Monday, April 3, 2017

Opening Day, 1902 to 1931

It's Opening Day!

The latest issue of the ad-free American Association Almanac was published last week. It contains a balanced look at the opening day statistics compiled from a 30-year period including the years from 1902 to 1931.

This 32,000 word article is organized into three sections, each one pertaining to a period of one decade, and each of which contain essentially the same topics. For example, in the first section for the period 1902 to 1911, the introduction contains a description of each of the first four contests (there were eight teams) which took place on April 23, 1902. An emphasis was placed on these games because of their historical importance as "firsts" and so they receive more attention than in the other sections. Here is an excerpt from this section:

Mike (Elmer) Smith, the Kansas City left fielder, took top honors
for providing Kansas City’s first home run of the American Association
era, making the score 16-4. The additional fireworks came off Dunkle in the
sixth after a triple by Nance, netting the Blues their final two runs.
Both clubs had 39 at-bats and yielded three errors.
The blood-letting was complete in two hours, 15 minutes,
quite lengthy for a nine-inning game of this period.

Next, a section on team records answers the most basic questions concerning which teams were the most successful during this decade, containing the following table entitled "Combined Opening Day Records, 1902-1911." The table below shows how each team performed at home (H) and on the road (R) in terms of its wins and losses.

A sub-section describing the results of contests involving Eastern vs. Western teams (defined in the text) wraps up this introductory portion of the section.

Shutouts are covered next. Each the eight entries contains a summary of the game, as shown in the following excerpt:

6. John Halla, lhp. April 13, 1910: Louisville 6 at Columbus 0.
Giving up just four hits, John “Jack” Halla, 26, wins his third straight opener
(two are home openers) before a Neil Park assemblage of 9,900. Glenn Liebhardt, 27,
the Columbus starter, goes the distance, giving up 11 hits. Louisville scores three runs in the fourth. 
Suter “Scooter” Sullivan (3b) walks to lead off the frame, and moves up on shortstop Bill Moriarty’s sacrifice. 
Larry Quinlan (ss) boots keystone sacker Gus Soffel’s tough grounder to short, setting the table for Heinie Peitz (c/mgr.) whose hit-and-run scores Sullivan for the season’s first tally and the deciding run of the game. 
Halla contributes a single to load the bases before Joe Stanley (cf) drives in Soffel and Peitz. 
Halla strikes out three and walked two, aided by an error-free defense. 
Louisville bats .306 as only Peitz takes the collar. 
The fielding of Moriarty at short is a feature. 
The contest takes one hour, 58 minutes.
William J. Guthrie and Charles E. Van Syckle officiate.

A section entitled "Pitching Survey" is next in which a statistical breakdown of the entire sample of 77 pitchers to perform in a season opener is presented. Here, a comparison between left-handers and right-handers is offered. This is followed by the a section entitled "Advantage Pitcher" which discusses games in which one team had a sizeable early advantage.

The section "Season Opener Scoring Records: 1902 to 1911" follows. This includes run totals, in cluding averages, highs and lows, combined game totals, single-game totals and highlights of "per inning" scoring, including extra-inning games. Discussed as part of this section is the topic of scoring patterns. For example, lead changes is discussed in some depth, and the results for teams which scored first in each game is presented as a table. Finally, a survey of games which resulted in late decisions is presented. 

A substantial section on hitting records of the decade is laid out in great detail, including leader boards for teams and players. Here is an excerpt:

Hitting Records by Team: 1902-1911

    Hi Hits: 21 - St. Paul, April 18, 1906 at IND; score: STP 15, IND 5
    Lo Hits: 2 - Minneapolis, April 17, 1907 at IND
Hi Hits for Host Team: 18 - Louisville, April 18, 1906, defeating MIN, 11-7
    Lo Hits for Host Team: 3 - Columbus, April 23, 1902 hosting MIN
    Hi Batting Avg.: .467 - St. Paul, April 18, 1906 at IND (noted above)
    Hi Batting Avg./Host: .464 - Toledo, April 17, 1907 defeating STP, 8-0
Lo Batting Avg.: .071 - Minneapolis, April 17, 1907 losing to IND, 4-0
    Lo Batting Avg./Host: .088 - Louisville, April 22, 1903 losing to IND, 4-2

Eleven home runs were hit during this decade, and each one is documented in considerable detail, as shown in this excerpt: 

8. Barry McCormick (2b), Milwaukee (vs. STP), April 14, 1909.
The Brewers made it a 6-0 lead over the Saints in the seventh after 
McCormick’s three-run jolt off “Little Chief” Louis LeRoy  at Athletic Park. 
Some 6,000 fans craned their necks skyward as “the pill floated serenely over 
he 8th Street fence for a homer,” driving in Dan McGann (1b) and Pep Clark (3b). 
Batting sixth in the order, McCormick had himself a day at the plate,
with three hits and seven total bases in addition to scoring a pair of runs. 
Milwaukee won, 9-5.

The decade section wraps up with a comparison of attendance data showing which teams led the league in which years, cumulative totals, and rankings for season totals.

The same pattern for the presentation of the data for the next two decades is used.

Here is a look at the cover for this issue, showing the front cover (right) and the back cover (left).

For more information on this fascinating issue
and how you can subscribe to the
American Association Almanac,
please contact the editor
at this email address: