Thursday, May 19, 2016

BASEBALL'S DYNASTIES AND THE PLAYERS WHO BUILT THEM: Omitted Bios (Chapter 2: Pittsburgh Pirates 1901-1903)

Here's the second installment of my omitted biography series. This post features left-handed pitcher Jesse Tannehill. It was a tough decision to leave Mr. Tannehill out of my book, but he did desert the Pirates before their appearance in baseball's first official World Series. Proving they could win without him, the Pirates defeated the Red Sox in a best-of-nine format. Pitchers Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe, (who are both featured in the book), stepped up during the 1903 regular season, gathering 49 victories between them.

Best Record: 103-36 (1902)
Number of Pennants: 3
Hall of Fame Players: Honus Wagner (SS), Fred Clarke (OF), Jack Chesbro (P)
Championships: 1 (Baseball's first World Series, 1903)


           The left-handed Tannehill was a top-notch hurler for Pittsburgh from 1898-1902. In that span, he compiled a healthy 107-49 record while keeping his ERA below the 3.00 mark every year. In all, he reached the 20-win threshold four times while wearing a Pirates uniform. Tannehill’s 2.18 earned run average in 1901 was tops in the National League. He posted a personal best of 1.95 the following year, but ended up with a rank of #3 behind Jack Taylor of the Cubs and Noodles Hahn of Cincinnati.
           Tannehill’s signature pitch was his curve ball, which was described by one source as “agonizingly slow.” He typically gave up a lot of hits—more than innings pitched in almost every season—and relied heavily on his team’s defense to back him up. He had pinpoint control, averaging less than 2 walks per nine frames over the course of his fifteen-year career. He never surrendered more than 63 bases on balls in any season.
In addition to his prowess on the hill, Tannehill was a pretty fair hitter. He batted .255 for his career with 83 extra-base hits in 507 games. A switch-hitter, he accrued an average of .250 or better on seven occasions including a career-high of .336 in 1900. He was so adept with a bat, in fact, that he was used as an outfielder in 87 games and was summoned to pinch-hit a total of fifty-seven times.

During the “war” between the American and National Leagues, rumors surfaced that multiple players from Pittsburgh had been negotiating with AL officials. Tannehill was accused of being a ring leader. This led to an altercation with utility man Jimmy Burke. During the scuffle, Tannehill dislocated his left shoulder. While under the influence of anesthesia, he allegedly admitted to owner Barney Dreyfuss that he had indeed been involved in conversations with AL president Ban Johnson. He offered names of other players involved though he never fingered himself as an instigator.

Tannehill eventually jumped to the American League in 1903, winning 15 games for the Highlanders (later known as the Yankees) in their inaugural season. 1911 was Tannehill’s last year in the big leagues. He continued in the minors until 1913. He later coached for the Phillies.


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