1880's World Series

How this escaped my notice I'll never know. I'm bumping because the amount of awesome in this article is too great to hide elsewhere. Great work, Mike. - jbopp

I just rediscovered my love of What If Sports' simulations of historic teams (in all sports, but mainly baseball recently) and discovered that they have teams dating back to the 1880's. Couple that with some time to kill while watching NFL games this afternoon, I decided I would simulate a 7 game series between the two best teams in the 1880's.

Now, how I determined what teams were the best in the 1880's was to pull each teams position and pitching Wins Above Replacement. Add them together and you get a team's total WAR. I did this for the National League and the American Association and even threw in the Union Association.

Unfortunately, this "World Series" is asterisked because I couldn't run it with the real two best teams. The team with the most WAR in the 1880's were the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association in 1884, racking up 51.4 WAR. The Maroons finished a staggering 94-14 for a win percentage of .832! The pulled away from the rest of the pack, winning the league by 21 games over the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds. That is absurd domination in the league. It's my guess that due to the lower talent level of all the other clubs (which finished anywhere from 21 to 61 games back of the Maroons), their WAR totals become skewed. That's not a big deal, anyways, because What If Sports only has the 1885 and 1886 Maroons clubs as choices for the simulations -- those were not good teams going 36-72 and 43-79 in '85 and '86.

Edit: More preamble and game descriptions after the jump. -jbopp

Why were those St. Louis Maroons so dominant? Well, it helps to have the top four position players in terms of WAR, led by Bill Dunlap who completely lapped the field with a fantastic 9.2 WAR total. That was by far Dunlap's best year due to the lower talent levels in the UA as he never hit that well in the National League where he spent almost all of the remainder of his career. Behind Dunlap was Orator Shafer (5.6 WAR), Jack Gleason (3.5), and Jack Rowe (3.1) before we get to the Outlaw Reds' Jack Glasscock appears at 2.6 WAR.

If you move onto pitchers, the Maroons finished up with 22.7 pitching WAR to the lead the UA as well, but they just had a bunch of good pitchers -- but not elite ones. Their two man rotation of Billy Taylor and Charlie Sweeney finished 5th and 6th with 7.5 and 6.6 WAR, respectively. After them, Henry Boyle (11th, 3.6 WAR), Perry Werden (14th, 3.2) and Charlie Hodnett (15th, 2.4) were also big contributors. The Maroons were an utterly dominant team in an other wise pedestrian league.

Sorry, kind of got off on a tangent that probably could've been it's own post. So we cast the Maroons aside and move to the next teams. One of which were the 1886 Chicago White Stockings (now known as the Chicago Cubs) who racked up 50.2 WAR. This was a great team which is best shown by the White Stockings team from the year before piling up 50.1 WAR -- consistency, my friend.

The second best non-UA league team were the New York Giants from 1885 -- 50.0 WAR on the nose. This is where I had to make a judgment call. There were two strong leagues at the time in the 1880s: the National League and the American Association -- the latter being the cheaper alternative to the National League (and is considered a "Major League" in baseball history). The AA charged just 25 cents per ticket, half that of the NL and also played games (and served beer!) on Sundays -- something the National League didn't do. They were also the first league to pay their umpires. Unfortunately, by the end of the decade, the AA couldn't really keep pace with the NL and many teams defected to the NL which left some less-than-desirable cities like Toledo or Columbus or Louisville with the remaining franchises in the league. The AA lost their star players to the NL teams by this point because they could pay them a better wage and near Christmas time of 1891, the AA decided to officially merge with the National League.

So, I made the executive decision to pass over the 1885 New York Giants and decided to use the best AA team from that decade which were the 1886 St. Louis Browns. The White Stockings and Browns actually did play a World Series in 1886 against each other as teams often set up World Series on their own as a way to make more money on admissions and whatnot. Oh, and that whole respect/bragging rights thing.

I set up a quick spreadsheet to track series totals for things like average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and other things that What If make possible: ground ball and fly ball percentage for pitchers. I also used the same lineups for all of the games played and the same starting pitchers. While it's true that each team used multiple pitchers throughout the 1886 season -- and even in the world series -- for the sake of ease, I went with the "No. 1" starter for that team for the entire series. The simulation was free to being in relievers, however, it never happened.


Game 1

St. Louis at Chicago, Westside Grounds, Chicago, Illinois

Ned Williamson hit a wall-scraper the other way to right-center to give the White Stockings the lead in the first inning after slugging just .353 in the regular season -- the lowest on the Chicago squad. Cap Anson added an RBI single to give Chicago a 2-0 lead at the end of one. Chicago tacked on another run in the second before the St. Louis Browns offense woke up.

In the top of the fourth, Tip O'Neill ripped a double to right-center followed by a Curt Welch single to make it 1st-and-3rd. After a Yank Robinson RBI single, Charlie Comiskey hit a rocket to Tom Burns at third base who snared it and fired to second.  Fred Pfeffer's throw didn't beat Comiskey at first which allowed Welch to score. After a Comiskey stole second, Hugh Nicol drove him home with a single to tie the game at three.

Chicago opened the game up, however, in the fifth inning with major help from St. Louis' Yank Robinson. The Browns second baseman booted two balls in the rally. King Kelly doubled home Pfeffer who had singled and stolen second to break the deadlock. After Cap Anson lined out hard to short, the Browns intentionally walked George Gore to set up the double play. They got that grounder right to Robinson at second, but he muffed it which loaded up the bases. Tom Burns then singled home Kelly and Gore to make it 6-3. Robinson had a chance to stop the bleeding but booted another grounder which allowed Silver Flint to reach on the error and Jimmy Ryan score on the play. Pitcher John Clarkson then singled home another run and the White Stockings opened up an 8-3 lead.

Yank Robinson tried to atone for his fielding blunders with a 3-for-4 day, including an RBI single in the 6th but the White Stockings just tacked on two more in the 8th -- a Fred Pfeffer solo homer and a Cap Anson single on a ground ball up the middle.

Chicago's John Clarkson threw 117 pitches in his complete game striking out and walking two apiece. St. Louis hurler Dave Fultz gave up 10 runs (six earned) on 15 hits.

Box Score and play-by-play.

Chicago leads the series 1-0.

Game 2

St. Louis at Chicago, Westside Grounds, Chicago, Illinois

Like Game 1, Chicago opened the scoring again in Game 2 with a bloop double to left-center followed by a seeing-eye single to grab a 2-0 lead. Yank Robinson's own seeing-eye single cut the lead in half temporarily until Tom Burns grounded into a double play with 1st-and-3rd and zero outs, which scored George Gore. Chicago led 3-1 through four innings.

St. Louis grabbed their first lead of the night with a 4-run fifth inning. Pitching David Foultz started things off with a single, followed by Arlie Latham taking a pitch in the leg. Fred Pfeffer continued the poor defensive play by second basemen in the first two games by booting a grounder off the bat of Tip O'Neill which loaded the bases. Yank Robinson drew the bases-loaded walk to cut the lead to 3-2. Charlie Comiskey grounded one beyond the reach of White Stockings shortstop Ned Williamson to Latham and O'Neill and grab a 4-3 lead. Hugh Nicol blooped one into shallow centerfield to extend the lead to 5-3.

Jimmy Ryan picked up an RBI singled that was followed by another error -- this time Browns shortstop Bill Gleason couldn't corral a grounder that George Gore to score and tie the game up at 5 through six innings.

Chicago coughed up the lead after Pfeffer's errant throw on a grounder David Foultz score to take a 6-5 lead. The White Stockings then had their best chance to tie the game after George Gore walked in the bottom of the 8th with one out. Gore then swiped second and third base but was stranded after Jimmy Ryan lined out hard to third and Tom Burns came feet short of what would've been a go-ahead two-run homer that instead fell into Tip O'Neill's glove.

St. Louis would add on another run in the top of the 9th which was more than enough for starter David Foutz who went the distance with six strikeouts, three walks, and four earned runs allowed.

Box Score and play-by-play.

Series tied 1-1. Goes to St. Louis.

Game 3

Chicago At St. Louis, Sportsman Park, St. Louis, MO

St. Louis took the White Stockings out behind the woodshed in Game 3, scoring five runs in the first five innings on route to a 9-1 win. Tacking on four more in the 8th inning, St. Louis picked up two doubles from Bill Gleason and another from Tip O'Neill. John Clarkson walked five and struck out zero in his 8 innings of work, surrendering 10 hits.

David Foutz went the distance for St. Louis, throwing just 108 pitches while picking up four strikeouts and 3 walks while allowing just three hits. The lone White Stockings run was unearned.

Box Score and play-by-play.

St. Louis leads the series 2-1

Game 4

Chicago At St. Louis, Sportsman Park, St. Louis, MO


The White Stockings responded to the Browns thumping of them in Game 3 by burying the Browns early in Game 4. Chicago scored at least one run in each of the first 7 innings, scoring multiple runs in five of those innings as well. Chicago pounded out 22 hits with four doubles, one triple, and a homer to go with five walks.

Cap Anson led the charge by going 6-for-6, all singles, and driving in three. Jimmy Ryan. Tom Burns, and Silver Flint all were 3-for-6 with a double and a triple collectively.

King Kelly picked up the lone homer, a solo shot to dead center field.

Box Score and play-by-play.

Series tied 2-2

Game 5

St. Louis at Chicago, Westside Grounds, Chicago, Illinois

After a couple of laughers in St. Louis, the series shifted back to Chicago and provided a thrilling game. St. Louis scored first on an errant pick-off attempt from catcher Silver Flint went into left field, allowing Arlie Latham to score. Flint made up for his mistake in the bottom of the fourth with a game-tying RBI single after Jimmy Ryan walked and stole second.

Cap Anson broke the tie in the 5th inning with an RBI single and the game remained 2-1 Chicago until the 8th.

St. Louis catcher Doc Bushong singled to lead off the 8th and moved to second after Ned Williamson couldn't handle the grounder to short to make it first-and-second with no outs. Latham grounded to first base and Anson tried to turn the 3-6-3 double play but Latham beat it out and left runners on first and third. Fred Pfeffer fielded a grounder but made a poor throw to Anson and allowed Latham to take third and Gleason -- who hit the grounder -- to make it to second. After moving the infield in, Tip O'Neill grounded one through the left side to plate Latham and take a 3-2 lead. After a Welch fly out, Yank Robinson walked and Charlie Comiskey picked up an infield single to load the bases. Ned Williamson booted his second ball of the inning and allowed O'Neill to score and the Browns to grab 5-2 lead going to the bottom of the 8th.

Ned Williamson singled home two in the bottom half of the inning to pull the White Stockings within one, but they wouldn't get any closer. Bill Gleason singled home another run in the 9th inning and St. Louis grabs a 3-2 series lead.

David Foutz worked in and out of trouble after walking seven batters and allowing 11 hits. Still, just 2 earned runs as the defense let him down making the game closer than it could've been.

Box Score and play-by-play.

St. Louis leads the series 3-2

Game 6

Chicago At St. Louis, Sportsman Park, St. Louis, MO

St. Louis had a chance to close the series out at home in Game 6, but Chicago struck first on a Fred Pfeffer RBI single in the second inning. It would remain 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth where the Browns would put a three-spot up.

Browns shortstop Bill Gleason squared around to bunt to lead off the bottom of the fourth and John Clarkson hit him in the arm with the pitch and Gleason promptly stole second. Tip O'Neill then grounded out to third, keeping Gleason at second before Curt Welch lined a single into left-center to score Gleason. Welch then swiped second and third base before Yank Robinson blooped one over the head of Fred Pfeffer and before Jimmy Ryan in shallow right-center. Charlie Comiskey then drove one deep to left field that King Kelly chased down but dropped near the wall. Comiskey got to second on the two-base error and Robinson wound up scoring to take a 3-1 lead.

A Ned Williamson RBI single in the 5th pulled Chicago to within one run but that was as close as the White Stockings would get.

In the 7th, back-to-back errors on Williamson sparked another small rally for the Browns. Williamson booted a grounder off the bat of Doc Bushong. Bushong then stole second base and moved to third after Williamson flubbed a grounder from David Foutz. Silver Flint couldn't corral the next pitch and was charged with a passed ball that allowed Bushong to score from third, and Foutz to move to second. Gleason then scorched a line drive to center to make it 5-2.

Chicago would tack on a run in the 9th but never really threaten to start a big rally.

David Foutz went the distance in just 100 pitches, K'ing 2 and walking one and just allowing a single earned run on eight hits.

St. Louis wins the series 4-2.

Series MVP: Bill Gleason, SS.

Gleason hit .296/.321/.407 for the series with 3 doubles and 5 singles. Yank Robinson hit even better, but four errors that virtually all led to runs sinks his chances.




ST. LOUIS        
Name Postion AVG OBP SLG
Arlie Latham 3B 0.167 0.259 0.167
Bill Gleason SS 0.296 0.321 0.407
Tip O'Neill LF 0.259 0.286 0.370
Curt Welch CF 0.111 0.111 0.111
Yank Robinson 2B 0.450 0.593 0.500
Charlie Comiskey 1B 0.222 0.222 0.259
Hugh Nicol RF 0.174 0.208 0.174
Doc Bushong C 0.227 0.261 0.227
Dave Fultz P 0.217 0.217 0.217
Dave Fultz P K% BB% ERA
    0.093 0.093 4.33
Name Postion AVG OBP SLG
Fred Pfeffer 2B 0.231 0.310 0.346
Ned Williamson SS 0.320 0.393 0.480
King Kelly LF 0.304 0.429 0.522
Cap Anson 1B 0.481 0.500 0.519
George Gore CF 0.158 0.429 0.263
Jimmy Ryan RF 0.333 0.357 0.370
Tom Burns 3B 0.370 0.370 0.407
Silver Flint C 0.250 0.280 0.333
John Clarkson P 0.227 0.227 0.273
John Clarkson P K% BB% ERA
    0.029 0.059 2.89


Clarkson could make a good case for MVP as he also picked up 44.1% GB%. Foutz was pretty mediocre, though he did punch out more guys, but also walked just as many.

Anyways, this is just something that I whipped up while casually watching some of the NFL games this afternoon. I figured it'd be at least an interesting read to some here and I enjoyed doing it.

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