Third Basemen of 1900 to 1950

January 18, 2018
                               78.  The Delayed End of the 19th Century

              In 1900 and 1901 the #1 third basemen in baseball were 19th century holdovers:

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1900

1

John

McGraw

2

33

.344

.505

.416

26.51

1900

2

Jimmy

Collins

6

95

.304

.352

.394

23.03

 

     

 

     

 

 

1901

1

Jimmy

Collins

6

94

.332

.375

.495

26.23

1901

2

Lave

Cross

2

73

.328

.358

.465

23.35

1901

3

Bill

Bradley

1

55

.293

.336

.403

22.35

1901

4

Fred

Hartman

3

89

.309

.355

.431

20.09

1901

5

John

McGraw

0

28

.349

.508

.487

19.75

 

 

79.  The Bradley-Devlin Era (1902-1908)

              For three years each, Bill Bradley and Art Devlin were the best third basemen in baseball.   Bradley was a big guy, a Cleveland native who starred for the Indians.  Devlin, listed as about the same size as Bradley although Bradley was thought of as a big athletic guy and Devlin as more of a scrappy guy, was the third baseman for the Giants.   I think they’re both figures in The Glory of Their Times, although it has been 30 years since I read The Glory of Their Times.    They were both very good players, although they didn’t stick at the top long enough to be Hall of Famers.   The only Hall of Fame third baseman of this era was Jimmy Collins.

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1902

1

Bill

Bradley

11

77

.340

.375

.515

26.47

1902

2

Jimmy

Collins

6

61

.322

.360

.459

25.65

1902

3

Tommy

Leach

6

85

.278

.341

.426

25.14

1902

4

Lave

Cross

0

108

.342

.374

.440

24.46

1902

5

Bill

Coughlin

6

71

.301

.348

.414

20.74

 

     

 

     

 

 

1903

1

Bill

Bradley

6

68

.313

.348

.496

28.06

1903

2

Jimmy

Collins

5

72

.296

.329

.448

27.42

1903

3

Tommy

Leach

7

87

.298

.352

.438

24.09

1903

4

Lave

Cross

2

90

.292

.304

.356

21.17

1903

5

Wid

Conroy

1

45

.272

.322

.372

19.64

 

     

 

     

 

 

1904

1

Bill

Bradley

6

83

.300

.334

.409

26.69

1904

2

Jimmy

Collins

3

67

.271

.306

.379

26.01

1904

3

Tommy

Leach

2

56

.257

.316

.335

23.95

1904

4

Art

Devlin

1

66

.281

.371

.354

23.09

1904

5

Lave

Cross

1

71

.290

.310

.379

20.36

 

     

 

     

 

 

1905

1

Art

Devlin

2

61

.246

.344

.310

25.18

1905

2

Jimmy

Collins

4

65

.276

.330

.368

23.17

1905

3

Bill

Bradley

0

51

.268

.321

.354

21.48

1905

4

Tommy

Leach

2

53

.257

.309

.345

21.41

1905

5

Wid

Conroy

2

25

.273

.329

.395

19.72

 

     

 

     

 

 

1906

1

Art

Devlin

2

65

.299

.396

.390

30.26

1906

2

Harry

Steinfeldt

3

83

.327

.395

.430

25.93

1906

3

Tommy

Leach

1

39

.286

.333

.342

23.10

1906

4

Jim

Delahanty

1

39

.280

.371

.364

21.94

1906

5

Wid

Conroy

4

54

.245

.304

.332

19.41

 

     

 

     

 

 

1907

1

Art

Devlin

1

54

.277

.376

.324

25.42

1907

2

Jim

Delahanty

2

60

.279

.350

.361

21.91

1907

3

Harry

Steinfeldt

1

70

.266

.323

.336

21.75

1907

4

Dave

Brain

10

56

.279

.324

.420

19.50

1907

5

Wid

Conroy

3

51

.234

.279

.315

18.16

 

     

 

     

 

 

1908

1

Tommy

Leach

5

41

.259

.324

.381

28.11

1908

2

Hans

Lobert

4

63

.293

.348

.407

25.51

1908

3

Art

Devlin

2

45

.253

.346

.313

24.34

1908

4

Harry

Steinfeldt

1

62

.241

.294

.306

19.84

1908

5

Harry

Lord

2

37

.260

.298

.319

16.22

 

80.  Home Run Baker (1909-1914)

              From 1909 to 1914 the best third baseman in baseball—and the best third baseman in baseball history up to that point—was Frank Baker. 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1909

1

Home Run

Baker

4

85

.305

.343

.447

24.65

1909

2

Art

Devlin

0

56

.265

.362

.336

22.32

1909

3

Harry

Lord

0

31

.311

.345

.360

20.98

1909

4

Harry

Steinfeldt

2

59

.252

.331

.337

20.68

1909

5

Bobby

Byrne

1

40

.226

.327

.290

19.24

 

     

 

     

 

 

1910

1

Home Run

Baker

2

74

.283

.329

.392

28.04

1910

2

Bobby

Byrne

2

52

.296

.366

.417

24.38

1910

3

Harry

Lord

1

42

.267

.315

.333

20.88

1910

4

Mike

Mowrey

2

70

.282

.375

.368

20.34

1910

5

Art

Devlin

2

67

.260

.353

.327

19.06

 

     

 

     

 

 

1911

1

Home Run

Baker

11

115

.334

.379

.508

34.27

1911

2

Harry

Lord

3

61

.321

.364

.433

23.61

1911

3

Bobby

Byrne

2

52

.259

.342

.366

22.66

1911

4

Larry

Gardner

4

44

.285

.373

.376

20.97

1911

5

Roy

Hartzell

3

91

.296

.375

.387

19.55

 

     

 

     

 

 

1912

1

Home Run

Baker

10

130

.347

.404

.541

37.32

1912

2

Heinie

Zimmerman

14

99

.372

.418

.571

29.37

1912

3

Larry

Gardner

3

86

.315

.383

.449

23.83

1912

4

Bobby

Byrne

3

35

.288

.358

.405

21.64

1912

5

Eddie

Foster

2

70

.285

.345

.379

21.20

 

     

 

     

 

 

1913

1

Home Run

Baker

12

117

.336

.412

.492

36.77

1913

2

Heinie

Zimmerman

9

95

.313

.379

.490

26.71

1913

3

Red

Smith

6

76

.296

.358

.441

23.92

1913

4

Larry

Gardner

0

63

.281

.347

.359

20.83

1913

5

Tillie

Shafer

5

52

.287

.369

.398

20.12

 

     

 

     

 

 

1914

1

Home Run

Baker

9

89

.319

.380

.442

33.12

1914

2

Ed

Lennox

11

84

.312

.414

.493

25.03

1914

3

Red

Smith

7

85

.272

.346

.395

23.66

1914

4

Bill

McKechnie

2

38

.304

.368

.377

23.05

1914

5

Heinie

Zimmerman

4

87

.296

.326

.424

23.04

1914

6

Eddie

Foster

2

50

.282

.348

.351

19.28

1914

7

Larry

Gardner

3

68

.259

.303

.385

18.60

1914

8

Fritz

Maisel

2

47

.239

.334

.325

18.17

 

              If I was doing this again I might discount the Federal League numbers by 15, 20%, I think.  Anyway, Baker was a true superstar, a man who hit .363 in six World Series as well as regularly leading the league in RBI.   His "value" numbers peak around 37, which is superstar territory.   He had tremendous value to his teams.  There won’t be another third baseman who reaches that level for another half a century.  He dominated for six years, which is a good long time, although he was only 28 when he took a season off, and was never quite the same player after that.

 

81.  Grohs on You

              In 1915 Baker didn’t play; my memory is that he sat out the season in a salary dispute, related to the breakup of the A’s, which is related to the Federal League.  Anyway, with Baker out Heinie Groh of Cincinnati became the best third baseman in the game.   Groh used the "bottle bat", a bat which looked as if it had swallowed a smaller bat, and hit .474 in the 1922 World Series.   He usually hit around .300 and once led the league in walks, so he had very high on base percentages, plus he was a very, very good defensive third baseman.

              Groh was the best third baseman in baseball from 1915 to 1920.   In 1921 Groh missed 40% of the season with an injury, his first major injury, so Frankie Frisch emerged as the best third baseman in baseball, for the New York Giants, but that winter the Giants traded for Groh and moved Frisch to second, Groh to third.   For one year Jimmie Johnston ranks as the #1 guy, although he is just there on a somebody-has-to-rate-first basis:

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1915

1

Heine

Groh

3

50

.290

.354

.390

24.06

1915

2

Red

Smith

2

65

.264

.345

.352

21.85

1915

3

Wally

Schang

1

44

.248

.385

.343

18.90

1915

4

Eddie

Foster

0

52

.275

.329

.348

18.80

1915

5

Mike

Mowrey

1

49

.280

.367

.359

18.47

1915

6

Fritz

Maisel

4

46

.281

.342

.357

17.87

1915

7

Ossie

Vitt

1

48

.250

.348

.334

17.60

1915

8

Larry

Gardner

1

55

.258

.327

.326

17.56

 

     

 

     

 

 

1916

1

Heine

Groh

2

28

.269

.370

.374

26.67

1916

2

Rogers

Hornsby

6

65

.313

.369

.444

25.94

1916

3

Home Run

Baker

10

52

.269

.344

.428

25.89

1916

4

Red

Smith

3

60

.259

.333

.348

20.99

1916

5

Larry

Gardner

2

62

.308

.372

.387

20.14

 

     

 

     

 

 

1917

1

Heine

Groh

1

53

.304

.385

.411

32.47

1917

2

Home Run

Baker

6

71

.282

.345

.365

23.29

1917

3

Red

Smith

2

62

.295

.369

.392

21.78

1917

4

Heinie

Zimmerman

5

102

.297

.317

.391

21.75

1917

5

Larry

Gardner

1

61

.265

.341

.345

20.35

 

     

 

     

 

 

1918

1

Heine

Groh

1

37

.320

.395

.396

31.72

1918

2

Home Run

Baker

6

62

.306

.357

.409

22.96

1918

3

Larry

Gardner

1

52

.285

.346

.365

20.64

1918

4

Red

Smith

2

65

.298

.373

.373

19.40

1918

5

Milt

Stock

1

42

.274

.325

.314

18.90

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1919

1

Heine

Groh

5

63

.310

.392

.431

31.68

1919

2

Rogers

Hornsby

8

71

.318

.384

.430

30.60

1919

3

Buck

Weaver

3

75

.296

.315

.401

23.59

1919

4

Larry

Gardner

2

79

.300

.352

.393

21.96

1919

5

Home Run

Baker

10

83

.293

.346

.388

20.27

 

     

 

     

 

 

1920

1

Heine

Groh

0

49

.298

.375

.393

27.23

1920

2

Buck

Weaver

2

74

.331

.365

.420

22.32

1920

3

Larry

Gardner

3

118

.310

.367

.414

21.61

1920

4

Milt

Stock

0

76

.319

.360

.382

20.12

1920

5

Jimmy

Johnston

1

52

.291

.338

.361

18.15

 

     

 

     

 

 

1921

1

Frankie

Frisch

8

100

.341

.384

.485

25.98

1921

2

Heine

Groh

0

48

.331

.398

.417

21.40

1921

3

Larry

Gardner

3

115

.319

.391

.437

20.86

1921

4

Jimmy

Johnston

5

56

.325

.372

.460

20.31

1921

5

Milt

Stock

3

84

.307

.360

.388

20.03

 

     

 

     

 

 

1922

1

Jimmy

Johnston

4

49

.319

.364

.400

19.27

1922

2

Milt

Stock

5

79

.305

.352

.418

18.48

1922

3

Joe

Dugan

6

63

.287

.318

.383

17.79

1922

4

Heine

Groh

3

51

.265

.353

.350

17.74

1922

5

Tony

Boeckel

6

47

.289

.349

.410

16.50

 

              Groh was a great player, and in my view he could be a Hall of Famer, although he isn’t. 

 

82.  The Pie Traynor Era

              We talk about Pie Traynor a lot here.   I’ve never questioned that Traynor was a legitimate Hall of Famer; he was the best third baseman in baseball, basically, for ten years.  That’s a long, long time to be the top dog. 

              Most of the baseball books I read in the early 1960s were written between 1945 and 1960.  In that era basically everybody who wrote about the issue wrote that Pie Traynor was the greatest third baseman of all time.   My only real point was that he wasn’t all that.  He wasn’t as great a player at his best as Home Run Baker was, although he stayed on top longer, and he doesn’t match up well against the 1950s/1960s third basemen like Eddie Mathews, Ken Boyer, Brooks Robinson, Ron Santo and others.  His peak seasons are not the equal of Jimmy Collins, Bill Bradley or Heinie Groh.  He wasn’t really fast (his stolen base percentages are not good, and he grounded into quite a few double plays).  He didn’t walk, hit only 58 homers in his career, did not have a particularly long career (less than 2,000 games).   He was a .320 hitter and an exceptional fielder; it’s a good player.  Forbes Field helped his batting average; he was a career .332 hitter at home, .308 on the road.    He wasn’t a dominant player, but he held a value in the 23-24 range for a long time, and there just wasn’t anybody in that era who was better.  I think most people now understand that.    Fred Lindstrom had a couple of exceptional years, and follows the usual rule that the #2 players of this era have made the Hall of Fame, while the #2 players of the 1900s, 1910s, 1940s and 1950s mostly did NOT make the Hall of Fame.   The other top third basemen of the era were Willie Kamm, Jimmie Dykes, Joe Dugan, Marty McManus and (later) Pinky Whitney. 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1923

1

Pie

Traynor

12

101

.338

.377

.489

22.58

1923

2

Jimmy

Johnston

4

60

.325

.378

.426

18.70

1923

3

Heine

Groh

4

48

.290

.379

.385

18.13

1923

4

Joe

Dugan

7

67

.283

.311

.384

17.86

1923

5

Bernie

Friberg

12

88

.318

.372

.473

17.43

 

     

 

     

 

 

1924

1

Pie

Traynor

5

82

.294

.340

.417

20.98

1924

2

Andy

High

6

61

.328

.390

.448

17.69

1924

3

Joe

Dugan

3

56

.302

.341

.390

16.96

1924

4

Heine

Groh

2

46

.281

.354

.360

16.87

1924

5

Willie

Kamm

6

93

.254

.337

.364

16.59

 

     

 

     

 

 

1925

1

Frankie

Frisch

11

48

.331

.374

.472

25.73

1925

2

Pie

Traynor

6

106

.320

.377

.464

24.39

1925

3

Jimmy

Dykes

5

55

.323

.393

.471

18.52

1925

4

Willie

Kamm

6

83

.279

.391

.393

17.63

1925

5

Les

Bell

11

88

.285

.334

.422

17.16

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1926

1

Pie

Traynor

3

92

.317

.361

.436

23.25

1926

2

Les

Bell

17

100

.325

.383

.518

21.59

1926

3

Marty

McManus

9

68

.284

.350

.424

20.72

1926

4

Freddy

Lindstrom

9

76

.302

.351

.420

19.69

1926

5

Willie

Kamm

0

62

.294

.396

.385

18.02

 

     

 

     

 

 

1927

1

Pie

Traynor

5

106

.342

.370

.455

24.81

1927

2

Freddy

Lindstrom

7

58

.306

.354

.436

22.19

1927

3

Les

Bell

9

65

.259

.320

.426

18.59

1927

4

Sammy

Hale

5

81

.313

.358

.423

17.74

1927

5

Willie

Kamm

0

59

.270

.354

.378

17.73

 

     

 

     

 

 

1928

1

Freddy

Lindstrom

14

107

.358

.383

.511

26.96

1928

2

Jimmie

Foxx

13

79

.327

.416

.547

24.36

1928

3

Pie

Traynor

3

124

.337

.370

.462

23.45

1928

4

Marty

McManus

8

73

.288

.355

.430

19.77

1928

5

Pinky

Whitney

10

103

.301

.342

.426

18.60

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1929

1

Pie

Traynor

4

108

.356

.393

.472

23.10

1929

2

Freddy

Lindstrom

15

91

.319

.354

.464

22.64

1929

3

Pinky

Whitney

8

115

.327

.390

.482

20.65

1929

4

Jimmy

Dykes

13

79

.327

.412

.539

20.30

1929

5

Marty

McManus

18

90

.280

.347

.451

19.95

 

     

 

     

 

 

1930

1

Freddy

Lindstrom

22

106

.379

.425

.575

23.97

1930

2

Pie

Traynor

9

119

.366

.423

.509

22.86

1930

3

Marty

McManus

9

89

.320

.396

.475

19.91

1930

4

Pinky

Whitney

8

117

.342

.383

.465

18.96

1930

5

Jimmy

Dykes

6

73

.301

.414

.425

18.93

 

     

 

     

 

 

1931

1

Pie

Traynor

2

103

.298

.354

.416

21.20

1931

2

Pinky

Whitney

9

74

.287

.331

.433

19.20

1931

3

Jimmy

Dykes

3

46

.273

.371

.389

16.99

1931

4

Willie

Kamm

0

75

.290

.384

.386

16.94

1931

5

Pepper

Martin

7

75

.300

.351

.467

16.52

 

     

 

     

 

 

1932

1

Pie

Traynor

2

68

.329

.373

.433

20.93

1932

2

Pinky

Whitney

13

124

.298

.335

.449

20.09

1932

3

Joe

Stripp

6

64

.303

.350

.438

18.12

1932

4

Willie

Kamm

3

83

.286

.379

.403

17.24

1932

5

Joe

Sewell

11

68

.272

.349

.392

16.80

 

83. The Stan Hack Era

              For ten years after Traynor started to fail there isn’t a Hall of Fame third baseman, although there were Hall of Famers who played third base for a year or two.   Sluggers were beginning to filter in to third base—Pinky Higgins, Harlond Clift, Mel Ott for a year, Jimmie Foxx for 141 games over the years, Odell Hale, Ken Keltner.  Stan Hack wasn’t a slugger; he was kind of like Pie Traynor, except that he wasn’t as brilliant as Traynor at third base, but got on base much more.   I might guess that Hack was a greater player than Traynor.   If you have to say "Who was the best third baseman of this era?", it’s Stan Hack, although he wasn’t as high-impact as Clift. 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1933

1

Pepper

Martin

8

57

.316

.387

.456

22.27

1933

2

Mike

Higgins

13

99

.314

.383

.483

21.79

1933

3

Pie

Traynor

1

82

.304

.342

.372

18.41

1933

4

Pinky

Whitney

11

68

.250

.299

.366

16.53

1933

5

Joe

Stripp

1

51

.277

.312

.346

15.71

 

     

 

     

 

 

1934

1

Mike

Higgins

16

90

.330

.392

.508

21.98

1934

2

Pepper

Martin

5

49

.289

.337

.425

20.14

1934

3

Marv

Owen

8

96

.317

.385

.451

17.84

1934

4

Harlond

Clift

14

56

.260

.357

.421

17.16

1934

5

Stan

Hack

1

21

.289

.363

.366

15.55

 

     

 

     

 

 

1935

1

Mike

Higgins

23

94

.296

.350

.504

21.50

1935

2

Stan

Hack

4

64

.311

.406

.436

21.33

1935

3

Pepper

Martin

9

54

.299

.341

.447

21.30

1935

4

Harlond