1904 Senators vs. 1954 A’s – the 5/12 upset?

The tournament's number 5 seed, 1904 Washington Senators, face a potential trap against the No. 12 1954 Philadelphia Athletics.
The tournament’s number 5 seed, 1904 Washington Senators, face a potential trap against the No. 12 1954 Philadelphia Athletics.
The Worst of the Worst tournament continues with the much-anticipated 5/12 matchup. It’s this matchup is almost guaranteed to be the domain of the upset in the NCAA basketball tournament. In one corner is the number 5 seed, Washington Senators of 1904, and their opponent, the number 12 seed, 1954 Philadelphia Athletics.

The Senators recently drew attention as being rated as the worst baseball team of all-time according to the ELO ratings of FiveThirtyEight.The 1904 Senators garnered a composite ELO of 1387, ten points below our No. 2 seed, 2003 Detroit Tigers (1397) and twelve below the No. 1 seed, 1962 Mets. The Senators lost 113 games, and had a team OPS+ of 80. The pitching staff was atrocious with an ERA+ of 74, the second lowest mars among the teams in the tournament. The 1916 Athletics, the three-seed in this tournament, had a team ERA+ of 73. Perhaps it was this season in Washington that spawned the vaudeville joke of “First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League”.

These Senators were a mess. Walter Johnson, the Big Train, would not arrive for another three years. Similar to the Montreal Expos a century later (and who coincidentally relocated to Washington), the club was run by their league. American League president Ban Johnson acted in the role of general manager making all team and roster decisions. After losing 13 of their first 14 games, manager Malachi Kittridge was dismissed and replaced with outfielder Patsy Donovan who had managed the Cardinals in 1903. The highlight of the season was a season-best three game winning streak in August. In July, the team made several moves. Johnson traded Al Orth, a 20 game winner with the Phillies in 1901 before jumping leagues to the Senators the following season, to the Highlanders for Barney Wolfe and Long Tom Hughes who go onto a respectable career in Washington, winning 18 games in 1908. 3B Scranton Bill Coughlin and catcher Lew Drill were sold to Detroit. SS Charles Moran was traded to the Browns for 3B Hunter Hill and Frank Heulsman. Joe Cassidy took over the shortstop duties for Moran. He was the regular shortstop for Washington in 1905, but that off-season, he contracted typhoid fever and died at the age of 23.

1954 marked the final season for the Athletics in Philadelphia. They would move to Kansas City and would be considered by many to be a farm team for the New York Yankees. The Athletics were 103 game losers in 1954, and 109 game losers according to their Pythagorean record. They sported the second lowest OPS+ (77) in the tournament. Only the 1952 Pirates who have already advanced to the second round were worse (73). The Athletics pitching staff, anchored by 1952 AL MVP winner Bobby Shantz, turned in an equally inept season. Their ERA+ of 76 is third worst just ahead of these Senators and the aforementioned 1916 Athletics. Shantz was joined by fellow lefty Alex Kellner, and righties Arnold Portocarrero and Bob Trice. Trice was the A’s first African-American player making his debut in September, 1953.

The A’s actually started the season off well. They won their opener against the Red Sox, and April was their only winning month (6-5). Shantz’s arm turned sore and the season went downhill from there. It may have been fortunate for Philadelphia to share their ineptitude with the newly relocated Baltimore Orioles who lost 100 games in 1954. In fact, the Orioles cushioned the A’s from last place going into September, 1954. But, the Orioles went 11-01 in September to pass Philadelphia for seventh place. The A’s lost their final game at Connie Mack Stadium on September 19th as the Yankees rallied to a 4-2 win before 1,715 spectators. The club did manage to win its’ final game as the Philadelphia Athletics beating a Yankee team that featured Mickey Mantle playing shortstop, Yogi Berra at third base, and Moose Skowron at second base. The A’s finished 60 games behind the 111-win Cleveland Indians in 1954.

So can the 12-seed upset the 5-seed in this baseball tournament? The answer is an resounding yes. The A’s managed only seven wins in the fifty 162-game seasons played with the 1904 Senators. Alex Kellner turned in one of the tournament’s worst pitching performances with a career 6.23 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, and 539-104 record in 1.985 starts. Philadelphia’s Pete Suder hit for a low .597 OPS in an average of 190 at bats. Fellow utilityman Hunter Hill of the Senators posted a .662 OPS in an average of 260 at bats. On the bright side, the A’s sole All-Star in 1954, Jim Finigan, had the highest batting average for the 50 seasons (.379). In fact, he posted an impressive .379/.446/.513 slash line for a .959 OPS. Senators catcher Lew Drill recorded the highest career OBP (.476) and SLG (.529). The Senators leading batsman, Jake Stahl, also enjoyed success against the Athletics staff. Stahl hit for an .898 OPS with the highest career total in doubles (2,208), runs scored (6.614) and runs batted in (6,558). Joe Cassidy, the Washington shortstop who died at 23, led with 971 triples. Philadelphia’s Gus Zernial lead with an even 1,000 home runs which is the lowest total posted thusfar in the 50-season format.

So the 12-seed advances to the next round to face the loser between the 4th seed 1932 Boston Red Sox and the 13th seed 1948 Chicago White Sox.

Complete Worst of the Worst Tournament bracket

credit to: Baseball Fever – 1904 Washington Senators
A Final Season: The 1954 Philadelphia Athletics

Bill Butler: King of the Auto-play No-Hitter

Bill Butler
Bill Butler is the only author of two no-hitters in my replay project.
I still remember the moment. I stared at the 12″ monitor on a desk in the corner of a spare bedroom. The monitor was wider than it was high. The winter chill crept through the window next to me. On the monitor was Baseball for Windows, the computer version of the APBA card-and-dice game that I played as a kid. The software came with three seasons, complete with as-played season schedules, one of which was 1971. The card-and-dice seasons of my childhood never eclipsed a 40-game mark. An adolescent attention span. A new baseball season would grab my attention before I could complete reliving the previous season through dice. But now, now I know that a complete season replay is within my grasp through the power of a personal computer. With a single click of a mouse, the Oakland A’s began to play the Washington Senators at RFK Stadium. The first step of my journey through baseball history via replays. A journey that was soon reach the two decade mark.

That initial replay was definitely a work-in-progress in many ways. I began to dabble in HTML and to create an online record of the replay. I soon began visiting the local library and printing off box scores from the archived newspaper microfiche. I played most of the games myself, as I still do, but from time to time, I would auto-play the remaining games of a day so that I could move to the next game or series of interest to me. One and a half months into the replay (in replay time, not actual), the first no-hitter was recorded, and I missed it. In an auto-played game, Bill Butler of the Kansas City Royals no-hit those Oakland A’s. The only record remaining of the game is this line on the replay’s web site:

“But on May 15th, lefty Bill Butler in an emergency start grabbed the headlines by no-hitting the mighty Athletics 3-0.”

Bill Butler, not to be confused with the portly DH who would play for the same Royals a decade later, would always be remembered as my first no-hitter. Soon thereafter, Wilbur Wood no-hit the Angels. In July of the replayed 1971, the Cubs’ Milt Pappas would reach perfection at Dodger Stadium and I was there for each of the batters he retired. Regardless, Bill Butler was the first, memorable, maybe because the recollection was always followed by the thought “who the hell was Bill Butler?”.

It’s now a spring night. A school night. I’m in my office in the basement. The monitor is now a 42″ flat-screen television. The computer game is now Diamond Mind Baseball. It’s 1969 again for me, not 1971. Sleepily, I decide to auto play the remaining American League games for the day. The pennant races are all in the National League. Need to keep things moving along. Time to go to bed. The Mets have caught the Pirates in the NL East. And then, I see it. The Yankees’ line score: 0 0 1. Final score, 2-0 Royals. Ten innings. Oh, it’s a combined no-hitter, right? Wrong. There he is again. That familiar name.

Butler 10.0 0 0 0 1 10

Beautiful.

A Franchise’s Worst : ’39 Browns vs. ’88 Orioles

Billy Ripken-Baltimore Orioles May 2, 1988 X 36475 credit:  Jerry Wachter - contract
The 1988 Orioles gained national recognition with a record 21-game losing streak to open the season.
The 1988 Baltimore Orioles fell flat out of the gate as no team had or has ever since – 21 consecutive losses. The Orioles fired manager Cal Ripken, Sr. six games into the skid and brought in Oriole legend Frank Robinson for his third managerial stint in the majors. The club finished with 107 losses, the franchise’s worst record in nearly 50 years. The worst record in franchise history, you ask? That distinction belong to their Worst of the Worst first-round opponent, the 1939 St. Louis Browns.

The Browns were led by first baseman George McQuinn (.316/.383/.515) on offense…and really nobody else. The lowest ERA on the staff belonged to Emil Bildili (any relation to Amelia Bedelia?) but “Hill Billy” made only two starts. 18 different pitchers made at least one start for manager Fred Haney’s troops. Fred Haney would have to wait nearly twenty years before enjoying major league success guiding the championship teams of the Milwaukee Braves. The total attendance for the Browns in 1939 was 109,159 or an average of 1,418 friends and family over 77 home dates. However, five years and a world war later, this franchise would win the American League pennant.

But the 1939 Browns held their ground as the franchise’s worst by their performance in this tournament. Fifty seasons of a 162-game schedule (8,100 total games), and the 1988 Orioles won 47 seasons, lost 1, and there were 2 ties at 81-81. Accordingly, it will be the Browns who advance to play the 2003 Detroit Tigers in the second round.

The Orioles dominated the leader board. Eddie Murray with a career .350 average and .487 OBP. Fred Lynn led the round with 2,418 home runs and a .636 slugging percentage. Mike Boddicker led with 8,053 punch outs, and rookie Jose Bautista, the pitcher not the bat flipping slugger, led with 877 wins. But again, in a tournament of this stature, let’s not overlook Terry Kennedy who struck out a career high 3,609 times.