Hardball Retrospective – What Might Have Been – The “Original” 1908 Cardinals

In “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original team. I calculated revised standings for every season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition.  Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

Expanding on my research for the book, the following series of articles will reveal the teams with the biggest single-season difference in the WAR and Win Shares for the “Original” vs. “Actual” rosters for every Major League organization. “Hardball Retrospective” is available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes and KoboBooks. The paperback edition is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace. Supplemental Statistics, Charts and Graphs along with a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com.

Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.


OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams

OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams

OPW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “original” teams

AWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “actual” teams

AWS – Win Shares for players on “actual” teams

APW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “actual” teams


The 1908 St. Louis Cardinals 

OWAR: 29.2     OWS: 247     OPW%: .375     (58-96)

AWAR: 13.5       AWS: 146     APW%: .318   (49-105)

WARdiff: 15.7                        WSdiff: 101  

Despite a dismal effort and last-place finish, the “Original” 1908 Cardinals bested the “Actual” Redbirds by a 9-game margin and a confounding Win Shares differential of 109. “Turkey” Mike Donlin (.334/6/106) tallied 198 base knocks, pilfered 30 bags and recorded a career-high in ribbies. Fellow outfielder Charlie “Eagle Eye” Hemphill swiped 42 bases and batted .297 for the “Original” Cardinals. Red Murray supplied a .282 BA with 48 stolen bases for both the “Original” and “Actual” Redbirds.

Mordecai Brown ranks twentieth among pitchers according to Bill James in “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.” “Original” Cardinals teammates listed in the “NBJHBA” top 100 rankings include Ed Konetchy (48th-1B) and Mike Donlin (52nd-CF).

  Original 1908 Cardinals                             Actual 1908 Cardinals

Charlie Hemphill LF/CF 3.11 25.83 Joe Delahanty LF -0.89 13.78
Red Murray CF 2.92 25.78 Red Murray CF 2.92 25.78
Mike Donlin RF 5.8 31.2 Al Shaw RF/CF -0.3 10.83
Ed Konetchy 1B 1.65 16.9 Ed Konetchy 1B 1.65 16.9
Chappy Charles 2B -2.75 2.31 Billy Gilbert 2B -1.13 3.61
Freddy Parent SS 1.89 11.89 Patsy O’Rourke SS -1.02 0.64
Bobby Byrne 3B -1.61 3.31 Bobby Byrne 3B -1.61 3.31
Art Hoelskoetter C -0.24 2.21 Art Hoelskoetter C -0.24 2.21
Joe Delahanty LF -0.89 13.78 Shad Barry RF -0.53 4.25
Al Shaw CF -0.3 10.83 Chappy Charles 2B -2.75 2.31
Al Burch LF 0.18 10.72 Jack Bliss C 0.12 2.18
Spike Shannon LF -0.85 7.58 Bill Ludwig C -0.02 1.4
Jack Bliss C 0.12 2.18 Wilbur Murdoch LF -0.21 1.3
Bill Ludwig C -0.02 1.4 Champ Osteen SS -0.81 0.41
Wilbur Murdoch LF -0.21 1.3 Charlie Moran C -0.44 0.28
Patsy O’Rourke SS -1.02 0.64 Walter Morris SS -0.65 0.25
Art Weaver C -0.1 0.33 Doc Marshall C -0.07 0.18
Charlie Moran C -0.44 0.28 Tom Reilly SS -0.58 0.13
Walter Morris SS -0.65 0.25 Ralph McLaurin LF -0.14 0.09
Tom Reilly SS -0.58 0.13
Ralph McLaurin LF -0.14 0.09
Simmy Murch 1B -0.06 0.06

Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown, in the midst of six straight seasons with 20+ victories, furnished a 29-9 record with a 1.47 ERA and a career-best WHIP of 0.842. He completed 27 of 31 starts and saved 5 contests in 13 relief appearances for the “Original” Cardinals. Billy Campbell contributed 12 wins with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.116 WHIP in 221.1 innings. “Actuals” ace Bugs Raymond suffered through a 15-25 campaign despite a 2.03 ERA and 1.021 WHIP. Johnny Lush (11-18, 2.12) endured similar results as the Redbirds rotation was unable to overcome a lackluster offense.

  Original 1908 Cardinals                            Actual 1908 Cardinals

Mordecai Brown SP 6.62 31.34 Bugs Raymond SP 1.97 21.04
Billy Campbell SP -0.96 10.38 Johnny Lush SP 0.26 14.3
Art Fromme SP -1.45 3.61 Fred Beebe SP -2.13 5.63
Slim Sallee SP -1.61 3.19 Ed Karger SP -1.87 3.69
Jake Thielman RP -0.34 3.78 Art Fromme SP -1.45 3.61
Irv Higginbotham SP -0.9 3.1 Slim Sallee SP -1.61 3.19
Charlie Rhodes RP -0.05 1.67 Irv Higginbotham SP -0.9 3.1
Stoney McGlynn SP -1.16 1.23 Charlie Rhodes SP 0 1.4
O.F. Baldwin SP -0.46 0 Stoney McGlynn SP -1.16 1.23
Buster Brown RP -0.39 0 O.F. Baldwin SP -0.46 0
Fred Gaiser RP -0.13 0 Fred Gaiser RP -0.13 0

Notable Transactions

Mordecai Brown

December 12, 1903: Traded by the St. Louis Cardinals with Jack O’Neill to the Chicago Cubs for Larry McLean and Jack Taylor.

Mike Donlin

Before 1901 Season: Jumped from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Baltimore Orioles.

Before 1902 Season: Released by the Baltimore Orioles.

August, 1902: Signed as a Free Agent with the Cincinnati Reds.

August 7, 1904: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Cincinnati Reds to the New York Giants. The New York Giants sent Moose McCormick to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Jimmy Sebring to the Cincinnati Reds.

Charlie Hemphill

March 2, 1901: Jumped from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Boston Americans.

Before 1902 Season: Signed as a Free Agent with the Cleveland Bronchos.

June, 1902: Released by the Cleveland Bronchos. (Date given is approximate. Exact date is uncertain.)

June 4, 1902: Signed as a Free Agent with the St. Louis Browns.

August 23, 1905: Purchased by the St. Louis Browns from St Paul (American Association). (Date given is approximate. Exact date is uncertain.)

November 5, 1907: Traded by the St. Louis Browns with Fred Glade and Harry Niles to the New York Highlanders for Hobe Ferris, Danny Hoffman and Jimmy Williams.

Honorable Mention

The 1983 St. Louis Cardinals 

OWAR: 54.8     OWS: 310     OPW%: .517     (84-78)

AWAR: 36.1     AWS: 237     APW%: .488   (79-83)

WARdiff: 18.7                        WSdiff: 73 

The “Original” 1983 Cardinals seized the National League Eastern Division flag by a single game over the Expos. The flock featured left fielder Jose Cruz (.318/14/92), the NL leader with 189 base hits. “Cheo” reached the 30-steal mark for the fifth time in his career. Terry Kennedy (.284/17/98) registered a personal-best in RBI. Keith Hernandez earned the sixth of eleven consecutive Gold Glove Awards. John Denny (19-6, 2.37) merited the NL Cy Young Award. Larry Herndon notched personal-highs in batting average (.302), hits (182), doubles (28) and RBI (92). Ted “Simba” Simmons delivered a .308 BA with 39 two-baggers and 108 ribbies. Steve “Lefty” Carlton whiffed 275 batsmen and fashioned a 3.11 ERA. George Hendrick (.318/18/97) received his fourth All-Star invitation and posted a career-high in batting average for the “Actual” Redbirds.

On Deck

What Might Have Been – The “Original” 1975 Astros

References and Resources

Baseball America – Executive Database


James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York, NY.: The Free Press, 2001. Print.

James, Bill, with Jim Henzler. Win Shares. Morton Grove, Ill.: STATS, 2002. Print.

Retrosheet – Transactions Database

The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at “www.retrosheet.org”.

Seamheads – Baseball Gauge

Sean Lahman Baseball Archive

Derek Bain is a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games. He has written a number of articles for Fangraphs and Seamheads, and enjoys spending quality time with his family.

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