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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lowe: Could Tigers be first team since 1894 Phillies to have more than one .400 hitter?

“I hopped on” Obviously, Lowe hopped up on something…

I got on the scent of this question during Wednesday’s game between the Tigers and Blue Jays. Miguel Cabrera singled in the first inning, giving the Tigers two .400 hitters on the young season, Cabrera and Torii Hunter.

I hopped on and learned that the only team to have more than one .400 hitter was the Philadelphia Phillies of 1894. They had three players bat at least .400: the starting outfield of Sam Thompson, Ed Delahanty and Billy Hamilton.

None won the batting title. Boston’s Hugh Duffy established that season what remains the highest single-season average in major league history. Duffy’s mark for 1894 was listed for decades at .438, but the scrupulous now lists it at .440.

I was eager to know why the 1894 season produced all those .400 hitters, and why the Phillies had three. So I called the library at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Within a few moments, I was speaking with Tom Shieber, the Senior Curator of the Hall of Fame. He cited one immediate reason for all that .400 hitting in 1894: It was the second season since the pitcher had been moved 10 feet farther away from the batter, to the current 60 feet, 6 inches.

...More runs would seem to mean more hits. Maybe one or more of those .400 hitters on the 1894 Phillies was able to hit .400 because he played the final few months in one or two parks below major league standards, and which favored hitters to an unfair extent.

Shieber said day-by-day individual records for players don’t go back to 1894. We don’t know if those trio of .400 hitters were hitting below .400 when the fire occurred, then raised their averages above .400 at the temporary parks.

This might sound frustrating. I find it refreshing. In modern baseball, we know everything down to the decimal point. I love a mystery.

Repoz Posted: April 14, 2013 at 11:50 AM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, tigers

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Dan Posted: April 14, 2013 at 11:59 AM (#4413667)

Next question?
   2. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:03 PM (#4413674)

Next question?

what is reality?
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:06 PM (#4413675)
For what it's worth, it's just a terrible headline.

   4. cardsfanboy Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:08 PM (#4413677)
Is there anything in Torii Hunter's history to indicate he might hit .400? Last year was the first time he had batted over .300 in a 17 year career. I could see thinking Cabrera might be able to do it(obviously he most likely won't of course, but he's on the short list of players who you might)
   5. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:11 PM (#4413683)
what is reality?

A figment of your imagination.

Next question?
   6. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:11 PM (#4413684)
I don't think he thinks either will hit .400. It just got him interested in the question of teams with multiple .400 hitters. He probably screws around on BB-Ref like I do during games sometimes.
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:12 PM (#4413685)

Yeah, if you RTFA, there's nothing wrong with it.

Guy is curious, actually makes a call, and finds out something I didn't even realize - and I've voted in every HOM election since '1898.' So it's fair to assume that his readers had no idea, either.

It's a fun diversion piece for baseball fanatics.
   8. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:16 PM (#4413689)
For what it's worth, it's just a terrible headline.

Agreed. The piece itself is a really interesting diversion (and the type of thing I know many of us do all the time - interesting thing happened! when did it happen last? Internet [for the writer, Cooperstown] tell me!).
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:17 PM (#4413692)
I don't think he thinks either will hit .400. It just got him interested in the question of teams with multiple .400 hitters. He probably screws around on BB-Ref like I do during games sometimes.

I'm doing that now because of the Dale Sveum Cubs article..
   10. Esoteric Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:26 PM (#4413703)
For what it's worth, it's just a terrible headline.
You're right. Totally unfair to the writer, who came up with a nice, interesting little piece.

Editors can be such pricks sometimes.
   11. Monty Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:36 PM (#4413713)
The Phillies played six home games at a temporary field at the University of Pennsylvania. In those six games, according to Retrosheet, the Phillies scored nearly 16 runs per game -- an absurd amount, and about double what they were scoring at home that year before the fire.

Sixteen runs per game! Was this temporary field a converted tennis court?
   12. AndrewJ Posted: April 14, 2013 at 12:41 PM (#4413719)
I believe the field at Penn is now where the fabled Quadrangle is, BTW.
   13. RMc's Unenviable Situation Posted: April 14, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4413755)
Maybe if they played at Riverbreeze Park in Covington, KY, home of the 1912 Covington Blue Sox.

Per wiki:

In 1912, city leaders attempted to acquire a baseball franchise in the Class D Blue Grass League; the Cincinnati Reds, whose park was just five miles away across the Ohio River, decided against the move. Instead (after several larger cities backed out), Covington was awarded a team in the new "outlaw" circuit, the Federal League.

The city raised $12,500, with $6,000 budgeted to build the ballpark. Bernard Wisehall, a prominent local architect, designed Federal Park (also known as Riverbreeze Park) with a capacity to 6,000. The playing field (bounded by East 2nd Street, East 3rd Street, Madison Avenue and Scott Boulevard) was tiny, believed to be smallest for any pro baseball park ever built: just 194 feet down the right-field line, 267 feet to dead center and 218 feet down the left-field line. Construction didn't even begin until a month before Opening Day; after starting the season on a long road trip, the Blue Sox managed to sell out their home opener in late May, with thousands of fans turned away.

But Covington simply didn't have the populace to support such an ambitious endeavor. On June 26, the team moved to Kansas City and ownership of the team reverted to creditors. Federal Park was used for other events the next few years, but it was eventually torn down and a tobacco warehouse was put up in its place; Covington has never hosted a professional team in any sport since.

I haven't been able to find any box scores from games played at Riverbreeze, but I'm guessing there weren't a lot of shutouts...

   14. Cblau Posted: April 14, 2013 at 09:20 PM (#4414151)
Guy is curious, actually makes a call, and finds out something I didn't even realize

That 4' 3.5" = 10'?
   15. John Northey Posted: April 14, 2013 at 10:32 PM (#4414207)
At least one shutout did happen in Covington -
   16. jdennis Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:33 AM (#4414248)
people bring up 1930 and recent years, but 1894 was the most batting ridiculous year by far. the league whip was like 1.712. it was just nuts. you could bat circa 300 with decent xbh and have a sub-100 OPS+. the only pitcher with decent stats that year was rusie. i wonder why it wasn't worse the year before though. it was crazy in 95 and 96 too, still like today up until around 03 and then it dropped off and became the DBE.

also #11, 16 runs per game was common before 1875!
   17. jdennis Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:34 AM (#4414249)
i think cabrera is capable of hitting .400.

the other two, no chance. though this year, protection seems to be working like a charm. fielder might hit .320.
   18. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:09 AM (#4414274)
Randy Milligan and Sam Horn each hit over .400 for the 1993 Cleveland Indians. Where's the love?

And hell, the World Champion 1997 Florida Marlins had 6 guys hit over .400! Josh Booty, Dennis Cook, Felix Heredia, Rob Natal, Jay Powell, and Rob Stanifer. Nothing?!?
   19. RMc's Unenviable Situation Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:44 AM (#4414294)
At least one shutout did happen in Covington

Great catch, John. Wish I could find the other Covington box scores. (Sporting News, maybe?)
   20. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:02 AM (#4414306)
I am flabbergasted anyone would ever try to put a pro team in Covington, KY, even in 1912. Worse, people invested in the idea!
   21. GregD Posted: April 15, 2013 at 09:33 AM (#4414345)
I assume they expected people to cross the bridge? Covington's population was 30% higher in 1910 than it is now but still...
   22. DavidFoss Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:44 PM (#4415182)
Phillies park factor in 1894 was 95/94. There were more runs scored in Phillies road games (combined 17.55) than in Phillies home games (16.49).

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