Monday, May 30, 2016

May 23-29, 2016 Alternate Batting Champions

Q.       Who trails only Babe Ruth in career slugging percentage?
Hint:   You could probably guess then that he has only The Bambino in front of him in OPS.
Hint:   However, for career on-base percentage, he trails no one.  Ruth is next.
Hint:   His mother was active in the Salvation Army; he in the U.S. Army.
- Career SLG %:  Ruth = .690; Williams = .634
- Career OPS:  Ruth = 1.164; Williams = 1.112
- Career OBP:  Williams = .482; Ruth = .417
- Mother May Venzor Williams, a Mexican-American from El Paso, Texas, was an evangelist and lifelong soldier in the Salvation Army.  Ted was a Marine pilot.  The term “Army” in the hint is used in the generic sense of military service--and to add some symmetry.  (Plus, you shouldn’t have needed to read that far before knowing the answer.  Hoo-Rah!)
FCR - Mark Pattison, Washington, DC
Incorrect answers:  Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron

Q.       What Hall of Famer was discovered by another Hall of Fame player?
Hint:   Only Alex Rodriguez has more seasons with 100 RBI.
Hint:   He was the first player to win MVP’s in back-to-back seasons.
Hint:   He was the first player to be awarded three MVP’s.
- Frank Baker saw Foxx play in high school and recommended him to the Philadelphia A’s
- A-Rod has had 14 such seasons; Foxx and Gehrig each 13.
- Won AL MVP 1932-33 after rules were changed allowing a player to win more than once
- Also won MVP in 1938 and would have easily won his second Triple Crown but his impressive 50 HR fell far short of Hank Greenberg’s amazing total of 58.
FCR - Joshua Murphy, Cedar Rapids, IA
Incorrect answers:  Eddie Murray, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle

Q.       Who is the only player to win batting titles in the AL and NL?
Hint:   His career batting average is second all-time, among right-handed batters.
Hint:   For the franchise where he played for 13 of his 16 major league seasons, he occupies 4 of their top 10 all-times positions in batting average, on-base percentage, triples and OPS+.
Hint:   A major sports magazine once wrote of him, "You look at his batting and say well, that chap is valuable if he couldn't catch the measles, and then you look at his fielding and conclude that it wouldn't pay to let him go if he couldn't hit a bat bag."
- Although his 1902 title in the  AL is a matter of some dispute, baseball-reference credits his .376 as the top number
- He trails only Rogers Hornsby .346 to his .358.
- Do a page search (Ctrl-F) with Delahanty on this Phillies offense leaders.
- Quote is from Sporting Life
FCR - Blake Sherry, Dublin, OH
Incorrect answers:  Honus Wagner, Frank Robinson, Tris Speaker, Sam Crawford, Willie McGee, Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, Albert Pujols, Mo Vaughn

Q.       Who is the undisputed leader in career sacrifice hits?
Hint:   His .333 career batting average is the highest among Hall of Famers who never won a batting title.
Hint:   No one has played more games at second base than he did.
Hint:   He led the league in steals 4 times when many would have thought that impossible.
- 512 sac H; Jake Daubert is in 2nd place with 392; Current active leader is Elvis Andrus with 96.
- He had seasons of .369, .365 & .360 without ever winning a batting title.   
- 2,650 G @ 2b; Joe Morgan is next w/2,527
- His stolen bases titles came in 1910, 1919, 1923 & 1924 in an era and a league where Ty Cobb dominated that stat.
FCR - Carl Morton, Vernal, UT
Incorrect answers:  Charlie Gehringer, Frankie Frisch

Q.       Which slugger blasted an extra-base hit in a record 14 consecutive games?
Hint:   He was the first native of OK to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Hint:   He was the first Pittsburgh Pirates player to win the MVP award.
Hint:   In his three years before coming up to the majors, he hit .369, .356 & .401 in AAA.
- EBH streak In 1927, 03-Jun through 19-Jun; 79 years later, Chipper Jones tied that mark.
- HOF 1952 Click here to see other OK HOFer’s.      
- MVP 1927 13 eventual Hall of Famers finished behind him in the voting that year.
- Minor league stats with the San Francisco Seals of the PCL.         
FCR - Dave Serota, Kalamazoo, MI
Incorrect answers:  Lloyd Waner, Arky Vaughan, Ralph Kiner, Willie Stargell, Pie Traynor

Q.       Who was the first player to hit a World Series home run after his 40th birthday?
Hint:   He was the first player to hit a World Series home run for a team in each league.
Hint:   He connects Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto and Rookie of the Year Wally Moon in an unusual way.
Hint:   He wasn’t really from another country.
- WS HR @ age 40 1956, G 3
- Had homered for STL in 1942 G 5 & 1946 G 4
- STL traded him in April of 1954 to the Yankees because they were high on young Wally Moon.  Moon debuted 3 days later.  With Slaughter on the roster, NYY no longer needed the services of the aging Rizzuto.
- His nickname was “Country”.
FCR - John Rickert, Terre Haute, IN
Incorrect answers:  Johnny Mize

Q.       Who was the first ever triple crown winner? (Position player)
Hint:   When he retired, his 7,062 at-bats ranked 2nd all-time.  That total ranks 276th today.
Hint:   He is recorded as the first player ever to wear sunglasses in a game.
Hint:   He was one of the youngest players in the league when he made his debut at age 17, and one of the oldest players in his last major league season at age 36.
Hint:   At age 65 he was arrested for pickpocketing in spite of a widely-held reputation as “clean and upright”.
Hint:   A very colorful  player, he put in time with teams named Blue Legs, Sandies, Grays, White Stockings and Blackbirds.
Hint:   He played for three different major league teams in Washington, DC, each, however, in a different league.
- TC in 1878 w/PRO:  .358, 4 HR, 50 RBI
- Hines’s last year was 1891.  Cap Anson already had more AB at that point plus he played 6 more years.
- Can’t be proven that he was the first to wear sunglasses, but it is widely accepted.
- Hines’s colorful teams:
- Providence Grays      1878-85           National League
- Chicago White Stockings       1875-77           National Association
- Hines’s DC teams:
- Washington Nationals            1886-87           National League
- Washington Statesmen          1891    American Association
FCR - Jan Finkel, Swanton, MD
Incorrect answers:  Lip Pike, Cap Anson, Ducky Medwick, Tommy Bond, Rogers Hornsby, Tip O’Neill, Hugh Duffy, Bobby Lowe, Ross Barnes, Josh Gibson

Q.       Which 19th-century star asked Bud Hillerich to make a bat for him, effectively transforming the J. F. Hillerich woodworking shop into a bat-production company.
Hint:   He is regularly mentioned by baseball historians as someone worthy of Hall of Fame induction.
Hint:   He led his league three times in batting, but not, oddly, the year he hit .400.  
Hint:   He was unnecessarily incarcerated in an insane asylum after his retirement.  His mental health was intact.  Mastoiditis was the source of his ills.
- Players closest to him with comparative “Similarity Scores” include Hall of Famers Ross Youngs, Elmer Flick, Earle Combs as well as Joe Jackson.  
- His batting average of .341 places him 13th all-time, wedged between Harry Heilmann and Willie Keeler.
- Mastoiditis is now easily cured using antibiotics.
FCR - Bill Carle, Lee’s Summit, MO
Incorrect answers:  Joe Jackson, Jesse Burkett

Q.       Who led the National League in steals two years in a row, each time with totals under 20?
Hint:   Three other seasons he came in second in that department.
Hint:   He was the manager when his franchise fully integrated and used black players as starters.
Hint:   Bill James says he was a more valuable third baseman than Pie Traynor, high praise, especially for that era.
Hint:   A testament to his congenial personality, it was said of him,  "He has more friends than Leo Durocher has enemies."
A.       STAN HACK
- 16 SB in 1938, 17 in 1939.  Hack never had more than 21 in any year.
- 2nd in SB in 1936, 1937 & 1940
- Mgr CHC 1954-56.  Ernie Banks came to the Cubs in September of 1953.           
FCR - Damian Begley, New York, NY
Incorrect answers:  Harry Heilmann, Danny Murtaugh, Charlie Dressen, Jim Davenport

THEME FOR THE WEEK - Alternate Batting Champions--Players who would have won batting titles under current rules.  Thanks to reader Craig Wright who regularly produces a regular essay titled, Pages from Baseball’s Past which contains some of the very best writing on baseball available today.  A while back the title of his article was “Alternate Batting Champions” and he agreed to let us use those players as the answers to this week’s questions.

We highly recommend that you take a look at what he has to offer:   - Here is the entire text of his essay.  

COPYRIGHT 2016 BY CRAIG R. WRIGHT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproducing any part of this document is prohibited without the express written consent of Craig R. Wright.

Alternate Batting Champions

The standard playing time qualification for the batting title — 3.1 plate appearances per scheduled team game — has remained unchanged for nearly 60 years. For the earlier batting champions, the vast majority would have also been eligible under the modern rule, but there are eight exceptions. Those batting champions deserve to be judged by the standard of their eras as to who was accepted as a “regular” and eligible for the title, but it is still interesting to consider who would have won under the modern standard.

Our first alternate batting champion is from 1879. Due to a huge error in record keeping, Cap Anson was recognized as having the highest batting average and awarded the batting title. But even if those mistakes had not been made, Anson would not have been the batting champion under the modern rule, coming up short by about 30 plate appearances. The alternate batting champion that year would have been Paul Hines, one of the most underrated players of his generation.

Then in 1886 Guy Hecker was the batting champion of the American Association and the only pitcher to win a batting title. Although Hecker went to the plate a lot as a pitcher and a part-time outfielder-first baseman, it was not enough to qualify in modern times. Instead the batting title would have gone to his teammate Pete Browning, the Louisville Slugger. That would have given Browning four batting titles for his career. Browning is not in the Hall of Fame, and if he had been a four-time batting champion that might have pushed him over the edge.

The most disputed batting championship in the 20th century is a similar case to Anson and Hines in 1879. In 1902 Ed Delahanty was named the AL batting champion, but subsequent research indicates Larry Lajoie was mistakenly shorted by four hits and hit 2 points higher than Ed. However, unlike the 1879 case, it is the batting champion by correction, Larry Lajoie, who would be ineligible under the modern standard. Just as with the dispute of the 1879 batting title, it would be a moot debate if the modern standard were applied.

In 1914 Ty Cobb won the batting title while missing a bunch of games with a broken rib and a broken thumb. His string of consecutive batting titles would have been interrupted if the modern rule had applied, and the alternate batting champion was Eddie Collins. A batting title for Collins would have erased his distinction of racking up the most career hits without ever winning a batting title (3,315 hits).

In 1926 Hall of Famer Paul Waner, in his rookie season, is our fifth alternate batting champion. Under the modern rule for eligibility, the actual batting champion, Bubbles Hargrave, would have come up short by a whopping 111 plate appearances.

Still, there were few complaints about these cases of the batting title going to hitters who were borderline “regulars” in those particular seasons. That changed with the AL batting race of 1932. Since 1920 the consensus standard in the American League had been that the batting champion had to play in 100 games. Dale ‘Moose” Alexander of the Red Sox barely passed that mark with 101 games, and his .367 average gave him the title over Jimmie Foxx. This bothered fans and baseball writers. Foxx was a popular star and the difference in playing time between Foxx and Alexander had been immense. Foxx had gone to the plate 702 times — 55% more than Alexander’s 454 plate appearances. Foxx was the MVP that year and the loss of the batting title cost him the Triple Crown, which Foxx won the next year. If the modern requirement for the batting title had existed in 1932, Foxx would have been the first and only player to win consecutive Triple Crowns! It is said that the Alexander batting title is what motivated the American League a few years later to change the minimum qualification for the batting title from 100 games to 400 ABs — which would have disqualified Alexander in 1932 when he had 392 ABs.

The NL stayed with a general guideline of 100 games, and in 1940 Debs Garms won the batting title which under the modern standard would have gone to “Smiling Stan” Hack. Stan is not well remembered today because he was never elected to the Hall of Fame, but he was the best third baseman of the 1930s and had several good years in the early 1940s as well. With a batting title on his resume, he might have gotten more consideration from the Hall of Fame voters.

Two years later Ernie Lombardi won the NL batting title with just 347 plate appearances, the fewest ever by a batting champion in a schedule of more than 150 games. Under the modern rules, Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter would have won the only batting title of his career.

Lombardi was the last batting champion who would not have been eligible for the batting race under the modern standard. But there was a freak case in 1954 when the batting champion would have been eligible under the modern standard, but yet would not have won the batting title in modern times.

Roberto “Bobby” Avila of the Indians won the AL batting title with plenty of plate appearances (638) to have been eligible under the modern requirement. But another player had done so as well, while hitting for a higher average than Avila. He was ineligible under the standard that existed in 1954, which was based not on plate appearances, but on times at bat.

This unique alternate batting champion was Ted Williams. He easily had enough plate appearances to qualify under the modern rule with nearly 50 PA more than the minimum. But because Ted walked so much — his 136 walks led the majors — he came up short of 400 ABs and was ruled ineligible for the batting title. The injustice of judging whether someone was a regular based on at bats rather than total trips to the plate led to the discussion that changed the rule to a minimum of plate appearances in 1957, the standard still followed today.

Batting Champion
Alternative Champion
Cap Anson?
Paul Hines
Guy Hecker
Pete Browning
Larry Lajoie?
Ed Delahanty
Ty Cobb
Eddie Collins
Bubbles Hargrave
Paul Waner
Dale Alexander
Jimmie Foxx
Debs Garms
Stan Hack
Ernie Lombardi
Enos Slaughter
Roberto Avila
Ted Williams

Research Notes

The sense of who was a regular tended to be more lenient the further back in history we go. But there were some baseball leaders who personally favored — or at least put forth — tougher options for consideration. Notably, National League president John Heydler at one time suggested the batting champ should have to appear in at least three-quarters of his team’s games. Heydler ultimately favored leaving it open-ended as that requirement would have made it very difficult for catchers of that era to meet that minimum qualification. Heydler specifically did support catcher Bubbles Hargrave as the 1926 batting champion even though he did not play in 75% of the games. Interestingly, Heydler’s proposed requirement would have made each of the nine alternative hitters mentioned in this story the batting champion, including Ted Williams.

In 1902 the unofficial statistics at the end of the season gave Larry Lajoie a huge 15-point lead over Ed Delahanty. That made it surprising when the official numbers came out and there had been a 22-point swing with Ed being the batting champion by a 7-point margin. I don’t know why but The Sporting News has reported for many decades an even larger 10-point lead for Delahanty. A biographer of Delahanty cites his own research in saying Ed had a 14-point lead. But, the leading modern reference source that best covers the corrections in the old records, supports the finding that Lajoie hit 2 points higher than Delahanty. That is also the accepted result in the SABR biography on Ed Delahanty. What is most relevant to this story is that Lajoie was clearly seen in 1902 as being eligible for the batting race, but he would not have qualified under the modern standard.

First Correct Respondent to Identify Theme – No one

Incorrect theme guesses:

Monday   -  Military members in the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday   - Red Sox players with at least 5 walks in a game
            - Boston Hall of Famers
            - Players who won AL MVP award with double letters in last name
            - members of milestone batting marks who appeared in at least a new game as
  a pitcher in the majors