Monthly Archives: June 2009

One of the finest sluggers during the 1800s, Silent Mike is now simply the unsung star of Jim Mutire’s early New York Giants dynasty.  Mutrie had Buck Ewing, Jim O’Rourke, Roger Connor and John Ward – all Hall of Famers – but arguably the best – one Silent Mike Tiernan – is still left out of the Hall of Fame.

Silent Mike joined Mutrie’s Giants in 1887.  The team was on the rise, adding Tiernan to a roster with Hall of Famers Ward, Connor, O’ Rourke and Ewing as well as the gifted run scorer George Gore and a pair of Hall of Fame hurlers in Mickey Welch and Tim Keefe.  Silent Mike was the final piece to the puzzle, helping the Giants to back-to-back championships in 1888 and 1889.  Silent Mike was second on a powerhouse Giants team in homeruns, on-base percentage and stolen bases in 1888. 

Leading the league with 96 walks in 1889 enabled Silent Mike to also lead the league in runs scored with 147.  He played in 122 games that season, placing him on the short list of players who scored an average of more than a run per game during a season.  For the champion Giants, Tiernan topped the team in runs, hits, walks, batting average an on-base percentage.  Silent Mike had an amazing .447 on-base percentage (he would have four years with an on-base percentage above .400 and nine above .360). 

When the Player’s League was formed, Mutrie’s dynasty crumbled as all his Hall of Fame batters bolted for the new league.  Silent Mike remained loyal to the grand ol’ man and stayed with the Giants, leading the NL in homeruns, slugging average and total bases.  When the Player’s League folded after one season, many of the stars returned to the old league making Silent Mike’s chances of repeating as the homeruns king small, but Tiernan eclipsed all NL sluggers with 16 long balls (an amazing total in the Deadball Era).

He finished third in the homerun department in 1893, stroking a total of 14 long balls while driving in 102 runs.  In the 1890s, the Giants weren’t the team they used to be, but Silent Mike was still a productive player.  Beginning in 1895, Tiernan began a three year string of scoring at least 120 runs and posting an on-base percenatge of .400 or better.  He hit .347 in 1895, .369 in 1896 and .330 in 1897 during that same three year span.

Silent Mike ended his career in 1899, playing his entire Major League life with the New York Giants – a rarity during the 1800s.  One of the top sluggers of the 1800s, Tiernan has a higher slugging average than Hall of Famers Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, King Kelly and Tommy McCarthy: all of whom played during Silent Mike’s time.  Also, Tiernan scored an average of 0.889 runs per game, higher than Hall of Fame peers Jim O’Rourke (0.815), Tommy McCarthy (0.838) and Jesse Burkett (0.830).


G 1,475/R 1,312/H 1,843/2B 248/3B 159/HR 106/RBI 849/BA .311/SA .464


A vastly underrated pitcher, Big Ed pitched on a Chicago Cubs staff littered with standout hurlers.  A member of the single greatest pitching staff in baseball history, Big Ed was one of five pitchers with a sub 2.00 ERA for the 1906 Cubs.  Reulbach had a 1.65 ERA while teammates Three-Finger Brown (1.04), Jack Pfiester (1.51), Brakeman Jack Taylor (1.83) and Orvie Overall (1.88) carried the Cubs dynasty on their sturdy shoulders.  Because he was on a roster with so many elite pitchers, Reulbach’s name has been forgotten.

As a rookie with the 1905 Cubs, Big Ed was the only Chicago hurler with a sub 2.00 ERA.  His ERA was a minuscule 1.42 (second in the NL to Christy Mathewson) and he won 18 games for a third place Cubs team.  Reulbach was the hardest pitcher in the NL to hit, surrendering just 6.4 hits per inning.  When the Cubs landed some more pitchers to go with Big Ed and the three-digit fellow, their dynasty was born.

In 1906, Reulbach began a string of three consecutive seasons in which he paced the senior circuit in winning percentage, posting a .826 mark in ’06.  Again, he was the most difficult pitcher in the NL to hit, surrendering an unheard of total of just 5.3 hits per inning.  In the ’06 World Series, Big Ed won Game 2. 

His third year in the Majors was another exceptional campaign.  Big Ed had a tidy 1.69 ERA while leading the NL with an .810 winning percentage.  His Cubs won the World Series in ’07, beating the Tigers, as Reulbach fashioned a 0.75 ERA for the contest – winning Game 3. 

For the first time in his career, Big Ed’s ERA jumped above 1.99 in 1908 when he finished the campaign with a 2.03 mark.  Despite his lofty  earned run average, he still led the NL in winning percentage with a .774 mark.  Big Ed won 24 games and tossed just under 300 innings – both career highs.  Again, he was a member of the world champion club as the Cubs trounced Detroit for the second year in a row. 

Reulbach lowered his ERA back down to 1.78 in 1909, but with the holdout of catcher Johnny Kling – the Cubs linchpin – they failed to cop the NL title.  He won 19 games for the Cubs regardless before going to his final World Series in 1910.  He had a .600 winning percentage in 1910 (Big Ed had eight years with a .600 or higher winning percentage) for the World Series losing Cubs.  He won 16 games in 1911 and then fell to ten victories in 1912.  Believing that Reulbach was done, the Cubs shipped him to Brooklyn for Eddie Stack. 

With Brooklyn, Reulbach resurrected his career, fashioning a 2.o5 ERA in 1913.  Stingy with the hits – Big Ed’s trademark – he averaged just 0.7 hits per inning while Hall of Fame peers Mathewson (0.951), Rube Marquard (0.861) and Chief Bender (0.878) all met with lumber far more than Reulbach.  With the upstart Federal League offering dough in excess, Big Ed jumped to Newark and had his last great season, winning 21 games on a 2.23 ERA.

A member of the last Chicago Cubs World Series Champion team, Big Ed was a stalwart in a rotation overrun with stars.  Only Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown has made the Hall of Fame from the Cubs amazing Deadball Era staff, but Big Ed would be the most likely selection to join him in the halls of Cooperstown.


W 182/L 106/PCT .632/G 399/CG 200/IP 2,633/H 2,117/BB 892/SO 1,137/ERA 2.28

One of baseball’s most underrated shortstops, Tony Fernandez was a standout on defense and was a good enough hitter to eclipse the .300 mark on four separate occasions.  Although he was a solid offensive player, Tony earned his keep with his leather, sporting a lifetime .980 fielding percentage at short – two points higher than the more ballyhooed Ozzie Smith. 

Tony became Toronto’s regular shortstop in 1985 and led all shortstops in triples and batting average.  Carrying his .289 batting average into the postseason, Tony hit Royals pitching to the tune of a .333 average, but the Royals prevailed and went on to win the World Series.  He took his game up a notch in ’86, smacking out 213 base hits (3rd in the American League and tops among all shortstops) while hitting a robust .310 with 25 steals.  For his breakout season, Tony made the first of five All-Star appearances and won the first of four straight Gold Glove Awards.

In 1987, Tony finished eighth in MVP voting while hitting .322.  He tied for the most stolen bases by an AL shortstop and netted his second straight Gold Glove.  Although his batting average fell to .287 in 1988, he still led all shortstops in base hits and doubles.  Tony made his third All-Star appearance in ’89 and led the Blue Jays to the postseason.  Showcasing his penchant for hitting in October, Tony hit 93 points higher in the ALCS than he did during the regular season.

Tony rung in the new decade by leading the American League with 17 triples in 1990.  His 175 hits and 26 stolen bases led AL shortstops.  After the season, he was packaged with Fred McGriff in a blockbuster deal, sending them to San Diego for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.  In Tony’s second year in the senior circuit, he earned his fourth All-Star nod and was the runner-up in runs scored by an NL shortstop. 

Tony returned to Toronto in 1993 and hit .318 in the ALCS.  Taking Toronto to the World Series, Tony led all participants with nine RBI – hitting .333 in the process.  The Seibu Lions of the Japanese League bought Tony in 1996 and after a year overseas, Tony returned to the Majors with the Indians in 1997.  He hit .286 with Cleveland and guided them to the postseason, again dominating in October play.  Tony hit .357 in the ALCS and a resounding .471 in a World Series loss to Florida.

Back with Toronto in ’98, Tony fashioned back-to-back seasons of .300 hitting for the Blue Jays – in his upper 30s.  He earned his final All-Star nod in 1999, hitting .328 while finishing fifth in the junior circuit with 41 doubles.  It was Tony’s last good year.  The next season he split between Toronto and Milwaukee before retiring.


G 2,158/R 1,057/H 2,276/2B 414/3B 92/HR 94/RBI 844/BB 690/SO 784/SB 246/BA .288/SA .399

The only player in New York Yankees history who is underrated, Gator pitched with the Yankees through the good and the bad.  In his early years, the Yankees were a force, but when he was a veteran, the Bronx Bombers were in a dry spell.  But through it all, Louisiana Lightning was the consummate professional.  At the height of his career, when the Yankees were struggling to nail down wins, Gator told manager Bob Lemon that he’d gladly move to the bullpen to save games.  He cared more for his team than any personal accolades.

After two years of brief duty in New York, Gator was given a regular turn in the rotation in 1977.  He responded by winning sixteen games with a 2.82 ERA.  Showcasing fine control, Guidry had a brilliant 2.71 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.  Hall of Famers Jim Palmer (1.95 to 1) and Nolan Ryan (1.67 to 1) weren’t as dominant as Gator.  As a rookie he went to the World Series in ’77 and had a brilliant 2.00 ERA as the Yankees toppled the Dodgers.  Guidry also showed in his rookie season his knack for getting wins – which would help him greatly when the Yankees fell on hard times in the 1980s.  Gator had a .696 winning percentage during the season.  He would go on to post seven straight seasons with a winning percentage over .600.

Guidry was even better his sophomore season, winning the Cy Young Award for pitching excellence.  Gator led the league with 25 wins, .893 winning percentage, 1.74 ERA and nine shutouts.  Louisiana Lightning copped the Cy Young Award and almost brought home the MVP Award as well, finishing just behind Boston’s Jim Rice.  He carried the Yankees to back-to-back titles, trouncing the Royals in the ALCS with a 1.12 ERA and owning the Dodgers in the World Series with a 1.00 ERA.

Guidry went 18-8 in 1979, leading the American League in ERA while reaching 200 strikeouts for the second time in his career.  With Nolan Ryan in the American League, Gator couldn’t pass the Ryan Express in strikeouts, but was usually among the leaders.  He finished third in the league with 166 whiffs in 1980, leading New York to an ALCS showdown with the Royals.  In 1980, the Royals had the Yankees number and had Gator’s too, thrashing Guidry for four runs in three innings. 

Gator sought redemption for his poor postseason showing in 1980 by enjoying a remarkable 1981 season.  Gator had a brilliant 4 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.  Hall of Fame peers Dennis Eckersley (2.26 to 1), Steve Carlton (2.89 to 1) and Don Sutton (3.59 to 1) weren’t as dominant as Guidry.  1981 would prove to be Ron’s last trip to postseason.  He posted a 1.93 ERA in the Fall Classic but his team lost to the Dodgers.

The Yankees fell to fifth place in 1982 but Guidry still notched wins for a dying dynasty.  He had a remarkable .636 winning percentage for a losing team.  In ’83, the Yankees knew that in order to compete, they needed Guidry on the mound as much as possible.  He led the AL with 21 complete games in ’83 and the Yankees climbed back up the standings to second place.  Again, Ron had a .700 winning percentage, winning 21 games opposed to nine losses.

Putting an abysmal 1984 campaign behind him, Ron went into 1985 with something to prove.  Ron led the junior circuit with 22 wins and a .786 winning percentage, but despite his pitching heroics, the Yankees finished second in the AL East.  Try as he might, Gator never again saw postseason play.  He suffered an injury in 1987 and then pitched sparingly in ’88 – his last season.

Guidry retired with a lifetime postseason record of 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA.  He was a member of four All-Star teams, won a Cy Young Award, five Gold Glove Awards, and his career winning percentage of .651 is 27th all-time.


W 170/L 91/PCT .651/G 368/CG 95/IP 2,392/H 2,198/BB 633/SO 1,778/SHO 26/ERA 3.29

200px-HrichardsonOld True Blue, Hardy Richardson was a stellar player in the 1800s.  He made his rounds on the diamond, playing plenty of games in the outfield and at third base as well, but spent the bulk of his career at second base.  He spent the majority of his career with the Buffalo Bisons, taking over second base from Davy Force in 1882.

Old True Blue is now best remembered as a member of The Big Four, featuring himself, Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers and the fine Deacon White and Jack Rowe.  The Big Four played together in Buffalo but gained fame when they all gathered in Detroit and won the 1887 Championship. 

Hardy made his debut with Buffalo in 1879.  He was one of only two regulars on the roster to hit over .280 in his rookie season.  He suffered from the Sophomore Jinx in 1880 but rebounded to hit .291 in 1881.  He eclipsed .300 for the first time in 1883, hitting .311 for the Bisons while scoring 73 runs in 92 games.  Hardy hit .319 in 1885 and was then purchased by the Detroit Wolverines. 

Old True Blue showed Detroit fans some great baseball, leading the circuit in hits with 189 while also topping the league in homeruns.  It was arguably Old True Blue’s finest season – finishing the campaign with a robust .351 average.  The Wolverines finished second that year, coaxing great seasons out of The Big Four, but won the championship in 1887.  Hardy hit .328 in the championship season, scoring 131 runs in just 120 games. 

Detroit wasn’t a baseball hotbed despite playing host to the National League’s finest team, and when attendance sagged in 1888, Hardy was sold to the Boston Beaneaters.  Old True Blue played one year with the Beaneaters before jumping to the upstart Player’s League.  In the league’s one year in existence, Hardy was the top RBI man, driving home 146 runs for the Boston entry. 

1890 was Hardy’s last great season.  When the Player’s League folded, Hardy went to the American Association and played one year with Boston.  He split his final season, 1892, with Washington and the Giants before retiring.  A very versatile player, wherever Old True Blue was put on the diamond, he excelled.


G 1,316/R 1,112/H 1,676/2B 305/3B 124/HR 73/RBI 816/BA .300/SA .438

If you’re the baseball fan who likes smiles then Ozzie Guillen is probably your favorite player.  If you’re the baseball fan who likes eccentric behavior, then Mark Fidrych is probably your favorite player.  If you’re the baseball fan that likes self-absorbed prima donnas, then Manny Ramirez is the apple of your eye.  But if you’re the baseball fan that likes workmanlike first basemen, then Will Clark is your idol.

Will “The Thrill” Clark rebuffed the Kansas City Royals in the 1982 draft, opting instead to attend college.  At the college level, Clark gained notoriety as one of the finest collegiate players of all-time.  In 1985, Will was taken second overall by the Giants and signed on the dotted line.  It didn’t take long for Clark to rocket to the Major Leagues.  He was the Giants regular first baseman in 1986.  As a rookie, Will hit .287 but finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in a strong class consisting of ROY winner Todd Worrell, Kevin Mitchell, Barry Bonds, John Kruk, Barry Larkin and Will’s teammate Robby Thompson.

He enjoyed a breakout season in his sophomore campaign, tying Jack Clark for the lead in homeruns (35) among NL first basemen.  Will hit .308 in ’87 and finsihed fifth in MVP voting.  He led the NL in RBI (109) and walks (100) in 1988.  Will was the only Major League first baseman to score over 100 runs during the season – accounting for an astounding total of 211 runs.  Again, Will finished fifth in MVP voting and went to his first of six All-Star games.

The Giants went to the postseason in 1989, thanks in large part to Will’s terrific campaign.  He led the league in runs scored, finished second in batting average behind Tony Gwynn, third in RBI (most by a 1B), and led initial sackers with nine triples.  For his magnificent season, Will was the runner-up in MVP voting.  Carrying the Giants into October, Cool Hand Will hit .650 in an NLCS victory over the Cubs, but his Giants lost the Fall Classic to Oakland.

Will finished fourth in MVP voting in 1991, leading the league in slugging and total bases.  His 116 RBI were tied with Barry Bonds for second in the NL while he led NL first basemen in base hits.  Will the Thrill was a multi-talented first baseman, winning a Gold Glove in ’91 and pacing all first basemen in stolen bases during the 1992 season.

After an off-year in 1993 (the second time his batting average fell below .285) Will was allowed to test the free agent market and he signed with the Texas Rangers – closer to his Louisiana home.  In his first year in the American League, during the strike shortened 1994 season, Will hit .329 and drove in 80 runs, gaining an All-Star berth in the process.

During 1997, Will carried a hot bat – hitting .326 – but was beset by injuries during the season, limiting him to 51 RBI.  He rose in the RBI department in ’98, driving home 102 runs for the Rangers – his last year in Texas.  Granted free agency, Will signed with the Baltimore Orioles and hit .303 his first year in the Northeast.  During the 2000 season, Mark McGwire, the mighty slugger of the St. Louis Cardinals fell to injury and the Redbirds dealt Jose Leon to get Will for their pennant push.  Will the Thrill was just what the doctor ordered, carrying the Cardinals on his back and taking them to the postseason.  Clark hit 12 homeruns and drove in 42 runs in just 51 games for St. Louis.  He was just as good in October, hitting .412 in an NLCS loss to the Mets.

But just like that, after a season in which Will eclipsed the .300 BA, .400 on-base average and .500 SA plateaus, he announced his retirement while still on top.  Today, with the likes of Pedro Martinez trying out for clubs and Tom Glavine getting released during a minor league rehab stint, fans have grown accustomed to stars hanging on long after their expiration date, but Will the Thrill ended his career before he became washed up.  There is something noble in ending a career before the light of brilliance is fully extinguished.  But Will the Thrill was always one of baseball’s nobles.


G 1,976/R 1,186/H 2,176/2B 440/HR 284/RBI 1,205/BB 937/SO 1,190/BA .303/SA .497

Charlie Root was a man’s man.  Tough and steel-armed, he had the perfect temperament for a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.  Charlie once told a sportswriter that he didn’t believe in sore arms.  He felt that if an arm received sufficient work, it would not tire as easily.  It was this gritty mentality that allowed Root to toss nine seasons with 200 or more innings – eclipsing the 250 mark four times.

Charlie failed in his first Major League assignment with the St. Louis Browns in 1923.  He didn’t resurface at the highest level again until 1926, this time with the Chicago Cubs – the only other team he’d play for.  Root won 18 games his first year with the Cubs while finishing second in the senior circuit in the strikeout and earned run average departments.  If he flew under the radar his first year in Chicago, he made people take notice in his follow-up campaign at Wrigley Field.  Charlie led the NL with 26 victories, 309 innings pitched and 48 games worked.  He was the runner-up in the strikeouts department, finishing behind Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance.

Charlie showcased his strikeout abilities in 1928, finishing third in the NL: it was the third of six straight years with 120 or more strikeouts (quite a feat back then, when batters weren’t as strikeout prone as they are now).  He won 19 games for the Cubs in 1929, carrying them to a World Series showdown with Connie Mack’s powerhouse Athletics.  During the regular season, Charlie paced the NL with a .760 winning percentage while finishing fourth in the strikeout department.  In the World Series, Charlie was cruising right along in Game 4 but the Athletics bats roared to life in the late innings, knocking Root out of the box, and treating the various relievers in the same fashion.  The Cubs lost the series but Charlie fanned eight Athletics batters without giving up a walk.

Charlie finished fourth in the senior circuit with 124 strikeouts in 1930 while tying  Dazzy Vance for the lead in shutouts.  He followed up a solid 1930 season by claiming 17 wins in ’31 and finishing fifth in the strikeouts department.  He won 15 games for the NL Champion Cubs in 1932.  Carrying the Cubs to the World Series in ’32, Root gained infamy in that year’s Fall Classic when he took on the mighty Yankees – most notably Babe Ruth.  It was Charlie who surrendered Babe’s famous “Called Shot” homerun in the series, but the play is often disputed and rightfully so.  The Babe did NOT call his shot.  This is hokum.  A grand display of the imagination of sportswriters in the day who were more interested in telling tales than recounting the events on the ball diamond.  Given Charlie’s mentality, if the Babe had called his shot – displaying arrogance on a grand scale – then Root would have knocked the Bambino on his over-sized fanny.  So no, the babe did NOT call his shot.

After the 1932 World Series – dealing with the bogus story of the Babe’s famous predicted tater – Root put his postseason failures behind him and won fifteen games (his eighth straight season with a dozen or more wins) while fashioing a miniscule 2.60 ERA.  He posted 15 wins in 1935 while posting twice as many strikeouts as walks, leading the Cubs to another World Series.  Given that he was a Cub, it should come as no shock that he was on the losing side of the battle.

Charlie won 13 games in 1937 on a 3.37 ERA and posted a 2.85 ERA for the 1938 season.  In ’38, Charlie won his final pennant with the Cubs and posted an ERA of 3.00 in the Fall Classic, but the Chitown boys fell to the Yankees again.  1938 was Charlie’s last great season.  He became a spot-starter afterwards, finishing his career in 1941.

Charlie finished fourth in MVP voting in 1927 and finished in the Top Ten in strikeouts seven times.  A workhorse extraordinaire, Mr. Root was John Wayne in baseball dress – staring pain in the eye and taking it on; dukes raised.  He was the perfect ironman pitcher.  Sore arms were for mollycoddles and Charlie Root was no molly.


W 201/L 160/PCT .557/G 632/CG 177/IP 3,197/H 3,252/BB 889/SO 1,459/ERA 3.59