For my opening salvo into 2015, it’s time to unveil the 1911 class of My Own Little Hall of Fame. For those of you who are new, who forgot, or who simply want to be bored with a rehash, this is my attempt to determine what a Hall of Fame established in 1901 rather than the 1930s would look like. It’s based on what information was available in the year of the election (in this case 1911). For this I’m scouring newspapers, magazines, guides, memoirs, etc. looking for what was known and what people thought. Here’s this year’s first class.
Daniel “Doc” Adams was one of the most important founders of the game. A member of the original Knickerbockers, he is credited with inventing the position of shortstop, of chairing the 1857 meeting that codified game rules, and helping establish the National Association of Base Ball Players, the first league using something like the current rules.
Outfielder primarily in the 1890’s, Jesse Burkett won the 1895, 1896, and 1901 National League batting titles and led the National League in hits three times and runs scored twice. A career .338 hitter he is fifth all-time in triples and third in total hits.
Now the commentary:
1. One of the things I’ve noticed is the proliferation of baseball mythology at this time. The Mills Commission nonsense about Abner Doubleday is of the era, there are interviews with geezers older than me who are talking about what it was like in the early days of the sport. One of those interviews was with Adams (He died in 1899). I don’t know that any one person can be called “The Father of Baseball” but Adams is one of those guys that had a prominent part in the beginnings of the sport and the writers of the era knew who he was and what he’d supposedly done. I put supposedly there because we only have Adams’ word for some of it, particularly the shortstop assertion. So in a mythology heavy era I felt that a pioneer might get in. And to look at it from a modern era view, he’s probably a better candidate than Alexander Cartwright. Although William Wheaton might be an even better candidate, Wheaton seems to be much less well-known in 1911.
2. Burkett is one of the better players of the era. The comment about triples is based on what seems to be the info available at the time. By now he’s much lower (15th). And by way of a correction, Bid McPhee, who is now listed above him, was not there in 1910. Modern research has established McPhee with more triples than Burkett. He belongs in a 1911 era Hall of Fame because of his counting numbers, those numbers that have been around since Henry Chadwick. He has a high batting average, a ton of runs, and a lot of hits. Those numbers dominate the era and I feel would assure him a place in a 1911 Hall of Fame, without reference to the exactitude of his triples. By the way, the only players with more hits than Burkett in 1911 were Cap Anson (1st) and Jake Beckley (which bodes well for Beckley when his turn comes). Currently Burkett is 44th.
3. And the triples info is the kind of thing I have to watch carefully. Modern statistical info is so much greater that McPhee’s triple line has grown over time. And Burkett’s changes also. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 2006 (which is the last issue, I think) has him with 185 triples, Baseball Reference.com has 182. So it’s still not solved. I’m beginning to understand why Hall of Fame plaques sometimes have the wrong information on them.
4. Next year (1912) will have Kid Nichols added to the pitcher’s ballot, Hugh Duffy, Sam Thompson, and John McGraw (as a player, not manager) added to the everyday players part of the ballot and Henry Chalmers (originator of the Chalmers Award) added to the contributors. I expect Nichols will have no trouble making the Hall. I’m not sure about either Duffy or Thompson and I’m reasonably sure Chalmers won’t get there. McGraw is the problem. As I mentioned in my review at the end of 2014, McGraw’s playing career is already, by 1912, being dwarfed by his managing. I’ll have to work a bit to see whether he makes it as a player. You’ll find out next time.