The Spitter History Project: 1892-1899: MONOPOLY!
Best Teams: Boston, Baltimore. The Braves won four championships, and the Orioles won three before they were syndicated in 1899.
Worst Teams: Washington, St. Louis, Louisville – three of the AA refugees. The famous 1899 Cleveland Spiders were the results of the St. Louis – Cleveland Syndication
Average Roster Size: 23
Average Pitching Staff Size: 8.8
Roster Highs: 1899 Washington ran through 41 players. One such player was 24 year old Dorsey Riddlemoser, who pitched two innings for them on August 22nd, giving up 4 runs, 2 walks and 7 hits. Nice WHIP, meat. Another was Shady Bill Leith, who gave up five runs, four earned in his two September 25th innings. Shady Bill also was tagged with four hits, two walks, a balk and hit a guy. He also fanned someone, somehow. Anyway, that was the replacement “talent” available.
Roster Lows: The 1892 Brooklyn and Cleveland clubs made it through with just 17 players on their roster all season.
Staff Highs: 1892 Cincinnati, 1893 Chicago, 1899 Cleveland and 1899 Washington all used 15 hurlers.
Staff Lows: The 1892 New York Giants had just five pitchers. Even with Amos Rusie, Cannonball Crane, and Silver King, they finished 70-79. By 1894 Crane was done (and dead by 1896) and King was out of the league.
Players Who You Should Know (But May Not): Cupid Childs, Gus Weyhing, Ted Breitenstein, Frank Killen, George Davis, Mike Smith, Bill Joyce, Jouett Meekin (and that’s just 1892-94)…
Names, Names, Names: Pink Hawley, Cannonball Crane, Stub Brown, Boileryard Clark, Nig Cuppy, Bones Ely, Malachi Kitteridge, Candy LaChance, Yale Murphy, General Stafford, Jiggs Parrott, Huyler Westervelt, Charles Yingling (and that’s just 1894….)
Died Too Soon: Hub Collins, Phil Tomney, Cinders O’Brien, Darby O’Brien, King Kelly, Charlie Duffee, Yank Robinson, Ned Williamson, Henry Easterday, John Ewing, Cannonball Crane, Curt Welch, Kid Madden, Dave Foutz, Kid Baldwin, Big Bill Brown, Old Hoss Radbourn, Joe Sullivan, Jiggs Parrott, John Sneed, Egyptian Healy, Pat Luby – all of these gents played in the 1890’s. TB and alcoholism were the main causes of death. It was a tough time for everyone except the really well-to-do.
Solid Leadership: Frank Selee, Ned Hanlon
Horrible Mismanagement: Chris von der Ahe, Stanley Robison, Billy Barnie were the main culprits / guilty parties of the syndication mess. (von der Ahe indirectly). Andrew Freedman was one of the worst owners not named von der Ahe.
Rule Changes: The most important rule change of all time – the establishment of the pitching rubber and the elimination of the pitchers box.
Let’s Play the Feud: Patsy Tebeau against every other team and umpire. Chris von der Ahe against his senses.
So, Here’s the Thing: Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
After the 1891 season ended and the AA finally folded, the NL welcomed four former AA franchises after extorting them for money and players, and the league started play as a 12-team BIG league.
It was eight seasons of one fiasco after another.
First, in 1892, they tried a split season. Split seasons make sense in the minors now, since there’s so much player movement, and the team in August is usually way different than the team in May. But in 1892 (much like 1981) it didn’t work. Boston ran away with the first half, and coasted in the second half. Then the league forced them to play a series against the second half champs from Cleveland, which they did half-heartedly.
The financial situation became dire, especially in New York. No one was coming to the games. So in 1893, the pitching box was eliminated and the distanced extended to the current 60’ 6”. By 1894, it was all offense, all the time in the league. Brooklyn and Boston averaged nine runs a game. Philadelphia had three .400 hitting regulars, and their main sub hit .418. Finally, when pitchers figured out the new distance and regulations, offense calmed down a bit.
The players didn’t calm down. The 1890’s were full of shenanigans and skullduggery. Baltimore, led by Ned Hanlon with ringleaders John McGraw and Hughie Jennings, is the most known for this, but the Cleveland Spiders led by Patsy Tebeau were the worst, period. Every call was a chance to ‘kick’. They missed bases, took shortcuts, and used their mouths and fists to intimidate everyone.
Crowds got sick of dirty play. Crowds also didn’t like that most teams were done by July. Who wants to watch a game between the 10th and 11th place teams in September? No one, that’s who. The financial and talent disparity grew between the haves and have-nots, with the lesser teams having to settle for never-weres, has-beens, flakes, frauds, and drunks.
The NL thought they had a solution in 1899 by allowing syndication of teams. Brooklyn and Baltimore teamed up, as did Cleveland and St. Louis. The Superbas and Browns were in great baseball markets, but had bad to awful teams. So Baltimore transferred many good players to Brooklyn, and they won the 1899 pennant with many of the 1898 Orioles. John McGraw willed the leftover Orioles to an over .500 record, though.
In St. Louis, the Browns had been wretched ever since the merger when the owner Chris von der Ahe lost his baseball minds and then basically lost his mind. So the Robison brothers from Cleveland, sick of seeing a good team ignored, bought the woeful Browns, moved all of the good players to St. Louis, and left Cleveland with the 20-134 Spiders. What was worse, if anyone on Cleveland showed signs of talent, they were moved to St. Louis in a ‘trade’.
By the end of that season, it was clear that syndication was worse. The Spiders were a joke, and the other former AA teams were also struggling. So the NL decided to cut bait, and bought out Cleveland, Washington, Louisville and Baltimore (surprisingly). The NL then went to an 8-team league that they thought was more stable.
What they didn’t know (or knew and didn’t care) that a minor league called the Western League, with teams in Detroit, St. Paul, Milwaukee, Grand Rapdis, Kansas City, Columbus, Buffalo, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis, were gearing up for a fight with the NL. They played ‘clean’ ball, and knew the public would support that. The NL didn’t know what hit them.