With Black History Month over, it’s time to return to my more mundane ravings. Here’s a look at My Own Little Hall of Fame and the Class of 1913. Remember, this is a look at how the Hall of Fame would differ if it began in 1901 and the writers of the era were dealing only with the info available to them in 1913 (and other years) rather than the info available in the mid-1930s or currently.
Jacob “Eagle Eye” Beckley was a southpaw first baseman who played for five teams over a 20 year career lasting from 1888 through 1907. He is the all time leader in triples. His 2934 hits and 473 doubles are both second among retired Major League players.
Winner of two batting titles, including a century high .440 among Major Leaguers, Hugh Duffy led the league in home runs and hits twice, and in doubles once. He helped his team to five National League pennants and an 1892 win in the split season postseason series.
John Joseph McGraw was a starring third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s. Twice he led the National League in both runs and walks. He helped lead his team to three National League pennants and the 1896 Temple Cup victory. He later managed the National League New York Giants to five pennants and one World Series championship.
Now the commentary:
1. Beckley was an easy choice based on my premise that we’re doing this in 1913 with info available then. He has those big raw number stats that impressed writers and fans of the 1913 era. By this point he no longer leads the Major Leagues in triples (he’s now fourth). The comment about hits and doubles is worded funny because Honus Wagner was getting close to retirement and eventually passed Beckley in both. I didn’t feel like taking the time to see if he’d done so by 1913 (I presume he had in hits, but not sure about doubles) so I made a stipulation that was true, but possibly misleading.
2. Hugh Duffy was also an easy choice for pretty much the same reasons. He was a major player on five teams that won the NL pennant and his 1894 average was known (although there was some dispute about the exact number). In one of their articles, the guys at the wonderful Hall of Miller and Eric (who, ironically, just eliminated Beckley from their hall–they use modern stats I’m not allowed to use) pointed out that hitting .400, like hitting 61 home runs or getting an extraordinary number of strikeouts, tends to come very close to a period when there is a significant change in the game (like creating the mound or juicing the ball ala 1930 or expansion in 1960). In Duffy’s case that’s certainly true. His two batting titles occur in 1893 and 1894 (the move to a mound occurred in 1893) so his titles can be seen as a direct result of the move to 60’6″. I don’t think the writers of the era saw that as a problem. At least I can’t find one who says “Duffy benefitted from a new rule and his numbers are tainted” or some such comment. So I ignored that as a factor in his election. This issue will pop up again with Nap LaJoie, whose 1901 average is way out of line with the rest of his career (which is very, very good) and occurs with the first year of the American League.
3. And now, McGraw. As a player McGraw is, at best, a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. His numbers are fine, but they are fine for a very short period of time. So the counting numbers (hits, runs, walks, etc.) aren’t all that high and most of the percentages we use today weren’t around yet (batting average being an obvious exception). But as Kortas pointed out when I mentioned my John McGraw problem it is the Hall of Fame and in the period 1905-1913 there are only a few people in baseball more famous than John McGraw. His team was the toast of New York. They’d been in three consecutive World Series’ (and lost them all). Outside guys with names like Cobb, Wagner, Mathewson he was easily the most well-known man in the sport. It seemed that eventually the writers would compound the playing numbers with the managing and notoriety and put McGraw in the 1901 version of the Hall of Fame. The end of the 1913 pennant run seemed like a good time to do it.
4. I’ve noticed that the statistical information available is becoming more stable. By that I mean you can start finding the same types of stats (AB, H, R, etc.) each time. Also, the numbers associated with those statistics are beginning to firm up. There are still differences in the numbers, but the differences are getting closer and something like a consensus is starting. It makes it a bit easier to determine who makes the list.
5. New everyday players arriving on the 1914 list include both Joe Kelley and Jimmy Collins. Collins was considered, at the time, one of the two or three top third basemen ever, which will certainly enhance his chances. Kelley seems to be much less well known, not as highly thought of as others. I’m not sure yet what will happen with him. That pushes my holdover list to 21 and either someone will have to be added to the Hall or at least one player must be dropped.
6. Among pitchers Joe McGinnity is added to the 1914 list while Thomas Lynch, an umpire and later President of the National League, joins the contributors list. Adding Lynch will give me 11 contributors and someone either makes the Hall of gets dropped. Currently I’m leaning toward not adding a contributor in 1914, putting Lynch in the holdover pool, and dropping Bud Hillerich, the Louisville Slugger guy. Lynch will be the first umpire that I’ve found out enough about (mostly because of his NL Presidency) to make him seem a viable candidate. Will let you know.