Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
| 1910 Joplin Miners|
1. Rohn, Manager; 2, Hall; 3, Bell; 4, Watson; 5, Ross;
6,Ellis; 7,Gregory; 8,Hawk; 9,Burton; 10,Hamilton;
11,Harlow; 12,Lowthers; 13,Kelly; 14,Lamb
In 1910, a team playing in Joplin, Missouri, claimed one of the top records in minor league baseball in the first decade of the 20th century. Although playing relatively early in baseball history, the league in which they played--the Western Association--was already in its fourth manifestation in less than 25 years.
The town of Joplin, located in southwestern Missouri, first fielded a professional baseball team in 1902. Here, a team called the Miners joined the Class D Missouri Valley League and finished fifth, 29 games behind the Nevada (Missouri) Lunatics. After another fifth by Joplin in 1903 followed by a third in 1904, the league changed names to a moniker used several times before--the Western Association.
The name Western was proving popular because it could easily describe most of the United States in 1900. Although located in what we now call the Midwest, the various variations of the league were considered in the West to people of the era, as would most areas of the country west of the Allegheny mountains.
During its first few years in the league, the Miners finished everywhere from second to last. The team topped out with a second place finish in 1906, a half-dozen games behind the Topeka White Sox. In 1909, the team in last place with a 20-43 record was forced to relocate to Webb City. The combined franchise finished 44 games in arrears with a 36-89 record. Little could anyone tell that the team would improve by almost 60 wins the very next year.
The 1910 Joplin Miners hammered their opponents from the outset. Sparked by a 19-game winning streak in July, which ended with a 5-4 loss to last-place Tulsa, the club finished the season with a sparkling 90-34, .726 record, 22 ˝ games ahead of Enid. In tallying up the season totals, the Miners finished with the best average (.287) as well as the most hits (1,003).
However, Joplin’s success did not translate into league-wide success. The 1910 season was a troubled one for the Western Association. Unusually cold weather in the early weeks of the campaign took its toll at the gate. Muskogee’s owners threw in the towel on June 1, returning the franchise to the league. The league directors tried to operate the club, but that became too expensive so they folded the team on July 23. Last-place Tulsa was willing to quit for the balance of the season to leave an even number of six clubs. The Spalding Guide reported that, “In a short while, Bartlesville encountered trouble by carrying too many high priced players and, being discouraged at not being able to finish higher, disbanded on August 1, with only a half month more to play. This left five clubs. El Reno, although in second place, paid up its players in full for the season, and gave up.” The remaining four teams finished the season, which closed as scheduled on August 16.
The Miners were piloted by 27-year-old Dick Rohn, from Sedalia, Mo., who was in his first full season as manager. Rohn, a first baseman, started playing pro ball in 1901 and had been with Atlanta and Macon in 1909. He managed Burlington in the Central Association from 1911-16, winning a pennant there in 1915.
The batting stars of the team included outfielder Bruce Ross (.377), who played in only 70 games, and first baseman Rohn (.324), who played in 100. Second baseman Joe Kelley (.303) and shortstop W.A. Burton (.300) were the only other players over .300. The team made up for a lack of power, by pilfering bases by the gross. Outfielder Harry Ellis led the league with 73, followed by G.W. Watson (68), Kelley (51) and Burton (48). In addition, Ellis led the league with 104 runs.
The pitching staff was aided by a pair of 20-game winners--Ralph Bell (21-7) and Mark Hall (21-9). Just missing the 20-win club were another pair--Earl Hamilton (19-8) and Howard Gregory (18-5).
The next season, three members of the staff were scooped up by the St. Louis Browns. Gregory and Ed Hawk (9-4) lasted just a few games in 1911, but Hamilton lasted a good deal longer than that. In a 14-year career, Hamilton went 115-147, 3.16, including a 16-win season for the sixth place Browns in 1914.
Hamilton returned to the Western Association in 1934 as the owner and operator of the Ponca City franchise, which he moved to St. Joseph in 1939. Following the 1940 season, he sold the club to the St. Louis Cardinals. During his seven years in the league, he was affiliated with the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels, his teams adopting the Angels’ nickname. In 1941, he owned and operated the Stockton Fliers, a charter member of the present California League, and was again affiliated with Los Angeles.
Following 1910, the Joplin Miners remained, off and on, in the Western League through the circuit’s demise in 1954. During its time in the Western Association, the club won its share of glory, taking home regular season crowns in 1928, 1930, 1936, 1941, and 1950, as well as playoff championships in 1922 and 1949 from non-first place finishes. The 1922 win was particularly sweet as they knocked off a top 100 team, the Enid Harvesters, to win the flag. When not playing in the Association, the town placed a team in the Western League (1917-21, 1933).
With their fabulous season, the Joplin Miners of ’10 have enscribed for themselves a permanent place in minor league history. Only one other team, in any of the four versions of the Western Association, spanning more than 50 years, has ever managed to beat the Miners’ .726 winning percentage.
|1910 Western Association Standings|
|1910 Joplin Miners batting statistics|
|Ed Lowthers (Muskogee)||SS,2B||68||223||38||65||10||8||1||14||.291|
|Ed Hawk (Tulsa)||P||15||48||6||10||1||0||0||2||.283|
|1910 Joplin Miners pitching statistics|
|Ed Hawk (Tulsa)||9||4||.692||15||41||55|
|A.F. Bridges (Guthrie)||4||4||.500||12||20||32|