Introducing… Tip O’Neill

One of the top players in American Association history, Tip O’Neill was the Triple Crown winner in 1887 for the AA powerhouse St. Louis Browns.  The Browns captured the AA title four straight years, 1885 t0 1888, with O’Neill leading the offense.  The masher from Montreal was one of the biggest stars of his day–he won back-to-back American Association batting titles and still holds the record for most runs scored in a single season by a right-handed batter with 167.

When Tip left Canada for the Majors in 1883, he was used primarily as a pitcher for John Clapp’s Gothams.  After just one season with the Gothams, Tip began his tenure with the Browns in 1884.  Still a pitcher, O’Neill led the American Association in winning percentage.  The Browns came in fourth in the standings that year but when Charlie Comiskey was named player/manager, the team took off.

Tip was the only .300 hitter on the Browns ’85 roster–with a robust .350 mark–so Commie astutely made the heavy hitter his regular left fielder to keep his bat in the lineup on a daily basis.  O’Neill rewarded Commie in 1886 by leading the AA in RBI.  Comiskey’s Browns were World Series champs as Tip was the main offensive weapon on a club that also featured other forgotten AA stars like on-base machine Yank Robinson, the speedy Hugh Nicol and Arlie “The Freshest Man on Earth” Latham.

The Browns captured the American Association flag again in 1887 as Tip had what could be seen as the single greatest season in baseball history.  He led the league in runs scored (167), base hits (225), doubles (52), triples (19) homeruns (14), RBI (123), batting average (.435), on-base percentage (.490), slugging average (.691) and total bases (357).  Easily the top team in the Association, O’Neill’s unearthly hitting, coupled with stellar pitching from stars Scissors Foutz, Silver King and Bob Caruthers, enabled the Browns to capture yet another pennant.

But the hat trick wasn’t enough for Commie’s Browns as they won their fourth consecutive American Association flag in 1888.  Although Tip’s batting average plummeted 100 points, he still won the batting title with a .335 mark.  His 177 base hits also topped the circuit, but his numbers weren’t nearly as monstrous as they were in 1887.  Although the Browns went 90-45 in 1889, they fell to second place due to all the bats outside of O’Neill’s drying up.  Tip did his part by hitting .335 with a .419 on-base percentage, but teammate Tommy McCarthy was the only other Brown to hit above .290. 

The baseball world went into upheaval in 1889 when the Player’s League was adopted.  O’Neill jumped the powerhouse Browns and fled to Chicago with skipper Charlie Comiskey.  The Chitown Player’s League team had such notable old Browns as O’Neill, Commie, Latham, King and catcher Jack Boyle.  Tip hit .302 in the Player’s League’s only season of operation.  When the Player’s League folded, O’Neill and Comiskey both returned to the Browns.

At the age of 33, Tip was still swinging some solid lumber.  He hit .323 with a lofty .404 on-base percentage in 1891.  he posted his fifth year of 100+ runs scored and his seventh straight campaign with a batting average above .300.  When the American Association was absorbed by the National League in 1892, there was only one Major League and Tip joined the Cincinnati Reds.  His numbers fell off drastically, due to a combination of old age and new setting.  It was his last year in the Majors. 

THE NUMBERS

G 1,052/R 879/H 1,385/2B 222/3B 92/HR 52/RBI 757/BA .326/SA .458/OBP .392

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