Apr 19, 2011

Travel Day

April 19, 1911

The A's are on their way up to Boston, so no game today. In fact, the elements will conspire to push their next game back to the 21st, so we've got a few days to wait to see if the Athletics can avenge their blowout and get their second win. Let's see what else is going on around baseball in the mean time, shall we?

Over in the Senior Circuit, the first-place Phillies are already up in Boston, sweeping a doubleheader today against the Rustlers*. In the second game, Future HOFer Pete Alexander made his second big league appearance (4.2 IP, 4 Runs) and collected his first win**. He'll get 372 more of them by the time he's finished.

Alexander finished 1911 with an MLB-leading 28 wins, the most for a rookie in the modern era. He ended up 3rd in the first ever MVP voting (then called the Chalmers Award), and if the Cy Young Award had existed in 1911, it would have been a tight race between Ol' Pete and the Giants' Christy Mathewson.

It's hard to overstate how good he was in his years with the Phillies***, before epilepsy, alcohol, and shell-shock from World War I diminished his greatness in his 30s (though mind you, he was still pitching well above average for his entire 20-year career - his lowest ERA+ for a full season was 113, and he's fifth overall among pitchers in career WAR and tied for third with Mathewson in wins).

Alexander's life and career were fascinating and tragic, and his bio over at the Baseball Biography Project is a great read.

Only two other games were played today****. The Giants beat the Brooklyn Superbas 4-3 at the Yankees' Hilltop Park, which the Giants were renting while the Polo Grounds were being repaired after an April 14th fire. In the AL, the White Sox beat the St. Louis Browns, 6-3. The Tigers (inactive today, 5-0) are the only undefeated team in baseball and are one game up on the Yankees and four up on the A's.

* The team played under this nickname only in 1911. They started life as the Red Caps, then spent 23 years as the Beaneaters, then a few as the Doves. In 1912, they'd become the Braves, a name which stuck with them through moves to Milwaukee and then Atlanta. To give you an idea of how bad the Rustlers were in 1911, their best player, infielder Bill Sweeney, only managed to put together a team-high 2.3 WAR, a total that Matt Kemp (currently 1.5 WAR) is on pace to reach next Wednesday. This goes a long way towards explaining the Rustlers' eventual .291 winning percentage.

** Apparently his debut with the Phillies came in one of the pre-season exhibition games against the A's, but he's not mentioned in either of the box scores I found. I know there are other games though, but I thought they happened later. Hmmm...

*** From 1911-1917 he went 190-88 with a 2.12 ERA and averaged 6.7 WAR per season. During those seven seasons he led the league in wins five times, in innings pitched six times, in strikeouts five times, in shutouts five times, and captured the Triple Crown three times. All this while pitching half his games in the Baker Bowl, a notorious hitters' park (278 feet to right field).

**** I guess you get days like this when the leagues only have 8 teams each and they have to take lots of days off for train travel.

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