1880 – Rotating

Pete Hood of Cleveland

The Milwaukee Brickers did not last one full calendar year as Century Leaguers before declaring bankruptcy. The void was promptly filled by the Baltimore Banner club, named for their club’s owner and referred to in the newspapers as the Bannermen.

As the 1880 season progressed, one issue grew increasingly apparent in the Century League. Through the first five years of league play, players had moved in and out of the league (mostly out), joining – or leaving – the many barnstorming teams that were dotted across much of the eastern half of the country. For League President William Whitney, this was something that would need to be handled in the near future. This process of “rotating” by the players was bad for business as the followers of the clubs could not rely on seeing their favorite players next season.

The annual shuffling of players resulted in another shuffle of the standings table by the end of the 1880 season. Philadelphia returned to the top of the standings, going 59-26 with a cast of new faces leading the way. SS Rick Craig led the league in hitting with a .343 average while fellow rookie John Richard (27-12, 1.67) teamed with Cleveland import Martin Tucker (25-10, 1.64) in pitching the Centennials to the league’s lowest runs allowed total. Philadelphia allowed a mere 259 runs over 85 games, nearly 100 runs better than second-place Chicago’s 345. 

The Chiefs finished second – again – this time with a 49-34 record. Cleveland was third at 47-38. The new guys finished tied for fourth with a 43-43 mark (Brooklyn also went 43-43). Detroit (42-45) outplayed its meager payroll and Boston continued its recent downward spiral, finishing 33-52. Once again New York finished last, posting a 24-59 mark in what would turn out to be the last hurrah for the Knights franchise.

Cleveland’s Pete Hood led the league in ERA at 1.10 while Tucker’s 25 wins set the standard in that category. Tucker’s 250 strikeouts also topped the circuit. Sam Sorenson of Cleveland finished second in batting with a .337 average while Baltimore’s Bill Weeks – who had been Milwaukee’s best pitcher in 1879 while hitting .350, didn’t pitch this season, but still could hit, recording a .333 average in Baltimore’s outfield.