19th Century Overlooked Legends Award
In a week, the Nineteenth Century Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) will announce the recipient of the 2009 Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend Award. What is this? It is an effort by the Committee to bring attention to forgotten baseball greats that have not found a home in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. To the Hall’s credit, efforts have been made in the past to identify and enshrine the greats of the 19th Century. These efforts first took place in 1937 when the Centennial Commission was formed to elect legends from the 1800s. They chose Ban Johnson, Connie Mack, John McGraw, George Wright and Morgan Bulkeley. What? Bulkeley! That is another discussion.
The most recent effort to directly elect 19th Century legends was from 1995 to 2001. The rules for election by the Veterans Committee were amended to allow a special election in each of those years of one person whose career began in the 19th Century, providing they received 75% of the vote. As a result of these special elections, Vic Willis was elected in 1995, Ned Hanlon in 1996, George Davis in 1998, Frank Selee in 1999 and Bid McPhee in 2000.
In most recent times, Barney Dreyfus was elected to the Hall by the Veterans Committee and inducted in 2008. For enshrinement in 2009, Bill Dahlen and Deacon White were on the Veterans Committee Pre-1943 Players Ballot but failed to gain election.
Despite these efforts, and efforts in between 1937 and 1995, in my opinion, the 19th Century was never properly addressed. What I would like to see is something similar to what took place in 2006 when seventeen forgotten greats of black baseball were enshrined in Cooperstown with Bruce Sutter. A special committee, made up of baseball historians with an expertise in the Negro Leagues and Pre-Negro Leagues, met and voted on 39 carefully screen candidates. A collaborative effort between the Hall of Fame and SABR to address the 19th Century would be the proper way to deal with the last remaining overlooked greats from the 1800s that belong in Cooperstown.
The 2009 Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend will be announced at the SABR annual convention in Washington, D.C. on July 31. A sub-committee of SABR’s Nineteenth Century Committee was formed last August to come up with ten candidates to be voted on by the 500+ members of the committee. The sub-committee was comprised of Charles Faber, Bob Gregory and myself.
The ten candidates for the 2009 Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend are:
Born: May 8, 1850, Died: February 5, 1915
Position: Second Base
Barnes may have been the most exciting all around player of the 1860s and 1870s. Prior to the establishment of the National Association, Barnes was a star player for the Forest City Club of Rockford, Illinois. In 1871, he joined the Boston Red Stockings of the new professional league and quickly established himself as one of the league’s shining stars. Over the next five seasons, Barnes would lead the league in at least eighteen offensive categories while becoming the National Association’s career leader in runs, hits, doubles, base on balls, stolen bases, batting average and on-base percentage.Â Barnes, the premier fair-foul hitter, won batting titles in 1872 (.432) and 1873 (.425). Also a defensive standout, Barnes was one of Boston’s “Big Four” that led the Red Stockings to the league championship each year from 1872 to 1875.Â When the National League was formed in 1876, he became a member of the Chicago White Stockings and led them to the league’s best record. He also led the league in almost every offensive category including batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, hits, doubles, triples and total bases. After the 1876 season, he was never the same player. Both an illness, limiting Barnes to just 22 games in 1877, and the banning of the fair-foul hit were contributing factors in his demise. He finished his career by playing in the International Association in 1878, followed by two seasons as a shortstop for Cincinnati in 1879 and Boston in 1881.
Born: June 17, 1861, Died: September 10, 1905
Called the “Gladiator” for his defensive shortcomings and his battle with alcoholism, Browning played 13 major league seasons and is considered to be one of great batsmen of the Nineteenth Century.Â Staring primarily for Louisville of the American Association, he won three batting titles during his career, including one for Cleveland of the Players League in 1890, and finished his career with a .341 lifetime batting average.Â The powerful slugger finished second or third in six other batting title races and also finished in the top five in on-base percentage and slugging percentage eight times each.Â Â His career .403 on-base percentage and .467 slugging percentage were among the best of his era.Â According to bat-maker Hillerich & Bradsby legend, the first custom bat made by the now famous firm was for Browning.Â Throughout his life and playing career, the eccentric outfielder suffered from an inner ear condition known as mastoiditis which left him deaf and ultimately played a part in his early death at the age of 44 in 1905.Â
Born: January 5, 1870, Died: December 5, 1950
Known as “Bad Bill” for his extreme temper, Dahlen played for 21 seasons and is considered one of the great defensive shortstops in baseball history.Â With excellent range and a tremendous arm, he set numerous fielding records.Â It has been almost 100 years since Dahlen last put on the uniform as a player and yet he is still among the all-time leaders at shortstop in games played (tenth), assists (third) and putouts (second) as well as errors (second).Â As a hitter, Dahlen was among the best hitting shortstops of his era and had excellent power.Â In his career, five times he finished in the top seven in home runs and when he retired, only Herman Long had more homers as a shortstop.Â He also led the league in RBI in 1904 with 80 and finished in the top nine three other times. His career offensive numbers include 1,589 runs, 2,457 hits, 413 doubles, 163 triples, 84 home runs, 1,233 RBI, 547 stolen bases and 140 hit by pitches.Â In 1894, Dahlen hit in 42 consecutive games to set a major league record which has since been surpassed but is still fourth best in history. Dahlen played his entire career in the National League, playing for Chicago, Brooklyn, New York and Boston. Dahlen’s fiery style of play was a key factor in the success of the teams he played on, including NL championships in 1899 and 1900 with Brooklyn and 1904 and 1905 with New York. New York went on to win the World Series in 1905.
Born: July 22, 1857, Died: February 24, 1947
Considered by many historians as the greatest defensive shortstop of the Nineteenth Century, “Pebbly Jack” played the majority of his career without a glove.Â He received his nickname for his dutiful inspection of the field for pebbles and tossing them away to avert bad hops during the game.Â He led the league in fielding percentage and assists six times, double plays four times, putouts two times and had the most range of any shortstop of his era.Â He retired as the career leader for shortstops in games, assists, double plays, putouts, total chances and fielding percentage.Â At the bat, he got better with age.Â A career .290 hitter, he led the National League in hits in 1889 and 1890, winning the 1890 batting title with a .336 average after finishing second the previous year with a .352 average.Â Â He finished his career with 1,163 runs, 2,040 hits and more than 825 RBI.Â Striking out just 196 times in his career, Glasscock was also one of the toughest hitters to strikeout, leading the league three times in at bats per strikeout.Â The “King of Shortstops” played for nine teams in seventeen years, including a brief stint in the Union Association.Â He continued playing in the minors until 1901.
Born: May 3, 1857, Died: September 16, 1933
Gore was a speedy center fielder that had the knack for getting on base and scoring runs.Â In 1,310 games, “Piano Legs” scored 1,327 runs, including seven seasons of 100 or more and two other seasons of less than 100 but leading the league.Â He was a hard hitter that also took a walk, leading the league in bases on balls three times and finishing in the top seven in on-base percentage ten times.Â In 1880, he led the NL in batting average (.360), on-base percentage (.399) and slugging percentage (.463).Â Gore retired a .301 career hitter with a .386 on-base percentage.Â On defense, he was talented with a good arm but at times was not focused rendering himself an average fielder at best.Â His prowess at the plate kept him on the field.Â He was the table setter for many championship teams.Â He played on NL championship teams in 1880, 1881, 1882, 1885, 1886 with Chicago and world championship teams with the New York Giants in 1888 and 1889, beating the American Association pennant winners while batting .455 and .333 respectively.Â Gore also set some remarkable single game records, including seven stolen bases and five extra base hits in game.Â
Born: March 1, 1855, Died: July 10, 1935
Hines, an outstanding defensive center fielder, was among the best all-around players in the game for 20 seasons. He started his professional career with Washington of the National Association before becoming a member of the Chicago White Stockings in 1874, playing for the first National League champion in 1876.Â In 1878, he joined Providence and became baseballâ€™s first triple crown winner when he led the league with 4 homers, 50 RBI and a .358 batting average.Â He followed his historic season with another batting title in 1879 (.357), while also leading the league in games, hits and total bases as the Grays won their first NL championship.Â In 1884, along with Old Hoss Radbourn, Hines led the Grays to the NL pennant before defeating New York of the American Association to win the first “World Series.”Â Hines played for the Grays during their entire existence (1878-1885).Â He returned to Washington for the 1886 and 1887 seasons before bouncing from Indianapolis (1888 and 1889), Pittsburgh and Boston (1890) and back to play in Washington for the Statesmen of the AA in 1891.Â Hines finished his career with 1,217 runs, 2,134 hits, 549 extra-base hits, 855 RBI and a .302 batting average.Â
Born: November 21, 1851, Died: April 17, 1898
Mathews, a pioneer pitcher in the development of both the spitball and the curveball, won 297 games, including the National Association’s first game in 1871. Listed as five feet, four inches and 140 pounds, Mathews played amateur ball in Maryland before joining the Fort Wayne Kekiongas in the NA. In 1872, he joined Baltimore as their ace, winning 25 games and leading the league in strikeouts. Mathews moved again in 1873 and joined the New York Mutuals, where he would stay through the 1876 season. Mathews was their workhorse and led the league in strikeouts in 1873, shutouts in 1874, and ERA, games started, complete games and innings pitched in 1875. Despite the Mutuals being a subpar offensive team, Mathews managed to become the third winningest pitcher in the NA’s existence, behind only Albert Spalding and Dick McBride, winning 131 games. At the end of the 1876 season, the Mutuals failed to play out their schedule and were removed from the National League, which was the beginning of an uncertain future for Mathews. From 1877 to 1882, Mathews bounced around from team to team, which ultimately cost him the three wins he needed for 300. He won just 39 games in those six seasons, although he was a key contributor as the change pitcher for the champion Providence Grays in 1879. Among his stops were the Columbus (1877) and Lynn (1878) teams of the rival International Association (considered a minor league) and a trip to the West Coast (in protest of the new reserve clause) to play for an independent team out of San Francisco in 1880. His career was rejuvenated in 1883 when he joined the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association and led them to the championship. It was the first of three consecutive seasons of 30 wins for the hurler. Mathews finished his career with nearly 5,000 innings pitched and a 2.89 ERA.
Born: January 20, 1859, Died: April 25, 1944
Born in Ireland, Mullane won 284 games in thirteen major league seasons.Â Nicknamed the “Count” and the “Apollo of the Box” for his good looks and polished appearance, Mullane was a popular player who was often called to pitch on “Ladies’ Day” to get more fans to the field. He was a right-handed thrower who occasionally pitched from the left side as one of the few ambidextrous pitchers in baseball history. After a brief five-game stint in 1881 with the Detroit Wolverines of the National League, Mullane joined Louisville of the American Association the following season. Mullane won 30 games with a 1.88 ERA in over 460 innings pitched for the second place Eclipse. In 1883, he joined the St. Louis Browns and led them to a second place finish in the AA, winning 35 games with a 2.19 ERA. After flirting with playing for the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association, despite being under contract with the Browns, he ended up in Toledo of the AA in 1884. He led the mediocre Blue Stockings with 36 wins, 325 strikeouts and 567 innings pitched. Mullane’s revolving finally caught up with him in 1885. Toledo folded and he became property of St. Louis once again. Mullane decided to sign and play with Cincinnati instead. For his actions, Mullane was suspended for the entire 1885 season which ultimately cost enough wins to leave him short of 300 victories. In 1886, he joined Cincinnati and stayed with the team until June 1893, when he was traded to Baltimore. With the Red Stockings (team changed their name to the Reds when they joined the NL in 1890), Mullane won 20 or more games five times, including 33 in 1886 and 31 in 1887 even though the Reds were usually in the bottom half of the standings. In 1892, he left the team to protest his salary being cut which cost him a few more wins. Mullane was a fine all around player who played the field in over 200 games when he didn’t pitch and hit a respectable .243 for his career, scoring over 400 runs and stealing over 100 bases. He played minor league ball as late as 1902.
Born: December 20, 1856, Died: September 20, 1937
Position: Outfield and First Base
Stovey was a great all-around player and one of the game’s first power hitters. He finished in the top four in home runs ten times, leading the league in five of those seasons. In 1883, he set the single season record with 14 homers. When he retired in 1893, he was the all time leader in home runs with 122 and was third on the list as late as 1920. Stovey’s other offensive numbers include 347 doubles, 174 triples, 908 RBI, over 500 stolen bases (records are not available for six of his seasons so he may have stolen more than 800 bases) and 1,492 runs in 1,486 games, including nine seasons of 100 or more runs. Besides home runs, he led the league in over twenty other offensive categories, including extra-base hits five times, runs scored and triples four times, slugging percentage and total bases three times, stolen bases twice and RBI once. Stovey’s first three seasons were with Worcester of the National League. In 1883, he became a member of the Philadelphia Athletics of the AA, spending seven seasons with the team which included the pennant that first season and four seasons hitting .300 or better. In 1890, he joined the Boston Reds of the Players League and led them to the pennant. He then spent the next three seasons playing for the Boston Beaneaters (1891 and 1892 NL champion), Baltimore Orioles and the Brooklyn Grooms.
Born: December 7, 1847, Died: July 7, 1939
Position: Catcher and Third Base
Jim White, nicknamed “Deacon” for his virtuous life and his leadership on the field, was one of baseball’s first superstars. He began his playing career with the Forest City Baseball Club of Cleveland in 1868 and was still with the team when the first National Association game was played. In the first inning of that first game, he doubled off Bobby Mathews for the first “major league” hit. Consider to be the first catcher to move up under the batter, White was the premier catcher of the 1870s. Playing without a glove, he caught more games (409) than anyone else during the decade while being one of the game’s most feared hitters. White won two batting titles (.367 in 1875 and .387 in 1877) and three RBI crowns (1873, 1876 and 1877). In 1873, White became a member of the Boston Red Stockings that went on to win the championship in 1873, 1874 and 1875. The famed “Big Four” of Ross Barnes, Cal McVey, Al Spalding and White moved onto the Chicago White Stockings in 1876 to win the first NL pennant. In 1877, he returned to Boston as a first basemen and won another pennant. From 1878 to 1880, he played for Cincinnati, forming a battery with his brother Will, before joining Buffalo for five seasons. By 1882 he was a regular third baseman and a member of the second famous “Big Four” with Dan Brouthers, Hardy Richardson and Jack Rowe. In 1886, the Buffalo franchise was purchased by the owner of the Wolverines, bringing the “Big Four” to Detroit. In 1887, the Wolverines, with White hitting .303 at the age of 39, won the NL pennant and defeated St. Louis of the American Association to become world champs. White finished his career with Detroit in 1888, Pittsburgh in 1889 and Buffalo of the Players League in 1890. White’s career totals include 1,140 runs, 2,066 hits, 977 RBI, a .312 batting average and just 221 strikeouts.