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.
3,000 days since Aaron Bates becomes the first player in the 61-year history of the California League to hit four homers in a game. Five weeks later another player does it.
3,000 days since Larry Walker hits his second grand slam in a week.
3,000 days since Craig Biggio hits the only pinch-hit home run of his career.
6,000 days since Tony Gwynn hits the second of two career walk-off home runs. It’s a three-run shot with two out in the bottom of the ninth and his team trailing 4-3.
6,000 days since Sterling Hitchcock appears in his last game.
7,000 days since Jim Edmonds makes his big league debut.
7,000 days since team owners vote to divide each league into three divisions, add wild cards, and introduce a new round of divisional playoffs.
8,000 days since the Dodgers sign free agent Brett Butler.
9,000 days since Clayton Kershaw, pitcher, is born.
20,000 days since Ted Williams sets a new baseball record by signing a $150,000 contract with the Red Sox.
40,000 days since A’s slugger Harry Davis hits into a walk-off triple play versus the Yankees.
50,000 days since the constitution and bylaws for the new National League are created in the Chicago home of William Hulbert.
1894 King Kelly, Hall of Famer and maybe baseball’s biggest stars in the 1880s, dies.
1896 Bucky Harris, Hall of Fame manager, is born.
1920 A meeting of owners designed to depose AL founder Ban Johnson calls for creating a 12-team NL is held. The plan’s supporters need at least of one of the five owners loyal to Ban Johnson to sign on, but none do, ending the plan.
1934 Ford Frick becomes NL president. Formerly he served as NL publicity director.
1944 Ed Kranepool, eternal Met, is born.
1950 Baseball commissioner Happy Chandler and a representative of the players agree to split TV/radio rights from the World Series.
1952 Second baseman Jerry Remy is born.
1952 John Denny, pitcher, is born.
1954 AL owners approve by a 6-2 vote to let the A’s move to Kansas City. The Senators and Indians are the dissenting votes.
1954 New A’s owner Arnold Johnson agrees to sell Yankee Stadium. That’s right—the A’s owner is also the owner of Yankee Stadium for a brief stretch.
1955 The Washington Senators trade Mickey Vernon to the Red Sox in a nine-player deal.
1961 The White Sox buy a hotel in Sarasota, Fla. to solve their problems in spring training trying to find a home for their integrated team in a largely segregated state.
1965 Jeff Blauser, infielder, is born.
1967 Henry Rodriguez, outfielder, is born.
1974 The Padres trade Cito Gaston to the Braves.
1977 Bucky Harris dies on his 81st birthday.
1977 Nick Punto, infielder, is born.
1979 New York Mets president Lorinda de Roulet announces that the team is for sale.
1990 Former big leaguer Earl Torgeson dies at age 66.
1990 The Dodgers sign free agent Darryl Strawberry.
1998 The Mets announce that GM Steve Phillips will take a paid leave of absence while a threatened sexual harassment suit against him is resolved.
1999 The U.S. Senate passes a resolution calling for Shoeless Joe Jackson to be honored.