Frank Chance's unusual batting order

In bygone eras, Major League managers regularly wrote down the same batting order, game after game.

Cubs fans of a certain age, like me, can immediately rattle off the top 6 in the Cubs' order that was favored by Leo Durocher during the team's revival from 1967-72: Kessinger, Beckert, Williams, Santo, Banks and Hundley.

A previous Cubs skipper had a different kind of set order.



Frank Chance, the team's Peerless Leader from mid-1905 through 1912, was as smart as anyone in the Deadball Era. He was always looking for any small thing that would given the Cubs an edge on their opponents.

But Chance paid little attention to batting order.

John McGraw, manager of the arch-rival Giants, attempted to alternate right- and left-handed batters when filling out his lineup card.

Chance employed a simpler method:

1. Outfielders batted first through third

2. Infielders batted fourth through seventh

3. Catcher batted eighth

4. Pitcher batted ninth

Chance's notion was that outfielders were the fastest players on the field, so they were most likely to beat out a bunt or infield hit, then steal a base.

He would write in the name of the fastest outfielder in the top slot, then the second and third fastest.

He would follow those with the 2 corner infielders, the first and third basemen, then the shortstop and second baseman.

And he would do so, with rare exceptions, even when regulars were injured and someone else manned their positions.



It's hard to argue with the success of the order, given that the Cubs won a record 116 games in 1906, Chance's first full season.

They lost 36 and tied 3, for a total of 155 games.

Here is how many of those games in which a specific spot in the order was occupied by players at a specific position:

1st: center fielder, 145

2nd: left fielder, 150

3rd: right fielder, 148

4th: first baseman, 154

5th: third baseman, 152

6th: shortstop, 151

7th: second baseman, 152

8th: catcher, 155

That is a total of 1,207 games, out of a possible 1,240 (155 times 8) -- a staggering 97.4 percent of all the Cubs' games.

Adding in the pitchers at 9th raises the percentage to 97.6.


NO. 1

Jimmy "Rabbit" Slagle had led the league in games played in 1905, with 155. In 1906, that number dropped to 127, as he missed 5 games in late June, 1 in August, then 19 in September, including the final 12.

Slagle batted first in every game he played.

Solly Hofman led off 15 of the 16 times that he replaced Slagle. The only time he played center and did not bat first was in a July game at Boston, in which Slagle started in left and batted first, with Hofman behind him.

Doc Gessler was at the top of the order 8 of the 17 times when he started in center. He batted second twice, third 4 times, and fourth through sixth. Those primarily were games late in the season, when Chance was resting some of his regulars to give the reserves some playing time.


NO. 2

Jimmy Sheckard played left field in each of his 149 games. He batted second in every one of them.

Hofman was No. 2 in his only game in left.

When Sheckard was sidelined for 5 games in July, Slagle moved to left but led off, with Gessler manning center and hitting second.


NO. 3

Right fielder Frank Schulte batted third in 145 games and Hofman did the same the 3 times he filled in for Schulte.

Note that Slagle, Sheckard and Schulte all batted left-handed. The only other regular who did so was Johnny Evers, who almost always batted seventh, so the Cubs' standard order was: 3 leftys, 3 rightys, 1 lefty and 1 righty.


NO. 4

Chance started 136 games at first base; Hofman, 17; and Gessler, 1. Each of them batted fourth in those games.

Hofman led off once and batted third once while playing first in 2 late-season games.


NO. 5

Harry Steinfeldt was fifth in the order while stationed at third in 150 games; Hofman, in 2.

Hofman started at third but batted eighth in a game at Brooklyn on Aug. 13, with catcher Pat Moran at No. 5 -- the only time all season a catcher did not bat eighth.

The next day's Chicago Tribune makes no mention of the unexpected assignments.

It may have been because Hofman went into the game batting .207. Or it may have been because it was his first game since July 31. Maybe both.

Whatever the reason, Hofman began the game by throwing wildly after fielding a grounder by the first batter. The Superbas scored 2 runs that inning, but managed only 1 more.

The Cubs, held to 1 run through 5 innings, scored 4, 1, 3 and 2 in the final 4 to win, 11-3. Hofman was 0 for 4; Moran, 3 for 4 plus a sacrifice bunt.

The Cubs' only other third basemen who did not bat fifth were

Joe Tinker (sixth, in a game on Oct. 1) and Johnny Evers (seventh, in a game on Oct. 4).


NO. 6

Tinker played short and batted sixth in all of his 147 other games.

Hofman did the same in 4 games. He led off while playing short once.

Evers batted seventh as shortstop in a game on Oct. 1.


NO. 7

Evers was seventh in the order in each of his 152 games at second base.

Steinfeldt was at second but batted fifth in a game on Oct. 1.


NO. 8

Johnny Kling held down the eighth spot in all 96 games that he started behind the plate.

Moran did so in 59 games.



Besides Hofman and Gessler, the Cubs used only 3 more reserves during the 1906 season. None of them were in any starting lineup.

Pete Noonan, age 24, pinch hit in 4 games and gave Chance a rest by taking over at first base during an 11-1 win at Boston on June 20.

Those were his only games as a Cub. He was traded to the Cardinals on July 1 along with pitcher Fred Beebe for Jack Taylor, a hurler whom the Cubs had sent to St. Louis in 1903.

Taylor, accused several times with throwing post-season games, had been 90-82 with a 2.67 ERA in his 6 seasons before that deal. He would go 12-3, 1.83, in 1906, then 7-5, 3.29, in 1907, the last of his 10 years in the big leagues.

Noonan was primarily a catcher. In his 3 seasons, he caught in 116 games and played first in only 28.


Tom Walsh, a 21-year-old catcher, entered games Aug. 15 and Sept. 26 on defense. He got to bat in the second game and struck out.

He was essentially a batting practice/bullpen catcher who was given a couple of opportunities to play in a game.

After the season, Walsh gave up baseball to join his father in the railroad contracting business.


Lewis "Bull Smith," 25, had played 13 games for the Pirates in 1904, batting just .143. He spent 1905 in the minors, then was swapped to the Cubs for 2 minor leaguers.

He made an out as a pinch hitter on April 16 and never appeared in another game for the Cubs or any other big league team.



Let's look again at the regulars in the Cubs' almost-permanent batting order in 1906. Here they are, in order, with their on-base percentages and OPS+:

1. Slagle, .324 and 84

2. Sheckard, .349 and 114

3. Schulte, .324 and 119

4. Chance, .419 and 158

5. Steinfeldt, .395 and 151

6. Tinker, .293 and 77

7. Evers, .305 and 89

8. Kling, .357 and 136

(Moran was .281, 82; Hofman, .326, 99)

Based on those numbers, a modern manager might have had lefty Sheckard lead off, then righty Steinfeldt second, followed by lefty Schulte and righty Chance.

Kling might have been moved up to fifth, followed by lefty Slagle and rightys Evers and Tinker.



As it was, Chance's order produced the most runs (704), hits (1,316) and triples (71) in the league, while ranking second in doubles (181) and home runs (20, of which Schulte hit 7 and nobody else more than 3).

The Cubs had the highest batting average (.262) and slugging percentage (.339), the second-highest on-base percentage (.328) and the best OPS (.667).

They walked the second most times (448) and struck out the second fewest (516).

The Cubs scored 4.57 runs per game, nearly half a run more than the No. 2 Giants (4.11) and more than 2 runs above the average of the 7 other teams (3.43).



As the years went by, and the Cubs' personnel changed, Chance modified his batting order philosophy.

In 1912, his final season as manager, his most frequent order by number of games was:

1st: left fielder, 147

2nd: right fielder, 128

3rd: shortstop, 137

4th: third baseman, 129

5th: center fielder, 94

6th: first baseman, 103

7th: second baseman, 117

8th: catcher, 152

The outfielders no longer were 1-3, as the center fielder dropped from first to fifth and the 2 others moved up 1 spot.

Shortstop rose to third, from sixth, and third baseman, from fifth to fourth.

First baseman fell by 2 spots, to sixth from fourth.

Only second baseman and catcher remained the same -- and no catcher batted anywhere but eighth all season.

Those 1912 numbers add to 1,080 games, of a possible 1,216 (152 times 8).

That is 82.9 percent -- far below the 97.4 in 1906.


NOS. 1-8

Still, Chance's order could be pretty rigid.

2 players, Hack Miller and Cy Williams, made 8 total starts in left field, usually patrolled by leadoff man Sheckard (139). When they did, they, too, batted first.

Miller batted second in all 13 games he played in right, as did regular Schulte (115).

Tinker was No. 3 when he played short (129). So were replacements Red Downs (6) and Tom Downey (2).

Cleanup was filled by third basemen Zimmerman (121), Downs (3), Tommy Leach (3), Downey (1) and Charley Moore (1).

Leach (71), Miller (18), Hofman (3) and Wilbur Good (2) all played center and batted fifth.

Vic Saier played 103 games at first while batting sixth. He hit fifth in 16 more. Zimmerman (19) and Hofman (9) also hit fifth and played first.

Evers (108) and Downs (9) were the second baseman in the 7 hole. Ed Lennox occupied that spot while playing third base in 19 games; Tinker, in 5.

The catchers who batted eighth were Jimmy Archer (115), Tom Needham (24), Dick Cotter (11), Harry Chapman (1) and Mike Hechinger (1). Another catcher, George Yantz, played 1 game and did not get to hit.



The 1912 Cubs scored 756 runs in their 152 games -- 1 run less in 5 fewer games than a year earlier.

The 1911 total, 757, was the most during any of Chance's 7 full seasons as manager. It also was 53 more, about a third of run per game, than the 704 the Cubs scored in 1906.

But they did not win the pennant in either 1911 or 1912, finishing second with 92 wins, then third with 91.

The problem was, their pitching was far worse during those years than it had been in the 116-win season.

The Cubs gave up 381 runs in 1906.

In 1911, they allowed 607, nearly 60 percent more than in 1906.

In 1912, they surrendered 668, 10 percent above the previous year, and nearly 300 runs and 75 percent than in 1906.

Their average yield was 2.46 runs per game in 1906, 3.87 in 1911 and 4.39 the following year.

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