On November 13, 1862, Podge Weihe was born. Richard takes us through the path that leads to Anthony Bass, and explains why you want to do that.
It has been a while since I did a chain column; that is, walking through history from one player of the very distant past to one of very recent memory through shared teammates. These columns are always a fun way to go from the past to the present while stopping in at various points.
Today, we’ll start with Podge Weihe—who was the earliest player to make his debut born on November 13, the beginning of this week—and finish with Padres’ prospect Anthony Bass, who was the most recent player to debut born on November 19, the end of this week. Without further ado, let’s begin:
Podge Weihe Played with Jerry Dorgan (1884 Indianapolis Hoosiers)
I think the name is pronounced “Pod-ge” (rhymes with “dodge”) rather than “Po-dge” (rhymes—more or less—with “loge”) but that’s really just a guess. In any case, Weihe’s Major League career was brief—just one full season in the American Association for the above-mentioned Hoosiers. It is surprising Weihe did not appear more, since he was just 21 at the time of his year, and his .646 OPS was above average for the dreadful Hoosiers who went 29-78 that season.
Nonetheless, the unorganized nature of early baseball means that it is easily possible Weihe went to ply his trade for a league without Major League status and whose records have now faded into obscurity.
|Tommy John, in better days than 1989 (Icon/SMI)|
Jerry Dorgan Played with Deacon McGuire (1885 Detroit Wolverines)
For the record, the baseball franchise here—founded in 1881—was stealing their nickname from the University of Michigan sports teams, whose teams were the Wolverines as much as 20 years earlier.
In any event, Jerry Dorgan was a back-up outfielder for the Wolverines in his final season at the Major League level. He batted a respectable .286 that year (the Wolverines as a team hit just .243) but was blocked from more action because the team’s best hitters, including future Hall of Famers Ned Hanlon, occupied the outfield.
Deacon McGuire Played with Roger Peckinpaugh (1910 Cleveland Naps)
McGuire is kind of cheating on a list like this, because his time with the Naps in 1910 was more of a gimmick experience than anything else. At the time he was 46, the team’s manager and had not been a regular since 1904. In fact, McGuire played just one game this season, though he did at least manage to record a hit and be hit by a pitch during the game.
But novelty appearances like this shouldn’t mask the authentic longevity of McGuire’s career. Debuting in 1884 at age 20, he played at least as many as 50 games every year from 1890 through to 1906. At the time of retirement from regular play, McGuire was in the top 25 all-time in games played.
Roger Peckinpaugh Played with Ossie Bluege (1922 Washington Senators)
Though the Senators have a long (and not undeserved) reputation for being terrible, 1922 was the last of the truly awful Senators teams for more than a decade. Obviously no one was going to be confusing the team with the Yankees in those years, but from 1923 through 1933 the Senators never lost more than 81 games. More importantly, they won 90 or more games six times, which earned them three trips to the World Series, including a victory in 1924.
Watching the ’22 Senators, it would seem hard to believe a World Series victory was just two years away. The team finished 16 games under .500, and in sixth place 25 games behind the Yankees. Combined with second baseman Bucky Harris, Peckinpaugh anchored the infield defense for the quality Senators teams, doing well enough to earn the American League MVP in 1925.
Ossie Bluege Played with Early Wynn (1939 Washington Senators)
Unfortunately for Ossie Bluege, who lived through the Senators’ glory days, by 1939 those days were gone. After losing the 1933 World Series, the team finished over .500 just once in the next nine seasons. While there was plenty of blame to go around, some had to fall on Bluege, who hovered around replacement level for most of the post ’33 years.
Early Wynn Played with Tommy John (1963 Cleveland Indians)
Wynn, as I’ve probably said before, was the first of the last 300-game winner. That was in 1963, for those of you keeping track at home. But fear not, terrible sportswriters everywhere are ready, willing and able to tell you that Randy Johnson will be the last man to win 300 games.
For his part, Wynn barely dragged himself across the 300 mark. The White Sox found his 1962 performance (7-15, 4.46) so ineffective that they released him even though he was sitting on 299 wins and had thrown three shutouts in ’62. The Indians picked up him and thus earned their mention on this list, in addition to Wynn’s three-hundredth victory and 55 effective innings.
Tommy John Played with Al Leiter (1989 New York Yankees)
This was just about the end of the line for Tommy John, who was 46, which is older even by crafty lefty standards. More than a dozen years into the second career launched after John had his now-namesake surgery, he went just 2-7 with a 5.80 ERA. Unfortunately for the lefty that would be the last season of his career—no surgical miracles this time—leaving him 12 wins short of 300 and likely short of the Hall of Fame.
|Anthony Bass, the final link in the chain (Icon/SMI)|
Al Leiter Played with Heath Bell (2004 New York Mets)
I didn’t intend it this way, but this seems to run through a lot of players (and teams) on the downswing on their career. This was Leiter’s penultimate season, compared to the last years for both Wynn and John. But I’m actually going to write about Leiter’s next—and last—year, with the 2005 Marlins, because the 2004 Mets, candidly, were not a particularly interesting team and final years are always fun things to compare.
Unfortunately for Leiter, at least concerning his time in Florida during his last year, he wins the honor of worst performance on this list, going just 3-7 in 17 games (16 starts) with a gruesome 6.64 ERA. The Marlins cut bait—see what I did there?—on the lefty in July, shipping him to a Yankee team that won 95 teams despite getting a combined 32 starts from pitchers with an ERA of six or higher, including five pitchers whose ERA was in the double-digits. This being the case, it is easy to see why Leiter, who posted a 5.49 ERA in New York, was a welcome addition.
For their part, the 2005 Marlins were better than the likes of the ’89 Yankees (to say nothing of the dreadful Hoosiers) but were perhaps the last Marlins’ team with a substantial link to their World Series successes. Either during or after the season, Jack McKeon, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Juan Pierre, Jeff Conine and Leiter—all big parts of the title winning teams in 1997, 2003, or both—departed the franchise.
2005 was something of an inglorious end for Leiter—though he did earn a victory in ALDS Game 4, his final Major League appearance, which isn’t a bad way to go out—who, in addition to his title in Florida, was part of the Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series team, and the pennant winning Mets of 2000.
Heath Bell Played with Anthony Bass (2011 San Diego Padres)
And at long last—eight players and some dreadful teams later—we arrive at Anthony Bass. As I mentioned above, Bass is a Padres’ prospect. Though he does not project to be an ace, the Padres have already gotten good value from a man picked one-hundred and sixty-fifth overall in the 2008 draft.
The game has changed a lot since it was played by Podge Weihe—not in the least because people are no longer nicknamed “Podge”—and will doubtless change nearly as much by the time we are in 2138, the same distance from Bass’ debut that Podge’s is from Bass. I’m pretty unlikely to be here chronicling it (although if I am more than 150 years old, the idea of staying in to write baseball columns will be pretty appealing) but we will see what becomes of baseball in that time.