William Joseph Bradley
Third Baseman, 1901-1910
Height: 6'0" Weight: 185 lbs
Throws: Right Bats: Right
How Acquired: 1901; Jumped to Cleveland Blues from Chicago Orphans (Cubs)
Left Via: Released August, 1910
Bill Bradley was born in Cleveland in 1878, and grew up in the Payne Avenue district. As a boy, he played on the streets with the Delahanty clan (five of whom played in the majors) and Tommy Leach (another future major leaguer). He attended the Immaculate Conception School for eight years before getting a job at a local stove company and playing semi-pro baseball on the side for additional income.
Wanting to play full time, he headed to the first place that he could get a shot. He tried out for the Burlington (WV) Colts of the Western Association in 1897 and managed to get into 18 games at third base that September. Unfortunately, the team went bankrupt, so the day after winning a game with a grand slam, Bradley hitched a ride on a freight train to Akron and walked back to Cleveland, as Burlington hadn't paid him.
His buddy Leach was playing for the Auburn (NY) Maroons of the New York State League in 1898 and got Bradley onto the squad in July. He played first base and shortstop for the Maroons. In 1899, he switched back to third base. He hit .313 with 14 doubles, 10 triples and eight home runs in just 88 games, garnering attention. In August, the Auburn franchise was transferred to Troy, and renamed the Trojans (or Washerwomen by the locals). A mere ten days later, his contract was purchased by the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) of the National League. Legend has it in his final game for Troy, he smacked a pitch onto the nearby racetrack where it rolled for a quarter mile.
His salary was now $150/month, but Bradley rode the pine for the first two weeks before debuting on August 26. He made eight errors in just five games at short, so he moved back to the hot corner. He put up a good 310/378/419 (120 OPS+) in just 144 plate appearances. This earned him a raise to $300/month for 1900. In his first full major league season for the Orphans, the 22 year old hit 282/330/399 (104 OPS+) with five home runs and 49 RBI. After the season he asked for another raise, but the Orphans management scoffed, even saying he might not make the team next year because of the 61 errors he had (.895 fielding % in 516 chances, yikes!).
As luck would have it, the American League was forming for 1901, and one of the franchises would be located in his hometown. The decision to jump leagues and play for the Blues for $3500 was pretty easy. And the move paid off for the Blues as well as Bradley would become a fixture at third base. In 1901, he hit 293/336/403 (108 OPS+) while cutting his errors almost in half to 37 and leading AL third baseman in fielding percentage. He even pitched one inning that year, allowing four hits and three unearned runs.
He broke out with the bat in 1902 though. Bradley hit 340/375/515 (150 OPS+) with 39 doubles, 12 triples and 11 home runs along with 77 RBI and 104 runs scored. All of those were good enough for top ten in the league save the RBI number and OBP. He had a 29 game hitting streak that year that stood as the AL record until Ty Cobb surpassed it in 1911. In 1902, he also became the first batter to have home runs in four consecutive games. That season caught the eye of New York Giants manager John McGraw, who offered a three year $10k contract with a $5k signing bonus. But Bradley was happy to be playing near home and stayed in Cleveland.
In 1903, he was just as spectacular. He hit 313/348/496 (153 OPS+) with 36 doubles, 22 triples, six homers and 101 runs scored. He again finished in the Top 10 (except for OBP) but did not lead in any category. He became the first Cleveland player to hit for the cycle that season on September 24 in 12-23 win over the Washington Senators. He also tied teammate Elmer Flick's record of three triples in one game on July 28, which still stands today.
Bradley continued to be one of the premier AL hitters in 1904, 300/334/409 (135 OPS+), driving in a career best 83 teammates, third in the league. And after that extremely poor fielding season in 1900, he continually worked at his fielding prowess, becoming one of the best fielding third baseman. Recall in those days that the glove used was basically just a bit of padding with no webbing. Bradley is credited with being one of the first third baseman to field the bunt bare handed, scoop and toss, all in one motion. His range was good enough that he recorded seven putouts in a game twice in his career, another record which still stands (and been tied).
Entering the 1905 season, Bradley was still just 27 years old and coming off three superb seasons (17.7 WAR). The future looked especially bright for him and the Naps. Nap Lajoie had taken over for Bill Armour that spring as manager, but midseason he developed a severe infection from the blue dye in the socks seeping into a spike wound. Bradley took over temporarily as the player manager while he recovered. He kept the team in the fight at 20-21 in those games, but he himself was struggling as well. The official diagnosis at the time was called autotoxicity of the stomach. Whatever it was, by August his cough had worsened and he ended up missing most of September, recuperating at the Geneva-on-the Lake sanitarium. His stats ended up being 268/321/353 (113 OPS+) but with only 6 triples and no home runs.
Bradley and his bat Big Bennie, returned healthy for the 1906 season. He was determined to bring back his power and continue his disdain for "inside ball (small ball)". By mid-July, he was only at 275/324/361 with two triples and two home runs, when Bill Hogg of the New York Highlanders (Yankees) broke his wrist on an inside fast ball. That cost him the rest of the season.
When he returned in 1907, the power stroke had disappeared for good. The wrist injury had healed, but something was still wrong. That is when Bradley flipped his philosophy to the hated inside ball. He only slashed 223/286/267 with 20 doubles and one triple, but led the league with 46 sacrifices. His glove was still as good as ever too, leading the league for the fourth time in fielding percentage and for the third time in double plays turned.
In 1908, some of his hitting stroke returned, 243/297/318, 24 doubles, seven triples, and a homer. But he set a major league record with 60 sacrifices that season. That is still the second best mark in history, only surpassed by future Indian Ray Chapman in 1917. His biggest moment of that season was perhaps his backhanded grab of John Anderson's grounder down the line for the final out to secure the first perfect game in franchise history by Addie Joss on October 2.
The maladies continued for Bradley in 1909. This time he contracted typhoid fever and only played in 95 games, hitting a paltry 186/236/222. His hitting stroke failed to return in 1910, and on August 10, was released with a 196/236/210 line in just 61 games. He was still only 33 years old, so he was able to secure a spot on the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 1911 to 1913 seasons, playing full-time and hitting 294, 292 and 277 in those three seasons with 15 total home runs.
In 1914, the Federal League began in earnest, trying to become a third major league. Bradley was hired as the manager of the Brooklyn Tip-Tops and the squad finished at 77-77, 33 games back in fifth place of the Indianapolis Hoosiers. Bradley used himself as a pinch hitter six times, going 3-6 with a double. He did not return to Brooklyn in 1915, suing the league for breach of contract. But he still managed to hook up with the Kansas City Packers in that Federal League for 66 games. His hitting line was atrocious again though, 187/225/241.
He managed the Erie Sailors of Inter-State League in 1916. They were in seventh place after 63 games when the team disbanded. He stayed out of baseball until the Indians hired him as a scout in 1928, which he continued to do until 1950 (with a one year sojourn to the Tigers in 1946). In 1950 he had a stroke which kept him from traveling. He continued to look at players brought to Cleveland through 1953, before retiring for good. He was stricken with pneumonia the following February and passed away on March 11, 1954 at 76 years old. He was elected to the Indians Hall of fame that same year.
Wikipedia; SABR Biography Project (Stephen Constantelos); Napolean Lajoie: King of Ballplayers by David L. Fleitz; Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: A-F by David L. Porter; the Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia by Russell Schneider
Indians Career Stats
|CLE (10 yrs)||1231||5193||4648||649||1265||238||74||27||473||157||242||435||.272||.317||.373||.690||111||1732||65||238|
- AL WAR: 4th, 1902-6.7; 6th, 1903-7.1; 7th, 1904-6.6
- AL WAR Position Players: 2nd, 1902-6.7; 2nd, 1903-7.1; 3rd, 1904-6.6; 8th, 1905-5.0
- AL oWAR: 2nd, 1902-5.9; 2nd, 1903-6.1; 3rd, 1904-5.7
- AL dWAR: 3rd, 1905-1.7; 4th, 1901-1.0; 5th, 1903-1.6; 7th, 1902-1.3; 8th, 1906-1.1; 9th, 1904-1.5
- AL Average: 5th, 1903-.313; 5th, 1904-.300; 6th, 1902-.340
- AL Slugging: 2nd, 1903-.496; 4th, 1902-.515; 8th, 1902-.409
- AL OPS: 4th, 1902-.890; 4th, 1903-.844; 9th, 1904-.743
- AL Plate Appearances: 5th, 1904-667; 7th, 1908-650; 9th, 1902-597; 10th, 1903-587
- AL Runs Scored: 2nd, 1903-101; 3rd, 1904-94; 4th, 1902-104
- AL Hits: 3rd, 1902-187; 3rd, 1904-183; 5th, 1903-168
- AL TB: 2nd, 1902-283; 3rd, 1903-266; 3rd, 1904-249
- AL 2B: 3rd, 1902-39; 3rd, 1904-32; 4th, 1903-36; 5th, 1901-28; 5th, 1905-34; 9th, 1908-24
- AL 3B: 2nd, 1903-22; 6th, 1902-12; 10th, 1901-13
- AL Home Runs: 2nd, 1902-11; 4th, 1904-6; 7th, 1903-6
- AL RBI: 3rd, 1904-83
- AL Strikeouts: 3rd, 1903-69; 8th, 1904-76
- AL Singles: 5th, 1904-137; 10th, 1902-125
- AL OPS+: 4th, 1902-150; 4th, 1903-153; 7th, 1904-135
- AL RC: 3rd, 1902-105; 3rd, 1903-92; 5th, 1904-82
- AL Extra Base Hits: 2nd, 1903-64; 3rd, 1903-62; 7th, 1904-46; 9th, 1905-40; 10th, 1901-42
- AL Hit By Pitch: 2nd, 1908-13; 3rd, 1905-15; 8th, 1907-9; 9th, 1901-8
- AL Sacrifice Hits: 1st, 1907-46; 1st, 1908-60; 5th, 1904-27; 8th, 1903-23
- AL Putouts as 3B: 1st, 1902-188; 1st, 1905-190; 2nd, 1907-164; 3rd, 1901-192; 3rd, 1904-178; 4th, 1908-142; 5th, 1903-151
- AL Assists as 3B: 1st, 1903-299; 2nd, 1902-324; 2nd, 1905-313; 2nd, 1907-278; 3rd, 1901-298; 3rd, 1904-308
- AL Errors as 3B: 1st, 1903-37; 4th, 1902-43; 5th, 1907-29
- AL Double Plays Turned as 3B: 1st, 1901-25; 1st, 1905-17; 1st, 1907-18; 2nd, 1902-21; 2nd, 1903-18; 2nd, 1904-18; 2nd, 1909-16; 4th, 1908-13
- AL Fielding % as 3B: 1st, 1901-.930; 1st, 1904-.955; 1st, 1905-.945; 1st, 1907-.938; 3rd, 1902-.923; 4th, 1903-.924; 4th, 1908-.939
- AL Range Factor/Game 3B: 1st, 1902-3.74; 2nd, 1905-3.45; 2nd, 1906-3.46; 3rd, 1907-3.18; 4th, 1901-3.68; 4th, 1903-3.31; 4th, 1904-3.16; 5th, 1908-2.97
Cleveland Indians Career Leader
- 10th WAR Position Players (35.0)
- 16th oWAR (29.0)
- 7th dWAR (10.7)
- 17th Games Played (1231)
- 13th At Bats (4648)
- 13th Plate Appearances (5193)
- 19th Runs Scored (649)
- 14th Hits (1265)
- 21st Total Bases (1732)
- t-12th Doubles (238)
- t-10th Triples (74)
- 29th Runs Batted In (473)
- 30th Strikeouts (435)
- 9th Stolen Bases (157)
- 14th Singles (926)
- t-29th Runs Created (551)
- 21st Extra Base Hits (339)
- t-4th Hit By Pitch (65)
- 4th Sacrifice Hits (238)
Cleveland Indians Season Leader
- 30th WAR (7.1, 1903)
- 37th WAR (6.7, 1902)
- t-38th WAR (6.6, 1904)
- t-40th oWAR (6.1, 1903)
- t-44th oWAR (5.9, 1902)
- t-40th dWAR (1.7, 1905)
- t-49th dWAR (1.6, 1903)
- t-43rd Average (.340, 1902)
- t-46th At Bats (609, 1904)
- t-3rd Triples (22, 1903)
- t-29th Triples (13, 1901)
- t-40th Triples (12, 1902)
- t-48th Singles (137, 1904)
- t-49th OPS+ (153, 1903)
- t-8th Hit By Pitch (15, 1905)
- t-16th Hit By Pitch (13, 1908)
- t-46th Hit By Pitch (9, 1907)
- 2nd Sacrifice Hits (60, 1908)
- 4th Sacrifice Hits (46, 1907)
- t-27th Sacrifice Hits (27, 1904)
- t-50th Sacrifice Hits (23, 1903)