My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1909

And now the monthly update of My Own Little Hall of Fame. Drum roll, please, for the Class of 1909.

"Big Ed" Delahanty

“Big Ed” Delahanty

Edward Delahanty starred in the Major League from 1888 until his untimely death in 1903. Playing mostly for Philadelphia in the National League and later for Washington in the American League he led his league in hitting twice, with a .410 average being his career high. He also led his league in home runs and hits once each, in triples twice, and in doubles five times. His career .346 average is among the highest in Major League history.

Frank Grant

Frank Grant

Noted colored second baseman Frank Grant was a stalwart of numerous integrated Minor League teams in the era of the 1880s and 1890s. He later played for a number of colored teams. An excellent fielder he also became a superior hitter over a 20 year career.

And now the commentary:

1. “Colored”? As I said when I added Bud Fowler to the Hall, I’m not comfortable with the word, but a look at contemporary articles in magazines and newspapers shows that “colored” was far and away the most commonly used word in the 1909 era. I was reminded by my wife that the “C” in NAACP is for “colored” and then recalled the NAACP was founded in 1909. So apparently it was accepted by the local black community as the best they were going to get. Later, about 1920, I’ll begin to replace it with “Negro” as Rube Foster did.

2. You did notice that Frank Grant was “colored” didn’t you? Yeah, I did. And, yeah, I know that there is no chance a 1909 Hall of Fame was going to elect a black man to its list of greats. Where I live, he wouldn’t have been able to enter the building in 1909 unless he was the janitor. But it’s my Hall and Frank Grant is one of the two best black everyday ball players of the 19th Century (with Fowler) and I think he deserves to be included. I’m currently mulling over whether George Stovey, the acknowledged best black pitcher of the age, should be enshrined or not. Will let you know.

3. With Delahanty dead from an accident in 1903, why didn’t you elect him in 1904? Well, I felt as if an accidental death was not sufficient cause to put a man in my Hall. Lots of players died in accidents, some while still playing. To me it just isn’t the same as a major disease (Lou Gehrig, Addie Joss) or loss in war (Eddie Grant). Having said that, Delahanty was a shoo-in when 1909 came around.

4. Just two this time? Yep. Again, there are a lot of really fine players eligible, but they are, in my opinion, “really fine”, not “great”. When I finish the year with next month’s list (1910) I’ll post just who I’m considering. Hopefully, you’ll see what my problem is when adding more. And Frank Grant is in as a contributor, not a player. I also have this funny feeling that I’m adding too many too soon and feel as if the 1909 writers might have brought things to something just short of a standstill at about this point (the 1930s writer’s certainly did).

5. It’s still difficult to find what are now common stats. For instance the Reach Guide still doesn’t have either RBIs or caught stealing. It does, and I find this strange, list the pitchers in order of winning percentage, not wins (with another list doing it in innings pitched order). It’s not a bad thing, we just don’t do it that way now.

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2 Responses to “My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1909”

  1. Miller Says:

    My favorite line in this piece is the last one. “It’s not a bad thing, we just don’t do it that way now.”

    So often we all have this bias toward today. Today is right. Yesterday was wrong. And to me, that seems so silly. How arrogant and ignorant must we be to think we know the right answer today? Human history is long and varied and changing and changing back and changing again. It’s nice to see someone point out that lots of things can be equally right even if they’re different.

    Nice post.

  2. steve Says:

    Maybe the mystery surrounding Delahanty’s death is no mystery at all and just the exaggerations of a bored pen, but either way, I’d say that was grounds for immediate enshrinement in some future wing over there; maybe a dram wing of suicides and love triangles; Lyman Bostock put back on the Veterans ballot.

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