Appling and Vaughan

February 7, 2018
  

106.  Interruption

              Back to third base for a paragraph.   At the other positions I summarized the dominant players at the position in rough form, ignoring one-year aberrations and smoothing out gradual transitions.  I forgot to do that at third base, so let me.  . .

              In 1900 we could say that the best third baseman in baseball was Jimmy Collins.  After Collins it was Bill Bradley, then Art Devlin, then Home Run Baker, then Heinie Groh, then Pie Traynor, then Stan Hack, then Bob Elliott, then Al Rosen, then Eddie Mathews, then Dick Allen, and then for a period of several years no one in particular although the field of third basemen was very strong, but with no one dominant player.   After that era the best third baseman in baseball was Mike Schmidt, then Wade Boggs, then Matt Williams or Ken Caminiti, then Chipper Jones, then Scott Rolen, then Alex Rodriguez, then Evan Longoria, then Miguel Cabrera, then Josh Donaldson. 

 

107.  Arky Vaughan

              Regarding Bob Elliott (Third Base) I commented that in the 1930s and 1940s an influx of stars from California swept into the game.   Both Cronin and Arky Vaughan were part of that—as was Vern Stephens, who will be on our list a tomorrow.   Although born in Arkansas and nicknamed "Arky" by his childhood friends, Vaughan grew up California and played High School Baseball in Fullerton.   He played only one season of minor league baseball, dominating the Western League at Wichita, and was the youngest player in the National League early in the 1932 season.  

              He became the starting shortstop early in the season when (a) Tommy Thevenow broke a finger, and (b) Vaughan got red hot, hitting .379 in his first nine games in the major leagues.  Although his average would drop as low as .222 three weeks later—and although he made quite a number of errors—Vaughan held the job.   He was hitting .318 by the season’s end, and that would be his major league average.  The Pirates hired Honus Wagner to tutor Vaughan on playing shortstop, and Vaughan and Wagner actually roomed together on the road early in Vaughan’s career, becoming close friends; Honus was proud of Arky, and said that of all the players he had tried to help, Arky was the one who went the furthest.  

              It is difficult to overstate how wide-ranging Vaughan’s offensive skills were; he was a lifetime .318 hitter who would be among the National League leaders at various times in everything except homers.  In 1933, aged 21, he was fifth in the National League in total bases and RBI, third in on base percentage.  In 1934 he was fourth in runs scored, third in doubles, fifth in batting average, and led the league in on base percentage.   In 1935, hitting .385, he also led the National League in walks, 97, on base percentage, .491, and slugging percentage, .607; the .491 on base percentage was and still is a record for a Pittsburgh Pirate, and is also the major league record for a shortstop.   He was hitting .401 on September 10.  He reached a very, very high peak value, and was the #1 shortstop in baseball for eight years:

 

First

Last

YEAR

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

Value

Arky

Vaughan

1933

9

97

.314

.388

.478

.866

32.00

Joe

Cronin

1933

5

118

.309

.398

.445

.843

30.05

Luke

Appling

1933

6

85

.322

.379

.443

.822

20.28

Billy

Rogell

1933

0

57

.295

.381

.404

.785

19.90

Dick

Bartell

1933

1

37

.271

.340

.336

.675

18.10

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arky

Vaughan

1934

12

94

.333

.431

.511

.942

35.74

Joe

Cronin

1934

7

101

.284

.353

.421

.774

21.71

Bill

Werber

1934

11

67

.321

.397

.472

.868

21.52

Billy

Rogell

1934

3

100

.296

.374

.392

.766

21.23

Luke

Appling

1934

2

61

.303

.384

.405

.788

20.07

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arky

Vaughan

1935

19

99

.385

.491

.607

1.098

37.71

Luke

Appling

1935

1

71

.307

.437

.389

.826

24.35

Billy

Rogell

1935

6

71

.275

.367

.387

.754

19.33

Joe

Cronin

1935

9

95

.295

.370

.460

.830

18.26

Frankie

Crosetti

1935

8

50

.256

.351

.430

.781

17.90

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arky

Vaughan

1936

9

78

.335

.453

.474

.927

34.86

Luke

Appling

1936

6

128

.388

.473

.508

.981

26.67

Frankie

Crosetti

1936

15

78

.288

.387

.437

.824

20.75

Lyn

Lary

1936

2

52

.289

.403

.366

.769

19.56

Cecil

Travis

1936

2

92

.317

.366

.433

.800

18.14

 

               

 

First

Last

YEAR

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

Value

Arky

Vaughan

1937

5

72

.322

.394

.463

.857

31.06

Luke

Appling

1937

4

77

.317

.407

.439

.846

25.69

Joe

Cronin

1937

18

110

.307

.402

.486

.887

22.81

Cecil

Travis

1937

3

66

.344

.395

.439

.834

20.78

Lyn

Lary

1937

8

77

.290

.377

.421

.798

20.38

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arky

Vaughan

1938

7

68

.322

.433

.444

.876

31.64

Joe

Cronin

1938

17

94

.325

.428

.536

.964

26.60

Luke

Appling

1938

0

44

.303

.392

.350

.742

20.97

Cecil

Travis

1938

5

67

.335

.401

.432

.833

19.86

Frankie

Crosetti

1938

9

55

.263

.382

.371

.752

18.48

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arky

Vaughan

1939

6

62

.306

.385

.424

.808

27.74

Joe

Cronin

1939

19

107

.308

.407

.492

.899

24.71

Luke

Appling

1939

0

56

.314

.430

.368

.798

24.23

Cecil

Travis

1939

5

63

.292

.342

.403

.745

19.38

Eric

McNair

1939

7

82

.324

.375

.426

.800

15.73

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arky

Vaughan

1940

7

95

.300

.393

.453

.846

28.20

Luke

Appling

1940

0

79

.348

.420

.442

.862

26.13

Lou

Boudreau

1940

9

101

.295

.370

.443

.814

25.30

Joe

Cronin

1940

24

111

.285

.380

.502

.882

23.55

Cecil

Travis

1940

2

76

.322

.381

.445

.826

22.63

 

              Noting that the 1940 list contains four Hall of Famers—Vaughan, Appling, Boudreau and Cronin.  Vaughan had an injury season in 1941, although he still hit .318 and had a .399 on base percentage.   After the 1941 season he was traded to Brooklyn for four players.  

              In Brooklyn he was playing for Leo Durocher.  Vaughan and Durocher did not get along well.    In July, 1943, there was a famous incident; I will quote this account of it from Vaughan’s SABR Biography, by Ralph Moses:

On July 10 of that year, manager Durocher suspended pitcher Bobo Newsom for insubordination. Dodgers second baseman Billy Herman remembered, "I was having breakfast together with Augie Galan and Arky Vaughan at the New Yorker Hotel. Vaughan was a guy who always had everybody’s respect, as a ballplayer and as a man. He never said too much, but everybody admired and respected him." Vaughan read a newspaper interview in which Durocher made accusations against Newsom. Herman recalled that Vaughan was quiet, but seemed to be upset by what he read. Later, at the ballpark, Vaughan angrily confronted Durocher, who confirmed that he had given the interview. Herman recalled, "Arky didn’t say another word. He went back to his locker and took off his uniform—pants, blouse, socks, cap—made a big bundle out of it, and went back to (Durocher’s) office.

"Take this uniform," he said, "and shove it right up your ass." And he threw it in Durocher’s face. "If you would lie about Bobo," he said, "you would lie about me and everybody else. I’m not playing for you."

Most of his teammates sided with Vaughan and decided not to play that afternoon against Pittsburgh. Durocher, with help from general manager Branch Rickey, eventually persuaded all the Dodgers—except Vaughan—to play. Arky and Newsom watched the start of the game in street clothes from the right field stands. Rickey asked Vaughan to return to the team, and he did. Arky was back on the bench in uniform before the end of the game.

              After the 1943 season, however, Vaughan retired.   He was only 31, and he had had a tremendous season, hitting .305 and leading the National League in runs scored (112) and stolen bases (20), and ranking as the #1 shortstop in the National League, although behind some American Leaguers. Moses’ biography says that he retired to his ranch in northern California; other sources, presumably less authoritative, say that he retired to take a wartime job in a factory.   

              Certainly the conflict with Durocher had something to do with it.  To put this in context, a manager in that era had more power relative to a player than he does now, and managers—like all people given power—sometimes abused their power.  This was true not only in baseball, but in society in general.  With the growing strength of the unions and broadening of democracy, this was becoming less tolerated, and less tolerated in sports.  In 1940 the Cleveland Indians revolted against the abusive behavior of their manager Ossie Vitt.  Managers in that era would demean their players in public, and in the press.  Durocher was one of the worst offenders.  After the Dodgers traded Luke Hamlin, who had won 20 games for Durocher in 1939, Durocher said that he thought he deserved extra credit for winning the National League pennant in 1941 with Luke Hamlin on his roster.   (Hamlin was traded after the 1941 season, as part of the package traded for Arky Vaughan.  Hamlin, by that time 37 years old, didn’t really add value to the package; the Dodgers were just getting rid of him.) 

              In any case Vaughan was out of baseball for three seasons, eventually returning in 1947, when Durocher was suspended for the season for associating with gamblers.  (The Dodgers’ under baseball law at that time still owned exclusive rights to Vaughan, although he was not on their roster.  Also, I believe that Vaughan returned to the team before Durocher’s suspension.)    Vaughan hit .325 as a part-time player in 1947, helping the Dodgers to the pennant.  He did not have a good season in 1948, and left the majors after the 1948 season, although he played another season of minor league ball in California, back closer to his home. 

              Vaughan died in a boating accident in 1952.   He was just a few feet from shore when his boat capsized; reportedly Vaughan, who was a good swimmer, drowned while trying to save the other man in the boat, who could not swim. 

              While Vaughan did eventually make the Hall of Fame, it took an astonishingly long time for that to happen, and we must observe honestly that Vaughan never did achieve star status commensurate with his on field performance.  I would be surprised if there is anyone else who was the #1 player at his position for 8 years, but waited 37 years after retiring to be selected to the Hall of Fame. Our compulsive need to understand compels us to ask why this was true.  

              I see several contributing factors, but have no idea how to weight them:

              1)  While there is relatively little doubt that Vaughan could have gotten close to 3,000 hits had he played through to the end, his retiring with only 2,103 hits—and relatively modest counting numbers in other areas—no doubt lessened his historic stature.

              2)  The giant shadow of Honus Wagner as Pirate shortstop may have lessened the impression left by Vaughan.

              3)  Leaving the game early as he did deprived Vaughan of what we could call the myth-making years.   An aging player, as he nears the gold watch, sometimes benefits from three years of hagiography—Derek Jeter, for example, but also Brooks Robinson, Greg Maddux, Roberto Clemente, and others.  Vaughan skipped that portion of his career.

              4)  Although Frankie Frisch managed Vaughan for a couple of unhappy years in Pittsburgh, Vaughan was certainly not a part of the St. Louis Cardinal/New York Giant cabal that controlled Veteran’s Committee selections in the 1970s. 

              But these four factors could have shaped how Vaughan was perceived AFTER his career, not DURING his career.   The problem started during this career.  He didn’t do well in MVP voting, compared to his performance.   Dick Bartell was the starting shortstop for the National League in the All Star game in 1933 (Vaughan did not play), Travis Jackson in 1934 (Vaughan was a backup), Leo Durocher in 1936 (Vaughan did not play), Dick Bartell in 1937 (Vaughan played third base), and Durocher in 1938 (Vaughan did not play).  Vaughan started SOME All-Star games, but he wasn’t an every-year starter like he could have been.

              One factor is that his walk totals and on-base percentages, so impressive to us now, would have been entirely invisible in that era.   Fans would not have known how often he walked or what his on base percentage was; the reporters covering the Pirate team would not generally have known, although they might have occasionally known.  Another factor probably was that the Pirates, although they had talent, were a messed-up organization that never won the National League in Vaughan’s era, although they finished second and third several times. 

              The fact that Vaughan sometimes led the league in errors, in that era, would have been noted much more often than the fact that he often led in walks.  Although he did lead the league in errors three times—his first two seasons, and one season later—he also led in putouts three times and assists three times.   His career fielding percentage at short, .951, is the same as Joe Cronin’s and three points higher than the other Hall of Fame shortstop of his era, Luke Appling. 

              He just didn’t break through with the public as the player that he was.   This is all that I can really conclude.

 

108.  Old Luke

              Luke Appling was actually four years older than Arky Vaughan.   Through age 28 Vaughan led Appling in career hits by 885 (1,591 to 706); from age 29 on, Appling led Vaughan by more than 1,500 (2,043 to 512).  Appling emerged as the best shortstop in baseball in 1941, when Vaughan had his first significant injury, and reigned as the best shortstop in baseball for three years:

First

Last

YEAR

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

Value

Luke

Appling

1941

1

57

.314

.399

.390

.789

28.12

Arky

Vaughan

1941

6

38

.316

.399

.455

.854

24.79

Lou

Boudreau

1941

10

56

.257

.355

.415

.770

24.11

Joe

Cronin

1941

16

95

.311

.406

.508

.914

20.68

Phil

Rizzuto

1941

3

46

.307

.343

.398

.741

18.87

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke

Appling

1942

3

53

.262

.342

.341

.682

25.89

Lou

Boudreau

1942

2

58

.283

.379

.370

.749

25.77

Johnny

Pesky

1942

2

51

.331

.375

.416

.791

25.64

Pee Wee

Reese

1942

3

53

.255

.350

.332

.681

24.32

Phil

Rizzuto

1942

4

68

.284

.343

.374

.718

22.22

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke

Appling

1943

3

80

.328

.419

.407

.825

32.85

Lou

Boudreau

1943

3

67

.286

.388

.388

.776

28.52

Vern

Stephens

1943

22

91

.289

.357

.482

.839

24.72

Arky

Vaughan

1943

5

66

.305

.370

.413

.783

23.89

Marty

Marion

1943

1

52

.280

.334

.337

.671

19.27

 

              Obviously anyone who is a Hall of Fame baseball player was a good athlete, but Appling did not strike people as a great athlete.   He was a grinder.   He just got the job done.   He was a lifetime .310 hitter who drew 122 walks in 1935—and 121 walks in 1949, when he was 42 years old.  He fouled off pitches until he got one that he liked.  If he didn’t get one he liked, he took a walk. 

              Chicago for much of a 45-year span had the Lu Aps at shortstop—Luke Appling and then Luis Aparicio.   Appling wasn’t an Aparicio style player in any sense, not a flashy shortstop or a stunning baserunner.   He was much closer in style to Aparicio’s double play partner, Nellie Fox.   He just made the plays.

              Appling was a sharp guy and a very cheerful man, well liked; he was a successful minor league manager, and it was sad that he didn’t get a chance to manage a real team in the majors, just moved up from the coach’s box to finish out the year with a Kansas City A’s team that had shot their manager in mid-season.  I think the perception of the time was that Appling was too upbeat, too friendly, to be a major league manager. 

 

 

 
 

COMMENTS (21 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
.....I checked the Cubs roster of one of those years. Lots of cutesy names, but no fruits.
Closest: Charlie Root, Roy Henshaw
3:40 PM Feb 12th
 
MarisFan61
Pardon the possible sexism in this, but, I wonder how much of her fondness of Appling was because he had "apple" in his name (you gotta admit, it's kinda cute, and it might be more likely that a female would hook into that) :-) ......and even whether her being a White Sox fan rather than a Cub fan (like the rest of the family) was because they had a player with 'apple' in his name.

I mean, did the Cubs have any players with tasty healthy fruits in their name.....
3:37 PM Feb 12th
 
MattD1
My late Grandmother was a White Sox fan (the rest of us were Cub fans) , she talked to me a lot about Luke Appling.
12:06 PM Feb 12th
 
MarisFan61
N9: Thanks for posting that. I looked for it a couple of times over the years but could never find it.
I think it's my favorite HR of all time, even more than anything by either of our #9's. :-)

Not seen in that camera angle, but, as I remember, around when he rounds 2nd base, Spahn darts toward him and apparently says something, which I'm guessing was something like "Next time you're going down!" :-)

My next favorite HR: When Griffey Jr., coming up after his dad's HR, went yard too. I like family stuff.

BTW, my main interest in Bill's new book (not the only, of course, but the main) :-) was how it was together with his daughter.
10:00 PM Feb 8th
 
nettles9
Luke Appling’s homerun in the 1982 Old Timers’ Game...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQMQB3tiUfg




12:11 PM Feb 8th
 
KaiserD2
The GI or "greatest" generation (born 1903-24) almost surely had more young men embarking on serous baseball careers than any other generation before or since--certainly in relation to the number of major league jobs, and probably in absolute numbers. One thing that really stands out comparing them to later generations is the number of great players in the middle of the infield that they produced. Arky Vaughn, Luke Appling, and Lou Boudreau all had four seasons of 4 WAA or more, and Cronin had three such seasons. Both Boudreau and Appling earned a couple of those seasons during the war when it was easier to do, but both performed at that level before (Appling) or after (Boudreau) the war as well. (They also had Rizzuto (1 such season, 1942) and Reese (none), who got into the Hall of Fame because they played for dynasties from New York, and Vern Stephens, whose peak value was in fact very similar to Rizzuto's.) They were even stronger at second base, where Gehringer, Gordon and Jackie Robinson each had 5 such seasons. The best middle infielder of the subsequent Silent Generation (b. 1925-42) was Ernie Banks, with 3 such seasons, and no one else was even close at those positions. (Nellie Fox had 4 WAA once, Aparicio and Mazeroski never came close.) And Banks, of course, wasn't developed by organized baseball.

The Boom generation on the other hand had three second basemen with 5 seasons of 4 WAA or more (Morgan, Carew--well, one of his was at 1B--and Sandberg), and two shortstops (Ripken and Trammell) with 3 each.

On Vaughn I checked the MVP voting for 1938. when he came closest to a pennant. My calculations show him in a virtual tie with Mel Ott (5.7 WAA to 5.8 for Ott) as the true best player in the NL. The MVP went to Ernie Lombardi who led the league in hitting in less than 130 games as catcher but had less than 4 WAA. Second was Bill Lee of the Cubs, who won the pennant (with 89 wins I believe), who had 5.3 WAA. Even if the Pirates had beaten out the Cubs (they lost by 3 games) it doesn't look like Vaughn would have beaten Lombardi out.

DK
8:29 AM Feb 8th
 
wilbur
Arky Vaughn's eruption with Durocher surely bought him a lot of good will throughout baseball.
Leo was not Mister Congeniality. A good/great manager, but widely regarded as a lying, cheating SOB. His motto: "I come to kill you."
7:11 AM Feb 8th
 
villageelliott
My father (b. 1913), who because of George Sisler, his favorite player, was actually more of a Browns fan than Cardinals, followed both leagues equally. He maintained that while Marty Marion was the greatest FIELDING shortstop he ever saw, Arky Vaughn was the greatest ALL-AROUND shortstop he ever saw.
5:26 AM Feb 8th
 
okrent
The thing about Bobo: as a young lawyer, my father represented him in a divorce case. (This was years before I was born, but my father loved to talk about it.) He said Bobo was “the most willfully stupid man I’ve ever met - so willful in his stupidity it was if he was smart enough to know how stupid he was being. He’d agree me with me that X was the right course of action, then grin as he went and did Y. For a manager, he must’ve been a daily nightmare.”
2:18 AM Feb 8th
 
MarisFan61
.....BTW, if we're getting into players being suspended by managers and stuff, maybe someone can explain why Belichick kept Malcolm Butler out of the game.
Hey, if any of our people happen to have connections in the Boston area.... :-)
2:06 AM Feb 8th
 
MarisFan61
I did? :-)
Now that you mention.....I do remember, and we ought to note that I looked further into it and suggested some reasons for why he got that kind of support. I did agree, though, that "5th" is hard to understand.
boards.billjamesonline.com/showthread.php?7402-Who-s-Better-Hank-Greenberg-vs-Johnny-Mize&p=122023&viewfull=1#pos​t122023
2:01 AM Feb 8th
 
ventboys
Marisfan61 found this during a discussion about the 1938 MVP voting several years ago. Newsom finished fifth in the AL MVP voting that year, despite an era of 5.08. He was second in wins with 20 (20-16), behind Red Ruffing's 21, and he led the league in all the volume categories.
1:49 AM Feb 8th
 
Manushfan
Okay yeah that all makes sense, have a Mike Morgan type career and toss in the party animal aspect, and I can see why. Thanks. Newsome had a really unique run.
3:57 PM Feb 7th
 
MWeddell
Agreed. I just read Bobo Newsom's SABR bio as well.

I'd add that his subpar won-loss records probably were given more weight by clubs back then then now. One senses that he might not be viewed by management as a good influence - besides being outspoken, his second wife has a showgirl and he died of cirrhosis of the liver in a sanitarium, so one surmises that he might have been a party boy while he was an active player.

Also, he probably wasn't really perceived as a star. He is now credited with 51 bb-refWAR, but that's spread from ages 21 to 45. His only sustained success was 1939-40 with the Tigers with two excellent seasons, leading the Tigers to the 1940 AL pennant. He was up and down the rest of his career.
1:14 PM Feb 7th
 
rwarn17588
As for why Bobo got dealt away so much, it's my recollection of reading about him over the years -- and the SABR bio generally backs this up -- was Bobo was a bit of a flake, was outspoken, and wasn't supremely talented enough for teams to want to put up with him for long.
1:01 PM Feb 7th
 
rwarn17588
According to Baseball Reference, the league fielding percentage for shortstops during Arky's era was .949. So his percentage of .951 actually was better than the norm, despite his error totals.
12:51 PM Feb 7th
 
hotstatrat
I was responding after bearbyz who said he was really enjoying this.

Anyway, I had to Google:

"hag·i·og·ra·phy
?hage'ägr?fe,?hage'ägr?fe/Submit
noun
the writing of the lives of saints.
biography that idealizes its subject."

It can also be nasty:
"derogatory
adulatory writing about another person."

11:42 AM Feb 7th
 
hotstatrat
Me, too. I love the descriptions of the players giving us a much richer sense of who they were.

11:29 AM Feb 7th
 
Manushfan
Just re-checking Bobo Newsome's career-my word. Why was the man traded so much?
11:10 AM Feb 7th
 
rtallia
I wonder how many other players that played, say, at least 10 years, had their career average exactly the same as their average in their first year in the league?
10:29 AM Feb 7th
 
bearbyz
Thanks for starting this series again. I am really enjoying it.
10:08 AM Feb 7th
 
 
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