Wednesday, August 12, 2009

100 Years Ago This Week in the American Association

The week ending August 14, 1909 found the Minneapolis Millers in first place by a game and a half over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Millers had a record of 67-50 and were in the midst of a homestand at Nicollet Park.

On August 7, they defeated seventh-place Toledo for the fourth straight time, by a score of 8-2, in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader. The locals narrowly out-hit the Mud Hens 14-13 as pitcher Bill "Kiddo" Wilson teetered in the early going, Toledo scoring a run in the first and one in the third. Allowing only two hits, Wilson was relieved prematurely by Nick Altrock after one inning.

The Millers tallied four in the third against Toledo ace Hi West, the staff workhorse who wound up the season with a record of 18 wins, 14 losses. West, who allowed 13 hits in six innings, was apparently off his game a little, taking the loss. He was relieved by John Bushelman. According to the Sporting Life report in its August 21 edition,

"Minneapolis had better luck in bunching hits in both games and made it four straight from Toledo. Altrock relieved Wilson in the second inning of the first game and, although hit freely, kept the safeties scattered."

The Millers took the second game of the twin bill by a score of 4-2, completing the home sweep against the Mud Hens. The winning streak was stopped the next day by the Columbus Senators, the Association's fourth-place team, 7-5.

These were the days when the odd practice of beginning a new homestand mid-weekend were the norm.

On Monday, August 9, Minneapolis overwhelmed Columbus, 8-1, on a six-hitter by Fred Olmstead, the Miller ace who wound up the season with the league’s best winning percentage, .667 with his 24 of 36 decisions.

Their most decisive game of the week was followed by another win, as “Pongo Joe” Cantillon’s men capped Columbus again, 4-3, assuring themselves of a series win. The finale of the five-game set went to the Senators, as Bill “Derby Day” Clymer had salvaged a game against the steaming hot Millers, taking the August 11 contest, 8-4.

Cantillon’s crew wound up the week involved in a pair of shutouts against the visiting third-place Louisville Colonels led by catcher/manager Henry “Heine” Peitz. The Millers held on to win 1-0, behind the six-hit pitching of Irving “Young Cy” Young. Then on Friday, August 13, the Millers, whose .241 team batting average ranked second-best in the league in 1909, were blanked by Colonel starter Orville Selby “in a drizzling rain,” a four-hitter which resulted in a 1-0 win by the visitors.

None of the week’s Millers games included a home either team at Nicollet Park. In fact, only 133 home runs were hit by American Association hitters all season in 1909, with fifth-place St. Paul leading the pack with a meager 26 long balls in 163 games. Again from the August 21 Sporting News:

“The hitting in the American Association is very light. never before in the A.A. history has there been such a low general average of batting as at the present time. Kruger [Arthur, outfielder, Columbus] is the only man in the Association hitting more than .300 for the season at the present time.”

After a 5-win week, Minneapolis still had a handle on the throne in the American Association, although its grip was tenuous.

The Milwaukee Brewers were not going away. Having held the top-spot for much of the season, the Brewers were now hanging on for dear life, managing to stay close in the race by winning four of six. Brewer pitcher Stoney McGlynn notched his ninth shutout of the season on August 9 against the Colonels. Louisville was in the thick of things as well, staying afloat despite losing four of its last seven.

The race was shaping up to be an exciting three-way entanglement, a battle which provided gripping entertainment to baseball fans across the midwest all summer long, 100 years ago this week.