Baseball In 1906: The Hall of Famers
In 1906 the Pittsburgh Pirates had three future Hall of Fame players on their roster, Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke and the newcomer, pitcher Vic Willis. In today’s article I decided to look at how they stacked up against the other 15 teams in major league baseball in this regard. I chose to use the beginning of the 1906 season and I will include any manager who is also enshrined in the Hall. In the case of the Pirates, Fred Clarke was the manager that year but he was elected as a player although his managerial record is more than good enough to have elected him to the Hall as a manager had he not been such a good player. Starting with the Pirates and then going by each team’s record in 1905, first NL than AL, I’ll briefly summarize each future Hall of Famer and where they were at in their career. Just to note, there were other future Hall of Famers involved in baseball at the time like Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, American League president Ban Johnson and umpire Bill Klem but I didn’t want to go too crazy with the list.
Honus Wagner, SS- Honus was 32 years old going into 1906, coming off a .363 season in which he drove in 101 runs and scored a career high 114 runs. He had won three batting titles already, three stolen base crowns, three times led the NL in doubles and twice led the league in RBI’s but his career highlights were far from over. He was considered one of the top players in baseball by almost everyone and many ranked him at the top
Fred Clarke, LF/MGR- Clarke was 33 at the time, twelve seasons into his career and he was starting to slowly decline as a player but was still considered a star. He had nine .300 seasons to his credit already and a career .324 average with 1146 runs scored and 377 stolen bases. He was also in his 10th year as a manager going into 1906.
Vic Willis, P- Willis was 30 in 1906, his tenth season in the majors. He had a 151-147 2.82 record at that point with 268 complete games in 302 starts. He had pitched his whole career with the Boston Beaneaters and four times he had won at least twenty games, 1898-99 and 1901-02 with a high of 27 in both 1899 and 1902. His 1904-05 seasons combined he was just 30-54, twice leading the NL in losses but he played for a Boston team that lost 201 games.
Christy Mathewson, P- Mathewson was the best pitcher of the day back in 1906 and one of the main reasons the Giants won back-to-back pennants in 1904-05. He won 30 games for the third straight season in 1905 while also leading the league with a 1.28 ERA. He pitched well against the Pirates and unfortunately for them he was just 25 at the time and still had nine straight seasons ahead of him in which he won at least 22 games
Joe McGinnity,P- Known as Iron Joe for his ability to pitch whenever called upon, even if it was both ends of a doubleheader, McGinnity was as good as Mathewson in his best seasons, including a 35-8 1.61 record in 1904. He still had a great season in 1905 going 21-15 2.87 while leading the league in games pitched but he was 35 at the time so he had to be slowing down right? Actually McGinnity is an under-appreciated pitcher in baseball history. He won 246 major league games, he is still ranked 77th all-time in innings pitched but he won at least 231 minor league games and pitched more innings down there. If you’re counting at home that’s a combined 477 wins and his minor league records aren’t completely known. He went 6-7 4.01 in 1925 at the age of 54.
Roger Bresnahan,C- Bresnahan was a good player and in 1906 he was in his prime but as far as Hall of Famers go, he is low-end on that scale. He had just 1252 career hits, batting .279 over 17 seasons. He caught less than 1,000 games and he didn’t hit for power. He did have good speed, especially for a catcher and he was a favorite of his manager, John McGraw, for the way he played behind the plate. In 1905 he hit .302 in 104 games with 46 RBI’s, 11 steals and no homers while leading NL catchers in caught stealing percentage, throwing out 55% of runners that year
John McGraw,MGR- McGraw was in his 8th season as a manager in 1906 and it would be the last year he was also a player. He already had two 100 win seasons, two NL pennants and a World Series title to his credit. He was still early in his managerial career at this point with 29 seasons still to go, eight of them he would lead the Giants to an NL title. He is second all-time in managerial wins, trailing only Connie Mack. As a player he would play just four games in 1906 and for the most part, his playing days ended after the 1902 season but he still suited up occasionally. He was actually a terrific ballplayer, a fact that gets lost by his accomplishments as a manager. McGraw was a .334 career hitter in 1099 games who took a lot of walks and was a great baserunner, stealing 436 bags. He is actually third all-time in OBP behind only Ted Williams and Babe Ruth
Frank Chance,1B/MGR- Chance was 29 years old in 1906 and beginning his first full season as Cubs manager. He was a solid glove, with unusual speed for a corner infielder, leading the NL in steals with 67 in 1903. He was a good hitter and in his prime at this point, in the midst of four straight seasons in which he batted at least .310. In 1905 he led the NL in OBP with a .450 mark
Joe Tinker, SS- Tinker had four full seasons under his belt by the time 1906 rolled around. His best year was in 1903 when he hit .291 with 70 RBI’s and much like Evers below, his overall career numbers lack in the quality you’d expect from a Hall of Fame player. He had good speed and above average defense but he was just a .262 hitter with a .661 OPS career. Many people have speculated that as a group Tinkers, Evers and Chance all got elected to the HOF due to a famous poem involving them during their era
Johnny Evers, 2B- Evers was 24 in 1906 and just about to start the prime of his career. He had played three full seasons to that point but his last two seasons were down from his .293 rookie season in 1903. He is one of the lesser quality HOF players from this group, holder of a .270 career average with just 12 homers and a .690 OPS. He drew his share of walks and had good speed the first half of his career plus his defense, for the most part, was solid
Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown, P- Brown lost two fingers due to a childhood farming incident but supposedly he used his handicap to his advantage when pitching. He was 29 in 1906 but had just three seasons of major league experience and only a 42-35 record at that point. That all changed in 1906 when he started a string of six straight 20 win seasons on his way to 239 career wins and a 2.06 career ERA that ranks 6th all time.
Hugh Duffy,MGR- Duffy was the Phillies manager but he was elected to the Hall for his work on the field. He did lead the Phillies to an 83-69 record in 1905 and hit .300 in 15 games but he had just one at-bat left in his major league career at that point and his career managerial record was well below .500 over 8 years. Duffy holds the single season record for batting average with a .440 mark in 1894 and up until a few years ago, he was credited with the triple crown that year until research found RBI’s that were not credited to Sam Thompson, thus giving Thompson the RBI crown over Duffy by just 2 RBI’s.
Kid Nichols, P- Nichols was acquired mid-season 1905 by the Phillies and he pitched great to finish the year so one can hardly blame him for coming back as a 36 year old for the 1906 season. It turned out to be a bad idea, he pitched poorly and was done after just four games. He pitched in the minors in 1902-03 but was still good enough to win 21 games when he returned to the majors in 1904. One could only imagine what he would’ve accomplished as a pitcher had he played those two years in the majors instead of taking that player-manager job in the minors. I guess his total of 361 wins with two prime years of his career gone is pretty impressive anyway
Ned Hanlon, MGR- 1906 would be the 19th season as a manager for Hanlon who once played for and managed the Pirates in 1889 and 1891. He won five NL pennants from 1894-1900 but the last two seasons he managed a very bad Brooklyn team. The 1906 season was the first of two years for him with the Reds and both years they finished in 6th place. Hanlon didn’t make the HOF until 1996.
Miller Huggins, 2B- Huggins was a steady glove at 2B, he took a lot of walks, held his own at the plate and stole his share of bases but he was elected to the Hall due to his managerial success. As a 27 year old in 1905 he led the NL in walks, hit .273 and stole 27 bases in his second full season. He was still seven years away from his first season as a manager and 15 years away from his first of six pennants with the Yankees.
Joe Kelley, OF- Kelley was a member of the 1892 Pirates before they traded him away for star outfielder George Van Haltren who only stuck around until the end of 1893. In 1906 Kelley was just 34 years old despite being in his 16th season in the majors. He was a .326 career hitter who took his share of walks at that point but in 1905 he hit just .277 and was well gone from the player who had five straight 100 RBI seasons from 1894-98 or the player that stole 87 bases in 1896.
Jake Beckley,1B- The only future HOF’er on the Cardinals roster, Beckley was near the end of his career at age 38. The former Pirates star for eight years had already been out of Pittsburgh for 10 years by the time 1906 rolled around. He was a .311 career hitter at this point and in 1905 he surpassed Roger Connor for the all-time triples lead with 238. He hit just .286, his lowest total since his last season in Pittsburgh.
Boston had Vic Willis as their sole future HOF player in 1905 and they were 51-103. Without a star player on their 1906 roster they went 49-102.
The Brooklyn Superbas did not have a single future Hall of Famer on their roster. In 1905 they were managed by former Pirates outfielder/manager Ned Hanlon but even a Hall of Fame manager couldn’t help the hapless Superbas. They were 48-104 in 1905 and Hanlon moved on to Cincinnati.
Connie Mack, MGR- A former Pirates catcher and manager, Mack was still early in his Hall of Fame career. He had won the AL pennant in 1902 and 1905 but he still had seven pennants, 5 World Series titles and 45 years as a manager ahead of him. He played for the Pirates from 1891-96 and managed them from 1894-96. His 3731 managerial wins are nearly 1000 more than anyone else
Chief Bender, P- Bender won 18 games in 1905 and by age 21 at that point he already had 45 career wins. His best seasons were still ahead of him although, for the most part, he was done by age 30 and finished with just 212 wins despite the strong start at an early age. Three times from 1910-14 he posted the best winning percentage in the AL
Rube Waddell, P- Another former Pirate, Waddell was coming off a 1905 season in which he won the AL pitching triple crown with 27 wins, 1.48 ERA and 287 strikeouts. It was his fourth straight season of at least 20 wins and his fourth straight strikeout crown. He also won an ERA crown while with the Pirates in 1900. Waddell had two more strikeout titles in him as a 29 year old going into 1906 and four more good years in his arm
Eddie Plank, P- Plank was 30 years old in 1906 and had won 110 games his first five seasons in the majors. Despite the late start to his major league career he still had another 226 wins left in his arm. He had a long career that had eight 20 win seasons and a .627 winning percentage but Plank never led his league in any of the three pitching triple crown categories. These three pitchers gave the A’s a starting rotation that would rival any other team at the time
Eddie Collins, 2B- Collins was just 19 in 1906 and didn’t make his pro debut until September of that year. He played just six games that season collecting three hits which means he had another 3312 hits ahead of him in the next 24 seasons
Ed Walsh,P- Walsh was just 25 going into 1906 with a career record of 14-6 in two limited seasons. His career had a very small peak, just seven full seasons but he is the all-time leader in career ERA with a 1.82 mark to go along with his 195-126 career record. He posted an ERA under 2.00 for five straight seasons including 1910 when he led the AL with 20 losses despite a 1.27 ERA.
George Davis, SS- Davis was 35 years old going into 1906, a .305 career hitter with nine straight .300 seasons from 1893-1901 to his credit. He was on the decline by this time but he still had speed enough to steal 30 bases and was still an excellent fielder. He wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame until 1998 despite being a top shortstop with 2665 hits, 1545 runs score, 1440 RBI’s and 619 stolen bases in his career
Sam Crawford, OF- Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford would play together in the Detroit outfield for 13 seasons and while Sam gets overshadowed by Cobb he was still a superstar in his own right. He was 26 years old in 1906 with a .303 career average in seven seasons. He hit .297 in 1905, the fourth highest total in the AL. Crawford’s best years were still ahead of him, he had seven more .300 seasons, three RBI titles and plenty of triples still left in him. His 309 career triples are the most in baseball history
Ty Cobb, OF- Cobb was not a star yet in 1906, it would actually be his first full season in the majors. He batted .240 in 41 games in 1905 as an 18 year old. He would have over 4,000 hits left in him at this point, 11 batting titles, over 2200 runs and 1900 RBI’s. His .366 career average is the best in baseball history but he was still one year away from truly breaking out.
Sam Thompson, OF- This one comes with an asterisk. Thompson last played major league ball in 1898 and his last full season was in 1896 but he played local ball frequently in Detroit and the team convinced him to come back for a homestand in late August where he was part of a three man outfield with Cobb and Crawford that all made the HOF. He hit .226 in 31 AB’s at age 46.
Cy Young, P- By 1906 Young was 39 years old and going into in his 17th season but he was still an effective pitcher, posting a 1.82 ERA in 1905. He had 423 wins at that point, more than anyone else would accumulate during their major league career but he had six more seasons ahead of him and he posted his lowest season ERA in 1908 with a 1.26 mark at age 41. In his career he had 15 seasons with at least 20 wins.
Jimmy Collins, 3B/MGR- Collins was in his sixth and final year as the Boston manager. He was elected to the Hall of Fame as a player and was considered by some to be the best third baseman of the first century of baseball, even ahead of Pie Traynor. He was a very strong fielder with five .300 seasons and five 90 plus RBI seasons but by 1906 he was 36 years old and on the decline. He played just 36 games in 1906 and by 1908 his career as a major leaguer was done, although he played another three years in the minors
Nap Lajoie,2B/MGR- As you can guess the Cleveland Naps were named after their leader on and off the field. He won his fourth batting title in 1904 and had won the AL triple crown in 1901 with a .426 average. He missed most of 1905 with a leg injury but healthy going into 1906, the 31 year old Lajoie still had plenty of good days ahead of him. He was a 2nd year manager that season, a job he held until 1909. Lajoie hit .338 career with over 1500 runs and RBI’s and 3242 career hits.
Elmer Flick,OF- Flick was a 30 year old right fielder in 1906, eight seasons into his career with a .320 career average. He led the AL with a .308 average and 18 triples in 1905 and 1906 would be an even better year for him but by 1908 his health was declining and his last few seasons were poor. He was sick for most of his life but still lived to be 94 and was 87 when he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.
Addie Joss,P- A tragic figure in baseball history, Joss should’ve had plenty of good days ahead of him going into 1906 but by early 1911, at age 31, he had passed away from tubercular meningitis. He was 26 going into 1906 and had a career record of 69-48 2.18 at that point. He still had four great years ahead of him but a 1910 elbow injury cut short his year and by early 1911 he still wasn’t able to pitch but his arm was getting better until he fell ill. Joss was elected to the Hall in 1978 despite not playing the minimum 10 years of major league ball. His 1.89 career ERA is the second lowest all-time behind Walsh.
Jack Chesbro, P- Another former Pirate player on this list, he had an amazing season in 1904, winning 41 games while posting a 1.82 ERA. He came back down to Earth in 1905 but still posted 19 wins and a 2.20 ERA. He was 32 at the time and had just four seasons left ahead of him. While with the Pirates from 1899-1902 he went 70-38. His 41 wins in 1904 is considered a modern record for pitching victories.
Willie Keeler,OF- Keeler had been around since 1892 but was just 34 going into 1906. His best days were behind him and at this point, he was just a slap singles hitter who had lost a step in his game. Still, he was a .300 hitter in 1905 and every season before that dating back to his rookie year. He had 440 steals up to the end of 1905 and almost 1500 runs scored while sporting a .359 career average. He hung around until 1910 and was never the same great hitter, dropping his final career average down to .341 with 2932 career hits. His 44 game hit streak was the record Joe Dimaggio broke in 1941.
Clark Griffith, MGR- Griffith was in his 6th year as a manager, he won a title in his first year back in 1901. He was a player/manager and a Hall of Fame pitcher who went 9-6 1.68 at age 35 in 1905. His playing career was winding down although he made brief appearances in six more seasons after 1905. He finished his career with 237 wins including seven 20 win seasons. He was also a decent hitter who occasionally played the field when not pitching. If he didn’t make the Hall as a pitcher he could’ve gone in as a manager as he won 1491 games, or possibly as an owner as he was the boss of the Washington Senators from 1920 until his death in 1955.
The 1906 Senators didn’t have a Hall of Fame player at any point during the season and they played like they didn’t have one, going just 55-95. They were however, just one season away from having a 19 year old fireballer who would go on to become the best pitcher of all-time, Walter Johnson
Bobby Wallace, SS- Wallace was a 32 year old shortstop in 1906, past his prime but still a very good player. A good defensive shortstop who missed very few games, it was his offense that had taken a recent hit, his last four seasons he hit no higher than .285 in any of them, he possessed average speed and very little power. He still had seven more full majors league seasons left in him at this point and another six partial seasons.
Branch Rickey, C- This one is probably the furthest removed from a Hall of Fame player on this list but the future Pirates GM in the 1950’s did make the Hall of Fame. He was a 24 year old rookie catcher with one game of major league experience. He was only in the majors for four years and between two of those seasons,1905 and 1914, when he was the team’s manager, he played a total of three games.