Now we get to the Great First Baseman

December 20, 2017
  

2017-68

29.  What We May Have Learned From Doing This

 

              1.  Mike Grady was a really good player that nobody remembers.

              2.  The Hall of Fame Standard is about seven years as the #1 catcher in baseball, or seven to ten years as #1 to 3.

              3.  While Ted Simmons has a viable Hall of Fame argument, it is not the overpowering argument that some in our community would like to believe that it is.  Simmons ranks just a notch below the core players who define the Hall of Fame at this position—Yogi, Dickey, Cochrane, Bench, Piazza, Carter, Rodriguez.  

              4.  Jorge Posada’s Hall of Fame credentials are as good or better than Simmons’, and it is something of an embarrassment to the Hall of Fame voters that he dropped off the ballot after one look.   One suspects that at some point he will receive a more serious consideration. 

              5.  If Rick Ferrell, Ernie Lombardi and Ray Schalk are legitimate Hall of Famers, the reasons for that escape our methodology.

              6. Active players Mauer and Posey are in good shape; Molina needs to keep plugging but could be.

              7.  Other than perhaps Simmons and Posada, there is no other catcher who probably should be in the Hall of Fame. 

              8.  With some allowance for imprecision, we could say that the best catchers in baseball have been Mike Grady (1900-1901), Johnny Kling (1902-1906), Roger Bresnahan (1907-1910), Chief Meyers (1911-1914), Ray Schalk (1915-1918), Wally Schang (1919-1921), Bob O’Farrell (1922-1926), Mickey Cochrane (1927-1935), Bill Dickey (1936-1943), Walker Cooper (1944-1947), Yogi Berra (1948-1960), Elston Howard (1961-1964), Joe Torre (1965-1966), Bill Freehan (1967-1968), Johnny Bench (1969-1976), Ted Simmons (1977-78), Gary Carter (1979-1987), Carlton Fisk (1988-1990), Mickey Tettleton (1991-1992), Mike Piazza (1993-2000), Jorge Posada (2001-2005), Joe Mauer (2006-2010) and Buster Posey (2011 to the present.) 

 

30.   And Now We Turn to the First Baseman

              First Base and Catcher are exact opposites in this sense, that catching is the one position (other than pitching) which is least interactive with other positions, while first base is the one position which is most interactive with other positions.  

              A catcher does not commonly move to another position in mid-career or at the end of his career.   Catchers are catchers; they are not athletes who catch.   Jonathon Lucroy is not going to move to second base next year.  

              First base, on the other hand, is the place where you stash the player who can’t play anywhere else.   It is not that first base is not an important defensive position; it is important, because the first baseman is involved in a huge number of plays.   You can play first base without speed or a throwing arm, so if you can hit but you can’t run or throw, you’re the first baseman. 

              Frank Robinson, an outfielder, had an early-season injury in 1959 and the Reds needed a first baseman, so Robinson moved to first base.   He hit .311 with 36 homers, 125 RBI, which made him the best first baseman in baseball.  

              Hank Aaron in 1971 was 37 years old, couldn’t really play the outfield anymore, so he moved to first base.   He hit .327 with 47 homers, 118 RBI, which made him the best first baseman in baseball. 

              Nap Lajoie, a second baseman, played first base in 1911, so he rates as the best first baseman in baseball in 1911, then is not on the first base charts in the surrounding years. 

              That doesn’t really happen at catcher.  You don’t just decide to go catch for a year, and rank as the best catcher in baseball.  At first base it happens all the time.  People just drop in to first base and take over the position.   Stan Musial bounces from first base to the outfield for ten years or more.   When he is at first base he is the best first baseman in baseball.   The other years he is not on the list.   This kind of thing rarely happens among catchers.

              In my spreadsheet I have each player’s position marked by his career position, and for this study I tried to straighten out who was playing which position in each season.   I probably missed some; I probably have somebody marked as the #1 first baseman in baseball in some season in which he was mostly playing third base or left field or something.   I apologize for any errors of this nature, and I hope you will be forgiving of them.   I am trying to advance our understanding of this general issue by providing lists of the top players at each position each year.  I’m sure I didn’t get it all exactly right, but I worked at it for several weeks and I did the best I could.

              This also matters, however, because many players are "partial career" first baseman, and their numbers won’t always add up based on the information in front of you.   A player may have 5 years as a first baseman, two years as a DH, 4 years as a third baseman, 2 years as a left fielder and 2 years as a right fielder, and he might earn YOPDI points at all of those positions.   When I am ranking the best first basemen, his points at all positions have to count, and if he is more of a first baseman than anything else, then he is on the first base list.   So you have lots of points on the first base list which are not earned as a first baseman, and lots of points earned at first base which are not on the first base list.  That doesn’t really happen at catcher; there is Craig Biggio and a couple of other weird guys, but not many.  

              A player is generally rated not where he played the most GAMES, but where he had the most VALUE.   Ernie Banks is the easiest example.   Banks played 1,259 games at first base in his career, 1,125 at shortstop, so other people might list him as a first baseman.   But he earned 64 YOPDI points as a shortstop, and none at all as a first baseman.  He was the best shortstop in baseball in the 50s; he was not one of the best first basemen in baseball in the 1960s.  So, for our purposes, he can’t possibly be listed as a first baseman. 

               

 

31.  The 19th Century First Basemen

              There were three great first basemen in the 19th century:  Roger Connor, Dan Brouthers and Cap Anson.   All three are in the Hall of Fame.   These are the top 10 first basemen of 19th century baseball, with their approximate YOPDI scores.  (I wasn’t as careful figuring YOPDI scores for 19th century players as I was for 20th and 21st century players, because I don’t really regard the 19th century as major league baseball.) 

1.  Big Dan Brouthers (1879-1896, two games in 1904).  Seven seasons as the #1 first baseman in baseball, seven more seasons as #2.   About 119 YOPDI points.   Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945.

2.  Roger Connor (1880 to 1897).  Connor was baseball’s 19th century Home Run champion, although no one knew that at the time.   Career batting records were not maintained in the 19th century.   I don’t believe anyone realized that Connor was the Home Run record holder before Babe Ruth until 1969, although there may have been some isolated knowledge of that fact somewhere.

              Both Brouthers and Connor were big men and left-handed hitters; thus, they were in the tradition of Lou Gehrig, Johnny Mize, Luke Easter, Ted Kluszewski, Willie McCovey, Boog Powell, Jim Thome and David Ortiz.   Connor was one of the original "Giants" who gave the New York Giants their nickname.   He ranks as the #1 first baseman in baseball six times in the 19th century, ranks second six times (usually behind Brouthers.)   About 110 YOPDI points. . . an obvious Hall of Fame number.   He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.  My point, which I lost before I got to it, was that this TYPE of player—the big first baseman who could hit the hell out of the ball—basically disappeared from baseball from about 1894 to 1925, re-emerging with Jacques Fournier and Lou Gehrig in the mid-twenties, but Brouthers and Connor were guys like that.  

3.  Cap Anson (1876 to 1897).   Only four seasons as the #1 first baseman in baseball, before the emergence of Brouthers and Connor, but many other good season. two seasons as #2.   Seventeen seasons as one of the five best first baseman in baseball.   About 92 YOPDI points. 

4.  Joe Start (1876-1886).   An old star, he joined the Brooklyn Athletics in 1862 and starred for the Athletics in undefeated seasons in 1864 and 1865.  By the time the National League started in 1876 he was 33 years old, but played for 11 years in the National League and was one of the top first basemen of his era, generally ranking second behind McVey or Anson in the late 1870s.  About 39 YOPDI points. 

5.  Cal McVey (1876 to 1879).   McVey was a star on the famous Cincinnati team of 1869, which toured the country beating the best teams from other cities, which triggered the formation of organized baseball.   He was one of the best players in the National Association (1871-1875), and was still the best first baseman in baseball after the National League formed in 1876.   Two seasons as the #1 first baseman in baseball (1876, 1878); about 32 YOPDI points. 

6.  Jack Doyle (1889-1905).   A good player, not a great one, Doyle fell into a moment when there really was not a top first baseman, so ranks as the top first baseman of 1895-1896.   About 31 YOPDI points.  Years of Position Dominance Index.

7.   John Morrill (1876 to 1890).  Longtime Boston Braves first baseman, had some pretty good years.  About 24 YOPDI points.

8.  Bill Everitt (1895 to 1901).   Cubs third baseman in Cap Anson’s last years, moved to first base when Anson finally retired.  About 19 YOPDI points.

9.  Henry Larkin (1884 to 1893).  An outfielder/first baseman in the American Association.  About 19 YOPDI points.

10.  Fred Tenney.   In mid-career at the end of the 19th century; actually still young then. 

 

              The scores for 19th century first basemen are consistent with those at catcher, in that the three players who score at 116, 114 and 77 are in the Hall of Fame, but nobody else.  65 is about the Hall of Fame cutoff.   Harry Stovey played 500+ games at first base, but is listed here as a left fielder.

 

32.  The Fred Tenney-Jake Beckley Era (1900-1902)

              Welcome to the 20th century.  Two teaser notes: 

              1) Marisfan will be very pleased with one element of the First Base rankings, and

              2) Craig Wright may also claim victory over another element.

              OK, we begin the 20th century with two drop-in first basemen.   Ed Delahanty was an outfielder, very fast and very graceful.  When Joe DiMaggio came to the majors in 1936, old sportswriters wrote "My God, this guy looks exactly like Ed Delahanty."   For some reason he played first base in 1900, so he rates as the best first baseman of 1900, although he was really an outfielder.

              Buck Freeman was a right fielder.   When he jumped from the Braves to the upstart Boston Red Sox in 1901, our inaugural season, the Red Sox had three other outfielders, so he played first base.  He had a tremendous year, hitting .339 with 12 homers, 114 RBI, which actually was pretty much his normal numbers, but since he played first base and Delahanty was back in the outfield, he ranks as the #1 first baseman in 1901.   In 1902 he went back to the outfield.

              Fred Tenney and Jake Beckely were the best "real" first baseman of this era, the best players who were actually first baseman.   Beckley was kind of a Brouthers/Gehrig/McCovey style player, not as good as those guys but he is in the Hall of Fame.  Tenney wasn’t a big bopper; he was a little guy who was a leadoff man.   In the Dead Ball era many first basemen were fast runners and slick fielders, and not big hitters.  Also, in this era first basemen were often the team captains.   They had duties sort of like what a veteran catcher has now.   They kept the pitcher on his game. 

 

First

Last

YEAR

Rank

HR

RBI

Avg

OPS

Value

Ed

Delahanty

1900

1

2

109

.323

.809

29.05

Jake

Beckley

1900

2

2

94

.341

.822

20.73

 

             

 

Buck

Freeman

1901

1

12

114

.339

.920

25.11

Joe

Kelley

1901

2

4

65

.307

.787

21.08

Kitty

Bransfield

1901

3

0

91

.295

.733

20.04

Jake

Beckley

1901

4

3

79

.307

.776

19.80

Harry

Davis

1901

5

8

76

.306

.791

19.76

 

             

 

Fred

Tenney

1902

1

2

30

.315

.785

22.67

Harry

Davis

1902

2

6

92

.307

.787

21.20

Jake

Beckley

1902

3

5

69

.330

.804

20.09

Frank

Chance

1902

4

1

31

.287

.767

19.98

Duff

Cooley

1902

5

0

58

.296

.711

18.99

 

              I am expanding the charts here.   For first basemen I am presenting the Home Runs, RBI, Batting Average and OPS for each player, and his Established Game-Adjusted Win Shares, which is his ranking number.   There is a method to my madness; that is, there are reasons I am presenting this information now, but wasn’t before.  

              1)  If you present TOO MUCH information on a chart, people can’t process it.   Since we’ve been doing this for four days now, I would hope that the form makes more sense than it did, and you can process more information without your eyes glazing over.  You automatically assimilate certain elements of the chart; your mind has room for more facts. 

              2)  At catcher, the best hitters are often not the best players.   There are big-hitting catchers scattered across baseball history who are not the best catchers in baseball; Gary Sanchez, for example.   At first base, the hitting numbers generally explain the rankings better than they do at other positions. 

 

33.  The Frank Chance Era (1903-1908)

              No comment needed:

First

Last

YEAR

Rank

HR

RBI

Avg

OPS

Value

Frank

Chance

1903

1

2

81

.327

.878

29.89

Harry

Davis

1903

2

6

55

.298

.783

24.02

Charlie

Hickman

1903

3

12

97

.295

.790

23.97

Fred

Tenney

1903

4

3

41

.313

.811

21.83

Jake

Beckley

1903

5

2

81

.327

.831

20.01

 

     

 

   

 

 

Frank

Chance

1904

1

6

49

.310

.812

31.76

Harry

Davis

1904

2

10

62

.309

.840

25.76

Charlie

Hickman

1904

3

6

67

.274

.748

23.14

Dan

McGann

1904

4

6

71

.286

.741

20.74

Jake

Beckley

1904

5

1

67

.325

.778

20.55

 

     

 

   

 

 

Frank

Chance

1905

1

2

70

.316

.883

31.30

Harry

Davis

1905

2

8

83

.282

.750

28.04

Dan

McGann

1905

3

5

75

.299

.825

22.00

Shad

Barry

1905

4

1

66

.304

.723

21.16

Jiggs

Donahue

1905

5

1

76

.287

.695

20.00

 

     

 

   

 

 

Frank

Chance

1906

1

3

71

.319

.849

32.69

Harry

Davis

1906

2

12

96

.292

.815

28.79

Hal

Chase

1906

3

0

76

.323

.736

22.49

Tim

Jordan

1906

4

12

78

.262

.774

20.39

Jim

Nealon

1906

5

3

83

.255

.679

20.24

 

     

 

   

 

 

First

Last

YEAR

Rank

HR

RBI

Avg

OPS

Value

Frank

Chance

1907

1

1

49

.293

.756

27.66

Harry

Davis

1907

2

8

87

.266

.717

26.36

Hal

Chase

1907

3

2

68

.287

.672

22.25

Tim

Jordan

1907

4

4

53

.274

.734

19.94

Claude

Rossman

1907

5

0

69

.277

.660

19.36

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank

Chance

1908

1

2

55

.272

.701

23.43

Harry

Davis

1908

2

5

62

.248

.689

22.84

Kitty

Bransfield

1908

3

3

71

.304

.730

20.24

Claude

Rossman

1908

4

2

71

.294

.748

20.00

Hal

Chase

1908

5

1

36

.257

.591

19.88

 

 

34.  The Interregnum (1910-1917)

              For almost ten years between the time that Frank Chance started to slip and the emergence of George Sisler, there really is no Hall of Fame first baseman, no first baseman who gets to the top of the list and stays there.   The three "star" first basemen of this era were Hal Chase, Jake Daubert and Stuffy McInnis.   Chase, of course, was a legendary defensive first baseman, but was a corrupt player who was rumored to be throwing games for more than ten years before he was finally proven to be throwing games and was kicked out of baseball, but in the meantime he was the biggest star among the first baseman.   Daubert won the National League batting title in 1913 and 1914 and was a star because of that, but he wasn’t an especially productive hitter; he was a guy who benefitted from the fixation on batting averages which baseball fans had from 1880 until about 1990.   (Casey Stengel, Daubert’s teammate, wrote a biography about his playing days, and says in that book that Daubert  was very overrated—an observation that he does not offer about any other player, as I recall.)  Stuffy McInnis was famous as a member of Connie Mack’s "$100,000 infield" and as the inventor of the "knee reach", stretching off first base to catch the throw before it got to first base.   He was a good player but not a great one.   Probably the best first baseman of that era was Ed Konetchy, but Konetchy isn’t quite a Hall of Famer, either:

 

First

Last

YEAR

Rank

HR

RBI

Avg

OPS

Value

Jake

Stahl

1909

1

6

60

.294

.812

23.28

Ed

Konetchy

1909

2

4

80

.286

.762

23.08

Dots

Miller

1909

3

3

87

.279

.725

22.31

Doc

Hoblitzell

1909

4

4

67

.308

.782

21.57

Hal

Chase

1909

5

4

63

.283

.674

21.24

 

     

 

   

 

 

Ed

Konetchy

1910

1

3

78

.302

.822

25.64

Doc

Hoblitzell

1910

2

4

70

.278

.712

23.33

Jake

Stahl

1910

3

10

77

.271

.758

22.69

Fred

Merkle

1910

4

4

70

.292

.793

22.46

Hal

Chase

1910

5

3

73

.290

.677

21.96

 

     

 

   

 

 

Nap

Lajoie

1911

1

2

60

.365

.874

26.68

Ed

Konetchy

1911

2

6

88

.289

.816

24.98

Jim

Delahanty

1911

3

3

94

.339

.874

24.92

Fred

Merkle

1911

4

12

84

.283

.773

24.21

Doc

Hoblitzell

1911

5

11

91

.289

.757

23.85

 

     

 

   

 

 

Fred

Merkle

1912

1

11

84

.309

.823

25.04

Stuffy

McInnis

1912

2

3

101

.327

.817

24.67

Doc

Hoblitzell

1912

3

2

85

.294

.757

22.48

Ed

Konetchy

1912

4

8

82

.314

.844

22.43

Dots

Miller

1912

5

4

87

.275

.721

21.74

 

     

 

   

 

 

First

Last

YEAR

Rank

HR

RBI

Avg

OPS

Value

Stuffy

McInnis

1913

1

4

90

.326

.802

24.53

Dots

Miller

1913

2

7

90

.272

.736

22.97

Vic

Saier

1913

3

14

92

.289

.850

22.79

Fred

Merkle

1913

4

2

69

.261

.686

22.74

Fred

Luderus

1913

5

18

86

.262

.736

21.43

 

     

 

   

 

 

Hal

Chase

1914

1

3

68

.314

.802

23.57

Vic

Saier

1914

2

18

72

.240

.773

22.98

Dots

Miller

1914

3

4

88

.290

.732

22.10

Jake

Daubert

1914

4

6

45

.329

.808

21.51

Stuffy

McInnis

1914

5

1

95

.314

.709

21.44

Fred

Merkle

1914

6

7

63

.258

.702

21.14

Fred

Luderus

1914

7

12

55

.248

.696

19.68

Chick

Gandil

1914

8

3

75

.259

.683

19.20

 

     

 

   

 

 

Hal

Chase

1915

1

17

89

.291

.787

25.72

Jack

Fournier

1915

2

5

77

.322

.920

25.02

Jake

Daubert

1915

3

2

47

.301

.748

23.79

Babe

Borton

1915

4

3

83

.286

.785

23.49

Ed

Konetchy

1915

5

10

93

.314

.846

23.27

Vic

Saier

1915

6

11

64

.264

.795

21.77

Fred

Luderus

1915

7

7

62

.315

.833

21.34

Fred

Merkle

1915

8

4

62

.299

.732

19.30

 

     

 

   

 

 

Hal

Chase

1916

1

4

82

.339

.822

24.96

George

Sisler

1916

2

4

76

.305

.755

23.67

Ed

Konetchy

1916

3

3

70

.260

.693

22.56

Wally

Pipp

1916

4

12

93

.262

.748

22.18

Jake

Daubert

1916

5

3

33

.316

.769

21.77

 

 

35.  The George Sisler Years (1917 to 1922)

              From 1917 to 1922 the best first baseman in baseball was George Sisler, which shouldn’t require any explanation in view of his phenomenal hitting statistics.  Sisler was in the mold of the Dead Ball era first basemen—fast, a slick fielder and a line drive hitter, rather than a big power hitter.  

First

Last

YEAR

Rank

HR

RBI

Avg

OPS

Value

George

Sisler

1917

1

2

52

.353

.843

27.56

Hal

Chase

1917

2

4

86

.277

.690

22.50

Wally

Pipp

1917

3

9

70

.244

.700

22.15

Fred

Luderus

1917

4

5

72

.261

.700

20.40

Fred

Merkle

1917

5

3

57

.264

.688

19.95

 

     

 

   

 

 

George

Sisler

1918

1

2

41

.341

.841

27.30

Wally

Pipp

1918

2

2

44

.304

.760

20.90

George H.

Burns

1918

3

6

70

.352

.857

20.31

Fred

Merkle

1918

4

3

65

.297

.737

20.10

Joe

Judge

1918

5

1

46

.261

.672

19.59

 

     

 

   

 

 

George

Sisler

1919

1

10

83

.352

.921

27.83

Joe

Judge

1919

2

2

31

.288

.795

21.90

Harry

Heilmann

1919

3

8

93

.320

.843

21.64

Wally

Pipp

1919

4

7

50

.275

.728

20.58

Jake

Daubert

1919

5

2

44

.276

.672

18.31

 

     

 

   

 

 

George

Sisler

1920

1

19

122

.407

1.082

30.34

Joe

Judge

1920

2

5

51

.333

.878

21.99

Wally

Pipp

1920

3

11

76

.280

.768

21.43

Jake

Daubert

1920

4

4

48

.304

.785

21.17

Harry

Heilmann

1920

5

9

89

.309

.787

20.70

 

     

 

   

 

 

George

Sisler

1921

1

12

104

.371

.971

27.89

Jack

Fournier

1921

2

16

86

.343

.914

21.61

Wally

Pipp

1921

3

8

97

.296

.774

21.05

George

Kelly

1921

4

23

122

.308

.884

20.98

Joe

Judge

1921

5

7

72

.301

.784

20.34

 

     

 

   

 

 

George

Sisler

1922

1

8

105

.420

1.061

25.99

Ray

Grimes

1922

2

14

99

.354

1.014

23.37

Wally

Pipp

1922

3

9

90

.329

.859

21.31

George

Kelly

1922

4

17

107

.328

.860

21.15

Jack

Fournier

1922

5

10

61

.295

.838

20.74

 

              Sisler missed the 1923 season with "an illness effecting his eyesight", as it was said in the newspapers.   He went blind for a time, and was never quite the same player afterward, although he was very good after the illness. My apologies if my information is wrong here, but my understanding is that the illness was syphilis.  There was a syphilis epidemic at that time.   Syphillis is a very serious illness which killed a lot of people, but there were treatments, and it could be cured with luck and treatment.  

              In that era the mere fact that a player was sexually active would have been. . .well, "officially" scandalous, although of course anyone who wasn’t an idiot would have assumed that most athletes or many athletes were.  Newspapers at the time never said what Sisler’s illness was.  In the modern world it is seen more as a tragedy than as a disgrace; no one speaks ill of Magic Johnson because his career was ended by a sexually transmitted disease.   It is not something to be embarrassed about.   Sisler was a very active Christian Scientist, although he may have come to religion after the illness; I don’t know.  

 
 

COMMENTS (18 Comments, most recent shown first)

Brock Hanke
Dave Orr only played 8 seasons in the major leagues. All were in the American Association except for one season in the Players' League and one GAME in the National League (1883). Other than that, it's all American Association. The first season is, essentially, a cup of coffee, and then, after three very good years, he appears to have gotten hurt, and drifted out of the game real fast. For those three years, playing with New York in the American Association, he was very good, accumulating some small Black Ink. But it's three years, in the AA.
7:22 AM Dec 22nd
 
MidnighttheCat
I thought Roy Campanella was rated close to Yogi at least for some years. Did I misunderstand, or is his not being listed on this page just an oversight?
4:19 AM Dec 21st
 
MarisFan61
Bill or anybody: Any source(s) for it being syphilis?
11:40 PM Dec 20th
 
FrankD
Firstbasemen are like a box of chocolates: ya never know what yer gonna get....some say Stengel caught a dose too ...... this is a huge grab bag: look at Killebrew, Rose and Carew - in the Bill James historical abstract these 3 HOFs were almost position less - Have Bat Will Travel ........
10:49 PM Dec 20th
 
MarisFan61
MWeddell: Kinda like the opening scene in Putney Swope.

They're dickering over who they should pick for new chairman, and since they're not allowed to vote for themselves, almost all of them vote for the token black guy who's on the board because they figure nobody else will.
8:21 PM Dec 20th
 
wdr1946
What about the nineteenth century first baseman Dave Orr? He was good.
6:44 PM Dec 20th
 
CharlesSaeger
Wasn't Babe Ruth's 1925 bellyache rumored to be some kind of VD?
6:34 PM Dec 20th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Didn't know about the Huhn book. Bill, do you remember where you heard the syphillis report?
6:26 PM Dec 20th
 
MWeddell
I'm a long-time Tiger fan, and I'll freely admit that there isn't much of a case for Rick Ferrell to be in the Hall of Fame.

The most frequently told story is that Tigers GM Jim Campbell asked the Veterans Committee members to vote for Ferrell so that he wasn't shut out and then 75% accidentally did so. Seems a bit oversimplified in the retelling to me, but maybe it's true.

My local library has a biography on Ferrell that I intend to read but haven't, so I'll report back (eventually) in Reader Posts if I read anything that changes my mind about his suitability for the Hall of Fame.
3:54 PM Dec 20th
 
MWeddell
The George Sisler biography titled The Sizzler by Rick Huhn seems to be convinced by the sinus infection story.
3:49 PM Dec 20th
 
MarisFan61
The arguments for Ray Schalk and Ernie Lombardi do escape this methodology, but not other approaches, and if memory serves, in one or more of the Historical Abstracts you gave Lombardi's argument a lot of space (although it wasn't in terms of Hall-of-Fame-ness).
Schalk, I think you've also stated a couple of the arguments for him but more just as 'points of information,' not with belief.
Their membership in the Hall of Fame makes a lot of good sense to me. Rick Ferrell, I don't know. But I wouldn't rule him out as a legit Hall of Famer either without knowing exactly what (if anything) the people had in mind who put him in there. As Joe Posnanski wrote recently, every Hall of Famer creates his own kind of greatness (or not), and it's not always demonstrable by standard criteria; I'd say it's not necessarily demonstrable by hard criteria at all. (Doesn't mean I don't put value on the hard criteria.)

P.S. I do hope that at some point you'll clarify some of the things we wondered about Mike Grady's rankings, especially the methodological question of whether you counted all (or almost all) of a guy's playing time as though he was a catcher in those games, even if a lot of his time was at other positions. (It looks to me like you did.)
2:55 PM Dec 20th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Doesn't seem to be a biography of Sisler, and his SABR bio just repeats the sinus infection story: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/f67a9d5c


1:21 PM Dec 20th
 
Brock Hanke
This George Sisler is, of course, the one that got elected into the Hall of Fame. I always got the story that Sisler was beaned with about 7 games left to go in the 1922 race (lost by one game to the Yankees) and came back with double vision, but regardless of what happened, Sisler, who did not play in 1923 at all, returned in 1924 and, basically, was an average starting first baseman with about half the value every year as the one on the chart here. This happens to his defense as well as his offense. I found a site that printed the offensive and defensive Win Shares for everybody in every year. Using Bill's "Grades" from Win Shares, Sisler was an "A" fielder through 1922. After 1923, he was an "F". The overall grade, "C-", is completely accurate, since you have to count both halves of his career.
11:25 AM Dec 20th
 
bearbyz
Bob, he had a short career and his hitting numbers don't look great now. I agree with you, but that is the way people think sometimes.
11:06 AM Dec 20th
 
BobGill
Why is Frank Chance commonly cited as a weak choice for the Hall of Fame? His managerial record is among the best ever, and here he shows up as the best first baseman in the game for half a decade. What more qualifications does he need to be considered legitimate?
10:30 AM Dec 20th
 
bjames
The treatments for syphilis used at that time did involve surgery.
10:25 AM Dec 20th
 
stevebogus
This is the first I have ever seen syphilis mentioned in connection with Sisler.

According to many sources Sisler suffered from a severe sinus infection in 1923, something called sinusitis. This is a general term and does not indicate the type of infection. Antibiotics such as penicillin had not been discovered yet. In Sisler's case the infection was serious enough that surgery was performed, presumably (I guess) to allow the infection to drain. Possibly to remove infected tissue too.

The infection affected his optic nerve and Sisler had double vision for a long time. His eyesight never completely recovered.


9:55 AM Dec 20th
 
Robinsong
I had forgotten Harry Davis, who had more value than the first basemen of the "interregnum". Enjoying this series very much.
9:27 AM Dec 20th
 
 
©2018 Be Jolly, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|Web site design and development by Americaneagle.com|Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy