Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
In starting the American Association’s first dynasty, the 1905 Columbus Senators became the first league club to reach the century mark in wins. They accomplished the feat with the help of a farsighted owner who placed the club in unique surroundings, starting a trend which would be felt all across baseball.
In 1867, the city of Columbus, situated in central Ohio, first captured the public’s eye in baseball matters. Here, the Capital club became the first victim, losing 90-10, to the famed Washington Nationals while the latter was on baseball’s first cross-country road trip. Ten years later, a Columbus club called the Buckeyes entered the International Association, a group of professional teams scattered from Canada to Ohio. Among the seven members who played for the championship, the Buckeyes finished last, sporting a 4-8 record.
In 1883, Columbus made the jump to the big leagues, joining the fledgling American Association as an expansion team. In its first season, the Buckeyes finished seventh of eight teams with a 32-65 record. The following season, the team vaulted to second, nearly reversing their record with a 69-39 mark. Following the season, the team dropped out of the league.
Three years later, a team called the Senators played a two-year stint in the Tri-State League. After a third place finish in 1888, the team rejoined the American Association--this time for a three-year stay. The highlight of the visit was a strong second place finish in 1890 with a 79-55 club. After the Association’s demise, Columbus moved to the Western League in 1892, remaining with the league for only a year.
In 1896, a team called the Buckeyes came back to the Western League, this time for four years. During the stretch, the team won no pennants, once again settling for a strong second place, this time behind one of the greatest 19th century teams - the Indianapolis Hoosiers of 1897. The Columbus franchise moved to Grand Rapids, MI, in July, 1899. During the winter of 1899-1900, the Bobby Quinn era of baseball in Columbus began. Quinn, a native of the city, had caught for several minor league teams in the 1890s. He returned to join with Ernest S. Barnard, then sports editor of the Columbus Dispatch and later president of the American League, and sports writer Jack Ryder to organize a team to play in the Interstate League. In 1901, that club played in the Western Association and a year later became one of the charter members of the new American Association.
In the first half of its existence, the American Association established a record of stability unmatched in minor league history. For the next 51 years the league comprised the same eight cities except for 1914-15 when the Toledo Mud Hens, owned by the Cleveland Indians, played in the latter city to give it continuous baseball and avoid invasion by the Federal League.
| Robert Quinn|
(photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame)
Quinn became such an important figure in the first half of the 20th century that, when he died in 1954, his obituary in The Sporting News covered two full pages. He was always considered one of the best judges of players in the game. In 1904, he hired Bill (Derby Day) Clymer to manage the Senators. Clymer got his nickname from his habit of clapping his hands and shouting “It’s Derby Day today!” to exhort his players. Under Quinn and Clymer, the team showed life by finishing third, rebounding from second division finishes in the first two years of the Association. The next season, while playing in fancy new digs, the team would reach the top for the first of three pennants in a row (1905-06-07), starting the new league’s first dynasty.
Up until the first decade of the 20th century, ball teams played in wooden ballparks. Wood was inexpensive and the parks easy to build, making sense to baseball’s cost-conscious independent operators. However, when Columbus’ owners finished in the black in 1904, they decided to funnel the profits into a new project. First, they purchased the previously leased ball yard. Next, they tore down the wooden grandstand and Quinn supervised the construction of 10,000-seat Neil Park, baseball’s first steel and concrete structure.
Enjoying their new surroundings, the Senators roared to the flag in 1905, finishing with a 100-52, .658 record, eight games ahead of Milwaukee. Also enjoying the season were more than 280,000 fans--more than 100,000 ahead of runner-up Minneapolis.
Clymer, 32, also the team’s backup infielder, was in the sixth year of what would be a lengthy 29-year career as a minor league manager. In all, he managed in 12 different cities in eight different leagues. The string was broken by a one-year term as a coach for the Cincinnati Reds in 1925. In 1927, Clymer managed another of the top 100 teams--the International League’s Buffalo Bisons. When he retired following the 1932 season, he had 2,122 wins under his belt.
Quinn stayed in Columbus through the 1916 season, when he became vice-president and business manager of the St. Louis Browns, building that team into a contender that narrowly missed winning the American League pennant in 1922. At that point, American League president Ban Johnson, wanting to get rid of infamous Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, told Quinn that if Bobby could get some money together, the Boston franchise would be his. Quinn put his life’s savings together with money from several investors and bought the Red Sox. He owned and operated the team for the next ten years until increasing financial problems forced him to sell the club to Thomas Yawkey in 1933, the depth of the depression.
Quinn then became, briefly, Brooklyn’s GM before returning to Boston in 1936 as president of the National League Braves, a position he held for the next ten years. In 1946, he turned the reins over to his son, John Quinn. Bobby’s last baseball job was curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. John Quinn was GM of the Braves for 23 years and Phillies for 13 years. Bobby’s grandsons, Bob and Jack, have had lengthy careers in sports. Bob Quinn has held executive positions with the Indians, Yankees, Reds and Giants and is now Senior Advisor of Baseball Operations for San Francisco. Jack Quinn was GM of another of the 100 top minor league teams, the 1970 Hawaii Islanders and later was president of the NHL St. Louis Blues. Bob’s son, Robert J. Quinn is making it a four-generation baseball family as San Francisco’s vice-president for finance.
Quinn and Clymer’s 1905 club was an experienced outfit, with most of the starting nine being veterans of the major leagues. The two best hitters patrolled the outfield, Ollie Pickering (.326) and Bunk Congalton (.314). Pickering played for Louisville, Cleveland, Philadelphia, the St. Louis Browns and Washington, compiling a .272 average. He was also the American League’s first batter. On opening day of the circuit’s first major league campaign, 1901, three of the four scheduled games were rained out. The only one played was Cleveland at Chicago and Pickering was the Indians’ leadoff man. Congalton played four seasons for the White Sox, Indians and Red Sox, batting .290. Among other starters who saw major league action were second baseman Zeke Wrigley (.258), shortstop Rudy Hulswitt (.276), third baseman Jap Barbeau (.246) and outfielder Lefty Davis (.278).
Hulswitt, who played until 1912 and then became a manager, returned to Columbus to pilot the Senators in 1915-16. When he was managing Danville in the Three-I League in 1923, he recommended one of his pitchers to his old boss, Quinn, now running the Red Sox. Quinn bought the young hurler, future Hall-of-Famer Red Ruffing. Hulswitt went to work scouting for the Red Sox the next year. He was a Red Sox coach in 1931-33, then scouted for Quinn for the Dodgers and Braves until he retired in 1947.
One key player of the Columbus club never saw the light of the majors, yet overcame a potentially crippling handicap to enjoy a professional career that far exceeded all of his teammates. The 32-year-old first baseman George (Dummy) Kihm (.285) was a deaf-mute, yet was in the 11th season of what would be a 17-year career. During his playing days, spent largely in the high minors, Kihm amassed 2,245 hits while compiling a .293 average.
The first string catcher was 37-year-old Jack Ryan (.285) who had played in the majors off and on from 1889-1903 for five different teams. However, he was not the oldest Senator. That distinction fell to 40-year-old right-hander Bill Hart who joined Columbus in mid-season after spending all of 1904 and the first half of 1905 as an American Association umpire. He had an 11-5 record the rest of the season. Hart first pitched in the majors in 1886 with Philadelphia of the old American Association. He later pitched for Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cleveland with a 66-119, 4.64 record. Hart continued pitching until 1910 when he was 45 and had a 251-253, 2.64 record in the minors. He went back to umpiring and worked in the National League in 1915.
Assisting Hart in the mound corps was a pair of 20-game winners, Gus Dorner (29-8) and Charles (Heinie) Berger (25-14). Dorner led the Association in wins while Berger paced the circuit with 200 strikeouts. After pitching in a handful of major league games in 1902-03, Dorner moved back to the majors in 1906, compiling an 8-26 record for Cincinnati and Boston. After 16- and 19-loss seasons in 1907-08 and a 1-2 mark in 1909, Dorner left the big leagues, the owner of a pedestrian 35-69 record. Berger pitched for Cleveland from 1907-10 with a 39-25, 2.60 record.
By 1909, the major leagues had followed Columbus’ lead by constructing the majors’ first steel and concrete stadium - Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. Over the next few years, a half-dozen more teams followed suit. Thanks in large part to the example shown in 1905 by Columbus, the era of the classic stadium had arrived.
The 1905 champions followed up their victory with another pair in 1906-07, giving the Association its first three-time winner. Through the rest of the 20th century, Columbus fielded teams in both the American Association and International League. During this span of time, the city hosted numerous other champions in both leagues, including top 100 teams in 1933 and 1992. Currently, Columbus has a team in the International League, the top farm team of the Yankees.
The 1905 Senators took a bold step forward. Not content with the fly-by-night appearance of a wooden ballyard, they, behind the efforts of Bobby Quinn, opted for something new--helping to lift baseball from the age of the ballpark to the age of the stadium.
|1905 American Association Standings|
|1905 Columbus Senators batting statistics|
|1905 Columbus Senators pitching statistics|