Updating the first 3 parts of last year’s comparisons between the 1887 and 2011 Gypsy Queen sets from last year seemed to work well. Now I’m showing the next 4 comparisons – updated for a year later.
The Up and Coming Star
At the time of the release of the Gypsy Queen cards, Sam Thompson was still a young player by any baseball standards. In 1886, Thompson played his first full season for the Detroit Wolverines of the National League (a team that would eventually disband). “Big Sam” showed a lot of promise, hitting .310 and scoring over 100 runs. His 1887 season was historic – he knocked over 200 hits, including 23 triples, while batting .372. All those totals led the league, but his 166 RBI set an all-time single season record that lasted for 34 years before Babe Ruth broke it. Thompson was the only player in the 19th century with over 150 RBI in a season, and he did it twice (165 in 1895 for Philadelphia). He retired as the active leader in RBI and was 2nd all-time in home runs. Thompson would certainly have been the National League MVP had the award existed in 1887 – just as Joey Votto earned the award for the Reds last year.
Man. If you are a big baseball fan, you know that Votto solidified his status as the one of the best in the game last year. But he wasn’t quite as good in 2011 as in his 2010 MVP year. Kind of weird – he had a great year last year, but his numbers were slightly less, so I think he wasn’t viewed quite as the best in the game. But, I can tell you – as a Reds fan – the other team pitches around him every time they are able. Jay Bruce has 9 homers right now because he has this awesome dude 2 spots in front of him who gets 1 or 2 acceptable pitches per at bat. I’m sticking with Votto here. The other player who would fit is B.J. Upton, but Votto still is, at this point, what Sam Thompson was in 1887.
Charles Radbourn. Otherwise known as “Old Hoss”. When I was young, my mom used to make my brother and I stay in for an hour every summer and read right after lunch. It was to keep us intelligent, and probably to keep us from being in the sun in the middle of the day. So what I often read was the baseball encyclopedia – and I was always enthralled by the season Old Hoss had in 1884, when he set the standard with some records that will clearly never be broken. Radbourn started his career pitching for the Providence Grays in 1881. The rules were different then – and teams generally went with a two-man rotation. Often the better of the two pitchers would pitch back-to-back games. Radbourn was becoming the best pitcher in baseball – and he started 70% of the Grays games in 1883. That year he set a single-season record that year with 48 wins – but the Grays were beat out by teams that used their 2nd pitcher a bit more. The next season Radbourn had a truly great year. The Grays had signed and developed a young pitcher named Charles Sweeney, and began using him more at the start of the 1884 season. Sweeney struck out 19 batters in one game early in the season, and was being used more frequently, taking some starts away from Radbourn. However, Sweeney was kicked off the team for insubordination in the middle of the season, and Radbourn started almost every game from July on. ”Old Hoss” finished the season with 678 innings pitched – the 2nd most all-time. But he didn’t just pitch a lot – he was almost un-hittable. Over all those innings, he had an ERA of 1.38, winning 59 games and Completing 73 of the 75 games he started. Some sources credited him with 60 wins due to differences in official scoring rules from the time. The best-of-3 World Series was played at the Polo Grounds against the New York Metropolitans, champions of the American Association. Radbourn won all 3 games (they played the 3rd game even though Providence had clinched) without giving up an earned run. Radbourn pitched for 11 seasons, winning 209 games up against 194 losses, and was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame.
CC Sabathia best represents the “Workhorse” pitcher in today’s game. Its nothing like Radbourn’s stats in a very different game – but CC has never pitched less than 180 innings, even in his 2001 Rookie Year. He had 157 wins at the end of last season, and is well-known for pitching effectively on 3 days’ rest when needed. In 2008 when he was traded to Milwaukee, CC basically pitched them into the playoffs doing this. He is the only pitcher with double digits in complete games in any season since the start of the decade. Since the start of his career in 2001, he is tied with Roy Halladay with 162 wins and has more innings than all but 2 pitchers.
Ummm – Sabathia is still probably the answer here. But, I could also go Verlander. Because nobody was a workhorse, or the best pitcher like Old Hoss – quite like Verlander. But Justin hasn’t done it quite like CC! So – I’ll show both!
Best Pitcher on a Losing team
Last post I looked at “Old Hoss” Radbourn – who had the best season of any pitcher in the 1800′s. Radbourn had two unmatched seasons and was one of the best pitchers from the 19th century, but the best pitcher from a full career perspective was Pud Galvin. He started his career with Buffalo of the International Association – and joined the National League when his team did a few years later. He pitched for Buffalo and later Pittsburgh of the NL, and for the first 10 years of his career had an ERA under 3.00 all but one season. Galvin was the first 300-game winner in baseball history; his 363 wins are tied for 6th behind only Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander. This is particularly amazing considering the fact that he pitched 3 years for Buffalo before they joined the National League – at this time, the National League wasn’t undisputed as the only major league. So his actual win total could very possibly be around that of Johnson. Plus, he never pitched for a great team – neither his Buffalo or Pittsburgh squads ever won a pennant.
Felix Hernandez for seattle jumps to mind here. He may not be the best pitcher in the game – that has to be Roy Halladay – but he’s certainly in the top 5. Halladay, Sabathia, Lincecum, and Cliff Lee are the other guys in that argument. What do those 4 have in common? They’ve all been significant keys to a deep postseason run, while Seattle has only had 2 winning seasons with Hernandez there; they’ve only once finished as high as 2nd. He won last year’s Cy Young and has been the best AL pitcher, along with CC, over the past 2 years.
OK, Felix is again the easy choice here. Here’s his SP variation from 2012 – mini style.
Let me start by saying I preferred to have Charles Comiskey as my highlighted 1887 card here. Before becoming the infamous owner who was so cheap his players fixed the 1919 World Series, Comiskey played for 13 seasons, as a First Baseman and manager for the St. Louis Browns of the American Association. He amassed over 1500 hits and played in 4 of the early World’s Series as the Browns won 4 straight AA championships. Everything I’ve seen says that he has a card in the Gypsy Queen set. This would be most appropriate – a card of a future owner, just like Nolan Ryan.
But I couldn’t find a picture of it, so I went with a card of Comiskey’s owner during his days with the Browns. Chris von der Ahe bought the Browns in 1882 and moved them to the newly formed American Association. Like Comiskey and Bill Veeck after him, von der Ahe was the first owner who was as much the story as his players. He was an innovator, setting ticket prices lower than the NL games, in hopes that he’d make up on beer and food sales. When the Browns won the American Association for the first time, he decided to erect a statue outside Sportsman’s Park. He didn’t pick a statue of one of his star players; instead he built one of himself. Von der Ahe’s fall coincided with that of the American Association. After the Association folded in 1892, he signed on for the team to join the National League and changed their name to the Cardinals. But his manager, Comiskey, had gone and the team was regularly in last place. Around the turn of the century, mounting losses forced him to sell the team.
Nolan Ryan is the easy choice here – after 5700+ strikeouts and over 300 wins, he’s the one guy in this set who went on to be a team owner. And, he’s pictured in uniform for the team he would buy. Oh, and I did find a Comiskey card from the Old Judge Set. The Gypsy Queen card he has is likely of the same picture.
In honor of his being awesome, I put both the 2011 and 2012 Ryan Gypsy cards below. He won a World Series. He won a few ERA titles. If you didn’t notice, he won a few strikeout titles. Nolan Ryan, in fact, did count to infinity… twice! He can slam a revolving door, and he knows the last digit of ∏. So he gets the special treatment of me putting both cards below!