Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
In the early 1920s, the Kansas City Blues won the pennant with one of the top hitting clubs in league history. Instrumental in the batting attack was a trio of minor league legends. One was known by the unlikely name of Bunny while another was given the unimpressive sobriquet, Dud. The third, who was also the manager of the other two, was simply called good.
The city of Kansas City, located on the Kansas-Missouri border, fielded teams in three different major leagues in the 19th century with none of them doing well. In 1884, the Kansas City Unions (16-63) finished with the worst record in the Union Association. Two years later, the Cowboys finished 30-91 in the National League. Finally, in 1888-89, the American Association’s Cowboys limped to 43-89 and 55-82 records.
Minor league teams playing in Kansas City during this time fared much better. Competing with the mediocre Cowboys in 1888, a team called the Blues won the Western Association with a 76-42 record. The nickname Blues derived from the blue uniforms they wore in contrast to the white suits of the American Association Cowboys. In 1894, Kansas City became a member of Ban Johnson’s newly organized Western League. They won the pennant in 1898 with an 88-51 record, 1 ½ games ahead of Indianapolis. Johnson renamed his circuit the American League in 1900 and when the league claimed major league status in 1901, Kansas City was one of four teams dropped. George (White Wings) Tebeau, a former major league outfielder, purchased the Kansas City franchise and put the team in Thomas J. Hickey’s reorganized Western League. In 1902, this league became the new American Association, operating as an independent circuit not a member of the just formed National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. In 1903, the American Association joined the NAPBL. However, in 1902-03, a different Western League also had a team in Kansas City, but it dropped out after the 1903 season for financial reasons, leaving the city to Tebeau.
In 1903, Tebeau built a new ballpark in Kansas City called Association Park and this facility was the home of the Blues for the next twenty years. In the American Association’s first sixteen seasons, Kansas City finished in the first division only four times, second in 1911 and fourth in 1902, 1907 and 1912. The Blues’ first pennant was somewhat tainted as it came in the war-shortened season of 1918. Kansas City finished second in 1919, dropped to eighth in 1920, then rebounded to come in third in 1921-22.
In 1915, George Muehlebach, a 36-year-old Blues fan and owner of a local brewery, purchased a small interest in the team. The same year he built the Muehlebach Hotel which for many years was considered the city’s finest hostelry. Two years later he acquired the rest of the team from Tebeau, but did not purchase the ballpark. Tebeau sold the property to a railroad. In 1922, the railroad decided to build tracks through the outfield and after the season ended the ballpark was torn down. Muehlebach then constructed his own park, Muehlebach Stadium which opened in 1923. That park, greatly expanded and improved, became Municipal Stadium, home of the American League Kansas Athletics, starting in 1955.
In 1922, Kansas City set a league attendance record of 307,000, but the 1923 Blues, with the combination of a new park and a pennant winner, shattered that mark. Kansas City drew 425,000, almost twice as many as its nearest competitor, St. Paul with 220,000.
St. Paul was the dominant team in the years immediately following World War I, winning pennants in 1919, 1920 and 1922. Both the 1920 and 1922 teams are among the top 100.
In 1923, Louisville occupied first place in the first three weeks of the season, but from then on it was Kansas City and St. Paul battling for the league lead. The Blues were on top during most of May and the first half of June, the Saints in July and the Blues again in August. St. Paul forged ahead in September and three weeks before the season ended took a four-game lead. However, Kansas City won 10 of its last 11 games to take over first place in the closing days of the campaign. On September 15, the Blues exhibited their offensive prowess in a double-header victory over visiting Minneapolis, both nine-inning games, 9-6 and 26-4, banging out 29 hits in the nightcap. A hapless young hurler named Frank Brinzda pitched all 16 innings for the Millers. Brinzda had started the season with Aberdeen in the Class D South Dakota League, moved up to St. Joseph (Western) when the South Dakota League folded in July and to Minneapolis in August. Brinzda gave up nine hits in the first game, but walked seven. Kansas City hammered him for 29 hits in the second game – but he walked only four batters! Considering that the Blues finished only two games ahead of St. Paul, that doubleheader win was huge. Kansas City didn’t clinch the pennant until the last day of the season when they won a double-header from last-place Toledo while the Saints split a pair with third-place Louisville. Kansas City’s 112 wins were second only to 1920 St. Paul in the history of the American Association. Despite finishing second, St. Paul’s 1923 squad also earned a place on the top 100 list, one of only two runner-up teams to do so.
Kansas City then took on Baltimore in the nine-game Junior World Series. The Orioles (another top 100 team) had just captured their fifth consecutive International League flag with a record of 111-53, almost identical to Kansas City’s 112-54. Because of interruptions due to bad weather the Series lasted 16 days. It opened with four games in Kansas City and the Blues took a 3-1 lead before the teams moved to Baltimore. Game three of the Series was rained out for two days and when it was finally played on Sunday, October 14, it was witnessed by what management claimed was the largest crowd ever to attend a minor league game to that point, 23,105. The Blues rewarded their fans with a 7-1 win. It was another three days before the teams could play the fourth game and even then a cold northwest wind held the crowd down to 9,000. The Orioles fared better on their home turf, winning three out of four games to knot the Series at four wins each. The weather was still not cooperating. Game eight was postponed by rain and when it was played the next day, the Reach Guide reported that “weather conditions (were) so damp and disagreeable that the handful of spectators (373) were bundled up in overcoats and wraps and American Association umpire Ollie Chill (an appropriate name) officiated in overcoat and gloves.” The weather improved somewhat the next day and the Blues won the deciding game 5-2. Veteran Ferd Schupp went the distance for his third victory of the Series. Lefty Grove started for Baltimore, but was lifted after only 2/3 of an inning. A single and three walks, one with the bases loaded, had given Kansas City a 1-0 lead. Grove was replaced by Orioles ace Rube Parnham who had won a league-best 33 games during the regular season. Parnham gave up two-run homers to Bill Skiff in the fourth and Bunny Brief in the ninth and the Blues took home the championship. Kansas City showed Parnham no respect during the Series. He was 0-2 in four games and gave up 32 hits 22 1/3 innings.
Kansas City had led the American Association in batting in 1921 (.313) and 1922 (.315) in the old park and moving to the new location in 1923 didn’t change things as the champion Blues batted .316. They also led in runs (1083), hits (1844), total bases (2738) doubles (347) and home runs (109). With the exception of second-string catcher Lew McCarty (.282 in 51 games), every one of the 14 position players used during the season batted .300 or higher.
The Blues were managed by 37-year-old, 5’6” left-handed hitting Wilbur (Bill) Good, the team’s center fielder and leadoff batter. Good began his pro career as a pitcher in 1905 and reached the American League with New York in his rookie year (0-2, 4.74). He switched to the outfield in 1908 and was back in the majors late that year. He played in the big leagues during ten seasons between 1908 and 1918 with the Indians, Braves, Cubs, Phillies and White Sox. His best year was 1914 with the Cubs when he batted .272 in 154 games with 31 stolen bases. His career average was .258 in 749 games with 104 stolen bases. He first played for Kansas City in 1917, returning to the majors briefly in 1918 with the White Sox, when the American Association suspended operations in July because of the government’s “work or fight” order. He rejoined the Blues the next spring and from 1919-1923 hit .348, .334, .349, .352 and .350, leading the league in hits in 1919 (204), 1920 (229) and 1922 (249). Good was appointed manager of the Blues during the 1922 season replacing Otto Knabe. Kansas City finished third, one-half game behind Minneapolis and 15 ½ games out of first place. After the great 1923 campaign, Kansas City plunged all the way to the basement and Good was replaced by Doc Lavan. Good’s average dropped to .264 in 71 games before he was fired. He signed with Atlanta (Southern Association), finishing the year at .357 in 68 games. In 1925 he batted .379 and set the league record for most hits (236) in a season as the Crackers won the pennant. Good managed Macon (South Atlantic) in 1927-28 and Atlanta in 1929. Good’s last year as a player was 1931. He had a minor league career average of .334 with 2750 hits in 2088 games. He had six 200-hit seasons, five of them in succession (1919-23); only six players in minor league history had more. He managed a few more years in the lower minors before retiring from baseball after the 1940 season.
The Blues’ top hitter was Anthony (Bunny) Brief, who led the league in RBI (164) and runs (161) and was seventh in batting (.359) with a team best 47 doubles, 29 home runs and 101 bases on balls. Brief began the season at his regular position of first base, but the excellence of Dud Branom, one of the few young players on this team of major league veterans, forced him to third base and then to left field. Born Anthony Vincent John Grzeszkowski, Brief started his pro career at the age of 17 with Traverse City (Michigan State). After batting .351 in 1911 and .353 in 1912, he joined the St. Louis Browns for 99 games in 1912-13, batting .230. He first arrived in Kansas City late in 1913 and when he hit .318-12-123 in 169 games in 1914, he earned a return trip to the majors, this time with the Chicago White Sox. In 1915 he batted .214 in 48 games and was assigned to Salt Lake City. The next year he hit .314 with 33 homers, breaking the existing Pacific Coast League home run record. He was purchased by Pittsburgh and his last major league fling was 36 games with the Pirates in 1917, batting .217. He returned to Kansas City for a seven-year stay in 1918. Starting in 1920, Brief led the American Association in RBI four consecutive years and in home runs three straight seasons. His 191 RBI in 1921 was never topped in league history. From 1921 through 1926 he never hit below .338. Brief was sold to Milwaukee after the 1924 season and played his last four years with the Brewers, retiring after the 1928 campaign. During his minor league career, Brief batted .331 in 2426 games with 2963 hits, 342 home runs and 1584 RBI. The latter total does not include four seasons in which his league’s records did not provide RBI figures. He made one final appearance in pro ball as manager of Wausau (Northern) in 1938. After that, Brief was supervisor of the Milwaukee Department’s youth baseball program. Brief was always a hero to Milwaukee’s large Polish-American community.
The regular right fielder was 37-year-old major league veteran Beals Becker who hit .301. The highlight of his 1923 season came on August 11-12-13 when he connected for ten consecutive base hits. Becker was in his 20th year in pro ball and played eight seasons in the National League with Pittsburgh, Boston, New York, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. He had a .276 major league career average in 876 games. Becker played in three World Series with the Giants in 1911-12 and the Phillies 1915.
Things don’t always go smoothly even on the best of teams. The 1923 Blues’ biggest problem was outfielder Bobby (Braggo) Roth, whose nickname rightly implies that he was addicted to the use of the vertical pronoun. Roth, 30, had a career major league .284 average in eight seasons (1914-21) in the American League with six-teams – Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington and New York. On August 21, 1915 he was part of one of the most famous trades in baseball history. Roth, along with two other players and $30,000, was dealt by the White Sox to the Indians for Shoeless Joe Jackson. In 1917, he hit .283 in 145 games for Cleveland with 51 stolen bases, including six thefts of home. Roth was batting .339 for Kansas City in 1923 when his stay with the Blues came to an abrupt end. As reported by Kansas City Star sports editor C.E. McBride in The Sporting News, “The indefinite suspension of Robert Roth for indifferent play was the main item in the week’s news. The outfielder was sent home from Toledo Friday night (August 3) and it is declared that he will not wear a Kansas City uniform again. The climax to the apparent indifferent play came in the opening game at Toledo. In the first half of the seventh inning with the Blues losing 3-2, Zinn was on first with two out. Roth hit a Texas Leaguer that dropped along the left field foul line. It was a legitimate double and Zinn easily reached third ahead of the throw. To the dismay of every Blue, Roth stopped at first. Brief followed with a single, scoring Zinn and sending Roth to third where he died. Roth was fined and suspended. The next night he was sent home. Roth hit .540 in the first 11 games of the road trip, but only with a hit in sight would he put his best leg power in motion and in the field it was a crime. He lost the last game in Louisville by letting a liner drop at his feet that any other outfielder would have captured with ease….With Roth gone the morale is bound to improve. In fact there was a different atmosphere around the hotel lobby when Roth got his train out of Toledo. To say that the members of the club are glad of his departure is to put it mildly.” Kansas City put him on waivers and arch-rival St. Paul claimed him, but not until after the waiver period had expired. Finally a trade was agreed upon and the Blues received third baseman George Armstrong from the Saints in exchange for Roth. On August 18, McBride reported that “Before leaving, Roth told a baseball writer that the Kansas City club would be severely criticized for letting him go to St. Paul and thereby helping the Saints win the pennant. Roth is wrong. There might be a few critics, but the great majority of fans saw Roth play for the Blues and that was enough. Good told Muehlebach to get rid of the player, that he didn’t want him under any circumstances,” His first game for his new club was August 23. He hit .313 the rest of the season for St. Paul.
The Blues’ best young player was 22-year-old shortstop Glenn Wright who hit .313-15-122. Early in the season he hit the first home run at the new Muehlebach Stadium. Wright was born in Archie, MO, a small town near Kansas City where his father operated a hardware store. His high school had no baseball team, but he played for a local sandlot club and continued to play for them while attending the University from 1919-21. As related by Eugene Murdock in his 1979 Baseball Research Journal article about Wright, an opposing player recommended Glenn to Kansas City and Blues general manager John Savage signed him. Wright was sent to Independence for the 1921 season. He hit .316 with league-leading totals of 22 home runs and 13 triples in 120 games for the Southwestern League champions, another of the top 100 teams. In 1922 he moved up to Kansas City, batting .299 in 142 games. In a 1933 interview with writer Speed Johnson, Wright said, “Wilbur Good had the most to do with my baseball success. He gave me excellent advice and believed in my ability.” With the Blues Glenn acquired the nickname “Buckshot.” He told Murdoch, “I could throw hard, but no one could tell where.” Murdoch wrote, “After his fine 1923 season, Wright was sold to Pittsburgh for $40,000. The Yankees actually offered Muehlebach $100,000 for him after seeing him perform in the Junior World Series, but since Pittsburgh already had an option to buy, they got him. But Glenn would not sign with Pittsburgh for 1924 unless he got a portion of the purchase price. Muehlebach was not going to give him any money since he was now Pirate property. Finally (Pittsburgh owner) Barney Dreyfuss gave him a $7,500 bonus which was interpreted as part of the purchase price.”
Pirates manager Bill McKechnie made Wright his shortstop from the day he reported for spring training. Wright had tremendous range. In his rookie year he set a major league record for most assists (601) in a season and it stood for 56 years. Ozzie Smith had 621 in 1980, but played in five more games because of the 162-game schedule. On May 7, 1925, against St. Louis, he became only the fifth player in major league history to execute an unassisted triple play. Wright was also a good hitter. In his five years with Pittsburgh he batted .287, .308, .281 and .310. Three times he drove in more than 100 runs with a high of 121 in 1925. In the pennant winning years of 1925 and 1927, Wright and Pie Traynor became the only shortstop-third baseman combination to bat in more than 100 RBI twice. Glenn batted cleanup for the 1927 champions. In 1925, when The Sporting News began to select an annual Major League All-Star team, Wright was named the shortstop. He missed six weeks of the 1926 season when his cheekbone was fractured by a fastball thrown by Cardinals pitcher Vic Keen. Wright was unconscious for 32 hours. (During 1926-27, Glenn’s understudy was a rookie named Joe Cronin and the two became close friends.) In December 1928, he was traded to Brooklyn for pitcher Jess Petty. He told Murdoch that the Pirates had Dick Bartell coming up and needed left-handed pitching. “(Dodgers’ manager) Uncle Wilbert Robinson always liked the way I hit in Ebbets Field. In fact, he made me team captain.” That led to his lifelong nickname of “Cap.” Shortly after the trade, he tore ligaments in his right shoulder while playing handball. Not realizing how serious the injury was, he tried to play in 1929, but got into just 24 games, only three at shortstop, before being sent home. Surgery was performed and there was considerable doubt as to his ability to play again. However, he had a great comeback year in 1930, batting .321-22-126, his best season, and played 134 games at shortstop, handling 787 total chances. His 22 homeruns for a shortstop were the most for a shortstop until Alvin Dark hit 23 in 1953. He suffered a leg injury in 1931 and was limited to only 77 games. He played 127 games in 1932, but only 71 in 1933, his last full season in the majors. Glenn returned to Kansas City in 1934, playing mostly at first base. His last big league try came in 1935 with the White Sox, but he played only 9 games as a second baseman, finishing the season at Syracuse (International). In 1119 major league games he batted .294 with 723 RBI. Had his career not been cut short by the injuries, Wright would have been a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame.
In 1936, Wright played for Seattle, then in 1937 became manager at Wenatchee in the newly organized Western International League for three years. In 1939 he led the New York Yankees farm club to first place in the regular season before losing to Tacoma in the finals of the four-team playoff and was named the league’s Manager of the Year. He was a coach for Hollywood (PCL) in 1940-41. When the Western International resumed operation after World War II, Wright was signed to manage Spokane, but was released just before the season opened, a move that probably saved his life. On June 24, 1946, the Spokane team’s bus ran off the road, plunged down the side of a mountain, crashed and caught fire. Nine team members died, including manager Mel Cole.
In 1948, Wright was hired by his old friend Cronin, now the Boston Red Sox general manager, as a scout. In 1955 he managed Boston’s farm club at Corning in the Pony (now NYP) League. When Boston purchased the San Francisco Seals franchise after that season, Glenn was sent to the PCL as a coach. Late in the 1957 season he was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw and required surgery. On the closing day of the season, the last day of the Seals existence before the Giants moved to San Francisco, the team’s players, in uniform, went through the stands between games of the double-header with Sacramento taking up a collection to help with the popular Wright’s expenses. The total donations from the crowd of 15,484 was well into five figures. Fortunately, the operation was successful and Glenn lived another 27 years. In 1958 he returned to scouting and covered northern California for the Red Sox until he retired in 1974.
Behind the plate was another player who enjoyed a lengthy career in baseball, 27-year-old Bill Skiff who was fourth on the Blues in batting, .335-4-71 in 121 games. Skiff played five years in the Eastern League before going up to Pittsburgh where he hit .284 in 16 games in 1921. He was released to Kansas City during that season and remained with the Blues through 1924. Skiff was with Milwaukee in 1925, the Yankees (6 games, .091) and Toronto in 1926, Newark in 1927-28-29, Los Angeles in 1930 and New Haven (Eastern) in 1931 before retiring as an active player. He began his managerial career in 1933 in the Yankees organization at Durham (Piedmont). For New York he managed Norfolk (Piedmont) in 1934-35, winning the pennant in 1934 and being named Manager of the Year both seasons. He moved to the Yankees Class A team at Binghamton (NYP/Eastern) in 1936-37. From 1941-46 he managed Seattle, winning the pennant and the Governor’s Cup playoff in 1941 and the playoff in 1942. In June 1946 he was named supervisor of the Yankees farm system. Skiff returned to managing in 1948 with the Yanks’ Newark farm club, piloted Kansas City in 1949 and Binghamton in 1951. He started scouting for the Yankees in 1952 and remained with the organization through 1967. In 1968 he was hired by the Seattle Pilots to help in the evaluation of players for the expansion draft, retiring when the team moved to Milwaukee in 1970.
Kansas City’s top pitcher was 28-year-old right-hander Jimmy Zinn (27-6, 3.94) who led the American Association in won-lost percentage (.818) and was second in wins. One of the best hitting pitchers in baseball history, Zinn, a switch-hitter, also batted .354-3-22 in 52 games. In the Junior World Series he was 1-1. In the third game he pitched a 7-1 one-hitter, striking out seven batters. A native of Benton, AR, he started his pro career in 1915 with Fort Smith (Western Association) then pitched for Waco (Texas) from 1916-19. He was purchased by the Athletics in 1919, going 1-3, 6.23. Back in the Texas League in 1920 he went 18-10, 2.20 for Wichita Falls. On August 22 he pitched a double-header shutout against Houston, hurling a 5-0 no-hitter and hitting a home run in the first game and throwing a seven-inning 2-0 three-hitter in the nightcap. He finished the season with Pittsburgh (1-1, 3.48) and was with the Pirates all of 1921 (7-6, 3.69) and early 1922 (0-0, 1.80) before being assigned to Kansas City. Zinn pitched for the Blues for seven years with a 138-81, .630 record, three times winning 23 or more games. He led the league in ERA (3.08) in 1927 and innings pitched (323) in 1928. He batted over .300 six times, his best year being 1926 when he hit .366. On July 20 that year he went 6-for-6 in a winning start over Columbus. Following a 23-13, 3.48 season in 1928, he was purchased by Cleveland and in his last major league season he was 4-6, 5.06 in 1929 and hit .381. Zinn was sold to San Francisco and pitched the next six years in the Pacific Coast League. In 1930 he went 26-12, 4.07 for the Seals, leading the PCL in wins. He batted .326-5-36 in 105 games, also playing in the outfield and pinch-hitting. On May 14, 1930 he pitched a 8-0 no-hitter against Sacramento, the first no-hit game in that city’s new park. He was with the Seals through the first part of 1935, then finished the year with Sacramento. He was out of baseball in 1936. From 1937-42 and 1946-48 and again in 1953 he managed in the lower minors. He last played in 1939 at Sioux City (Western). Zinn’s minor league career record was 295-198, 3.52 in 4394 innings. He batted .301 in 1221 games. He was one of the game’s longest-lived players, passing away in 1991 at the age of 96.
The Blues’ next biggest winner was 32-year-old left-hander Ferd Schupp with a 19-10, 4.23 record. He was second in the league in strikeouts (173) and third in walks (142). Schupp began his pro career in 1912 with Decatur (Three-Eye) and after one year was bought by the New York Giants. He had arm problems the next three years, pitching only 12 innings for the Giants in 1913, 8 in 1914 and 55 in 1915. He seemed fully recovered by the middle of the 1916 season, finishing with a 9-3 record and a remarkable 0.90 ERA. For many years, he was credited with the lowest ERA in major league history, but modern statisticians decided that since he pitched only 140 innings he should not be considered the record holder. In September 1916, the Giants set the major league record of 26 consecutive victories. Schupp won six of them, all complete games in which he gave up three runs and 17 hits in 54 innings. Four of the wins were shutouts and he pitched a one-hitter, two two-hitters and two three-hitters. In 1917 he had a 21-7, 1.95 record for the pennant-winning Giants, leading the National League in won-lost percentage (.750) and lowest opponents batting average (.209) and finishing third in ERA. In the World Series, he won one of New York’s two victories over the White Sox, a 5-0 shutout. Arm troubles returned in 1918 and he was 0-1, 7.63 in 10 games. Schupp was traded to the Cardinals in 1919 and bounced back the next year with a 16-13, 3.52 record, pitching 251 innings. He was used sparingly in 1921 and traded to Brooklyn in June. Brooklyn sold him to Kansas City after the season. He started 1922 with the Blues then was traded to the White Sox in May. After going 4-4, 6.08 for Chicago, he was released to Seattle (PCL) in August where he went 0-6. His major league career record was 61-39, 3.32. Schupp pitched in the American Association until 1930 for Kansas City, St. Paul, Indianapolis and Minneapolis before retiring from the game. Interestingly, despite his arm troubles earlier in his career, from 1923 through 1929 he averaged 225 innings a year.
The veteran of the pitching staff was 35-year-old left-hander Ray (Slim) Caldwell who went 16-10, 4.47. Caldwell, who pitched 12 years in the American League, had been signed by Kansas City as a free agent in 1922 and had a 22-12, 3.59 record. When he died in 1967, The Sporting News said “Caldwell had a stormy and sometimes dramatic career in the Big Time… He was in constant hot water with his employers for extra-curricular activities.” He spent only one year in the minors, with McKeesport (Ohio-Pennsylvania) in 1910, coming up to New York in September. He pitched for the Yankees through 1918. His best year was 1914 when he went 18-9, 1.94. The Sporting News said, “Once in 1916 when the New Yorkers were blowing the pennant, he took French leave after the club had blown six straight to the Browns. When next heard from, he was playing under an assumed name in a league in Panama. Eventually he was forgiven and rejoined the club.” Caldwell was a good hitter with a .248 major league career average and in 1917 hit three homers in three games, two as a pinch-hitter, a role in which he was frequently used. In December 1918 he was traded to the Red Sox in a seven-player deal.
Caldwell started 1919 with Boston but was released in August and signed by Cleveland as a free agent. In his first start for the Indians, August 25, at Cleveland, he was beating the Athletics 2-1 in the ninth inning with Joe Dugan at bat. The Sporting News correspondent wrote, “There was a blinding flash that seemed to set the diamond afire. All at once Caldwell was knocked flat by the shock. He lay there for a moment and then got up, shook himself and was ready to pitch again. He retired Dugan and the Tribe won. Caldwell said, ‘I never saw the lightning, I just felt it.’” When catcher Steve O’Neill saw what happened to Caldwell, he took off his mask and threw it as far as he could, not wanting to attract any lightning bolts. Sixteen days later, on September 10, Caldwell pitched a 5-0 no-hitter against his old team, the Yankees. In 1920, he had his best year (20-10, 3.86) for Cleveland’s World Series champions. He made only one start in the Series, at Brooklyn in the third game, and lasted only 1/3 inning, giving up both Dodger runs (one unearned) on two hits and a walk in Cleveland’s 2-1 loss. He dropped off to 6-6, 4.90 in 1921, mostly in relief, and was released by the Indians in November.
Caldwell stayed with the Blues for three years, then pitched in the Southern Association for Little Rock (1925-27) and Memphis (1928), leading the league in losses in 1926 (22) and 1927 (20). He dropped down to the Class B Central League in 1929, then began a comeback late in that year with Birmingham (Southern) going 4-2, 1.80. In 1930 he was 20-12, 4.43 and in 1931 19-7, 3.45 in helping pitch the Barons to the pennant. In the opening game of the 1931 Dixie Series, before a capacity crowd of 20,074, the 43-year-old Caldwell bested Houston’s 20-year-old sensation, Dizzy Dean, winning 1-0 in what Birmingham fans for many years called the greatest game ever played at historic Rickwood Field. Caldwell lost a rematch to Dean 2-0 four days later at Houston. With the series tied at three wins apiece and Houston threatening in the ninth, Caldwell came in to retire the last two batters, preserving the 6-3 win over the top 100 Buffaloes. For his achievements, Caldwell was named to the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame in 1943. He was able to pitch only 91 innings in the next three years and retired after the 1933 season.
The other member of Kansas City’s big four starters was 30-year-old right-hander Roy Wilkinson (18-6, 4.60). He came to Kansas City early in 1922 from the White Sox. Wilkinson was brought up from Columbus late in 1919, going 1-1, 2.05, then pitched in two World Series games in relief. He went 7-9, 4.03 for Chicago in 1920 and a disastrous 4-20, 5.13 in 1921. Wilkinson pitched in the American Association for 12 years. In addition to Columbus, he was with the Blues from 1922-25 and Louisville from 1925-32.
In its remaining 30 years in the American Association, the Blues’ most memorable champions played in 1929 and 1939, with each earning a spot in the top 100. In 1954, the team was displaced to make room for the Kansas City Athletics moving west from Philadelphia. Today, the city is represented by the American League’s Royals.
Behind a trio of minor-league all stars who collected nearly 8,000 hits among them, the 1923 Blues outlasted another fine top 100 team to earn their own place on the list. In collecting the second most wins in league history, the team also set another enduring mark. Due entirely to a starting lineup that all batted over .300, the ’23 Blues achieved the highest team batting total in American Association history.
|1923 American Association Standings|
|1923 Kansas City Blues batting statistics|
|Bobby Roth (St. Paul)||OF||133||518||110||168||97||32||8||12||74||52||19||.324|
|George Armstrong (SP)||3B,1B||95||326||60||100||45||18||3||4||39||17||6||.307|
|1923 Kansas City Blues pitching statistics|