My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1921

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

Roger Bresnahan

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.

Fred Clarke

Fred Clarke

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.

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10 Responses to “My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1921”

  1. Miller Says:

    Based on your rules, I think the Bresnahan election is warranted. More than that, I think the commentary is spot on. He’s over-mythologized, for sure, but his contributions were seen as game changing, if you’ll pardon the unintentional pun.

    As far as the real Hall, I also agree with you. Unless you’re going to have as many as 20 catchers, I don’t think he rates. I put him behind Jorge Posada, and even Jason Kendall, neither of whom is eligible yet. And of course Pudge.

  2. wkkortas Says:

    To build on the good Miller’s commentary…I think his role in changing catcher’s equipment (and the subsequent changes those improvements brought to catchers’ workload) in combination with a pretty fair career, qualify him for The Hall. I also agree with notion of Bresnahan being “over-mythologized”; when you consider that media in his day meant daily papers and nothing else, and you consider the number of dailies in New York at the time…well, that’s a real East Coast bias in action there. Clarke is pretty much a no-brainer; I’m surprised how little attention his managing records gets. In 16 years in Pittsburgh, there’s four pennants and fourteen straight years in the first division. Not too many other managers have that kind of a resume.

  3. William Miller Says:

    I’d say no to Bresnahan, yes to Clarke, and most definitely a who the hell is Hans Lobert?
    -Nicely researched, V
    The “Other” Miller

    • Glen Russell Slater Says:

      I’ve heard of Hans Lobert, mostly because I had his baseball card as a youth.

      I lost it, of course. Not only my youth, but the card, as well. This is the card that I had, as I recall.

      Glen

  4. Glen Russell Slater Says:

    By the way, solid writing and research, as usual. Your posts are informative; I’m almost always impressed with them. Except for when you use all that “WAR” stuff, which I don’t understand, but I’m sure that it’s still good stuff. I’m just too lazy to learn what all these Sabermetric things mean. What is your specialty in SABRE? (Such as “Famous Baseball Players From Oklahoma” or the like). I joined SABRE back when I lived in Ravena, New York (a few miles south of Albany) in either 1995 or 1996, although I never got around to participating in it, and I noticed that there were committees that had specializations. (If you still happen to have the address list for that year, you’ll probably find my name and all that. I lost that a long time ago) What committee are you a member of, V?

    Glen

  5. Steve Myers Says:

    What a bunch of fearless buggers they were back then, wearing no catchers gear until Bresnahan!

    • verdun2 Says:

      Actually there was gear, beginning with a padded mitt as early as at least the 1880s. What Bresnahan did was improve what they had, add the shinguards, start wearing it regularly, and do well.
      v

      • Steve Myers Says:

        They oughta name a catchers award after him, the Bresnahan Bronze or something like that, for, as you say v, prolonging some of these catcher’s careers the way he did.

  6. Precious Sanders Says:

    I watch what catchers go through today, and I’m amazed their not all back behind the plate in full knight’s armor. They take quite the beating.

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