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Top 100 Yankees Honorable Mentions: Deadball Era

Highlighting the players integral to the Highlander days (and a smidge later).

Hilltop Park New York
Hilltop Park

Our long-running offseason series on the Top 100 Yankees in franchise history has come to an end. But before we fully bid adieu to this project, we wanted to salute some more Honorable Mention Top 100 candidates who just fell short. As we’ve said multiple times, average voting margins were razor-thin, so it’s really just a rounding error that they weren’t included; do not read too much into it. On each of the next four days, we will briefly discuss six Yankees from different general eras who would’ve easily made a Top 125 list.

Enjoy! - Eds.


Over the last few months, we’ve had the unique opportunity to narrate the lives of the Top 100 Yankees in franchise history. It’s been a rewarding exercise in that over the course of writing each biography, we’ve gotten to learn the story of our subjects as people as much if not more so as ballplayers. It was difficult to whittle the list down to 100 players, with many deserving Yankees just missing out, so starting today we’ll give some appreciation to the honorable mentions, starting with the players from the Deadball Era and the New York Highlanders.

Kid Elberfeld

Position: Shortstop
Born: April 13, 1875 (Pomeroy, OH)
Died: January 13, 1944 (Chattanooga, TN)
Yankee Years: 1903-09
Yankee Stats: 667 G, 2,761 PA, .268/.340/.333, 4 HR, 330 R, 257 RBI, 106 wRC+, 19.1 rWAR, 16.8 fWAR

Kid Elberfeld, New York Highlanders, Baseball Card Portrait, American Tobacco Company, 1909 Photo by: GHI Vintage/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

One of the best hitting shortstops of his generation, Norman Arthur “Kid” Elberfeld was as well known for his cantankerous attitude as his exploits on the diamond.

Elberfeld had carved out a place as one of the stars of the game by the turn of the century, but his reputation as “the dirtiest, scrappiest, most pestiferous, most rantankerous [sic], most rambunctious ball player that ever stood on spikes,” meant that he never stuck long on any team, moving between Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Detroit in the first four years of his career. Tigers manager and future Yankees GM Ed Barrow fell out with his shortstop by 1903 and dealt him to the newly-founded New York Highlanders.

The man known as “The Tabasco Kid” got off to a flying start in his first season at Hilltop Park, batting .301 in 125 games after his trade including a 3-2 victory over Philadelphia in which he recorded all four of his team’s hits and drove in all three runs. He would sit behind only Honus Wagner among shortstops over the next three years by batting .275 while also armed with a cannon arm that made him one of the best at turning two, though his 1906 campaign would be cut short by suspension after two fights with umpire Silk O’Loughlin.

By the end of his Yankees tenure, Elberfeld had estranged most of his teammates. His final season in New York was ended early after getting spiked by a baserunner, and Elberfeld had a disastrous spell as manager of the team, losing 15 of his first 18 games and ending his lone campaign as skipper with a 27-71 record.

Jimmy Williams

Position: Second base
Born: December 20, 1876 (St. Louis, MO)
Died: January 16, 1965 (St. Petersburg, FL)
Yankee Years: 1903-07
Yankee Stats: 685 G, 2,838 PA, .261/.321/.364, 16 HR, 290 R, 358 RBI, 106 wRC+, 14.5 rWAR, 12.7 fWAR

Courtesy of Boston Public Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jimmy Williams set an MLB rookie record with 27 triples in 1899 with the Pirates, his 27-game hitting streak that season also standing as a rookie record until 1987.

He followed manager John McGraw to the Orioles shortly thereafter in the American League’s first couple seasons, but found himself transferred to the Highlanders just two years later when Baltimore was disbanded for the establishment of an AL team in New York. Williams led the team in doubles (30), triples (12), and RBI (82) in his first season, but his error against Boston on the final day of the 1904 season helped cost New York their first pennant.

Williams would never approach the heights he hit with the Pirates and Orioles, when he was a perennial .300 hitter, but he was considered a team captain and one of the Highlanders’ main offensive contributors. He would even hold the franchise record for RBI by a second baseman — until being surpassed by Tony Lazzeri in 1930 — before being traded to the Browns, for whom he’d play his final two seasons.

Al Orth

Position: Starting pitcher
Born: September 5, 1872 (Sedalia, MO)
Died: October 8, 1948 (Lynchburg, VA)
Yankee Years: 1904-09
Yankee Stats: 145 GS, 72-73, 1,172.2 IP, 2.72 ERA (103 ERA+), 2.48 FIP, 3.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 1.131 WHIP, 6.8 rWAR, 16.3 fWAR

Highlanders’ Orth Follows Trough Photo by Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Jack Chesbro holds the crown as the first star pitcher in franchise history, but Al Orth was the clear number two during the early Highlander years.

A grizzled veteran by the time he made it to New York, Orth had successful stints in Philadelphia and Washington, but a rocky start to his 1904 campaign saw him traded to the Highlanders. His season did a one-eighty, with Orth going 11-6 with a 2.68 ERA to keep his new team in the pennant race until the final day of the season. Two years later, he would have one of the best seasons by a starting pitcher in early Yankees history, going 27-17 in 39 starts, with a 2.34 ERA and 6.0 fWAR across 338.2 innings, though he would be plagued by arm issues in his final three seasons.

Orth is joined by Cy Young, Nolan Ryan, Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Bunning, and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers with at least 100 wins in the AL and NL. Known as “The Curveless Wonder” for his lack of a breaking ball, Orth instead relied on changing speeds and precise command (as well as a spitball learned from Chesbro) to fool hitters. He was even an accomplished batsman, appearing 40-50 times per season in the outfield for the Highlanders, and he would hit .266/.297/.333 with three home runs and a 94 OPS+ across his five-plus years in New York.

Hal Chase

Position: First base
Born: February 13, 1883 (Los Gatos, CA)
Died: May 18, 1947 (Colusa, CA)
Yankee Years: 1905-13
Yankee Stats: 1,061 G, 4,473 PA, .284/.311/.362, 20 HR, 551 R, 494 RBI, 97 wRC+, 9.5 rWAR, 9.6 fWAR

Hal Chase Of The Highlanders Photo by Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Known as one of the slickest fielding first basemen in MLB history, Hal Chase is far more notorious for his ban from the sport for betting on and even throwing games while with the Reds.

“Prince Hal” was viewed by many as the first homegrown star of the Highlanders, routinely placing among the league leaders in average, RBI, and stolen bases, but his tenure in New York was constantly marked by controversy. He threatened to leave the team in 1907 for the outlaw California League unless his pay was increased. He actually left a year later when Elberfeld was named player-manager over him and then again two years later to try to force ownership to fire manager George Stallings — getting his wish but only managing for one season.

The Yankees eventually traded him to the White Sox in 1913 over fears he was “laying down” (intentionally throwing games). He is identified as one of the people who brought the idea of throwing a World Series to Black Sox scandal ringleader Abe Attell. His MLB career ended in disgrace, first getting dumped by the Reds and then Giants for suspicions over throwing games before he was informally banned for life by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Jack Warhop

Position: Starting pitcher
Born: July 4, 1884 (Hinton, WV)
Died: October 4, 1960 (Freeport, IL)
Yankee Years: 1908-15
Yankee Stats: 150 GS, 68-92, 1,412.2 IP, 3.12 ERA (97 ERA+), 3.18 FIP, 2.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.250 WHIP, 17.8 rWAR, 10.4 fWAR

Portrait of Jack Warhop Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Jack Warhop is best known for surrendering Babe Ruth’s first two home runs, but he was a more than capable pitcher during the dark early days of the Highlanders.

Warhop has to be one of the unluckiest pitchers in league history, never finishing with a winning record despite a career ERA of 3.12. New York failed to score in 23 of his 92 losses and he set an MLB single-season record by losing five games 1-0 in 1914. A year later, he gave up the two homers to Ruth and was subsequently released at the end of the season.

Nicknamed “Crab” for his unorthodox submarine delivery, Warhop was consistently among the league leaders in hit batsmen, likely on account of the wonky release point, and is the franchise leader with 114 HBP. He was also known for his small stature though was still respected by his peers:

“(Jack) Warhop has not the size or strength to strike a ball down the groove with (Walter) Johnsonian speed. His fast ball and curve, though fair, are not extraordinary, but the way he mixes them with his slow ball - combined with his extraordinary control - would make him a valuable asset to any club.”

Jack Quinn

Position: Starting pitcher
Born: July 1, 1883 (Stefurov, Slovakia)
Died: April 17, 1946 (Pottsville, PA)
Yankee Years: 1909-12, 1919-21
Yankee Stats: 145 GS, 81-65, 1,270 IP, 3.15 ERA (106 ERA+), 2.91 FIP, 3.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.282 WHIP, 13.9 rWAR, 18.1 fWAR

Jack Quinn of the Yankees 1910 Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images

The most famous player to hail from Slovakia, Quinn (born Joannes “Jan” Pajkos) enjoyed an impressive 23-year MLB career before retiring in 1933 at the age of 50.

Quinn enjoyed two separate stints in New York, first with the Highlanders from 1909-1912 before returning to the recently-renamed Yankees from 1919-1921. Future teammate Orth discovered his talent while Quinn was pitching for a semipro team from Richmond and the Highlanders drafted him. He hit the ground running his rookie year, with a 1.97 ERA in 23 appearances, and followed it up as a full-time member of the starting rotation in 1910 by going 18-12 in 31 starts with a 2.37 ERA in 235.2 innings. Things went south from there, culminating in an ugly 5.79 ERA across 18 appearances in 1912 that ended with a suspension for throwing his glove at umpire O’Loughlin and New York selling his contract to Rochester.

He again would experience early success in his second stint with the Yankees before petering out, going a combined 33-24 in 63 starts with a 2.89 ERA across 519.1 innings between 1919 and 1920. But then things unraveled quickly in 1921, Quinn’s ERA inflating to 3.78 while making just 13 starts. He was getting shelled for four runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings in relief of Bob Shawkey in Game 3 of the World Series as the Yankees would lose in their first taste of the Fall Classic, five games to three to the Giants. His story has a happy ending, however, as he experienced improbable success pitching for Philadelphia in his mid-40s, capturing three straight pennants and two World Series titles.

References

Baseball Reference — Kid Elberfeld

FanGraphs — Kid Elberfeld

SABR, Simpkins, Terry — Kid Elberfeld

Baseball Reference — Jimmy Williams

FanGraphs — Jimmy Williams

SABR, Tourangeau, Dixie — Jimmy Williams

Baseball Reference — Al Orth

FanGraphs — Al Orth

SABR, Hauser, Chris — Al Orth

Baseball Reference — Hal Chase

FanGraphs — Hal Chase

SABR, Kohout, Martin — Hal Chase

Baseball Reference — Jack Warhop

FanGraphs — Jack Warhop

Pinstripe Alley — Jack Warhop

Baseball Reference — Jack Quinn

FanGraphs — Jack Quinn

SABR, Faber, Charles F. — Jack Quinn


Read more: Pinstripe Alley’s Top 100 Yankees
Other Honorable Mentions: Older Dynasties; Newer Dynasties; Recent Years