Thursday, July 23, 2015

1883 NL

The NL now had to share the major league stage with the AA, and it began to take act accordingly. Some combination of league “persuasion” and financial difficulty chased Troy and Worcester from the league. In their place, the NL returned to the two cities whose clubs were expelled after 1876, New York and Philadelphia. The two circuits would thus have their first head-to-head city battles.

Abraham Mills became the fourth president of the NL. According to Harold Seymour, one of his actions was to remove the team names from the official letterhead, as they tended to change so often. More significant changes were the expansion of the schedule to 98 games, switching to the Reach ball, eliminating first bound foul outs once and for all, and allowing the umpire to call for a new ball to be put in play at any time. These innovations were not copied by the upstart Association, with the exception of the expanded schedule.

Notable individual feats during the season included Monte Ward, now of New York, becoming the first pitcher to hit two homers in on game on May 3; Hoss Radbourn’s (PRO) 8-0 no-hitter against Cleveland on July 25 and One Arm Daily’s (CLE) 1-0 no-hitter versus hapless Philadelphia on September 13.

On May 30 (Memorial Day or Decoration Day or whatever it was called at the time), the NL tried a couple of two-city doubleheaders; Cleveland lost 3-1 at Boston, then won 5-2 at Providence. Taking their place was Buffalo, which started with a 4-2 loss in Providence and took the broom for the day as they lost 2-1 in Boston.

The pennant race was very competitive, with four teams in the mix. On July 7, Providence led the way at 33-16; Cleveland was two games back, but actually led by one in the loss column (30-15). Boston and defending champ Chicago were running third and fourth respectively. By August 20, Cleveland had the lead at 45-27 with Providence second. However, Cleveland lost two to Chicago and Providence two to Boston, bringing them right back into the hunt. The Reds went on to win six straight, but the Grays ended their streak and added another win in the first two of a series in Rhode Island. The third game on September 8 matched up the aces--Hoss Radbourn for the Grays and Jim Whitney for the Reds. Providence took the lead in the top of the eleventh, but Boston countered with two for a 4-3 win.

From that point on, Boston was in command, taking thirteen of fourteen and wrapping up the flag with a 4-1 victory over Cleveland on September 27. The final margin was four over the White Stockings, five over the Grays, and seven and a half over the Blues.

Perhaps Mills should have ordered some more stationary, as all eight clubs would be back. Peace with the AA came as well, but the tenuous new alliance would be tested immediately.


The NL continued to boast fine competitive balance with the exception of Philadelphia. The actual records were pretty close to what the runs scored and allowed would suggest.


The Reds (who according to Nemec were also being referred to as the Beaneaters around this time, all informally of course) won their third NL pennant, pulling to within one of Chicago for the lead. It was a mild surprise as they were third and ten back in 1882, needing to pass both the White Stockings and their New England rivals, the Grays.

Rookies Mike Hines and Paul Radford were serviceable, while Edgar Smith was also a rookie but really was only the nominal regular in center field. He played thirty games in the outfield but Jim Whitney played forty, being used as a regular when not pitching for the first time. While his ARG was down a bit, the extra playing time made his bat more valuable and he had a better year pitching (his best so far in fact).

Rookie hurler Charlie Buffinton gave Boston a pair of good pitchers, something they had not had since two pitchers had become the norm. The duo’s combined WAR of over ten paced the circuit.

John Morrill was replaced by Jack Burdock as manager mid-season. Meanwhile, Arthur Soden was operating behind the scenes. He had claimed for a few years that the team’s profits needed to be reinvested to improve the club, but after he continued to sing that tune after the pennant, many of the shareholders gave in and sold out.


The White Stockings kept their three-time pennant winning lineup largely intact; they cast off Hugh Nicol, shifted King Kelly back to the outfield, slid Tom Burns over to shortstop, and brought in Fred Pfeffer from Troy to play second.

If the second place finish must be laid at the feet of anyone, the previously brilliant pitching duo of Corcoran and Goldsmith would be the prime culprits. While they were still above average, they were now overshadowed by the Whitney/Buffinton duo in Boston and the Radbourn/replacement level #2 in Providence.

The White Stockings hammered Detroit 26-6 on September 6 on the strength of a record setting 18 runs in the seventh inning.


The Grays continued to close the gap on Chicago; since winning the 1879 flag, they had finished 15 behind Chicago, then nine, three, and finally one. Unfortunately for them, that meant a third place finish in 1883.

The team brought in three regulars from the defunct franchises; Arthur Irwin and Lee Richmond (the team’s #3 pitcher with 94 innings) from Worchester and John Cassidy from Troy. Rookie Cliff Carroll shared left with Richmond, and rookie Charlie Sweeney turned in a replacement-level performance as the #2 pitcher. With Radbourn earning his “Hoss” moniker by tossing 632 innings with the league’s best ARA, that was adequate enough.

There were rumors late in the summer that the club’s board of directors was going to close shop and instead shift their sporting interests to harness racing. Instead, perhaps due to displeasure over the supposed scheme, they voted to distribute the profits, then resigned. Providence would continue as a member of the National League.


The Blues picked up Bushong and Evans from Worcester, Daily from Buffalo, York from Providence, and Hotaling from Boston (he had played for Cleveland in 1880 as a rookie). They managed to get into contention largely on the strength of their brilliant keystone combo of Dunlap and Glasscock, both of whom I see as the all-star at their position for 1881-1883.

Had they combined the pitching they had boasted in previous years with this offense, they may have done more than just contend. Jim McCormick’s workload plummeted from 596 to 342 innings despite the expanded schedule (although his ARA held steady at 86). Neither One Arm Daily nor nineteen year old Will Sawyer, in his only big league campaign, contributed any value.

The Blues visited the White House in April. President Chester Arthur spoke to them, advising that “good ballplayers make good citizens”.


The Bisons finished with the same W% (.536) that they had in 1882. This is not too surprising as they returned all their regulars except Blondie Purcell (now with Philly) and One Arm Daily (Cleveland). However, Curry Foley was sidelined with various maladies of the joints, and only got 115 PA. Rookie Jim Lillie took his place in center field (see Brian McKenna’s thread on Foley at Baseball-Fever for more).

A profit of $5,000 was turned, which they put towards a new ballpark that, according to Phil Lowry in Green Cathedrals, cost $6,000. The team also wore new blue uniforms this season; ace Pud Galvin objected on the grounds that they made him look fat. No, Pud, the fat made you look fat.


The Gothams were controlled by John Day and Jim Mutrie, who also controlled the Metropolitans, the formerly independent and now AA club. Some players were shifted from the Mets to the Gothams, but around half of the New York regulars had played in the NL in 1882.

The top source of players was Troy, from whence came Ewing, Connor, Gillespie, and Welch (Hankinson and Caskin had last seen NL action with the Trojans in 1881). Dasher Troy came from Detroit (Dorgan had last played in the league with the Wolverines in 1881), Monte Ward from Providence, and Tip O’Neill was the lone rookie on the team. Given their wealth of experience for a first-year club, it is not surprising that they finished a respectable 46-50.

John Clapp was the manager of the team; he was also a reserve catcher (78 PA). This would make the end of Clapp’s remarkable major league career in which he managed six different teams all for one season each: the Mansfields of Middletown, CT in 1872; then, for four straight years beginning in 1878, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Cleveland; and finally the 1883 New Yorks.

The team’s debut, which was the first NL game ever played in New York City (the 1876 Mutuals actually played in Brooklyn which was a separate municipality at the time), was a 7-5 victory over eventual pennant winner Boston. The crowd included ex-President Ulysses S. Grant.


The Wolverines were mired near the bottom of the heap again; they had slipped to sixth and now seventh after an encouraging fourth in their inaugural campaign. Sam Trott, a reserve in 1882, moved into the lineup, and they regained the services of Sadie Houck who had not played in 1882. Tom Mansell split right field duties with rookie Dick Burns after having not played in the NL since 1879 with Syracuse. Burns and another rookie, Dupee Shaw, teamed up with Stump Wiedman as the primary pitchers.


It was a tough first year for the Phillies. The NL, seeking to get into Philadelphia where the AA’s Athletics had been a success, recruited Al Reach to back the team; he and partner Ben Shibe went in with lawyer John Rogers.

It may not be historically kosher, but I like to think of this club as the first expansion team in the modern sense. Most previous “expansions” had simply brought strong independent clubs into the circuit, but the Phillies included a group of castoffs and minor leaguers that more closely resembles modern expansion team composition. Their pathetic 17-81 record, worst in the NL since the league’s inaugural season (Cincinnati, 9-56) certainly doesn’t hurt the argument. They also used 29 players, a huge number for the time--the next highest was Buffalo with 18 and the median was 16.

Of the regulars, Ringo, Farrar, Coleman, and Hagan were rookies. The rest of the players (and last ML experience; 1882 if not listed): Gross (PRO, 1881), Ferguson (TRO), Warner (CLE, 1879), McClellan (PRO, 1881), Purcell (BUF), Harbidge (TRO), and Manning (BUF, 1881).

On Aguust 21, the Phillies were hammered 28-0 at Providence. Art Hagan was a Rhode Island native, and was left in to absorb the shellacking as the team did not want to disappoint the hometown fans that had come out to see him.

It was not a good year at the box office either, as the Athletics were reported to draw twice as many fans as any NL team and four times as many as the Phililies. Bob Ferguson quit as manager mid-season and was replaced by Blondie Purcell.

Leaders and trailers:
1. Dan Brouthers, BUF (.374)
2. Roger Connor, NYN (.357)
3. George Gore, CHN (.334)
Trailer: Doc Bushong, CLE (.172)
1. Dan Brouthers, BUF (.397)
2. Roger Connor, NYN (.394)
3. George Gore, CHN (.377)
Trailer: Stump Wiedman, DET (.196)
Trailing non-pitcher: Doc Bushong, CLE (.198)
1. Dan Brouthers, BUF (.572)
2. John Morrill, BSN (.525)
3. Roger Connor, NYN (.506)
Trailer: Doc Bushong, CLE (.195)
1. John Morrill, BSN (.243)
2. Charlie Bennett, DET (.240)
3. Dan Brouthers, BUF (.235)
Trailer: Stump Wiedman, DET (.048)
Trailing non-pitcher: Doc Bushong, CLE (.056)
1. Dan Brouthers, BUF (112)
2. Roger Connor, NYN (102)
3. Ezra Sutton, BSN (92)
4. George Gore, CHN (92)
5. Jim O’Rourke, BUF (91)
The expanded schedule enabled Brouthers and Connor to become the first National Leaguers to create an estimated 100 runs in a season.
1. Fred Dunlap, CLE (194)
2. Dan Brouthers, BUF (191)
3. Roger Connor, NYN (189)
4. Ezra Sutton, BSN (159)
5. George Gore, CHN (157)
Trailer: Stump Wiedman, DET (45)
Trailing non-pitcher: Frank Ringo, PHI (53)
1. Fred Dunlap, CLE (+4.5)
2. Dan Brouthers, BUF (+4.4)
3. Roger Connor, NYN (+4.2)
4. Ezra Sutton, BSN (+3.0)
5. George Gore, CHN (+2.7)
Trailer: Stump Wiedman, DET (-2.6)
Trailing non-pitcher: Davy Force, BUF (-2.0)
1. Fred Dunlap, CLE (+6.4)
2. Dan Brouthers, BUF (+5.4)
3. Roger Connor, NYN (+5.3)
4. Ezra Sutton, BSN (+4.8)
5. Buck Ewing, NYN (+4.4)
Trailer: John Humphries, NYN (-.9)
Humphries was the Gothams’ #2 catcher behind Ewing. He made 85 outs in 108 PA, hitting .112/.120/.121 and creating just one run. Another Gotham reserve, outfielder Gracie Pierce, is next on the trailing list, making 50 outs in 63 PA, hitting .081/.095/.113 and creating just one run.
1. Hoss Radbourn, PRO (72)
2. Jim Whitney, BSN (74)
3. Charlie Buffinton, BSN (83)
4. Larry Corcoran, CHN (86)
5. Jim McCormick, CLE (86)
Trailer: Art Hagan, PHI (178)
1. Hoss Radbourn, PRO (+4.7)
2. Jim Whitney, BSN (+3.4)
3. Pud Galvin, BUF (+2.1)
4. Larry Corcoran, CHN (+1.7)
5. Charlie Buffinton, BSN (+1.5)
Trailer: John Coleman, PHI (-7.5)
1. Hoss Radbourn, PRO (+8.1)
2. Jim Whitney, BSN (+7.8)
3. Charlie Buffinton, BSN (+2.8)
4. Pud Galvin, BUF (+2.2)
5. Monte Ward, NYN (+2.1)
Trailer: John Coleman, PHI (-5.6)

My all-star team:
C: Buck Ewing, NYN
1B: Dan Brouthers, BUF
2B: Fred Dunlap, CLE
3B: Ezra Sutton, BSN
SS: Jack Glasscock, CLE
LF: George Wood, DET
CF: George Gore, CHN
RF: Orator Shaffer, BUF
P: Hoss Radbourn, PRO
P: Jim Whitney, BSN
P: Charlie Buffinton, BSN
MVP: 2B Fred Dunlap, CLE
Rookie Hitter: C Mike Hines, BSN
Rookie Pitcher: Charlie Buffinton, BSN

I gave George Wood the nod in left field as he was close to the top in WAR (Tom York and Jim O’Rourke were in the mix as well), but Pete Palmer has him at +7 in the field, easily the best of those three. Again, the right fielders were a weak crop; Paul Hines, the runner-up in center field, was 1.7 WAR better than Shaffer.

The pitchers were the same pair as last season, but in reverse order. Radbourn led the league in ARA (meaning he was the most effective on a per inning basis) and tossed 632 innings, second only to Pud Galvin’s 656, an unbeatable combination even for Whitney’s bat. I also added a third spot as the AA averaged close to three 100 IP pitchers per team.

It was another very weak year for rookie hitters; while Mike Hines only put up a 70 ARG, I felt that being the catcher for a pennant-winning team should probably count for something--and it’s not as if he’s taking it away from a guy who had a great year (the top rookie hitter in WAR is Cliff Carroll, +.9 and also a below-average hitter).

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