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One of the finest second basemen of all-time, the short and stocky Clarence Algernon “Cupid” Childs was an on-base machine in the late 1800s.  When the game was still relatively young, Childs was the preeminent second baseman in the game.  He was a gifted natural performer, belying his dumpy stature, who could run, hit and field with the best of them.  However, his drawing card has always been his exceptional on-base skills.  Cupid was adept at drawing walks: he was often found atop the leader board every year in bases on balls and on-base percentage.  Former star pitcher Silver King once said that pitching to Cupid was like “aiming at a six inch space on a target at forty paces.”

In 1890, the stocky Childs led the now defunct American Association in doubles and combined extra base hits for the Syracuse Stars.  When the American Association disbanded, he caught on with the Cleveland Spiders and had a terrific 1892 campaign in which he finished tops in the old circuit with a remarkable .443 on-base percentage.  Proving that the man who gets on-base the most scores the most runs, Cupid finished tops among the National League with 136 runs scored.  The next two years, Cupid raised his on-base percentage to .463 in 1893 and then to .475 in ’94. 

In 1896, Cupid drew 100 walks witout striking out twenty times.  He also notched 106 RBI with an astounding .355 batting average.  Cupid began to fade around the turn of the century, but was one of the finest second basemen of the 1800s.  There remains only one second baseman from the 1800s in the Hall of fame, and although Cupid wasn’t quite in Biddy McPhee’s league as far as fielding was concerned, he was immensely better in the offensive department.

Cupid averaged 0.832 runs scored per game; McPhee 0.787.  Cupid averaged 0.508 RBI per game; McPhee 0.502.  Cupid accounted for 1.340 runs per game; McPhee 1.289.  Cupid’s batting average was 36 points higher than McPhee’s and his slugging percentage was 22 points higher.  As far as what each man brought to the team – their complete package – Cupid was better than his peer Biddy McPhee – the only second baseman from the 1800s in the Hall

Cupid’s career stats: G 1,463/R 1,218/H 1,757/2B 200/3B 102/RBI 743/BB 991/SB 285/BA .312

cupidhttp://www.wikipedia.com

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The Baseball Hall of Fame continuously modifies its method of electing players from the Veteran’s Committee and this past year saw another foolish enterprise undertaken by the powers at Cooperstown.  They split the Veteran’s ballot into two categories: players who debuted before WWII and players who debuted after the war.  The two ballots consisted of ten players apiece, making a whopping total of twenty players for possible enshrinement.  Of course, the names on the ballots were selected by “experts.”  Of the many players in the game’s history with a claim on the Hall of Fame, only twenty were chosen for consideration and of the twenty many wouldn’t have made my final ballot.

The Pre-World War II ballot consisted of Bad Bill Dahlen (a legit Hall of Fame candidate), Wes Ferrell (vastly overrated former pitcher: he gave up more hits than innings worked and also walked more batters than he struck out.  Only Ted Lyons has done this among Hall of Fame pitchers and Ted’s ERA was 40 points lower), Joe Gordon (another vastly overrated ballplayer who has the New York media to thank for his election), Sherry Magee (good but not Hall material), Carl Mays (the notorious headhunter who killed Indians shortstop Ray Chapman with a pitched ball), Allie Reynolds (whose short career hinders him),Vern Stephens (a power-hitting shortstop who was better than many of his Hall of Fame peers), Mickey Vernon (two-time AL batting champ), Bucky Walters (solid pitcher for the Reds) and Deacon White (Deadball Era catcher who wasn’t as good as Buck Ewing or King Kelly).

The Post WWII ballot consisted of Dick Allen (solid hitter but notorious hothead), Gil Hodges (Brooklyn’s run producing 1B), Jim Kaat (who pitched a million years – don’t let his numbers fool you, he is the Rusty Staub of pitching), Tony Oliva (another fellow with a short career – his HOF position peers all have monstrous stats), Al Oliver (a decent hitter who also played a long time), Vada Pinson (who should be in the Hall), Ron Santo (a great third baseman and legit Hall of Famer), Luis Tiant (a fringe-dweller, maybe he’s worthy, but I haven’t convinced myself yet), Joe Torre (who belongs in the Hall for his playing), Maury Wills (strictly singles hitter with wheels).

I have constructed my own ballot and it doesn’t mirror the “experts” ballot that well.  From the pre-WWII roster, I selected: Tommy Bridges P-DET, Lave Cross 3B-PHI, Bill Dahlen SS-CHI, Jake Daubert 1B-BRO, Dom DiMaggio OF-BOS, Jim McCormick P-CLV, Buddy Myer 2B-WAS, Bob Shawkey P-NY, Cecil Travis SS-WAS, George Van Haltren OF-NY

The post-WWII roster consists of: Ken Boyer 3B-STL, Del Ennis OF-PHI, Ted Kluszewski 1B-CIN, Mickey Lolich P-DET, Billy Pierce P-CHI, Vada Pinson OF-CIN, Ron Santo 3B-CHI, Ted Simmons C-STL, Luis Tiant P-BOS, Joe Torre C-STL

* of the post WWII ballot, players still on the writers ballot (such as Bert Blyleven and Andre Dawson) can not be selected for the Veteran’s ballot.

Construct your own ballot and post it here under the comments section.

One of the greatest center fielders of all-time, Dominic DiMaggio didn’t have the luxury of entering the Major Leagues unnoticed: he was the kid brother of the greatest all-round talent in the game.  The kid brother of a legend, Dominic couldn’t fly under the radar like other prospects.  Owning the same last name as the game’s finest talent meant that he had an awful lot to live up to.  Expectations were high for the youngest DiMaggio – expectations to be like his brother – that he didn’t quite achieve, but he certainly came close.

As a rookie in 1940, when brother Joe have already established himself as a legitimate talent at the Major League level, Dom hit a solid .301.  He avoided the sophomore jinx with an All-Star campaign in 1941.  That season, Dom led all center fielders with 90 walks and his 117 runs scored were only eclipsed by brother Joe – as far as center fielders were concerned.  Dominic’s trademarks were his exceptional batting eye, his uncanny ability to score runs and his knack for tallying two-baggers.  In 1942, he paced all center fielders with 36 doubles.  However, after the ’42 season, Dominic enlisted in the Navy.

Mr. DiMaggio told this writer that he fought his way into the service.  Initially, The Little Professor was rejected by the military due to his poor eyesight (he was one of a select few players to wear eyeglassses on the diamond) but wrote a letter to the Navy pleading for acceptance.  Clearly impressed with Dominic’s unrivalled character, the Navy accepted him and he spent three years in the colors – missing out on his prime years.  At the ages of 26, 27 and 28, most players are at their physical peak and enjoy their best years, but Dom missed those baseball campaigns serving his country.

Dominic returned to the game in 1946 and helped the war ravaged Red Sox reach the World Series.  The BoSox had a tremendous team during the mid 1940s, led by the greatest hitter of his time, Ted Williams and great complimentary pieces in Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Mr. DiMaggio.  Dom hit .316 in ’46 – best among center fielders – and stroked a trio of doubles in the World Series.  However, despite Dom’s fine play in the Fall Classic, the Red Sox lost the series to the Cardinals.  It has been written, quite often, that had Dom been in center field (he was removed due to injury) when Harry “The Hat” Walker lashed his base hit, that Enos Slaughter wouldn’t have tried to score on Dom’s amazing throwing arm.  Since Dominic was shelved, Slaughter tore through the bases and crossed home plate for the winning run, giving St. Louis the series.

1946 would be Dominic’s only World Series action but he was plenty productive in the years the Red Sox finished lower in the standings.  He scored 127 runs in 1948 – best among center fielders – while also leading the position with 101 walks and 40 doubles.  He enjoyed another solid campaign in 1949, pacing all center fielders with 126 runs scored and 96 free passes.

Arguably his finest seaosn came in 1950, when the veteran led the American League in stolen bases and triples.  His .328 batting average was tops among all center fielders, as were his 131 runs scored.  1951 would prove to be his swan song as Dominic led the AL with 113 runs scored and his 34 doubles were best among center fielders.

Dominic DiMaggio enjoyed a great career – one abbreviated by WWII – that could have carried him to Cooperstown long ago.  Unlike Charlie Gehringer and Ted Lyons, Hall of Famers who missed time to the military at the end of their careers, Dominic was just entering his prime when he went out of his way to join the colors.  He would have easily eclipsed 2,000 career hits had he not missed time to the war and his career batting average would certainly be a few points higher.  An all-round talent, just like his brother Joe, Dominic DiMaggio could do it all: play the field, run the bases and hit the ball with precision and authority.  But what separates Dominic from the pack is his uncanny knack for scoring runs.  The list below showcases Dominic’s runs-scored-per-game average compared with his position peers.

Dom DiMaggio: 0.748/ Joe DiMaggio 0.801/ Terry Moore 0.554/ Pete Reiser 0.549/ Larry Doby 0.626/ Willie Mays 0.689

Of the players listed above, legends every last one, Dom rests just below brother Joe while standing head and shoulders above men that played for better teams.  Terry Moore was with the perennial NL winners, the Cardinals.  Pistol Pete Reiser played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Mays and Doby are both Hall of famers.  Dominic belongs in Cooperstown.

Dom DiMaggio’s stats: G 1,399/R 1,046/H 1,680/2B 308/HR 87/ RBI 618/ BB 750/SO 571/SB 100/BA .298/SA .419

domwww.mlb.com

Prepare the tar and feathers Cincy and BoSox fans, for I am about to make a claim that you will deem sacrilegious.  It is my belief that Ted Simmons, longtime catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, is just as good if not better, than Fisk and Bench.  Simmons isn’t in the Hall of Fame because he didn’t play for the Big Red Machine nor did he hit one of baseball’s most dramatic homeruns. 

Ted Simmons made his Major League debut as an 18 year-old reserve for play-by-play man Tim McCarver.  Of course, Tim wasn’t broadcasting at that time, but the Redbirds realized that they had a young catching luminary on their hands.  McCarver’s days were numbered.  However, McCarver got some assistance from Uncle Sam when the young Simmons was taken into active military duty in 1970.

In 1971, Simmons was handed the everyday catching duties – free of his military assignments – and led all Major League catchers with 32 doubles.  Simba proved to be the God of Doubles as far as catchers are concerned – tallying 36 the next season while also topping all Major League catchers with a robust .303 batting average.  In ’73, Simmons mirrored his 36 doubles from the previous season – again, tops again Major League backstops – while also hitting .310 with 91 RBI.  Simba’s .310 batting mark eclipsed all Major League catchers in ’73.

He followed up his stellar 1973 campaign with a terrific ’74 season.  Simba stroked 20 homeruns and rove in 103 runs while striking out just 35 times.  Despite his lofty statistics, Simmons still received little attention outside St. Louis because his popularity and appeal wasn’t as high as Johnny Bench.  Bench could only top the .300 batting plateau in his wildest dreams and struck out near 100 times a season.  Despite Simmons’ superiority to Bench – all Bench has on Simmons are his runs produced numbers (when you stop and realize that Bench played for the mighty Big Red Machine and Simmons for the Redbirds, you’ll realize why Bench drove in more runs while hitting 30 points lower) – Simmons was still deemed inferior to the Cincy stud. 

Although Simba was flourishing at the Major League level by 1974 – he was just getting warmed up.  He had his breakout season in 1975, finishing second in the NL with a .332 batting average.  Simmons also stroked 32 doubles – three fewer two-baggers than times he struck out.  Bench fanned 108 times in ’75 – three times as many whiffs as Simba.  The following year, Simmons did something few players of his generation ever attained: he struck out the exact number of times as he doubled – 35 whiffs, 35 doubles.  In 1978, Simmons stroked more doubles than the times he whiffed.  He posted an amazing 77 to 39 walk to strikeout ratio.  If your math is okay, you’ll noticed that Simba almost walked twice as much as he fanned.  That’s beyond the grasp of Bench and Fisk.

Simmons continued to flourish through the late 1970s.  Despite missing action to a broken wrist, Ted still paced all Major League catchers with 26 homers in 1979.  Ted stalked into the next decade, leading all NL receivers with a nifty .303 batting average.  Ted was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers in a steal for the Brew Crew that netted them the great Simba, Pete Vuckovich and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers.  This trio took the Brewers to the 1982 World Series, as Ted’s 97 RBI during the ’82 season was tops among catchers.

His last great season came in 1983 when Ted drove in 108 runs with a lusty .308 batting average.  From Milwaukee, Ted spent a few seasons as a mighty bat off the bench for the Atlanta Braves.  So, Ted was a terrific catcher – the best not in the Hall of fame and one of the best backstops period.  Yes, he took part in only one World Series, but it takes a TEAM, not one guy to make it to the Fall Classic.  The Hall of Fame was constantly rewarded inferior ballplayers on strong teams with plaques in Cooperstown.  If Johnny Pesky hit ahead of Joe DiMaggio and Bill Dickey, he’d be in the Hall of fame and not Phil Rizzuto.  If Tommy Bridges pitched with the support that Waite Hoyt had, then he, the better pitcher, would be in the Hall of Fame.  It is the player that achieves greatness.  It is the dynasty that crumbles.

Simmons’ career stats:  G 2,456/ R 1,074/ H 2,472/ 2B 483/ HR 248/ RBI 1,389/ BB 855/ SO 694/ BA .285/ SA .437

By the way, Simmons has a career walk-to-strikeout ratio of 1.23 to 1 while Bench’s is 0.69 to 1 and Fisk’s is 0.61 to 1.  Simba smacked an average of 1.01 hits per game.  Bench owns a 0.95 and Fisk a 0.94.  Simmons has a career batting average of .285.  Bench’s career BA is .267 while Fisk rests slightly higher at .269.  The best of the trio is not in Cooperstown.

tedsimmonswww.cardboardgods.com

Very few players make an immediate splash in the Major Leagues and sustain that excellent for years.  Many flash-in-the-pan young stars made their mark early – think of Mark Fidrych, Joe Charbonneau and Dontrelle Willis – but couldn’t keep the pace.  Vada Pinson was one player who shot out of the gate running and kept on sprinting.

In Pisnon’s first full season at the Major League level – at the tender age of 20 – he paced all of baseball with 47 doubles and 131 runs scored.  The youngster immediately brought respectability back to the Cincinnati Reds with his five-tool talent.  The Kid could hit the ball with authority, run like a gazelle and covered the outfield like a tent.  He personified what scouts look for.  Vada Pinson had all the talent and the tools and he proved that he wasn’t a freshman fluke when he again paced all of baseball in the two-bag department while also coming in second in the National League in the stolen base category.

In 1961, Vada led the Reds to a pennant, pacing Major League baseball with 208 base hits.  Although he failed to net the batting crown, his remarkable .343 batting average guided the Reds to an October showdown with the Yankees.  The Reds ultimately lost the contest – the only World Series action Pinson ever saw – when they ran into Whitey Ford and the M&M Boys.

Still young, the five-tool sensation topped the 100 RBI mark in ’62 while also posting a 20/20 season: eclipsing 20 homers and 20 steals.  He followed up that season with one even better.  In 1963, Vada led all Major Leaguers with 204 safeties and 14 triples.  But the Reds – prior to their legendary Big Red Machine days – struggled in the standings and Pinson was the only Cincy player to post a batting average over .280 – he hit .313.  Showcasing his immense tools in ’65, Vada had another 20/20 season and then in 1967 he again led the Majors with 13 triples.

The Reds sent Vada to the Cardinals in 1969 and he spent one year in St. Louis before making his mark on the American League.  In 1971, with the Cleveland Indians, Vada finished first in the AL East with 25 stolen bases.  1971 proved to be Vada’s last great year as an injury limited his play and he later saw action with the Angels and Royals before retiring after the 1975 season.  Vada was one of baseball’s finest players throughout the 1960s, roaming the Cincinnati pasture throughout the majority of the decade, often pacing all of baseball in hits and triples.  However, he has been overlooked by Hall of Fame voters largely because he didn’t dominate the center field position in the 1960s.  Remember, this was the time of Willie Mays, therefore Vada was constantly in his shadow. 

Dominating a position over the course of a decade is not a good way to judge whether or not a player should be in the Hall of Fame.  Did Carlton Fisk dominate catching in the 1970s?  Not really.  Johnny Bench had a larger fanbase but can you imagine the Hall of Fame without Fisk?  The same can be said for Bill Dickey, who had to fight with Mickey Cochrane and Gabby Hartnett, or Paul Molitor, who was overshadowed by George Brett and Mike Schmidt.  No, Vada Pinson may not have been the best center fielder of his time, but you can’t deny his greatness.  Few players in baseball history have tallied the career totals that Pinson built.  He had all the tools and his career stats prove this.

Pinson’s stats: G 2,489/ R 1,366/ H 2,757/ 2B 485/ HR 256/ RBI 1,170/ SB 305/ BA .286/ SA .442

vadawww.vintagecardtraders.com

Last fall, former Washington Senator Sid Hudson passed away.  He lived a long and healthy life – passed 90 years – that was predominantly spent in baseball.  He pitched for the Senators in the 1940s and on into the 1950s before getting dealt to the Red Sox in 1952.  After his playing days, he was a highly respected pitching coach (any pitching coach who worked beside  Ted Williams had to be), coaching the Senators and Texas Rangers.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Hudson two years ago, conducting interviews for a book idea.  He was a cordial man, eager to answer any question I presented to him.  My questions centered around his experiences during The Second World War.  Mr. Hudson served with the United States Army Air Force in Waco, Texas and played service ball under Birdie Tebbetts – a Major League catcher but superior Army pitch man.  Mr. Hudson joined Birdie, as well as Major Leaguers Hoot Evers and Bruce Campbell, at the Waco Army Airfield.  They had a tremendous team – won an astounding percentage of their games – but the team was dismantled when Mr. Hudson was shipped overseas.

In the Army Air Force, Sid Hudson was sent to the Pacific Theater of operations – stationed on Saipan.  When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Mr. Hudson told me that the pilots who dropped the bomb flew by his position and “tipped their wings to us.”

A two-time American League All-Star, Sid Hudson had arm trouble when he was released from military duty but he adopted a sidearm pitching motion that saved his career.

Speaking with Mr. Hudson via telephone two years ago, he happily relayed his favorite baseball experience.  In 1947, Mr. Hudson shutout the New Yankees on Babe Ruth Day, scoring the winning run in a 1-0 contest.

When Sid Hudson passed away, I heard nothing about his death via the media outlets.  He didn’t pitch for a championship club.  He never once saw World Series action.  But he’s playing the big game – on the grandest of all stages – flinging his wicked side-arm breaking ball passed the sluggers of a bygone era.  So long, Mr. Hudson.  You will be missed.

hudsonhttp://www.washingtonpost.com

The greatest first baseman of The Deadball Era, Daubert was a fixture with the lowly Brooklyn Dodgers.  He was instrumental in turning that fledgling franchise around and when he left, he took the Cincinnati Reds to the World Series in 1919: as team captain, he led his charges to a victory.  He was the perfect team leader – leading by example.  But his unrivaled leadership trait ended his life early.  During the pennant race of 1924, Daubert was ailing physically but felt it his duty to lead the Reds down the stretch.  He later found out that his appendix ruptured and due to putting off the operation he died shortly after the close of the season.

Jake Daubert is more than a tragic figure: he is the finest first baseman of the decades between Cap Anson and George Sisler.  In his rookie season, the first baseman finished second in the NL in the homerun department.  In 1912, Jake paced all first basemen with 16 triples and won a batting title the following year with a robust .350 batting average.  Jake posted this lofty stat in The Deadball Era, when batting averages weren’t as high as they were in the 1930s.  There was only one other player in the NL (Gavvy Cravath) who posted a batting average above .320 in 1913. 

To prove that 1913 wasn’t a fluke, Jake won the batting title the following year with a .329 average.  He followed up that campaign by leading all first basemen in base hits in 1915.  But Jake brought far more to the field than his stellar stick work – he was also the preeminent defensive first baseman of his time.  Newspapers often showed photographs of Jake nabbing errant throws from his teammates, referring to the first baseman as “an animated telescope.”

His teammates finally assisted him 1916 as he led them to an NL pennant.  Jake was instrumental in the Dodgers ascension to the top of the standings, hitting .316 and pilfering 21 bases.  One of the fastest first basemen in the game’s history, Jake was adept at taking the extra base.  He stole an eye-popping total (for first basemen) of 251 bases during his career and was oftentimes atop the leader board in triples (he paced the Major Leagues with 15 triples in 1918).

After is 1918 season, Jake left Brooklyn and caught on with a rising Cincinnati ballclub.  He proved to be the final ingredient for success, as skipper Pat Moran named Jake team captain and he led them to a World Championship over the lame-duck White Sox, whose lackluster play became infamous when they were exposed for handing the series to the Reds.  The truth of the matter is that the Reds might have been a better team.  Their infield was superior to the White Sox: Daubert was a finer player to ChiSox Chick Gandil.  Cincy third baseman Heinie Groh was superior to ChiSox Bucky Weaver and Reds shortstop Larry Kopf was better than Black Sox shortstop Swede Risberg.  The Reds mound staff was MUCH better than the lauded White Sox of Cicotte and Lefty Williams.  The only edge the White Sox had on the Reds was their outfield and the second base position.  Edd Roush was better than Black Sox Happy Felsch but Joe Jackson was ten times better than the Reds left field duo of Rube Bressler and Pat Duncan.  Despite this, the White Sox were decided favorites – I’ll never understand why.

But Jake guided his Cincy boys over the Black Sox – on the level or not.  The following year, Jake paced National League first basemen in base hits and two years later added another triples crown by smacking 22 three-baggers in 1922.  The aging Daubert hit .336 in 1922 and also scored more runs than any other NL initial sacker.  However two years later, he was dead.  Of the incident – his ailment and playing through his illness – a writer asked Jake why he played and didn’t opt to seek medical treatment earlier.  Jake responded by saying, “I didn’t want people to think that Jake Daubert was a staller.”

Daubert’s stats: G 2,014/ R 1,1117/ H 2,326/ 2B 250/ RBI 722/ BB 623/ SO 489/ BA .303/ SB 251/ 3B 165

dauberthttp://www.wikipedia.org