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Monday, November 22, 2004

John Beckwith

Another quality shortstop to muddy up the waters for us.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 22, 2004 at 03:47 PM | 380 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   301. Gary A Posted: April 19, 2005 at 09:38 PM (#1270930)
Finally have fielding stats for 1921. Here is Beckwith:

1921 John Beckwith
NNL Chicago Giants

Fielding-shortstop
G-39 (team 45)
DI-327.3
PO-69
A-114
E-33
DP-7
RF-5.05 (NNL ss 5.15)
FPCT-.847 (NNL ss .909)

Chicago Gts shortstops (mostly Beckwith) accounted for 29 percent of team assists (minus catchers and outfielders); the league figure is 25.7 percent. This is the second highest figure in the league. Kansas City is the best, at 29.6 percent; the worst is the Bacharachs (with Dick Lundy injured and playing only about 60 percent of the innings), at 22.6 percent.

Beckwith's fielding percentage is the lowest of any regular shortstop (the next lowest are Detroit's Orville Riggins at .879 and Indy's Mortie Clark at .899.) J.H. Lloyd has the best, at .951. Beckwith's backup, Thurman Jennings, committed six errors in five games for a sparkling .769.

Dobie Moore has the best range factor, at 5.90, followed closely by Lloyd at 5.85 (although Moore's backup, Jose Mendez, is at 6.40).
   302. karlmagnus Posted: April 19, 2005 at 10:12 PM (#1271022)
With that .847 fielding percentage, if it weren't for skin color and era, he could have formed a DP combination with Levi Meyerle, a name that we have all forgotten but shouldn't have!
   303. sunnyday2 Posted: July 16, 2005 at 05:57 PM (#1476906)
bump from post #2

John Beckwith data

From Holway

1917 .000 for Chi Giants; ss
1918 no data
1919 .188 for Chi Giants; c
1920 .280 for Chi Giants; ut
1921 .355 for Chi Giants; ss
1922 .305 for Chi Am Giants; ut
1923 .330 for Chi Am Giants, 24 2b, 9 3b, 14 hr; 3b (should be, but isn’t, all star)
1924 .382 for Bal Black Sox, 5 hr, 16 hr/550 BA leads league; ss (should be, but isn’t, all-star)
3-8, .375 with 2 HR vs. Phil A’s
1925 .406 for Bal Black Sox, 24 HR lead league, 22 2b, 50 hr/550 ab; ss, Holway all star, MVP
(constructed batting line, 264 ab, 107 hits, 22 2b, 8? 3b, 24 hr, .406 ba, .822 slg)
1926 .311 for Harrisburg Giants, 3 triples; 3b, Holway all star (as dh)
1927 .362 for Harrisburg Giants, .(223 for a few games with Homestead Grays), 9 hr, 18 2b, 16 hr/550 ab; 3b, Holway all star (constructed batting line, 309 ab, 112 hits, 18 2b, 6? 3b, 9 hr, .362 ba, .547 slg)
2-10 vs. major-league All-Stars
1928 .240 for Homestead Grays; ss
2-17 vs. major-league competition
1929 .439 for Homestead Grays, 15 hr, 25 hr/550 (330 ab, 23? 2b, 7? 3b, 15 hr, .439 ba, 144 hits, .684 slg) ; ut
1930 .493 for NY Lincoln Giants, 6 hr, 47 hr/550 ab; 3b, Holway all star, missed time with broken ankle
1-8 in playoff vs. Homestead
1931 .350 for Baltimore & Newark Browns, 16 hr, 7 2b, 53 hr/550 ab); 3b, Holway all-star
5-10 vs. major-league all stars
1932 no data (teams he played for were not in the East-West league)
1933 .391 for NY Black Yankees; 3b
1934 .286 for NY Black Yankees; 3b
1935 no data, listed in Riley as playing for the Grays, but apparently not a regular

Positional data
C – 1 year, 1919
SS – 5 years, 1921, 1924, 1925, 1928 (1917 no ml credit)
3B – 7 years, 1923, 1926, 1927, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934
ut – 3 years 1920, 1922, 1929


Career data
.352 lifetime avg. 767-2176 according to Holway
mean avg. 1919-34 = .366
19-60 vs. major-league competition (.319)
80 hr in 2198 ab, according to Holway

And from post #49

John Beckwith's Win Shares

Year (games) BWS + FWS = Total
1919 (18) 0.0 + 0.4 = 0.4
1920 (127)7.8 + 4.3 = 12.1
1921 (149) 22.7 + 5.0 = 27.7 [was 23.1]
1922 (131) 15.0 + 4.1 = 19.1 [was 14.3]
1923 (144) 23.7 + 4.3 = 28.0
1924 (146) 25.2 + 4.7 = 29.9 [was 22.3]
1925 (140) 29.1 + 4.4 = 33.5
1926 (117) 12.7 + 3.2 = 15.9
1927 (151) 20.1 + 4.1 = 24.2
1928 (135) 16.7 + 4.0 = 20.7 [was 17.5]
1929 (146) 24.9 + 4.0 = 28.9
1930 (100) 18.3 + 2.6 = 20.9
1931 (149) 24.9 + 3.0 = 27.9
1932 (100) 8.6 + 1.9 = 10.5
1933 (95) 13.9 + 1.3 = 15.2
1934 (54) 2.0 + 0.8 = 2.8
16 (1902) 265.6 + 52.1 = 317.7


And from #79

Year -- Charleston -- Beckwith (notes)
1921 -- .437/17/39 -- .396/4/16
1922 -- .391/20/50 -- .303 (B. in extreme pitchers' park)
1923 -- .314 -- .304/8/16 (B. in extreme pitchers' park)
1924 -- .342/9/16 -- .382/5/16
1925 -- .416/19/39 -- .406/24/50
1926 -- .281/8/19 -- .311 (both playing for Harrisburg)
1927 -- .342/12/24 -- .362/9/16 (both playing for Harrisburg)
1928 -- .380/10/26 -- .343/2/16
1929 -- .370 -- .443/15/25 (B. in extreme hitter's park 1/2 of season)
1930 -- .337/6/42 -- .493/6/47 (B.'s stats from 19 games in extreme hitter's park)
1931 -- .341/6 -- .350/16/53
1932 -- .313/10/19 -- no data
1933 -- .388/22/35 -- ..391

I don't see the usual MLEs including OPS+ just now, this was early in that game. All three tables are courtesy Chris Cobb, of course, though we should have them all in one handy location. This is in response to I think it was Matt's question about Beckwith or Suttles in 1956?

Spo, bump, already.
   304. sunnyday2 Posted: July 16, 2005 at 06:02 PM (#1476914)
Oops revised WS from #242

John Beckwith’s win shares

Year (games) BWS + FWS = Total
1919 (18) 0.3 + 0.4 = 0.7
1920 (127) 13.6 + 4.3 = 17.9
1921 (149) 19.0 + 5.0 = 24.0
1922 (131) 15.8 + 4.1 = 19.9
1923 (144) 23.4 + 4.3 = 27.7
1924 (146) 26.1 + 4.7 = 30.8
1925 (140) 24.2 + 4.4 = 28.6
1926 (117) 20.0 + 3.2 = 23.2
1927 (151) 22.0 + 4.1 = 26.1
1928 (135) 19.3 + 4.0 = 23.3
1929 (146) 18.5 + 4.0 = 22.5
1930 (100) 15.1 + 2.6 = 17.7
1931 (149) 21.5 + 3.0 = 24.5
1932 (100) 13 + 1.9 = 14.9
1933 (95) 10.8 + 1.3 = 12.1
1934 (54) 0.4 + 0.8 = 1.2
1935 (3) 0.0 + 0.0 = 0.0
17 (1905) 263.0 + 52.1 = 315.1

And here are the MLEs I was looking from from #281

Year G PA BB Hits TB BA OBP SA
1919 18 72 3 18 25 .250 .278 .368
1920 127 533 30 145 189 .288 .328 .377
1921 149 628 40 209 310 .355 .396 .527
1922 131 550 36 173 256 .337 .380 .497
1923 144 606 40 188 323 .332 .376 .571
1924 146 621 47 205 328 .357 .406 .571
1925 140 586 44 198 331 .366 .413 .610
1926 117 491 41 154 249 .343 .397 .552
1927 151 636 56 195 286 .337 .395 .493
1928 135 567 51 170 248 .330 .390 .481
1929 146 615 57 189 301 .339 .401 .541
1930 100 421 39 139 229 .364 .423 .600
1931 149 624 62 187 328 .332 .398 .583
1932 100 421 43 124 215 .327 .396 .569
1933 95 400 39 114 178 .315 .381 .492
1934 54 227 21 43 48 .207 .279 .231
1935 3 12 1 1 2 .084 .180 .138
tot. 1905 8010 648 2451 3847 .333 .387 .522

And David Foss' OPS+ MLEs

-First you have Year, Team(s), PA.
-Second you have Chris's MLE's
-Third, in parentheses, you have pitchers-removed offense context. MLB for the 20s, then NL
-Fourth, you have AVG+/OBP+/SLG+
-Lastly, is the OPS+

1919 72 0.250/0.292/0.368 (0.270/0.331/0.359) 93/ 88/103 91
1920 533 0.288/0.328/0.377 (0.284/0.343/0.384) 101/ 96/ 98 94
1921 628 0.355/0.396/0.527 (0.299/0.357/0.416) 119/111/127 138
1922 550 0.337/0.380/0.497 (0.297/0.359/0.415) 113/106/120 126
1923 606 0.332/0.376/0.571 (0.292/0.356/0.405) 114/106/141 147
1924 621 0.357/0.406/0.571 (0.294/0.356/0.406) 121/114/141 155
1925 586 0.366/0.413/0.610 (0.300/0.364/0.425) 122/113/144 157
1926 491 0.343/0.397/0.552 (0.289/0.355/0.402) 119/112/137 149
1927 636 0.337/0.395/0.493 (0.292/0.355/0.406) 115/111/121 133
1928 567 0.330/0.390/0.481 (0.290/0.355/0.412) 114/110/117 127
1929 615 0.339/0.400/0.541 (0.298/0.363/0.432) 114/110/125 135
1930 421 0.364/0.423/0.600 (0.312/0.370/0.464) 117/114/129 144
1931 624 0.332/0.399/0.583 (0.285/0.344/0.403) 116/116/145 161
1932 421 0.327/0.397/0.569 (0.284/0.337/0.412) 115/118/138 156
1933 400 0.315/0.383/0.492 (0.274/0.327/0.376) 115/117/131 148
1934 227 0.207/0.282/0.231 (0.287/0.342/0.408) 72/ 82/ 57 39
1935 12 0.084/0.167/0.138 (0.286/0.341/0.407) 29/ 49/ 34 -16
Posted by DavidFoss on March 29, 2005 at 11:33 PM (#1223390)
Beckwith:

Counting stats (+/- 2 for rounding)
8010 PA
7365 AB
2452 H
3846 TB

Percentages
Beckwith -- 0.333/0.387/0.522
Context --(0.292/0.353/0.411)
Plusses -- 114/110/127

OPS+ = 137

Whereupon (Don't Call Me Grandma) wrote in #284:

Mule Suttles also has a projected 137 OPS+, which places him behind retired (as of '48) first basemen and leftfielders such as Lou Gehrig (179), Dan Brouthers (170), Joe Jackson (170 - only played half his career in left), Jimmie Foxx (163), Dave Orr (161), Hank Greenberg (158), Roger Connor (154, Ed Delahanty (152), Charley Jones (149), Lefty O'Doul, George Stone (143), Harry Stovey (143), Jack Fournier (142), Tip O'Neill (142), Cap Anson (141), Larkin (141), Jesse Burkett (140), Jeff Heath (139) and Bob Johnson (138). He would also be tied with Sherry Magee and Ken Williams.
   305. sunnyday2 Posted: July 20, 2005 at 02:43 PM (#1485609)
bump
   306. sunnyday2 Posted: July 20, 2005 at 02:53 PM (#1485631)
A summary re. Beckwith's "chartacter:"

Chris in post #4: Beckwith does less well than he might with James and the HoF because of "character" issues.

Gadfly #20: Beckwith wanted to be a boxer. Beckwith evidently changed his mind after sparring with Sam Langford (Langford, known as the "Boston Tar Baby," was the most savage black boxer of the day and had fought numerous times with the black heavyweight champ, Jack Johnson). Beckwith, who wasn't stupid, took his brother's advice and became a baseball player instead, but always had a boxer's mentality.

(continued):John Beckwith had, shall we say, a unique personality. He wasn't some malcontent like Dick Allen (who is a great comp as a hitter). Beck was basically quiet, but he wasn't going to take crap or disrespect from anybody. Beckwith, I think, has been slandered by various sources ("pimp, possibly a bootlegger"); but it should be noted that, from 1924 to 1942, Beckwith was usually the manager of his teams.

(continued): During the 1920s, John Beckwith played for a lot of different teams: Chicago Giants, American Giants, Harrisburg, Homestead, Baltimore Black Sox, Lincoln Giants. It should be noted that this wasn't because teams did not want him, but because Beckwith wasn't going to let anyone pay him one cent less than he was worth. Whenever John Beckwith was feeling unappreciated, he would jump the League to play for the independent Homestead Grays, returning when things were worked out to his satisfaction.

Beckwith evidently went through women like he went through teams. In 1929, his wife tried to stab him to death while he was playing in the California Winter League.

(continued:) From 1931 until the end of his career, Beckwith mostly just played for New York based teams: the Lincoln Giants, Newark Stars, New York Black Yankees. In 1935, he did begin the season with his old friend, Cum Posey, for the Homestead Grays.

In 1936, Beckwith became the manager of the independent Brooklyn Royal Giants. From 1936 to 1942, Beckwith played and managed the Royal Giants or his own team, the New York Stars or John Beckwith’s Stars.

My comment: This all seems to be at odds with the notion that he managed from 1924-42 but rather managed 1936-42.

I will continue to peruse this thread for additional light re. the controversial character of John Beckwith.
   307. sunnyday2 Posted: July 20, 2005 at 03:13 PM (#1485681)
Chris #97: On the unconditional release due to unreliability reported in Riley, I am doubtful. If Beckwith was so unreliable with the Grays, why did Homestead bring him back for a while in 1926 and for a full season in 1928? Why (as gadfly justly pointed out) did teams make him the manager? I am dubious about Riley’s treatment of Beckwith in general because, although _many_ black players jumped teams, often during the season, only Beckwith is judged to be a bad apple because he was doing it.

My comment: It is not at all incredible that the Grays would release Beckwith due to unreliability or that said unreliability might not fit the description of him given by Bill James, but that the Grays would give him a second chance. It is human nature to give people a second chance, especially if and when they have a useful talent to give a second chance to.

But secondly, Gad says he played with the Grays in 1924, Holway does not show this.

As to the justificiation that, well, teams hired him as manager, Gad says this first occurred in 1924, but the first actual instance he gives us does not really occur until 1931 and, apparently, this was for less than a full season with the Newark Browns. Then from 1936-42 he managed regularly. His hiring as manager in 1936 certainly does not bear on whether the Grays found him "unreliable" a decade or more earlier.

Gary A. post #100: From the Chicago Defender, 12-29-1923:

"The announcement of Beckwith’s signing with the Homestead Grays “comes not as a surprise as the first baseman’s playing of last season was not up to what it had been the previous years. He was unable to hit in pinches and it is a known fact that he was dissatisfied with the salary he was receiving although he signed a contract for that amount. It is believed that if he has signed a contract to play in Pittsburgh, he believed that Foster was about to trade him.”

My comment: The idea that he had played poorly in 1923 is belied by his .330 average vs. .305 in 1922. And he ended up playing for the Baltimore Black Sox, not the Homesteads, in 1924, according to Holway though Gad suggests that it was half Homesteads (then he was released as "unreliable," and then half Baltimore).

But aside from that confusion, the point is that the Chicagos and Rube Foster let him go and/or were preparing to trade him away, apparently because he had made it known that he was dissatisfied with his contract. IOW, how disruptive was he, really? Well, apparently, somewhat. And then, possibly, released by the Grays a half-season later.
   308. sunnyday2 Posted: July 20, 2005 at 03:22 PM (#1485713)
103. Posted by Gary A on January 08, 2005 at 03:47 AM (#1065388)
Beckwith caught and batted fourth for the Grays, generally receiving praise for his heavy hitting. However, in the June 21 issue of the Courier, a bombshell was dropped: Cum Posey, the Grays' owner and manager, announced that Beckwith (and pitcher "Darknight" or "Midnight" Smith) was being released.

“Beckwith was unable to fit into our organization," Posey said, "and we felt that we had to either let him go or ruin the morale of our club.” The Courier blamed the team's recent poor play on "internal strife": "Several of the players told of arguments which had ensured since the team began its regular playing season, which had proven injurious to the playing of some of the players.”

Gad #117:3) I did not mean to present a "rosy" biography of Beckwith. I simply think that James Riley's characterization of Beckwith as a criminal was way off. Beckwith was a very difficult man, something like Albert Belle (and Albert Belle is an extraordinarily good comp for Beckwith as a hitter).

Several years ago, I spoke with Al Fennar who was a personal friend of Beckwith. He greatly liked and admired Beckwith so you may discount his testimony as biased. He basically told me that Beckwith was a good man, but would not allow anyone to disrespect him or anyone or anything else that he cared about.

Mr. Fennar strongly disagreed with Riley's bio of Beckwith, calling it a "bunch of crap." Fennar, by the way, knew Beckwith for 25 years and visited him in Harlem Hospital shortly before he passed away. Mr. Fennar did admit that Beckwith had a temper.

Mr. Fennar discribed him as "touchy" in the old style of that word, i.e. easy to piss off if you got out of line. He also said that, as a manager, Beckwith was a strict disciplinarian who would help you if you showed you cared and be all over you if you slacked off.
   309. sunnyday2 Posted: July 20, 2005 at 03:46 PM (#1485795)
Chris #242: Beckwith's WS

1923 (144) 23.4 + 4.3 = 27.7
1924 (146) 26.1 + 4.7 = 30.8
1925 (140) 24.2 + 4.4 = 28.6

Chris #243: Beckwith's actual NeL data

1923 270 82 148 0.304 0.548
1924 119 48 79 0.403 0.664
1925 264 107 205 0.405 0.777

Note that 1924, when the Chicago Giants and then the Grays both gave up on Beckwith and his considerable skills, this is the very season in which he gets his career high of 31 WS.

This goes to the question of whether we are measuring NeLers value *in the NeL* (including the Grays) or rather their value in the hypothetical that they had been able to play in the MLs. And it goes in Beckwith's case to the question of whether he would have fit in with a ML team in a way he could not fit in with his NeL team.

Many have argued that we should be honoring the NeLers who had the greatest value *in the NeLs.* They tend to be the same voters who generally are more rather than less supportive of electing NeLers, and I BTW count myself in both of those camps.]

It would be consistent with this view, however, to reduce rather than boost Beckwith's value in 1924 because in reality, as James has said, "it was a close call as to whether he was worth having around," despite his great skills. Posey says that Beckwith could not fit in with his team. Was the former boxer beating up on his teammates, as James alleges?

Here it seems to me that we are having it both ways with John Beckwith. We are rewarding his skills and not his value, and we are doing it by constructing a hypothetical MLE and for that matter a hypothetical ML in which John Beckwith gets along with everybody, does his job and is beloved by all.

This is a hypothetical world, indeed.
   310. sunnyday2 Posted: July 20, 2005 at 03:56 PM (#1485819)
Fnally, in summary:

• Riley and James have made very serious charges against John Beckwith's character.

• Chris and Gad and others have said that they are "slander," that they are without foundation.

• I don't have the details to support either side, frankly, other than to say that some of the detailed data in the Beckwith thread is consistent with the claims made by Riley and James. But not conclusive, either.

• Like an Albert Belle or Dick Allen, Beckwith had such extraordinary skills that he would keep getting second chances. I mean, can you say Steve Howe.

• But clearly there were certain seasons in his career when his value to his NeL teams was severely compromised.

• Yet the MLE data for Beckwith presumes a hypothetical world in which Beckwith is a model citizen and never needs a time out. This model flies in the face of the idea that we should be measuring what NeL players did in the real world, for their real teams.

• I do not advocate taking his career MLEs and block-discounting them for the reason mentioned above--he would have gotten a second and a third and a fourth, etc., chance, and there is pretty solid evidence that he learned to control himself in his later years.

• But working on a season by season basis, I would propose starting with a steep discount (33-50 percent) to 1924 and then looking at some of his other seasons in this same light. I am not sure that 20-40 WS is not a realistic and reasonable discount from where we are today.
   311. Chris Cobb Posted: July 20, 2005 at 06:12 PM (#1486222)
Yet the MLE data for Beckwith presumes a hypothetical world in which Beckwith is a model citizen and never needs a time out. This model flies in the face of the idea that we should be measuring what NeL players did in the real world, for their real teams.

But working on a season by season basis, I would propose starting with a steep discount (33-50 percent) to 1924 and then looking at some of his other seasons in this same light. I am not sure that 20-40 WS is not a realistic and reasonable discount from where we are today.


This is an inaccurate characterization of the MLEs based on an incomplete review of them that fails to take into account all the evidence and its significance. I went to considerable lengths to model Beckwith's playing time as accurately as possible based on the record of his actual playing time, not to "presume a hypothetical world in which Beckwith is a model citizen."

Here are the facts concerning the 1924 season playing time issue:

1) Beckwith is not listed with the Grays in Holway because he lists only the main starter at each position. Beckwith was with the Grays for less than half of the season, so does not get the mention. Riley and newspaper sources clearly document that Beckwith was playing for the Grays.

2) Beckwith's playing time for 1924 would not have been much affected by his release by the Grays because, as the fuller biographical evidence provided by Gadfly from primary newspaper sources shows, he was immediately signed by Baltimore, who was eager to have his services. He would have missed no more playing time for this change of teams than a player would miss for being traded. My playing time projections have him missing 8 games in 1924.

3) Beckwith's recorded Negro-League at bats are lower for 1924 than for 1923 and 1925 because he spent the first two months of the season playing for the Grays. The Grays, as previously mentioned, were not a league team that year, and Holway has no data on their play against other top black teams. None of the Grays players listed in Holway for 1924 have any batting data provided for them.

4) As cited above, the reasons cited for Beckwith's release have to do with "differences," not with his failure to play effectively. If you put #3 and #4 together, you'll see that there is no evidence that Beckwith was either missing playing time with the Grays or performing poorly.

5) Playing for the Black Sox, Beckwith led the league in batting average, tied for the lead in home run percentage, and placed among the league leaders in home runs even though he had substantially fewer at bats. He was the best hitter in the Eastern Colored League in 1924, better than Jud Wilson and Oscar Charleston, who were also among the league leaders.

My conclusion, from a review of the historical record of Beckwith's time with the Grays and with the Black Sox, is that Beckwith should be credited for a normal season of play in 1924. He played the first two months for the Grays, quarreled with Cum Posey and was released, signed immediately with the Black Sox, and played the rest of the season for them.

No assumptions about Beckwith's character are relevant to this construction. I am concluding that, in fact, Beckwith played a full season, and that to argue that he didn't is to a) misinterpret the historical record and b) to do so under the influence of a construction of Beckwith's character that is itself of dubious reliability.

On the whole, then, I believe that my interpretation of the evidence fits the facts much better than the idea advanced by sunnyday2 that Beckwith should only be credited for a half season of play in 1924.

Moveover, the role of regression in the MLEs needs to be remembered when comparing them to actual seasonal data.

In my MLEs, once the playing time is established and the actual statistics from the season are entered into the regression formulas, the rest of batting value is set.

BECAUSE REGRESSION IS INVOLVED, THE MLES DO NOT SHOW EXACTLY MODEL WHAT A PLAYER DOES IN EACH SEASON. Rather, they attempt to get the player's peak value near to what it would have been in full seasons of major-league play. Beckwith's highest win shares appear in 1924 partly because that is at the center of his most consistently productive period as a hitter, so there are no weak seasons around it to affect it in the regression analysis. Maybe Beckwith's best season _really_ was 1923 or 1925 or even 1929. If you want to know that, look at the raw data.

In the end, the relevant question regarding Beckwith's character and his MLEs involves playing time. There are two points in Beckwith's career where, according to Riley's bio, "character issues" affected Beckwith's playing time. One is 1924, which I have discussed above. The other is 1923, where Riley alleges that Beckwith had to leave Chicago before the end of the season because he was in trouble with the law. Gadfly's newspaper sources show that Beckwith played for Chicago through the end of the season and that where he would play next year was discussed in the papers. For 1924, Gadfly's newspaper sources show that Beckwith signed with Baltimore as soon as he was released from Homestead.

So, where exactly is the character issue costing Beckwith playing time?

For Beckwith's career, I have projected him as playing slightly fewer games per season than a player of his talent at his positions probably would have done. He is never projected as playing 150+ games, and seasons below 140 games played are thrown in fairly frequently. I think this is an appropriate gesture towards the possible effects Beckwith's characte on his playing. But the seasonal cuts sunnyday2 is suggesting are completely inappropriate.
   312. Gary A Posted: July 20, 2005 at 08:06 PM (#1486561)
A few things:

1) My newspaper research on Beckwith's 1922, 1923, and 1924 seasons appears in posts #100-105 and #275-279 above.

2) Rollo Wilson of the Pittsburgh Courier believed that Beckwith's move from the Homestead Grays to Baltimore in 1924 weakened the Grays and strengthened Baltimore--he credited Beckwith with sparking them to a second-place finish.

3) Okay, this is beating a dead horse, but it always pays to remember that on the NeL James doesn't really count as an independent authority, as nearly all of his knowledge of the subject seems to come from Riley and Holway and a few other sources. I'm not dissing him; that's pretty much what he says himself.

4) Beckwith captained both the '24 Grays and the '24 Baltimore Black Sox. In late '24 he was already rumored to be set to manage the Black Sox in '25; several sources say he was the manager that year. Holway also lists Beckwith as manager of Harrisburg in 1927, even though that's commonly understood as Oscar Charleston's team.

In the NeL, as in 19th-century ball, the "captain" is often in reality the manager as we understand it. Team finances being what they were, bench managers were a fairly rare luxury; sometimes the team's owner (e.g. Hilldale's Ed Bolden) was referred to as the "manager," while the captain really handled the team on the field. (Confusingly enough, teams often boasted both a captain and a playing manager.)

This is probably the source of the dispute between Posey and Beckwith that led to Beckwith's departure from the Grays in 1924: Posey sent in a pinch-hitter, but Beckwith "waved him off," angering Posey (and his anger was compounded by the fact that they eventually lost). Why would a player pay attention to Beckwith instead of the owner/manager, unless he was accustomed to following Beckwith's instructions? In other words, Beckwith might have been the de facto manager, and it was Posey's interference as much as Beckwith's intransigence that led to the rupture between them.

I want to look into the 1925 season, as Riley recounts another supposed run-in with the authorities as a result of "severely beating" an umpire. Given that some of his other claims about Beckwith haven't withstood scrutiny, this should be checked, too.
   313. sunnyday2 Posted: July 20, 2005 at 08:38 PM (#1486638)
Thanks, Gary. I'm just trying to understand. As I said on the 1956 discussion thread, Beckwith should be considered to be innocent until proven guilty and I don't say Riley or Holway have proven him guilty.

OTOH on the preponderance of the evidence I just feel like we're still in a gray area. There clearly were teams that didn't want him so much so that they were willing to weaken themselves in order to move him along.

Granting that this was James' take on Riley and Holway--that "it was a close call whether they wanted him around" despite his awesome skills. This particular claim seems to be supported by the data.

The claims that he was an "underworld" character or a pimp, I agree, there hasn't been any support for that.

I would still like to know who lied to Riley about him. Posey?
   314. Chris Cobb Posted: July 20, 2005 at 09:02 PM (#1486687)
I would still like to know who lied to Riley about him. Posey?

Posey died in 1946 (or 1947), so he's not the source. I'd guess that if one really wanted to know, the stories could probably be traced through the earlier work by NeL historians. It's entirely possible that the stories were not told direct to Riley, but have been collected by him from some other source.
   315. KJOK Posted: July 20, 2005 at 11:48 PM (#1487096)
From July 4, 1924 Baltimore Afro-American:

BECKWITH FILLS UP A BAD HOLE

...in the acquisition of Beckwith, formally (sp) of the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh, The Sox have one of the greatest performers at his position in the Eastern League. Manager Posey, himself, admits that Beckwith is a star but due to personal reasons the two agreed to disagree and parted.

The fans with one accord always give Beckwith the glad hand, and he is proving beyond a doubt his worth to the Sox.
   316. KJOK Posted: July 20, 2005 at 11:51 PM (#1487109)
As an aside, Beckwith was apparently playing Catcher for Homestead in 1924.
   317. KJOK Posted: July 20, 2005 at 11:55 PM (#1487124)
August 8, 1924 Baltimore African American:

BECKWITH NOW CAPTAINS SOX

Beckwith, Black Sox Shortstop, was made captain of the club this week to succeed Connie Day, second baseman.

Day will continue playing second base. Spedden expressed the opinion that with Beckwith at the helm, new life will be injected into the players.

The rumored break in the club last week brought several managers and representatives of out of town clubs to the city. Cum Posey, owner of the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh, spent most of the week here and tried to induce Beckwith to go back to the Pittsburgh club, but his mission was in vain....
   318. KJOK Posted: July 21, 2005 at 12:13 AM (#1487172)
August 8, 1925 Baltimore African American:

BECKWITH NO LONGER BLACK SOX MANAGER

John Beckwith will be in the game. His suspension was lifted this week and he left Monday night to join the Sox at Atlantic City. "Beck" is no longer manager of the Sox. Pete Hill is big boss until the season is over. "Beck" is just an ordinary ball player from now on. Pete will handle the reins, according to Charlie Spedden.

THE CLIMAX

Things have been going from bad to worse until the climax was reached last week when the big Sox short stop slammed an "Ump" up in Harrisburg, which brought down the wrath of the league officials upon his head. His suspension followed suit, but Spedden managed to have it held up now to get back to Sunday.
   319. KJOK Posted: July 21, 2005 at 12:24 AM (#1487203)
August 29, 1925 Baltimore African American:

JOHN BECKWITH QUITS BLACK SOX AND LEAVES FOR CHICAGO

(Long article - excerpts follow)

..Beckwith did not receive his release from the Sox, and it is expected Spedden will attempt a trade with Rube Foster next year...

The Sox former manager was extremely tempermental and was relieved from the management of the club several weeks ago at his own request. He was in several brawls with umpires and players that kept the club owners in hot water. However, Spedden was reluctant about turning him loose, although several clubs made a bid for his services.

Last week after the club came from a week's trip in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Beckwith left without notifying the club owners of his intention....

FAILED AS MANAGER

As a player he was one of the greatest, but failed completely as mentor. Dissension was rampant among the rest of the team members, which was credited as the cause of several games being lost.
   320. Gary A Posted: July 21, 2005 at 01:24 AM (#1487420)
Thanks, KJ. I just started looking through the Courier for 1925. This is the first thing I ran across: W. Rollo Wilson in the 5-23-25 issue quotes Roger Pippen, a sportswriter for the (white) Baltimore Evening News, writing about the Black Sox:

"Beckwith, shortstop of the locals, could play with any club in either big league. He is a giant, six feet one, and weighing over 200 pounds. He is as agile as a cat, grabs grounders on either side and throws from all angles. Against the Royal Giants he came tearing in for a slow roller past the pitcher and while on a dead run, scooped up the ball and gave it an underhand flip to first. It was a picture of Mike Doolan, formerly of the Phillies and Baltimore Feds, at his best. Fielding, however, is not Beckwith's best point. He's the home run hitter of the Sox. Nine times this year he has crashed the sphere over the fences at Maryland Park. He hit a liner off Rector of the Brooklyns, which would have gone to the scoreboard in center field at Oriole Park. A right hand hitter, he takes a long swing and when his 200 pounds meet the apple it surely rides."

The same writer has only this to say about Jud Wilson: "Wilson, first baseman, is also an impressive player."
   321. Gary A Posted: July 21, 2005 at 01:38 AM (#1487461)
Here's a brief remark in William Dunn's "Diamond Dope" column, Pitt. Courier 6-20-25:

"There is a feeling among Baltimore fans that the Black Sox are not playing the ball of which they are capable..."
   322. Chris Cobb Posted: July 21, 2005 at 01:44 AM (#1487475)
On the basis of this information about the 1925 season, it's clear Beckwith did not play for the last month of the season.

That would drop his games played estimate to about 120: it was at 140, so that would cost him 4 win shares, dropping him from 28.6 to 24.5 on the season by the MLEs.
   323. Gadfly Posted: July 21, 2005 at 09:49 PM (#1489596)
1956 POST 110

Posted by sunnyday2 on July 20, 2005 at 08:20 AM (#1485523)

The other guy who worries me along these lines--i.e. possibly being much less valuable than his numbers would suggest--is still John Beckwith, though Beckwith is currently #10 on my ballot (Browning is bouncing around #16-20).

Re. Beckwith Riley says that hewas "moody, brooding, hot-tempered and quick to fight. combined with a severe drinking problem, and an often, lazy, unconcerned attitude about playing, his character deficiencies often negated his performance value."

James says, "He was known to show up drunk for games, at times, and to beat the hell out of teammates. He was a fantastic hitter, but it was always a close call whether it was worthwhile to have him around."

POST 111

Posted by Chris Cobb on July 20, 2005 at 08:59 AM (#1485561)

Re Beckwith: Riley's portrait appears to have little or no factual basis, and James simply cribs his analysis of Beckwith from Riley, spinning it a little to make it a tighter narrative.

An in-depth analysis of this view of Beckwith in relation to the historical record is available on the Beckwith thread.

POST 112

Posted by sunnyday2 on July 20, 2005 at 10:27 AM (#1485737)

Someone should make a note that there is a looooooong discussion of Monte Irvin in the middle of the John Beckwith thread from about 150 to 160 and continuing to 170 and beyond.

POST 113

Posted by Howie Menckel on July 20, 2005 at 10:49 AM (#1485808)

Chris Cobb,
What does "little or no factual basis" mean?
Are you saying that Riley does not provide satisfactory evidence, or that you believe that Becwkith was a model citizen?

I would be surprised if Beckwith was the latter.

POST 114

Posted by sunnyday2 on July 20, 2005 at 11:00 AM (#1485831)

I walked through the Beckwith thread and pulled all the relevant "character" discussion into new posts, so Howie check the Beckwith thread for what I see as the capsule summary of what's been said and what we know.

POST 115

Posted by Chris Cobb on July 20, 2005 at 01:26 PM (#1486266)

Chris Cobb,
What does "little or no factual basis" mean?
Are you saying that Riley does not provide satisfactory evidence, or that you believe that Beckwith was a model citizen?

I would be surprised if Beckwith was the latter.

I'm saying that Riley includes complete falsehoods that paint Beckwith as an underworld character. That these are falsehoods has been proven by citations from contemporary newspaper sources that show the bio's claims to be impossible.

I'm saying that because the bio is based on information provided by people who were clearly willing to lie in order to make Beckwith look bad, it would be a mistake to trust other statements made in it about Beckwith that cannot be corroborated.

John Beckwith was probably not an easy guy to get along with. He clearly feuded with management at several points in his career, and he may have feuded with teammates.

Did he do either to an unusual degree? Maybe, but the record of the NeL is full of team-jumping and player-owner, player-player feuds of all sorts. How did Gus Greenlee feel in 1937 when Satchel Paige used Dominican money to lure half his stars to play in Trujillo's league? That didn't help their value to Greenlee's team, but they were playing professional baseball. They did essentially what Beckwith did in 1924: broke a contract to get better money elsewhere.

Did he miss playing time because of character issues? The "evidence" from Riley that suggests that he did is false.

I believe there is NO RELIABLE EVIDENCE that supports giving a special discount to Beckwith's playing record because of character issues.
   324. Gadfly Posted: July 21, 2005 at 09:54 PM (#1489608)
1956 BALLOT POST 116

Posted by Howie Menckel on July 20, 2005 at 01:32 PM (#1486290)

Ok, Chris, thanks for the clarification...

POST 117

Posted by sunnyday2 on July 20, 2005 at 01:56 PM (#1486357)

>I'm saying that Riley includes complete falsehoods that paint Beckwith as an underworld character. That these are falsehoods has been proven by citations from contemporary newspaper sources that show the bio's claims to be impossible.

Beckwith certainly ought to be considered innocent until proven guilty. I don't have access to any information that proves him to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

So Beckwith is in fact still #10 on my ballot in 1956.

OTOH, having just read through the entire 300+ Beckwith thread, there is nothing there that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that they are false. In fact by a mere preponderance of evidence, it is a close call unless you assume Riley and James' assetions to be false a priori.

As I mentioned before, I don't have Riley, so:

>I'm saying that because the bio is based on information provided by people who were clearly willing to lie in order to make Beckwith look bad,

This is certainly the sort of statement that also needs some back-up. Chris, who are these liars? How do you *know* that this is the case?

And let's be honest, some of the asseertions made on Beckwith's behalf in his thread are contradicted by the same sources in later posts. So the whole debate still feels like mostly he-said-she-said.

POST 118

Posted by Chris Cobb on July 20, 2005 at 03:57 PM (#1486680)

Sunnyday2,
The liars are whoever narrated the stories about Beckwith that Riley has collected that have no basis in fact.

Here's the clearest example of a lie. Riley writes: "Soon afterward [after 1921] he was signed by Rube Foster and, playing on the corners and hitting .302 while batting in the fifth and sixth spots in the order, he helped the American Giants win their third straight NNL pennant. The next season he hit .323 but, after less than two full seasons with the American Giants, he got in trouble with the law and left Chicago. Traveling East, Beckwith joined owner Cum Posey's Homestead Grays in 1924."

This is the most specific claim in the bio that Beckwith was a) a criminal and b) that his activities interfered with his playing.

Gadfly has quoted from fall, 1923 Chicago newspapers that 1) provide boxscores for a _post-season_ exhibition series in which Beckwith was playing in Chicago and 2) discuss what Rube Foster will do with Beckwith in the off-season. Will he keep him, or trade him? Will Beckwith sign elsewhere to prevent a trade?

Maybe there was a newspaper coverup . Maybe gadfly (who is, in real life, a respected Negro-League historian), is making up newspaper articles to mislead us about John Beckwith (and some of the info may have been provided by Gary A. -- I haven't gone back to check on all the sources). Maybe Riley is giving us the straight, secret history of Beckwith's life. Unless one of these highly unlikely possibilities is true, the correct, unvarnished term for the story told to Riley about Beckwith having to leave Chicago before the end of the season because he was in trouble with the law is a lie.

POST 119

Posted by sunnyday2 on July 20, 2005 at 04:32 PM (#1486758)

Chris, this whole conspiratorial deal is part of what confounds me. Gadfly is really some else in real life. Now how exactly was I supposed to know that? I missed the double-secret code.

I never assumed anybody is fabricating newspaper articles, but it's not always obvious what their point is. I guess that's because I don't have Riley --e.g. I didn't know that Riley claimed Beckwith got in trouble with the law *late in 1923* so I didn't know exactly what Gadfly's posts were debunking.

My focus was on what I do know--that the Giants and Grays both let Beckwith get away without much remorse, despite his on-the-field contributions. And clearly somebody hated his guts, for whatever reason.

I guess it was too much to think all would be made clear. Or maybe it has been. E.g. I supported Lip Pike against what I thought was a whispering campaign, not by HoMies but by some folks way back in the 19C, some of whom might possibly have had problems with Pike's national origin. I am open to the possibility that this is all this stuff about Beckwith is--a whispering campaign.

I had just hoped to understand the whole thing a little better. And I don't.

POST 120

Posted by John (Don't Call Me Grandma!) Murphy on July 20, 2005 at 05:30 PM (#1486882)

Chris:
No offense, but it would have been nice if you had made these posts a while back. Maybe Beckwith would be in the HoM already. :-)

POST 122

Posted by Howie Menckel on July 20, 2005 at 09:10 PM (#1487542)

Chris, take this hypothetical scenario as an example.

Suppose Riley has info, right or wrong, that Beckwith was not a regular in 1922. Then he coid be said to leave after 1923 with "less than two full seasons."

There are newspaper reports in the early offseason that he might leave. Then he gets in trouble with the law. Then he leaves town.

Not saying that's exactly what happened. But saying someone leaves "after less than two full seasons" is not exactly the same as saying he left before the second season ended.
My main point is, it almost seems like there's an emotional component to your assertions here that seem out of kilter with your great work.
Emotions aren't bad, and I wouldn't be surprised if your interpretation is what Riley was trying to say. But it almost seems like you need Beckwith to be this 'good guy who was wronged.'

I say this with trepidation and all due respect, seriously. You just seem so confident that some people are out to get him for no good reason, and I don't quite understand it.

POST 124

Posted by Chris Cobb on July 20, 2005 at 09:15 PM (#1487554)

Chris, this whole conspiratorial deal is part of what confounds me. Gadfly is really some else in real life. Now how exactly was I supposed to know that? I missed the double-secret code.

I apologize for assuming that this was well-known by the electorate in general. It wasn't presented in code; it's just been mentioned in passing a couple of times. I've been going over all the information posted about the Negro-Leaguers pretty intensively, so I noticed it. There is something weird and highly unusual about the misinformation in Beckwith's bio, so I can understand why it's hard to credit that it could be seriously misleading. Although there are the usual urban legends and errors about what happened in which season and statistical errors and uncertainties lying around in many of the NeL player's biographies, there isn't anything comparable to the Beckwith case. I, too, would like to know more about how the elements of Riley's bio came to be written.

And I should also apologize for jumping down your throat about the whole thing, though I tried not to fly off the handle. There'd been so much digging into the whole Beckwith matter, and a lot of analysis of what in Riley was reliable and what wasn't, and how James took the info from Riley and created a compelling but somewhat misleading portrait of Beckwith, that I assumed everyone was completely familiar with the factual problems in Riley and satisfied with the analysis of them.

Chris:

No offense, but it would have been nice if you had made these posts a while back. Maybe Beckwith would be in the HoM already. :-)

John,

It was my impression that with 300+ posts on the Beckwith thread, everything that needed to be said had been said :-) . I really didn't know the extent to which the Beckwith character issue was a live issue.

And as the recent posts on his thread concerning the end of his 1925 season have shown, there is still more to be learned. There's a book waiting to be written on Beckwith, or at least a very lively chapter in a book on the Black Sox or something . . .
   325. Gadfly Posted: July 21, 2005 at 09:57 PM (#1489614)
1956 BALLOT POST 325

Posted by Chris Cobb on July 20, 2005 at 09:44 PM (#1487618)

My main point is, it almost seems like there's an emotional component to your assertions here that seem out of kilter with your great work.
Emotions aren't bad, and I wouldn't be surprised if your interpretation is what Riley was trying to say. But it almost seems like you need Beckwith to be this 'good guy who was wronged.'

I say this with trepidation and all due respect, seriously. You just seem so confident that some people are out to get him for no good reason, and I don't quite understand it.

Sigh. I knew I should have just waited 24 hours before I posted anything about this . . .

I don't need Beckwith to be wronged, but I am convinced from careful consideration of the mountains of evidence on the Beckwith thread that he has been wronged (good guy or no). I focused on the 1923 example because it's relatively clear and I could remember the key details off the top of my head. It's only a small piece of the puzzle, and a lot of careful analysis and fact-checking was done on the Beckwith thread that I thought pretty thoroughly illuminated the shortcomings of the Riley bio. So when I saw the anecdotes from Riley being raised again as they were recast by Bill James, I was pretty frustrated.

I was also angry about the integrity of the MLE playing time estimates being called into question, especially after the rationale for the playing time estimates for 1923 and 1924 had been, once upon a time, discussed in detail on the Beckwith thread. I'm am not always able to avoid defensiveness when the MLEs come up.

Finally, I was frustrated that this whole big issue, which I had regarded as settled, was being raised at the present moment, when I had just finished a lot of work on Alejandro Oms (which doesn't seem to be getting much discussion, yet, by the way, so I'll pitch it here in hopes that the high rhetoric of this conversation is grabbing the electorate's attention) and was ready to scale back my discussion on the list so that I could get a big project finished before taking a vacation.

Obviously, and as voters should always remember, I did my cause no good by speaking with excessive heat about it. But only some of the heat had to do with Beckwith. The rest pertained to me, circumstantially.

POST 126

Posted by Gadfly on July 20, 2005 at 10:17 PM (#1487656)

About Posts 110-124

Funny to just be reading along in the 1956 Ballot thread and come upon an extension of the John Beckwith (my man) thread. Especially since 1) Beckwith died in January of 1956 of cancer and 2) I just went to see 'Wedding Crashers' last night and the leading man's name in the movie was, incredibly enough, John Beckwith.

(Is there a screenwriter lurking around here?)

Also, not to take credit where no credit is due, the posts detailing Beckwith's leaving from Chicago were put up by the great Gary A.

Finally, in support of Chris Cobb's position, the mini-biography of Beckwith written by Riley and obviously read and regurgitated by Bill James is highly suspect in one area: the implication that Beckwith was some sort of criminal.

Of course, this is not to say that Beckwith was not a difficult man like Albert Belle or Dick Allen or Rogers Hornsby (who all comp him well in my opinion) because he very obviously was.

It is true that Beckwith fought with umpires, teammates, opposing players (the story of him knocking out his own pitcher after being shown up by that pitcher is true), and just about any one else who pissed him off.

But strangely enough to say, when Beckwith lived, this would not have been considered criminal conduct. If someone acted like Beckwith did today, he would go to jail. But that is a misunderstanding of context. In his time, a man was supposed to stand up for himself with his fists.

[Probably the most famous example from that time in the Majors would be Bill Dickey breaking Carl Reynold's jaw. If that happened today, just imagine the consequences. It would make the little Kenny Rogers-Cameramen flap look like so much crapola.]

In my opinion, it is easy to see where Riley, pumping it up a little, went from Beckwith, that hothead, to Beckwith, that criminal. Riley, playing a little loose with the truth, characterized Beckwith as a criminal and then fit his bio to that view.

But, as Chris Cobb stated, the facts don't support the characterization. Beckwith managed pretty steadily from 1924 to 1942 (his hiring as the Lincoln Giants' manager to replace John Lloyd actually contributed to the end of that team) and was, by all accounts, respectable in that role.

Beckwith, far from becoming a career criminal after his playing career ended, was STILL MANAGING in the late 1940s. It is very clear that Riley exaggerated. In all likelihood, it's probable that he never figured anyone would check.

As for Riley having some source for the 'bad' Beckwith, no Negro Leaguer who personally knew Beckwith, that I am aware of, claimed that Beck was a criminal.

The really interesting thing to me is that the only actual criminal activity that is truly documented about Beckwith happened to him, not by him. His (soon to be ex) wife stabbed him in 1929 and it was reported in the papers.

It happened right before the California Winter League Championship Game and, by all reports, Beckwith was too incapacitated to play. He played anyway and hit two homers.

I wouldn't mind having a bastarrd like that on my team.

PS- Wedding Crashers is funny as hell but drags at the end.

POST 127

Posted by Gadfly on July 20, 2005 at 10:48 PM (#1487706)

125. Chris Cobb-

Thanks for all the great work on Oms. He'll be on my 1956 ballot and high up since (of course) I believe that the translations very badly undercut the Negro Leaguers' estimates (Me .95/.90 BA-SA, You .90/.82 BA-SA).

I've been doing some work in that area and have to admit that I was actually over-estimating the increase which I had at 33 percent. I formed that estimate off the cuff but, when I tested it out, found out that it's more like 25 percent for Offensive Win Shares and OPS+.

[This is a tangent, but Bob Boyd recently died. His Negro League-Major League stats were always somewhat problematic as he did not hit in the Majors like his Negro League stats said he should have. Well, it turns out that he was eight years older than he claimed. His Negro League years are dead prime and his Major League years are in his mid to late 30s. His career now makes sense.]

And, if that is you getting ALL emotional, I'll just call you Spock from now on. You obviously have to work on being able to get your dander up. For some pointers, just check out my complete meltdown on the Mackey thread once again.

POST 128

Posted by Chris Cobb on July 20, 2005 at 11:42 PM (#1487753)

I'm sorry to hear that Bob Boyd died, but it's very interesting that Boyd was 8 years older than he claimed. That would change his impact on my MLE calculation somewhat . . .

Someday there'll be time to revisit that, and work on tracing changes in competition levels from the mid-twenties to late forties. I think your estimates are probably too high for the 1940s, but I think my estimates are probably too low for the 1930s.

POST 129

Posted by Howie Menckel on July 21, 2005 at 06:42 AM (#1487916)

Wow, good responses.
I still suspect Beckwith was at least an Albert Belle and maybe worse.
And most guys who get stabbed by their wives weren't just sitting around minding their own business. Saying that happened "to him" seems like a minor stretch to me, in that I'll take a wild guess he had something to do with it (I know, 'blaming the victim.')

But I DO agree that James's take on Beckwith and other early Negro Leaguers can be dismissed. Riley also is erratic in his accuracy, and I think Beckwith's problems historically have been overrated.

That said, I think this group was swaying more toward turning a blind eye to his foibles. So this 'dustup' actually just balances the scales a bit.
Beckwith is high on my ballot, but I still think the reasonable suspicion of Beckwith's temper can be a minor factor that lifts Suttles past him, which is what happened with me.

Ultimately, I think we're getting Beckwith right.
   326. Gadfly Posted: July 21, 2005 at 10:05 PM (#1489622)
1956 BALLOT POST 131

Posted by sunnyday2 on July 21, 2005 at 07:17 AM (#1487933)

I can't speak for anybody else, but being the one who brought this whole John Beckwith character discussion back to life, at least now I remember what the hell it was all about.

I meant to criticize John Beckwith, BTW, not Chris Cobb.

But with Beckwith now a likely electee in 1957 or 1958 and with him even in my own queue (in 1956) for PHoM at about #5-6, I know that I wanted to remember how serious the case against him really is.

And the fact that there are 300+ posts on his thread is really part of the problem, not the solution, I mean, yes, that's a lazy man's excuse, but I forced myself to read every line of every post, and clearly I don't claim to understand the import of every post.

Just as I also am trying to track about 100 players each year, now, as I construct a ballot. I don't think it's unreasonable that issues that seem settled will come back to life in such an environment. I mean, Alejandro Oms had seemed settled, and he came back to life, too, and that's a good thing.

But I agree that there is no evidence that Beckwith was this criminal. There is lots of evidence that he was as James alleges a pain in the #### to have around. A guy who physically beats up his own teammates, and as an ex-boxer is entirely capable of doing so, is not a good teammate.

In hindsight, however, I agree that I did not make a very good case for docking him any specific number of WS in any specific season. Chris' response to that argument is a reasonable one.

So, anyway, as I said, I've now returned a lot of data into active memory, but data is not information, information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. I still don't know that I have any knowledge, much less wisdom, concerning John Beckwith. So I can't say that I feel he is settled as in resolved, but at least his case has been reviewed.

POST 134

Posted by John (Don't Call Me Grandma!) Murphy on July 21, 2005 at 08:46 AM (#1488000)

It happened right before the California Winter League Championship Game and, by all reports, Beckwith was too incapacitated to play. He played anyway and hit two homers.

Sounds like fifty anecdotes attributed to Mickey Mantle throughout his career. :-)

It was my impression that with 300+ posts on the Beckwith thread, everything that needed to be said had been said :-) . I really didn't know the extent to which the Beckwith character issue was a live issue.

Since most of the electorate values your conversions, that Beckwith hasn't done as well as one would think with his numbers indicated to me that there was either two reasons for his being "held back": 1) his defense and what positions he would actually play in the ML and 2) his character issues. Since Jud Wilson got a relative pass on the first issue despite being very similar to Beckwith in that regard, it would then appear that #2 was the stronger factor (though Wilson was the better player, IMO).

But as I pointed out last week (I think), I'm confident that Beckwith will eventually go into the HoM eventually, while the vast majority of the HOF electorate probably will only hear his name in the "Wedding Crashers" (as Gadfly pointed out) and that's it. A little wait is better than being overlooked any time.

As for letting off steam, I'll abstain from commenting. :-)

POST 136

Posted by DavidFoss on July 21, 2005 at 10:51 AM (#1488273)

Since most of the electorate values your conversions, that Beckwith hasn't done as well as one would think with his numbers indicated to me that there was either two reasons for his being "held back".

If I recall correctly, Beckwith was one of the first of the cases there Chris's MLE's were strongly used, so there was a bit of a delay in getting his candidacy going as lengthy debates were still going on as to how much weight to put in the MLE's.

Beckwith entered the ballot in 1940 (Pike's year) way down at 14th -- that's also below Sewell, Rixey, Jennings, Griffith, Sisler, Beckley, Leach, Van Haltren, Waddell, Duffy and Welch.

In 1941, he jumped over Duffy and Welch but was still far below newly eligible Vance.

In 1942, he made his move up to 5th but still trailed Vance, Terry, Rixey and Sewell.

By 1943, he had passed Rixey and Sewell and had solidified his spot at the top of the backlog (joined later there by Suttles). Its quite reasonable that even given what we know now that if he wasn't inducted by 1943 that he's still be eligible today.

So, if the electorate had today's acceptance the MLE's Beckwith probably would have been inducted in 1940 or 1942 over one of Pike, Vance or Terry, but we needed those 'early' debates to pave the way for the quicker decisions on the NeL candidates that have followed.

POST 137

Posted by Chris Cobb on July 21, 2005 at 11:16 AM (#1488365)

I agree with David on the factors shaping Beckwith' long wait for election. I'll also note that Oms became eligible in 1942. If it hadn't taken several elections for Beckwith's case to be satisfactorily analyzed, and if it hadn't taken a decade plus for Oms to get a hearing, the 1942 election might have gone quite differently.

POST 138

Posted by John (Don't Call Me Grandma!) Murphy on July 21, 2005 at 11:51 AM (#1488495)
David:

I wasn't referring to Beckwith before and after Chris' MLEs, but where he is now with his MLEs known and accepted. It is my view that another player without the character issues that have been thrust upon Beckwith would have far more votes as of right now and may have been elected a while back.

POST 140

Posted by Michael Bass on July 21, 2005 at 12:09 PM (#1488573)

I still suspect Beckwith was at least an Albert Belle and maybe worse.

And this statement is why I detest the use of character evidence in these sorts of things. Albert Belle was detested by the media and many fans (and not without reason). I am aware of zero evidence that he was detested by his teammates; in fact most quotes I've heard from teammates liked him, or at least respected him. I am aware of less than zero evidence that he was so bad that he was costing his team games.

What has happened in my view in the case of Belle is that people who don't like him personally aren't satisfied with just declaring him a bad guy, but want to further declare that his being a bad guy made him a less valuable baseball player. Here's a clue for the arrogant beat writers: Someone being mean to you doesn't make them worse baseball players.

The same is demonstrably true for Rickey Henderson...maybe even worse with Gammons spreading around obviously untrue stories about him, while his teammates liked him quite a bit.

In the absense of strong evidence to the contrary, (such as actual game fixing or some such), I find virtually all character talk to be just that...the historian/reporter/whatever doesn't like the guy for a variety of reasons, and lets that cloud their judgment of his career.

People were more than happy to dismiss a certain historian's rose-colored views of Ferrell when it became apparent that he was inflating his views of him for whatever reason. I fail to see why they are less ready to discard what is quite apparently Riley's similar (but opposite) analysis of Beckwith.

POST 141

Posted by DavidFoss on July 21, 2005 at 12:10 PM (#1488575)

I wasn't referring to Beckwith before and after Chris' MLEs, but where he is now with his MLEs known and accepted.

Oh, OK, sure. I misunderstood you. What I said above still holds and is interesting -- even if it doesn't really respond to what you said.

I'd put quite a bit of stock in your other reason as well. Its a bit conflicting to given a defensive-spectrum bonus to a mediocre fielder. I'm more inclined to give such a bonus, but its by no means a universal view.

POST 142

Posted by John (Don't Call Me Grandma!) Murphy on July 21, 2005 at 12:15 PM (#1488594)

Oh, OK, sure. I misunderstood you. What I said above still holds and is interesting -- even if it doesn't really respond to what you said.

Your post was indeed interesting and makes sense, David.

I'd put quite a bit of stock in your other reason as well. Its a bit conflicting to given a defensive-spectrum bonus to a mediocre fielder. I'm more inclined to give such a bonus, but its by no means a universal view.

I agree that it has its own weight in regard to Beckwith's placement on our ballots, but I think the character issues are what knock him off some ballots.
   327. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 21, 2005 at 10:32 PM (#1489663)
Thanks for consolidating all of those posts, Gadfly.
   328. Gadfly Posted: July 21, 2005 at 10:47 PM (#1489684)
Since there was a very interesting discussion about Beckwith on the 1956 Ballot Thread, I took the liberty of transfering it to the Beckwith thread.

A while back, someone said something like: "Just imagine, some school kid is going to google John Beckwith and stumble upon this 300 post out-of-control thread." Made me laugh like hell.

I won't rest until the Great Beck makes it to 500 posts.

But, in any case, I have spent the whole day thinking about whether John Beckwith's career should be docked for 'character' issues.

I firmly believe that Beckwith has had his character slandered by Riley's exaggerations (Chris Cobb stated that they were outright lies and I must admit that I agree with him) in his Negro League Encyclopedia. Rereading the Beckwith entry, Riley writes:

1) that Beckwith got into trouble with the law and had to leave Chicago after the 1923 season.

This is false. If Beckwith really had gotten in trouble with the law, the Chicago Defender would have surely published something about it. Also, Beckwith lived during the off-seasons in Chicago until at least 1926 (He managed a pool room there) and his family lived there.

There is simply no proof at all that this actually happened, and plenty of proof about the real reasons for Beckwith's departure from Chicago in multiple sources (i.e. money).

Although it was stated above that the absence of proof does not prove that it did not happen, this is simply silly. Under that philosophy, everyone is a murderer until proven innocent.

2) that when Beckwith left baseball entirely, he worked briefly as a policeman in New York, but eventually reverted to activities on the other side of the law that involved loose women, dice games and bootlegging.

[Bill James recast this comment to say the Beckwith was a bootlegger, possibly a pimp.]

When I spoke to Al Fennar (who was friends with Beckwith and visited him in the hospital while Beckwith lay dying), I asked him what Beckwith did in his retirement. Fennar said that Beckwith lived quietly with his wife, worked a variety of jobs, and continued to manage and organize baseball teams right up until he got sick with cancer.

I asked Fennar if Beckwith was involved in any sort of criminal activity. Fennar said that that was simply untrue.

Well, perhaps Mr. Fennar was not truthful with me. Perhaps he gilded the truth to protect his friend. However, that was not the impression that I got. He seemed genuinely annoyed that Beckwith had been characterized as a criminal.

In fact, he went out of his way to say that Beckwith was a good man with a temper, not the evil man that he was portrayed as by Riley.

In any case, the main point would be: EVEN IF RILEY'S ASSERTION WAS TRUE, IT HAPPENED WAY AFTER BECKWITH STOPPED PLAYING.

It really should make no difference in analyzing Beckwith's career.

What Riley did get right and is undeniably true was that Beckwith had a personality like Albert Belle, Dick Allen, Rogers Hornsby, or Jud Wilson.

Beckwith was a confrontational, even violent man (though not unacceptably so in the context of his time). However, there is no story where Beckwith is the aggressor per se. Basically, someone always did something wrong and then Beckwith RESPONDED.

Compare this to the famous story about Hornsby where Rogers just hauled off and clocked one of his players in the middle of a discussion. Asked why, Hornsby replied that he just wasn't getting anywhere by talking to the player.

So the question remains: Does this detract from his baseball career?
   329. Gadfly Posted: July 21, 2005 at 11:23 PM (#1489737)
If I had to compare Beckwith to Allen, Belle, Hornsby, or Jud Wilson, I suppose that I would pick Albert Belle.

Dick Allen really doesn't fit. Allen had a persecution complex which is somewhat a result of his personality and somewhat a result of his times. But, basically, Allen was paranoid. It is hard to see Allen ever bsing made manager like Beckwith was.

Rogers Hornsby also really does not fit. Like Hornsby, Beckwith was a manager; but Beckwith's players remember him with affection. Some of Rogers' players remember him affectionately but many do not. Hornsby was blunt and in your face. Beckwith was quiet and had to be provoked.

Jud Wilson also does not really fit. Wilson was ultra-competitive and simply could not turn his competitive nature off when he was on the field. But Judson was a Jeckyll and Hyde type. His personality off the field was different. Beckwith apparently had the same personality all the time.

[Note to Chris Cobb: Wilson has always been listed as having been born in 1897 or 1899. But it has come to light that his actual year of birth was actually 1894. Taking that into consideration makes him even more phenomenal.]

But Albert Belle fits Beckwith pretty well. The only real difference is that Belle never became a manager. But that may just be a function of time and place. Belle probably would have been offered the manager's job in the 1920s (like Cobb was) if he had been white.

Belle was confrontational if provoked and had a very difficult personality, but (like Beckwith) he was not the aggressor. If Belle had played in the 1920s, there would probably be 50 or so stories of him punching someone.

So the question now devolves to: 'Would a player like this help your team?'

Of course, I am biased for Beckwith, but I think the obvious answer is yes.

And there is proof, even in Riley's Bio.

The most aggressive, ultra-competitive, win at all costs, man in the history of the Negro Leagues was probably Cum Posey.

Beckwith played for Posey three different times. Posey and Beckwith fought and went their separate ways each time; but, until Beckwith was washed up, Posey always wanted him back.

This I think, speaks volumes about Beckwith's value. Posey loved guys who competed hard. He would have never wanted Beckwith back if Beckwith had the 'character' problems that Riley states detracted from his value so much.

I think that the opinions of the qualified men who were there should be given the greatest weight. That being said, Posey wasn't the only guy who had Beckwith, had conflicts with Beck that caused him to look for greener pastures, but still wanted Beckwith back badly.

The other guy like this was Rube Foster.

[And, once again (for reasons stated in this thread and in the Cravath thread), I believe the conversions being done do Beckwith a grave injustice. He wasn't a 137+ OPS guy as has been stated. He was more like a 170 OPS+ Bomber. But, what the hell, all I ask is that people keep an open mind to the possibility that the conversions are way off.]

OPS
156+ Allen
144+ Belle
176+ Hornsby
   330. Gary A Posted: July 22, 2005 at 12:38 AM (#1489878)
Chris Cobb wrote:
On the basis of this information about the 1925 season, it's clear Beckwith did not play for the last month of the season.

That would drop his games played estimate to about 120: it was at 140, so that would cost him 4 win shares, dropping him from 28.6 to 24.5 on the season by the MLEs.


Not so fast. ;-) I've found two box scores in the Chicago Defender (8-29-25 and 9-5-25) that show Beckwith playing shortstop and batting third for the Chicago Giants. This is Joe Green's Chicago Giants, Beckwith's original team in the NNL 1920-21, now an independent outfit. The first game's date would have been 8-23 (the previous Sunday); the second game's date isn't given.

Unfortunately, a huge chunk of the Chicago Defender (issues from 7/11 thru 8/22) is missing from the standard microfilm edition, so we might be missing coverage of Beckwith's arrival back in Chicago.

As with all things Beckwith, there's always more to the story than you think at first...
   331. KJOK Posted: July 22, 2005 at 01:22 AM (#1489974)
Haven't found any more "character" issue stories, but in 1930 season Beckwith broke his leg on June 14th and did not return to the lineup until August 17th (PH appearance).
   332. KJOK Posted: July 22, 2005 at 01:29 AM (#1489994)
March 14, 1931 Baltimore African American:

Article by Ben Taylor:

"I came to Baltimore in 1926. Beckwith was the manager in 1925, and was still the property of the Black Sox according to League rules. The owner asked whether I thought I could handle him. I said, yes. So we sent for him.

Things did not go so good after he came, and I figured it was the presence of Beckwith that made bad matters worse. So in July we made a trade to Harrisburg....we all know that Beckwith is one of our biggest stars, and so is Charleston, but I don't think either of them will ever make a good manager. Sending Beckwith to Harrisburg did him more good than anything else."
   333. KJOK Posted: July 22, 2005 at 01:48 AM (#1490029)
July 18, 1931 Baltimore African American:

John Beckwith, PEACEMAKER?!


"POSEY STRIKES WARFIELD IN SUNDAY TILT

...Posey rushed from the bench to the diamond, where Scales, with several other Gray players, were protesting to the umpire. Warfield ran in from third base and reached the scene at the same time as Posey. He objected to the Pittsburgher's presence on the field and asked him to leave the diamond.

According to Warfield, Posey's answer to this request was an unprintable epithat. As Warfield stepped closer, Posey swung with his fist, the blow catching Warfield on the jaw. The force of the blow was broken, however, by several players, among them John Beckwith, who were attempting to restrain Posey from his pugilistic demonstration."
   334. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 22, 2005 at 02:40 PM (#1491242)
Sunnyday/Marc’s argument that we should consider reducing Beckwith’s Career WS when he was kicked off teams due to behavior issues is interesting, and I will drop Beckwith just a bit.

This was posted on the ballot page thread first.

Someone (I forget who) had answered this a while back and it still makes sense. If Beckwith left or was kicked off his team to go to another one, why should he be penalized for it? His new team and his production for that team is what counts at that time now. How does this translates into something more than what shows up in his statistics?

I think we need to figure out if we are accruing actual tangible negative value to Beckwith or are we awarding him a penalty beyond his actual worth as a player.
   335. karlmagnus Posted: July 22, 2005 at 08:04 PM (#1492054)
(Copied from discussion thread, as it belongs here.)

It's possible of course that the stories may be true but misleading. In Chicago in 1923-25, there were a hell of a lot of people involved in low level bootlegging, and being involved in it didn't make you a member of Organized Crime (it made you a criminal, but only because the law was silly.) Only in the late 1920s did Al Capone get going and bootlegging become a serious business.

It's certainly reasonable to imagine a tough customer like Beckwith, who hung around bars and pool halls, making some additional dosh by this means, and when the game got rough deciding that a change of venue would be good for his life expectancy. That doesn't make him a CRIMINAL -- he won't have made much post-career money by bootlegging, since Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and he could thus perfectly well have settled down to a life of utmost respectability once bootlegging ceased to be semi-legitimate.

Imagine a 70s/80s player who maybe deals a little dope on the side (not heroin/crack, which seriously damage his teammates' health.) Would we drop him much for this, if it was known? I don't think so.

Beckwith's activities, if they existed, may technically have been illegal, but if this is their extent, they don't reflect on the game and are e.g. considerably less "immoral" than say Benny Kauff's dodgy used car dealing.
   336. sunnyday2 Posted: July 22, 2005 at 10:23 PM (#1492370)
John, the question is whether the teams he played on played worse with him than without. That has always been Bill James argument against Rogers Hornsby, e.g. Every team he played on did better after he left. The other players were able and/or willing to just concentrate on doing their jobs without the distractions of Rajah pissing in the shower and all of that. So (the argument goes) Rajah's bad behavior doesn't show up in his statistics but in the team's Ws and Ls and maybe in other player's statistics.

I don't have the info to know if this same phenomenon is actually true of John Beckwith or not. But that, at least, I think, is the question.
   337. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2005 at 01:05 AM (#1492773)
John, the question is whether the teams he played on played worse with him than without. That has always been Bill James argument against Rogers Hornsby, e.g. Every team he played on did better after he left.

That's the argument that some use against A-Rod. To make that argument stick, one has to look at the rest of the team before and after Beckwith was on the team. IMO, it's silly to just assume that the team was better off without by looking at the standings without doing some more exhaustive research (I'm not saying you agree with this, BTW, Marc).

The other players were able and/or willing to just concentrate on doing their jobs without the distractions of Rajah pissing in the shower and all of that. So (the argument goes) Rajah's bad behavior doesn't show up in his statistics but in the team's Ws and Ls and maybe in other player's statistics.

The problem with this concerning Hornsby and Beckwith is that they were managers. Mangerial-wise, they may have had a detrimental effect on their teams, but we're not dealing with that here when we cast our ballots.
   338. Jeff M Posted: July 23, 2005 at 05:49 AM (#1493451)
We've gone over (and over) this on the Beckwith thread; if you don't get the "in trouble with the law" dispute (about Beckwith leaving the Am Gts in 1923), see posts 278 & 279 there.

Those posts restate the feelings of those who feel Beckwith's character has been assassinated, and they assert that since the posters are unable to independently verify Beckwith's criminal (or non-criminal behavior) in Chicago by looking at old newspapers, we can't trust the Riley bio (or perhaps his entire biographical encyclopedia).

This goes beyond Beckwith. Riley's intro says his book is the result of 20 years of research. I don't mean to insult anyone here (really, I don't), but I'm not going to throw Riley's book in the trash and deem it untrustworthy because someone here can't verify whether Beckwith got into trouble with the law by looking at the newspapers.

As I already mentioned, there are many ways to get in trouble with the law that don't equate to "criminality" or even guilt. And there are many ways to get in trouble with the law without having it picked up by the media.

In addition, the words "got into trouble with the law" (quoted from Riley) are just not the same as "Beckwith was a fugitive from the law" (quoted from post #279). You can interpret them that way, and maybe that's what Riley meant (who knows?), but that's not what the words say.

I'm assuming most of us don't care if Beckwith was bootlegging whiskey or something, at least not for purposes of voting for him. If the real concern is whether we can trust Riley, why doesn't someone e-mail him and ask him about some of his sources (in a non-accusatory way, hopefully)? Surely someone here or another SABR member knows how to contact him. Or is he dead?

I just don't think the collateral attacks on Riley (or his book, whichever it is) get us anywhere. Suppose Riley's sources are three former teammates. Wouldn't that carry just as much weight as whether the media reported this particular legal problem? If not, why not? (I'm starting to sound like a textbook :) )

Suppose it is 2055 and I'm writing your biography. I talk to your friends and family. Your brother says "He was always doing something shady and trying to stay one step ahead of the law." I write the bio. Then someone says the bio is wrong because they can't verify on the Internet or the newspapers that you ever were charged with a crime.

Maybe this is all just an academic argument. It doesn't affect where I rank Beckwith, or my use of Riley as one source of Negro League information...at least not at this point.
   339. Gary A Posted: July 23, 2005 at 02:25 PM (#1493625)
Those posts restate the feelings of those who feel Beckwith's character has been assassinated, and they assert that since the posters are unable to independently verify Beckwith's criminal (or non-criminal behavior) in Chicago by looking at old newspapers, we can't trust the Riley bio (or perhaps his entire biographical encyclopedia).

Actually, those posts (#1065378, #1065385, #1182988 and #1183027) don't restate any "feelings"; they merely report what's in the Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, and other newspapers of the time, which are sources anybody can find and examine for themselves. Specifically the posts are about the circumstances of Beckwith's leaving the American Giants in 1923. I'd defy anybody to reconcile Riley's account with publicly-available historical records--which, it is true, are primarily "old newspapers." (And by the way, *of course* newspapers are generally more reliable than 50-year-old recollections when it comes to the precise dates of player movements, game dates, etc.)

This is not a case of arguing that something couldn't have happened because we can't verify it in newspapers (though I would say that the papers' silence on Beckwith's supposed legal troubles is certainly a strong piece of evidence); rather, it's a case of Riley's account *conflicting* with what was reported in newspapers at the time. They can't both be true.

As I think Chris Cobb has pointed out, the question of Beckwith's "criminality" is only secondary here; the fact is that Beckwith's departure from the American Giants and signing by the Homestead Grays was much-discussed. The notion that Beckwith left the American Giants before the season was over because of legal troubles of whatever kind is inconsistent with what's reported about his whereabouts and movements in these years: he played with the team for the whole season; he's also reported as spending the 1923-24 off-season in Chicago, arriving in Pittsburgh the next spring from Chicago; when he left the Homestead Grays in 1924 he returned to Chicago, where the Baltimore owner met with and signed him; in 1925, he left the Black Sox and returned to Chicago to play (again) for Joe Green's Chicago Giants.

As for Riley's reliability: Pointing out inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the book isn't "trashing" Riley. I'd say that trying to organize information about 4,000 mostly unknown people was quite an accomplishment on its own terms. It should not, however, surprise anyone that it's not the final word in every instance, especially when it comes to the level of detail and accuracy we're demanding from it.

In addition, the words "got into trouble with the law" (quoted from Riley) are just not the same as "Beckwith was a fugitive from the law" (quoted from post #279). You can interpret them that way, and maybe that's what Riley meant (who knows?), but that's not what the words say.

You have to look at the whole phrase: "after less than two full seasons with the American Giants, Beckwith got into trouble with the law and left Chicago." The meaning is quite plain. One can be a fugitive in a formal sense (a warrant was out for his arrest) or an informal sense (some cops were hassling him). Either way, the implication for Beckwith's baseball career is the same.
   340. Howie Menckel Posted: July 23, 2005 at 03:17 PM (#1493653)
Gary A,
hypothetical, and no offense to Dontrelle, just first example who came to mind:

Dontrelle Willis "gets in trouble with the law" late this year and winds up in Japan next season.
Years later, someone writes "after less than three full seasons with the Marlins, Willis got in trouble with the law and left Miami."
You will assume, I guess, that means Willis left sometime in the midst of the third season. And you will be wrong. His first season was not a full one.

And don't think I'm going way off the path here.
When I first read that comment, I definitely took it to be Riley trying to bolster his case that Beckwith was unreliable. That is, he hadn't even played two full seasons in one place, and off he went again. And I saw one MLE of Beckwith earlier that suggested one of the seasons saw some significant time missed, although that was later challenged.

Clearly, the meaning is NOT quite plain. I think that's undeniable, as I am not a fool and I had a different interpretation. I would not be at all surprised if your surmise is correct, but it's simply not the only way to read this ambiguous statement. But I'm not sure which one he meant.

"Beckwith got in trouble with the law and left Chicago before his second season with the American Giants" is quite plain.
The way Riley worded it is poor, regardless of what he actually meant.
   341. Howie Menckel Posted: July 23, 2005 at 03:18 PM (#1493654)
dammit.
obviously, the plain meaning comment would be "Beckwith got in trouble with the law and left Chicago before THE END OF his second season with the American Giants."
   342. Gary A Posted: July 23, 2005 at 05:06 PM (#1493731)
I'm going to have to confess to a bit of impatience about this, as I think Riley's meaning is clear in context. Anybody who's interested can compare what he says and what's been quoted from the papers and judge how well they match up, and what it means. This is Riley's account of Beckwith's 1922 and 1923 seasons:

Soon afterward [after 1921] he was signed by Rube Foster and, playing on the corners and hitting .302 while batting in the fifth and sixth spots in the order, he helped the American Giants win their third straight pennant. The next season he hit .323 but, after less than two full seasons with the American Giants, he got into trouble with the law and left Chicago.

If anybody's interested in what actually happened, Beckwith did indeed spend the entire 1922 and 1923 seasons with the American Giants, possibly missing a little injury time in 1922 (though I don't remember for sure). There may be some ambiguity in Riley's phrasing if you look hard enough, but if there is, it certainly doesn't help the case for his reliability on this question.
   343. Howie Menckel Posted: July 23, 2005 at 05:37 PM (#1493746)
Gary A,
I had a post done, but there's probably no point, so I've junked most of it.
Looks like we'll have to respectfully agree to disagree here - about whether I am "looking hard," and whether it's possible that Riley is the one who is right about 1922 not being a full season for Beckwith.

On a brighter note, maybe Beckwith gets elected this year, and he joins Lip Pike and Bob Caruthers in the "former topics bin." :)
   344. favre Posted: July 23, 2005 at 06:44 PM (#1493808)
"Sunnyday/Marc’s argument that we should consider reducing Beckwith’s Career WS when he was kicked off teams due to behavior issues is interesting, and I will drop Beckwith just a bit."

"Someone (I forget who) had answered this a while back and it still makes sense. If Beckwith left or was kicked off his team to go to another one, why should he be penalized for it?"


I'm the one who wrote that first comment in the ballot thread. I wrote after sunnyday's arguments were posted, but before Chris et al. responded. Had I posted just a little later, I would have changed my comments, though I still probably would have dropped Beckwith, because in the end I like Averill more. I'd like to note that I dropped Beckwith from #2 to #3 on the ballot; last year, only four voters had Beckwith higher on the ballot than I did. I understand that moving Beckwith out of an elect-me spot can be significant in a close election, but it feels odd to be cited as a voter who is underrating him.

I'd also like to remind everyone that while character issues may have hampered his candidacy, there are other arguments against him as well: he had a relatively short career for a NeL'r, and there are questions about his defense, although his reputation of indifference with the glove may be unfair. Short career, questionable defense, unsavory reputation, yet he's still on the verge of election, as he should be.
   345. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2005 at 07:25 PM (#1493855)
I understand that moving Beckwith out of an elect-me spot can be significant in a close election, but it feels odd to be cited as a voter who is underrating him.

That was the reason why I didn't mention your name in my rebuttal post, favre. You can hardly be cited as an "enemy" of Beckwith. But I felt I needed to address your thoughts in regard to Beckwith's character as a springboard for my own feelings.

I'd also like to remind everyone that while character issues may have hampered his candidacy, there are other arguments against him as well: he had a relatively short career for a NeL'r, and there are questions about his defense, although his reputation of indifference with the glove may be unfair. Short career, questionable defense, unsavory reputation, yet he's still on the verge of election, as he should be.

This is all true and I have alluded to all of those reasons above.
   346. Jeff M Posted: August 01, 2005 at 03:23 AM (#1514342)
I took Chris' MLE's for Beckwith's OBP and SLG and searched for MLB players in the same season within .015 on either side of both. From that, I calculated the Batting WS per out of those players, and applied them to Beckwith. (In some seasons .015 produced no comparables -- or only one comparable -- and in those cases I extended to .020 on either side).

For fielding, I estimated Beckwith's innings at 8 times games played, and pretended he played 2/3 at 3b and 1/3 at SS. I treated him as an average 3b (4.13 WS/1000 innings) and an average shortstop (5.72 WS/1000 innings).

Here are the results:

Year  Outs   OBP  SLG   BWS  FWS   WS
1919   51   .278 .368   0.6  0.7   1.3
1920  358   .328 .377   9.1  4.7  13.8
1921  379   .396 .527  19.2  5.5  24.7
1922  341   .380 .497  16.7  4.9  21.6
1923  378   .376 .571  22.1  5.4  27.5
1924  369   .406 .571  17.4  5.4  22.8 
1925  344   .413 .610  21.6  5.2  26.9
1926  296   .397 .552  16.6  4.3  20.9
1927  385   .395 .493  18.3  5.6  23.9
1928  346   .390 .481  15.2  5.0  20.2
1929  369   .401 .541  19.1  5.5  24.6
1930  243   .423 .600  17.0  3.8  20.8
1931  375   .398 .583  23.4  5.6  29.0
1932  254   .396 .569  15.3  3.8  19.1
1933  247   .381 .492  13.1  3.6  16.7
1934  163   .279 .231   0.0  2.0   2.0
1935   10   .180 .138   0.0  0.1   0.1
tot. 4911   .387 .522 244.7 71.1 315.8 
   347. andrew siegel Posted: August 01, 2005 at 01:21 PM (#1514789)
I am having a hard time accepting the peakless careers that the negro leaguers are all being projected to. Here are some contemporaries of Beckwith who had similar career batting stats and less defensive value. Notice how many more 30 and even 25 WS seasons they put up:

Player SLG OBP 30WS 25WS
Beckwith .522 .387 0 5
Simmons .535 .380 4 7
Goslin .500 .387 2 7
Heilmann .520 .410 4 6
Averill .534 .395 3 7

Some thoughts:

(1) Obviously, offensive levels moved over time, so that is a factor, but I picked only AL guys to err on the side of a higher run context.

(2) The main problem (which we've discussed before) is the consequences of the methodology, which regresses the small data set for every season towards the career data (as well as the mean?).

(3) Another problem may be that Beckwith's stats are park neutral while the players used for comps are raw stats. Since players who play in good hitters' parks are more likely to put up good numbers, Beckwith is more likely to be comped to those guys and to be credited with a WS number that properly deflates their park-inflated numbers but improperly deflates their park-neutral numbers.

(4) A third factor here is that WS is unbelievably conservative about the amount of defensive credit it gives compared to other metrics (see Jeff's posts on the ubersystems threads). Beckwith is likely not getting enough credit for being an adequate 3B/SS in comparison with these OF's.
   348. TomH Posted: August 01, 2005 at 01:36 PM (#1514804)
I completely agree with Andrew's point regarding peak; Beckwith most likely would have had some monster seasons had he batted 500+ times a year.

I do not agree that he ought to get fielding credit for being an adequate 3B/SS in MLB. The evidence to me indicates he most likely would have had a career of mixed positions, something like Sheffield (who started as a SS) or Killebrew or T Perez at the low end, or C Jones, or E Banks at the top end. It's a guess of course, but I peg him at 20% SS, 30% 3B, 50% 1B/RF/LF.
   349. andrew siegel Posted: August 01, 2005 at 01:50 PM (#1514823)
As for Beckwith's defensive prowess/position, I am of two minds. On the one hand, our mental images of him and our experience with modern players like Sheffield and Chipper suggest that he would have drifted across the defensive spectrum. On the other hand, we don't really have any evidence that he was anything other than a solid defensive player.

Right now, I compromise by conceptualizing him as a league average or slightly below average 3B. I think that might be underrating him (he might have been an adequate SS for the first half of his career and a good 3B for the second half of his career) or overrating him (he might have been Garry Sheffield, in which case his defensive value would have been similar to Heilmann or Goslin).
   350. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 01, 2005 at 02:23 PM (#1514860)
FWIW, Andrew, I think your solution is reasonable. You've accepted the shift down the spectrum, but you have also not let yourself get caught up in the tin-glove talk.

Meantime, I agree also that regression is creating peaklessness. On the other hand, it's a necessary evil because of the sample issues at hand. So the question for the group is this:

How can we tweak the methodology to account for both peak and sample size?

As someone with zero concept about how regression is conducted, here's one idea, call it a peak-centered system, if you will.

Step 1) Figure the rough career and seasonal BWS for y NgL batter. [this could be done using SFWS or by using Chris's OPS+-comps method.]
Step 2) For y NgL batter, find his five or so most comparable white major-league players from the same rough era.
Step 3) Using WS, figure out what percentage of their career WS the comps put together in each season of their careers. In other words, something like this
      AVG    AVG       AVG
     career  best      2nd-best
      WS     season    season
             as % of   as % of
             career WS career WS
Comps  320   10%       9.4%      etc....

Step 4) Allocate the WS across a player's career using Chris's regression method.

Step 5) Starting with what the MLEs show as his best season, and using the calculations in step 3 as a guideline, check to see whether the best seasons match up with observed peaks of the white comps. If regression has smoothed it too much, then, adjust upward in the peak, and downward on the tails. You don't have to force-fit the NgL player into this pattern if he obviously doesn't follow it; after all every player is unique. But this way, it provides a check on whether or not the player is credited with a peak that fits what we know about how similar players peak.


For a mental image of how it would work, imagine a piece of yarn lying on a flat surface. This would be a career whose shape was flattened by regression. Each season is the same relative to another.

Now imagine that you pinch it at the peak season and gently lift it, the seasons will change relative to one another, but the yarn remains as long as it was. The height to which the yarn is lifted is guided by both the unregressed MLEs' estimation of the height of the best season, as well as how well that unregressed estimation fits within the observed data among the comparabless.

Does that make sense to anyone? I'm just hatching this now as I write, so it might not be real clear.
   351. karlmagnus Posted: August 01, 2005 at 02:56 PM (#1514913)
I think Dr. Chaleeko's method allows for too much twiddling, which reduces the solidity of what you come up with (thus reducing the confidence in it of us sceptics, and allowing enthusiasts to kid themselves by rounding everything in marginal guys' favor.) Peak as usually defined means 3-5 season peak, not just one fluke season, so regression reduces peaks by less than you think it does, since over 3-5 years the short term fluctuations will averrage out.
   352. Jeff M Posted: August 02, 2005 at 04:04 AM (#1516496)
How can we tweak the methodology to account for both peak and sample size?

I'm not exactly sure how to implement it -- and I wouldn't try to speak for the complexities it would build into Chris Cobb's system -- but in the latest issue of The Baseball Research Journal (No. 33) Bill Boynton wrote an article called "Win Shares and the Parabolic Course of Baseball Lives."

He measured the shape (literally) of 5, 10, 15 and 20 year careers, based on Win Shares. Generally, the article concludes that the longer the career, the higher the peak, which is interesting. But in terms of shape, he found the 10 and 15 year careers fit a parabola with a gradual rise to the peak and a more or less similar decline at the end of the relatively short peak. The 20-year career was a "fifth-order polynomial" -- whatever the hell that is. The shape is essentially the same as a parabola, but the players get to a higher peak faster and have a slower decline.

I'm gonna try an experiment. A parabola, as for a 10 or 15 year career:


          x x x
        x      x
      x          x
     x            x
    x              x
   x                x
  x                  x
 x                    x
x                      x


A fifth order polynomial for a 20-year career:

         x x x
       x       x x x
      x             x 
     x                x
     x                 x
    x                   x
   x                     x
   x                      x
  x                        x
 x                          x
 x                           x
x                             x 
x                              x


That's the general idea, although I think the polynomial ought to rise a little more quickly.

I'll quote the article briefly:

"...temporary mid-career dips are quite common. What does seem to be almost universally true is that, once given a chance to play regularly, the win shares of players who will become stars take off very rapidly."

"For the 10- and 15-year career players, the average win share data are reasonably well described by a parabola, rising during the early years, reaching a peak around age 28, then descending symmetrically toward retirement. Star players in the 20-year group exhibit unusual mid-career 'staying power'".

"The great ones are already performing at a superior level by their third season, and they play for a long time."

"After only two or three seasons, the 20-year players are already garnering win shares faster than the players in the 10-year group, and by their fourth season they have eclipsed the peak performance of the 15-year players. Fifteen years after their debuts, the 20-year position players, though heading downhill, are still performing at or better than the peak level of the 15-year players."

So Chris and Eric, go ahead and work that in and let us see the results. I think we'd be happy if you had it ready by, say, midnight tomorrow. :)
   353. Jeff M Posted: August 02, 2005 at 04:37 AM (#1516529)
More on the fifth-order polynomial, with some numbers. For a guy with a 20-year career and 328 WS with a high peak of 25 WS, the numbers would look like this to fit the fifth-order polynomial:

Year     WS      %
1         2     0.6
2         7     2.1
3        10     3.0
4        14     4.3
5        18     5.5
6        20     6.1
7        22     6.7
8        24     7.3
9        25     7.6
10       25     7.6
11       25     7.6
12       25     7.6
13       24     7.3
14       22     6.7
15       19     5.8
16       16     4.9
17       14     4.3
18       10     3.0
19        3     0.9
20        1     0.3

That's just the smooth fit polynomial, and no one fits it perfectly. Apart from random 1-2 WS valuations along the way, apparently almost all players have a small dip near the start of the peaks. It appears to be a 5-7 WS dip between years 8 and 10 for 20-year players.

Also, I should have mentioned in the prior post that those shapes are for position players. Twenty year pitchers have a much shorter peak but a slower and longer decline. Ten and 15-year pitchers have shapes much like the 10 and 15-year position player shapes.
   354. Brent Posted: August 05, 2005 at 03:30 AM (#1524537)
On the 1957 Ballot thread (# 30) I (Brent) wrote:

John Beckwith –
I voted for him for many “years,” but I have become convinced that his imminent election will be a mistake. Riley makes many misstatements in his evaluation of Beckwith, and for a while I became convinced that Riley simply wasn’t credible, but I now believe that Riley is fundamentally correct in his conclusion that Beckwith’s “character deficiencies often negated his performance value.”

Our experts have verified that for three consecutive seasons during Beckwith’s peak, disputes with management led him to fail to complete the season with the team he started with:
- In June 1924, Beckwith was released by the Homestead Grays because he “was unable to fit into our organization.” This followed a game in which Beckwith, as team captain, countermanded an order for a pinch hitter from Cum Posey, the owner/manager. (Beckwith thread # 103)
- In August 1925, shortly after being demoted as manager, Beckwith left the Baltimore Black Sox in mid-season without giving notice. (# 318, 319)
- Beckwith returned to Baltimore in 1926, but the new manager, Ben Taylor, reported, “Things did not go so good after he came, and I figured it was the presence of Beckwith that made bad matters worse.” In July, Baltimore traded Beckwith to Harrisburg. (# 331)

Is this one of the most valuable players in baseball history? Not in my book. I look at value from the point of view of a team’s owner/GM asking, is this the kind of player I would want to build a championship team around? Although there is no reasonable doubt that Beckwith was one of the best hitting players in baseball’s history, and a middle infielder to boot, at least during his prime years he also was not the type of player around whom I would want to build my championship team. Baseball players are more—and sometimes less—than their statistics.

“The biggest mistake that people who try to study baseball through the stats make is… confusing them with the real event. There’s always a tremendous amount that’s left out.” — Bill James, on “Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg,” PBS, July 28, 2005.


= = = = = =
Andrew Siegel wrote (# 35):

A provactive aside sparked equally by John Beckwith's eminent election and Manny Ramirez's almost-trade:

Since hitting is both the most important thing that any baseball player does and a fundamentally individual exercise, if a team has a John Beckwith or a Manny Ramirez or a Dick Allen or a Rogers Hornsby and can't figure out how to position them in the field and structure the clubhouse environment to get All-Star value out of them, the fault is with the team, not the player.


= = = = = =
TomH wrote (# 38):

Andrew, I'd mostly agree, but not 100%. Suppose I was a manager and my GM drafted/traded for three of these guys, and they were almost ready to kill each other in the clubhouse. I wouldn't fault the team for trading two of them for a slighty-less talented but more stable star.

= = = = = =
Andrew Siegel wrote (# 39):
Tom H--

I think we are in rough accord--around the margins or as a tiebreaker, it is appropriate to dock a Manny or Beckwith or Hornsby a little bit b/c of the costs attendant to dealing with their crap. That is why, for example, I rate Hornsby below Collins and Morgan, who are essentially tied on the numbers but caused less problems. With regard to Beckwith, such a discount might drop him out of the conversation to be the 2nd best 3B of All-Time (which he otherwise would be in), but it doesn't drop him out of the top half of the HoM.


= = = = = =
Karlmagnus wrote (# 41):

I object to the association of Manny with Allen and Hornsby, or indeed Beckwith. Manny's flaky, but he NEVER throws tantrums or attacks anybody, and his team generally like him. A clubhouse that can't work with Manny is a clubhouse that needs to be blown up and reformed. Manny is from all accounts at worst rather like Babe Ruth without the womanising, no great philosopher but a perfectly OK guy to be around.

Beckwith was a pretty typical "tough customer" of which MLB had lots in those days, and NEL baseball probably had at least as many because there wasn't as much money sloshing around to soften the harsh realities of life and remove temptations to bootlegging and other petty crime. You might dock him a bit. but not all that much. Hornsby and Allen appear to have been considerably more difficult characters.


= = = = = =
Andrew Siegel wrote (# 46):

I object to the association of Manny with Allen and Hornsby, or indeed Beckwith. Manny's flaky, but he NEVER throws tantrums or attacks anybody, and his team generally like him. A clubhouse that can't work with Manny is a clubhouse that needs to be blown up and reformed. Manny is from all accounts at worst rather like Babe Ruth without the womanising, no great philosopher but a perfectly OK guy to be around.

Beckwith was a pretty typical "tough customer" of which MLB had lots in those days, and NEL baseball probably had at least as many because there wasn't as much money sloshing around to soften the harsh realities of life and remove temptations to bootlegging and other petty crime. You might dock him a bit. but not all that much. Hornsby and Allen appear to have been considerably more difficult characters.
   355. Brent Posted: August 05, 2005 at 03:37 AM (#1524540)
Revisiting Beckwith -- I recognize that at this point it’s too late to stop the Beckwith train, but since I seem to be the only voter who is seriously questioning his credentials on “character” issues, I’d like to make one more attempt to explain my position.

I’ll begin by conceding several points that have been made by Beckwith’s proponents:
1 – I agree that Riley made several factual errors (for example, contrary to Riley, Beckwith completed the full 1923 season with Chicago; and Riley’s version of the story about his release from Homestead in 1924 isn’t entirely accurate.) Other parts of Riley’s account, such as Beckwith’s alleged involvement in criminal activities, also appear to be doubtful.
2 – It’s also apparent that Riley and/or his sources were extremely biased against Beckwith; consequently I recommend against ever accepting Riley’s version of events regarding Beckwith without additional verification.
3- Although we can never truly know what motivates people, gadfly’s description of Beckwith as someone who “wasn't going to take crap or disrespect from anybody” seems right to me. It’s consistent with the major verified controversies from his career, and it also seems consistent with the fact that these controversies seem to have largely died down when he was serving as manager.

Next, I’d like to be clear that I have not tried to judge Beckwith’s morality or character per se. Nor are my concerns primarily even about any effects he may have had on team morale in the clubhouse. I think that several other HoMers (including Cobb and Hornsby) probably were more difficult for their teammates to deal with than Beckwith was.

I have tried to limit my attention solely to verifiable events that may be clearly identified as having had an adverse effect on his teams. I, like most voters here, start with the statistical record, but apparently I am one of the few who thinks other considerations also have a place in assessing merit.

As a peak voter, I generally start by asking how many MVP-quality seasons did a candidate have? How many all-star level seasons?

Generally, about 30 win shares is taken to be the level of performance that would make a position player a viable MVP candidate. According the Chris’s MLEs, Beckwith had two such seasons: 1924 and 1925. (Using Chris’s latest win shares, Beckwith was credited with 30.8 WS in 1924 and 28.6 in 1925. Using his earlier estimates that did not include regression – and thus probably more accurately reflected the season-by-season peaks and troughs, Beckwith was credited with 29.9 WS in 1924 and 33.5 in 1925.)

But my problem with this is that I think it’s quite clear that Beckwith was not really an MVP candidate either season. If there had been a modern-style MVP election in 1925, Beckwith surely would not have received a single vote; he had walked away from his team before the end of the season. Nor, in my opinion, did he deserve any votes. Sticking it out with your team is one of the most cherished principles of behavior in all sports. Would any of you sabermetricians actually seriously defend Beckwith as one of the most valuable players in baseball that year?

Similarly, in 1924, he got himself released mid-season from his Homestead team after directly defying an order from Cum Posey, his manager and team owner, regarding sending in a pinch hitter. At that point, I don’t see that Posey was left with any option but to get rid of him, even though Beckwith’s departure clearly hurt Homestead. Even though Beckwith immediately found work with another team and continued to hit well, I don’t see how two half seasons and taking actions that forced his dismissal from his first-half team can be construed as a notably valuable season.

So essentially, my problem is that when we look at the verified events that were precipitated by Beckwith, his two best statistical seasons were of dubious actual value. Although I know much less about 1926, that season he was also traded away mid-season, not because Baltimore wanted another player but because they wanted to get rid of Beckwith.

If the rest of Beckwith’s career were sufficiently strong, maybe he could be a viable HoM candidate without those three years. But based on Chris’s MLEs, I just don’t see it.

Responding to Andrew Siegel’s point about misbehavior being the responsibility of the team rather than the player – I don’t have any problem with seeing behavioral issues as a shared responsibility of player and management. When things break down, both parties are typically to blame. But I can’t agree with saying that the player ceases to be responsible for the consequences of his actions.

As I said, I don’t really expect this to persuade anyone, but I did want to clearly explain why I remain troubled by Beckwith’s upcoming election.
   356. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 05, 2005 at 04:49 PM (#1525173)
Two points:

a) 25-30 WS is a regressed peak. The reality is that Beckwith's (and all NgLs') peak would probably be better described in a model like the parabola rather than in a flat-line regression model (says the guy with no math background!). So using that regressed number as gospel isn't really a good barometer of what kind of contribution Beckwith was making.

b) This whole Beckwith character morass is kind of out of hand. [BIG RANT FOLLOWS]

Has anyone with a problem with Beckwith docked Joe Medwick for being an arsehole and getting traded around the league for it?

Did Beckwith shunners vote for Joe Jackson at any point?

Sure hope that those voters shunning Beckwith's character don't have Lip Pike in their pHOM or near it. Hope they don't vote for John McGraw and his plots to destroy the AL or his willingness to stamp on umpires' shoes.

And you better note vote for Dick Allen or Albert Belle.

Rickey Henderson ("play me or trade me!") and the Barry Bonds media circus will be tough calls for you too, I guess what with all the distractions that lead their teams astray. Canseco? Hope you're not caught voting for that guy, he bounced around and was essentially blacklisted for being a bad seed.

Sammy Sosa too. After all, he got run out of town for being a bad case in Dusty's clubhouse.

You gotta draw the line somewhere. And if you draw it anywhere above a demonstrable penchant for throwing games, you'll be treating one or more players unfairly. We don't belong inside people's heads, we can only analyze what they did on the field.

We're all just people. For all you know Beckwith was going through a divorce or a death in the family those years. Maybe his father beat the sh*t out of him as a kid and that's why he grew up to be a tough. Or maybe he was manic depressive at a time when there was no viable or societally sanctioned treatment for it. No one has a frickin' clue what drove Beckwith to be difficult, and that's why character is a crapshoot.

And any judgment a voter here makes about character is going to be filled with their own personal biases, their own backstories, their own beatings and abuses at the hands of others, their own drill-sargent uncle's admonitions to always wear your hair short and stand up straight, their Jewish mother's insistence on making the most of yourself and having another slice of kugel, their socio-geo-political-economic values, their own bigotries and over-generosity to oppressed minorities.

You can say what you want about character effecting on-the-field performance, but there's plenty of stories out there about how teammates dissing Steve Garvey and even Ernie Banks for wearing fake smiles and being surly underneath.

And when you can prove to me that the 1970s Oakland A's won because they hated each other, then I'll find it reasonable to dock a guy for being a tough customer or maybe instead dock a guy for being nice. See Dale Murphy was too nice, that's why the Braves couldn't win it all in the 1980s....

Anyway, I could go on and on, sorry for the rant.
   357. Chris Cobb Posted: August 05, 2005 at 05:34 PM (#1525250)
Although I disagree with Bren'ts position, it raises several issues in a well-reasoned fashion that call for thought. Here three thoughts I have, about 1924, 1925, and the Beckwith problem in general:

1) The situation in 1924 is complicated in two ways. First, we can't exactly apply the "playing for a pennant" standard to the 1924 Homestead Grays. They were an independent team, not a league team. In that context, does the coming or going of a player mean anything beyond what that player contributes in a given game? If that's the case, what exactly is Beckwith to be penalized for? What is the nature of his responsibility to the team? This last question is both open and serious: I see that a player has some responsibilities to his team, but it seems to me that Brent's argument places too much responsibility on the player.

Second, we know Beckwith was in a leadership position on the team. Are disputes between managers and owners, or between owners and general managers, or between managers and general managers, or between star players and managers that lead to the dismissal of _somebody_ all that unusual in a professional baseball context?

2) In the case of 1925, Beckwith obviously wouldn't have received many votes for the MVP award in the Eastern Colored League, and he would have been rightly avoided in that context. But does that mean the contributions that he made towards his team winning games should be discounted as a result? Maybe his departure before the end of the season cost Baltimore the pennant, but maybe Baltimore wouldn't have been in contention in the first place if he hadn't been there. I can see reasons to dock Beckwith's 1925 season, but to treat it as if it were not a part of his career or not highly valuable seems a greatly excessive response to what happened.

3) I agree with Dr. Chaleeko that Beckwith's record is being held to standards of conduct that we have not generally applied to other players, and that it is unclear how those standards could be applied consistently or fairly.
   358. TomH Posted: August 05, 2005 at 06:12 PM (#1525311)
Dr C asks:
Has anyone ....docked Joe Medwick for being an arsehole and getting traded around the league?
--
no, but havet read this. Tell me the stories, maybe they are relevant!

{{ Joe Jackson, Lip Pike }}
these two had plaenty of people knocking them.

{{ John McGraw and his plots to destroy the AL}}
Explain why this is important to winning games? It ain't like leaving your team or hurti gyour teammates.

{{Dick Allen, Albert Belle}} - I'm sure we'll have lots of fun discussion on them. I suspect many of us will take similar positions that we have on Beckwith.

{{Barry Bonds...will be tough calls for you too, I guess what with all the distractions that lead their teams astray.}}
Sure, I'll dock Barry - he goes from a A++ down to an A+. This ain't a serious comparison, is it? Ditto Ty Cobb, nearly the world's biggest jerk, but jerkiness only hurt his team a little IMHO.

character is a crapshoot.

I am NOT penalizing Beckwith for bad 'character'! I penalize him for the perception among the people who knew him far far more than I did that he didn't help his team as much as Papa Bell and Biz Mackey, etc. Might their analysis be biased an deven wrong? Sure. But to dismiss it as irrelevant is absurd. IMO.
   359. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 05, 2005 at 06:26 PM (#1525337)
their Jewish mother's insistence on making the most of yourself and having another slice of kugel

By the way, I hope no one took offense at this, or thought I was baiting anyone on a religious basis. I'm MOT (in a reform kind of way, I'm paternally Jewish), and I consume kugel at unhealthy rates when I'm near it. And my father's mother is the consumate Jewish mother of myth. So I say this out of solidarity, not out of ethnic hatred.
   360. Gary A Posted: August 05, 2005 at 06:29 PM (#1525344)
It is important to remember the loose structure of black professional baseball in the 1920s: not just two sometimes antagonistic leagues (during the 1923-24 war between the NNL and ECL, many players jumped to the east), but also important independent teams like the Grays. If a player wanted to leave a team, there was little recourse for the owner other than convincing him to stay by paying him more or whatever.

Also, in Beckwith's case specifically, in 1923 and 1924 (and I think '25 as well) we're pretty much getting the official line from the teams he left--there's no journalistic back-and-forth quoting the team, then quoting Beckwith, then an independent observation from a sportswriter. With perhaps one exception (the story of the dispute over the pinch-hitter in '24), it's pretty much the Posey and Foster party lines. For that matter, Beckwith may well have simply left the Grays (rather than being released), as was his right, leaving Posey to sputter and make up excuses. (Interestingly, I haven't been able to find any comment by Courier sportswriter W. Rollo Wilson, a big Beckwith booster in 1924, on any of his movements from team to team).

Also, it's an open question who's really at fault in 1924; if Beckwith was able to countermand an order, that shows (I'd think) that he normally ran the team on the field, and Posey was interfering. The Baltimore situation was slightly odd, too, with possibly conflicting lines of authority with Pete Hill and Ben Taylor, both older men with considerable managerial experience by this time.

And as far as leaving his team before the season ended: well, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson (among others) did that, too. Offhand I can think of 1935 (North Dakota) and '37 (Dominican Rep.) for Paige, '37 (D.R.) and '40 (Mexico) for Gibson. But neither really had any managerial ambitions, so when they jumped teams they didn't get mixed up in power struggles with owners in the same way Beckwith did. (Although Paige did convince a large number of stars, including Gibson, to accompany him to the Dominican Republic, thus subverting an entire league instead just one team!)
   361. TomH Posted: August 05, 2005 at 06:47 PM (#1525380)
no offense taken, Doc...you spread out the rant out evenly everywhere :) besides, I have to go look up what kugel is, despite growing up in a heavily Jewish neighborhood, I don't remember being offered any.
   362. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 05, 2005 at 07:24 PM (#1525470)
Tom,

First off, kugel is among man's greatest inventions. I know of two distinct types, each with variations.

My mother and grandmother make my favorite: essentially a savory noodle casserole that takes the best parts of mac 'n cheese then adds a whole lot of other fattening dairy ingredients (lots of cheese, butter, sour cream, and stuff like that). These fattening items kind of bind it all together as it bakes. Mmmmm. Nothin' better than eating a piece that's got a nice, crunchy golden-browned top and tender insides. Eatable at any meal. So, so good. If anyone wants, I can post my mother's recipe. Sadly, Kraft has discontinued its "Grated American Cheesefood" product which somehow made this dish even more decadent (and more salty too!).

The more widely known version is a sweet kugel that's kind of a breakfast or dessert dish with raisins, some sugar, and occasionally oddiments like cinnamon. I've occasionally heard kugel described as a "noodle pudding."

I've also, however, tasted a potato kugel served at Rein's Deli (exit 64ish on Route 84 in CT). I prefer the noodle kugel; the potato version was kind of peculiar because it didn't have the stick-togetherness of noodles. It was more of a pudding-like substance.
   363. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 05, 2005 at 07:29 PM (#1525491)
TomH,

I'm specifically talking about Beckwith skeptics viz those other candidates, not the electorate in general. If you didn't vote for Jackson and you don't for Beckwith, I can see the logic. But one and not the other would trip my unfairness-o-meter big time.

As for McGraw, IIRC, he essentially tried to have himself kicked out of a game and suspended from the league as the opening salvo of his war with Ban Johnson. That's hurting your team in my book, but I frankly don't really consider it in my evaluation of him.

I don't have source material with me, but IIRC Medwick is said to have punched out someone on an elevator, though I can't remember who. And if I recall, his career-altering beaning may have been retaliatory in nature. Again, I don't have my books here at work, so I can't look it up. Also, wasn't he escorted from the World Series after fans pelted him with rotten fruit due to something he provoked in a previous game in the Series (or in the papers?).
   364. Gary A Posted: August 05, 2005 at 09:06 PM (#1525764)
Btw, the Dominican tournament of 1937 was in the spring, so while Paige and the others were jumping their teams, I don't think they were, for the most part, leaving in the *middle* of the season. Same principle, though.
   365. Howie Menckel Posted: August 05, 2005 at 09:46 PM (#1525884)
Dr. Chaleeko,
I can't think offhand of instances where Jackson might be docked for 'character' prior to the infamous Black Sox season (or have I forgotten stuff?). One can say that his likely guilt in throwing the World Series colors his whole career, but one doesn't have to.
And Brent offers a bit of the path of being troubled by Beckwith's repeated run-ins. Chris Cobb and Gary A offer counterpoints, of course.

I just don't get this trend I see of refusing to allow for the possibility that someone can have a different, yet plausible, viewpoint.
I certainly can see how someone could go for Jackson and not Beckwith, or vice versa, for instance.

Personally, I'm a little troubled by the WHOLE Beckwith package - didn't always complete seasons, a series of altercations, not a terribly long career, hard-to-figure defensive background, etc.
I find him almost as baffling as Frank Grant. I guess I could assert here that some voters somehow may be finding him to be sort of romantic figure, but I obviously don't know that.
   366. Brent Posted: August 06, 2005 at 04:28 AM (#1526792)
Dr. C (# 356):

a) 25-30 WS is a regressed peak.

Which is why I also cited the unregressed numbers that gave him a peak of 33.5. (By the way, as a peak voter, I found it very useful to have both the regressed and unregressed numbers for Beckwith. If it's not too much trouble, it would be nice to see them in future MLEs; though I recognize that the whole MLE gig is starting to wind down).

b) This whole Beckwith character morass is kind of out of hand. [BIG RANT FOLLOWS]

While I appreciate the the rant was partly tongue in cheek, it does bother me that we have such difficulty talking about non-statistical aspects of merit.

I think none of us are fond of the typical sports writer, who makes everything a morality play and uses numbers only when they support his predetermined position. On the other hand, it appears that most HoM voters are at the other extreme and are unwilling to consider any non-statistical evidence except possibly in the most egregious cases. That strikes me as naive - the statistics never give you the full story.

The problem is that we seem to be very uncomfortable talking about things like character and teamwork and so forth. I understand that - we're never quite sure what are facts and what is gossip or innuendo. Even if you think you know a player's personality, how can you tell what it's effect was on the team?

What I've been trying to do with Beckwith is to take a fact-based approach that I had hoped could be discussed dispassionately. I have tried to keep my focus away from things I can't really know, such as what kind of teammate he was, and focus on verifiable, factual information that appears to have had a direct impact on his team. I don't see why we can't discuss that type of historical data any less objectively than we discuss non-Pythagorean wins or shifts in the defensive spectrum.

Am I holding Beckwith to a different standard? I am trying not to. I really don't like bringing up these issues, and for someone like Ty Cobb (who also had a couple of incidents that I think objectively hurt his team), it really wasn't necessary to bring them up, because he was so far above the in-out line that it didn't matter. But I see Beckwith as near the in-out line, so in my mind, dealing with these allegations does matter.

So I don't intend to raise character issues a lot - being a jerk is not a disqualification for the HoM - but I do think it is appropriate to evaluate non-statistical factual information that is relevant to the performance of a candidate's team. And I am trying to do it fairly - not holding Beckwith to a higher standard or a lower one than expected of other candidates.

Chris Cobb and Gary A both make good points about the structure of the Negro Leagues being different, so Beckwith being released by Homestead, for example, didn't hurt them in a pennant race, since they didn't compete in a league setting. I would guess, however, that there were still plenty of disappointed fans and teammates.

In my mind, jumping a team in early spring was more like the Negro League equivalent to modern free agency, and seems understandable given the low pay in those leagues. Walking out in the middle of the season, however, IMO deserves a demerit.

Regarding who was at fault in the 1924 Homestead incident - if the newspaper account is accurate, it seems like a relatively clear case of insubordination, implying Posey pretty much had to get rid of or otherwise punish Beckwith if he hoped to maintain his authority over his team. Though we can't know with certainty, the newspaper version seems truthful to me -- if Posey was going to make up a story of insubordination, would he have placed it in the middle of a publicly viewed game? And it's pretty clear that Posey didn't really want to lose Beckwith, since within a few weeks he was trying to get him back. To me, it seems like a situation where Posey felt forced to take action because his authority had been directly challenged.

Beckwith's going to be elected anyway, so I feel a little sheepish raising these issues at this late date. But in the future when we come to other candidates with issues, like Dick Allen, I hope we can learn to talk through the issues without the need to rant. :-)
   367. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 10, 2005 at 07:00 AM (#1535164)
Brent,

Sorry about popping off on you there. I've previously discussed Beckwith, character, his league structure, and their intersection with more dispassion, and probably should have continued to do so in that way.

I think the reluctance to discuss character, leadership, and squishy stuff like that is that it opens the floodgates for an individual voter's personal biases to rush in and swamp the record.

More than any other kind of evidence, character and psychological evidence lets value judgments enter into discussions that are, indeed, supposed to be devoid of them. Thus your discomfort in bringing them up and the electorate's discomfort in discussing them.

In other words, I think the electorate is polarized on the issue because it's a non-starter for debate due to the wide range of personal-values systems inherent in any group---which values will always be brought to bear on any discussion that involves a third-party's character, even when the voter has the best intentions to examine facts and remain netural. If our current cultural/political zeitgeist is any mirror, issues of personality and character (values if you will) simply aren't negotiable because everyone's tolerance for what constitutes behavior that is detrimental to the team will be different and not all that describable or swayable.

And then you arrive at the issue of what percentage of your decision-making about a candidate is really influenced by character, and that opens a whole 'nother can of worms.... ; )
   368. Gary A Posted: September 08, 2006 at 06:12 PM (#2171522)
I thought might be worth noting here that recent research on Beckwith might alter his MLEs for 1922. Riley has him hitting .302 for that season, while Holway has him at .303 as a “ut” player (with Malarcher as the regular third baseman). This has resulted in the MLEs assuming it to be something of an off-season for Beckwith.

In fact, Beckwith was the American Giants’ regular third baseman for 1922, and two separately compiled versions of 1922 show him hitting much better than previously thought for the season. The recent material released at the HOF site shows him batting .359 and slugging .621, while my work on the 1922 NNL (</pre>available here) has him at .388/.435/.652 (outhitting Torriente’s .321/.410/.564).

Here are the full stats for both studies:

      G  AB   H   D   T  HR  R  BB HP SH SB  AVE  OBA  SLG
HOF  46 145  52  14   3   6  32 19  -  5  8  359  ---  621
Gary 52 178  69  16   5   7  35 12  3  6  9  388  435  652

(That’s 52 games out of 57 team games in my study.)

Although it’s stated elsewhere that the HOF numbers are for “official league games” only, I think the 1922 numbers are actually for all games against top Negro League opposition (since they give statistics for players on non-league teams in 1922, like Dick Redding of the Bacharach Giants). My compilation, on the other hand, is definitely for games against NNL opponents only, though I did not attempt to distinguish between games that ultimately counted in the standings and those that didn’t (such distinctions are very difficult to make). So it’s a slightly different mix of games. Fairly soon I should have a version that includes the American Giants’ games against Hilldale and the Bacharach Giants (I believe that will adds ten games to Beckwith’s record).

The HOF gives .279 as the league batting average, and .398 as the league SLG. My figures (NNL only) are .277/.339/.392. With pitchers removed, the averages are .284/.346/.402. The park factor (home/road runs ratio) for Schorling is 67 (8.80 runs/game in Schorling; 13.04 r/g in American Giants’ road games). The American Giants played nearly 2/3 of their NNL games at home (40 of 63); an adjusted PF would be 78.

In 1922 Beckwith played 43 NNL games at third base, five at first base, and three at short. His numbers:
POS G  DI    PO  A  E  DP  RF    lgRF   FPCT lgFPCT
3B 43 372.7  47 99 14*  3 3.53* 3.17  .913   .938
1B  5  42.0  47  2  2   3              .961   .981
SS  3  15.0   1  2  0   0 1.80   4.90 1.000   .922

*-led league
   369. Gary A Posted: September 08, 2006 at 06:33 PM (#2171540)
By the way: Holway lists George Scales as the western all-star at third base, with a .403 average for St. Louis. This, I think, is a serious mistake. Scales actually hit .195/.287/.325 according to my study (15 for 77, playing in only 25 of St. Louis's 53 games)--and fielded .864. The HOF study has similar figures: .186, with a SLG of .288 (11 for 59 in 19 games). Beckwith was certainly the league's best third baseman that year. His only real competition was from Detroit's Isaac Lane (.301/.350/.415).
   370. kthejoker Posted: September 08, 2006 at 06:50 PM (#2171550)
Re Medwick's beaning:

Actually, you've split up the same story into two incidents.

Medwick was traded for $125,000 in July 1940. 6 days later, the Cards were scheduled to play his new team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, in a doubleheader.

That morning, he met his ex-teammate Bob Bowman, who was pitching the 2nd game, in the elevator. They had words, and the hotheaded Medwick promised he'd take Bowman to the cleaners.

On his first pitch to Medwick, Bowman drilled him just above the eye. Medwick was never the same again. In fact, Larry MacPhail, after unsuccessfully attempting to get Bowman banned from baseball, tried to sue the Cards for breach of contract, saying that by allowing Bowman to do what he had done, they had stolen $125,000 from the Dodgers.


Medwick also punched out Tex Carlton for interrupting a photo session. He punched out Rip Collins, Ed Heuser, and Dean Brothers. He spiked Marv Owen (and allegedly kicked him repeatedly in the groin during the ensuing dustup) in the '34 World Series. And on more than one occasion, he threatened newspapermen and opponents with a baseball bat.

More than anything, Medwick loved to be called "Muscles", and he would often squint and imitate the popular gangster "Wanted" posters around town when posing for pictures.

But could that boy from Cateret hit!
   371. KJOK Posted: September 11, 2006 at 03:44 AM (#2173086)
More than anything, Medwick loved to be called "Muscles"

and he supposedly HATED being called "Ducky"...
   372. Howie Menckel Posted: September 11, 2006 at 03:47 AM (#2173089)
Thanks, Gary, for the update.
I didn't quite have Beckwith as 'elect-me' at the time, but already he was getting there.
Nice to get even a better sense that he's Merit-orious.
   373. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: July 19, 2008 at 07:22 PM (#2864889)
And a year-by-year positional breakdown on Beckwith, Chris, if you'd be so kind?
   374. Chris Cobb Posted: July 20, 2008 at 12:45 AM (#2865194)
Here's Beckwith fielding playing time estimates, season by season:

1919 -- 18 g C
1920 -- ?? I am missing positional data for 1920: I have him playing at C, SS, and 3B but don't have the splits. I'd guess something like 25 C, 65 SS, 47 3B
1921 -- 149 g SS
1922 -- 105 g 3B, 26 g 1B
1923 -- 115 g 3B, 29 g 1B
1924 -- 146 g SS
1925 -- 140 g SS
1926 -- 117 g 3B
1927 -- 151 g 3B
1928 -- 135 g SS
1929 -- 48 g SS, 88 g 3B
1930 -- 100 g 3B
1931 -- 154 g 3B
1932 -- 100 g 3B
1933 -- 95 g 3B
1934 -- 54 g 3B
   375. DL from MN Posted: July 21, 2008 at 01:42 PM (#2866312)
I'm not voting until Dan R posts his numbers for Beckwith...
   376. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: July 21, 2008 at 04:12 PM (#2866459)
John Beckwith, assuming league-average baserunning, after accounting for standard deviations, in my WARP:

Year SFrac BWAA    BRWA  FWAA Replc WARP
1919  0.13 
-0.2     0.0  -0.1  -0.2  0.0
1920  0.84  0.5     0.0  
-0.5  -2.0  2.0
1921  0.96  3.2     0.0  
-0.8  -2.8  5.1
1922  0.85  2.2     0.0  
+0.0  -1.6  3.8
1923  0.94  3.9     0.0  
-0.1  -1.8  5.6
1924  0.97  5.3     0.0  
-0.9  -2.9  7.4
1925  0.89  4.5     0.0  
-0.9  -2.7  6.4
1926  0.77  3.9     0.0  
-0.7  -1.6  4.7
1927  0.99  3.0     0.0  
-1.0  -1.9  3.9
1928  0.88  2.6     0.0  
-1.1  -2.6  4.2
1929  0.95  3.7     0.0  
-1.1  -2.2  4.9
1930  0.64  2.8     0.0  
-0.5  -1.2  3.4
1931  0.96  5.5     0.0  
-1.4  -1.7  5.9
1932  0.64  3.5     0.0  
-1.1  -1.2  3.6
1933  0.63  3.1     0.0  
-1.5  -1.2  2.7
1934  0.35 
-1.6     0.0  -0.6  -0.6 -1.7
TOTL 12.40 46.0     0.0 
-12.4 -28.2 61.8
TXBR 12.05 47.6     0.0 
-11.7 -27.6 63.4
AVRG  1.00  3.7     0.0  
-1.0  -2.3  5.0 


In salary terms, this puts him at $173M, right in the middle of the glut, below Baker/Allen/Evans/Molitor and above Brooks/Nettles. However, it is worth noting that Chris's Fielding Win Shares estimates for Beckwith are *extremely* low--negative 12.4 fielding wins is like Derek Jeter territory. Now, I happen to think this is reasonable, because Beckwith is getting full credit for the time he played at SS, which he almost certainly would not have played in the bigs, so it's only fair that we attribute it to him as a relative butcher. But if you think that Beckwith could have handled the same 3B/SS mix in the majors that he did in the NgL's at anything near a league-average rate, then he deserves *far* more credit than this, and should probably be #5 or #6 (after the big four, and possibly Wilson).
   377. DL from MN Posted: July 21, 2008 at 04:51 PM (#2866498)
Okay, if I move him to 3B fulltime, what would the change to the SFrac be so I can alter my WARP accordingly?
   378. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: July 21, 2008 at 05:25 PM (#2866541)
SFrac? No change at all; it's just a context-neutral measure of plate appearances. The only thing that would change are his FWAA and Replc. Chris's Win Shares actually show Beckwith as being no better a 3B than he was a SS--he's -1 win per season at both. (That may be in part because he played SS earlier in his career, while he really butchered it at 3B during his decline phase, which would make sense). That said, if you want to call him a 3B for 1921, 24, 25, and 28 instead of a SS, just add 1.0 wins per 1.00 SFrac to his Repl column (and then change the quality of the fielding in the FWAA column for those years however you want).

The other question, I think, is whether Beckwith would have been such a poor-fielding third baseman in the 1930s had he been in the majors. I don't think he would have been--I think he would have been an average-fielding 1B or LF, which has about the same defensive value as a poor-fielding 3B. So I think the overall WARP score I have posted here is juuust about right.
   379. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: July 21, 2008 at 10:03 PM (#2866880)
Another word of caution here--Beckwith is taking a nice hit because he's being translated into extremely high-standard-deviation leagues. I happen to think that's reasonable, but YMMV.
   380. KJOK Posted: September 13, 2011 at 10:36 PM (#3923781)
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