One of the greatest flychasers of his time, Sammy could track a flyball like John Wayne’s Hondo could track a man’s trail. West, who played the bulk of his career with the now forgotten Senators and Browns, posted exceptional fielding percentages and his range factor (a modern stat that helps judge defense) was well above league average. Sammy was exceptional with the leather, and had a terrific throwing arm, indicated by eight seasons with ten or more assists.
Sammy joined the Senators in 1927 but had to wait his turn because Washington had an all Hall of Fame pasture in Tris Speaker, Goose Goslin and Sam Rice. When the aging Speaker left town in 1928, West took his job. Sammy showed the stuff by legging out 30 doubles in his first year as a regular. In the field though, Sammy was nearly flawless, posting a .996 fielding percentage. After a rough 1929 season, Sammy rebounded in 1930. That year he hit a lusty .328–second among American League center fielders while kicking off a five-year string of ten or more triples.
Even better in 1931, West raised his batting average to a career high .333 while leading AL center fielders with 43 two-baggers. In the pasture, Sammy had a .990 fielding percentage while the league averaged just .968 for the position. The Senators traded Sammy to the Browns after the 1932 season with fellow outfielder Carl Reynolds for Hall of Famer Goose Goslin (making his return to Washington) and Fred Schulte. Because of the transaction, Sammy missed his only chance of playing for a winner as the Senators went to the World Series in 1933.
World Series appearance or not, Sammy was named to the AL All-Star team and was one of two Major League center fielders (Hall of Famer Earl Averill being the other) to post double-digit totals in all the extra base hit departments. In 1934, his .326 batting average topped American League center fielders. He made his second of four All-Star teams in ’34 while also reaching the elusive .400 on-base percentage. In 1935, he led Major League center fielders in walks and the following year his 94 walks topped all junior circuit outfielders.
Named to his last All-Star team in 1937, Sammy paced Major League center fielders with 37 doubles while posting a nifty .390 on-base percentage. The Senators reacquired West during the 1938 season and he hit .305 between the Browns and Senators. His numbers began to dip in 1939 when he reached his mid 30s. Relegated to backup duty in 1940, Sammy played until 1942 before he left baseball at the age of 37 to joined the military during World War II. West spent three years in service and didn’t make a return trip to baseball after his military discharge.
G 1,753/R 934/H 1,838/2B 347/3B 101/HR 75/RBI 838/BB 696/SO 540/SB 53/BA .299/SA .425