Looking to add a spark to his team after it finished a mediocre 76-76 in 1911, Highlanders owner Bill Devery relieved first baseman Hal Chase of his managerial duties prior to the start of the 1912 campaign. Devery replaced Chase with 38-year-old Harry Wolverton, who earned the nickname Fighting Harry during his playing days for his somewhat combative and argumentative nature. Wolverton, a third baseman for several National League clubs from 1898 to 1905, had no previous managerial experience and had been away from the game for more than six years.
Devery’s move ended up backfiring, since New York posted a record of 50-102 under Wolverton, for a winning percentage of just .329 – the lowest in franchise history. The Highlanders scored only 630 runs, while surrendering 842 to the opposition, en route to finishing in last place in the American League for the third time since the team’s inception in 1903. Wolverton tried everything to shake up his ball club, including inserting himself into games from time to time as a pinch-hitter, but nothing worked. The Highlanders performed miserably throughout the campaign, causing home attendance to drop to 242,194 – the lowest since the team’s inaugural season of 1903.
An injury to star outfielder Birdie Cree contributed greatly to New York’s poor showing. Limited to only 50 games, Cree batted .332, but knocked in only 22 runs and scored just 25 others. No one else on the squad helped to pick up any of the slack in Cree’s absence. After batting .296 and leading the team with 91 runs batted in the previous year, third baseman Roy Hartzell hit only .272 and knocked in just 38 runs. Hal Chase had an ordinary campaign, batting .274, compiling an on-base percentage of just .299, driving in 58 runs, and scoring 61 others.
Highlander pitchers fared no better. Jack Quinn and Hippo Vaughn continued their downward spirals, with Quinn finishing the year with a record of 5-7 and Vaughn pitching so poorly that Wolverton demoted him from the starting rotation after he posted a mark of only 2-8, along with a 5.14 ERA. After winning 14 games as a rookie, second-year right-hander Ray Caldwell finished 8-16, with a 4.47 ERA. Jack Warhop lost 19 games, even though he compiled a very respectable 2.86 ERA. Meanwhile, staff ace Russ Ford finished 13-21, with an ERA of 3.55.
In spite of New York’s embarrassing play, 1912 holds special historical significance for the franchise, since it marked the first time the team’s home uniform featured pinstripes.
- Bill Devery, Birdie Cree, Hal Chase, Harry Wolverton, Hippo Vaughn, Jack Quinn, Jack Warhop, New York Highlanders, New York Yankees, Ray Caldwell, Roy Hartzell, Russ Ford