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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
1876 National League
Once again, jimd’s thoughts are in the discussion:
Standings W L PCT GB Adjusted Standings W L PCT GB Chicago 52 14 .788 -- Chicago 128 33 .794 -- Hartford 47 21 .691 6.0 St.Louis 115 46 .717 13 St.Louis 45 19 .703 6.0 Hartford 112 49 .694 16 Boston 39 31 .557 15.0 Boston 90 71 .557 38 Louisville 30 36 .455 22.0 Louisville 75 86 .467 53 New York 21 35 .375 26.0 New York 61 100 .379 67 Philadelphia 14 45 .237 34.5 Philadelphia 39 122 .245 89 Cincinnati 9 56 .136 42.5 Cincinnati 24 137 .146 104
If you look at the 3 worst teams, only Philadelphia had more than one or two legit major leaguers. Also the three teams were by far the worst fielding teams in the league. Removing them from the standings would produce these records:
Standings W L PCT GB Chicago 112 48 .700 -- St. Louis 94 66 .589 18 Hartford 89 71 .558 23 Boston 61 99 .379 51 Louisville 44 116 .273 68
From a historical viewpoint, 1876 is notable for the replacement of the “National Association of Professional Baseball Players” by the “National League of Professional Baseball Clubs”. The change in name is important, because it reflects the overall shift in power from the players, who ran the Association through player representatives on various committees, to the financial backers, who ran the League. This was all set in motion by William Hulbert of Chicago, who did not take well the controversial decision against his club in the Davey Force contract case the previous year.
The baseball fan of 1876 may not have noticed much difference, however, depending on which city he was located in. It was essentially the same players playing for essentially the same teams, with the usual amount of turnover in both. (Some fans may have noticed a raise in ticket price to 50 cents, now a League policy; others may have noticed the ban on alcohol sales or the ban on Sunday games, also League policies.)
Six teams were back from 1875. Boston, New York, and the Athletics were original founders of both organizations; Chicago, Hartford, and St. Louis were more recent additions to the Association. Cincinnati and Louisville were the two new teams. Six of the eight largest markets were represented. Baltimore and Brooklyn were missing; Louisville was the next best choice for a western team, unless you wanted to add New Orleans or San Francisco, both of which may have been too far away to be practical for that era. Hartford was too small (not even top-30 in market size), but had too good a team (2nd in wins, 3rd in percentage in 1875) to be excluded.
The defection of the Big Four (Barnes, McVey, Spalding, and White) from Boston to Chicago, combined with Chicago’s addition of Cap Anson from Philadelphia, moved the pennant from Boston to Chicago. St. Louis hung with them for the first few weeks, Hartford until mid-July. Chicago defeated Hartford 9-5 in a major showdown in early July, beginning an 11-game winning streak that effectively ended the race; the White Stockings cruised the rest of the way.
Pennant Race Progression:
Standings on am July 1 Standings on am Sept. 1 Chicago 24- 5 .828 -- Chicago 42-12 .778 -- Hartford 22- 5 .815 1 St.Louis 35-17 .673 6 St.Louis 19-10 .655 5 Hartford 33-15 .688 6 Boston 14-15 .483 10 Boston 30-22 .577 11 Louisville 12-17 .414 12 Louisville 25-29 .463 17 New York 10-18 .357 13+ New York 20-27 .426 18+ Philadelphia 9-19 .321 14+ Philadelphia 13-38 .255 27+ Cincinnati 4-25 .138 20 Cincinnati 7-45 .135 34
The Silver Sluggers for 1876:
1B - Cal McVey (CHI) .347/.352/.406 (age 25)
2B - Ross Barnes (CHI) .429/.462/.590 (age 26); the league leader
SS - John Peters (CHI) .343/.358/.419 (age 26)
3B - Levi Meyerle (PHI) .340/.347/.449 (age 31);
LF - George Hall (PHI) .366/.384/.545 (age 27)
CF - Lip Pike (STL) .323/.341/.472 (age 31);
RF - Dick Higham (HAR) .327/.331/.407 (age 25)
C - Deacon White (CHI) .343/.358/.419 (age 28)
P - Al Spalding (CHI) .312/.326/.373 (age 25);
George Bradley (STL) edged Jim Devlin (LOU) for the ERA+ title 175 to 174. Devlin is the new strikeout king with 122K though Tommy Bond (HAR) had a better rate with 1.94 K/9IP. Bond is arguably the leader in least walks issued at .29 BB/9IP, or you could go with George Zettlein (PHI) at .23, if you include number 2 starters also.
STATS All-Star Team BJ Win Shares All-Star Team 1b Cal McVey Chi 16 Cal McVey, Chi 2b Ross Barnes Chi 20 Ross Barnes, Chi SS John Peters Chi 17 George Wright, Bos (12 Peters) 3b Cap Anson Chi 15 Joe Battin, StL (14 Anson) OF George Hall Phi 17 Lip Pike, StL (10 Hall) OF Paul Hines Chi 17 Jim O'Rourke, Bos (12 Hines) OF Jim O'Rourke Bos 13 Dick Higham, Har C Deacon White Chi 14 John Clapp, StL (13 White) P Al Spalding Chi 57 Al Spalding, Chi = George Bradley StL Ut 19 Jack Manning, Bos OF(+P)
Boston defeated the Athletics 6-5 at Philadelphia on April 22 to start the new league’s first season. Jim O’Rourke got the first hit, and Joe Borden (still known as “Josephs”) got the first win.
Chicago’s first trip to Boston on May 30th drew a crowd estimated at 14,000, “the largest that ever attended a baseball match in the world”. Chicago won 5-1.
George Bradley pitched the League’s first no-hitter on July 15 against Hartford, winning 2-0. It is his third consecutive shutout in the 3-game series against the Blues. He would pitch 16 shutouts in 1876.
St. Louis won the season series over Chicago, 6 games to 4.
Louisville appears to have copied, with some success, Bob Ferguson’s strategy at Hartford by building a strong pitching/fielding squad. Cincinnati went with mostly non-veteran talent; Charlie Gould from Harry Wright’s original Cincinnati team was hired as manager; the team was far from competitive.
Harry Wright was gracious in relinquishing the name “Red Stockings” to the Cincinnati club; Boston became the “Red Caps” instead.
Morgan Bulkeley of Hartford was the first league president. At various times, I have read that this was determined by drawing lots (which gave Morgan his winning ticket into the HOF), or was a compromise between the eastern and western clubs (a small-market eastern team owner makes sense). Bulkeley would be inducted into the HOF in 1937, though he did little to deserve it other than being the first president (for only one year). Hulbert, who deserved the honor if anyone did, had to wait until 1995.
New York and Philadelphia both blew off their last couple of road games with the western clubs, pleading financial difficulties; this had been done before in the Association, but either they didn’t read the fine print or didn’t believe the League would follow through with it. They were expelled for this at the league meeting after the season. Also at this meeting, a request for “free agency” was made by Louisville pitcher, Jim Devlin, on the grounds that Louisville had not fulfilled its contract with him; it was denied.
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