Scrappy – A Baseball State of Being

scrap·py  (skrp)
adj. scrap·pi·er, scrap·pi·est
1. Quarrelsome; contentious.
2. Full of fighting spirit.  

One of the most long running love affairs in Baseball is the love usually showered on the “Scrappy” player. We all know who they are, where they come from (usually nowhere) and what they do to get our attention (chances are it involves speed or hustle). Currently pushing the envelope of scrappy is the Reds own Ryan Freel.

Most of these players tend to be on the small side, that in itself lends a me against the rest of the world air to their approach to the game, and since most fans aren’t players they appreciate this effort to the point of unending adoration or the assumption that every player despite their skill level, age or health should attempt to play like the “scrappy” guy does. Scrappy players often are tagged with nicknames that exemplify their playing style.

Chances are the scrappy player will be loved everywhere, more likely he will be adored in the areas of the country that cling to old school values and the hard back of the working man… or at least the myth of his continued existence.

Of course that pretty much pigeon holes the Mid-West as an area that welcomes the scrappy players to their fold with open arms and hearty pats on the back, and nowhere does this seem to happen more than in Cincinnati.

How important is the illusion of Hustle and scrappy behavior, pretty important if you take Warren Giles word for it in this 1945 Sporting News article

Pretty much lays the groundwork for what your granddad expected to see on the diamond and what your dad grew up hearing what should be. But what makes a Scrappy player?

Aside from not being star most scrappy players are often, young and unknown or diminutive to the point that the patrons are amazed that they can compete against the bigger boys. The Reds history of course goes far back to the 19th century and it is there that we can find the scrappy player making his first appearance for the Reds, and it’s there that we start our journey.

Special Skill Set (Agitator)
HEIGHT: 5'8"

If 19th century Ball had a dictionary chances are good that Latham would be listed under scrappy.

A man of first, it was Arlie’s roaming of the baselines during his teams at bats that drew the fans to the park as he berated the opposition loudly, eventually the league created the coaches box to herd Latham’s active voice away from the batters box and give piece to the umpire. Known as “The Freshest Man on Earth” Arlie was the first ballplayer to go to the stage as well as the first fulltime coach (NY Giants 1907)

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Worked into his 80’s in the Giants Press Box at the Polo Grounds.

YEAR        SB    AVG   SLG   OBA   OPS
1890        20   .250  .311  .346  .657
1891        87   .272  .386  .372  .759
1892        66   .238  .283  .310  .593
1893        57   .282  .350  .368  .718
1894        59   .313  .403  .393  .796
1895        48   .311  .380  .375  .755
TOTAL       337  .279  .355  .361  .715
POS         159  .280  .382  .353  .735
LEAGUE      163  .269  .365  .347  .712
HEIGHT: 5'6"
Special Skill Set (Speed)

Towards the end of Arlie’s tenure as a Red another player emerged as the scrappy player that received the fans adulation. William “Dummy” Hoy at 5’4″ was along with Miller Huggins the smallest of the scrappy Reds. A centerfielder, who was completely deaf and mute Hoy was known for his speed and the area he cover in League Park. Being deaf in an era that labeled such men as “Dummy’s” automatically lifts Hoy’s scrappy factor. His journey through the game found him playing in four separate leagues (AA, NL, PL, AL) and eventually settling in Cincinnati where he was a member of the fraternal organization “The Ballplayers of Yesterday.”

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Threw out the first pitch of Game Three of the 1961 World Series in Cincinnati at age of 99.

YEAR        SB     AVG   SLG   OBA   OPS
1894        27    .299  .426  .416  .842
1895        50    .277  .403  .363  .767
1896        50    .298  .409  .403  .812
1897        37    .292  .376  .375  .751
1902        11    .290  .380  .389  .769
TOTAL        175   .292  .400  .390  .790
POS          120   .299  .401  .364  .766
LEAGUE       174   .316  .422  .390  .811
HEIGHT: 5'6"
Special Skill Set (Walks)

Huggins was small, so very small and slight that it pretty much becomes the persona that you are always seeing when is name is mentioned, especially when pictured aside the big bopper Ruth himself. But one thing is for sure Huggins was a local hero long before Pete Rose was ever heard of. “He’s gonna make everyone forget they ever heard of Bid McPhee.” Joe Kelley on Miller Huggins. Not quite, but still a legend for his ability to take a walk in an era that didn’t produce many Huggins was lauded for his style of play by the local fans and was affectionately known as “Little Everywhere”

YEAR        SB   BB   AVG   SLG   OBA   OPS
1904        13   88  .263  .328  .377  .705
1905        27   103 .273  .326  .392  .718
1906        41   71  .292  .338  .376  .714
1907        28   83  .248  .289  .346  .635
1908        30   58  .239  .287  .321  .608
1909        11   28  .214  .245  .335  .580
TOTAL        150  431 .260  .310  .362  .672
POS         113  233 .255  .328  .318  .646
LEA           116  258 .248  .309  .318  .627

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Managed the great Yankee teams in the 20’s and got dangled off the back of a train by Babe Ruth.

HEIGHT: 5'9"
Special Skill Set (Fast)

“Hans” received his name because he looked like Honus Wagner; it was Wagner himself who gave Hans his nickname during a brief stint with the Pirates. Known as the fastest man in baseball Hans is famous for racing a horse in Oxnard, California in 1913 (he lost) As a Reds he manned 3 positions and was involved in a big trade with the Philles a team that he remained involved with off and on for the rest of his life.

YEAR       AVG    SLG   OBA   OPS
1906        .310  .366  .366  .732
1907        .246  .313  .299  .612
1908        .293  .407  .348  .755
1909        .212  .294  .304  .598
1910        .309  .395  .369  .764
TOTAL       .269  .353  .332  .685
POS         .252  .325  .319  .644
LEA         .247  .314  .314  .629

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Managed the 1942 Phillies and tried to instill a “small ball” fast game, the type that was his type of game back in the day. The Phillies also attempted to accent the fast factor by calling the team the “Phils” instead of Phillies.

HEIGHT: 5'8"
Special Skill Set (Run Producer)

One of the caveats of being scrappy is that you usually aren’t applying that label to stars of the game, however there are always a few guys that are stars and so scrappy that you have give them their due. Early in the Reds history Heine Groh would be that man, A star 3rd baseman and unique hitter Groh was a man that hit doubles, could take a walk and fielded his position flawlessly with a glove as big as his hand he finished his career with a fielding percentage a shade behind renowned glove man Brooks Robinsons. With his oddly shaped bat Groh would face the pitcher with both feet pointing at the box, punching at the ball and applying the hit em where they ain’t theory Groh etched his figure into the mind of Reds fans and helped bring them their first championship as well. That’s scrappy gold; you can get free drinks on that for the rest of your life.

1913  51  .282  .378  .351  .729
1914  59  .288  .358  .391  .749
1915  72  .290  .390  .354  .745
1916  85  .269  .374  .370  .744
1917  91  .304  .411  .385  .796
1918  88  .320  .396  .395  .791
1919  79  .310  .431  .392  .823
1920  86  .298  .393  .375  .768
1921  54  .331  .417  .398  .815
TOTAL 665 .298  .394  .378  .772
POS   503 .265  .353  .324  .677
LEAGUE513 .265  .344  .325  .670

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Worked at the cashier window at River Downs (Race Track in Cincinnati) until his 80’s

HEIGHT: 5'6"
Special Skill Set (Entertainer)

Part of the scrappy lore always involves a player that comes from nowhere. Cuckoo Christensen is the epitome of that type of player. Bought from St. Paul in 1926 Christensen immediately grabbed the fans attention with acrobatic somersaults in the outfield and the habit of hanging near the stands and talking to the fans, grabbing there hearts all the while fooling the Reds enough to have them trade Edd Roush and hand the CF job to Christensen… who failed horribly ad disappeared from the game faster than you can say Mike Frank.

1926  .350  .438  .426  .864
1927  .254  .286  .330  .617
TOTAL .315  .383  .392  .775
POS   .288  .399  .348  .747
LEAGUE.297  .411  .355  .766

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Played nine years of Minor league ball after failing in 1927.

HEIGHT: 5'5"
Special Skill Set (Throwback)

Before Cuckoo and after Cuckoo the Reds had some smaller players that might have been seen as the “scrappy type” but something about them often couldn’t get the fans complete adulation, For Hughie Critz it was his educated background, and the fact that he was darn good all the time, for Charlie Dressen it was his lack of skill, but it’s the scrappy Charlie Dressen as manager that gets him into the Reds Scrappy Hall of Fame.

Taking the reigns of the team in the midst of the great Depression rebuild Dressen focused on “small ball” and aggressive baseball. His 1937 team was called “The Roughhouse Reds” and after the failure of that concept was clear Dressen was the ex-manager of the Reds.

1935  6th     68   85  .444   31.5
1936  5th     74   80  .481   18
1937  8th     56   98  .364   40

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Managed the Dodger team that blew the 13 game lead in 1951.

HEIGHT: 5'8"
Special Skill Set (Funny Guy)

February 16, 1953
Received cash from Philadelphia Phillies as part of 4-team trade in which Philadelphia Phillies sent cash to Milwaukee Braves; Philadelphia Phillies sent Russ Meyer to Brooklyn Dodgers; Milwaukee Braves sent Earl Torgeson to Philadelphia Phillies; Brooklyn Dodgers sent Rocky Bridges to Cincinnati Reds; Brooklyn Dodgers sent Jim Pendleton to Milwaukee Braves; and Cincinnati Reds sent Joe Adcock to Milwaukee Braves.

Sometimes a scrappy guy is the guy a team looks to obtain in hope of transferring said scrappiness to the team as a whole… this football think might work in the coal field leagues but rarely does it work in major league baseball. The trade above made by Gabe Paul sent a man who would hit 305 more home runs for a man who would be best known for his huge chaw and funny quotes:

“It’s a good thing I stayed in Cincinnati for four years — It took me that long to learn how to spell it.” – Rocky Bridges

“Coaching third with a pitcher on base is like being a member of a bomb disposal squad. The thing could blow up in your face at any moment.” – Rocky Bridges

YEAR        AVG    SLG  OBA   OPS
1953        .227  .273  .288  .561
1954        .231  .250  .322  .572
1955        .286  .327  .341  .668
1956        .211  .211  .348  .558
1957        .000  .000  .500  .500
TOTAL        .241  .283  .306  .589
POS          .272  .425  .343  .768
LEAGUE       .265  .393  .337  .730

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Became Humorist.

HEIGHT: 5'11"
Special Skill Set (Hit Machine, Versatile)

No discussion of scrappy and the Reds can avoid the Hit King, despite the general rule of scrappy = unknown and scrappy = small we have to believe that Pete Rose or “Charlie Hustle” to you scrappy nickname folks belongs at the top of the list. Whether he running to first or the track after the game Rose was always on the move and his longevity and abilities hoisted him to legend status in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s There will only be one Charlie Hustle in the scrappy hall of fame and we’ll even let him in despite his past discretions.

TOTALS          .303  .409  .375  .784
LG AVERAGE      .262  .386  .328  .714
POS AVERAGE     .269  .399  .336  .735

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Let’s just move on.

HEIGHT: 5'11"
Special Skill Set (Power)

Spuds, or Sabs as he was often referred to was a reckless base runner a goggled spaz in an era of fast turf ball and on a team that the Fans in Cincinnati still long for. Sabo first makes the scene in the baseball world when Gene Bennett in Dollar Sign On the Muscle, mentions him. His next appearance is when he stole the 3rd base Job from Buddy Bell under the watchful eye of King Scrappy himself Pete Rose in 1988. He finished his career with the Reds almost a decade later in the shadow of a corked bat incident and years of injuries.

1988  .271  .414  .314  .728
1989  .260  .395  .316  .711
1990  .270  .476  .343  .819
1991  .301  .505  .354  .859
1992  .244  .422  .302  .723
1993  .259  .440  .315  .755
1996  .256  .400  .354  .754
TOTAL .270  .447  .328  .775
POS   .261  .391  .327  .719
LEAGUE.261  .403  .323  .726

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Managed in the Reds system

HEIGHT: 5'9"
Special Skillset (Still Wondering)

The 1997 trade that brought Chris Stynes and Jon Nunnely was an infusion of pure scrappiness as Stynes took the Reds fans hearts right away with a powerful 200 at bats in a season that had been a major disappointment through and through. The following year the pair would prove to be equally disappointing and by the 2001 season both were gone. But it was Stynes who teased the Reds with his ability to play multiple positions poorly and his streaky BA driven lines in part time roles often enticed the manager to slot him in starting roles where he never failed to fail.

Best know in retrospect as being scrappy without a nickname, nor was he a loveable scrappy guy, having left a reputation around the game as being somewhat “Grumpy.”

1997  .348  .485  .394  .879
1998  .254  .340  .323  .663
1999  .239  .301  .310  .610
2000  .334  .497  .386  .883
TOTAL .300  .421  .358  .779
POS   .272  .434  .345  .780
LEAGUE.267  .433  .340  .773

Post-Career Scrappy Feat – Last seen in minor league ball

There are many others who could have made the cut, but these are the ones who did at this juncture, some were really good some only as good as the fans thought they were or could be, but they tried, they tried harder then most and that’s why they were loved so much at times and so unloved at other times.

One thing’s for sure take away the s in scrappy and all you have is crappy.

11 Responses to “Scrappy – A Baseball State of Being”

  1. Doc Scott says:

    Wonderful stuff. Surely Ryan Freel is the next entry?

  2. Cary says:

    Is the list too long for Bizzaro Scrappy Willie Green types?

  3. Administrator says:

    Is the list too long for Bizzaro Scrappy Willie Green types?

    Nah, that’s another list.. as would one with black scrappy Reds, most Reds Including, Hal King, Lenny Harris, Bip Roberts…

  4. Brian B. says:

    Hans Lobert managed the 1942 Phillies, not the 1943 Phillies. I’m afraid you’ll have to scrap this piece . . .

  5. Administrator says:

    Fixed that Brian B.

    Scrappy pick-up on that.

  6. gm says:

    Add Eddie Stanky to that list

  7. gm says:

    Not to mention Leo Durocher

    and don’t forget Billy Martin

  8. Administrator says:

    Scrappy Billy Martin might have gotten into one of the best fights the Reds ever had when he was with the team in 1960… his 6 team journey towards the end of his career was fueled on scrappy.

  9. Paul says:

    Eric Owens was another for the Reds.

  10. sw says:

    What year was it that the Reds had a starting OF of Dmitri Young, Mike Frank and Chris Stynes for awhile?


    Oh, those were wonderful days.


  11. Administrator says:

    That would be 1998, the year that Stynes, Perez and Nunnely were annoited the “youth” movement core players.

    Found this gem from a 1998 Enquirer article by Paul Daugherty

    “It will end

    The same team that lost 11 in a row won 15 of 16, then lost 13-3 Friday night. It’s a team that has used nine left fielders, eight right fielders, five third baseman and four first basemen.

    Every night is open mike night. Every day a new player checks in, fresh from the senior prom. You look at the green replacements, and you think: No car for you Friday night, young man.

    After Larkin, Bret Boone and Eddie Taubensee, what you’ve got is a whole bunch of I Don’t Know. Here’s what the Summer of ’98 is about: Throwing lots of young players against the wall. Hoping a few stick.

    That’s it. Not wins, though wins are helpful. Not losses. Not the playoffs. There is a decent chance the playoffs will start without the Reds.

    It’s not even about Barry Larkin remaining a Red.

    For a program photo, the Reds on Saturday posed several players on a crane, as befits their rebuilding plans. Frank, Brett Tomko, Sean Casey, Paul Konerko and others. Larkin and Willie Greene joked in the clubhouse that they weren’t included.

    “You’re yesterday’s news, old man,” I said to Larkin.

    “You go on thinking that,” Larkin said.

    I don’t, of course. The man’s closer to the Hall of Fame every day. He’s one of the top five career Reds ever.

    And when the new ballpark goes up, I’m sure the Reds will ask Larkin to throw out the first ball.