Books Ive Read Over the Winter, and Into the Spring, Part Three
Sometimes books come to a person, and they turn out better than one expects. I had heard about a newsletter on the American Association put out by some guy in Minnesota, but never gave it more than a passing thought. (Here I have to admit that even though I’m a child of the Midwest, born and partially raised there, I had never had much of an interest in the Association. I like the Midwest League a whole lot, but never the Association). Nevertheless, a month or two ago Rex Hamann sent me an issue, and I have to admit with all the things I have been doing, it got set on a pile of publication that I want to get to.
But I finally did, and what a excellent piece of work Rex has done. The latest issue, corresponding to Spring 2006, was a marvelous surprise. In this issue— the second of a two-parter— deals with 20 game win season by pitchers on the Milwaukee Brewers and Toledo Mud Hens during the 1902-1911 deadball period. In separate sections, he analyses each pitcher in depth, using Strikeout to walk ratios, WHIP, and solid new research using primary sources. This takes up nearly 32 pages.
To give the read an example, I’ll reprint one of the shorter pitcher essays:
Cliff Curtis, 1906, 22-14 .611
After an off-year in 1905, Cliff Curtis came bounding back in ’06 with a splendid season which saw him lead the team in wins (22), winning percentage (.611) and innings pitched (323) on his way to his second career 20-game season. A hallmark of his season was his strikeouts (158) to walks (108) ratio of 1.975, good for fourth in the American Association. He placed fifth in both SO/In (.489) and BB/IN (.248). While he did not own a pitch called the “Curtis Cracker,” his WHIP of 1.124 could easily have become dubbed with such a nickname; the mark was good for fourth place (Columbus’ Heinie Berger took the top spot with a .957).
Curtis was now sharing battery duties with Frank Roth and Monte Beville, both of whom had a few more years of seasoning than the 25-year-old product of central Ohio. Roth had been in the majors for a few seasons and was three years Curtis’ senior. Beville was a full six years older and had also been active at the major league level before joining the Brewers in 1905. This tandem likely aided the youngster as he continued piling up precious victories for yet another run at the elusive pennant. Joe Cantillion’s Brew Boys wound up eight games in back of Columbus for the second straight year; their 1906 record, however, showed a decline of 48 percentage points, from a 91-59 record in 1905 to an 85-67 record.
Curtis remained a Brewer through the 1909 season when he went 7-11 during a time when they needed him to step up in a tight pennant race. He wound up in the National League, pitching for Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Brooklyn from 1909-13, inserting two seasons with the Newark Indians under Harry Smith from 1913-14 (going 16-12 in ’14). He returned to the American Association to wind up a solid pitching career, working closer to home as a Columbus Senator from 1915-18 when he won 29 while losing 40. During his 10-year A. A. career, Curtis put up 129 wins against 144 losses (.473) in 331 games and 2,365 innings. His 977 strikeouts against 811 free passes bore a healthy SO/BB ratio of 1.205.
Born Clifton Garfield Curtis on July 3, 1881 at Delaware, Ohio, Curtis became a well-know amateur bowler in the Utica/Mt. Vernon, Ohio area east-northeast of Columbus during his years after baseball. For 20 years he managed a Ford dealership in Utica there on Highway 13. He died of a heart attack on April 23, 1943. His grave is located at Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware, Ohio.
The pamphlet (as it should be called, and not a newsletter), has a detailed section of obits of Association players who have recently passed away, and contained a listing of players celebrating birthdays, plus some short American Association historical news items.
I have not seen other issues, but if they are anything like this issues, it is well worth the money Rex charges per year, a miniscule $15 for three yearly issues. There are also discounts for multi-year subscriptions.
To find out more, and to subscribe: