Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting ready for the home opener, 1924

As the Seattle Indians came off a disaster of an opening road trip, going 3-10 in a swing through Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, they got some good news concerning aging starter Vean Gregg (who would parlay his season that year into a brief return to the majors). Gregg was one of the last pitchers, and maybe the final across the major and minor levels of professional MLB-associated ball,  to be granted a waiver to use a spitball (although the last pitcher to legally throw a spitball in an MLB game was Burleigh Grimes in 1934, not sure about the minors). I don't see Gregg's name on the list of pitchers at the MLB level who were legally allowed to continue throwing the spitter after Ray Chapman's death in 1920. That may have been purposeful, I would have to look into his signing in the off season to see if it was an issue. That may have hampered his return to the majors at age 40.

One of the more interesting features of this article is its descriptions of the players' reactions to playing at Bonneville Park in Salt Lake City. I've never seen exact dimensions on that stadium as it was in the 1920's, but it's interesting to read into the strategy and frustration players had there. The photo to the left is from the J. G. Preston Experience blog. Judging from the height of the players in the outfield, the left field wall was not only close in, but quite high. Looking at the manager Red Killefer's remarks below, the strategy employed by the hitters makes complete sense. Tony Lazzeri, the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season, must have had some opposite field power to swat the ball over that size of a fence. Ray Rowher and Jim Welsh both homered in the Salt Lake series, Welsh four times, and both were left handed batters. Sam Crane and Earl 'Red' Baldwin each had homer's as right handed batters, and the game narrative indicates Crane's was over the left field wall. Certainly, it seems that the Bees' hitters knew how to use the wall to create doubles. The thing I found most interesting was the large number of putouts by the catchers in every game, rather than the first baseman. There must have been a large area behind home plate which allowed catchers a better chance to catch popups. The catchers for Seattle were credited with 39 putouts for the SLC series out of a possible 150 (that may be off if someone took first on a K, and even with a tag or the occasional out at home, that still means a lot of popups, so why??? I ask....and SLC went to their half of the ninth only 2 of the 6 games, so that's 39 putouts by a catcher in 50 innings [x 3 outs]). That's fully 26% of possible outs made by the catcher.

Finally, the article also mentions the nifty new uniforms given out by team trainer Adolph Schacht. He was Athletic Director at the Seattle Elks Club by 1918, trainer for the Indians, refereed boxing matches for over 20 years in the Seattle area, and was, by at least 1933, also the trainer for the Chicago White Sox, though he maintained a home in West Seattle, and acted as a trainer in the off-season for the West Seattle Athletic Club. Schacht died in January of 1942, just as he was getting ready for the White Sox spring training that year in Pasadena. Follow that last link to read the story, which details some of his experiences in and involvement in Seattle baseball and athletics in general. The article refers to Jumbo Elliott's one year with the Seattle Indians, 1926, where he went 26-20, throwing 367 innings with a 2.55 ERA.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week Two Review: Seattle v. Salt Lake City

The Seattle Indians finished the second week of the season week of the 1924 Pacific Coast League season running their record down to 3 wins and 10 losses. Following their 2-5 start at Washington Park in Los Angeles, they went 1-5 at the bandbox called Bonneville Park against the Salt Lake City Bees. They would leave Salt Lake City to head back to Seattle for their home opening series against Sacramento. The Seattle club hit the ball well, but the Bees were just a better hitting team. They were a good enough hitting club that a young Tony Lazzeri batted 7th most of the week, while Lefty O’Doul, soon to give up pitching, batted at the bottom of the order on his pitching day. Every single pitcher the Indians used in week two gave up at least 5 earned runs.
            The hottest hitters of the week for Seattle were right fielder Brick Eldred and third baseman Ted Baldwin. Batting cleanup, Brick hit .455 for the week, going 10 for 22 in the six games, including 4 doubles, and scoring 10 runs. Baldwin batted 7th usually, and went 10 for 26 with 2 doubles and a sacrifice hit. He had continued the hot bat he had in Los Angeles, bringing his average down to .386 in 10 games. The other hot bat was Jimmy Welsh, who homered in all 4 games he saw time in, one as a pinch hitter in the first game of the series and 3 more in each of the last three games of the series after replacing Elmer Bowman at first base. Overall, Welsh was 6 for 15, scoring 4 runs. This gave him a .320 average for the year in 8 games as a utility player. Welsh would have a good 1924 season, his second with the Indians, and be purchased in December by the Boston Braves. There he would get to play with a trio of aging Hall of Famers, including shortstop/manager Dave Bancroft, Rube Marquard, and Casey Stengel. Welsh would play in Stengel’s final game in May and Marquard’s final game in September. Welsh played against Bancroft, who had been traded to the Giants on May 17, 1930, which would also be Welsh’s last year in the majors. Incidentally, Stengel had broken into the majors in 1912 along with Welsh’s Seattle coach and   fellow utility infielder George Cutshaw. Of course, Stengel didn’t get to the Hall of Fame for his hitting.

Totals for week 2:
·         Billy Lane, CF for all six games, batted first all six games. 6 for 21 at the plate including 2 doubles. Now hitting .282 on the season, going 13 for 46 in 13 games and putting 10 runs on board.
·         Cliff Brady, 2B for all six games, batted second for six games as well. Brady continued a slow start, going 5 for 24 with 1 double and 1 sacrifice, putting 3 runs on the board. For the year he was hitting .231 after playing all 13 games with a 12 for 52 performance at the plate, and contributed 7 runs.
·         Sam Crane, SS for all six games, and entrenched as the #3 hitter. The Indians team captain maintained his hitting consistency, going 8 for 25 with 3 doubles and a sacrifice. He did have 3 errors for the week. His 5 runs gave him 6 for the season in 11 games, and his season average stood at .319 after two weeks, going 15 for 47.
·         Brick Eldred, RF for all six games, batted cleanup all games. Eldred brought the hottest bat to the best spot, going 10 for 22 for the week with 4 doubles and 10 runs. This put him at an even .400 for the season, getting 18 hits in 45 at bats in all 13 games, with 15 runs to boot.
·         Elmer Bowman, 1B for three games. Bowman hit in the fifth spot, but gave way to the hot bat of Jimmy Welsh later in the week. His 3 for 12 performance for the week put 4 runs on the board, but dropped his season average down to .282, with 10 runs in 10 games.
·         Jimmy Welsh, 1B for three games. Welsh took Bowman’s spot in the field and hitting order, hitting 4 home runs during the week. He started off the week with a pinch hit home run batting for team captain Sam Crane in the 8th inning of the first game of the series. He followed that with one home run in each of the final 3 games of the series. For the week Welsh was 6 for 15, and for the season 8 for 25, a .320 average with 7 runs scored in 8 games overall.
·         Ray Rowher, LF for all six games, hit 6th in all the games as well. He was 8 for 24 for the Bees series, with 3 doubles, a home run and a sacrifice hit as well. The 4 runs he scored gave him 11 for the year, batting .300 on 15 for 50 hitting over all 13 games.
·         Ted Baldwin, whose mother named him Henry, was 10 for 26 for the week, scoring 2 runs to go with a .384 average with 2 doubles and a sacrifice thrown in for good measure. That gave him a .386 average for the two week old season, with 6 run and 17 hits in 44 at bats.
·         Frank Tobin and Earl Baldwin split the catching duties and the eighth spot in the order. Earl Brucker, a young catcher who got into his first minor league game during the week also made an appearance, going 2 for 2 with a double and a home run in the first game of the series ending Sunday double header. Tobin was 3 for 10 for the week with a sacrifice hit, dropping his average for the year to .381, hitting 8 for 21 in 6 games overall with five runs scored. Baldwin was 3 for 11, with 2 doubles and a home run. That gave him a .250 average on 7 for 28 hitting in 8 games. Brucker would one day manage the Reds for a week, sandwiched in between Luke Sewell and Rogers Hornsby in 1952, and later be instrumental in bringing auto racing to El Cajon after an attempt to build a spring training camp for the Tigers failed. As a catcher, he would finally make the majors in 1937, at the age of 36, and play until 1943.
·         Other position players to see time that week were Frank Emmer, Frank Osborne and George Cutshaw. Emmer was the backup SS and 3B. Osborne was a utility outfielder who had been used as a relief pitcher 4 times in the opening week in Los Angeles, and Cutshaw would see occasional action, but was also Manager Red Killefer’s bench coach.

     The pitchers were uniformly slaughtered throughout the week. Percy Jones made two appearances, starting the week and finishing in relief. He had 8 2/3 innings total with 10 earned runs, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts, 4 hit batters and 2 wild pitches. Those numbers closely parallel his 1920 season with the Cubs. Bill Plummer, father of the future Mariner’s manager (his wife was sister of Seattle teammate Earl “Red” Baldwin), was 1-1 in two long relief appearances, giving up only 5 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings with 5 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 2 hit batters. Suds Sutherland was 0-1, losing his only start of the week, but also the pitcher to go the distance during the week. He gave up 9 earned runs with 4 walks, 5 strikeouts and 1 hit batter. Vean Gregg was still winless, getting a no decision in an otherwise loss in which Gregg gave up 5 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Victor Pigg had 1 relief appearance and 1 start, giving up 9 earned runs with 4 walks and 4 strikeouts. George Steuland went 7 2/3 innings in one long relief appearance, giving up 7 earned runs with 5 walks, 7 strikeouts and a hit batter. Wheezer Dell only lasted 4 1/3 innings in his start, giving up 12 earned runs with a walk and 2 strikeouts. Lastly, Jim Bagby, a 31 game winner for the 1920 World Series champion Cleveland Indians, lasted 2/3 of an inning in one start, giving up 7 earned runs while striking out two. On a side note, his teammate Elmer Bowman had a two cup of coffee career in the majors. In the first of those two games, he got one pinch hit appearance against Bagby in 1920. His last cup of coffee was later that season against Black Sock Lefty Williams.