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How they felt in 1889

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  • How they felt in 1889

    Interesting how perceptions change with time.

    The Boston Herald of Sunday, August 11th, 1889 printed the results of the New York Sporting Times survey of who the best general player in the League and the Association.

    In the League, the results were as follows:

    Ewing 171, Kelly 48, Anson 32, Ward 29, Connor 25, Glasscock 17, Ganzel 14, Williamson and Buffinton 10, A. Irwin 8, Faatz 5, Denny 3, Dunlap 2

    In the Association:

    Foutz 138, Comiskey 72, Stovey 46, Caruthers 35, Burns 21, O'Neill 16, Orr 12, Collins 6, Marr 5, Earle and Mullane 3, Long 2, Mack 1

    The role of team Captain or manager was obviously of paramount importance since Ewing, Kelly, Anson, Foutz, and Comiskey top the lists, but it's enlightening to see the regard in which Ewing and Foutz were held- Ewing has almost as many votes as everyone else from the NL together. Really sad how much Foutz has been forgotten today. Bit of a surprise to see Arthur Irwin there at all, but then again, he was managing Washington. Can't really see how Jay Faatz belongs at all, but amazed that Charlie Buffinton was the only pitcher in the whole NL with any votes- no Clarkson, Welch, Keefe, Radbourn etc.

    Don't know if the Mack was Reddy or Connie. Also don't know who was voting on this survey, whether sportswriters or players or men in the street. I figured it was players but that's only my guess.

    "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

  • #2
    It is pretty easy to find contemporary discussions of who the greatest players are, where Buck Ewing frequently is rated as easily the top guy. He has largely faded from memory today (to the extent that any Hall of Famer can) and I'm not quite sure why people like Cap Anson are better remembered. Certainly any discussion of the greats of the 1880s and early 1890s needs to include him prominently. I recently saw a discussion of "greatest catcher of all time" on another forum, and I was pleased to see Ewing mentioned.


    • #3
      Yeah Yeah. True. Even as late as the 30s many regarded him as the best ever. I wasn't surprised that he topped the list, i was surprised by the margin with with he did so.
      "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.


      • #4
        I asked when did the first greatest players list come out in a thread from awhile ago. This list in 1889 is right now the first one that I know about.
        "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
        "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."


        • #5
          Our polls have selected the top four for each catagory as:


          At first glance it appears that our assessment differs substantially from the 1889 poll. But in fairness, in 1889 Delahanty had not yet had a .300 season and Young and Nichols had yet to begin their assault on the record books. We were in agreement with Connor and Anson; if there is a failing, it appears that we did not assess Ewing and Foutz as they may have been viewed in 1889.

          Regarding League players, Kelly and Glasscock are always more well thought of than I can muster in their regard; and Ward is simply an individual that you are lucky enough to study about once in a lifetime.
          The Association players include Comiskey and Caruthers who make it to the top of my 19th century list. The choice between Stovey and Brouthers is not as easy as it initially seems, but I still give the nod to Brouthers on batting average strength. I wouldn't score the others as highly as the 1889 poll, but then again, these "others" were not major point getters.


          • #6
            I'm still puzzled by Jay Faatz getting 5 votes. He only had one decent year, which was 1888 (fittingly for an 1889 survey) -- but even that wasn't all that good. He wasn't even the best on his *team* in '88; Ed McKean was much better, AND McKean was much better in 1889 as well. So it wouldn't just be "ballot stuffing" from Cleveland, because the Blues had a MUCH better player to choose in McKean.

            Overall, though, I think this is a really good indication how times have changed perception.

            As for the choice between Stovey and Brouthers, I think Brouthers is a relatively easy choice based on the .342 BA and .423 OBP -- but at the same time, I think Stovey is largely underrated due to having almost all of his best years in the AA. He may have been the best slugger in the 1880s, or at least right on par with Roger Connor. I think if Stovey put up those numbers in the NL, he would be borderline HOF material; he was certainly one of the game's first potent power and speed combinations.

            And then there's the question about Glasscock's high regard relative to modern reputation. Is it possible that in 1889 they put much more emphasis on defense? Glasscock was a pretty slick fielder for his day; his .910 career fielding percentage at SS was quite excellent in his era (1879-1895). It may have also helped that Glasscock was having a career season at the plate in 1889 for the Hoosiers. In any event, he was a good fielder, and in an era where the difference between the best and worst fielders was MUCH greater than it is today, defense may have been noticed more.

            And as relates to who the "Mack" was, I assume Reddy since Connie never played in the AA -- or else the voter was confused.

            The absence of Clarkson and Keefe from this list is inexplicable. They were both still in their prime in 1889, albeit late in their prime, and were the best pitchers in the game by that time. Buffinton was a very good pitcher, but how he can objectively rank above Keefe and Clarkson -- or perhaps even Mickey Welch -- in '89 is a mystery to me.

            And yes, time has certainly underrated Ewing as well.
            Last edited by ziggy29; 07-09-2008, 06:09 PM.


            • #7
              The 6' 4", 196 lb. Jay Faatz may have appeared to be on his way to stardom in 1889? He became a player-manager in 1890. He had to have been the tallest player in the NL or close to it?

              He got his start with the old Weedsport Watsons amatuer/semi-pro club of Central NY that was organized in 1865. Semi-pro clubs in that area of NY often journeyed by wagon for hours at a time to play rival teams since they could not afford train tickets. One rival club that used to play the Watsons got lost after playing a Saturday afternoon away game. Throughout the dark night they searched for the road to get home. They finally arrived back home after sun up on Sunday morning exhausted and wornout. They were true pioneers of professional baseball.
              "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
              "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."


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