Tigers All Stars: 1910 – 1919

Tiger Tales

Ty Cobb, Bobby Veach and Sam Crawford comprised one of the best outfields in baseball history.



This is my second installment in my series of Detroit Tigers All Star Teams by decade.  The first post is found below:


1901-1909

In each decade, I select nine position players, one for each position in the field plus one other hitter.  This ninth player could be a designated hitter, a multiple position player who didn’t fit neatly into one position and/or the best hitter who didn’t get selected as a position player.  I refer to this final hitter as the utility player.  Then I select five pitchers: four starters and one reliever.  In earlier decades when relievers were not frequently used, it will just be the fifth best starting pitcher.  


Some further general rules are as follows:

  • A player must have played at least half of his games with the Tigers at a given position or played that position more than any other position.  In rare cases, I might cheat a little bit if none of the players qualifying at a given position are any good at all and there is a superior player who played a good number of games at that position. 
  • A player must have played at least two full seasons with the Tigers, preferably at the assigned position. 
  • Only games played with the Tigers are considered. 
  • If a player played other positions with the Tigers besides his assigned position, his hitting performance in those games does count. 

Many statistics and sometimes, especially for fielding evaluation, anecdotal information will be considered.  Some of the key measures are listed in the link above for 1901-1909.


After winning three consecutive American League pennants from 1907-1909, the Tigers dropped to third place in 1910 and won no titles during 1910-1919.  They did come close in 1915 when they 100 games finishing second one game behind the Boston Red Sox.  The Tigers’ second decade featured an impressive group of outfielders which powered them to the top of the league offensively most seasons.  Unfortunately, they lacked pitching to go with it.  


One way to look at the top offensive contributors over a time period is the Adjusted Batting Runs (ABR) statistic.  It was first introduced in the Hidden Game of Baseball by John Thorn and Pete Palmer in 1984.  It is the estimated runs a player added to his team’s offense over an average player.  The Top five in the decade for the Tigers are listed below.
  
Ty Cobb 560
Sam Crawford 204
Bobby Veach 158
Harry Heilmann 58
Jim Delahanty 54

Ty Cobb was the clear leader with more than twice as many as Sam Crawford.  The top four were primarily outfielders followed by second baseman Jim Delahanty.  Most of the rest of the team was comprised of defense first players. The All Stars are listed in Tables 1 and 2 below.  Their stories follow. 
 

Table 1: Tigers All Star Position Players: 1910-1919


Pos

Player

From

To

G

PA

WAR

ABR

OPS+

C

Oscar Stanage

1910

1919

937

3,311

4

-120

68

1B

George Burns

1914

1917

496

1,956

6

1

101

2B

Jim Delahanty

1910

1912

329

1,395

7

54

130

SS

Donie Bush

1910

1919

1,449

6,590

31

-21

91

3B

Ossie Vitt

1912

1918

767

3,275

13

-33

86

LF

Bobby Veach

1912

1919

1,031

4,388

30

158

134

CF

Ty Cobb

1910

1919

1,334

5,815

84

560

192

RF

Sam Crawford

1910

1917

1,076

4,473

30

204

143

UT

Harry Heilmann

1914

1919

573

2,280

11

58

125

 

Table 2: Tigers All Star Pitchers: 1910-1919


Pos

Player

From

To

G

IP

WAR

PR

ERA+

SP

Hooks Dauss

1912

1919

269

1,869

21

5

101

SP

Harry Coveleski

1914

1918

157

1,023

16

50

123

SP

Bernie Boland

1915

1919

198

1,017

14

4

96

SP

Jean Dubuc

1912

1916

184

1,145

9

-9

98

RP

Ed Willett

1910

1913

146

982

9

-8

99


Player Profiles

C. Oscar Stanage

Like many catchers of the dead-ball era, Stanage was a light hitter with a 68 OPS+ during the decade.  He made up for his batting deficiencies with excellent receiving and a stellar arm.  He had 212 assists in 2011, an American League record for catchers that still stands today (Baseball Almanac).  The Tulare, California native was also very durable catching 560 games between 1911-1915 which was 12 more games than any American League catcher during the period (Jim Moyes, Society for American Baseball Research).

In a 1917 Spring training game, Ty Cobb brawled with brass Giants second baseman Buck Herzog and Herzog challenged Cobb to a follow-up fight after the game (Wahoosam.net).  They would meet in a hotel room and each could choose a teammate which would ensure that the fight was fair and would step in if things got out of hand.  Herzog chose third baseman Heinie Zimmerman and Cobb selected Stanage.  Cobb and Stanage were not friends but this was something that was hard for the catcher to turn down.  It turned out that Stanage was not needed as it was Zimmerman who stopped the fight when Cobb was pummelling Herzog.  

1B. George Burns

“Tioga” George’s best season in Detroit was his rookie season in 1914 when he amassed 3.3 WAR and posted a 119 OPS+.  After four years with the Bengals, he was sold after the 1917 season to the Yankees who immediately traded him to the Athletics for outfielder Ping Bodie.  Both the Tigers and Yankees probably regretted the deal when the first sacker had a 5.9 WAR in 1918, good for second in the American League.  

The nickname “Tioga” was acquired early on due to the fact that he grew up in Tioga, Pennsylvania.  The name stuck in the majors as it distinguished him from another George Burns, a slightly more famous National League outfielder (Joseph Wancho, Society for American Baseball Research).

2B. Jim Delahanty

Jim Delahanty was the second best (to Ed) of five Delahanty Brothers who played in the majors.  He only played 329 games with the Tigers during the decade and was a poor defender but wins the All Star honor with his 129 OPS+.  He had the best year of his 13-season MLB career in 2011 when batted .339/.411/.463 with a 139 OPS+.  

Delahanty also hit well in 1912 posting a 116 OPS+, but was released after the season.  The reason given by the Tigers was poor health, but it may have been the result of his leadership in the famous one-day team strike in response to a Ty Cobb suspension for attacking a fan early in the season (John Saccoman, Society for American Baseball Research).

SS. Donie Bush

According to the Biographical Encyclopedia of Baseball, Bush spent 65 years in organized ball as a player, manager, scout and owner.  That’s a lot of baseball – from the first decade of the American League’s existence to the early 1970’s or from Ty Cobb to Marvin Lane.  He played more games at shortstop (1,867) than any Tiger other than Trammell and had some excellent individual seasons exceeding 5+ WAR four times.  While his best season was 2009 (6.5 WAR), Bush’s best decade was 1910-1919 when he played 1,449 games and accumulated 31 WAR.  

3B. Ossie Vitt

Vitt was regarded as a weak hitter and slick defender during his ten year career with the Tigers and Red Sox.  His best year in Detroit was in 1915 when he had 4.5 WAR and a 100 OPS+.  Overall, the right-handed batter hit just three home runs in 767 games and had a 84 OPS+ in seven years with the Tigers.  However, according to Michael Humpreys in Wizardry, Vitt saved 46 runs defensively over an average third baseman during his career.  

LF. Bobby Veach

According to Fred Lieb in The Detroit Tigers, Bobby Veach “was a happy-go-lucky guy, not too brilliant above the ears…He was as friendly as a Newfoundland pup with opponents as well as teammates.”  He was also the best left fielder in Tigers history amassing 4 WAR or higher 7 times and finishing in the top ten in OPS and slugging five times. His best season was 1919 when he had 6.7 WAR and a 158 OPS+.  In the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James rated the 1915 trio of Veach, Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford as the best single-season outfield in baseball history     

CF. Ty Cobb

Cobb’s name has come up in practically every search for every player in this Tigers All Star series so far and sometimes I have excluded him to prevent over kill.  As you have undoubtedly seen, often times a player’s association with the legendary outfielder has been a negative one.  However, there is no denying his absolute dominance as a hitter during this decade.  He batted .387 for the entire decade! His OPS+ was 192 for the entire decade!  He led the lead in batting nine years and OPS+ eight years.  

Take a look at the Batting Runs leaders for the decade:

Ty Cobb 560
Tris Speaker 443
Shoeless Joe Jackson 382
Eddie Collins 357

All four were elite hitters and played all ten years, but they came nowhere close to The Georgia Peach.

RF. Sam Crawford 

While overshadowed by Cobb, Crawford also had a fantastic decade for the Tigers. In the previous post, I mentioned that Crawford was a power hitter, who played in the wrong era.  Instead of belting home runs, the right-handed slugger was a triples machine hitting 135 three baggers in eight years for an average of 17 per year.  He also led the league in triples four times including 26 in 1914.  

Wahoo ranked high in several offensive categories during the decade:

135 triples (3rd)
459 slugging (7th)
204 Batting Runs (7th)
143 OPS+ (7th)

UT. Harry Heilmann

In 1913, according to Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia by David Pietrusza, et al, Harry Heilmann was a 19-year-old bookkeeper for a San Francisco biscuit company.  On the way home from work one day, he ran into a friend who asked him to fill in for a sick player on a local semi-pro team.  A scout for the Class B Northwestern League’s Portland Colts was in the crowd that day and signed Heilmann to a professional contract (with a bonus of a spaghetti dinner) two days later.  At the end of the season, Detroit purchased his contract and he was on his way to a Hall of Fame career.  Harry was a long-time Tiger as a player and broadcaster staying with the organization through 1950.  Slug was slow in the field and on the bases, but he was a gifted hitter batting .342 with a 148 OPS+ lifetime.

Heilmann put up a solid 125 OPS+ for the decade as an outfielder and first baseman.  This was just the beginning though as the best was yet to come.  I‘ll say more about Heilmann in the 1920-1929 installment of this series.  

SP. Hooks Dauss

At 5-10 and 168 pounds, George August Dauss was once deemed too small to be a major league pitcher.  That didn’t stop him from pitching 3,390 innings over 15 seasons and becoming the all-time Tigers leader in wins (223).  He was nicknamed Hooks or Hookie for his signature curveball (Bob O’Leary, SABR)

SP. Harry Coveleski

Harry should not be confused with his Hall-of-fame brother Stan, but he was quite successful in his short career.  He pitched only three full seasons with the Tigers, but he packed a lot into those years.  The southpaw hurler threw 1,023 innings from 1914-1916 posting an ERA+ of 123 with 16 WAR.  

SP. Bernie Boland

Boland pitched more as a reliever than a starter from 1915-1916, but was a regular in the rotation from 1917-1919 registering a 101 ERA+ in 684 innings.  Baseball writer H.G. Salsinger wrote that the five-foot eight-inch right-hander was known for his curve ball: “Bernie Boland had a swell curveball.  He did not use it as frequently as George Dauss, but for two years he was reputed to have the best curveball in the league.  Babe Ruth always said that Boland had one of the greatest curveballs ever pitched”.   

SP. Jean Dubuc

Dubuc was in the Tigers starting rotation from 1912-1915 and part of 1916.  His best season was 1912 when he had 4.4 WAR and a 1.18 ERA+.  “Chauncey was also decent hitter for a pitcher batting .244 in 606 plate appearances for the Tigers.  

Dubuc was banned from baseball for life because he had advanced knowledge of the Black Sox scandal (Guy Waterman, Tom Simon, SABR.org) while playing for the Giants during 1919.  He left the country and ended up playing organized ball unnoticed in Canada in 1922.

After his playing career, the Vermont native became a scout for the Tigers and was responsible for signing the great Hank Greenberg.  

RP. Ed Willett

Robert Edgar Willett had a non-descript but solid career with the Tigers between 1906-1913.  His best season in the 1910-1919 decade was in 1910 when he posted a 111+ in 224 innings.  “The Farmer” apparently liked to pitch inside as he finished in the top ten in hits batsmen six times.    

Willett was not an especially good hitter, but he hit two home runs in one game on June 30, 1912 versus the White Sox.   

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