A Time to Kill is more than just a crummy Grisham novel, it’s one of my favorite times of the election cycle at the HoME. It’s the time when 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 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 733 players we considered for the HoME as we began (Throughout our process, I’ve cited 778 as the number of players included in our original data set. That number included players not yet eligible. The corrected total reflects only those eligible through the 2013 election). So, after ten elections, we’ve elected 52 and put to rest 141 others, as you’ll note by looking over our RIP category and reading below. That leaves us with 540 players for our remaining 157 spots in the HoME. In other words, we can elect just over 29% 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 1946 94 26 120 8 19 93 1941 82 29 111 5 12 94 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 1946
Called “Camera Eye” because he had remarkable strike zone judgment, Max Bishop was a second baseman, primarily for the Philadelphia A’s. Every season in which he came to the plate 500 times or more, he drew 100 walks or more. In fact, he drew walks more frequently than anyone in the game’s history other than Ted Williams. He struggled in post-season play, batting only .182 over three World Series from 1929-1931. Always walking, however, he did post a .316 OBP in those Series. And by the way, Bishop holds the record for most walks in a double header – eight – which he accomplished twice.
If induction into the HoME were based on one game, Jim Bottomley would absolutely be in. On September 16, 1924, “Sunny Jim” had one of the best games in the game’s history. Against the Brooklyn Robins Bottomley singled three times, doubled, and homered twice. Those six hits were good for a record 12 runs batted in, a total that has only been equaled by Mark Whiten in 1993. He’s in the Hall of Fame due in large part to former teammate and Veterans Committee member Frankie Frisch, but a player only about as good as Cecil Cooper just doesn’t cut it in the HoME.
Bill Bradley posted the second highest sacrifice hit total in baseball history when he bunted runners over 60 times in 1908. He trails only Ray Chapman’s 67 in 1917. What does it take to sacrifice 60 times? It takes a pretty healthy player who hits near the top of the order. Bradley played in 148 of 154 games, and though his 1908 doesn’t suggest a hitter with a prime spot in the order, his previous record does. And it also takes an incredibly low scoring environment – teams only scored 3.4 runs per game in the American League in 1908, and hitters compiled just a .239/.294/.304 line as a group.
I say that Donie Bush didn’t spell his name oddly. He spelled it correctly and pronounced it oddly. Think of the stuff used to make pizza plus the largest joint in your body. That’s Donie. He was a shortstop, mostly for the Tigers, from 1908-1923. A slick fielder, in 1914 he set the American League record for most chances by a shortstop and tied Hughie Jennings’ major league record for most putouts in a season at short. He also participated in a record (tied with Bid McPhee) nine triple plays, led the league in walks five times, and laid down the fifth most sacrifice bunts in history.
Jack Clements was the last lefty in the bigs to have a regular gig behind the plate. While he wasn’t a great defender, he held his own. At the plate, he was more impressive in some ways, holding both the single-season and career marks for homers by a catcher until Gabby Hartnett passed him for both.
There’s little doubt in my mind that Art Devlin would have been inducted into the Hall of Fame had he just been a lot better at baseball. But seriously, there’s not a ton of note about the career of this Giant third baseman from Washington, DC. One web site says that all of the other Devlins in major league history have been named “Jim” and another one notes that his second wife died on the same day Babe Ruth did. He did lead the league in steals in 1905 and get hit by more pitches than anyone else in 1907. So I guess there’s that.
Jimmy Dykes played with a lot of great players. That’s something. And he was pretty good himself during his 22 years in the majors with the A’s and White Sox. He played all over the diamond, mostly at 2B and 3B, and is pretty similar in career value to Frank White. Somewhat notably, Dykes was baseball’s first manager with 1000 wins and no pennants.
Duke Farrell was a catcher from 1888-1905 who once caught eight of nine would-be base stealers in a single game. But the thing that might matter most is his uncanny resemblance to Nick Offerman, the actor who portrays Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.
Chick Hafey couldn’t see, yet he’s still in the Hall of Fame. Okay, he could see. Just not very well and not very consistently. He had terrible sinus problems, which caused vision issues. Also, he was hit in the head by pitches more than once. In the days before batting helmets, when men were men, and “men” meant “idiots”, beanings could change a lot more than the course of a career. Hafey was a good player, though overrated in his time and overrated historically. He might not have deserved the start in front of Joe Medwick, but he was the NL’s first All-Star left fielder. And he got the 1933 game’s first hit.
Jesse Haines was the first pitcher in World Series history to throw a complete game shutout while hitting a home run in the same game (Bucky Walters being the only other pitcher to do so). In the third game of the 1926 Series, he took Yankee starter Dutch Reuther deep in bottom of the fourth, and he allowed just five hits to the Bombers in the 4-0 victory. He won 20 games on three occasions, and he led the NL in complete games and shutouts in 1927. Sadly, he’s in the Hall of Fame, where he’s almost certainly one of the five worst players.
Babe Herman was a pretty talented lefty throwing right fielder who played most of his 13 seasons in the NL and took home a triples crown in 1932. He’s also responsible, in part, for one of the oddest plays the game has ever seen. Bases loaded with Dodgers. Babe Herman at the plate. He hits a long drive. That ball is in the gap. Hank DeBerry scores from third. And Dazzy Vance rounds the bag and will score easily. Oh, wait. Vance heads back to third. Why’s he going back to third? That’s where Chick Fewster should be. Oh no! It seems Herman isn’t paying attention because he’s chugging into third too. What a mess! Eddie Taylor tagged everyone. Vance was safe, the other two were out. Herman doubled into a double play.
From the files of so similar and yet so different comes Willis Hudlin, a righty starter, almost exclusively for the Indians, who won 158 games and also gave up Babe Ruth’s 500th home run. He’s one of two players in baseball history to attend Oklahoma’s Wagoner High School. The other, whose career overlapped Hudlin’s in 1927, was Chuck Corgan. Hudlin lived until 2002, age 96. Corgan passed away from cancer in 1928, at just age 25.
Travis Jackson didn’t have a Hall of Fame career, but he has a Hall of Fame plaque. The slick fielding shortstop for the New York Giants never led the league in anything, which makes one wonder how he got in. Look for an article on the influence Frankie Frisch had over the Hall’s Veterans Committee coming soon. His World Series performance was pretty bad, posting a .149/.183/.164 line over 74 trips to the plate.
Freddie Lindstrom came up as a young third baseman with the New York Giants. He later moved to the outfield and on to Pirates, Cubs, and Dodgers before ending his career at age 30. He led the NL in hits in 1928 when he may have had his finest season, punctuated by a second place finish in the MVP race to Jim Bottomley. Though he’s only about as deserving as Terry Pendleton, he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1976.
Heinie Manush was a left fielder who played for six teams in his seventeen years in the majors. And there were a lot of things he did quite well. He won a batting title in 1926, and he led his league in doubles and hits twice each. But oh, how the game has changed. Picture this: World Series, controversial call at first, umpire Charlie Moran calls Manush out, all hell breaks loose, fans throw bottles on the field, but Manush isn’t ejected. Yet. What got him ejected, you ask? Manush pulled Moran’s bow tie, the kind with an elastic band inside, and he let it snap back. Right out of Vaudeville.
The catcher with the most assists in history is Deacon McGuire. He’s also first in caught stealing, stolen bases allowed, and errors by a catcher. That’s what happens when you play semi-regularly behind the plate from the time you’re 20 until you’re about 42. Longevity begets career marks. When we look at the all-time leaders in games caught, we see almost only backstops whose careers began after WWII, indicating how a physically demanding position today was even more demanding at one time. McGuire had played for a record eleven major league teams until Matt Stairs topped that, but he still owns a record by having played for 29 managers.
There was a time that pretty darned good ballplayers would head to the minor leagues after their major league careers ended. Del Pratt was one such player. A talented second baseman while in the bigs, Pratt was quite durable; he led the AL in games played five times. And after he finished in the majors, he went on to become a player-manager (another thing that happened much more frequently 80+ years ago) for the Waco Cubs. While playing for Waco, Pratt won the Texas League triple crown in 1927.
Pie Traynor is the first player receiving a HoME obituary who was elected to the Hall by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In 1948, Traynor received 76.9% of the vote to gain election in his eighth year of eligibility. He received more votes in that election than Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Harry Heilmann and a total of 50 players who are in the Hall of Fame. Traynor led the league in triples once. It’s hard to see what the writers saw in him, but his reputation was certainly that of an all-time great. The reality is that he was about as good as Tim Wallach. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just that he’s not at HoME level.
Best known as the pitcher who allowed Babe Ruth’s 60th home run in 1927 on a ball he claimed went foul, Tom Zachary was a righty starter who pitched for seven teams over nineteen years to win his 186 games. Zachary went undefeated for the 1929 Yankees, posting a 12-0 record. That record remains to this day as the most wins in a single season without a loss. Oddly, the most similar hitter to him in the game’s history by Similarity Scores is also the second most similar pitcher, Dolf Luque.
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 1951 election for more obituaries.