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Monday, February 24, 2003

1875 National Association

jimd’s summary is in the discussion below.

1875 saw the culmination of the Boston dynasty, Harry Wright’s most dominant team. Here are the standings:

Final Standings     W  L  PCT   GB  Adjusted Standings   W   L  PCT  GB
Boston             71  8 .899   --  Boston             144  12 .926  --
Phil. Athletics    53 20 .726 15.0  Phil. Athletics    125  31 .801  19
Hartford           54 28 .659 18.5  Hartford           114  42 .731  30
St. Louis Browns   39 29 .574 26.5  St. Louis Browns   110  46 .708  34
Phil. Pearls       37 31 .544 28.5  Phil. Pearls       104  42 .669  40
Chicago            30 37 .448 35.0  Chicago             98  58 .628  46
New York           30 38 .441 35.5  New York            93  63 .596  51
St. Louis Reds      4 15 .211 37.0  Phil. Centennials   62  94 .394  82
Washington          5 23 .179 40.5  New Haven           43 113 .277 101
New Haven           7 40 .149 48.0  Washington          43 113 .276 101
Phil. Centennials   2 12 .143 37.5  St. Louis Reds      35 121 .221 109
Keokuk              1 12 .077 38.0  Brooklyn            26 130 .169 118
Brooklyn            2 42 .045 51.5  Keokuk              16 140 .104 128

Boston didn’t just get fat on the club teams either, this team was incredible, probably the most dominant in major league history. They played at least .750 against every team in the league. The Pearls played them the best, taking 2-of-8. Here are what the standings would have looked like if you cut ‘major’ league off with New York, the logical place to draw the line:

Final Standings     W   L  PCT GB
Boston            139  23 .861 --
Phil. Athletics   102  60 .726 37
Hartford           82  80 .507 57
St. Louis Browns   76  86 .468 63
Phil. Pearls       65  97 .404 74
Chicago            55 107 .340 84
New York           47 115 .291 92

I’m just thankful the one season where NY finished 92 games behind Boston concluded 97 years before I was born, and 15 years before my great-grandmother was born.



1875 was in many respects like 1872.  A lot of new teams joined, Boston couldn’t be beaten, most of the new teams couldn’t compete, and they folded.

In the east, Washington was back for more punishment, somebody thought that Philadelphia needed a third team, and if Hartford had a team, well then New Haven, CT, had to have one too, being a bigger city (at this time).

In the west, St. Louis (larger than Chicago in the 1870 Census) had not one but two groups backing teams, one with Brown Stockings, the other Red. And representing the ultimate in micro-markets: the Westerns from Keokuk, Iowa.

The Centennials (Philly’s 3rd team) didn’t make it to that celebration, folding in late May.  The Westerns ended it in June, Washington in early July, leaving their players stranded in St. Louis.  The St. Louis Reds never officially quit, they just stopped going on road trips, so other teams stopped visiting them.  New Haven and Brooklyn also didn’t quit, though they probably should have.

Davey Force signed a contract with Chicago, then signed another with the A’s. This was not without precedent, but what was surprising was when the league’s Judiciary Committee upheld the A’s contract, not Chicago’s.  Chicago’s backer, William Hulbert was livid, and even Harry Wright spoke out against the decision. The case would have little effect on the 1875 season, but set in motion forces that would result in the end of the Association and the founding of the National League.

On May 18th, Boston (16-0) and Hartford (12-0) met in Hartford in the biggest game of the year.  Boston won 10-5, and kept rolling, finally losing on June 5th in St. Louis 5-4 after 26 straight wins.  Hartford would not defeat Boston until the last game of the year, spoiling Boston’s bid to finish over .900.

Sometime in July, Deacon White let the cat out of the bag to Harry Wright; Chicago had signed Spalding, Barnes, McVey, and White for the following season.  The Whites had imploded two years before after a similar revelation; Boston rolled on, putting together a season that still is one of the most dominant of all time.

Standing split:  Big 7 vs Little 6

Big-7         185-185  129- 6
Little-6        6-129   15-15

Team by team breakdowns vs Big-7 and Little-6

               Big-7  Little-6
Boston         48- 7   23-1
Philadelphia   32-19   21-1
Hartford       28-27   26-1
St. Louis      26-28   13-1
Phil. Whites   20-31   17-0
Chicago        18-36   12-1
New York       13-37   17-1

St.L. Reds      0-13    4-2
Washington      0-20    5-3
New Haven       5-33    2-7
Centennials     1-12    1-0
Keokuk          0-10    1-2
Brooklyn        0-41    2-1

The Silver Sluggers for 1875:

1B - Cal McVey (BOS) .355/.356/.517 (age 24); the league leader in OPS

2B - Ross Barnes (BOS) .364/.375/.443 (age 25) Bill Craver (PHI) .311/.323/.455 (age 31) is 6th in the league in OPS+, but Barnes is 4th.  Meyerle (PHW) and Paul Hines (CHI) are 7th and OPS+8th; 2B is still stacked.

SS - George Wright (BOS)  .333/.337/.431 (age 28)

3B - Ezra Sutton (PHI) .324/.326/.402 (age 24)

LF - George Hall (PHI) .299/.305/.427 (age 26); Andy Leonard (BOS) .321/.324/.394 (age 29) is right there with him (the A’s play in what looks like the best hitter’s park)

CF - Lip Pike (SLB) .346/.352/.494 (age 30); the league leader in OPS+ (St. Louis looks like quite a pitcher’s park by conventional measurements).

RF - Cap Anson (PHI) .325/.333/.390 (age 23); I could declare this position vacant (Anson only played 23 games there) or give the award to Jack Manning (BOS) .270/.274/.328 (age 21), a league average hitter and Boston’s backup/relief pitcher/right fielder.

C - Deacon White (BOS) .367/.372/.453 (age 27)

P - Al Spalding (BOS) .312/.318/.373 (age 24)


Tommy Bond (HAR) edged his teammate Candy Cummings for the ERA+ title 166 to 162; Spalding and Joe Borden (PHI) were both in the ERA+ 150’s. Cummings is the new strikeout king with 82K and a 1.77 K/9IP. ( has him with only 8K, probably a typo, again) and the leader in least walks issued at .13 BB/9IP.

Bob Ferguson was brought into Hartford to replace Lip Pike as manager. He put together a great pitching/defense team; despite playing in a hitter’s park, they led the association in preventing runs (edging Boston), only 65% of league average, 77% of the Big-7 average.  Ferguson essentially cleaned house, retaining only Everett Mills from the year before, and bringing in Cummings and Bond as pitchers.

The band of roving Whites moved on from Chicago, looking for a team that could challenge Boston.  Force to the A’s, Cuthbert to St. Louis, Meyerle and Malone back to the Philly Pearls, where they were joined by Treacey after the Centennials folded, and Zettlein after he and Chicago parted ways mid-season.

The A’s were the best of the challengers; they beefed up with Davy Force, George Hall, Dave Eggler, and Bill Craver (after the Centennials went under), but were still not good enough.

July 28, 1875.  Joe “Josephs” pitches the only no-hitter in Association history for the Philadelphia Pearls against Chicago.  His real name was Borden, he didn’t want his father to know he was a professional ballplayer. Also, the rookie had just made his debut four days earlier.

Leonard and Hall is a toss-up in LF; Jim O’Rourke is a respectable runnerup in CF; Manning is possibly the best candidate in the hitter’s void that is RF in 1875.  Harry Schafer is the only non-slugger in Boston’s power-packed lineup.  They were pretty close to being the National Association All-Star team, perhaps not surprising when you win 90% of your games.

JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: February 24, 2003 at 05:17 PM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. jimd Posted: February 25, 2003 at 07:24 PM (#511565)
McVey was a heck of a player, does anyone know the story of why his career ended at age 28?

After the 1879 season, the NL instituted its first version of the "reserve clause". Each team reserved 5 players, and by agreement, nobody else would sign them.

Cincinnati reserved both Deacon White and Cal McVey, amongst others. White was the first established star to employ the holdout - the only leverage available against the reserve clause - sitting out more than half of the 1880 season.

McVey went to California. The Baseball Library says he was involved in the Pacific Coast League for many years, though it doesn't say when it was founded, or whether he played. Maybe somebody else has more info?
   2. MattB Posted: February 25, 2003 at 08:22 PM (#511566)
Looks like we've got some conflicting info. Here's some more, but can't see enough to make a superstar out of him, though.

"In 1879, McVey organized the Bay City Base Ball Club and immediately established it as one of the best in the area. His players demonstrated their prowess in convincing fashion by beating Cap Anson's Chicago White Stockings, the National League champions of 1880, four games out of six in a post-season series.

But McVey and others like him were an expensive and often unreliable investment. McVey left baseball a year later to become superintendent of an irrigation company in Hanford, California. His club collpsed without him."


But . . .

"Did You Know....that Texas League outfielder Cal McVey (New Orleans 1888 and Fort Worth 1889-90) was a member of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, America's first professional sports team? Then in 1871, when the National Association was formed as the first pro circuit, McVey hit .419 for the Boston Red Stockings. When the National League picked up where the National Association left off in 1876, McVey continued with the upstarts and starred with Chicago, hitting .328 over his four year career in the NL. McVey continued his pattern of performing in new ventures as he played in the inaugural season of the Texas League in 1888."
   3. jimd Posted: February 26, 2003 at 12:45 AM (#511567)
Catching without a mitt was a difficult and debilitating job. It didn't really knock you out of the lineup; its just that the inevitable split palms, broken fingers, and cracked nails would never heal until the season ended. This also had to affect your hitting.

This isn't a lot of evidence, but, I also don't think that it's a coincidence that both Cal McVey (1875) and Deacon White (1877) had their best hitting seasons (league leading OPS) when they were playing 1B, and not catching.

20th century catching destroys the knees due to the crouching. 19th century catching destroyed the hands. (19th century catchers didn't crouch. They stood about 10 feet behind the batter, the better to catch fouls straight back and foul tips for outs, and because crouching behind the batter was even more hazardous to one's health without mask and shinguards.)
   4. jimd Posted: March 18, 2003 at 08:07 PM (#511572)
I just want to point out that in WARP-1, Spalding leads Barnes 42.0 to 41.2 for the five NA seasons. Whatever "degree-of-difficulty" transformation which is then applied to turn WARP-1 into WARP-2 (WARP-3 is WARP-2 normalized for season length) works completely differently for hitting and pitching. Can anyone explain this to me? At first glance, it seems to me that pitching and hitting are two sides to the same coin.

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