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  • #16
    Now, there you are again, ignoring the best position player of his decade in favor a player who, by your own statement, wasn't even the best at his position. And Deacon White went on to a long career and was an interesting and admirable person, which you certainly can't say for Dahlen.

    I do think the old HOF selectors had a bias when it came to 19th century players, and that is a preference for players on the glamor teams: Chicago, New York and Boston in the 1880's, Boston and especially Baltimore in the 1890's. That is probably a large part of the reason Jennings was in long ago, and people used to talk about Long more than Dahlen or Davis.

    The McGraw factor also comes into play. McGraw had a big audience of sportswriters, and he loved talking about the old Orioles spitting tobacco into their wounds and going out and playing. Of course, sometimes they would get really sick or sprain an ankle or something like that, in which case they'd play 119 games over the course of two seasons, the way McGraw himself did. Maybe tobacco isn't the best antiseptic.

    McGraw also had a soft spot for old ball players and liked to hire them for work around the ball park, which made the Polo Grounds a hangout for other old players, and everybody would sit around and tell the writers stories. Not all of the old guys were former Giants or old teammates of McGraw, but enough were that I think there came to be a historiographic bias in favor of the old New York and Baltimore players. This is perhaps a factor people overlook when they talk about Mickey Welch getting into the Hall, for example, although in Welch's case his election came late enough that the McGraw factor may no longer have been operative.

    Of course, when the Hall was young, knowledge of prior generations of baseball history was relatively fuzzy, but on the other hand there were still people like Mack, Griffith, Comiskey and many others, to whom Davis, Dahlen, Jennings and Mickey Welch, for that matter, were living memory. For most people interested in the subject now, they are just statistical lines. That probably has its good side and its bad.
    “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Beady View Post
      Now, there you are again, ignoring the best position player of his decade.
      I'm confused (it happens frequently)... are you claiming I'm ignoring Deacon White? If I am that's mea culpa; you're correct, I don't know nearly enough about him- in fact, lamentably, hardly anything.

      I suppose I'm based because read the bio of Dahlen and did a fair amount of research independently. However, it's patently clear that he was one of the best fielders ever and far more valuable than a good percentage of guys already inducted due to cronyism and personal biases of writers.

      Cal McVey and Ross Barnes garnered more Win Shares than White during the 1870's. Deacon wasn't clearly the best player of the decade, at least on paper.

      In fact, if you set the parameters on 1871-1890, which includes all of his years and excludes many years of the other greats, he's 7th in overall value.

      Win Shares 1871-1890 (position players only)
      Anson- 335
      O'Rourke- 315
      Hines- 283
      Connor- 277
      Kelly- 265
      Brouthers- 256
      White- 248
      Gore- 231
      Richardson- 222

      Regardless, I'd love to learn about White from you.

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      • #18
        PS- I realize that cutting and pasting Win Shares data is reductive and intellectually lazy. In fact, I've been railing against this type of heuristical approach for years. Hopefully this will serve as a starting point to a discussion, whereas in the past numbers like this have served only to say "my guy was better than your guy" in an endless series of sophomoric palavers.

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        • #19
          Well, my own methodology is not exactly rigorous, but I hope it's not absurd, either. With the exception of pitcher, the most important position by far in 1870's baseball was catcher. A large number of major league players now were either pitchers or shortstops in high school; if you look at the 1870's and 1880's, the comparable position of choice was catcher. Casey Stengel's old joke about needing a catcher, otherwise you'll have all passed balls had more point in a day when the only equipment a catcher had was a pair of skintight gloves.

          Again, whenever you look at salary data, including not only actual payrolls but general statements about how much players at each position got or plans to set pay ceilings according to fielding position (a rather common idea in the late 1870's), the battery players always get the most, with the catcher sometimes behind the pitcher, sometimes equal -- then the infielders follow the battery players and the outfielders get less than the infielders. So there's no question catcher was seen as an extremely important position.

          Now, I don't know how White looks as a defensive catcher in Win Shares or any other of the Sophisticated New Metrics, but one would need immense faith in the SNM's that measure fielding to feel a lot of confidence that they can get 1870's catchers right (and with a few exceptions, the people who work with the SNM's the most so seem to be suitably cautious). I suspect, also, that even if they can distinguish accurately between the good catchers and the bad ones, they undervalue the importance of good play at the position.

          By contemporary reputation, however, I think White would have been regarded as the best defensive catcher in the game through most of the 1870's; certainly if you factor in his hitting, he was the best catcher overall. So he was the best player at the most crucial defensive position, and he hit as well as almost anybody. That certainly makes him a prime candidate for player of the decade.

          To put it in another, even cruder way, White had the career Johnny Bench would have had, if Bench had succeeded in making the transition to third base and gone on for another five years at that position. That seems like a Hall of Famer to me.

          Beyond that, White's advantage in playing time relative to the others you mention is not as great as might seem on the surface, because the playing season was very short in the early 1870's and White was just about past his peak by the time the NL schedule got even as long as 84 games.

          I would highly recommend "Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero," by Peter Morris, which talks about the crucial role of the catcher in the early game, and concludes with a brief chapter on the Deacon.
          “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes

          Comment


          • #20
            --I strongly suspect that win shares is a less than accurate tool for measuring balplayers of the 1870s and 80s. Its imperfect enough for measuring more modern ones. However, assuming its reasonably accurate that woud make Deacon White the 7th best ballplayer of the first 20 years of organized ball. To me that sure looks like a Hal of Famer.
            --I think he has a case for player of the decade for the 1870s, although I'd go with Barnes and perhaps have another player or 2 ahead. Just being in the discussion for best player of any decade is another strong indicator of Hall of Fame quality though (and Dahlen is not in that discussion for any decade or any 10 year period for that matter).
            --White, like all players who peak was in the early, extremely short schedule period, has his career lines dragged down by having more games in their decline years due to lengthening schedules. That needs to be factored in when accessing their careers.
            --Dahlen probably was a Hall of Fame caliber player. He is not the 19th century player I'd be most likley to get behind as a candidate though. White is first on that list. I'd also be on the Paul Hines and Ross Barnes bandwagen. Cal McVey is another very interesting character. He could be a Hall of Famer depending on how much weight you give his pre-1871 playing time - which was breif but notable - and his post NL career as a player and manager in the west (for which details are quite murky).

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            • #21
              I started thinking about this when I was looking at Ross Barnes' record after reading how Bill James treated him in the first Historical Abstract. James dismissed Barnes in part because of the quality of play in the NA and I thought, well, whatever else you say about the league, there are a lot of players Barnes played with in the NA who lasted a long time and are recognized as outstanding players in James' list. How did they compare to Barnes' play when they were teammates of his? (This skips over the fair-foul issue, but I don't really regard that as significant, because it really wasn't a very great part of Barnes' game)

              I found, as I expected, that Barnes compared very well with O'Rourke, McVey, Anson and one or two others, but I realized that Deacon White actually held up against Barnes better than I had expected. He didn't have the record Barnes did, certainly, but he stood up very respectably. I believe you just can't underestimate the value of a catcher at this period, and a good catcher who can hit the way White did is a pearl without price, so that's when I started thinking of White as something more than just another very good player. For whatever it may be worth, he was also at the center of a number of significant incidents in baseball history and was an interesting and admirable character. You couldn't say any of that for Dahlen except maybe the "interesting" part.

              It's amazing White could hit as he did, given the constant wear and tear that catching with almost no protective equipment would put on your body generally, and especially your hands. He did have the advantage of working with Spalding much of the time, so he had a pitcher with good control who didn't overthrow.

              Barnes and McVey were both terrific players, however. According to the figures I have, when they signed to jump from Boston to Chicago as half of the Big Four in the summer of 1875 the two of them got $2,500 each, which was a lot of money in those days, but White got $3,000. Spalding got the same, with an added attendance bonus that I think was his payment for managing and captaining the team. This is the way it works in this period. If the battery players are any good, they will probably be the highest paid players on the team. If the battery players are not any good, the team won't be, either.

              If McVey had not decided to move out west and had played into the 1880's, though, he not only would have put up better statistical record, but he would have been active in the major leagues at a time when interest in the game was growing and the press was paying much more attention, with the result that he would be a lot better remembered today. He seems to have been a remarkable athlete who could do just about anything.

              Sorry to take this thread off course, but let's face it, you could have just one 19th century thread and there wouldn't be so many contributuons on so many different topics that it got terribly confusing.
              “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes

              Comment


              • #22
                I see now that in the first voting in 1936 for veteran players, or 19th century players -- I'm not sure exactly how they were defined -- Herman Long finished eighth with 15.5 votes, ahead of Hughie Jennings who had eleven votes, while Dahlen got one and Davis none. Jerry Denny got six.

                I don't present this as evidence for or against anybody's fitness for the Hall or lack thereof, merely as a specimen of how people thought. My theory, as I have said before -- and when I wrote it I did not realize how strong Long's showing had been in '36 -- is that in early years the Hall voting for 19th century players put a great premium on having played for glamor teams, which in the 1890's means Baltimore first, Boston second and everybody else last.

                I'll point out, though, that Jerry Denny got very little of this glamor premium. He played for Providence's 1884 champions, the famous Radbourn team, but after that was mired on losers and didn't come to New York until the Giants' first championship days were over.
                “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes

                Comment


                • #23
                  I believe many trades were of an attitude nature back then and although Dahlen was talented, his moodiness and superiority complex is the reason he is not in the HOF

                  I mean, his nickname was BAD BILL and he pissed off John McGraw

                  Now, if you have a major attitude, you better be one of the best players in the league...but Dahlen only led the league in RBI and that was 1904
                  His main proof to be a HOF candidate are % stats, which I feel have problems with the 1890 players, yet his cumlative stats for a player who was in the leagiue 21 seasons is very mediocre offensively. 2461 hits? 413 doubles? 96 grey ink which counts top 10 finishes in statistical categories?

                  Very good player, great defensive SS which is why he was in the league 21 seasons, but not a HOFer. As for the book...it wants people to buy it...I never like comparing players
                  in different eras...they should be compared to their peers.

                  I love Sherry Magee and he has an astronomical 210 grey ink, but Magee with his attitude talked himself out of the league

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
                    I wanted to post our transgressions on the forgotten great Bill Dahlen for the 19th century aficionados here to get their reactions.

                    So what do you guys think? Is Dahlen the most unheralded and forgotten great in baseball history?
                    If the question were simply about Bill Dahlen and the HoF, I would have refrained from posting at all. That is because, after wrestling with pre-1901 professional baseball, I just decided [for myself] that pre-1900 was another game altogether, and that MLB as we know it today, had finally evolved only after the end of the 1900 season.

                    However, Dahlen DID have several seasons beyond 1901 and the several references extolling his elite all-time status, got me to looking at my own notes on defense, staring with 1901.

                    First, in looking at Dahlen, in what I figure is a fair and square straight up comparison with other SS of his own time, I checked the birth dates of each player with whom I was comparing Dahlen. Dahlen was born in 1870.

                    George Davis b. 1870
                    Bobby Wallace b. 1873
                    Billy Clingman b. 1869
                    Herman Long b. 1866
                    Honus Wagner b. 1874
                    Geore McBride b. 1880
                    Terry Turner b. 1881

                    Toss out the last two if you believe the 10-11 year DOB disparity is too much. From 1901 through 1907, I have Davis, Wallace, Long, Wagner, Clingman and Turner, in turn equal to or better than Dahlen, except for 1907 when he was tops, defensively ... and 1904 when he was in the top 3.

                    I cannot see Dahlen as the best from his own generation, much less among the elite who have played through the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.

                    Anyone with any deep appreciation for the challenges of playing SS skillfully at the MLB level [right now I'm emphasizing defense] might wonder how disposable the likes of a Gene Alley might be.

                    If those published writers who hold Dahlen in such esteem have some special connection with 19th Century play [and players], their reach and grasp are certainly well beyond my own.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by leewileyfan View Post
                      I cannot see Dahlen as the best from his own generation, much less among the elite who have played through the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.
                      He wasn't. George Davis was, and it took a massive grass roots campaign to get the Veterans Committee to even consider him.

                      That said, you're vastly underrating him:
                      Compare him to contemporaries or to all time SS's

                      If any player from before 1920 is a lock, it's him. He's still 65th in career Win Shares, despite hanging up his spikes over 100 years ago.

                      And more importantly, based on Win Shares and WAR, he's one of the top few fielders in the entire 141 year history of our National Pastime. At any position!

                      The all time leaders in defensive Win Shares are, in order:
                      1. Ivan Rodriguez
                      2. Bill Dahlen
                      T2. Rabbit Maranville
                      4. Honus Wagner
                      5. Cal Ripken
                      6. Ozzie Smith
                      7. Gary Carter
                      8. Luis Aparicio
                      9. Dave Concepcion
                      10. Omar Vizqel
                      11. Tommy Corcoran
                      12. Bob Boone
                      13. Tris Speaker
                      14. Lave Cross
                      15. Bobby Wallace
                      16. Nellie Fox
                      17. Joe Tinker
                      18. Pee Wee Reese
                      19. Jim Sundberg
                      20. Bill Mazeroski

                      Infielders were simply much more important/valuable in Dahlen's day...and SS was considered the toughest and most important of all.
                      Last edited by csh19792001; 02-17-2013, 07:44 PM.

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                      • #26
                        Where does Dahlen rank among players not already in Cooperstown? Where does he rank all time?

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Floyd Gondolli View Post
                          Where does Dahlen rank among players not already in Cooperstown? Where does he rank all time?
                          Unelected MLB Shortstops
                          1. Alex Rodriguez
                          2. Jack Glasscock
                          3. Bill Dahlen

                          I'd have to consider long-and-hard where exactly to slot in the top Negro League shortstops (Johnson, Lundy, Moore, etc.) on this list and whether any would top Pebbly Jack or Bad Bill, but in terms of the Majors (as traditionally defined), that's my list. There's a BIG gap after Dahlen before Groups who is probably Jim Fregosi or Bert Campaneris.

                          My thinking on Glasscock vs. Dahlen has changed over time. In fact, I'm now of the opinion that Glasscock is the single most deserving 19th century player not already enshrined.
                          "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                          "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                          "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                          "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
                            Unelected MLB Shortstops
                            1. Alex Rodriguez
                            2. Jack Glasscock
                            3. Bill Dahlen

                            I'd have to consider long-and-hard where exactly to slot in the top Negro League shortstops (Johnson, Lundy, Moore, etc.) on this list and whether any would top Pebbly Jack or Bad Bill, but in terms of the Majors (as traditionally defined), that's my list. There's a BIG gap after Dahlen before Groups who is probably Jim Fregosi or Bert Campaneris.

                            My thinking on Glasscock vs. Dahlen has changed over time. In fact, I'm now of the opinion that Glasscock is the single most deserving 19th century player not already enshrined.
                            What changed? Also, why do you think Glasscock is the greatest 19th Century Player not already in the HOF?

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Short version: I had Dahlen as Home unelected from the 19th century (without projecting/pioneer credit) and not far off, but I've reversed my thinking in that I wasn't giving Glasscock enough credit for his shorter seasons. Ross Barnes, Charlie Bennett, Paul Hines and Joe Start are other favorites from the game's early years, but are somewhat more difficult to evaluate. All six named above belong in Cooperstown (as players), IMO.
                              "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                              "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                              "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                              "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                              Comment

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