The 1887 Detroit Wolverines season was a season in American baseball. The team won the 1887 National League pennant, then defeated the St. Louis Browns in the 1887 World Series. The season was the team's 7th since it entered the National League in 1881. It was the first World Series championship for the Detroit Wolverines and the City of Detroit.

The 1887 Wolverines finished the season with a record of 79-45. They outscored their opponents by more than 250 runs—969 to 714. They also led the National League in team batting average, runs scored and slugging. Wolverines batters dominated the National League leader board:

  • Dan Brouthers, Jack Rowe, and Hardy Richardson were first, second and third in runs scored, with Sam Thompsonfifth.
  • Sam Thompson, Dan Brouthers and Hardy Richardson were first, second and third in total bases. The same three were Nos. 1, 3, and 6 in batting average.
  • Sam Thompson and Dan Brouthers were first and second in slugging percentage and OPS.

Season highlights

  • May 4: Detroit defeatedPittsburgin 11 innings. Pittsburg scored 4 runs in the first inning offStump Wiedman, but the Tigers came back.
  • May 7, 1887:Sam Thompsonbecame the first major league player to hit two bases-loaded triples in one game as the Wolverines (8-1) beat theIndianapolis Hoosiers‚ 18-2.
  • May 13, 1887:Fred Dunlaphad his second six-hit game in a week (walks were counted as hits in 1887) to help Detroit beatChicago‚ 17-7. Sam Thompson had three triples.
  • May 17, 1887: Detroit'sDan Brouthershit a bases-loaded triple and a bases-loaded home run as the Wolverines defeated theQuakers, 19-10.
  • May 21, 1887: Sam Thompson hit a three-run home run to lead the Wolverines to a 4-2 victory overWashington.
  • June 9, 1887: Detroit batters drew 13 walks from Hoosiers pitcherJohn Kirby.
  • June 11, 1887: Detroit's Fred Dunlap established a National League record by starting fourdouble playsat second base. He participated in five double plays in all to tie the existing major league mark and helps the Wolverines edge the Hoosiers‚ 7-6.
  • July 1, 1887: The Quakers and Wolverines set an all-time record by scoring in 15 of the 18 half-innings played.
  • July 5, 1887: Second baseman Fred Dunlap suffered a serious leg injury that kept him out of the lineup for two months. Detroit beatBoston‚ 16-8‚ to push the Beaneaters into third place.
  • July 18, 1887: Paced byGeorge Wood's two home runs‚ the Quakers beat the Wolverines 12-2‚ as Detroit suffered its first three-game sweep.
  • July 21, 1887: Detroit managerWilliam Watkinsfined his third string battery ofFatty Briodyand Stump Wiedman. Dissension was rife throughout the team‚ but Watkins did not fine the more prominent malcontents.
  • August 5, 1887: The Wolverines sold third string pitcher Stump Wiedman to theNew York Metropolitans.
  • August 13, 1887: The White Stockings beat the Wolverines‚ 8-2‚ withJohn Clarksonpitching and hitting a home run. Detroit's lead narrowed to 1½ games.
  • August 15, 1887: John Clarkson of the Chicago White Stockings beat Detroit again‚ 6-4. The National League also threw out a protested game previously awarded to the Wolverines‚ leaving Chicago and Detroit tied for first place.
  • August 16, 1887: Detroit beat John Clarkson and Chicago 5-3 with five runs in the fourth inning to regain sole possession of first place.
  • September 1, 1887: After the Wolverines beat the Boston Beaneaters in three straight games, Boston removedKing Kellyas captain and gave the job toJohn Morrill.
  • September 5, 1887: Chicago won the opening game of their final series against league-leading Detroit 11-7. John Clarkson picked up his ninth victory over the Wolverines‚ the most ever by a pitcher over a pennant-winning team.
  • September 7, 1887: Detroit defeated John Clarkson and the White Stockings‚ beating them twice‚ 8-2 and 8-4‚ with 34 hits in the two games. The defeat pushed second-place Chicago seven games behind.
  • October 8, 1887: Detroit lost its last regular season game to Indianapolis, 11-9.

The Players:

Catchers: Charlie Ganzel and Charlie Bennett

Catching duties were divided between Charlie Ganzel (51 games at catcher) and Charlie Bennett (45 games at catcher). Both were good defensive catchers, though neither hit particularly well. Bennett had a better fielding percentage than Ganzel (.951 to .913), but Ganzel was stronger in range factor (6.78 to 5.64) and fielding runs (9 to 2). Bennett's career in baseball ended when he lost both his legs in a train accident. When theDetroit Tigers opened their new ballpark in 1896, they named it Bennett Park in his honor. It remained Bennett Park until 1912, when the newly built stadium on the same site was named Navin Field.

Infield: Brouthers, Dunlap, Rowe, Twitchell and White

First baseman Dan Brouthers was the first of three future Hall of Famers to play for the 1887 Wolverines. Brouthers won five batting titles and seven slugging titles, and his career batting average of .342 is the 9th highest in major league history. Brouthers was a key to the Wolverines offensive output in 1887 as he led the National League in runs (153), doubles (36), extra base hits (68), on base percentage (.426), times on base (246), and OPS (.988). He was also among the league leaders with a .338 batting average (3rd in the NL), .562 slugging percentage (2nd in the NL), 20 triples, 12 home runs (5th in the NL), 101 RBIs (4th in the NL), 71 walks (4th in the NL), and an at bat to strikeout ratio of 55.6 (2nd in NL).

The second baseman duties were split between Fred Dunlap and Hardy Richardson. Dunlap played 65 games at second base but missed two months due to an injury. As a result, Richardson played 64 games at second base in addition to 58 games as the left fielder. Richardson was a big contributor to the 1887 Wolverines, as he hit for a .327 average with 51 extra base hits, 131 runs scored, 178 hits and 94 RBIs. Richardson was also a good fielder both at second base and in left field.

Jack Rowe played 124 games at shortstop for the 1887 Wolverines. Rowe was part of “The Big Four” (along with Dan Brouthers, Deacon White, and Hardy Richardson) that Detroit owner Fred Stearns purchased from the Buffalo Bisons for $7,000 before the 1886 season. The purchase of four of the best players in baseball all at one time drew wide attention. Rowe had a big year for the Wolverines, with a .318 batting average, 135 runs scored (2nd in the NL), 171 hits (4th in the NL), 96 RBIs (6th in the NL), 30 extra base hits (7th in the NL), and 239 total bases (9th in the NL). Rowe hit for the cycle for the Wolverines on August 21, 1886. Rowe later suffered a nervous breakdown and died at age 54.

Third baseman Deacon White was also part of "The Big Four" acquired from Buffalo before the 1886 season. White won two batting crowns earlier in his career but was 39 years old in 1887. He still hit for a .303 batting average and had 11 triples, 75 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. White was a nonsmoking, Bible-toting, church-going deacon.[citation needed] According to Lee Allen in The National League Story (1961), White was one of the last people to believe that the earth is flat.

Outfield: Thompson, Hanlon, Richardson and Twitchell

Right fielder Sam Thompson, known as “Big Sam,” was the second future Hall of Famer on the 1887 Detroit team. Thompson was in his prime in 1887 and had a tremendous year. He was the National League batting champion with a .372 average, and he also led the league in slugging percentage (.571), hits (203), total bases (311), triples (23), RBIs (166), and runs created (127). His 1887 total of 166 RBIs stood as a major league record for 40 years until Lou Gehrig broke it in 1927. He was No. 2 on the all-time home run list at the time of his retirement.

Center fielder Ned Hanlon was the third future Hall of Famer on the 1887 Detroit team. Though inducted into the Hall of Fame based on his later performance as a manager, Hanlon was a good fielding center fielder who had tremendous speed and range. In 1887, he stole 69 bases for the Wolverines. He also hit .291 with seven stolen bases and 4 RBIs in the 1887 World Series.

The left fielder duties were split between second baseman/outfielder Hardy Richardson, and pitcher/outfielder Larry Twitchell. In addition to pitching 15 games for the Wolverines, Twitchell played 44 games in left field and 9 games in center field. Twitchell had a .333 batting average and collected 51 RBIs in just 264 at bats. In his 15 games as a pitcher, Twitchell had a record of 11-1.

Pitching: Getzien, Baldwin, Weidman, Conway and Twitchell

The Wolverines’ #1 pitcher in 1887 was Charlie Getzien. Getzien had a record of 29-13 for the 1887 team. Getzien started 42 games, pitched 41complete games, and had an ERA of 3.73. He was among the league leaders in wins, win percentage (.690), inning pitched (366.2), and strikeouts (135). He was also first in the league with 24 home runs allowed. In the 1887 World Series, Getzien had a record of 4-2 with a 2.48 ERA.

Detroit’s #2 starter was Charles B. "Lady" Baldwin. Baldwin played four seasons with the Wolverines. In 1886, Baldwin had a record of 42-13 (the most wins ever by a Detroit pitcher) with a 2.24 ERA in 487 innings pitched, striking out 323 of 1936 batters faced. Baldwin also completed 55 of 56 games, seven of which were shutouts. In 1887, Baldwin’s appearances were reduced from 56 games to 24, and from 487 innings to 211. He won only 13 games in the regular season for the 1887 Wolverines, but in World Series play, Baldwin pitched 5 complete games for a 4-1 record and a 1.50 ERA.

The Wolverines’ #3 pitcher was George Edward “Stump” Wiedman. Wiedman led the National League with a 1.80 ERA for Detroit in 1881. In 1887, Wiedman returned to the Wolverines, where he went 13-7. By late July, Wiedman fell out of favor with manager William Watkins who considered Wiedman to be a malcontent. The Wolverines sold Wiedman to the New York Metropolitans on August 5, 1887.

The Wolverines #4 pitcher was Pete Conway. Despite his 8-9 record in 1887, Conway had the lowest ERA (2.90) among the Detroit starters.

Detroit Wolverines


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