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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best
Monday, February 24, 2003
1875 National Association
jimd’s summary is in the discussion below.
1875 saw the culmination of the Boston dynasty, Harry Wright’s most dominant team. Here are the standings:
Final Standings W L PCT GB Adjusted Standings W L PCT GB Boston 71 8 .899 -- Boston 144 12 .926 -- Phil. Athletics 53 20 .726 15.0 Phil. Athletics 125 31 .801 19 Hartford 54 28 .659 18.5 Hartford 114 42 .731 30 St. Louis Browns 39 29 .574 26.5 St. Louis Browns 110 46 .708 34 Phil. Pearls 37 31 .544 28.5 Phil. Pearls 104 42 .669 40 Chicago 30 37 .448 35.0 Chicago 98 58 .628 46 New York 30 38 .441 35.5 New York 93 63 .596 51 St. Louis Reds 4 15 .211 37.0 Phil. Centennials 62 94 .394 82 Washington 5 23 .179 40.5 New Haven 43 113 .277 101 New Haven 7 40 .149 48.0 Washington 43 113 .276 101 Phil. Centennials 2 12 .143 37.5 St. Louis Reds 35 121 .221 109 Keokuk 1 12 .077 38.0 Brooklyn 26 130 .169 118 Brooklyn 2 42 .045 51.5 Keokuk 16 140 .104 128
Boston didn’t just get fat on the club teams either, this team was incredible, probably the most dominant in major league history. They played at least .750 against every team in the league. The Pearls played them the best, taking 2-of-8. Here are what the standings would have looked like if you cut ‘major’ league off with New York, the logical place to draw the line:
Final Standings W L PCT GB Boston 139 23 .861 -- Phil. Athletics 102 60 .726 37 Hartford 82 80 .507 57 St. Louis Browns 76 86 .468 63 Phil. Pearls 65 97 .404 74 Chicago 55 107 .340 84 New York 47 115 .291 92
I’m just thankful the one season where NY finished 92 games behind Boston concluded 97 years before I was born, and 15 years before my great-grandmother was born.
1875 was in many respects like 1872. A lot of new teams joined, Boston couldn’t be beaten, most of the new teams couldn’t compete, and they folded.
In the east, Washington was back for more punishment, somebody thought that Philadelphia needed a third team, and if Hartford had a team, well then New Haven, CT, had to have one too, being a bigger city (at this time).
In the west, St. Louis (larger than Chicago in the 1870 Census) had not one but two groups backing teams, one with Brown Stockings, the other Red. And representing the ultimate in micro-markets: the Westerns from Keokuk, Iowa.
The Centennials (Philly’s 3rd team) didn’t make it to that celebration, folding in late May. The Westerns ended it in June, Washington in early July, leaving their players stranded in St. Louis. The St. Louis Reds never officially quit, they just stopped going on road trips, so other teams stopped visiting them. New Haven and Brooklyn also didn’t quit, though they probably should have.
Davey Force signed a contract with Chicago, then signed another with the A’s. This was not without precedent, but what was surprising was when the league’s Judiciary Committee upheld the A’s contract, not Chicago’s. Chicago’s backer, William Hulbert was livid, and even Harry Wright spoke out against the decision. The case would have little effect on the 1875 season, but set in motion forces that would result in the end of the Association and the founding of the National League.
On May 18th, Boston (16-0) and Hartford (12-0) met in Hartford in the biggest game of the year. Boston won 10-5, and kept rolling, finally losing on June 5th in St. Louis 5-4 after 26 straight wins. Hartford would not defeat Boston until the last game of the year, spoiling Boston’s bid to finish over .900.
Sometime in July, Deacon White let the cat out of the bag to Harry Wright; Chicago had signed Spalding, Barnes, McVey, and White for the following season. The Whites had imploded two years before after a similar revelation; Boston rolled on, putting together a season that still is one of the most dominant of all time.
Standing split: Big 7 vs Little 6
Big-7 185-185 129- 6 Little-6 6-129 15-15
Team by team breakdowns vs Big-7 and Little-6
Big-7 Little-6 Boston 48- 7 23-1 Philadelphia 32-19 21-1 Hartford 28-27 26-1 St. Louis 26-28 13-1 Phil. Whites 20-31 17-0 Chicago 18-36 12-1 New York 13-37 17-1 St.L. Reds 0-13 4-2 Washington 0-20 5-3 New Haven 5-33 2-7 Centennials 1-12 1-0 Keokuk 0-10 1-2 Brooklyn 0-41 2-1
The Silver Sluggers for 1875:
1B - Cal McVey (BOS) .355/.356/.517 (age 24); the league leader in OPS
2B - Ross Barnes (BOS) .364/.375/.443 (age 25) Bill Craver (PHI) .311/.323/.455 (age 31) is 6th in the league in OPS+, but Barnes is 4th. Meyerle (PHW) and Paul Hines (CHI) are 7th and OPS+8th; 2B is still stacked.
SS - George Wright (BOS) .333/.337/.431 (age 28)
3B - Ezra Sutton (PHI) .324/.326/.402 (age 24)
LF - George Hall (PHI) .299/.305/.427 (age 26); Andy Leonard (BOS) .321/.324/.394 (age 29) is right there with him (the A’s play in what looks like the best hitter’s park)
CF - Lip Pike (SLB) .346/.352/.494 (age 30); the league leader in OPS+ (St. Louis looks like quite a pitcher’s park by conventional measurements).
RF - Cap Anson (PHI) .325/.333/.390 (age 23); I could declare this position vacant (Anson only played 23 games there) or give the award to Jack Manning (BOS) .270/.274/.328 (age 21), a league average hitter and Boston’s backup/relief pitcher/right fielder.
C - Deacon White (BOS) .367/.372/.453 (age 27)
P - Al Spalding (BOS) .312/.318/.373 (age 24)
Tommy Bond (HAR) edged his teammate Candy Cummings for the ERA+ title 166 to 162; Spalding and Joe Borden (PHI) were both in the ERA+ 150’s. Cummings is the new strikeout king with 82K and a 1.77 K/9IP. (b-r.com has him with only 8K, probably a typo, again) and the leader in least walks issued at .13 BB/9IP.
Bob Ferguson was brought into Hartford to replace Lip Pike as manager. He put together a great pitching/defense team; despite playing in a hitter’s park, they led the association in preventing runs (edging Boston), only 65% of league average, 77% of the Big-7 average. Ferguson essentially cleaned house, retaining only Everett Mills from the year before, and bringing in Cummings and Bond as pitchers.
The band of roving Whites moved on from Chicago, looking for a team that could challenge Boston. Force to the A’s, Cuthbert to St. Louis, Meyerle and Malone back to the Philly Pearls, where they were joined by Treacey after the Centennials folded, and Zettlein after he and Chicago parted ways mid-season.
The A’s were the best of the challengers; they beefed up with Davy Force, George Hall, Dave Eggler, and Bill Craver (after the Centennials went under), but were still not good enough.
July 28, 1875. Joe “Josephs” pitches the only no-hitter in Association history for the Philadelphia Pearls against Chicago. His real name was Borden, he didn’t want his father to know he was a professional ballplayer. Also, the rookie had just made his debut four days earlier.
Leonard and Hall is a toss-up in LF; Jim O’Rourke is a respectable runnerup in CF; Manning is possibly the best candidate in the hitter’s void that is RF in 1875. Harry Schafer is the only non-slugger in Boston’s power-packed lineup. They were pretty close to being the National Association All-Star team, perhaps not surprising when you win 90% of your games.
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