Monday, April 28, 2014

My All-Time Players By Position

Using my top 100 player list, here's how the rankings break down by position.

Pujols is already in a dead heat with Foxx, and will almost certainly pass him sometime this season.

My best guess is that Satchel Paige was Walter Johnson's equal on the mound. But Johnson could hit a little, and Satchel couldn't.

Integrating the Segregated Era With Strat-O-Matic Part Two

I've reached the half-way point of my Strat-O-Matic tournament made up of four all-star teams of players from baseball's segregated era. If you missed part one, you can read all about it here. The standings remain extremely tight:

Smiths 40-37
Gibsons 39-38
Charlestons 38-39
Ruths 37-40

The scoring remains ridiculously high, and actually went up a tick in the second quarter. Teams are scoring an average of 6.14 runs per game, the average ERA is 5.48, and average OPS .844.

I may have reached the pinnacle of baseball nerdery by calculating WAR for a Strat league. But the results show Oscar Charleston being the first-half MVP by a wide margin, not surprising since he's the leader in AVG, OBP, and SLG, and is a highly rated center fielder.* No pitcher is standing out from the crowd, but Satchel Paige, Lefty Grove, and John Donaldson are all in the top five for both ERA and FIP. 

The full leaderboards:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top 100 & KC Connections: 1—10

1. Babe Ruth • RF/LF/P • 1914—1935

Played in at least three exhibitions in KC. On October 22, 1922, Babe Ruth & Bob Meusel, "playing with an all star team," dropped a game 10-5 against the Monarchs. Ruth went 4 for 4, all hits of the single variety against Bullet Rogan and Rube Currie. The Ruth's All-Stars passed through KC again in October, 1924. The teams were made up of "Bob Meusel, also of the Yankees, most of the Kansas City Blues, and the biggest names in Kansas City semi-professional baseball."* Ruth pulled a homer at Muehlebach Stadium in that game. Three years later, his Bustin' Babe's faced the Larrupin' Lou's on October 15, 1927. Ruth and Gehrig presented a refrigerator to Children's Mercy Hospital while in town.
*The Monarchs 1920-1938 by Phil S. Dixon

2. Willie Mays • CF • 1951—1973

As a 17 year old kid playing for the Birmingham Black Barons, faced the Monarchs in KC during the 1948 Negro American League regular season and in the  league championship series. Returned to KC for two All-Star Games, one in 1960 (3 for 4 with a double and triple) and one in 1973 (0 for 1 with a strikeout).

3. Ted Williams • LF • 1939—1960

Murdered the A's in KC in 51 games between 1955-60: 15 homers and a 1.186 OPS. Grounded out in one PA at the '60 All-Star Game.

4. Oscar Charleston • CF • 1916—1941

Visited KC to face the Monarchs an unknown number of times.

5. Walter Johnson • P • 1907—1927

6. Barry Bonds • LF • 1986—2007

Played three games at Kauffman Stadium in 2003. After playing left in the first game, he was the DH for the next two. Here, for some reason, are the results of all of his plate appearances from that series:

June 13

vs. Chris George
1. intentional walk
2. ground ball single
3. ground ball single
4. strikeout swinging

vs. Mike MacDougal
5. strikeout looking

June 14

vs. DJ Carrasco
6. fly out to deep RF
7. intentional walk

vs. Les Walrond
8. strikeout swinging
9. walk

vs. Nate Field
10. walk

June 15

vs. Jose Lima
11. line drive single
12. home run
13. walk

vs. Jason Gilfillan
14. fly out to LF

7. Ty Cobb • CF • 1905—1928

8. Rogers Hornsby • 2B • 1915—1937

9. Hank Aaron • RF • 1954—1976

Faced the Monarchs in Kansas City as a member of the 1952 Indianapolis Clowns. Went 0 for 4 at the 1960 All-Star Game and 1 for 2 at the 1973 summer classic. Squeezed in nine regular season games at Royals Stadium between 1975 and '76, highlighted by one home run, hit off Al Fitzmorris.

10. Honus Wagner • SS • 1897—1917

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Federal League Kansas City Packers

Home opener, April 16, 1914. The Chicago Whales, with Hall of Famer Joe Tinker at short, defeated KC 3-2.
The Federal League existed 1913-15, and Kansas City had a team in the loop for the last two and a half of those three seasons. The Fed, then and now considered an independent minor league in 1913, placed one of their original teams in Covington, KY. The Covington Blue Sox suffered from poor attendance to the point that they needed to locate mid-season. KC was their landing spot in late June, and the franchise became known alternately as the Packers and the Feds. Gordon & Koppel Field at 47th & Tracy was their home yard.

The loop declared itself a major league in 1914 and began poaching what talent they could from the American and National. The Federal is indeed considered a major league for the 1914 and '15 seasons, though the talent level lagged behind the two established majors. One of KC's additions was George Stovall, a KC native that had been a below average/above replacement level first baseman in the American League since 1904. He'd been a playing manager for the previous three seasons, a dual role that he continued for the Packers in '14 and '15. But they didn't add any awe-inspiring talent. The 1914 squad liked playing in KC alright, squeaking out a 37-36 home record, but overall went just 67-84, good for sixth place in the eight team league. The team didn't draw particularly well, and the league announced they would be relocated to Newark, NJ for 1915. But KC ownership fought back, serving a lawsuit to the league that successfully blocked the transfer.

The fans came out in much bigger numbers in 1915, putting up some of the highest attendance figures in the league. There was very little turnover on the roster, so no expectation that the Packers would make much noise in the standings. But they were a much improved team and actually held on to first place for a significant chunk of the year. They faded slightly and finished fourth with a respectable 81-72 record buoyed by their 46-31 ledger at home. It was the first winning record by a major league team in KC's history after the Unions and Cowboys never sniffed .500 in their four combined seasons in the 19th century. 1915 was also the last winning record by a major league team in KC until the 1971 Royals.

Despite the increase in attendance, the owners had gone bankrupt by the end of 1915 and the team was taken over by the league. During the '15-'16 off-season, an agreement was reached between the AL/NL and the Federal that put an end to the Fed by partially absorbing it into the AL & NL. With no ownership group left in KC, the Packers were not a part of the deal, and KC fans had to wait 40 years for the official return of major league baseball. 

Exterior of Gordon & Koppel Field

My best guess at the orientation of Gordon & Koppel Field. Assuming the game in the top photo was being played in the afternoon, the shadows would be approximately right. And baseball historian Lloyd Johnson has written that long home runs would end up in Brush Creek.

How great are those sweaters?

"Kansas City in the Federal League" by Bob Cole in the book Unions To Royals
"Kansas City Baseball History" tour pamphlet by Lloyd Johnson
The Federal League of Baseball Clubs by Robert Peyton Wiggins

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Top 100 & KC Connections: 11—20

11. Satchel Paige • P • 1927—1965
Was the ultimate free agent, and probably played for more teams than any other player. But from 1941—47, he had a relatively steady run as a Kansas City Monarch (though he still occasionally pitched for other teams between Monarchs starts). Paige was loyal to the team after owner J.L. Wilkinson gave him a job at a time when his arm went dead in the late '30s. KC became his home for the second half of his life, and he even pitched three shutout innings for the KC A's in 1965 at the age of 59. His legacy remains strong in KC with Satchel Paige Field at Swope Parkway and 51st, Satchel Paige Elementary at Indiana and 75th, and his final resting place at Forest Hill Cemetery, Troost & Gregory.

12. Lou Gehrig • 1B • 1923—1939

Played in at least two exhibitions in KC: His Larrupin' Lou's faced the Bustin' Babe's on October 15, 1927. Gehrig and Ruth presented a refrigerator to Children's Mercy Hospital while in town. Gehrig also played in his last ever baseball game in KC on June 12, 1939. Gehrig had been inactive for six weeks due to a mysterious ailment, but gave it a go in an exhibition against the Blues to please the fans. He came to the plate once, grounded out weakly to second, and came out of the game. He left straight from KC the morning after for the Mayo Clinic, where he soon received his diagnosis of ALS.

13. Tris Speaker • CF • 1907—1928

Never played in KC that I'm aware of, but he did become heavily involved with the Blues for a brief time. Along with two partners, Speaker purchased the Blues before the '33 season. Speaker planned on being the field manager in addition to overseeing all personnel, contracts, and scouting issues. He realized quickly that it was too much, and stepped down as manager almost as soon as he started. He and his partners sold the team a couple of years later. (Info from Timothy M. Gay's book Tris Speaker.)

14. Stan Musial • OF/1B • 1941—1963

Definitely played a KC exhibition in '43, and could have played a couple of others. Also singled in his lone plate appearance at the '60 All Star Game.

15. Grover Cleveland (Pete) Alexander • P • 1911—1930

16. Mickey Mantle • CF • 1951—1968

Sent down to the Blues after a slow start to his rookie season in '51. The legend goes that he was ready to quit baseball until his father came to pick him up in KC and gave him a hard time about quitting. In 40 games with the Blues, crushed 11 homers and a 1.096 OPS. Returned to Municipal as a MLB visitor for 114 games (26 HRs, .983 OPS).

17. Roger Clemens • P • 1984—2007

19 games at Kauffman: 12-4, 2.05 ERA.

18. Lefty Grove • P • 1920—1941

19. Bullet Rogan • P/CF • 1915—1938

Spent much of his childhood in Kansas City, KS. Starred for the Monarchs from 1920—38 and managed them '26—'34 and '36. Also umpired home games for many years after his playing days. Buried at Blue Ridge Lawn Memorial Gardens in KC.

20. Josh Gibson • C • 1930—1946

Visited KC to face the Monarchs.