When Luzerne Blue was at the top of his game, there was always some other first baseman that was a bit better. Not many people can name Lu Blue when great first basemen are mentioned because he played during the heyday of the greatest first baseman of all-time: Lou Gehrig. But Blue was a valuable ballplayer, noted for his exceptional on-base percentages.
Blue made his professional debut with the Martinsburg Blue Sox of the old Blue Ridge League; quite a bit of blue in that last sentence, huh? After two years with the Blue Sox Lu entered the military during World War I and missed some minor league seasoning time to the war effort. When he returned from the colors, Blue spent a couple more years in the bushes before getting his first look with Ty Cobb’s Tigers in 1921. As a rookie, Blue finished second to Hall of Famer George Sisler in batting average among first basemen. He was the AL’s runner-up in his speciality, the drawing of walks. The freshman drew 103 free passes during the year.
Blue’s keen eye allowed him to reach base often and when a man reaches base he has a better chance of scoring runs. Lu finished second in the American League with 131 runs scored in 1922 which enabled him to finish tenth in MVP voting. He kept on drawing walks in 1923–finishing third in the league–and enabled him to be the lone Major League first baseman to score over 100 runs.
With vision akin to that of a hawk, Blue was a tremendous judge of pitched balls. The switch-hitter never had a year in which he struck out more than he walked. But vision was not all Blue was good for; he could also run. In 1925, Blue led junior circuit first basemen in walks and stolen bases. In only two Major League seasons did Blue fail to reach ten steals. Although his speed was solid, it was his judgment of pitched balls that Lu excelled at. In 1926, Lu drew 90 walks while only striking out 18 times.
In 1928 Blue had his highwater mark for homeruns, drilling 14 long balls, and kept accepting free passes issued by opposing pitchers. Although he wasn’t a physically imposing man in the batter’s box, only Babe Ruth walked more than Lu in ’28. He and the great Lou Gehrig were the only first basemen in the AL with double-digit totals in all the extra base hit departments, achieving the feat his first year with the St. Louis Browns.
Lu was a terror in 1929, drawing 126 walks opposed to just 32 strikeouts. He lashed out 40 doubles, scored 111 runs and posted an amazing on-base percentage of .422. After an unusually poor 1930 season the Browns sold his contract to the White Sox and Blue had a terrific rebound year. His 127 walks were good for second in the league in 1931. He tied Gehrig for the most triples by an AL first baseman and only he, Gehrig and Hall of Famer Bill Terry reached 100 runs scored among Major League first basemen.
Blue slumped mightily in 1932 as he entered his mid-30s. He had one at-bat for the Dodgers in 1933 spending most of the year with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. He ended his career with an astounding .402 on-base percentage; higher than his slugging average.
G 1,615/R 1,151/H 1,696/2B 319/3B 109/HR 44/RBI 692/BB 1,092/SO 436/SB 150/BA .287/SA .401