Legends On Deck

A Battle in the Deadball Era

The “Deadball Era” in baseball was defined as the manufacturing of a run through bunting, stealing and strategy. One of baseball’s early pioneers was Cornelius McGillicudy or as he was more commonly known, “Connie Mack”. He was a former major league catcher, and while not outstanding as a catcher, he was able to learn the game which helped later on during his managerial career which lasted more than 50 years, yielding five World Series titles.

Mack would build up a dominant team and then end up breaking it up when he became strapped for money. He did this in the late 1920’s when he assembled the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Lefty Grove into a dominant force that broke up early New York Yankee dominance of the American League.

But before that beginning in the early part of the 20th century Mack began to assemble his first team of dominance. That team would go on to win the 1910, 1911 and 1913 World Series. However then with the advent of the Federal League Mack was forced to sell off his stars and the A’s became the American League’s doormat. It is the 1910 Athletics that will be taking on the 1915 Red Sox.

Joseph J. Lanin was the Red Sox owner, who had made his money through real estate ventures and hotel ownership. He had an almost brand new ballpark, (Fenway Park) a number of great ballplayers, and was still looking for a World Series title. Ultimately, after winning the series title in both 1915 and 1916 Lanin sold the team to Harry Frazee.

For Mack’s 1910 Athletics, the team consisted of Jack Lapp behind the plate at the catcher’s position. First base was manned by Harry Davis, second base by Eddie Collins, shortstop by Jack Barry and third base by Frank Baker. In the Athletics outfield for 1910 was Bris Lord, Rube Oldring and Danny Murphy. The pitching lineup for the A’s would have, Jack Coombs (31-9), Cy Morgan (18-12), Eddie Plank (16-10), Chief Bender (23-5) and Harry Krause (6-6).

Lanin’s Boston Red Sox would send Hick Cady at the catching position, then Dick Hoblitzell at first, Jack Barry at second base, Everett Scott at shortstop and Larry Gardner at third base. The Red Sox outfield consisting of Duffy Lewis in left, Tris Speaker in centerfield and Harry Hooper in right field could be considered one of the great outfields of all-time. But a team needs pitching and the Red Sox would send Rube Foster (19-8), Ernie Shore (19-8), Babe Ruth (18-8), Dutch Leonard (15-7) and Smokey Joe Wood (15-5).

Starting with the catching match up of Lapp versus Cady, Lapp had a 9-year career in the major leagues ending with a .263 batting average, 5 home runs, 166 RBIs and a total of 416 hits in 1,581 at bats. Defensively Lapp had a fielding percentage of .969 not bad for the era, in the 503 games behind the plate. Cady had a 7-year career in the majors ending with a .240 batting average, 1 home run, 74 RBIs and a total of 216 hits in 901 at bats. As for the numbers on Cady defensively, he had a .979 fielding percentage in 323 games. Both men were a part of 3 World Series winners (Lapp 1910,1911,1913 and Cady 1912,1915 and 1916). Both of these men are fairly close in numbers and experience and a clear-cut winner could just not be decided.

Harry Davis – Photo by Getty Images

Moving to the first base position the A’s have Harry Davis and the Red Sox have Dick Hoblitzell. Davis had a long and successful 22-year major league career including a stint in 1912 where he was player manager of the Cleveland Naps (Indians). He had a .277 career batting average, 75 home runs, 951 RBIs and 1841 hits. He was a reliable first baseman with a .980 fielding percentage, with 343 errors in 16,959 chances. Hoblitzell had an 11-year major league career that would see him with a .278 batting average, 27 home runs, 593 RBIs and 1,310 hits. On defense for his teams he would end with a fielding percentage of .987 with 180 errors in 13,425 chances. Here the choice is not easy however the advantage here would go to Hoblitzell because he may have been a slightly better fielder.

Now it is time to look at the second base participants, Eddie Collins for the Athletics and Jack Barry for the Red Sox. The two men were in fact teammates and were a part of the famed $100,000 infield (along with Stuffy McInnis at first and Frank Baker at third) of Connie Mack. This infield may have been one of the greatest of all-time, certainly the greatest of the “Dead Ball” era. Collins could do it all, hit with over 3,000 for his career. He also could run and could field and while Barry was a good infielder himself, he just does not measure up to the skills and ability of Eddie Collins who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

The shortstop positions are Jack Barry for the Athletics and Everett Scott for the Red Sox. As was said in the previous paragraph Barry was a member of the $100,000 infield as a shortstop with the A’s. Barry had a .243 batting average for his 11-year major league career. 10 home runs as well as 429 RBIs and 1009 hits in 1223 games. When his team was out in the field Barry had a .935 fielding percentage with 290 errors in 4,496 chances. Scott had a career in the major league of 13 years, ending up with a .249 batting average. He also had 20 home runs and 555 RBIs as well as 1,455 hits in 1,654 games. Scott had a .965 fielding percentage with 306 errors in 8710 chances. Scott also at one time held the record for consecutive games played with 1,307, a record Lou Gehrig later broke. Scott was a member of four World Series winning teams and Barry was a member of four world championship teams as was Scott. Scott was a hair better player on offense and was a better defensive player as well so the nod at shortstop goes to Scott.

Frank Baker – Photo by Getty Images

Frank Baker was the third baseman for the 1910 Athletics and like Barry a member of the $100,000 infield. He was also more well known as “Home Run” Baker a title he would acquire after two timely home runs in the 1911 World Series versus the New York Giants resulting in a pair of wins for the A’s squad. He also led the league in home runs, four times in a row from 1911 to 1915. He twice led the league in RBIs and finished his career of 13 years in the major leagues with 96 home runs, 991 RBIs and a .307 batting average. He had a .943 fielding percentage (322 errors in 5,631 chances) and in the Deadball Era this was close to the norm. He was a member of three World Series winning teams and was elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1955. Gardner’s 17-year career saw him end up with a .289 batting average, 27 home runs 934 RBIs and 1931 hits in 1923 games. With the glove, he had a .948 fielding percentage and committed 287 errors in 5,484 chances. He was a member of four World Series winning teams but the edge here goes to Baker, especially given his being a part of that famous infield and of course his election to the Hall of Fame.

The A’s outfield would consist of a good steady group of players, Bris Lord, Rube Oldring and Danny Murphy, these players were good and steady and averaged around the .270 mark for batting. Then there was the Lewis, Speaker, Hooper outfield. At Fenway Park the left field area with the slight rise in it was renamed “Duffy’s Cliff” for the way that Duffy Lewis played the area to near perfection. Harry Hooper in right field was another of the good steady ballplayers who always gave 100%. These two men flanked one of the greatest centerfielders in history, Tris Speaker. Speaker would bat .345 (6th all-time) have 3,514 hits (5th all-time) with 792 doubles (1st all-time). He too was a defensive genius and routinely was among the league leaders in double plays by an outfielder. Both Speaker and Hooper were selected for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The clear-cut advantage hear is to the Red Sox.

Jack Coombs – Photo by Getty Images

31-game winner Jack Coombs would lead the Boston pitching followed by Chief Bender a 23-game winner and then 18-game winner Cy Morgan and 16-game winner Eddie Plank. The Red Sox would counter with Rube Foster and Ernie Shore, both 19-game winners. Following Foster and Shore would be Babe Ruth, an 18-game winner, with spots four and five going to Dutch Leonard and Smokey Joe Wood, both of whom won 15 games for Boston during the 1915 season. 31 games was a fantastic feat just as it would be now. Both Bender and Plank would become members of the exclusive club at Cooperstown and the legendary manager Mack said that if he had a game to win Bender would be his pick on the mound. Morgan with 18 wins would be a fine starter in the four spot to match up with whoever Boston would send to the mound. While the Red Sox did not have a 30-game winner or even a 20-game winner, all five of the pitchers were steady quality performers with Babe Ruth possibly being the best of the bunch.

It is not unfeasible to think that if Ruth had continued as a pitcher he would have well over 300 wins on his resume and would be in Cooperstown anyways. This is just another example of Ruth possibly being the greatest major league player of all time. Advantage in the pitching matchup goes to Boston as coupled with the defense of the Red Sox, it does not look like the A’s would be scoring a lot of runs.

If these two teams were to meet on the ballfield, there would probably be no question as to who would win the matchup. As much as it hurts me to say (I am a Yankee fan HAHA) the 1915 Boston Red Sox would win this series because in the key positions they match up better. Philadelphia would be lucky to have a flyball drop in Boston’s outfield and the pitching for the Red Sox would win out in a duel with the Athletics. Boston would also have an advantage as Babe Ruth and Smokey Joe Wood were two very good hitters and we all know Ruth’s prowess as a slugger.

So, the 1915 Boston Red Sox will advance in the “Dead Ball” Era series. Until next time, let’s play ball

 

Kevin Larkin

Kevin Larkin has been going to minor league and major league baseball games since 1967. He has been to numerous major league and minor league parks and describes himself as a "baseball fan" who likes the Yankees. He enjoys researching, writing and reading about about baseball and will talk for hours on end about his favorite sport.
He is in love with the history of the game, having written three books about his beloved sport. They are "Baseball in the Bay State" a history of baseball in the state of Massachusetts. Then he wrote Gehrig:Game by Game, a history of all of the major league ballgames including All Star games and World Series games as well as regular season that the "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig played in. The third book "Baseball in the Berkshires" a history of baseball in Berkshire County co written with three others, Tom Daley, Jim Overmyer and Larry Moore. As a result of this book Larkin and the other three gentlemen have put together a museum exhibit that is now permanently housed at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesboro Massachusetts.
Larkin also does fact checking and writing for the Society for American Baseball Research or SABR and has had numerous articles published there as well.
He lives in Great Barrington Massachusetts, in the heart of Red Sox country and is involved in a number of projects. He also is a security guard at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington after having been a police officer for 24 years in his home town