''Frank Selee, championship manager and Hall of Famer, was a key reason for the early success of teams in (if you can believe it) both Boston and Chicago. His early death was a baseball tragedy, but his results speak for themselves as a testament to his greatness and skill as a coach and leader.
Frank Gibson Selee was born October 26, 1859 in Amherst, New Hampshire. A diminutive man, Selee played shortstop in his few years of professional baseball, but at an early age displayed his true talent for managing and coaching the game.
By 1884, he had gotten a full-time job coaching in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and two years later, he led the squad to its first championship in the burgeoning Northwestern League. The following year he was paid $3,000 to move his team to Omaha, Nebraska. Though his team was stripped of talent by the majors, he still led the team to a top four finish the next three years.
In 1890, Selee was finally given his dream job: a manager position in the National Association. Coaching the Boston Beaneaters (later the Boston Braves), Selee's first season was spectacular by almost any standards except his own: his 76-57 record was only good enough for 5th place, two wins out of third. After that Selee showed his prowess at finding no-name talent and maximizing his lineup by selecting players who stood out at their position.
His 1891 club, anchored by Hall of Fame pitchers Kid Nichols and John Clarkson, finished tops in the league, capturing the first of Selee's five pennants. From 1890 to 1901, he led the Boston team to an astounding .607 win-loss percentage, and helped groom numerous Hall of Famers, including Hugh Duffy, Fred Tenney, Jimmy Collins, and Billy Hamilton.
Selee was a firm believer in the fundamentals of the game, and his teams were always defensively far and above the rest of the league. They routinely practiced double plays, pick off moves, and sacrifice flies. His teams always had the fewest errors, and Selee was proud of his team's abilities on the field.
In 1901, Selee's contract was sold to the Chicago Cubs, and he immediately began retooling that team as he had his champion Beaneaters. He moved catcher Frank Chance to first base, third baseman Joe Tinker to shortstop, and shortstop Johnny Evers to second base. Although he struggled through his first season in Chicago, he never finished below third afterwards, and although he never won the pennant with the team, he set up the championship team of 1908 with his constant grooming of Chance as his replacement.
It was sad but true, but in 1903, the 44 year old Selee had contracted tuberculosis. It ravaged him terribly, and by 1905, he was too weak to make road trips with the team. Chance, who had managed on a de facto basis, took over the club for good on August 1. Selee lingered on for four years in a home for consumptives, finally passing away July 5, 1909, in Denver, Colorado. He was 49.
Nearly 100 years after Selee's amazing career had ended - his .598 lifetime win percentage is 4th alltime, and his 1284 wins was a top ten record in his day - Selee was finally acknowledged for his outstanding skill as a manager when he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
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