The Man Who Lived Up to His Name
Part 1 Part
IF TONY SUCK DIDN'T
EXIST, somebody Ring Lardner, James Thurber, Bill Veeck, or another great
spinner of baseball yarns would have invented him. But the evidence is
incontrovertable: Charles Anthony Suck, born June 11, 1858 in Chicago, IL, is
listed on Baseball-Reference.com,
Total Baseball, the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia, and every other reputable
source of 19th century baseball statistics.
What's more, Tony
Suck is arguably the single worst major-league baseball player ever. Yes, EVER.
This is a man who truly lived up to his name on the baseball diamond. In a career
that lasted only 58 games over two seasons (1883 and 1884), Suck hit a whopping
.151 (31-for-205). And a punchless .151 it was, too; only two of those hits were
doubles, and none of them homers. His career slugging percentage was .161, or
less than his listed weight (164 lbs); with his on-base percentage of .205, this
comes out to a .366 OPS. Few pitchers could even manage such ineptitude with the
It's not as though
the no-hit Suck was sticking around the game for his glove. In his defense (sorry),
fielding gloves had only been introduced to the game in 1875, and were still unpadded;
the first catcher's mask was introduced in 1877, but the chest protector didn't
debut until 1885. Apparently Tony didn't get the memo, as he mercilessly bungled
things in the field:
- 32 errors in 32
games at catcher (.894 PCT)
- 16 errors in 15
games at shortstop (.754 PCT)
- 5 errors in 13
games in the outfield (.783 PCT), 10 of those games in centerfield.
All told, that's
53 errors in his career, 0.9 per game played, or 1.7 for every hit he had. The
fact that the great majority of those games were played at what we now consider
defense-oriented positions tells us something: this guy was a true futilityman.
Let's take a closer
look at his career. Suck debuted with the 1883
Buffalo Bisons of the National League. The Bisons weren't a bad team; they
finished in 5th place out of 8 teams, but with a 52-45 record. Three Bisons are
in the Hall of Fame: first baseman Dan Brouthers, leftfielder Jim O'Rourke, and
pitcher Pud Galvin. Other players of note on this team were catcher Deacon White,
who many feel should be in the Hall, Orator Shaffer, who was apparently quite
the talker, and Davy Force, an excellent shortstop who stood only 5'4" and was
notorious for jumping teams; he had played for seven different teams in seven
years before joining the Bisons in 1879. The Bisons record was surely helped by
the fact that Suck played only two games for them. He didn't exactly wow the Bisons
in his short stint, going 0-for-7, and making 3 errors in his only game at catcher.
Undeterred by his
lack of success in Buffalo, Suck came back for more in '84, this time in the short-lived
Association. The UA was a league of such dubious quality that baseball historians
debate whether it was actually major-league caliber. Formed to capitalize on player
dissatisfaction with the reserve rule used in the National League and the American
Association (the two majors at the time), it quickly became a financial disaster.
Teams disbanded in midseason, teams joined in midseason, teams played unequal
numbers of games, and there was no pennant race to speak of, as the St. Louis
Maroons won their first 21 games and went 94-19 for the season. The "second place"
team as determined by winning percentage (the first Milwaukee Brewers) played
a whopping 12 games, while the real second place team the Cincinnati Outlaw
Reds hinted at the league's sketchiness with its moniker.
In the New Bill
James Historical Abstract, James devotes 13 fascinating pages to the question
of whether the UA "major" or not. He argues that the Pacific Coast League of the
1920s and '30s and the Negro National League of the '30s and '40s, among others,
had strongers cases to be considered "major" than the UA. Studying the players,
James notes that 39% of the 272 UA players never played any other major league,
another 26% met with virtually no success in their careers in other majors (14
hits or less in their career), and none of the league's players went on to stardom
elsewhere. James emphatically concludes that the designation as a major is a mistake
which has never been corrected due to laziness: "We are polluting major league
record books by including statistics from a league that wouldn't properly be included
in an encyclopedia of the good minors." Ouch.
Anyway, in a league
full of suckiness, Suck less than held his own. He started the season with a team
called the Chicago Browns, but in late August, the Browns (then 34-39) folded.
to this site, the Browns were replaced by the Pittsburgh Stogies, who played
only 18 more games before disbanding themselves, and being replaced by the St.
Paul Saints of the Northwest League. It's unclear how much player turnover occurred
in the process of this franchise transfer; it's entirely plausible that Suck jumped
off the bandwagon when the team left his hometown. He should have been pushed
off earlier; glancing at the stats, the .149-hiting Suck was clearly a damn sight
worse than any of the Browns; even the .170-hitting Charlie Briggs managed 11
extra-base hits and a .253 slugging percentage and made only 24 errors in 51 games
(Suck racked up 46 errors in his 53 games).
Suck finished the
season playing 3 games for the Baltimore Monumentals, at 58-47 one of the league's
better teams. He managed to go 3-for-10 in his brief Baltimore stint, but even
then he stunk things up in the field, making 4 errors in his 3 games behind the
plate. He never played in the majors again. Almost nothing else is known of his
baseball career beyond the fact that he died on January 29, 1895 in his native
Chicago. Even the Baseball
Index, which contains bibliographies of every player, draws a goose egg on
Tony Suck's unlikely
and statistically miserable career raises two questions... CONTINUED