Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
In 1907, the Wichita club in the Western Association won its league title with ease. Gracing the roster of this champion was a fleet outfielder who would go on to be a stolen base champion in the American League.
The city of Wichita, located in southern Kansas, joined the world of professional baseball in 1887, placing a team in the Western League. The Wichita Braves joined the league on July 26 as a replacement franchise. A brief seven weeks later, the team disbanded on September 5, the owner of a 7-24 record.
Eighteen years later, a team called the Wichita Jobbers (named for the oil industry) joined the Class D Western Association which was upgraded to Class C during the campaign. The circuit, a successor to the Missouri Valley League of 1902-04, was won by the Jobbers in 1905, as Wichita eased to the flag by two games over Oklahoma City. In 1906, the Jobbers fell back a notch into second as Topeka bested them by 6.5 games. The next year, Wichita surged back to the top.
The 1907 Jobbers ran away with the pennant. They won on opening day and were never out of first place, finishing with a stupendous 98-35,.737 record, 15.5 ahead of Oklahoma City. The club had a team batting average of .256 with a league leading 1,191 hits.
The Jobbers were managed by 33-year-old first baseman Jack Holland who was third in the league in batting (.307). Holland had started his pro career in 1897 as a pitcher with Hot Springs in the Arkansas State League. He soon shifted to the outfield and then first base because of his hitting. His first managerial experience was in 1906 when he replaced William Kimmel at Wichita in mid-season. In 1909 he moved with the Wichita franchise to the Class A Western League. After that season he purchased the Pueblo Western League club and moved it to St. Joseph, MO, and was owner-manager there until July, 1917, when he shifted his franchise to Hutchinson, KS. In June, 1918, Holland again transferred his club, this time to Oklahoma City which would be his home the rest of his life. The 1919 season was his last as field manager. The Indians won the Western League pennant in 1923. After the 1927 season Oklahoma City and Tulsa tried to move into the Texas League, but permission to do so was denied by the National Association. In the spring of 1928 Holland made the newspapers when he announced that any bachelor Indians player who got married during the season would spend his honeymoon with a lower classification team. “No player can do his best in competition and accept the responsibilities of a bride at the same time,” he declared. In November, 1932 Oklahoma City and Tulsa finally transferred to the Texas League. In 1935 the Indians finished first, swept the playoffs and defeated Atlanta in the Dixie Series. Unfortunately, Holland’s health had been declining and he passed away in March, 1936. His son, John D. Holland, was the team’s president until 1942 when the club was sold. After World War II John Holland worked in the Chicago Cubs farm system until 1957 when he became vice-president and general manager of the National League team. In 1976 he was named to the Cubs’ board of directors, serving until his death in 1979.
Patrolling center field for the 1907 Wichita squad was 20-year-old Clyde (Deerfoot) Milan, who finished fourth in the batting race (.304) and led the team in stolen bases (38). In August, he was purchased by Washington and was with the Senators for 33 years, 16 as a player (including one as player-manager) and 17 as a coach. Milan and Walter Johnson joined the team the same month and were roommates for ten years. In 1912 Milan dethroned Ty Cobb as American League stolen base champion, swiping 88 to set a league record. He again led the league in 1913 with 75 stolen bases, but Cobb regained the record in 1915 with 96. Milan had a career .285 average and stole 495 bases. Senators’ owner Clark Griffith called him Washington’s greatest center fielder. “He played center field more shallow than any man in baseball,” Griffith told The Sporting News in 1953, “He was the best hitter on many of my teams in Washington. Never was there a more popular player on our team.” Milan managed the Senators for one year, finishing sixth. Reportedly he was too easy-going. He managed New Haven (Eastern) in 1924 and Memphis in 1925-26. He returned to Washington as a coach in 1928-29, then managed Birmingham and Chattanooga from 1930-37. His 1931 Barons won the Southern Association title and beat Houston, another Top 100 team, in the Dixie Series. He came back to the Senators to coach in 1938. Milan was with the team in spring training in Orlando, FL, March 3, 1953 when he suffered a fatal heart attack after hitting fungoes.
Also in the Wichita outfield was the league’s batting champion, Beals Becker, who hit .310 and also went 5-5 as a part-time pitcher. Becker, a 21-year-old, 5’9” left-handed hitter and a Kansas native, was in his second year with the Jobbers. He went directly to the majors in 1908 with Pittsburgh and also played for Boston, New York, Cincinnati and Philadelphia in an eight-year National League career, batting .276 with 129 stolen bases in 876 games. Becker was a member of three pennant-winning teams, the Giants in 1911-12 and the Phillies in 1915. His best year was 1914 when he hit.325-9-66 in 138 games for Philadelphia. From 1916-25 he played for Kansas City, Sacramento, Seattle and Vernon.
The Jobbers’ third outfielder was 23-year-old Harry (Dick) Bayless, who was in his fifth year in the league. He had come to Wichita from Joplin, his hometown team, where he had played three years. In his only season with the Jobbers he batted .297, fifth in the league. He was sold to Detroit and then to Cincinnati where he saw his only major league action, hitting .225 in 19 games for the Reds in 1908. Bayless played five seasons in the Pacific Coast League (1912-16) for Vernon, Venice and Salt Lake, managing Vernon part of 1915. After one season with Denver (Western) he left baseball. He lost his life in a copper mine explosion at Santa Rita, NM, in December 1920.
Wichita had another league leader in third baseman Gus Hetling, who hit .279 and was tops in hits (149) and times at bat (542). His only major league experience was two games in 1906 with Detroit, going 1-for-7. The White Sox purchased him at the end of the 1907 season, but returned him to Wichita before the next campaign. He led the Western Association in batting (.318) and hits (163) in 1908. He was on the rosters of two American League teams, Philadelphia and St. Louis, but never got into any games. He played in the Pacific Coast League for six years (1910-15) with Portland, Oakland and Vernon. In 1912 Hetling hit .297 in 202 games to help lead Oakland to its first pennant and was voted the PCL’s Most Valuable Player. His reward was a new Chalmers touring car, the same prize given to the MVPs of the two major leagues. Chalmers was one of the most expensive automobiles on the market at that time.
The Jobbers’ catcher was Art (Six O’Clock) Weaver, who finished right behind Bayless in batting at .294. Weaver, a 28-year-old Wichita native, had caught for the Cardinals, Phillies and Browns from 1902-05. After the 1907 season he was purchased by the White Sox and played for them briefly in 1908. In the majors he hit .183 in 86 games. Weaver was tall and very thin and received his unique nickname from fans who said that when he stood behind the plate he looked like the hands of a clock at dinner time.
Wichita’s top pitcher was 23-year-old right-hander Harley Young (29-4), who led the league in wins and percentage (.879). He was sold to Pittsburgh and in 1908, his only major league season, he was 0-3, 2.62 in 14 games for the Pirates and Boston Braves. The Jobbers’ other 20-game winner was George (Dick) Speer, 21, who went 21-10, finishing second in the Western Association in strikeouts (217) and first in walks (132). The 5-9” lefthander won 68 games for Wichita in 1906-07-08 and was purchased by Detroit. He had a 4-4, 2.83 record for the American League champion Tigers in 1909. Speer then returned to the minors where he played and managed until 1925.
After one more year in the Western Association, Wichita jumped to the Class A Western League, where they would remain off and on for another 46 years. Over that span, the team won flags in 1921, 1930 and 1955. After the latter pennant, which came from a third place club, Wichita upgraded to the American Association for two different stays (1956-58, 1970-84) before joining the Texas League in 1987, where they remain to this day. During these latter Association years, the team didn’t win any pennants although it won regular season crowns in 1957 and 1972. In the Texas League, the club met with more success as they won championships in 1987, 1992 and 1999.
Led by the speedy Clyde Milan, the Wichita Jobbers won the pennant with one of the best records in minor league history. Not only did the team finish with the second best record in Western Association history, it also boasted the third best record of any 20th century minor league team.
|1907 Western Association Standings|
|OKLAHOMA CITY||86||54||.614||15.5||WEBB CITY||65||70||.481||37.5|
|1907 Wichita Jobbers batting statistics|
|1907 Wichita Jobbers pitching statistics|