The Hall of Fame has always had its benchmarks. If a batter reaches 500 homeruns, enshrinement used to be automatic. Eddie Joost, with his unflattering career batting average of .239 would seemingly fail to reach the Hall benchmark in batting average, but one must look at the whole pie and not just nibble on the crust. Although Joost had low batting averages, his on-base percentages were always lofty given his ability to draw walks. Also, he teamed with Pete Suder and Ferris Fain to form, arguably mind you, the best double play trio in baseball history. They had five straight years of turning 100 or more double plays during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Joost made his debut with the Reds in 1936 but saw limited action. The Reds were a coming team and had a strong infield around 1940 that third baseman Bill Werber dubbed The Jungle Squad. Eddie was stuck behind Werber, Lonny Frey and slick-fielding shortstop Billy Myers. The Reds were managed by Hall of Fame skipper Bill McKechnie, who tried to get young Eddie Joost some playing time. When the Reds captured the NL flag in 1940, Joost was pressed into everyday duty during the World Series due to Frey’s late season injury. Joost appeared in all seven games and helped the Reds defeat the Tigers.
When Billy Myers lost his ability to make contact, McKechnie inserted Joost in the shortstop role in 1941. Eddie led NL shortstops in walks his first year as a regular. In 1942 he ripped 30 doubles then suffered through an atrocious 1943 season. With World War II raging overseas, Joost voluntarily retired from baseball to help out the war effort. He returned to baseball late in 1945 and played for the Braves, but he wouldn’t establish himself as a legit Major Leaguer until Connie Mack bought his contract.
Under the tutelage of Mr. Mack, Joost excelled at getting on base. He drew 114 walks his first year with the Mackmen in 1947, which kicked off a six year run of 100 or more free passes accepted. Although he only hit .206 during the ’47 season, Joost was awarded a few MVP votes given his on-base skills and fine defensive work.
In 1948, Joost led American League infielders with 119 walks. He crossed home plate 99 times and raised his batting average up to .250 which enabled him to post a rather flattering on-base percentage of .393. Named to his first All-Star team in 1949, Joost walked 149 times (second to Ted Williams in the AL) and served as slugger Vern Stephens’ runner-up in homeruns and RBI among Major League shortstops. Eddie’s high walk total allowed him to post a phenomenal on-base percentage of .429.
In 1950, Eddie again finished behind Vern Stephens in long balls among shortstops but he paced Major League shortstops with 103 walks. His glove was golden in 1951 when he sparkled with a .974 fielding average at shortstop. He was clearly the game’s top shortstop that year, pacing his position peers in homeruns, RBI, walks, hits, doubles, slugging average and runs scored (he was the only AL shortstop to reach 100 runs scored).
Joost was just as good in 1952. That season he led American League shortstops in homers and RBI (he was the only Major League shortstop to club 20 homers) while finishing second in the league with 122 walks. The shortstop post was manned by men like Reese and Rizzuto, known for their slight builds, while Joost redefined the position as the lone AL shortstop to slug over .400.
When Eddie was named player/manager in 1954 his days as a player were all but over. After the A’s canned him he played one final year with the Red Sox in 1955 before hanging up his spikes.
G 1,574/R 874/H 1,339/2B 238/3B 35/HR 134/RBI 601/BB 1,043/SO 827/BA .239/SA .366