In my last post, I covered the 6 guys who had cards in both the 19th and 21st century Goodwin Champions set – 3 of whom were baseball players. The 1888 set had 5 other baseball players. I’ll compare them to another player in the current set in this post.
Jack Glasscock was the best defensive shortstop of the 1880’s. During the 1888 season, he was in his second of 3 years with the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the National League. It’s a bit amazing to me that Indianapolis had a baseball team back in the day. Glasscock followed the franchise through many of its changes. He was with the franchise when it was the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association, which only existed in 1884. When the Union Association folded, the Maroons moved to the National League. It was tough to gain a foothold in St. Louis, though, because the American Association’s most successful franchise (the Browns) was already located in St. Louis. In 1887, the club moved to Indy, but they folded after the 1889 season.
Glasscock led the NL in fielding percentage 7 times and assists 6 times. These were both records until another St. Louis defensive wizard came along at shortstop 100 years later. The wizard himself, Ozzie Smith, is included in the 2011 set.
Tim Keefe of the New York Giants was the best pitcher in the game in the mid-1880’s and he remained one of the best for a number of years. The best analogy I could find with Keefe in the 2011 Goodwin Champions set was the great Steve Cartlon. These two pitchers sit right next to each other on the all-time W list. Carlton’s 329 wins places him 11th all-time, while Keefe’s 342 wins ranks him 10th (and 3rd in the 1880’s). Both pitchers maintained dominance deep into their careers. Keefe almost always found himself on pennant contenders, while Carlton is often thought of as having been a dominant pitcher on poor teams. That said, both pitchers were on two teams that won World Championships.
Bob Caruthers was a good hitting pitcher who also played the field. He started off with the St. Louis Browns in the American Association, and was an important part of 3 of their 4 consecutive American Association titles. In 1885 and 1886, he became one of the team’s two primary pitchers, winning 40 games to lead the league the first year. He got the nickname Parisian Bob for negotiating his contract from Paris in 1886. That year, he began playing the outfield when he wasn’t pitching, and he actually became one of the better hitters in the league, leading St. Louis to the only win by an American Association team over an NL squad in the World’s Series. He placed in the top 5 in batting, slugging and OBP in both 1886 and 1887, including leading the league in OBP and OPS in 1886. But when St. Louis lost the World’s Series in 1887, owner Chris von der Ahe blamed Caruthers, and sold his contract to Brooklyn. The team’s other pitcher/hitter/fielder, Dave Foutz, was also sold to Brooklyn.
Bob’s hitting suffered over the next few years, but he was still a great pitcher. He again led the league in wins, yet again reaching 40 victories in 1889 and getting back to the World’s Series for his 4th time after leading Brooklyn to the American Association title. The next year, Brooklyn defected to the National League, and Caruthers helped them to the NL pennant. He was the third pitcher that year, and as the team used 2 pitchers, he only played the field in the World’s Series. However, he and Foutz are the only 2 players to make it to 5 of the World’s Series. They won 1, tied 2 and lost 2 of those attempts. Caruthers finished his career with an incredible winning percentage and a record of 218-99.
I could have gone with Monte Ward, who started out as a pitcher but then became a full-time hitter. But he was from the same era so that didn’t seem right. Bob Gibson is also in the set, and he was a great hitting pitcher. But I decided instead to go with the reverse, someone who was an excellent hitter who tried his hand at pitching – though not successfully! Like Caruthers, Jose Canseco was viewed as a bit of a malcontent. Also like Caruthers, his statistics show that he should at least be considered for the Hall of Fame – though the steroids obviously takes away from that.
Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap is never going to be confused with a Hall of Famer, but he was an excellent second baseman for a number of years in the 1880’s. He had one truly great season leading the St. Louis Maroons to the pennant in Union Association’s ony year of existence. He led the league in batting, runs scored and home runs, and most certainly would have been the league’s MVP had they had such an award. St. Louis moved to the National League the next year, and their performance is the best evidence that the decision to acknowledge the Union Association as a Major League is questionable at best – they finished in last place in their first year in the senior circuit. Dunlap never had nearly the year he’d had in 1884, but he was still as solid defender and the best player on a bad team. Later in his career, he was a grizzled veteran on the World Champion Detroit ballclub.
Ryne Sandberg seemed the best choice – he’s a second baseman who was always great defensively and at times had some great offensive seasons. Unlike Dunlap, he’s certainly deserving of the Hall of Fame, and was inducted in 2005. In a different sport, I thought Grant Hill was a pretty good parallel to Dunlap’s career as well.
Finally, both sets have a baseball player who just doesn’t seem to belong. Ed Andrews was a lifetime .257 hitter who never played on a pennant winner. He might be most famous just for the fact that he has a card in the Goodwin Champions set. This was an easy choice in the 2011 set, too. Canseco may be the second least accomplished player in the 2011 set (except for the rookies they included). But he had over 450 home runs, was the first 40-40 man in history and will always be a notable baseball figure. Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd is card #178. He is best remembered for his cool nickname, but his lifetime record of 78-77 is hardly inspiring, and he never made an All-Star team.