Detroit Wolverines

The Detroit Wolverines were a 19th-century Major League Baseball team that played in the National League from 1881 to 1888 in the city of Detroit, Michigan. In total, they won 426 games and lost 437, taking their lone pennant (and winning the pre-modern World Series) in 1887. The team was disbanded following the 1888 season.

Detroit Wolverines
Years 18811888
Based in Detroit
Major league affiliations
Major league titles
  • World Series titles: 1 (1887)
  • National League pennants: 1 (1887)

Franchise history

Founded at the suggestion of Detroit mayor William G. Thompson, the Wolverines played the first game of major league baseball in Detroit on May 2, 1881, in front of 1,286 fans. Their home field was called Recreation Park, and it consisted of a wooden grandstand located between Brady Street and Willis Avenue. This stadium was demolished in 1894, though its location is indicated by a historical marker in what was once left field. The name of the ball club derives from Michigan being known as "The Wolverine State;" although the team name "Wolverines" is now primarily associated with University of Michigan sports, there was no connection between the University and the Detroit baseball team.

1888 Detroit Wolverines
1888 Detroit Wolverines, with Boston's South End Grounds as a backdrop

Though they folded after only eight seasons, the Wolverines occupy an important place in baseball history. On September 6, 1883, they conceded 18 runs in a single inning against the Chicago White Stockings, the most ever in MLB. In 1885, new owner Frederick Kimball Stearns began spending heavily in an attempt to create a 'super-team' by buying high-priced players. Most notably, he purchased the entire Buffalo Bisons franchise that August, to secure the services of its stars: Dan Brouthers, Jack Rowe, Hardy Richardson, and Deacon White, the so-called "Big Four". This strategy quickly met resistance from his fellow owners, who changed the league's rules governing the splitting of gate receipts, reducing the visiting team's maximum share to $125 per game. Detroit was not yet the Motor City, and its population was too small to support a highly paid team. The Wolverines' home gate receipts were not sufficient to sustain their payroll, and Stearns was forced to sell his stars to other clubs and disband the team after the 1888 season. The franchise's place in the National League was taken by the Cleveland Spiders in 1889.

The Wolverines' most successful season came in 1887, when they were crowned as the champion of the National League with a record of 79 wins and 45 losses. After the season, they defeated the St. Louis Browns, champion of the rival American Association, in a series of exhibition matches, winning ten of the fifteen games played. These games were a predecessor to the modern World Series, which did not begin until 1903.

Three Detroit players hit for the cycle: George Wood on June 13, 1885, Mox McQuery on September 28, 1885, and Jack Rowe on August 21, 1886.

Prominent players

Hardy Richardson of the Detroit Wolverines, circa 1887

Brouthers, Hanlon, White, and Thompson are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

See also

External links

1883 Detroit Wolverines season

The 1883 Detroit Wolverines finished the season with a 40–58 record, good for seventh place in the National League.

1884 Detroit Wolverines season

The 1884 Detroit Wolverines finished the season with a 28–84 record, finishing in last place in the National League.

1887 Detroit Wolverines season

The 1887 Detroit Wolverines season was a season in American baseball. The team won the 1887 National League pennant, then defeated the St. Louis Browns in the 1887 World Series. The season was the team's seventh since it entered the National League in 1881. It was the first World Series championship for the Detroit Wolverines and the City of Detroit.

1887 Major League Baseball season

The 1887 MLB Season was the National League's twelfth season and American Association's sixth season. The Detroit Wolverines defeated the St. Louis Browns in a 15-game World Series match played in ten cities.

The Louisville Colonels set a Major League record which still stands for the most base on balls for a team in a game, with 19 against the Cleveland Blues on the 21st of September.

1928 Detroit Wolverines (NFL) season

The 1928 Detroit Wolverines season was their first and only season in the league, after relocating from Cleveland in the offseason. The team went 7–2–1, finishing third in the league. Despite the strong on-field performance, the team was forced to merge into the New York Giants after the 1928 season.

1928 NFL season

The 1928 NFL season was the ninth regular season of the National Football League. The league dropped to 10 teams after both the Cleveland Bulldogs and the Duluth Eskimos folded before the season. The Buffalo Bisons also had a year out from the league, and the Rochester Jeffersons, after missing two seasons of play, finally folded. The Detroit Wolverines were an expansion club. Meanwhile, the Providence Steam Roller were named the NFL champions after finishing the season with the best record.

Count Campau

Charles Columbus "Count" Campau (October 17, 1863 – April 3, 1938) was an American professional baseball outfielder. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1888 through 1894 for the Detroit Wolverines, St. Louis Browns, and Washington Senators. He was the American Association's home run leader in 1890 and was also the Browns' manager for 41 games that season.

Campau was also a player and sometimes a manager in minor league baseball for 19 years, including stints with the New Orleans Pelicans (1887, 1892–94, 1903), Kansas City Blues (1888, 1896, 1898), Detroit Tigers/Wolverines (1889–90, 1894–95), Seattle Yannigans/Rainmakers (1896), Grand Rapids Bob-o-links (1897), Rochester Bronchos (1899–1900), and Binghamton Bingoes (1901, 1903–05). Although minor league records from the 1880s and 1890s are incomplete, Campau is known to have tallied at least 2,115 hits, 1,305 runs, 597 stolen bases, 157 triples, and 125 home runs in his minor league career.

Detroit (1920s NFL teams)

Detroit, Michigan had four early teams in the National Football League before the Detroit Lions. The Heralds played in 1920, and had played as an independent as far back as 1905. The Tigers, a continuation of the Heralds, played in 1921, folding midseason and sending their players to the Buffalo All-Americans. The Panthers competed from 1925 to 1926 and the Wolverines in 1928.

Detroit Wolverines all-time roster

The following is a list of players and who appeared in at least one game for the Detroit Wolverines franchise of the National League from 1881 through 1888.β= indicates Baseball Hall of Famer

Frank Bancroft

Francis Carter Bancroft (May 9, 1846 – March 30, 1921) was an American manager in Major League Baseball for the Worcester Ruby Legs, Detroit Wolverines, Cleveland Blues, Providence Grays, Indianapolis Hoosiers, and Cincinnati Reds of the National League, as well as the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. His greatest success came with the Grays, when he won the 1884 World Series with a record of 84–28 (.750 winning percentage). His stops with teams were short, usually in an interim role, with his last stop being with the Reds after Bid McPhee left the job as manager. Bancroft was 56 years old at the time.

He died in Cincinnati at age 74.

Geoff Coombes

Geoffrey "Jeff" Coombes (April 23, 1919 in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England – December 5, 2002 in Rockledge, Florida) was a U.S. soccer player who was a member of the U.S. team at the 1950 FIFA World Cup.

George Bradley

George Washington Bradley (July 13, 1852 – October 2, 1931), nicknamed "Grin", was an American Major League Baseball player who was a pitcher and infielder. He was 5'10.5" and weighed 175 lbs.

George Derby (baseball)

George Henry Derby (July 6, 1857 – July 4, 1925), nicknamed "Jonah", was a professional baseball player from 1877 to 1883. He played three seasons in Major League Baseball as a right-handed pitcher for the Detroit Wolverines in 1881 and 1882 and for the Buffalo Bisons in 1883.

Derby won 29 games and led the National League in both strikeouts and shutouts as a 24-year-old rookie in 1881. However, after pitching 55 complete games and almost 500 innings in 1881, Derby developed shoulder problems that reduced the velocity of his pitches. His career was cut short, and he played in his final major league game in July 1883 at age 25.

Lady Baldwin

Charles B. "Lady" Baldwin (April 8, 1859 – March 7, 1937) was an American left-handed pitcher. He played six seasons in Major League Baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers (1884), Detroit Wolverines (1885–1888), Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1890), and Buffalo Bisons (1890).

Baldwin had his best season in 1886 when he compiled a 42–13 record and a 2.24 earned run average (ERA), threw 55 complete games, and led the National League with 323 strikeouts. Baldwin's 42 wins in 1886 set the major league record for a left-handed pitcher and remains the second highest single season total by a southpaw. Baldwin also pitched five complete games for a 4–1 record and a 1.50 ERA in the 1887 World Series. Arm troubles cut short Baldwin's major league career at age 31.

List of Detroit Wolverines Opening Day starting pitchers

The Detroit Wolverines were a Major League Baseball team that was based in Detroit, Michigan and played in the National League from 1881 through 1888. The Wolverines used four Opening Day starting pitchers in their eight years as a Major League Baseball franchise. The first game of the new baseball season for a team is played on Opening Day, and being named the Opening Day starter is an honor that is often given to the player who is expected to lead the pitching staff that season, though there are various strategic reasons why a team's best pitcher might not start on Opening Day. The Wolverines had a record of four wins and four losses in their Opening Day games.

The first game in Detroit Wolverines history was played on May 2, 1881 against the Buffalo Bisons. George Derby was the Opening Day starting pitcher in that game, which the Wolverines lost by a score of 6–5. The Wolverines' last Opening Day game was played on April 20, 1888 against the Pittsburgh Alleghenys (now known as the Pittsburgh Pirates). Charlie Getzien was the Wolverines' Opening Day starting pitcher in that game, which the Wolverines lost by a score of 5–2. The Wolverines were the National League champions in 1887, and went on to win the 19th century version of the World Series by defeating the American Association (19th century) champion St. Louis Browns. Lady Baldwin was the Wolverines' Opening Day starting pitcher that year, in a game the Wolverines won by a score of 4–3 against the Indianapolis Hoosiers. Stump Wiedman made three Opening Day starts for the Wolverines, more than any other pitcher, in 1883, 1884 and 1885. Derby and Baldwin each made two Opening Day starts.

List of Detroit Wolverines managers

The Detroit Wolverines were a 19th-century Major League Baseball team that played in Detroit, Michigan. They played in the National League from 1882 through 1888. During their history, the Detroit Wolverines employed five managers. The duties of the team manager include team strategy and leadership on and off the field.The Wolverines' first manager was Frank Bancroft, who managed the team in 1882 and 1883. Bancroft managed 170 games for the Wolverines, with 83 wins and 84 losses. Bancroft was replaced by Frank Chapman, who managed the team in 1884 and 1885. Chapman managed 215 games for the Wolverines, with 68 wins and 142 losses. Both Bancroft and Chapman would manage teams to the World Series after leaving the Wolverines: Bancroft with the 1884 Providence Grays and Chapman with the 1890 Louisville Colonels. The 19th century World Series was considered an exhibition contest between the champion of the National League and the champion of the American Association.Charlie Morton began the 1885 season as the Wolverines' manager. Morton managed the Wolverines for 38 games in 1885 before being replaced by Bill Watkins. Morton won just 7 games against 31 losses for a winning percentage of .184, the lowest of any Wolverines' manager. Watkins managed the team from the middle of the 1885 season through the middle of the 1888 season. Watkins managed the Wolverines for 417 games, the most in Wolverines' history. Watkins won 249 games and lost 161, both the most in Wolverines' history. Watkins' .607 winning percentage is the highest of any Wolverines' manager. In 1887, Watkins managed the Wolverines' the National League championship with a record of 79 wins and 45 losses, with 3 ties. Watkins also led the Wolverines to the 1887 World Series championship. The Wolverines defeated the American Association champion St. Louis Browns in the 1887 World Series winning 10 games and losing 5. That was the only World Series championship in Wolverines' history.Robert Leadley was the last Wolverines' manager. Leadley replaced Watkins midway through the 1888 season, managing 40 games with 19 wins and 19 losses. The Wolverines folded after the 1888 season.

Sam Thompson

Samuel Luther "Big Sam" Thompson (March 5, 1860 – November 7, 1922) was an American professional baseball player from 1884 to 1898 and with a brief comeback in 1906. At 6 feet, 2 inches, the Indiana native was one of the larger players of his day and was known for his prominent handlebar mustache. He played as a right fielder in Major League Baseball for the Detroit Wolverines (1885–88), Philadelphia Phillies (1889–1898) and Detroit Tigers (1906). He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

Thompson had a .331 career batting average and was one of the most prolific run producers in baseball history. His career run batted in (RBI) to games played ratio of .923 (1,305 RBIs in 1,410 games) remains the highest in major league history. In 1895, Thompson averaged 1.44 RBIs per game, and his 166 RBIs in 1887 (in only 127 games) remained the major league record until 1921 when Babe Ruth collected 168 (albeit in 152 games). Thompson still holds the major league record for most RBIs in a single month with 61 in August 1894 while playing for the Phillies. Manager Bill Watkins in 1922 called Thompson "the greatest natural hitter of all time."

Defensively, Thompson was known to have one of the strongest arms of any outfielder in the early decades of the game. He still ranks among the all-time major league leaders with 61 double plays from the outfield (16th all time) and 283 outfield assists (12th all time). Thompson also had good speed on the base paths and, in 1889, he became the first major league player to reach 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season.

Stump Weidman

George Edward "Stump" Weidman (February 17, 1861 – March 2, 1905) was an American professional baseball player from 1880 to 1893. He played nine years in Major League Baseball, principally as a right-handed pitcher and outfielder, for five different major league clubs. He appeared in 379 major league games, 279 as a pitcher and 122 as an outfielder, and his longest stretches were with the Detroit Wolverines (288 games, 1881–85, 1887) and the Kansas City Cowboys (51 games, 1886).

As a pitcher, he compiled a 101-156 (.393) win–loss record with a 3.61 earned run average (ERA) in ​2318 1⁄3 innings pitched. He led the National League in 1881 with a 1.80 ERA and totaled 45 wins in the 1882 and 1883 seasons. He pitched more innings for the Wolverines (1,654) than any other pitcher in the club's history.

Tony Mullane

Anthony John "Tony" Mullane (January 20, 1859 – April 25, 1944), nicknamed "Count" and "The Apollo of the Box", was an Irish Major League Baseball player who pitched for seven teams during his 13-season career. He is best known as a pitcher that could throw left-handed and right-handed, and for having one of the highest career win totals of pitchers not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Detroit Wolverines
World Series Championships
See Also
Detroit Wolverines 1887 World Series champions
Histories of teams in Major League Baseball


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