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Negro Leagues

Evaluating More Negro Leagues Catchers

[All MLEs updated 7/4/18 to include (a) new 1938 and 1947 data (b) new baserunning-runs estimates(c) new, more objective playing-time estimates]

The Negro Leagues produced a pile of great catchers. Are there any others lurking who might contend for a spot in the Hall of Miller and Eric? Using our trusty Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for Negro Leagues batters, we examined the top catchers at the Negro Leagues Database, most of whom you haven’t heard of, and one other fellow you probably should know already.

Before we dive in, one quick thing. Miller asked me on behalf of our readers to explain why I have chosen to show Negro Leaguers’ hypothetical career rankings in the 1871—1960 time frame (or the end of their career, whichever comes last). I’ve done this primarily because it puts these players into their native temporal context. There are many reasons this may be helpful to interpreting our MLEs. Most obviously, we are comparing these players against those whose careers are closest chronologically, so we have a firmer sense of what their careers totals might have looked like in context in MLB. Second, the schedule changed darn near every or every other year for the first 35 years of the game, and after 1960 it settled in at 162, the longest schedule in MLB’s history. All the MLEs are calibrated to the schedule MLB played, so mostly 154 games. For some of these players, that’s significant—as many as 100 games worth of opportunity. For pitchers and catchers, in particular, the era we choose really matters. Beginning after the war but especially in the 1960s, perhaps due to the adoption of the hinged catcher’s mitt, catchers played more than ever. Meanwhile, pitchers have thrown fewer and fewer innings over time. In other words, apples to oranges. For those using our MLEs to support historical comparisons to MLB players, you will no doubt be applying your own playing-time adjustments, and you’ll be better able to compare career rankings with moderns that way. And for all of us, BBREF makes it super simple to look up career figures in PA and WAR (if not WAA, RAA, and Rbat) either on their leaderboards page or via the Play Index. The latter of which, you should subscribe to. Right now.

Now back to our catchers!

Regino Garcia

Relatively little is known about Garcia from before he emerged in the Cuban Winter League in 1902. He hit the ground running in the Cuban Winter League as a heavy hitting catcher/first baseman. James Riley gives him about a half a mention in his biographical compendium of the Negro Leagues, various online sources have a couple scant lines. They all say the same thing: He sure could hit and he was popular on the island because of it.

But once the Negro Leagues Database got its hands on his data, it became clearer what kind of player he was. Documentation of Garcia’s career spans 1902–1914, ages 27–39. As a dark-skinned man, he was denied the chance to play in the Cuba Winter League until it integrated in 1900. His activities at that time aren’t known, but he must have been playing baseball on Cuba somewhere because two years after integration he was a star. Garcia played six seasons in the Negro Leagues as well as in his native land.

Regino Garcia
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1902–1914
Destination: NL 1902–1912
Honors: Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame

Year Age Lg Pos  PA  Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA  WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
=======================================================================
1902 27 NL   C  490   27    0      0     7   34   3.7   17   51   5.7
1903 28 NL   C  480   28    0      0     7   34   3.3   16   51   5.0
1904 29 NL   C  460   20    0      0     7   26   2.9   16   41   4.8
1905 30 NL   C  460   16    0      0     7   22   2.4   16   38   4.2
1906 31 NL   C  320    9    0      0     5   14   1.6   11   35   3.0
1907 32 NL   C  370    7    0      0     5   12   1.5   13   24   3.1
1908 33 NL   C  310    7    0      0     5   12   1.5   11   22   2.9
1909 34 NL   C  350    8    0      0     5   13   1.5   12   25   3.0
1910 35 NL   C  250    0    0      0     5    5   0.5   12   17   1.9
1911 36 NL   C  130    1    0      0     2    3   0.3    4    7   0.8
1912 37 NL   C  140  - 4    0      0     2  - 3  -0.3    5    2   0.2
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
               3860  120   -2     -2    56  171  19.0  132  303  34.5

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: t-593rd
Rbat: t-212th
WAA: t-135th
WAR: t-187th

Let’s say Garcia had, say, four or five more seasons, call it 1,500 plate appearances and another 13.5 or so WAR. It would increase his totals to about 4200 PA and 46.5 WAR. Other catchers in that area include Ernie Lombardi (45.9 WAR in 6352 PA), Buck Ewing (47.7 WAR in 5772 PA), and Wally Schang (45.0 WAR in 6432 PA). It’s not out of the question at all that Garcia coulda been a contender.

Joe Greene

[Updated 4/4/18 with minor park-factor correction.]

I don’t know whether Greene had a sunny or surly disposition, but this is not Mean Joe Greene. Instead, this Joe Greene was a leading catcher in the prewar Negro Leagues and a key member of the Kansas City Monarchs during Satchel Paige’s time there. He had league-leading power, could draw a walk, and was reputed to have a strong arm. His most interesting life moment had nothing to do with baseball. He fought with the 92nd Division during World War Two and earned military decorations. It was his company that, entering Milan in the campaign for Italy cut down the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci. They’d been executed and hung upside down prior to the Allies’ arrival.

James Riley notes that Green’s production slipped noticeably after the war, and our MLE accounts for this. The backstop continued for several years in the Negro Leagues before hanging it up.

Joe Greene
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1932–1951
Destination: NL 1932–1948
Missing data: 1932–1935, 1936?, 1948 

Year Age Lg Pos  PA  Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA  WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
=======================================================================
1932 20 NL   C  120    0    0      0     1    2   0.2    4    6   0.6
1933 21 NL   C  150    1    0      1     1    3   0.4    5    8   1.0
1934 22 NL   C  220    2    0      2     2    5   0.5    8   12   1.3
1935 23 NL   C  330    3   -1      2     2    7   0.7   11   18   1.8
1936 24 NL   C  380    2   -1      3     3    6   0.6   13   19   2.0
1937 25 NL   C  430  - 5   -1      3     3    0   0.0   15   15   1.5
1938 26 NL   C  430    3   -1      3     3    9   0.9   15   23   2.5
1939 27 NL   C  430    4   -1      3     3    9   0.9   15   23   2.5
1940 28 NL   C  370   16   -1      3     3   21   2.2   13   33   3.5
1941 29 NL   C  450   12   -1      3     3   18   1.9   15   33   3.6
1942 30 NL   C  430    3   -1      3     3    9   1.0   15   23   2.7
1943 31         WORLD WAR 2         
1944 32         WORLD WAR 2
1945 33         WORLD WAR 2
1946 34 NL   C  350  - 3   -1      2     2    1   0.1   12   13   1.5
1947 35 NL   C  340    0   -1      2     2    4   0.4   12   15   1.6
1948 36 NL   C  150    0    0      1     1    2   0.2    5    7   0.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------
               4580   39  - 9     32    32   92   9.9  156  250  26.8

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 477th
Rbat: 458th
WAA: t-264th
WAR: t-272nd

We should consider this MLE provisional. I suspect it generally characterizes the overall feel of Greene’s career, but we’re missing considerable data. Even just the two seasons after the war could greatly change our sense of Greene’s abilities and his decline. At this point, he’s not a strong candidate, and I don’t suspect he’ll become one with more information, but I’d like to have a sharper sense of his abilities and performance.

Elston Howard

Guessing you know his name. Kind of a middle man in the string of outstanding Yankee catchers that began in the late 1920s. Bill Dickey begat Yogi Berra who begat Elston Howard who begat Thurman Munson, then there’s a long break before Jorge Posada takes over. (In fairness, Mike Stanley did a bang up job for a couple years in that interregnum.) We’ll see whether Gary Sanchez earns his way into this illustrious company.

Ellie Howard’s career is a little tricky to model in our fashion. He caught in the minors, moved to the outfield for several years in deference to Yogi, then put the tools of ignorance back on in the late 1950s. In addition, the Yankees were late to the integration ball and very slow to really introduce African-American talent in earnest. At the age of 26, Howard became the first black Yankee in 1955. (Not to be confused with the first Black Yankee. The New York Black Yankees’ Negro League franchise had existed for more than twenty years prior to Howard’s inaugural game.) He didn’t play a full season until 1959. Which means that the Yanks burned up much of his prime during their integration experiment.

The catcher cum left fielder and later again catcher debuted at age 19 in the Negro Leagues, spending just two seasons with the Kansas City Monarchs as Joe Green’s heir apparent. Organized baseball noted that apparent talent and Yankee superscout Tom Wade signed him to Muskegon in the Central League, where he acquitted himself well. Then the Korean War interrupted his development for two years. Howard never saw combat and he played ball for Uncle Sam for two years, but the level of competition wasn’t the same. Returning to civilian life, his bat took a year to come back as he caught for two seasons at the AAA level before the big club finally promoted him in 1955. And the rest we know very well from his statistical record.

Elston Howard
Major Leagues Stats | Minor Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1948–1968
Destination: AL 1953–1968
Missing data: 1948–1950

Year Age Lg Pos  PA  Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep RAR   WAR
=========================================================================
1953 24 AL   C  500    1   -1     -1    3     4    5   0.6  17   22   2.4
1954 25 AL   C  500    6   -1     -1    3     4   11   1.2  17   28   3.1
1955 26 AL  LF  305    4    0      0    4    -3    5   0.6   9   15   1.5
1956 27 AL  LF  316  -10   -1     -1    0    -2  -14  -1.4  10  - 4  -0.5
1957 28 AL  LF  381  -11   -1     -3   -1    -2  -17  -2.0  12  - 6  -0.8
1958 29 AL   C  406   13   -1      0    4     2   19   1.9  12   31   3.2
1959 30 AL  1B  475    5    0     -1    3    -2    6   0.5  15   21   2.0
1960 31 AL   C  361  -12    0     -1    3     5  - 5  -0.6  11    7   0.6
1961 32 AL   C  482   32   -2      0    3     6   40   3.8  15   55   5.3
1962 33 AL   C  538   10   -1     -3    9     7   22   2.1  17   39   3.8
1963 34 AL   C  531   23   -1     -2    5     7   34   3.6  16   50   5.2
1964 35 AL   C  607   18   -1      1   10     8   35   3.6  19   54   5.5
1965 36 AL   C  418  - 8   -1     -2    3     5  - 2  -0.3  13   11   1.0
1966 37 AL   C  451  - 2   -1     -1    2     5    3   0.1  15   17   1.6
1967 38 AL   C  345  -22    0     -2    1     5  -19  -2.5  11  - 8  -1.3
1968 39 AL   C  229    0   -1     -1  - 6     3  - 4  -0.6   8    4   0.2
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
               6845   47  -10    -18   46    52  120  11.9 217  337  33.0

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 165th
Rbat: t-418th
WAA: t-220th
WAR: t-202nd

The reason that Howard is difficult to MLE is apparent in the Rbat for his 1955–1960 seasons. We use a career average rate to assign batting value for seasons with no information. That means that despite Howard’s net -11 Rbat for his first six real MLB seasons, we show him as slightly positive in our first two MLE seasons. This then surely makes our astute readers wonder whether the Yankees didn’t get the best out of Ellie Howard early in his MLB tenure, whether he had trouble coping with the pressures of being the first black Yankee, or whether variance is variance. In a sense it doesn’t matter. It’s not as though even turning those two negative WAR seasons in 1956–1957 would make Howard a HoMEr or a great-guns candidate. He’s pretty clearly not going to receive our vote.

Bruce Petway

Petway’s name came up in the New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract and during the Hall of Merit’s deliberations. His reputation precedes him as a good-fielding, poor-hitting catcher in the mold of George Gibson, Jerry Grote, Al Lopez, Tony Pena, Muddy Ruel, or Ray Schalk. Let’s pause to differentiate that kind of player from his brethren, the good-fielding terrible hitting catcher. That’s fellows like Red Dooin, Mike Matheyny, Brad Ausmus, Rollie Hemsley, and Luke Sewell. Then there’s the immortal Bill Bergen who has a category all his own: 3228 PAs, a .395 OPS, and a 21 OPS+. You read those correctly. If you quadrupled his OPS+, it would approximate Ozzie Smith’s. His lifetime slash line was an astounding .170/.194/.201, and he owned a  421 to 88 K/BB rate. His best OPS was .518 in 1903, which netted his career best 41 OPS+. Startling to say the least.

Anyway, Bruce Petway was a much more valuable player than the likes of Bill Bergen, but our MLE shows him as a player who wouldn’t make a dent in anyone’s Halls of Fame. He could have helped a championship team, certainly. Our MLE routine reckons him a roughly average player. Given the wear and tear on catchers in baseball’s first 50-odd years, having a durable, competent backstop you could count on meant a lot. In the deadball era and the runnin’ 19th Century with their constant cat-and-mouse games between baserunners and the defense, a player like Petway wouldn’t be a core talent, but like Gibson, Schalk, or Wilbert Robinson could play an important and often invisible role in stabilizing the defense, pitching staff, and roster.

Incidentally, Petway also managed the Detroit Stars in the NNL of the early-to-mid 1920s, compiling a 183-138-2 record for a .570 percentage, though he never finished higher than third.

Bruce Petway
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1906–1925
Destination: NL 1906–1925
Year Age Lg Pos  PA  Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep RAR   WAR
======================================================================
1906 20  NL  C  160  - 4    0       1     2  - 1  -0.2   5    4   0.5
1907 21  NL  C  170    2    0       1     3    5   0.6   6   11   1.4
1908 22  NL  C  350  - 4    0       1     5    2   0.3  12   14   1.9
1909 23  NL  C  430  - 8    0       1     6    0  -0.1  15   14   1.7
1910 24  NL  C  400  -11    0       1     6  - 4  -0.5  14   10   1.1
1911 25  NL  C  420  -12    0       1     6  - 5  -0.5  14    9   1.0
1912 26  NL  C  480  -17    0       2     7  - 8  -0.8  16    8   0.8
1913 27  NL  C  480  -13    0       2     7  - 5  -0.5  16   12   1.3
1914 28  NL  C  340  - 9    0       1     5  - 3  -0.4  12    9   1.0
1915 29  NL  C  410    1    0       1     6    8   1.0  14   22   2.7
1916 30  NL  C  410  - 6    0       1     6    1   0.1  14   15   1.9
1917 31  NL  C  410  -10    0       1     5  - 3  -0.4  14   11   1.4
1918 32  NL  C  410  - 6    0       1     5    0   0.0  14   14   1.8
1919 33  NL  C  260  - 8    0       1     3  - 4  -0.5   9    4   0.5
1920 34  NL  C  250  - 8    0       1     2  - 5  -0.6   9    4   0.4
1921 35  NL  C  170  - 2    0       1     2    0   0.0   6    6   0.6
1922 36  NL  C  180  - 8    0       1     1  - 6  -0.6   6    0   0.0
1923 37  NL  C  110  - 2    0       0     1  - 1  -0.1   4    3   0.3
1924 38  NL  C   90    1    0       0     1    2   0.2   3    5   0.5
1925 39  NL  C   50  - 1    0       0     0  - 1  -0.1   2    1   0.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------
               5730 -125    0      18    77  -29  -3.0 196  166  20.0
Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 287th
Rbat: really low
WAA: also really low
WAR: t-379th

Petway translates to more plate appearances and more fielding value on first pass, but we limited these to remain within MLB norms for his time. He was a pretty good runner for a catcher, but as you can see, his bat does a number on his overall value. He has, essentially, all the same strengths and weaknesses as Ray Schalk, but his bat is just worse enough and deadball-catcher defense just tricky enough for us to feel like we needed to keep it within +20 runs that Schalk ends up about ten WAR better. But as a type of player, they are well matched.

Doc Wiley

There were a lot of ruffians and illiterates in the Negro Leagues. Wabishaw Spencer Wiley wasn’t one of them. Described as jovial, he practiced dentistry in the offseason thanks to a DDS from Howard University. Thus his sobriquet. His bat made him valuable to ball clubs on the field, and his degree made him valuable to the military during World War I. The army needs dentists just like everyone else.

A big guy for his time, he stood 6’0″, weighed 190 pounds, and could hit with some authority. Our MLE indicates his batting performance was well above average for the league, and especially for his position. Makes sense given his 129 career OPS+. That figure might underestimate him a little, however. In his first three seasons (1909–1911), he ran up Bill Bergenesque OPS+es of 26, -26, and 38. His lowest OPS+ for the next seven years was 99, topping out at 221 in 19 games against top-level opponents during the 1916 season. By his age 35 and 36 seasons, his bat had degraded to well below average, and he quickly left the game to take up the floss and drill full time.

Doc Wiley
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1909–1924
Destination: NL 1912–1923
Year Age Lg Pos  PA  Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep RAR   WAR
=========================================================================
1912 25  NL  C  310    1    0       0     4    5   0.5  11   16   1.6
1913 26  NL  C  390    9    0       0     6   14   1.5  13   27   3.0
1914 27  NL  C  380    8    0       0     5   13   1.5  13   26   3.0
1915 28  NL  C  380   14    0       0     6   19   2.3  13   32   3.9
1916 29  NL  C  370   17    0       0     5   22   2.7  13   35   4.3
1917 30  NL  C  310    6    0       0     4   10   1.2  11   20   2.5
1918 31  NL  C  340    1    0       0     4    5   0.6  12   17   2.1
1919 32  NL  C  340    5    0       0     4    8   1.0  12   20   2.4
1920 33  NL  C  330   19    0       0     3   22   2.5  11   34   3.8
1921 34  NL  C  280   13    0       0     3   15   1.5  10   25   2.5
1922 35  NL  C  320    1    0       0     2    4   0.4  11   15   1.4
1923 36  NL  C  280  - 3    0       0     2  - 2  -0.2  10    8   0.8
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
               4030   90   -3       1    48  137  15.5 138  274  31.5

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 571st
Rbat: t-268th
WAA: t-164th
WAR: t-222nd

Wiley’s career reminds me of an exactly contemporaneous player. Chief Meyers (1909–1917) started his career late (a 28-year-old rookie). The Chief racked up 73 Rbat in 3227 PA, was an average defender and slightly below average runner. Basically, the same guy minus a couple-three years of playing time. Meyers was one of the key cogs in the New York Giants’ dynasty of 1911–1913. Among the squads’ regulars he ranked 3rd in OPS+ in 1911, first in 1912, and first in 1913. But mostly all we hear about those teams is John J. McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and Rube Marquard’s famous 1912 wining streak. Anyway, Wiley seems to me like the same kind of player as Meyers. Which is a pretty darned fine package.

One thing about Wiley that remains murky is his military tenure. Several sources, probably all circling back to James Riley, say that Wiley entered the service in 1918 and mustered out in 1919. His playing time doesn’t really indicate much other than natural aging, so perhaps he went into the military very late in the year of 1918 (perhaps after the season) and returned very early in 1919, maybe very early in the season.

* * *

[This section is not being updated.]

So that’s five more catchers we thought you should know about. Now, let’s put them into a table with the legendary catchers we previously examined to give you a sense of the whole kit and caboodle.

SELECT NEGRO LEAGUES CATCHERS ORDERED BY MLE WAR
NAME               PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos  RAA    WAA   WAR 
===================================================================
Josh Gibson      8010  568  - 7    0    26   - 6   582   60.4  87.8
Louis Santop     6560  231  - 4    0     2    73   302   33.1  56.2
Roy Campanella   7315  218  - 3  -19    25    61   283   27.9  54.9
Quincy Trouppe   7140  269  - 8    1     0    49   311   31.2  54.4
Biz Mackey       7000  253  - 7    0    18    50   315   30.8  53.1
Regino Garcia    3680  118  - 6    0     0    53   164   18.3  33.1
Elston Howard    6845   47  -10  -18    46    52   120   11.9  33.0
Doc Wiley        3950   87  - 6    0     1    50   132   15.3  31.2
Joe Greene       4580   62  -14    0    32    32   112   11.9  28.7
Bruce Petway     5480 -117    8    0    18    74   -16  - 1.5  20.6

Obviously, the drop-off from one group of Negro Leagues catchers to the next is steep. Let’s take a look at these guys in context. Here we’ll add a number of MLB catchers who played during this period to see how our guys shake out historically. Those asterisked are honored in at least one of the Halls of Fame, Merit, or Stats. Those in the Hall of Miller and Eric as players are indicated by italics.

TOP NEGRO LEAGUES AND MLB CATCHERS ORDERED BY MLE WAR/BBREF WAR

NAME               PA   Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos  RAA   WAA   WAR 
======================================================================
Josh Gibson*      8010   568  - 7    0    26   - 6   582   60.4  87.8
Yogi Berra        8359   228   13   11    30    58   341   34.0  59.5
Louis Santop*     6560   231  - 4    0     2    73   302   33.1  56.2
Bill Dickey*      7065   262    1    0    20    56   340   31.6  55.8 
Roy Campanella*   7315   218  - 3  -19    25    61   283   27.9  54.9

Quincy Trouppe*   7140   269  - 8    1     0    49   311   31.2  54.4
Gabby Hartnett*   7297   232    8    0    12    57   309   29.7  53.4 
Biz Mackey*       7000   253  - 7    0    18    50   315   30.8  53.1
Mickey Cochrane*  6208   271    2    0   - 2    48   320   29.5  52.1 
Ernie Lombardi*   6352   208    5    0   -21    51   243   24.4  45.9

Wally Schang*     6432   156    3    0   -21    56   194   20.5  45.0
Roger Bresnahan*  5375   168  - 3    0   -15    56   206   23.0  41.0
Charlie Bennett*  4310    76  - 7    0   142    59   270   23.8  39.1
Smokey Burgess    5012   102  -16   -4    12    52   146   14.4  33.5   
Regino Garcia     3680   118  - 6    0     0    53   164   18.3  33.1

Elston Howard     6845    47  -10  -18    46    52   120   11.9  33.0
Jack Clements     4721   100  - 8    0    49    69   209   16.2  32.1
Deacon McGuire    6937    25  -14    0   - 6   101   106    7.7  31.2
Doc Wiley         3950    87  - 6    0     1    50   132   15.3  31.2
Sherm Lollar      6220    40  -11  -15    39    65   118   11.4  30.4  

Rick Ferrell*     7076    13  - 2    0   - 3    58    66    5.9  29.8
Walker Cooper     5076    93  - 4  -10   -15    41   105   10.2  29.0   
Joe Greene        4580    62  -14    0    32    32   112   11.9  28.7
Del Crandall      5583  - 40  - 6  -12    71    68    80    7.2  28.5 
Ray Schalk*       6239  - 94    6    0    46    80    39    4.5  28.5 
 
Bruce Petway      5480  -117    8    0    18    74   -16  - 1.5  20.6

Let’s not forget that we also elected Bresnahan as a pioneer but with recognition that the overall contribution he made includes his playing career. That caveat aside, there’s a pretty clear in/out line beneath Charlie Bennett. Everyone with an asterisk below him (Schalk and Ferrell) get laughed at by baseball analysts as obvious and oblivious blunders. The fact that our Negro Leagues catchers happen to fall into neat halves this way is helpful, but **SPOILER ALERT!!!** we won’t always see such clear divisions at other positions.

If there are other Negro Leagues catchers whose MLEs you’d particularly like to see run up, please let us know in the comments section. We may not get at them for a few months, but we will make note of them and return to them later in 2018.

* * *

Next time out, we’ll return to the mound and take a look at five more hurlers, including a known killer, a guy who struck out 27 in a semipro game, and one guy who might just be one of the gems we’d hoped might emerge from this phase of the project. Then we’ll spend a couple weeks at first base.

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Discussion

One thought on “Evaluating More Negro Leagues Catchers

  1. I’ll preface this by saying I would not use this reasoning to add Howard to my HoM ballot. Think of this as more of a ‘what if’ thought experiment.
    24 year old Elston Howard signs with the Cleveland Indians prior to the 1953 season. Progressive organization that probably wouldn’t stunt his growth as a player. All due respect to Jim Hegan, but based on these MLEs for 53&54 Howard would have been a big improvement on an already strong team. He probably spends 55-58 as predominately a catcher on the Indians and barring injury is likely playing full time. I do believe he’s a much better player during this period with a full time roll and the confidence of his manager. We’re probably looking at a HoMer at that point. The 54 Indians would have been even better.
    The flip side of course is that all that extra catching in the 50s may have ruined his knees by the early 60s, which would eat into his real life peak either via injuries or via weaker performance.
    The other flip side is that maybe the Yankees didn’t actually ruin him; he just took that long to figure out how to hit in the big leagues.
    Ah, the ‘What-ifs” of history…..

    Posted by CARL J GOETZ | July 5, 2018, 9:53 am

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Institutional History

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