Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday School: History Lesson 42

Otto Knabe was the starting second baseman for the Phillies from 1907-1913. For seven seasons, Knabe teamed with shortstop Mickey Doolan as the team's double play combination. In an era where runs were at a premium, Knabe excelled at the art of preventing runners from advancing.

Knabe once spoke to a reporter about his playing days and the occasionally rough, aggressive style he and Doolan perfected. "Doolan and I didn't specialize in mayhem, but anything went if the umpire wasn't watching. The Cardinals and Phillies used to have some grand battles." In one game, Cards player-manager Roger Bresnahan had been spiked by Phils third baseman Hans Lobart and instructed his players to go after Lobert in retaliation. Knabe spoke of that game, "Ennis Oakes, a Cardinal outfielder, took it upon himself to avenge his manager. Oakes got to first base this day and shouted to Doolan and me, "I'm coming down!" We told him to come ahead and he did. As Mickey took the throw from the catcher, I jumped up and landed on my knees on Oakes as he was sliding in. The only place Doolan could find to tag Oakes was on the jaw and he must have knocked him unconscious because they had to carry Oakes off the field. He never did get around to third."

For what he offered in the field, Knabe, unfortunately, was never a great hitter. In seven seasons with the Phillies, Knabe was a .249 hitter with a .643 OPS. His best offensive season came in 1912, when he drove in 46 runs, stole 16 bases and posted a .282 batting average. His job never was to be a slugger. Instead his duty was to get on base in front of the bigger bats and score runs. For instance, in 1911, even though he batted a lowly .237, Knabe still drew 94 walks and scored 99 runs.

In 1914, Knabe jumped to the newly formed Federal League. Aged just 29 years, Knabe was named player-manager of his new club, the Terrapins. The team went 84-70 and finished in 3rd place.

After the Federal League folded two years later, Knabe returned to the National League, playing one more season, split between the Pirates and the Cubs.

After retiring from playing, Knabe managed in the minors. Knabe is the Phillies all-time team leader in sacrifice bunts with 216.

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