Ferkovich: The Detroit Wolverines, National League champions

From SABR member Scott Ferkovich at The National Pastime Museum on February 7, 2017:

On the eve of his team’s opening-day matchup with the Indianapolis Hoosiers, Manager Bill Watkins called a meeting with the players. The meeting served not only as a pep talk, but it also afforded him an opportunity to review the team rules. The pre-season discourse had become a budding tradition for the 28-year-old Watkins. He was in his third year of skippering the Detroit Wolverines of the National League. If the previous year was any indication, the 1887 team figured to be very good indeed. One Chicago newspaper even described the Detroits as “superb animals.”

Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings were the reigning National League champions, but Detroit had finished a close second, only 2½ games off the pace in ’86. Watkins knew that his Wolverine squad could compete with anybody, and he said as much when his men gathered in his Indianapolis hotel room.

Watkins dramatically declared that the eyes of Detroit, and indeed of all Michigan, were on them. The players should strive to maintain the high opinion entertained for them by the people they represented. He complimented his charges on their fine behavior and splendid ball playing in their preliminary exhibition season. He reminded them of the importance of hustling. All players, he insisted, would be required to run to first base on hitting the ball, without waiting to see where it went. Pitchers were expected to cover first base when necessary. In the case of balls thrown from the outfielders, the backing up must be prompt and efficient. He then adjourned his men, confident that harmony prevailed.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/detroit-wolverines-national-league-champions

Originally published: February 7, 2017. Last Updated: February 7, 2017.