Todd DeFeo

Picking baseball’s best teams: 19th century edition

ATLANTA — Hope springs eternal with the return of baseball. Every team is tied. And, every team has a chance of reaching the post season.

Teams also have the rare chance to chart a course into the annals of baseball history to be remembered as one of the best to ever take the field.

In honor of opening day, here is a brief look at five of the greatest teams to ever take the field. Before the turn of the 20th century, that is.

  • 1875 Boston Red Stockings (71-8): Predating the National League by a year, the Red Stockings won nearly 90 percent of their games. Pitcher Al Spalding posted an astounding record of 55-5 with an equally impressive 1.76 ERA. Five batters — including catcher Deacon White, shortstop Ross Barnes and first baseman Cal McVey, a trio of baseball’s first superstars — notched averages north of .300. The second place Philadelphia Athletics logged a record of 53-20, impressive in its own right. But, it wasn’t good enough to top the Red Stockings.
  • 1884 Providence Grays (84-28): Pitcher Charlie “Old Hoss” Radbourn was not only the ace of the staff; he was basically the only member of the staff by the end of the year. He won an unfathomable 59 games — or 60, according to some sources — to only 12 losses. The team went on to defeat the American Association’s New York Metropolitans in what many consider the first World Series. Sadly, the team folded following the 1885 season, which saw the Grays post a 53-57 record.
  • 1884 St. Louis Maroons (94-19): In today’s game, 94 wins is often enough to win a division. But, during the Maroons’ 1884 campaign, the team lost a mere 19 games to boast the .832 winning percentage that topped the Union Association in its one and only season. The Maroons didn’t play the aforementioned Grays in the post season that year. It would have been interesting to see pitcher Charlie Sweeney, who played for the Grays in the early part of the 1884 season, face off against Radbourn.
  • 1880 Chicago White Stockings (67-17): Future Hall of Fame members King Kelly and Cap Anson led the White Stockings, who won the division by 15 games. Pitcher Larry Corcoran won 43 games while sporting a 1.95 ERA. Tallying a .700 winning percentage or greater four times in the 19th century and continuing to dominate baseball in the first decade of the 1900s, the Chicago franchise, which today plays as the Cubs, could readily be considered baseball’s first dynasty.
  • 1887 St. Louis Browns (94-40): Led by three 20 game winners, including Silver King who owned a 32-12 record and Bob Caruthers who won 29 games and hit .357 while splitting time on the mound and in the outfield. The Browns won the American Association by 14 games over the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Others could very well be considered for this list — such as the 1884 Metropolitans, the 1886 Detroit Wolverines, the 1897 Boston Beaneaters, or the 1885 New York Giants.

About Todd DeFeo

Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and