December 11, 2013
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Thursday, November 08, 2012
100 years ago today, one of the best second basemen not in the Hall of Fame passed away.
His name was Cupid Childs, and despite the aggressively non-athletic sounding name, he was a dynamo during his prime.
He won a starting job at second baseman in 1890 for Syracuse in the dying days of the American Association, and the next year the Cleveland Spiders picked him up. Childs spent nearly the rest of the decade at second base there.
He was a highly talented, well-rounded player. You want a guy that can hit? Childs was a career .306 hitter with a pair of seasons over .350. You want a good batting eye? Childs drew over 100 walks in a season four times, plus had a fifth year at 97. You want some base speed? Childs usually had 20-some steals a year. Want some defense? Childs was a good glove at an up the middle defensive position. Want some power? Well, Childs didn’t have much, but he did once lead the league in doubles
You want someone with career longevity? Um … here’s where we have a problem. Childs was a great player in his day—but that day was surprisingly short. For eight seasons Childs was a terrific all-around player. He was the Roberto Alomar for the 1890s. But in his ninth full season things started to go haywire.
In was 1898 and the just-turned-30 Childs hit only .288. That sounds nice, but keep in mind that the 1890s were an all-time great decade for hitters, so .288 isn’t as impressive as it sounds. He still had a really nice OBP of .397 thanks to his batting eye, but then again he hit just nine doubles (and 14 extra base hits in all) over 110 games.
Sometimes a season like that is just an off year. For Childs, it was a sign he was getting old early. In 1899, the Spiders owners purchased the St. Louis club and sent all their best players there, including Childs. His batting average dropped to .265 with an OBP of .369. He was a mediocre player.
As a result, the club sold him to the Cubs. In Chicago, Childs average continued to plummet, barely over .240 in 1900. By 1901, he was a backup. A year later, he was out of major league baseball at age 34. He hung around the minors for a few years, but after 1904 he was finished.
Sometimes guys don’t age well. That was especially true of baseball back then before all the conditioning and interest in making sure the players took care of themselves.
There are worse players in Cooperstown than Childs, but there are also better ones who are not. Whatever slim chance Childs had of getting in were ruined based on how far back he played. By the time voting for the Hall began, it had already been 35 years since he retired. He was more phantom than fact to many of the voters by then. Though he was great in his prime, he’d never been dominant.
Childs’ short career sadly proved to be a harbinger for his life. He wound up working as a coal driver and died of Bright’s disease at age 45 on Nov. 8, 1912, exactly 100 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.
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