This post marks the penultimate (don’t you just love $10 words?) class of My Own Little Hall of Fame for this calendar year. With only 13 classes to go until the class of 1934 finishes off my hall it’s time to add a couple of players, one with claims to baseball innovation, and both with managerial experience (one did better than the other),
Roger Bresnahan was a premier catcher at the turn of the century. Beginning his career as a pitcher, he moved to the outfield, then became a catcher with the New York Giants. He helped lead the Giants to championships in 1904 and 1905, hitting .313 in the 1905 World Series. He developed the use of shin guards and other protective gear that prolonged the career of catchers throughout Major League Baseball.
Outfielder and manager of the pennant winning Pittsburgh club, Fred Clarke led the National League in walks, putouts, and doubles in a career that lasted from 1894 through 1915. He managed his team to three consecutive pennant 1901-1903 and participated in the first World Series. His team won the 1909 World Series when he hit two home runs and drove in five runs, while scoring seven runs himself. His career average is .312.
Now the commentary.
1 OK, Clarke makes sense, but Bresnahan? I am stunned at the amount of contemporary ink used to extol Bresnahan’s work with catching equipment. He’s considered an innovator (some even claim he invented the shin guards–he didn’t) who prolonged the career of innumerable catchers, made the game safer for catchers, and improved the quality of work behind the plate. It’s almost as if his batting numbers didn’t matter to the writers of the era. I checked his DWAR (which didn’t exist at the time so I didn’t use it in picking or rejecting him, but I wanted to check something) and his number rises significantly once he goes behind the plate, goes up even more when he puts on the “tools of ignorance” and stays up until he moves to St. Louis where he plays less and manages more. I believe that a contemporary bunch of writers who remembered him might have decided that the contributions to catching were enough to elect him to a Hall of Fame existing in 1920. And it’s the “contributions” word that’s important here. It’s almost as if his contemporaries might have added him more as a contributor than as a player. That explains why I chose a picture of him in gear rather than a shot that allowed us to see his face. As a player only, I’m not sold on his enshrinement either in 1921 or today.
2. Clarke was pretty easy. He was a very good player and a very good manager. Put them together and he’s an easy call. And by the way, he’s the one who decided to move Honus Wagner to shortstop as his primary position. Maybe he ought to get in just because of that.
3. There are a couple of significant additions to the list of players eligible for 1922. The most notable everyday player is Nap LaJoie, while pitchers Christy Mathewson and Mordecai Brown show up. I suppose it won’t be a shock to anyone if all three of them are in the final class of this year. Others involved in the 1922/23 classes will include Harry Davis, Hans Lobert, and Athletics co-owner Ben Shibe.
4. I can already hear it now, “Who the heck is Hans Lobert?” Most of you are probably asking that at this point. He’s a decent, but not spectacular infielder, but he’s inordinately well-known and well liked. I’m surprised at how much contemporary stuff there is on an otherwise, to us, obscure ballplayer. I’m trying to find out as much as I can about him (for instance Edward G. Robinson played him in a movie) for maybe a post here, but more importantly I’m trying to determine if the writers of the day liked him (and we’re talking liked him as a human being not as a player) enough to have given him consideration for a Hall of Fame. I don’t think so, but it’s interesting to check. I’m convinced that “likeability” is a feature in getting some players (but certainly not all) into the real Hall of Fame so here’s a chance for me to examine that idea.