Tip O’Neill and the St. Louis Browns of 1887
In 1887, Tip O’Neill, left fielder for the St. Louis Browns, won the American Association batting championship with a .492 average—the highest ever for a single season in the Major Leagues.
Yet his record was set during a season when a base on balls counted as a hit and a time at bat. Over the next 130 years, the debate about O’Neill’s “correct” average diverted attention from the other batting feats of his record-breaking season, including numerous multi-hit games, streaks and long hits, as well as two cycles and the triple crown.
The Browns entered 1887 as the champions of St. Louis, the American Association and the world. Following the lead set by their manager, Charles Comiskey, the Browns did “anything to win,” combining skill with an aggressive style of play that included noisy coaching, incessant kicking, trickery and rough play. O’Neill did “everything to win” at the plate, leaving the no-holds-barred tactics to his rowdier teammates.