Once again we’ve reached a sad time for some long-dead players and a happy time for me, the time where we can eliminate some players from the ballot. After each election, once we realize that there are certain players who will never receive our vote for the Hall of Miller and Eric, we pay tribute to them through these obituaries.
To make our next round of voting easier, we’re going to remove them from intellectual consideration, though not actual consideration. They’ll receive a brief write-up in this column along with a little trivia about their careers or lives.
There were 778 players we considered for the HoME as we began. Eight elections in, we’ve elected 39 and put to rest 110 others, as you’ll note by looking over our RIP category and reading below. That leaves us with 629 players for our remaining 170 spots in the HoME. In other words, we can elect just a shade over 27% of the remaining players we’re considering.
And after each election, I’ll offer the following chart to keep you apprised of our progress.
Year Carried New Considered Elected Obituaries Continuing to Over Nominees this Election Next Election 1936 75 29 104 8 14 82 1931 69 17 86 2 9 75 1926 71 25 96 9 18 69 1921 66 27 93 4 18 71 1916 53 31 84 5 13 66 1911 47 20 67 5 9 53 1906 33 28 61 3 11 47 1901 1st election 54 54 3 18 33
Dead in 1936
Half-Chipewa, it’s no surprise that Hall of Famer Albert Bender was known as Chief. In fifteen seasons and one game eight years later, he posted 212 wins. Some of his best work was done in the 1911 World Series. Pitching for the defending champ Philadelphia A’s in the opener against the Giants and Christy Mathewson, Bender gave up a pair of runs in a losing effort. Game four looked like another struggle against Mathewson, as Bender allowed two runs to just the first three batters. After that, though, he set down the Giants for nine straight innings to take the victory. Two days later, he was back on the hill to close things out in a much easier game, as his A’s pummeled the Giants 13-2 to win their second consecutive World Series. Overall, Bender gave up six runs, three earned, in 26 innings in the 1911 World Series.
The man with the first hit in the history of Yankee Stadium, George H. Burns, was also the man who turned the third unassisted triple play in history, and the first of only two by someone not playing the middle infield. Playing for the Red Sox in September of 1923, Cleveland’s Frank Brower swung the bat on a hit-and-run play with men on first and second. Burns caught the liner, tagged the man who had been on first, and inexplicably took off for second base while Indian runner Riggs Stephenson raced back to the bag. Burns beat him, and the unassisted triple play was recorded. Out of curiosity, were the Red Sox playing without middle infielders that day?
Hooks Dauss played his whole career (1922-1936) with Detroit and won more games than any pitcher in Tiger history, 223. I’ll bet Justin Verlander didn’t know that. To be fair, those wins came for some pretty mediocre Tiger teams, and they do put him in good company on the career list, ahead of notables like Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Don Drysdale, and a bunch of Hall of Famers.
If ERA with, say, a minimum of 1000 innings were the only qualification, Addie Joss would be the second greatest pitcher in history. Of course, since Jim Devlin and Jack Pfiester would be third and fourth, perhaps we should look for another measure. Among his 160 career wins for Cleveland were a perfect game and another no-hitter. He died at age 31 because of a bacterial infection and was somehow elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977. Oddly, the Hall’s Board of Directors passed a special resolution that year to waive the ten-year requirement. Why even have the rule if you’re just going to waive it when it’s convenient?
Stuffy McInnis was the first baseman in Connie Mack’s illustrious $100,000 infield joining Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Home Run Baker with the Philadelphia A’s. McInnis, Mack, and the 1911 World Series are evidence that we’re a results oriented people, or that we don’t remember history, or something. Replace McInnis, Mack and 1911 with Bill Buckner, John McNamara, and 1986, and see if this sounds at least a little familiar. Stuffy, the regular first baseman was hobbled, yet Mack inserted him into the World Series as a defensive replacement with the A’s up three games to two and game six on the line. With two outs in the ninth, McInnis quietly recorded the putout, and the A’s were champs. Sure, Buckner wasn’t a defensive replacement, and it’s not really fair to call a 13-2 lead “on the line”, but I think the comparison holds up. Kind of.
Lee Meadows wore glasses, so naturally his nickname was “Specs”. Brilliant! He won 188 games, including an NL wins title in 1931. But he was pretty awful in the World Series, with a 6.28 ERA in two starts over two Series. If you’re reading this and also thinking that Similarity Scores are the greatest thing ever, you might care to know that at age 34, when Meadows retired, the most similar pitcher to him in history was Hooks Dauss. Pretty eerie, huh?
As a member of the Murderers’ Row Yankees, Bob Meusel is overrated historically. But I’d bet you could make a buck or two in a bar bet by asking people what Yankee led the AL in HR and RBI in 1925. I’ll give you a hint – it wasn’t Ruth or Gehrig. For other cool and unimportant trivia, he’s the only American League to hit for the cycle three times. And one last bit – he’s the only player ever with two steals of home in the World Series.
Clyde Milan was nicknamed “Deerfoot”, not because he had gout, but because he was super fast. In fact, he is the all-time leader in stolen bases – wait for it – among those who played for only one team. Meaningful, I know. He won two AL steals titles and compiled a .285 career average. Overall, he was a fine player, and the third or fourth best center fielder in baseball during the length of his career, pretty much equal over those years with fellow speedster Max Carey.
Best known as the guy whose headache caused him to leave the lineup setting up Lou Gehrig’s 2130 consecutive game streak, Wally Pipp was certainly more than that as a player. First, he wasn’t the type of guy to take a game off because his head hurt. In fact, before the 1925 season, Pipp had played in at least 138 of 154 games on the Yankee schedule for six straight years. And while we’re talking about Pipp and Gehrig, they both won a triples title. But while Gehrig won three home run titles, Pipp only won two. Yeah, I guess Gehrig was better.
Despite hitting just .256 in his career, Ray Schalk was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. I’d say that’s in large part because he was one of the White Black Sox. Do you think that’s why his nickname was “Cracker”? I jest. Though perhaps the Hall voters jested even more when they elected Schalk. He’s tied with fellow dead man, Lee Meadows on the all-time list in WAR. Guess where he ranks. Just guess. As of this writing, he’s tied for #841, just a shade behind General Crowder. Ahead of Captain Crunch.
Bob Shawkey became the first New York starter at Yankee Stadium in 1923, and when the Stadium reopened in 1976, Shawkey threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He won 20 games four times and took home an ERA title in 1929. Shawkey really was a decent pitcher – maybe Frank Viola or Javier Vazquez level for his career – he’s just not a HoMEr.
An interesting and largely forgotten player, perhaps because he never reached a World Series and he retired prior to the first All-Star Game, Cy Williams was the NL’s career leader in home runs for a spell before being passed by Rogers Hornsby in 1929. And he recorded an impressive four home run titles. As an extreme pull hitter, managers employed the “Williams Shift” against him. Ironically, it wasn’t called the Williams shift when employed against Cy Williams. Years later, when Indian manager Lou Boudreau used the same strategy that’s today used against many lefty pull hitters against Ted Williams, the shift took on its name.
Some might look at Smoky Joe Wood and say he could have been one of the best pitchers ever to play the game. After all, through age 25 he had 117 wins and over 30 WAR. A thumb injury he suffered when trying to field a bunt effectively ruined his pitching career. Although he was a fine hitter, the comeback he tried to make a couple of years after his injury didn’t work out so well, even if he did manage to take home a paycheck for six more years. In any case, Wood fans will always have his spectacular 34-5 season in 1912 and his ERA title in 1915 to remember him by.
Ross Youngs is in the Hall of Fame. You would be too if you bought a ticket, but I don’t think they’d let you hang a bronzed bust of yourself anywhere inside the Cooperstown museum. I guess I’m trying to say Youngs didn’t deserve election. He was a decent enough right fielder for the New York Giants for nine seasons and a few games. And from 1919-1924, he might have been the most valuable hitter in the NL other than Rogers Hornsby. Of course, the gap between him and Hornsby was greater than the gap between Youngs and me or you. That’s how good Hornsby was. In any case, part of the reason Youngs has been honored is that his career was cut short at age 29. And his life was cut short at age 30 due to Bright’s Disease.
Rest in peace, all. Please visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those who have made it into the HoME, and check back here after the 1941 election for more obituaries.