A fiery, rawhide tough shortstop, Kid Elberfeld may have personified The Deadball Era better than any ballplayer. Of slight build, Elberfeld got by on craftiness and hustle and not muscle. The Deadball Era, characterized by rowdy play, was just right for Elberfeld–known as The Tabasco Kid. In Ty Cobb’s biography, he credited Kid with “giving him the teach” as a rookie, when Cobb slid into a bag headfirst and Elberfeld educated him with a swift check to his noggin.
Elberfled began his Major League career with the Phillies in 1898. The Phillies had slick-fielding Monte Cross entrenched at short so Kid saw scarce action. The Reds purchased Kid in 1899 and he was used as a utility infielder behind the likes of Hall of Famer Biddy McPhee, star shortstop Tommy Corcoran and third baseman Charlie Irwin. When the American League established itself as a Major League, The Tabasco Kid finally got his chance to show his stuff.
Kid latched on with the Detroit Tigers in 1901 and hit a nifty .310 with 76 runs batted in. His batting fell off in 1902, although he finished second to George Davis in RBI among AL shortstops, and early in the 1903 season the Tigers traded him to the New York Highlanders (now the Yankees) for former superstar Herman Long. Kid hit a combined .301 in 1903 then missed some action due to injury in 1904.
With the Highlanders in 1906, Kid was the lone .300 hitting shortstop in the American League. In 1907, he tied for the most triples by an AL shortstop while hitting .271 (nothing to scoff at during The Deadball Era) and driving in 51 runs. Elberfeld’s 1908 season was a wash-out due to injury and he never again was a frontline player in the Majors.
The Tabasco Kid pilfered 23 bases in 1909 (he had five seasons of 20 or more thefts), his last year with the Highlanders. The Senators paid $5,000 for his contract in 1910 and he rewarded them by fielding his position at a percentage 13 points above league average. In 1911, his last year as a regular, Kid led the AL in getting hit by pitched balls while hitting a respectable .272.
After his playing days, The Tabasco Kid kept baseball in his veins. He had a lengthy career managing in the Southern Association with the Chattanooga Lookouts and Little Rock Travelers. He harvested such talent as Burleigh Grimes, Harry Coveleski, Charlie Grimm, Gabby Street and Travis Jackson.
G 1,293/R 647/H 1,234/2B 166/3B 58/HR 10/RBI 535/BB 427/SB 209/BA .271/SA .339