Tagged: American Association

Love and WAR

Valentine’s Day is about spending time with that special someone in your life. You express your love with gifts, flowers, candies, a nice meal, or simply spending time together. Winning builds love in baseball, it solves every team’s problems. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner hated losing, “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.” So what creates more love, winning, in baseball? WAR.

WAR, Wins Above Replacement, measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at his same position. The higher a player’s WAR the more they help the team.

The highest career WAR for any Major Leaguer born on Valentine’s Day belongs to Charles “Pretzels” Getzien. Born in Germany on February 14, 1864, Getzien played for five teams during his nine seasons in the National League. Nicknamed Pretzels for throwing a double curve ball, Getzien’s career 18.1 WAR far outpaces his closest competitor Arthur Irwin’s career 15.2 WAR. Even Candy LaChance’s career 11.1 WAR was no match for Getzien.

Pretzels G.jpg
Charles “Pretzels” Getzien while with the Detroit Wolverines. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs)

Baseball in the 1880’s and early 1890’s was not the same game played today. Getzien, a starting pitcher, was expected to pitch every few days; teams did not use the modern five man rotation. Starters were expected to pitch the entire game; pitch counts did not matter. Bullpen matchups in high leverage situations were never a thought. In 1884, Getzien’s first season in the National League, it took six balls to walk a batter, not the modern four. There were other rule changes along the way.

1886 was Pretzels Getzien’s best season. He started 43 games for the Detroit Wolverines, pitching 42 Complete Games, and 1 Shutout. His 30-11 record included a 3.03 ERA and 1.223 WHIP. Getzien pitched 386.2 innings, allowing 388 Hits, 203 Runs, just 130 Earned Runs, 6 Home Runs, striking out 172, walking 85, and throwing 19 Wild Pitches. At the plate, he hit .176 in 165 At Bats, collecting 29 Hits, 3 Doubles, 3 Triples, 19 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases, scoring 14 Runs, 6 walks, 46 strikeouts, for an .205 On-Base Percentage, Slugging .230, and .435 OPS. Getzien’s 1886 season was the first of five consecutive seasons with at least 40 starts.

More rule changes occurred before the 1887 season. Batters could no longer call for high or low pitches. Five balls were required to walk a batter, not six. Striking out a batter required four strikes. Bats could have one flat side. While the rules changed Getzien’s success remained. He was the only Wolverine starter to make more than 24 starts, starting 42 with 41 Complete Games. Riding Getzien’s right arm, Detroit won the National League Pennant. They faced the American Association champion St. Louis Browns in the World Series. Pretzels Getzien went 4-2, throwing 6 Complete Games, 58 innings, with a 2.48 ERA and 1.310 WHIP. He allowed 61 Hits, 23 Runs, 16 Earned Runs, walked 15, and struck out 17. Getzien was a threat at the plate too. He hit .300 in 20 At Bats, collecting 6 hits, including 2 Doubles, 1 stolen base, scoring 5 Runs, 2 RBI, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts. He boasted a .391 On-Base Percentage, .400 Slugging, and .791 OPS. The Wolverines won the series 10 games to five.

1887-detroit-wolverines-team-photo.jpg
The 1887 World Series Champions, Detroit Wolverines. (www.detroitathletic.com)

In 1888, Getzien started 46 games throwing 45 Complete Games. The Wolverines pitching staff also had Pete Conway, 45 starts, and Henry Gruber, 25 starts. Despite the team’s success Detroit owner Frederick Stearns disbanded the Wolverines after the season due to financial woes. Getzien joined the Indianapolis Hoosiers for the 1889 season. Prior to the season, the National League adopted the modern four balls for a walk and three strikes for a strikeout rule. Getzien started 44 games, throwing 36 Complete Games. After one season with the Hoosiers, Getzien spent 1890, his last great season, pitching for the Boston Beaneaters. He made 40 starts, throwing 39 Complete Games alongside future Hall of Famers Kid Nichols and John Clarkson. Nichols, a rookie, threw a Complete Game in all 47 of his starts. Clarkson made 44 starts with 43 Complete Games. Getzien’s pitching career began to decline after 1890.

Getzien started nine games for Boston in 1891 before he was released. He would sign with the Cleveland Spiders and pitch just one game. Getzien finished his career with the St. Louis Browns in 1892. It was the only season of his career where batters were forced to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely; bats could no longer have a flat side.

In 1893, Getzien’s first season out of professional baseball, saw the pitching distance moved from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches. The rules governing baseball in the 1800’s shed light on the games’ differences in its infancy and today. In 1901, almost a decade after Pretzels Getzien last pitched, the National League would count foul balls as strikes. Previously if a batter fouled off seven consecutive pitches to begin an at bat the count remained no balls and no strikes. Striking out a batter required a swing and miss or a called strike.

Pretzels Charles.jpg
Pretzels Getzien as a member of the Detroit Wolverines in 1888. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs)

Getzien compiled a career record of 145-139, 1 Save, 3.46 ERA, and 1.288 WHIP. He started 296 games, throwing 277 Complete Games, and 11 shutouts. In 2,539.2 innings, Getzien allowed 2,670 hits, 1,555 runs, 976 Earned Runs, struck out 1,070, walked 602, hit 28 batters, and threw 111 Wild Pitches. He is the all-time leader in Wins, Loses, Complete Games, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Hits Allowed, Runs, Earned Runs, Wild Pitches, and Batters Faced for German born Major Leaguers. Getzien led the National League in Home Runs allowed in 1887 and 1889, with 24 and 27 respectively. In an era of few home runs Getzien allowed more Home Runs than many modern day pitchers. He allowed 6.2% of the 383 Home Runs hit in 1887 and 7.2% of the 371 hit in 1889. In 2018, Tyler Anderson of the Rockies and Chase Anderson of the Brewers led the National League with 30 Home Runs allowed. They both allowed 1.1% of the 2,685 Home Runs hit.

Offensively, Getzien had 1,140 Plate Appearances, 1,056 At Bats, collecting 209 Hits, 27 Doubles, 15 Triples, 8 Home Runs, 109 RBI, 17 Stolen Bases, 78 Walks, 247 Strike Outs, .198 Batting Average, .257 On-Base Percentage, .275 Slugging, and .532 OPS. His pitching, not hitting, abilities made him dangerous on the diamond.

Pretzels Getzien is most remembered for his odd nickname. On his 155th Birthday, let us remember him as the career WAR leader for Major Leaguers born on Valentine’s Day. So in his honor, may the love of your life be kind like the warm sunshine and green grass of the coming baseball season. Happy Valentine’s Day, WAR can create love.

DJ

Advertisements

The Walker Brothers

What would you do if you were if your peers respected you for the expertise in which you do your job, but as a person, they were repulsed by you?  How would you react if your job was unfairly taken away from you, despite you not doing anything wrong?  How would you react if the hatred that was directed at you was the result of the ignorance and intolerance of other people?

Before there was Jackie Robinson and the color barrier there were two brothers, Moses Fleetwood Walker and Welday Walker, who broke the color barrier in professional baseball.  Moses was the first of the brothers to debut for Toledo.  Their careers’ at the highest level of professional baseball was brief, but their impact continues to be felt over 130 later.

Moses Fleetwood Walker was an excellent catcher, who had his career cut short due to the color of his skin. (www.en.wikipedia.org)

Moses Fleetwood Walker was an excellent catcher, who had his career cut short due to the color of his skin. (www.en.wikipedia.org)

The Walker brothers played for the 1884 Toledo Blue StockingsMoses Fleetwood Walker enjoyed the most success of the brothers.  He debuted on May 1, 1884.  In 42 career games, he had 152 AB, 40 hits, 2 doubles, 3 triples, 8 walks, .263 BA, .325 OBP, .316 SLG, .641OPS.  Defensively he played 41 games at catcher (352 innings) and 1 game in the outfield (7 innings), 359 innings, 328 chances, 220 putouts, 70 assists, 37 errors, and a .887 fielding percentage.  Welday Walker debuted July 15, 1884.  In five career games, he had 18 AB, 4 hits, 1 double, 1 run, .222 BA, .222 OBP, .278 SLG, .500 OPS.  Defensively he played 38 innings in the outfield, with 6 chances, 4 putouts, 2 errors, and a .667 fielding percentage.  The rookie seasons for the Walker brothers were solid foundations to build a successful career.  Unfortunately, their careers would not continue, but not due to their inability to play the game.

The attitudes of two men sum up the racism the Walker brothers and other potential African-American faced on and off the field.  Tony Mullane pitched for the Blue Stockings in 1884.  Mullane respected Moses as a player, but not as a man.

(Walker) was the best catcher I ever worked with, but I disliked a Negro and whenever I had to pitch to him I used to pitch anything I wanted without looking at his signals.”

Mullane pitched in 555 career games, winning 284 games.  His 284 wins are the third most of any pitcher not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Mullane could not overcome his racism to treat Moses as an equal, regardless of how detrimental it was to his personal success and the success of the team to not work with his catcher.

Tony Mullane could not see past hit own racism to see Moses Fleetwood Walker as a equal. (www.en.wilipedia.org)

Tony Mullane could not see past hit own racism to see Moses Fleetwood Walker as a equal. (www.en.wilipedia.org)

Racism prevented the Walker brothers from the careers they should have enjoyed.  After injuries sent Moses to the Minors for a few seasons, the door was shut to African-Americans players in Major League Baseball.

The second man, Cap Anson, was more powerful than Mullane.  In 1887, Chicago White Stockings manager Cap Anson refused to allow his team to play against the Newark Little Giants so long as Moses or George Stovey, an African-American pitcher.  Anson eventually did allow the White Stockings to play, but only after being threatened with the loss of half the ticket revenue for the exhibition game.  The International League ban was eventually rescinded.  The International League voted to exclude African-American players from future contracts.  This decision was driven, in part, by the incident in Newark.  However, in 1889 the American Association and the National League put up the color barrier, though it was never an official rule.  The top level of professional baseball would not see another African-American until Jackie Robinson played on April 15, 1947.

Cap Anson was a driving force in banning African-Americans from playing professional baseball. (www.pbs.org)

Cap Anson was a driving force in banning African-Americans from playing professional baseball. (www.pbs.org)

The baseball chapter of Moses Fleetwood and Welday Walker lives was far too short.  In the face of their inability to continue their playing careers, the Walker brothers turned their attention to the condition of African-Americans.  Welday filed a civil rights lawsuit after being denied entry into a skating rink.  While the lawsuit was successful, it did not require the skating rink to integrate.  The Walker brothers become involved in politics and the Back to Africa Movement.  They believed African-Americans would be better off if they left the United States and the racism that prevented so many from living fulfilling lives.

What would you do if you were if your peers respected you for the expertise in which you do your job, but as a person, they were repulsed by you?  How would you react if your job was unfairly taken away from you, despite you not doing anything wrong?  How would you react if the hatred that was directed at you was the result of the ignorance and intolerance of other people?

Welday Walker fought for equality on and off the baseball diamond. (www.en.wikipedia.org)

Welday Walker fought for equality on and off the baseball diamond. (www.en.wikipedia.org)

Moses Fleetwood Walker and Welday Walker, like so many African-Americans for far too long in the United States were discriminated against, looked down upon, and viewed as less than human solely based upon the pigment of their skin.  Their playing careers were cut short due to the inhumanity of others, and yet they continued to fight against impossible odds to improve the lives of others in similar situations.  Regardless what someone thinks about the Back to Africa Movement, it, along with the ban on African-American players in Major League Baseball, should stir the collective regret of America for how we as a people have treated our fellow citizens.

The shame of the past should not impede our collective progress, but it should work as a guide to shape how we address race in our society.  Racism existed in America in 1884, in 1947, and still exists in 2015.  It has decreased, but there is still work to be done.  The Walker brothers did not see a hopeful future for African-Americans in the United States.  130 years later, we still have our issues, but if anything, the Walker brothers taught us to be proactive in improving our own lives.  Someday racism will die out, and people will be judged and respected for their abilities and character, and not the color of their skin.

D