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The World Champion 1880 Washington Nationals, The Players
This nine ranks right after the 1867 club as the strongest to play for Washington prior to 1901. I would rank the 1885 Nationals third just behind them. For many years after 1880 you would read about the exploits of this team. This is another in a series of articles about the 1880 Washington Nationals.
George Derby – Pitcher
Born 6 July 1857 in Webster, Massachusetts. “The handsome young pitcher is 25 years old, and came originally from the interior of New York State. He became prominent as a ballist in 1878, as right fielder and change pitcher for the Hornell Club, and subsequently was the regular pitcher for the Syracuse Stars. He began last season with the Nationals and figured in right field and as change pitcher, showing remarkable endurance. In the field Derby has won a National reputation for “pick ups” and “daisies” or grass-cutters, and especially in throwing to the bases, in which he displays superior accuracy. His batting average is .251; fielding average, .905.”
His record in 1880, 10-7 with a nifty 0.58 ERA. In 1881 he was 29-26 2.20 ERA for the National League Detroit Wolverines. He collected 212 strikeouts to lead the league. The next year for Detroit he was 17-20 with a 3.26 ERA. For the two years he combined for 856 innings pitched. In 1883 his last season in the majors he was 2-10 5.85 ERA with the Buffalo Bisons. After that no mention is made of him leading one District paper to ask, “What happened to George Derby?” He died on the 4th of July 1925 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Charley N Snyder – Catcher
Born 6 October 6 1854 in the District. “A Washington boy, is 26 years old, and from the first developed remarkable ability as a catcher, and has always played behind the bat during his career, which is as follows: First, with the Junior Creightons on the White Lot; in 1873 as a professional with the old Washingtons; 1874 with the Baltimores; 1875 with the Philadelphias; 1876 and 1877 with the Louisvilles; and 1878 and 1879 with the Bostons. He will play catcher with the Nationals this season, and his friends predict for him an A1 batting score. His late averages were, batting, 234; fielding 835.” The leading batter on the 1880 team, he hit .303.
Charles “Pop” Snyder had an extremely long baseball career, especially given that he was a 19th Century catcher. He played 18 years in the majors between 1873 and 1891. Snyder was born in Washington, D.C. in 1854. Joe Gerhardt, another player whose career ran from 1873 to 1891, was also born in Washington, D.C. a few months later. Gerhardt and Snyder were both 18-year-old rookies on the 1873 Washington Blue Legs of the National Association. After the National Association folded, Snyder played in the National League for a few years, but moved to the American Association in 1882, the first year of its existence. “Pop Snyder was a brilliant defensive catcher . . .” – from The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. At age 33, in 1890, he played with the Cleveland entry in the American Association but then moved to the Cleveland entry in the Players League and after that in 1891 to the Cleveland entry in the National League. He finished out his major league career back with a Washington team, the 1891 Washington Statesmen, in the last year of the American Association. Snyder was primarily a catcher, appearing in 877 games at the position during an era when catchers took a beating due to lack of protective equipment. By the time 1891 came around, he was the oldest player in the American Association – although not as old as either Cap Anson or Jim O’Rourke, who were still playing in the National League. Snyder managed four seasons, winning the pennant as player-manager with the 1882 Cincinnati Red Stockings. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract mentions an occasion when Snyder returned a contract which the Reds had offered him, saying that the Reds should take some off of his contract and give it to another teammate who Snyder felt was underpaid. The Reds agreed and Snyder played for a bit less than the team had originally offered. He later was a major league umpire. Passed away on 29 October 1924 in the District, buried in Glenwood Cemetery.
Samuel L Trott – Catcher/Utility
Born March of 1859 in Maryland. “The tenth and youngest man on the nine is only 23 years old. He was born in the Nation’s Capital; and emerged from amateur obscurity in 1875 as catcher with the Nationals. Next year he went with the Athletics of Philadelphia. In 1877 he played the early part of the season in the West, returning home caught again on the National nine, continuing with it uninterruptedly. He is now first substitute and general utility man. His average last year was .200 for batting and .800 for fielding, and if he were more accurate thrower he would rank second to no catcher in the country.
Another left handed catcher, he could also play second and in the outfield. In late May 1880 the Nationals release Sam “Babe” Trott so he can sign with the Boston League Club as their regular catcher. “President Arthur Soden had arrived in Washington hat in hand for a catcher. Snyder has been getting most of the playing time and Sam Trott is the change catcher that still leaves Washington with Phil Baker as a backup catcher. Sam Trott fretted over his lack of playing time.“ ” . . . every finger of his two hands was as gnarled as a cypress-tree.” – H.L. Mencken, writing in his autobiography about knowing Sam Trott, who caught for most of his career without a glove. Sam Trott played catcher, infield, and outfield during eight seasons in the majors in the 1880’s. He also managed briefly in 1891. Trott played his first four seasons in the National League, but hit much better in the American Association in his last four seasons.
Oddly, his last season was his best with the bat. He hit .278 and slugged .454 on a team that hit only .229 and slugged .306. The writer H.L. Mencken, in his autobiography, says that his father employed Sam Trott as a cigar salesman and Trott later worked for a cigar factory.
Died 5 June 1925 in Catonsville, Maryland, at the age of 66.
Martin Powell – Infielder
“One of the new comers, who will guard first base for the Nationals, is 25 years of age and a native of Fitchburg, New York. He was first identified with the Lowell, Massachusetts Club for several years and spent the season of 1879 as first baseman for the Holyokes. He is retained, not only for his fielding qualities, but enjoys the reputation of being one of the heaviest batters in the country and will make his first appearance with the Nationals this afternoon. Powell’s averages are, batting .368; fielding 968.” Powell batted .292 in 1880.
The left hander was born 25 March 1856, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Martin Powell played three years in the National League and one in the Union Association. He finished second in batting average in the 1881 National League. Powell was born, and died, in Fitchburg, MA. However, his major league career was not spent with teams in Boston, but rather with teams in Detroit and Cincinnati. He did play in the minors for local teams – he was with Lowell in 1878 and Holyoke in 1879. He also played a couple years with Washington. On June 18, 1878, Lowell won a 13-inning game 1-0 over Springfield on the strength of Powell’s RBI single. Although Fitchburg, MA is a fairly small town in north-central Massachusetts, eight major leaguers (through 2009) have been born there, most in the 19th Century. Powell was the first. “I meet Martin Powell in the street nearly every day; he opens a clothing house in a few days. Martin was never much of a head-work player, but he was a good hitter, a more than fair first baseman and a man always to be depended on. It is a pity he was ever frightened off the diamond. I don’t think he had the seeds of consumption in him . . . but his sister died of the disease and Martin immediately makes up his mind that he is bound for the ‘happy hunting grounds’. – from a Fitchburg correspondent to Sporting Life, April 14, 1886. An obituary appears in the February 15, 1888 edition of Sporting Life. It says Martin began playing ball in 1876 with the amateur Grattan Club, and then with Rollstones. The article says he did die of consumption. Powell is mentioned in the Sporting Life of Oct. 28, 1893, in a reference that he was chosen over Dan Brouthers in 1882 when Cincinnati could have had either of them. He died 5 February 1888 in his home town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, he was just 31 years old.
Joseph J Gerhardt – Infielder
Born 14 February 1855 in the District. “He is well known here, being a native of this city, and bloomed into a base ballist naturally. He is 25 years old, and grasped the “rudiments” of the National game on the White Lot as one of the Junior Creightons. In 1873 he was employed as an “extra man” on the old Washingtons, and then played third base with the Baltimores for a season. In 1875 he was third baseman of the Mutuals, of New York; in 1876 first baseman of the Cincinnati Club; in 1877 second baseman of the Louisvilles, and 1878 and in 1879 the same for the Cincinnatis. As second baseman Gerhardt has few or no equals and will occupy that position for the Nationals. His batting average last year was .200, which was the first season that he was not foremost of the batters in the League, and his fielding average was .805.”
Joe batted .204 for Washington in 1880. Gerhardt was a weak-hitting second baseman who nevertheless played for many years in the majors due to his glove. In his 15-year career in the majors, from 1873-91, he hit only .227, but did have some decent years with the bat. In 1877, he hit .304, and in 1878 he hit .297. In 1883 he hit 9 triples and the next year he hit 8. He was the brother-in-law of George Winkleman. He set the record, since surpassed, of playing for eleven teams in his career. He managed twice in the majors and once in the minors. “Move Up” Joe Gerhardt died 11 March 1922 in Middletown, NY, and is buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery in the District.
William F McClellan – Infielder
Born 22 March 1856 in Chicago. “The famous shortstop, is 26 years old, and is a native of Chicago. His first appearance on the diamond was with the Memphis Reds in 1875, continuing with that club during the seasons of 1876 and 1877, and the ensuing year going with the famous Chicago White Stockings as second baseman. At the beginning of last season he was engaged by the Nationals, and played constantly on the nine during the season, principally as shortstop. His effectiveness, both in the field and at the bat, is such that he has been retained for the present season in his old position as guardian of the bases. His professional character ranks him one of the first shortstops in the country. His batting average is .309; his fielding average, .850.” he batted .301 for the team in 1880.
A switch hitter he was a left handed shortstop. Bill McClellan played eight seasons in the major leagues, spread out from 1878-88. Born in Chicago, IL, he broke in with the 1878 Chicago White Stockings. He had his peak years as a hitter in 1886 and 1887 with the Brooklyn Grays, when he was the oldest regular position player on the team. In 1887, he stole 70 bases and drew 80 walks. “It is needless to remark that Bill McClellan appeared on deck ‘as usual’. He is always in shape and ready for work. . . quiet Bill McClellan . . .” – Sporting Life, April 6, 1887. Went on to a long career in the minors playing until 1894. Died 3 July 1929, at the age of 73 in his home town on Chicago.
Philip Baker – Infielder
Born 19 September 1856 in Philadelphia. “The ex-captain of the nine is 24 years old and hails from Philadelphia. He began his professional career in the City of Brotherly Love as catcher for the Philadelphias in 1875. In 1876 he went with the Auburns as catcher and center fielder and remained during the succeeding season. The Hornells, of Hornellsville, New York, secured him as captain for the 1878 season, and he played with them as change catcher and center fielder. The club disbanded about the middle of the baseball year, he was engaged by the National Club to fill the same positions. Last season he was chosen captain of the Nationals and played to advantage as change catcher and center fielder. He is a good player of long experience and good judgment, and is considered one of the best third baseman in the ranks. This season he guards the middle field for the Nationals. His batting average is .291; fielding .800.” A left handed catcher who also play first and the outfield. He is considered a promising player but in injury 1883 with the Baltimore Association Club effectively ends his usefulness. He bats .288 for the 1884 Washington Union Club and .267 for the 1886 Washington League Club.
Phil Baker was a first baseman/outfielder/catcher nine years (1878-1890), three in the Majors (1883-1884;1886) and six in the minors (1878-1879;1885;1887-1889), losing three years on the Black List 1880-1882). He started playing baseball in the International Association in 1878 at age 21, and moved on to the National Association (1879). For reasons unknown, he was blacklisted but reinstated at the 1882 meetings of the American Association. He returned to the minors and played his final game in 1889 at age 33. He was an umpire in the National League for five games between June 10, 1889 and July 30, 1889, ending his baseball career at age 33.
Even though he caught only 50 games, he is tenth on the all-time list of “most games caught by a left-handed catcher”. Overall in MLB, he had 212 Hits, 134 Runs, 20 Doubles, 11 Triples, and 3 Home Runs at (.259/.293/.322) in 195 Games. Popular figure in the District, they held a benefit baseball game for him when he was left destitute with a large family to support. He died at age 83 at his daughter’s home after a long illness in Washington, DC and is buried at Glenwood cemetery in Washington.
Fred Warner – Infielder
“Philadelphia, contributed another proficient players. He is 26 years of age, and played first professionally with the Indianapolis Club in 1876, as third baseman. He remained with that club in 1877, and in 1878, the last season, playing shortstop, in which he ranked second to the champion George Wright, and stood ahead of Peters, Ferguson and Cary. Last season he played third base for the Clevelands, and will occupy the same position on the National Nine. His batting average is .247; fielding, 837.” Not much else is known about him. He played for Philadelphia in 1881 in the Eastern Championship Association and for Camden in 1883 then disappears.
John Morrissey – Infielder
Signed with Washington in late July of 1880 having played for the Eastern League Albany team. He broke in with the 1877 Janesville Club of the League Alliance. In 1879 played for Manchester of the National Association batting .250. A third baseman, John Morrissey played 12 games for the 1881 Buffalo Bisons at third base. The manager at the time was Jim O’Rourke, a very busy guy who, in addition to managing, played in every single game that season, appearing at five positions. O’Rourke played more third than anywhere else, but when he was elsewhere, Morrissey got his 12 opportunities. Born 20 December 1856 in Janesville, Wisconsin. Died 29 April 1884 in his home town. It has now been determined that the records for the 1882 Detroit Wolverines previously attributed to John Morrissey actually belong to Tom Morrissey. Tom, his brother, also played third base. Tom Morrissey was on the 1885 Nationals. Early in the season he was suspended for one year by the team for disobedience.
Stephen Dignan – Outfielder
Born 16 April 1859 in Boston. “A youth of 24 is a Boston boy. As soon as he developed any superior intellectual ability he entered the baseball fields of the various amateur clubs of the “Hub” and sprang into semi-professional prominence as a fielder of the Gen. Worth Club, of Boston, a co-operative organization of last season. He becomes a full fledges professional only with his association with the Nationals this season, where he will play left field, and is considered a winning card. Averages, batting .370; fielding .889.” A disappointment for the Nationals, he was released after batting .083 in three games. Later in 1880 he played briefly for Boston and Worcester in the National League. In 11 games he batted .318! Dignan attended Boston College from 1878 to 1889 and died 11 July 1881 in Boston, he was just 22 years old.
Tom Mansell – Outfielder
Born New Year’s Day in 1855 in Auburn, New York. In May, Steve Dignan, is been released. The press reports, Tom Mansell takes his place. He is well known as a member of the famous 1878 Hormells, from which Phil Baker and George Derby came. Not mentioned is that in 1879 he played in the National League for Troy and Syracuse. He batted .211 in 39 games in 1880. Long career in the minors, he played in the majors in 1883 and 1884, batting .259. He was the brother of Mike Mansell and John Mansell. He had a 44-year career on the police force of Kansas City, KS, rising to the position of Chief of Police, from which he retired three years before his death in 1934.