Monthly Archives: October 2009

billwhiteA good defensive first baseman can make his infield mates look better than they are, but a great defensive first baseman can make a gaggle of inaccurate air-mailers look like Army sharpshooters.  William De Kova White was a wizard around first base, snaring errant throws and flashing more leather than a field full of cows.

White joined the Giants of New York in 1956 and led Major League first basemen in stolen bases.  Bill was more than just a speedy, fine-fielding first baseman; he could also hit.  As a rookie, Bill swatted 22 homeruns and posted a slugging average of .459.  But the rising star’s baseball career was impeded when he was inducted into the military and missed the 1957 season, and most of ’58 to service in the Armed Forces. 

When Bill returned to the Giants, who had relocated to San Francisco, he found that a kid named Orlando Cepeda had taken his first base job.  With the first base job in the hands of Cepeda, the Giants dealt White to the Cardinals for Sam Jones.  Bill was blocked in St. Louis by an aging Stan Musial, so he shifted to left field to get in the lineup.  As a regular left fielder in 1959, Bill led Major League left fielders in doubles. 

Bill returned to first base in 1960 and won his first Gold Glove (he would end up winning seven in a row).  His bat was always rather advanced, even in an era when pitching dominated the game.  In 1961, when batting was at its peak, Bill and teammate Ken Boyer were the only National League infielders with double-digit totals in all the extra base hit departments.  Although he had established himself as a fine hitter and elite defender, Bill didn’t enjoy his breakout year until 1962. 

In ’62, Bill led NL first basemen with a mighty .324 batting average and 31 doubles.  He kicked off the first of three straight 100 RBI and 190 base hits seasons that year.  In ’63, Bill had his only 200 hit campaign and finished third in the NL with 109 RBI.  He and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron were the only two players in the Major Leagues to score 100 runs, reach 200 hits and drive in 100 runs.  His Redbirds went to the World Series in 1964 with Bill coming in third in MVP voting.  That season Bill led senior circuit first baseman in RBI, runs, hits and doubles.  Although Bill struggled offensively in the World Series, his Cardinals beat the Yankees in seven.

White was the only first baseman in the National league to reach 100 RBI in 1966, as Bill garnered a few MVP votes and won his last Gold Glove.  He missed some action in 1967 due to injury and struggled in the ’68 season.  He played briefly in ’69 before calling it quits.  After his playing days, Bill White served as President of the National League for several years.


G 1,673/R 843/H 1,706/2B 278/3B 65/HR 202/RBI 870/BB 596/SO 927/SB 103/BA .286/SA .455


One of the National League’s finest pitchers during the 1930s, Oom Paul was a workhorse who had four twenty-win seasons and a pair of 300 innings pitched campaigns.  The pack mule only pitched one season in the Major Leagues in which he didn’t reach a double-digit total in complete games.

Derringer exploded on the scene in 1931, leading the National League with a .692 winning percentage as a rookie for the Cardinals.  The freshman right hander finished fourth in the senior circuit in the strikeout department and was given a handful of MVP votes by the men who filled out  said ballots.  He regressed mightily the following year as too many of his pitches met with lumber.  The Cardinals lost interest in the lad early in 1933 and swapped him to Cincinnati where he’d enjoy his better years.

Traded to the Reds with Sparky Adams and Fish Hook Stout, Oom Paul suffered in Cincinnati initially.  The Reds had a futile offense which forced Derringer to lead the NL in losses despite a flattering ERA of 3.30.  The Reds punchless offense kept Paul from winning games he ordinarily would have won with better teams.  But despite the Reds lackluster offense, Oom Paul established himself as the staff ace in 1934 when he led Cincy moundsmen in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.

The Reds were still a subpar team in 1935 but that didn’t keep Derringer from notching his first 20-win campaign.  Paul won 22 games for the Reds in ’35 with Gene Schott finishing second on the club with eight victories.  The following year, knowing that Oom Paul was the ace up his sleeve, skipper Chuck Dressen used Derringer in a league best 51 games; 37 starts.  Paul finished fifth in the senior circuit with 121 strikeouts.

In 1938, the Reds started to turn things around under Hall of Fame skipper Bill McKechnie.  McKechnie called his All-Star pitcher to work a league best 307 innings.  Oom Paul also led the NL in complete games and was the runner-up in the wins department with 21.  Derringer, who could strike the pimple on a gnat’s nose with his pitches, was one of the finest pitchers for accuracy of his time.  Oom Paul issued an average of just 0.160 walks per inning in ’38 while Hall of Fame peers Carl Hubbell (0.184), Red Ruffing (0.332) and Lefty Gomez (0.414) all had less marksmanship abilities than the Cincinnati man.

Derringer’s finest year may have been his 1939 campaign in which he pitched the Reds to a World Series with his remarkable 25-7 record.  Paul led the NL with a .781 winning percentage while fashioning a 2.93 ERA and tallying 128 strikeouts compared to just 35 walks.  Oom Paul looked swell in the Fall Classic, keeping his ERA at a trim 2.35, but he failed to win either of his starts.  But he would get redemption the next year.

Derringer pitched the Reds to another pennant in 1940, leading the NL with 37 starts.  named to the fourth of his six career All-Star teams, Oom Paul notched his fourth 20-win season while leading his Reds to a World Series showdown with the Tigers of Detroit.  Unable to get a win in ’39 against the Bronx Bombers, Paul won a pair of games against the Tigers, bringing a title to Ohio with his Game 7 victory.

Derringer continued to pitch well on into the 1940s and due to his advanced age, was able to play through World War II.  After going 10-11 for the Reds in 1942, his contract was purchased by the Cubs before the start of the 1943 season.  Oom Paul pitched for the Cubbies through 1945, seeing his last Major League action in the 1945 World Series.


W 223/L 212/PCT .513/G 579/CG 251/IP 3,646/H 3,912/BB 761/SO 1,507/SHO 32/ERA 3.46


One of the finest all-round talents of the 1980s, Dale Murphy, the brawny blaster for the Braves, could do it all.  Big Dale could hit for power, run well, had an exceptional throwing arm and won five Gold Glove Awards as well as back-to-back MVP Awards in 1982 and 1983.  A terror in more than one aspect of the game, Murphy was a Freddy Krueger figure, lurking in the nightmares of National League pitchers in the 1980s.

Originally a catcher, Dale made his debut with Atlanta in 1976; having been their first round selection in the ’74 amateur draft.  Murphy had small cups of coffee for the Braves in ’76 and ’77 but became a regular in 1978.  Shifted to first base in ’78, Dale finished second to Big Willie Stargell in homeruns among NL inital sackers.  Skipper Bobby Cox used Dale at first base in 1979 before shifting him to the pasture in 1980. 

Dale enjoyed his breakout year in 1980, making his first All-Star appearance, and leading NL center fielders in homers, RBI and slugging average.  That season marked Dale’s first over-30 homerun season (he would have six such campaigns, with no help from, as the Spanish speakers would say..drogas!).  After the strike shortened ’81 season, Dale embarked on a string of monstrous seasons which labeled him the terror of the National League. 

From 1982 to 1985, Dale played in every game and had at least 36 homeruns every season.  In 1982, Dale was arguably the greatest talent in Major League baseball, winning the Silver Slugger Award for his position, earning his first of five Gold Glove Awards, making the NL All-Star team and most notably, winning the MVP Award.  Dale led the NL in RBI in ’82, while slugging 36 homeruns (2nd in the league) and scoring 113 runs (also 2nd in the NL).  Dale was the only National League player to both score and drive in 100 runs during the season.

Another MVP Award made its way to Murphy’s mantle in 1983 when he led the NL in RBI again as well as slugging average.  From 1982 to ’85, Dale won A Gold Glove, went to the All-Star game and garnered the Silver Slugger Award for his position each year.  The mighty masher from Atlanta led all Major League players with 252 runs created in his MVP season of 1983.

Although Dale didn’t win the MVP Award in ’84, he was, nevertheless, still producing at a far better clip than most All-Stars.  That year Dale led the NL in homeruns, total bases and slugging percentage, while being the only NL outfielder to reach 100 RBI, but his Braves club finished below .500.  Murphy, still on top of his game in ’85, led the senior circuit in runs, homeruns and walks.  Big Dale hit a robust .300 while driving home 111 runs for a terrible Braves team that finished fifth in their division.

Dale led NL center fielders with 29 homers in 1986 before his monster year of 1987 when he had a career high 44 long balls while driving in 105 runs, hitting .295 and slugging .580.  Murphy made his final All-Star appearance that year, walking and scoring an identical 115 times.  It was his last great year.

Beginning in 1988, Dale had trouble raising his batting averages to respectable levels, even though he still showcased the power that made him the most terrifying hitter in the NL during the 1980s.  He clubbed 24 homers in ’88 and an even 20 in ’89.  During the 1990 season, at the age of 34, Dale was dealt to the Phillies for relief pitcher Jeff Parrett and outfielder Jimmy Vatcher–he hit 24 long balls between the two teams.

In his last year as a regular, Dale socked 18 homers in 1991 with 81 RBI but couldn’t lift his head above the Mendoza Line in 1992.  The Phillies released him early in 1993 and he finished his career with the Colorado Rockies in that season.


G 2,180/R 1,197/H 2,111/2B 350/HR 398/RBI 1,266/BB 986/SO 1,748/SB 161/BA .265/SA .469


Before there was Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers, or Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera for that matter, there was a stopper for the Pittsburgh Pirates who helped define the role of relief ace.  Roy Face was often asked by skipper Danny Murtaugh to put the final nail in the coffin of the opposition, and Mr. Face hammered those nails with the skill of a veteran carpenter.

Elroy Face bounced around the minors for a few years, under a couple umbrellas (the Phillies and Dodgers) before getting his call to the Majors in 1953.  His rookie season was a disaster, posting an ERA above 6.00 while splitting time between the bullpen and rotation.  The following year he trimmed his ERA by three full points while continuing as a long man out of the pen and a spot-starter. 

Face’s breakout year came in 1956 when he led the National League in games pitched, signalling an end to his days as a spot-starter.  The next few years, Elroy progressivley got better, lowering his ERA to 3.06 in 1957.  That year Face posted his first double-digit save total; he would have nine more such seasons.  The Pittsburgh mortician led the NL with 20 saves in 1958, posting a nifty 2.89 ERA. 

His finest year came in 1959 when he went 18-1, good for a .947 winning percentage (the greatest single season winning % in the history of baseball).  Face trimmed his ERA to 2.71 and made his first All-Star squad.  For his marvellous season, the Pittsburgh closer was handed several MVP votes, finishing seventh in MVP voting in an era when relief pitchers were still uncommon.  Although Elroy reached his summit in 1959, the Pirates reached theirs in 1960.

Winning the NL flag, Murtaugh’s Buccos were led by a core of young players and a bullpen anchored by Face.  Elroy finished second in the league with 24 saves while pacing the senior circuit with 68 games pitched.  An All-Star again, Face used his stellar control (he averaged just 0.252 walks per inning) to guide the Pirates to the pennant.  In one of the greatest World Series ever played, Face saved three games for the Pirates who dethroned the mighty Yankees in seven games. 

For the third year in a row, Elroy was named to the NL’s All-Star team.  He tied Stu Miller for the league lead in saves in ’61 with 17.  Face showed off expert marksman skills, issuing just ten walks in 92 innings of work.  He reached his highwater mark for saves in 1962 and coincidentally, also had his lowest career ERA of 1.88.  Elroy led the senior circuit with 28 saves.  He saved 16 games in 1963 and then suffered through an abysmal 1964 season.  When he was turning the corner in 1965, he suffered an injury and was limited to just sixteen games.

Returning from injury in ’66, Face fashioned a solid 2.70 ERA at the tender age of 38.  The following year, with 40 years peeking around the corner, Face finished second in the NL with 17 saves.  Although the closer was aging, he still got batters out with regularity in 1968.  That year, Elroy walked just eight batters in 53 innings of work.  A free agent after the season, Face, at the age of 41, played his final year with the expansion Montreal Expos, saving five games for the Canadian city.


W 104/L 95/PCT .523/SV 193/G 848/IP 1,375/BB 362/SO 877/ERA 3.48

A true American hero, Buddy Lewis rests near the top of the list of ballplayers who were hurt most by their stint in the military during World War II.  Such players like Bob Feller and Ted Williams missed plenty action to the war, but they were still able to make the Hall of Fame.  Lewis wasn’t so lucky.  One of the first Major Leaguers to leave for the war, Lewis spent the better part of four years in the Armed Forces.

Buddy joined the Washington Senators as a teenage prodigy in 1935.  Skipper Bucky Harris inserted Lewis into the everyday lineup in 1936 as a 19-year-old rookie.  Buddy hit .291 with 100 runs scored in his freshman campaign.  Although he was close to a finished product in the batter’s box, Buddy had some rough edges on the field.  Given that he was with the Senators, and playing for Bucky Harris, who was notorious for juggling lineups, Buddy wasn’t given as a good of a chance to refine his defense as he would have received under another skipper.

Lewis led Major League infielders with 210 base hits in 1937 while topping American League third basemen with a nifty .314 batting average.  The 20-year-old hot corner custodian was showing off great offensive abilities: hitting above .300 and posting a solid .367 on-base percentage.  An All-Star in 1938, Buddy drove home 91 runs while scoring 122; marking a three year stretch with at least 100 runs scored.

Buddy’s 16 triples in 1939 led the American League.  More importantly, the kid from North Carolina showed remarkable plate discipline, drawing 72 walks while striking out just 27 times.  Buddy established himself as a well-rounded offensive force, hitting .319 with an amazing .402 on-base percentage. 

For all his offensive exploits, his defensive shortcomings led to a change in position in 1940.  Shifting from third base to right field, Buddy nevertheless continued his fine hitting despite the shift in defensive alignment.  Buddy hit a nifty .317 with 38 doubles and 101 runs scored.  In 1941, Lewis hit .297 with 82 walks, making for a fine .386 on-base percentage. 

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor that winter, Buddy was one of the first Major Leaguers to led his name to the cause of winning the war.  Many athletes served in a limited capacity during the war, but not Buddy Lewis.  Lewis went overseas as a pilot and flew over 300 missions, most of which were over hostile terrain in Burma.  After three and a half years in the service, Buddy returned to the Senators late in 1945 for the playoff push.  Buddy placed the Senators on his back by hitting .333 in 69 games with an astounding .423 on-base percentage.  But the Senators failed to catch the Tigers, due in part to the severe frostbite suffered by star shortstop Cecil Travis during the war, who was unable to reclaim his pre-war glory.

Buddy continued to rake in 1946, finishing second in three-baggers in the junior circuit.  He made his last All-Star appearance in 1947, posting a two-to-one walk-to-strikeout ratio.  After falling off in 1949, Buddy ended his baseball career.


G 1,349/R 830/H 1,563/2B 249/3B 93/HR 71/RBI 607/BB 573/SO 303/SB 83/BA .297/SA .420

The winningest pitcher of the 1980s, Jack Morris was a bulldog workhorse for the Detroit Tigers throughout the decade.  A five-time All-Star, Morris ranks high in the career strikeout, wins and innings pitched departments.  It wasn’t an uncommon feat for the mustachioed hurler to toss 250 innings per season and toil, adeptly mind you, under the pressures of postseason play.

Originally a fifth round selection by Detroit in 1976, Jack made his Major League debut the following season.  Skipper Ralph Houk used Jack predominately out of the bullpen as a rookie in 1978, but when he was inserted into the rotation in 1979, his career took off.  In his breakout ’79 season, Morris went 17-7 with a 3.27 ERA.  Although he showed that he was a coming star in the American League, Jack didn’t show his pack mule traits until 1980, when he logged 250 innings.  That season, Jack was the only Detroit pitcher to exceed 200 innings pitched and 100 strikeouts.

In the strike shortened ’81 campaign, Jack tied for the AL lead in wins with 14.  Named to his first All-Star team, he finished second in innings pitched and third in Cy Young Award voting.  Jack never won a Cy Young Award but finished in the Top Ten in voting seven times.  After a so-so ’82 season, Jack had his greatest year in 1983, leading the AL with 293 innings and 232 strikeouts.  The innings-eater deluxe won 20 games on a fine 3.34 ERA.

Morris pitched the Tigers to the World Series in 1984, winning the first of four rings.  During the regular season, Jack went 19-11 with 240 innings pitched.  In the ALCS, he fashioned a 1.29 ERA against the Royals and then went 2-0 against the Padres in the Fall Classic, winning his first World Series title.  1985 was another fine campaign for Morris, who finished third in strikeouts and had a 3.33 ERA.

A 20-game winner again in 1986, Morris led the junior circuit with six shutouts.  The Motown mower of batters whiffed 223 adversaries during the season on a 3.27 ERA.  He finished fifth in the strikeout department in ’87 while leading Detroit to another postseason.  During the ALCS, Jack fanned seven batters in Game 2 but the Tigers lost to the Twins; it was the only postseason series that a team Jack was on ever lost.

Jack struggled in 1989, missing time to an injury but rebounded in 1990 to lead the AL in complete games.  But Jack’s ERA had begun to swell like a snowed-in city dweller in one of Jack London’s stories, so Jack was allowed to test the free agent market in ’91.  Leaving Detroit, Jack signed on with his hometown Minnesota Twins and promptly led them to a World Series title.  Playing before family and friends, Morris went 18-12 for the Twins of Tom Kelly on a 3.43 ERA.  He was a force of nature in October, winning two ALCS games and another two in the World Series.  Jack’s masterful extra-inning shutout in Game 7 has gone down as one the greatest pitched games of all-time. 

Jack pitched just one year for his hometown’s team before signing with the Blue Jays as a free agent.  He enjoyed his last great year by pitching the Blue Jays to a World Series title.  Jack led the junior circuit with 21 wins during the regular season and then led World Series participants with a dozen strikeouts, helping bring a title to Canada.  Jack’s last two years were unflattering and raised his career ERA up a few points; close to 4.00


W 254/L 186/PCT .577/G 549/CG 175/IP 3,825/H 3,567/BB 1,390/SO 2,478/SHO 28/ERA 3.90

When the name Ken Williams is mentioned nowadays, baseball fans think of the man running the Chicago White Sox and not the slugger of the Babe Ruth Era.  The original Ken Williams didn’t make a trade for Jake Peavy or deal with Ozzie Guillen; he simply wore out pitchers in the early 1920s.  The former St. Louis Brownie is in the Top 50 in career slugging percentage and the Top 60 in career batting average.

Williams made his debut with the Reds in 1915 but didn’t establish himself until years later.  He played sparingly in 1916 and then went back home to play the 1917 season in Portland.  He returned to the Majors in 1918 with the Browns but missed time to service in the Armed Forces during World War I.  Playing under skipper Sunset Jimmy Burke in 1919, Ken enjoyed his first .300 hitting season but missed action to injury.

In 1920, at the age of 30, Ken finally played a full year at the Major League level and he did not disappoint.  Ken led AL left fielders in stolen bases and finished the season with double-digit totals in all the extra base hit departments.  Although he put up some fine numbers in 1920, he broke out like a cat exiting a dog pound in 1921.  That year, the Brownie masher finished second to Babe Ruth in homeruns in the AL while topping AL left fielders in steals.  Among junior circuit left fielders, Williams was runner-up to Babe in batting average, slugging average and runs scored. 

His finest year came in 1922 when he led the AL with 39 homers, 155 RBI and 367 total bases.  Ken crushed 39 homers while stealing 37 bases, making him the first 30-30 man in modern baseball history.  The leader board also saw Ken’s name near the top in runs scored (3rd in AL) and slugging average (2nd in AL).

Ken’s highwater mark for batting average came in 1923 when he hit a robust .357.  His 29 long balls were good for second in the American League.  He was the top hitting AL left fielder, leading his peers with a mighty .623 slugging average; only one other AL left fielder had a slugging average over .500.  Continuing to showcase solid pop, Williams finished fourth in homeruns in 1924.

His last great year came in 1925 when he hit .331 with 25 homeruns and 105 RBI.  He led the league with a .613 slugging average but his presence as a mighty slugger made him the target of pitchers.  Ken was beaned during the year which limited him to 102 games.  After the beaning, Ken was never again the devastating run producer he had been before the incident.  He struggled in ’26, failing to hit .300 for the first time since WWI.  He rebounded in 1927, finishing fourth in homeruns while leading AL left fielders in slugging average.  After the year has sold to the Red Sox and played his final two years with Boston.


G 1,397/R 860/H 1,552/2B 285/3B 77/HR 196/RBI 914/BB 566/SO 287/SB 154/BA .319/SA .531