Owning one of the greatest eyes in baseball history, Eddie earned the nickname “The Walking Man” because of his supreme eyesight. Yost, much like Max Bishop and Ted Williams, were astute judges of pitched balls – using their vision to tally immense totals of walks. Given Yost’s astute knowledge of the strike zone, he was often asked to bat leadoff. Some individuals may cringe at the notion of using a lifetime .254 hitter in the leadoff spot, but Eddie was on base as much as the average .300 hitter.
Yost’s talents for getting on-base courtesy of the pitcher’s wildness allowed him to top the .400 on-base average a total of nine times. This enabled Yost to score many runs. In fact, there isn’t a Hall of Fame third baseman that played before Yost who scored more runs than he did. He led the league in walks on six separate occasions and had he not played in the heyday of one Ted Williams, he would have been atop the leader board more often.
Yost made his debut with the 1944 Washington Senators as a 17-year old. The Senators were picked clean by the military during World War II, losing their two finest hitters in shortstop Cecil Travis and 3B/OF Buddy Lewis to service. A fresh-faced Yost stepped in briefly before he too was called to arms. Eddie missed the entire ’45 season to military service and returned late in ’46. He became a regular in 1947, but didn’t develop his exceptional batting eye until 1948.
In 1948, the 21-year old Yost paced AL third basemen in triples while drawing 82 walks. His walk total rose to 91 in ’49 and then to an American League high of 141 in 1950. Yost coupled his enormous walk total with a lusty .295 batting average, thus giving him an enviable on-base average of .440 – second in the league behind you-know-who. Despite a fifth place finish by the Senators, Eddie tied Hall of Famer George Kell for most runs scored by a hot corner man.
In 1951, Eddie led the AL in doubles and finished second to Ted Williams with 126 walks. Yost finished in a three-way tie for second place in runs scored with Williams and Minnie Minoso – two other on-base studs. With Ted Williams returning to the military for the Korean War, Eddie returned to the top of the free pass leader board. His 129 walks paced the AL in ’52 and he led his position peers in doubles and games played. The Walking Man again led the AL in walks in ’53 – drawing 123 free passes – while scoring 107 runs (2nd in the junior circuit).
When Williams returned to the diamond, The Splendid Splinter again returned to the leader board in walks, forcing Yost to slide in second with 131 walks. Although the Senators finished a distant sixth, Eddie still led all 3B in runs scored while leading AL hot corner pilots in two-baggers. After an off-year in 1955, Eddie paced the AL with 151 walks in 1956 – posting his fourth straight year of a .400 or higher on-base percentage – which enabled him to lead third sackers in runs scored.
Eddie was packaged in a deal that sent him to Detroit in 1959. With the Tigers, his first year in the Motor City, he paced the AL in runs scored (115) and walks (135). He coupled his ample amount of walks with a solid .278 batting average which enabled him to lead the junior circuit with a .435 on-base percentage. He was an all-round talent in ’59, proving to the Senators and himself that he still had it. The Walking Man socked a record high 21 long balls while leading AL third basemen in stolen bases.
His second year as a Tiger, Eddie again paced the AL in walks, drawing a total of 125, thus bringing him another on-base title. He finished ahead of his position peers in runs scored. The Tigers foolishly left Eddie unprotected in the expansion draft and the Angels scooped him up. But his first year on the West Coast, Eddie suffered a broken hand and he never again was the same player.
After his playing career was over, The Walking Man embarked on a lengthy coaching career, teaching the value of drawing a walk. Due to his supreme eye at the plate, Yost retired with an exceptional on-base percentage of .394. Hall of Fame .300 hitters Rod Carew (.393), Tony Gwynn (.388) and George Brett (.369) weren’t on base as much as The Walking Man, showing folks that you don’t have to be a .300 hitter to touch the bags.
Eddie Yost’s career stats: G 2,109/R 1,215/H 1,863/2B 337/HR 139/RBI 683/BB 1,614/SO 920/BA .254/SA .371