Transaction of Today…December 21, 1891 – The Boston Beaneaters obtained Hugh Duffy who was previously under league control.
Nothing quite like following a team with 140 years of history to pull from. You can step into the wayback machine anytime you want and go way the hell back to a few days before Christmas, 1891. The Boston Beaneaters were coming off a first-place finish in the National League, their first such title since 1883. In the rival American Association, the other Boston club, the Boston Reds, also finished in first place. For ten years, the AA had done its part to appeal to the common man vs. the more snoody National League. They had games on Sunday and served alcohol to the patrons.
But by the end of 1891, a variety of factors sent the league into a spiral. The NL was stealing teams from the AA’s ranks, the brief Players’ League saturated the market, and there was just not enough money to compete with the NL. It was the fall of the AA that led to the Boston Beaneaters adding Duffy to its ranks.
Duffy had began his career with the Cubs (then called Colts), playing two years there before jumping across town to the Chicago Pirates of the Players’ League. Duffy clashed while with the NL Chicago club with Cap Anson and Al Spalding and was anxious to leave the NL and its restrictive salary rules behind. In the PL’s one season of existence, Duffy led the league in runs scored and hits while playing with Charlie Comiskey. After the PL folded, Duffy’s rights were once again held by the Cubs/Colts, but Duffy jumped to the AA this time to play with the Reds of Boston. He had originally negotiated a new contract with the Beaneaters to return to the NL, but was blocked by Spalding. Duffy spent just one year in the AA and led the league in RBIs, but once the league folded, Duffy’s rights in the National League were up for grabs and the Beaneaters were able to keep him in Boston.
It would be a huge pickup for the already-great Beaneaters. Over nine years, Duffy would slash .332/.394/.455 with 69 homeruns. In 1894, Duffy was at hits finest, batting a robust .440 with 51 doubles, 16 triples, and 18 homers to go with 48 steals. The season was all the more amazing because it came after Duffy lost his wife, Katie, to illness right before the season began. During his time with Boston, the Beaneaters won the NL crown four times and even won the 1982 “Championship Series” against the Cleveland Spiders. Duffy went 12-for-26 in the Series with six extra base hits as Boston won 5-of-6 games with their only non-win ending in a tie.
After 1900, Duffy jumped at the opportunity to become a player/manager for the upstart American League’s Milwaukee Brewers. They stunk, finishing with a winning percentage of .350, and Duffy would not remain with the team when it was moved to St. Louis for 1902. After a couple of years of managing in the Western League, Duffy headed to Philadelphia in a return to the National League. Over three years with the hapless Phils, Duffy continued to occasionally play and had better results than his time with the Brewers in 1901. In his first season, the Phils lost 100. Then, they improved to 83-69. However, they quickly fell back to mediocrity and Duffy was canned. He would continue to manage both in the major leagues in the Eastern League.
Duffy was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945. He would pass away nine years later.