Saturday, June 29, 2013


Herriman Saturday

Thursday, April 16 1908 -- The first full-blooded Indian to pitch in the major leagues (back in 1903) is in town today, now working for Portland's PCL squad. Ed 'Big Chief' Pinnance beats the Angels 4 to 3 in an impressive outing.

Looking into Pinnance's record, we see one of those head-scratching baseball mysteries. This year with Portland he would end the season with a superb 2.36 ERA. And in 1903, his only year in the majors, he pitched just seven innings for the Philadelphia Athletics, generating a perfectly respectable 2.57 ERA. So why did he end up with just the proverbial 'cup of coffee' at Philadelphia, and why was his year in the PCL league his only year in the upper minors? His career, if you can call it that, was mostly spent in bush leagues so obscure that statistics are unavailable to gauge his performances. Strange...

The 13th guest is back in Herriman's cartoons after a couple day's layoff, and in the interim seems to have managed to fall off a tall building.


Sadly: I would hazard a guess that his career was cut short because he was a man of color in a white man's game
Sadly, you are almost certainly correct. I never even thought about that -- duh!

I'm not at all convinced that's the case. For one thing, the Philadelphia A's at this same time had an outstanding Native American, Charles "Chief" Bender, who also made his debut in 1903. Remember that in those days, you had neither five-man rotations, nor set-up men and closers. There were comparatively few spots on the roster, and the A's in 1903 had Bender, Plank and Rube Waddell who started about 110 of the 154 games, with the rest scattered among a handful of other pitchers. It's probably a case where he couldn't break into an established roster, and look at some of his subsequent minor-league years. He may have had a good game in the cartoon reported by Herriman, but his won-loss record in the minors, to the extent it exists, seems to imply either wildness or bad luck.
Hi Eric --
Baseball debate -- now we're talkin'!

I looked at his minor league stats. The only year they have a computed ERA, he was great. His win-loss in the other years could well be chalked up to playing for bad teams. For instance, check out the batting averages on that Bay City team or Portland 1909. Yikes, they were a real bunch of whiffers! I'd venture to say that without ERAs we can't really judge those seasons properly.

Best, Allan
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