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Thursday, February 13, 2003

1873 National Association

Thanks again to jimd for this summary, which is in the discussion portion.

First the standings:

Actual Standings    W  L  PCT   GB Adjusted Standings   W   L  PCT  GB
Boston             43 16 .729   -- Boston             120  41 .744  --
Phil. White Stock. 36 17 .679  4.0 Phil. White Stock. 115  46 .715   5
Baltimore          34 22 .607  7.5 Baltimore          100  61 .623  20
Phil. Athletics    28 23 .549 11.0 Phil. Athletics     97  64 .604  23
New York           29 24 .547 11.0 New York            96  65 .594  24
Brooklyn           17 37 .315 23.5 Brooklyn            61 100 .379  59
Washington          8 31 .205 20.0 Washington          38 123 .233  82
Elizabeth           2 21 .088 23.0 Elizabeth           18 143 .109 102
Maryland            0  6 .000 16.5

Just like 1872, a few adjustments need to be made for the weak sisters again. I’ll give the standings how they would look at each possible spot where you could draw the ‘major league’ line.

The first would be to remove Elizabeth, as they were really just a club team that gave it a whirl, Washington had at least tried the year before, and wasn’t total dreck.

The second adjustment would be to remove Washington, who, while not total dreck was clearly not on the level of these teams:

No Elizabeth         W   L  PCT  GB  No Eliz./Wash.       W   L  PCT  GB
Boston             115  47 .707  --  Boston             106  54 .665  --
Phil. White Stock. 109  53 .674   6  Phil. White Stock. 101  59 .628   5
Baltimore           93  69 .571  22  Baltimore           82  78 .513  24
Phil. Athletics     89  73 .549  26  Phil. Athletics     78  82 .489  28
New York            87  75 .538  28  New York            76  84 .476  30
Brooklyn            49 113 .303  66  Brooklyn            37 123 .228  69
Washington          25 137 .156  90

The final adjustment would be removing Brooklyn, since they were clearly below the pack of the other 5.

Top 5                W   L  PCT  GB
Boston             100  60 .622  --
Phil. White Stock.  93  67 .581   7
Baltimore           73  87 .454  27
Phil. Athletics     69  91 .428  31
New York            66  94 .415  34

Feel free to draw the line wherever you’d like.

As far as the individual achievements go, Ross Barnes has solidified his place as the star of the league. George Wright and Levi Meyerle are also looking like superstars, Cap Anson is coming into his own, and Deacon White made his first Silver Slugger squad. Lip Pike and George Hall are also consistently among the best players in the league.


“What goes around, comes around” is how the old adage goes.  Sometimes its application is immediate; witness Boston’s postseason experience in 1986. Sometimes it takes more than a century.  Much of the drama of 1978 is an echo of the 1873 season, with the Yankees playing the part of Harry Wright’s defending champs, while Boston got their chance to feel Philadelphia’s pain.

Five teams returned from 1872.  They were joined by four newcomers: Washington organized for another try and were called “Blue Legs” after their hose, Baltimore added a second team the Marylands, and the Resolutes of Elizabeth, NJ, continued the tradition of very small market entries.  However, the excitement was over the new Philadelphia team, the White Stockings (or Whites).  The Association was now all East Coast teams.

After paying their fee and getting an agreement to share the Athletics park, the Whites then signed half the Athletics club: Meyerle, Treacey, Mack, Malone, and Cuthbert.  George Zettlein was the pitcher and other NA veterans were signed to round out the team.  The Athletics were forced to scramble, picking up some young veterans from the various defunct teams.

The White Stockings started the season on a tear.  By mid-July, they were 27-3 and had an 8.5 game lead.  Boston’s lowpoint was losing to the Resolutes in Boston in the opener of a July 4th doubleheader (they did redeem themselves with a 21-run 9th-inning in a 32-3 victory in the 2nd game).  Confident after an 18-17 victory over Boston, the Whites then took a 3-week vacation.

Resuming in Boston, they lost 24-10, and it went downhill from there. In August, they met Boston again, in Chicago, losing 11-8.  After the teams left, it was announced that the Chicago team was being revived, and they had already signed a number of players (6 of the Whites would play in Chicago next year; how many were signed during this trip is not clear). By Oct. 2, they were ahead by only percentage points; Boston beat them 18-7 and moved ahead for good, clinching on Oct 22.  The Whites went 9-14 after the vacation, while Boston was about as hot after as Philly had been before. 
(Don’t have the precise splits for Boston.)  The season is not as memorable as 1978 because Philly did not rally and force a climactic showdown.

However, there was a protest.  Bob Addy, 28, member of the original Cincinnati Red Stockings, had been signed by the Whites to start the season.  He was cut after a couple of weeks, replaced by Jimmy Wood, Zettlein’s teammate from Chicago, Troy, and Brooklyn (maybe they’re good friends?)  Addy went home to Rockford to wait for a telegraph to arrive, and played in a game on July 4.  Days later he was signed by Boston, and would post a 127 OPS+ for them in RF.  Philly claimed the 60-day rule applied, which OPS+ would void much of Boston’s second half.  It took until January for the Championship Committee to rule, but they declared the game a “pickup game” and not subject to the 60-day rule, leaving the championship decided on the field, where it belonged.

The other new teams were not successful.  Washington lasted the season, but was not competitive and did not play many of its games; they did not come back in 1874.  The Resolutes lasted until August.  And the Marylands played only 6 games against just Baltimore and Washington, and were outscored 26-152, a pythagorean WPCT of .038 (6-156 over a 162 game schedule).

The Silver Sluggers for 1873:

1B - Cap Anson (PHI) .398/.409/.449 (age 21);
Jim O’Rourke (BOS) .350/.381/.450 (age 22) and Everett Mills (BAL) .331/.336/.471 (age 28) are right behind him though.

2B - Ross Barnes (BOS) .425/.456/.584 (age 23)

SS - George Wright (BOS)  .388/.402/.523 (age 26)

3B - Levi Meyerle (PHW) .349/.354/.479 (age 27); Davy Force (BAL) .368/.390/.410 (age 23) is edged out again

LF - Charlie Pabor (BRO) .360/.376/.421 (age 26)

CF - George Hall (BAL) .345/.353/.417 (age 24); Dave Eggler (NY) .336/.348/.414 (age 22); uncanny…

RF - Lip Pike (BAL) .315/.331/.462 (age 28)

C - Deacon White (BOS) .390/.390/.477 (age 25); Cal McVey (BAL) .380/.390/.484 (age 22) also has a strong case though he missed 1/3rd of the season.

P - Al Spalding (BOS) .329/.335/.407 (age 22)

Spalding led the league in ERA+ with 135, though Mathews (NY), Cummings (BAL), and Zettlein (PHW) are all close behind at 123 or 122.  (Cherokee Fisher (PHI) is listed at Baseball Reference as the leader, but he only pitched 84 innings; by the conventions of the era, he’s an understudy waiting for a starting spot; compare to these other guys who are all over 400 IP.)

Bobby Mathews is again the strikeout king (75 K and 1.52 K/9IP) The leader in least walks issued depends on IP criteria: Spalding (.51 BB/9IP) is the leader amongst those with lots of innings, Washington’s Bill Stearns has a case at .48 as does Resolute Hugh Campbell at .38.  Neither were backups, but neither played a full schedule either.

Boston reportedly lost money in 1872 and so didn’t make payroll for the last month.  Cal McVey and Charlie Gould were mates of Harry Wright since the Cincinnati Red Stockings days; McVey signed with Baltimore (with a raise and the captain/manager’s post), Gould did not play in the NA in 1873 (I don’t where he went).  Rookie Fraley Rogers also voiced his displeasure; he was not invited back.  From the pool of available players out there, Wright signed Cleveland’s backup catcher, Deacon White, and Middletown’s shortstop, Jim O’Rourke.  (Not a bad off-season.)

An interesting quote from The Great Encylopedia of 19th Century Major League Baseball, “Gould’s spot went to Jack Manning, up from Boston’s junior team.”  Is Harry Wright playing Leif Erikson to Branch Rickey’s role as Columbus when it comes to discovering the farm team?  Unfortunately there’s no further elaboration.  Can anybody shed any light on this?

JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: February 13, 2003 at 11:52 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. jimd Posted: February 14, 2003 at 12:24 AM (#511545)
Ross Barnes has solidified his place as the star of the league.

It's either Barnes or Spalding or George Wright, depending on how the pitching/defense split and the defensive spectrum (relative weights of the defensive positions) shake out.
   2. jimd Posted: February 15, 2003 at 12:37 AM (#511549)
To clarify, Barnes is the offensive star of the Association, without a doubt. It is an open question whether Wright or Spalding can make up the difference due to their defensive responsibilities.

If pitching were as dominant then as today, then Spalding has little trouble overtaking him. However, we're sure it's not; the debate there is how much to discount it, and where that leaves Spalding. Pitchers don't have to be dominant, just important, for Spalding to make up the difference, because Spalding is also an above-league-average hitter (Jeter has a career OPS+ of 121 so far; Spalding was 116).

Once we discount pitching, defense gets the credit for those runs saved, making even more valuable good defense at the important fielding positions. And there's a case that can be made that 2B is the least important infield position (see my comments on 1B in 1872). George Wright may make up the difference with his glove.
   3. jimd Posted: February 15, 2003 at 12:57 AM (#511550)
I am struck by the young ages of the best hitters.

It's not an illusion. The median age of the regulars in 1871 is 23. The average age is 25. Harry Wright at 36 and Dickey Pearce at 35 are the oldest regulars. There are four others who are 30-32. The Ft. Wayne team age profile looks like a college team, one year later.

Compare with the average age of today's regulars at 30. The regulars of now are older than they've ever been, excluding the WWII years of 1943-46 (which peak at 31 in 1945), though not unusually so, only a few months older than, say the early 30's or early 50's. The mid-1890's is when the age average will seem in line with the 1960's and 1970's (our most recent youth era, around 28 or so); before that, the players will still probably seem too young.

I think there's a good reason for this. There was little reason to keep playing baseball at this level in 1869. Only a select few could make a good living at it; what little money there was, was under-the-table stuff until the Cincinnati Reds went openly professional. So when it came time to think about raising a family, you got a steady job that allowed you to stay home, too. At this time, the top stars are bringing home the equivalent of about $100,000 (tax-free); that's assuming that a 50 cent ticket then is the equivalent of a $20 ticket today. Most regulars are probably making 1/4 to 1/2 of that.

Wright made his living as a baseball promoter. Don't know enough about Dickey Pearce to say much, but I can speculate. I remember reading that when the NY Mutuals were amateur, some had NY city jobs whose main requirement was that they show up to play. Maybe he had one of those, or maybe he didn't need the money. If he could maintain his skills enough to play at this level into his 30's while holding down a day job, too, well he must have been quite a player in the late-1850's/early-60's.

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