Some more looks at what I did last year – updated for this year….
Leaders Off the Diamond
There is a guy from the old set that had a noteworthy impact on the game away from the diamond. John Montgomery Ward (often known as Monte Ward). First, he was a great player who pitched, hit and managed. Ward broke away from his semi-pro team in 1878 as a pitcher for the National League Providence Grays. The next year, he won 47 games and led the team to a first place finish. He pitched the first perfect game in baseball history the next year. After that, he hurt his arm and started playing more and more in the field. He still pitched from time to time – and holds a record for the longest shutout in history – an 18 inning, 1-0 win in 1882. The Grays thought he was on the decline, and sold him to the New York Gothams (Giants) in 1883.
He tought himself to throw left-handed so he could play outfield while his arm healed in 1884. He then became the team’s every day shortstop. Ward graduated from Columbia Law School in 1885, and then led the formation of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players. The players had become frustrated with the reserve clause, which kept players from opening their services to multiple teams. This allowed owners to sign players to one year contracts without worry about moving teams. This clause would be the base of the struggle between owners and players for more than 80 years. They were initially successful – they gained the right to negotiate with other teams when their current team cut a players’ salary. He was a big part of Albert Spalding’s successful tour to promote the tour abroad in Hawaii, Australia, Egypt and Europe. While Spalding was gone with Ward and the rest of the star players, the other owners instituted a classification system and a salary cap of $2,500 per player. The owners refused to meet with Ward on this and they played the 1889 season under these rules. With negotiations going nowhere, Ward successfully created a new league called the Players’ League in 1890. He pulled over half of the National League players into the league, and the league had successful attendance numbers. But the profit-sharing system led to a revolt from the business owners, who sold many of their teams back to the National League. Ward went back to playing with the National League, retiring in 1894 to represent players in the coming years.
So, I want to do something different in 2012. Nothing against Jackie – he does have a card in 2012 Gypsy. It’s a nice card and I’ve featured it already on this blog. But, Roberto Clemente has an award named after him. And he is in the 2012 set – so, I’ll go with that!
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.
Well, it’s hard to argue against the Phillies Aces today. But their offense sucks! Oswalt is not longer there, Halladay has been good but not great and Lee is on the DL. Only Hamels has been a worthwhile Ace this year. But, a fellow division member now has the best starting five in the majors. Through Saturday’s games, the Nationals’ five starters had an ERA of 2.09 – and it’s only that high because Edwin Jackson is coming in at a still-respectable 3.69. Gypsy Queen doesn’t even have the 5th starter, Ross Detwiler.
World Series Champions
The 1886 World’s Series pitted the St. Louis Browns of the American Association against the Chicago White Stockings of the National League. It was quite possibly the most notable of the 7 World’s Series held between the NL and the AA. First, it was the only series won by the American Association. The Browns won 4 pennants in a row, going 1-2-1 in that span, but the other 3 were all NL victories. Additionally, it signaled the end of Chicago’s run as baseball’s first dynasty. This would be the last pennant they’d win for 20 years. The Gypsy Queen set featured primarily National League players, but they did feature cards of the WS champion Browns. Here is a comparison of the key members of that team – alongside similar players from the 2010 champions, the San Francisco Giants. For this year’s Gypsy Queen set, I get to compare the 2011 champions, who happen to be the same franchise – the St. Louis Browns of the 1880’s eventually moved leagues and became the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Browns best hitter was outfielder Tip O’Neill. In 1886, O’Neill led the Browns’ position players in hitting, slugging, OBP, hits and RBI (of note – Bob Caruthers, the team’s 2nd pitcher, may have actually had an even better hitting year than O’Neill). O’Neill was one year shy of a truly historic season. In 1887, he wasn’t just the best hitter on the Browns, who again won the AA. O’Neill posted what is probably the 2nd best season in the 19th century, behind only Hugh Duffy’s 1894 season. He won the triple crown and led the league in every major offensive category except stolen bases. He set an incredible number of records – many of which were only outdistanced by Duffy in 1894. This included: Average (.435), OBP (.490), SLG (.691), H (225), 2B (52), R (167), TB (357). Hemerely led the league in HR, 3B and RBI. Aubrey Huff was the Giants best hitter last year – he had a truly underrated season. He led the team in hits, runs, HR, RBI, was just behind his college teammate Pat Burrell in SLG.
Well, the guy for this one is no longer with the Cardinals, and he’s been about the worst player in baseball in the first month of the 2012 season. But Albert Pujols was obviously the best hitter on last year’s World Champions.
Dave Foutz, along with 2nd hurler Caruthers, pitched the Browns to the title in 1886. Foutz went 41-16 with a 2.11 ERA and threw over 500 innings. He was the best pitcher in baseball that year – he led the AA in wins and ERA. After splitting 4 decisions and giving up just a 0.62 ERA in the 1885 World Series (the Browns and Chicago tied this series), Foutz went 1-1 in the 1886 “Fall Classic”. It was actually Caruthers who won 2 of his 3 decisions. Perhaps all the innings wore down Foutz – he had 3 solid seasons, 1885-1887, though he won only 25 games and saw his ERA balloon to 3.87 in 1887. He wouldn’t pitch a full season after the 1887 campaign, though he continued on with Brooklyn for almost another decade as a first baseman. Tim Lincecum is the obvious choice here – the two-time Cy Young winner is clearly the team’s Ace.
Easy one and a good one – though he’s missed the month of April, Chris Carpenter was the shut down guy last year. He not only propelled the Cardinals to the World Series, but the biggest thing he did was shut the door on Philly in the Division Series with a 3-hit shutout to beat Roy Halladay, 1-0.
Soul of the Team
I wouldn’t want to have any reference to the Giants’ 2011 season without including Buster Posey! Posey led the club in hitting, provided leadership behind the plate for the young staff – all during his first season. Naturally, he won the Rookie of the Year. Arlie Latham was the “spark plug” of the 1886 champion Browns. Latham led the league with 152 runs and was an excellent base stealer. Meanwhile, he was a known practical joker – often playing pranks on his owner (Chris von der Ahe) or manager (Charlie Comiskey). He made some notable history later in his life – he was the first full-time coach in baseball, hired so by John McGraw in the early 1900′s. He is also (still) the oldest man to steal a base – he played in 4 games for McGraw in a pinch in 1909, almost 15 years after his retirement.
Another one that fits here – let’s go with the hometown hero, World Series MVP David Freese!
So that’s the last of my individual player comparisons from the two Gypsy Queen sets, 125 years apart. I’ll continue on with some other posts about Gypsy Queen over the next week-plus, similar to what I do with other sets.