Legends On Deck

Greatest MLB Teams of All-Time: 1911 Athletics vs 1912 Red Sox

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During his more than 50 years as a manager in baseball, Connie Mack managed his team to five World Series titles (1910, 1911, 1913, 1929 and 1930). However then, because of financial constraints he was forced to sell off the stars and rebuild. The first dynasty which ran from 1910 until 1914 had some great players on it. Men like Eddie Collins, Frank “Home Run” Baker and pitchers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender were all members of that first dynasty and all were later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The 1912 Boston Red Sox had just christened a new stadium built in the Fens section of Boston and aptly named Fenway Park. This took the place of the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds, the previous venue for baseball for the Red Sox. This was a team loaded with talent as well with future Hall of Famers Harry Hooper and Tris Speaker wearing the Boston uniform along with pitcher Smoky Joe Wood and Duffy Lewis, two players with Hall of Fame type numbers.

It only seems appropriate that these two teams should meet to see who advances and possibly becomes the greatest team of the “Deadball Era”.

As stated before, the manager of the 1911 Philadelphia Athletics was Connie Mack, the much beloved manager who would stay at his post for 50 years. He was also pat owner of the club and he would have the following names on the lineup card for this one game playoff with the 1912 Boston Red Sox. Catching would be Ira Thomas and at first base was Stuffy McInnis. Second base saw Eddie Collins and his double play partner at shortstop was Jack Barry. Finally, in the infield manning the “hot corner” of third base was Frank “Home Run” Baker. Philadelphia’s outfield had these three men, Bris Lord Rube Oldring and Danny Murphy. Mack would have to choose from the following pitchers to heighten his hopes of advancing. There was Jack Coombs, Eddie Plank, Cy Morgan, Chief Bender and Harry Krause.

The skipper of the 1912 Boston Red Sox was Jake Stahl who also played both first base and left field for Boston during his career. Stahl’s starting lineup looked something like this. Catching was Bill Carrigan, Stahl himself played first base in 95 games tht year and at second base was Steve Yerkes. The shortstop was Heinie Wagner with Larry Gardner at third base. The Red Sox outfield consisted of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper. The pitchers Stahl had to choose from to start the game were, Smoky Joe Wood, Buck Obrien, Hugh Bedient, Ray Collins and Charley Hall.

Starting right off with the position of catcher, the matchup featured Ira Thomas of the Athletics against Bill Carrigan of the Red Sox. Thomas was a 30 year old who played 10 seasons in the majors with the New York Highlanders, Detroit Tigers and then for the last seven years the Athletics. During the 1912 season Thomas played in 103 as a catcher. He had 81 hits in 297 at bats for a .273 batting average. Of the 81 hits 14 were doubles, three were triples. He scored 33 runs and had 39 RBIs for the season. The Red Sox catcher, Bill Carrigan was in his fifth major league season, and he would spend his entire career with the Red Sox, including a stint as manager where he would win World Series titles in 1915 and 1916. During the 1912 season in the 87 games that he played in he had 70 hits in 266 at bats. Of those hits seven were doubles and one was a triple. He drove in 24 runs and scored 34 and he had a .263 batting average for the year.

In comparing the numbers of these players they are both fairly even and it would be hard to make a choice based on just the numbers but the advantage here seems like it goes to the Red Sox and Carrigan for the simple fact that Carrigan had a great baseball mind given the fact he later managed the Red Sox to two World Series titles.

Philadelphia’s infield consisted of Stuffy McInnis at first (150 hits, including 20 doubles, 10 triples, three triples, 76 runs scored, 77 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, .321 batting average). Then there was Eddie Collins (180 hits, 22 doubles, 13 triples, three home runs, 92 runs scored, 73 RBIs, 38 stolen bases and a .365 batting average). The shortstop was Jack Barry ( 117, 18 doubles, seven triples, one home runs, 73 run scored, 63 RBIs, 30 stolen bases, .265 batting average). Playing third base for the 1911 Athletics was Frank “Home Run” Baker (198 hits, 42 doubles, 14 triples, 11 home runs, 96 runs scored, 115 RBIs, 38 stolen bases, .334 batting average).

For the 1912 Red Sox the infield was at first base Jake Stahl ( 98 hits, 21 doubles, six triples, three home runs, 40 runs scored, 60 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, .301 batting average. At second base was Steve Yerkes (132 hits, 22 doubles, six triples, 73 runs scored, 42 RBIs, four stolen bases, .252 batting average). The shortstop for the 1912 Red Sox was Larry Gardner (163 hits, 24 doubles, 18 triples, three home runs, 88 runs scored, 86 RBIs, 25 stolen bases, .315 batting average).

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The first look gives the clear cut advantage to the 1911 Athletics. They all had better batting averages, the could steal bases, they scored runs and were just a better all around offensive machine. But the one thing about the A’s infield is this and it is the reason that this part had the teams infields being compared as a unit. The Athletics 1911 infield of McInnis, Collins, Barry and Baker were given a nickname to show how valuable they were. Of this infield when asked what he would sell them for on the open market, Philadelphia manager Connie Mack said he would not take $100,000 for them. After that the A’s infield was referred to as the $100,000 infield. As good as the Red Sox infield was they just cannot compare to the A’s infield which had two Hall of Famers (Collins and Baker) in it as well.

The outfields of both teams will be compared as a unit as well. The 1991 Athletics outfield consisted of Bris Lord (178 hits, 37 doubles, 11 triples, three home runs, 92 runs scored, 55 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, .310 batting average). Next is Rube Oldring (147 hits, 11 doubles, 14 triples, three home runs, 84 runs scored, 59 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, .297 batting average). The final outfielder for Philadelphia was Danny Murphy (167 hits, 27 doubles, 11 triples, six home runs, 104 runs scored, 66 RBIs, 22 stolen bases, .329 batting average).

For Boston in 1912 the outfielders were Duffy Lewis (165 hits, 36 doubles, nine triples, six home runs, 85 runs scored, 109 RBIs, 9 stole bases, .284 batting average). In centerfield was Tris “the Grey Eagle” Speaker ( 222 hits, 53 doubles, 12 triples, 10 home runs, 136 runs scored, 90 RBIs, 52 stolen bases, .383 batting average).

This one turned out closer than what I thought it would be as both outfields match up pretty well with the exception of the .242 batting average by Harry Hooper. Fielding percentage wise the A’s were for this season a comparable set of outfielders and in fact had better numbers than Boston. The thing for me that made it close is that Hooper, Speaker and Lewis were thought to be one of the greatest outfields of all-time. But this is about how the teams and the players played for the season and in that aspect this one has to be a draw, just too close to call.

Now comes the pitchers in the game. Mack had the choice of four pitchers to choose from. They were Jack Coombs (28-12, 3.53 ERA, 40 starts, 26 complete games, 1 shutout), Eddie Plank (23-8, 2.10 ERA, 30 starts, 24 complete games, 6 shutouts), Cy Morgan (15-7, 2.70 ERA, 30 starts, 15 complete games, 2 shutouts) and Chief Bender (17-5, 2.16 ERA, 24 starts, 16 complete games, 2 shutouts). For the Red Sox the five pitchers to choose from were Smoky Joe Wood (34-5, 1.91 ERA, 38 starts, 35 complete games, 10 shutouts), Buck O’Brien (20-13, 2.58 ERA, 34 starts, 25 complete games, 2 shutouts), Hugh Bedient (20-9, 2.92 ERA, 28 starts, 19 complete games), Ray Collins (13-8, 2.53 ERA, 24 starts, 17 complete games, 4 shutouts), Charley Hall (15-8, 3.02 ERA, 20 starts, 9 complete games, 2 shutouts).

Connie Mack always said if he had one game to win, he would pitch Chief Bender as he was Mack’s most dependable starter. It is hard to argue with that logic as with Bender on the staff Mack won 3 World Series titles in a five year period (1910-1914). 28 game winner Jack Combs would not be a bad choice and neither would “Gettysburg Eddie” Plank who won 23 games in the 1911 season. But since Mack is the manager he would probably go with Bender to try and advance to the next round. The others in the rotation could provide welcome relief if Bender were to get into trouble.

Although there were five men in the Red Sox rotation to choose from, in reality when a pitcher wins 34 games ( including 16 games in a row) and loses just five it is safe to say that pitcher was the ace of the staff and that is just what Smoky Joe Wood was during the 1912 season. So the pitching matchup in this one game playoff would feature Chief Bender vs. Smoky Joe Wood.

This game may turn into something quite interesting with the offense of the Athletics versus the flaming fastball of Joe Wood. In the end while Wood would probably complete the game, the Athletics would prevail based in how deep and talented the bullpen was for them. If Bender got into trouble Mack could bring in Plank with his assortment of curves and breaking pitches to throw off the timing of the Red Sox hitters. So the 1911 Athletics advance to the next round of the “Deadball” playoffs.

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Kevin Larkin

Kevin Larkin has been going to all kinds of baseball amateur and professional since 1969. When asked he says he is a baseball fan who likes the Yankees. He was a police officer for 24 years in his home town of Barrington Massachusetts and helped on investigating most major crimes including murder, plane crashes and automobile crashes. He was certified as an expert witness in accident reconstruction and investigated almost 90 fatal automobile accidents. After retiring from the police force he renewed a love for baseball and as of now has authored three books on the subject: Baseball in the Bay State, Gehrig:Game by Game and Baseball in the Berkshires. He has authored articles for SABR and helps out there with research whenever possible. He has a coloection of almost 700 baseball books and enjoys pre 1900 and post 1900 baseball as well as the Black Sox Scandal and learning about the Negro Leagues. He also writes a column for CNY Baseball and loves giving back to the sport which has given him so much.