1.75.  The team finished an incredible 85-27, but was actually edged out by the last of 2 great seasons from Cap Anson’s Chicago dynasty.  The duo was almost as good the next year, as Keefe won 42 games and Welch won 33 in almost equal workloads, but again Chicago was the class of the league.  The duo wasn’t quite as good the next year, but the club went on to take the NL pennant and the World’s Series championships in both 1888 and 1889.

The formation of the Player’s League in 1890 saw Keefe leave the team.  All told, the duo won a combined 324 games in the 5-year span.  It was the first time a team had signed a complete rotation of “Aces” – something we just saw Philadelphia do this past year when they added Cliff Lee to their rotation alongside Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

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