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1921, RIP, Obituaries of Players We're No Longer Considering

RIP, Players Falling Off the 1921 Ballot

Once again we’ve reached the time for the morbid among us to celebrate the passing of some of baseball’s not quite elite.

Jack Chesbro's Headstone

Jack Chesbro’s Gravesite

After each election, once we realize that there are certain players who won’t ever receive our vote for the Hall of Miller and Eric, we pay tribute to them through these obituaries. In order to make our next round of voting easier, we’re going to remove them from intellectual consideration, though not actual consideration. They’ll receive a brief write-up in this column along with a little trivia about their careers or lives.

There were 778 players we considered for the HoME as we began. Five elections in, we’ve elected 20 and put to rest 69 others, as you’ll note by looking over our RIP category and reading below. That leaves us with 689 players for our remaining 189 spots in the HoME. In other words, we can elect less than 27.5% of the remaining players we’re considering.

And after each election, I’ll offer the following chart to keep you apprised of our progress.

Year

Carried

Over

New Nominees

Considered This Election

Elected

Obituaries

Continuing to Next Election

1921

66

27

93

4

18

71

1916

53

31

84

5

13

66

1911

47

20

67

5

9

53

1906

33

28

61

3

11

47

1901

first election

54

54

3

18

33

Dead in 1921

I think that Jack Chesbro is best remembered for his record (with the mound at 60’6”) 41 wins in 1904, but that wasn’t likely his most historic contribution to the game. We know about Merkle’s Boner and Snodgrass’ Muff. So we should occasionally remind ourselves of Chesbro’s Wild One – the wild pitch he threw on the last day of the 1904 season to cost the Highlanders the pennant. So much for the 41 wins.

The first captain of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s, Harry Davis is the most difficult answer to the trivia question, name the four men who have led the league in home runs four consecutive times. He joins Home Run Baker, Babe Ruth, and Ralph Kiner in this fairly exclusive club. Davis was a team player and a gentleman. As the A’s were closing out the 1911 World Series at home at Shibe Park, Davis knew his career was basically over. As a gesture of class and as a figurative passing of the torch, he took himself out of the game with two outs in the ninth so his eventual A’s replacement, Stuffy McInnis, could end the World Series on the field.

A fine hitter in the Dead Ball Era, Mike Donlin actually left the major leagues twice. He left in 1907 to play for the Logan Squares, a semi-pro team out of Chicago. After paying a fine to return to the majors in 1908, he had a great season, finishing third in the NL in WAR among position players. And then he left once again, this time to star in a one act play, Stealing Home, with his wife, Mabel Hite. After three years away, he was back with the Giants, only in a somewhat diminished capacity by this point. Whatever we think of his baseball career, it’s clear he had one of the most prolific acting careers of anyone in the game’s history.

A key member of the Tiger pitching staff that went to three straight World Series from 1907-1909, Wild Bill Donovan was also one of the key losers on those teams, going 1-4 over the three Series. In fact, he lost the deciding game in both 1908 and 1909, making him the first pitcher in history to lose the deciding game in consecutive seasons. In a story that’s possibly partly false, he died in 1923 on what was known as “The Most Famous Train in the World”, the 20th Century Limited. At the time, he was manager of the Eastern League’s New Haven Profs. Future Yankee executive and Baseball Hall of Famer, George Weiss, was the owner and president of the New Haven club at the time. He and Donovan were said to have swapped berths, and Weiss escaped with only minor injuries.

Bob Ewing had an interesting enough career. There’s nothing wrong with 124 wins. And that’s actually a great total for a guy who walked ten batters, including seven in one inning, during his major league debut. What would the manager have been thinking to have left him in the game throughout that inning, you ask? Well, so do I. It’s not like relievers weren’t used on the Reds in 1902. They were. Sure, they were used only 13 times, but you’d think the seven walk inning would have been interrupted (or at least interrupted sooner if indeed it was interrupted). Oh well. More interesting than that, Ewing married a woman, Nelle Hunter, who attended more than 60 consecutive Opening Day games of the Reds. Impressive.

Topsy Hartsel shares a pretty insignificant record with Willie Horton, Paul Lehner, and Dick Harley – the most putouts by a left fielder in a nine inning game. He did this in 1901, in one of his final games in the National League. While there was no free agency at the time, players not infrequently jumped from one league to the other, which Hartsel did before the 1902 season. The diminutive (5’5”) outfielder left the Chicago Orphans for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s.

“Noisy” Johnny Kling, was one of baseball’s first two-sport stars. The starting catcher for the last two Chicago Cub teams to win the World Series in 1907 and 1908 also won the 1909 billiards world championship. One might think it’s noteworthy that he ranks fifth on the all-time list of caught stealing by a catcher. It’s not. The four guys ahead of him are also ahead of him on the list of stolen bases against a catcher, where he ranks twelfth. It was just a different game 100 years ago.

As “The Freshest Man on Earth”, Arlie Latham committed more errors than any other third baseman in the history of baseball. He was also the oldest man to ever steal a base when he swiped second (I’m guessing) for the 1909 New York Giants at the age of 49. The guy was kind of nutty, or so the legend goes. Once, apparently, he tried to get the umpire to call a game because of darkness. When the ump refused, he lit a dozen candles by the dugout. There was a series of blowing out by the ump and relighting by Latham before the ump did indeed call the game – a forfeit for Latham’s opponents. He also might have once set off a fire cracker under third base after being accused of falling asleep on the job. The freshest man on earth, indeed.

There was a time in the game’s history when official scorers were less intimidated by the game’s stars. There was a time in the game’s history when hits and errors weren’t determined by who was on the mound or at the plate. More importantly, there was a time in the game’s history when Herman Long played. And during much of his career, players didn’t wear gloves. Ouch! To be fair, I don’t know whether or not Long wore one his whole career. I do know that he made 122 errors in 1889. And he holds the career record for most errors – this in spite of the fact that he was considered to be a good defender, perhaps a very good one.

The best season in baseball history was recorded by sidearmer Earl Moore of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1908. Sort of. It was that year that Moore recorded 78 outs without giving up a single earned run – the most innings pitched in a season (26) without allowing an earned run. So maybe it wasn’t the best season ever, as he did take a loss that year. At one time he recorded the first no-hitter in the history of the American League. Then in 1991 baseball changed its rules. Since Moore didn’t hurl nine innings in that game (his team lost), no no-hitter. Sorry Earl.

Long-time Tiger righty George Mullin once led the league in walks four consecutive years, and he ranks seventh on the all-time list for assists by pitchers. Despite 20 losses in the 1907 season, Mullin got two starts in the World Series against the Cubs. They were both losses – 3-1 in game 2, and 2-0 in the deciding fifth game. Mullen went on to pitch in the World Series in 1908 and 1909, winning three games to just one loss those seasons, but his Tigers lost both of those too.

Today we complain about the work that the Baseball Writers Association of America does with their Hall of Fame votes. Hell, that’s why the HoME exists. But looking through some of the earlier ballots, I have to say that they’ve gotten quite good, comparatively, at not voting for guys who absolutely don’t deserve votes. In 1937 Danny Murphy received a vote. So did Hack Miller and Bugs Raymond. Go ahead, I dare you to click through. That’s okay, 37 other guys got one vote too – in a year when just over a quarter of guys thought Rogers Hornsby worthy of enshrinement. When we complain, we should do so with some perspective.

Deacon Phillippe was an outstanding control pitcher. In fact, he has the best walk rate of any pitcher in history since the mound was moved to 60’6”. He was also one of the central figures in the first World Series. He took the wins in games one, three, and four and seemed like an absolute hero with his Pirates up 3-1 at that point. However, Boston rallied and it was 3-3 going into the seventh game (best of nine). Philippe was on the mound again, but this time he lost to the Americans. And three days later, he also lost game eight and the Series. Is there solace in that he’s a distant relative of this guy?

In this space after past elections, we’ve talked about some of the more creative nicknames in baseball’s early days, like Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, and cruel nicknames like William “Dummy” Hoy. Today I present to you Elmer Ellsworth “Mike” Smith. Not surprisingly, I can’t find the origin of this brilliant name. Mike? Why Mike? If you’re looking for one more fascinating fact about Smith, he’s 71st on the career triples list – tied with Babe Ruth.

Harry Steinfeldt was the man in history most upset that the most common double play in the game isn’t turned 5-4-3. See, he was the third baseman on the Tinker to Evers to Chance Chicago Cubs. The Pete Best or Shemp of baseball, if you will? When Franklin P. Adams penned Baseball’s Sad Lexicon, it might have gotten “a trio of bear cubs” who were “fleeter than birds” into the Hall. No such luck for Steinfeldt.

In poker, a tell will allow players to assess your hand based on your behavior. In the movie Rounders, villain Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) had a tell while playing with his Oreos that Mike (Matt Damon) picked up on to win his bankroll and his life back from Teddy. John Titus was a right fielder, mainly for the Phillies, who played with a toothpick in his mouth. According to the story, the toothpick would be in the corner of his mouth, until he got the green light to swing. Then the toothpick would move to the center. Pitchers figured this out, but he wouldn’t abandon the toothpick By this story, it’s a coach or manager who tells you when to swing, so I don’t think I believe it. Still, it’s a neat story.

Mostly for the White Sox, Doc White won 189 games over a thirteen year career. He was also the first man to strike out four batters in an inning with the mound at 60’6”. Perhaps his most significant accomplishment came in 1904 when he threw 45 consecutive scoreless innings, matching a feat accomplished by Cy Young earlier that season. Walter Johnson topped him at 55.2 in 1913, but no other American Leaguer has since. Orel Hershiser, of course, holds the major league record at 59 consecutive shutout innings.

At 27 games, Jimmy Williams is the owner of the longest hitting streak in Pittsburgh Pirates history. And he is one of only three players in the game’s history, along with Brett Butler and Lance Johnson, who own at least three triples titles covering the AL and NL.

Rest in peace, all. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those who have made it into the HoME, and check back here after the 1926 election for more obituaries.

Miller

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