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  • 1871 Pennant Race

    1871 Pennant Race
    The Chicago White Stockings and the Philadelphia Athletics were embroiled in a close pennant race at the end of 1871 in the National Association. On October 8th and 9th the “Great Fire” raged throughout Chicago, wiping out more than 17,000 buildings. The White Stockings lost their ballpark, Lake Front Park, equipment and uniforms. They were forced to finish the season on the road. The franchise’s entire net worth barely covered payroll.

    The two teams ended in a tie and a one-game playoff was set for October 30th in Brooklyn. Philadelphia won 6-1. The devastated franchise folded and Chicago was unable to field another professional baseball team until 1874.

  • #2
    1871 is very much misunderstood. The pennant was to be decide by whichever club won the most series, or so it seemed. A series was a best of five games. Once a team won three games in a series, the remaining games need not be played. In fact were never counted.

    At the time of the Chicago fire, the White Stockings had played 17 of its 24 games at home and were due for a road trip.

    The game between Philadelphia and Chicago on October 30 was not a playoff game, but was in fact the fifth and deciding game of their five-game series. Philadelphia won by a score of 4-1, and thus won their series against Chicago. Before the game it was announced that whoever won the game would win the championship, although possible forfeitures had not yet been parceled out. But the New York Clipper stated that if Chicago won the match, Boston would win the pennant. Before the match, Philadelphia was 21-7, Chicago was 20-8, and Boston was 22-10.
    All three had forfeitures figured in. The series records of the three were as follows: Boston 7-1, Philadelphia 6-1, and Chicago 5-0. With Philadelphia's victory the series records stood as follows: Philadelphia 7-1 (22-7), Boston 7-1 (22-10), and Chicago 5-1 (20-8). Chicago tried in vain to complete their series with Troy before the end of the season which was October 31. However, there were others that felt that most wins should determine the pennant winner. In any case, the NA awarded the first pennant officially during their November meeting. Since both Philly and Boston tied in series records, the first tie-breaker would be wins, but since they were still tied, it went to fewest losses. Harry Wright argued for his team to no avail.

    The next year it was decided that most victories would decide the pennant and, in fact, it would be the rule until the early 80's, I think. Winning percentage was not yet considered. No modern reference book or even SABR reflects the above standings, as it is engaged in revisionism. By the way Boston was the true second place team, not Chicago.
    Last edited by SABR Steve; 03-20-2006, 02:55 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by SABR Steve View Post
      The next year it was decided that most victories would decide the pennant and, in fact, it would be the rule until the early 80's, I think. Winning percentage was not yet considered. No modern reference book or even SABR reflects the above standings, as it is engaged in revisionism. By the way Boston was the true second place team, not Chicago.
      Is it truly revisionism or is it simply maintaining records using modern affectations applied retroactively to a period when those methods had not yet been established? (Revisionism necessitates revising history, not merely keeping records differently.)

      Is this practice, no doubt adopted for the the sake of simple convenience, any different than calling, say, the Atlantic the Brooklyn Atlantics in order to conform to modern nomenclature?

      If, indeed, there is an effort to alter the historical record to replace it with an untruth, I'd be interested to hear about it; that's a serious accusation.
      "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

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
        Is it truly revisionism or is it simply maintaining records using modern affectations applied retroactively to a period when those methods had not yet been established? (Revisionism necessitates revising history, not merely keeping records differently.)

        Is this practice, no doubt adopted for the the sake of simple convenience, any different than calling, say, the Atlantic the Brooklyn Atlantics in order to conform to modern nomenclature?

        If, indeed, there is an effort to alter the historical record to replace it with an untruth, I'd be interested to hear about it; that's a serious accusation.
        One is changing the league champion. One is adding the missing city or nickname to form a modern looking club name. Big difference don't you think?
        "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

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        • #5
          Originally posted by bluesky5 View Post

          One is changing the league champion. One is adding the missing city or nickname to form a modern looking club name. Big difference don't you think?
          I don't see how the league champion is being changed by using modern conventions for standings, at least not in 1871. Philadelphia comes out on top either way.

          OTOH, the 1869 and 1870 champions would look differently under this system (e.g. the undefeated Cincinnati Red Stockings were not the champs of the '69 season).
          "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


          • #6
            Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
            I don't see how the league champion is being changed by using modern conventions for standings, at least not in 1871. Philadelphia comes out on top either way.

            OTOH, the 1869 and 1870 champions would look differently under this system (e.g. the undefeated Cincinnati Red Stockings were not the champs of the '69 season).
            I thought the issue at hand was that the final standings in modern publications don't reflect the final standings as they actually were in year 18-- according to the rules.
            "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

            Comment


            • #7
              The National Association had determined a national champion in similar fashion to how boxing does so. To become the champion, you had to defeat the existing champion. In baseball, however, you had to beat the champ twice for the title to pass on. This is where the concept of the pennant came from - the existing champion hoisted a flag and when that club lost its championship status, the pennant would pass to the club that had twice defeated them.

              This system, however, led to some shenanigans and disputed titles over the years.

              When the Association permitted a separate class for professionals, beginning with the 1869 season, the teams had to agree to be (a) publicly professional, (b) all-professional, and (c) ineligible for the Association's pennant. (This didn't mean that some of the remaining "amateur" clubs weren't continuing to compensate at least some of their players under-the-table.) Twelve of the top 15 or so clubs in the country seized the opportunity to turn pro. While the Cincinnati Red Stockings (famously first to so declare themselves) went undefeated against all competition that year - both games versus other pro teams and games against others - they were not recognized as the national champions because they didn't beat the (then) existing champion twice.

              The New York Mutuals (champions of 1868) opened the '69 retaining their title, but the Brooklyn Excelsiors beat them twice, capturing the pennant just before Independence Day. At the end of the season, the Brooklyn Atlantics defeated the Excelsiors for the second time since Excelsior captured the flag, giving the Atlantic the pennant. The season ended before any team could then defeated Atlantic twice. Therefore, Atlantic were considered the national champions.

              Of course, the NA had miscalculated by permitting a professional category, believing it would isolate the pro clubs as a lesser form of the game. Talk about backfiring. It was the pro clubs (which included the reigning national champion Mutuals) that attracted interest and the Red Stockings' success, popularized pro baseball to an irreversible degree.

              So the 1869 champion Atlantic went 15-6 that season against pro competition while the Red Stockings went 19-0 against pro competition. Using the conventions of modern standings, Cincinnati would be listed first, followed by the Atlantic and then teams with lesser records. While the W-L records are accurate, the conveyance of the pennant would be misleading.

              To the best of my knowledge, regular standings were rarely kept in the newspapers in these days so not only was the frequency of the data's presentation inconsistent, but so was its format. Fortunately, it wouldn't be too many more seasons until that changed. Not coincidentally, professional baseball changed its method of determining a championship club.

              As it relates to the 1871 season, I don't see that it makes a difference because the Philadelphia Athletics, that year's champions, are depicted in first place using conventional standings methods (see Baseball-Reference's 1871 standings here.) You will also note that they list Boston second (as mentioned in SABR Steve's post above), even though Boston's winning percentage is lower than Chicago's.

              I hope that helps clarify what I was saying: that I don't see historical revisionism taking place in how modern encyclopedias list the standings of these early seasons. Even if that's a credible claim, I would certainly doubt that any revisionist effect was intentional on the part of the editors. That was my sole point.
              "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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