Introducing… Duffy Lewis

The first man to master left field in Boston, the area he patrolled became known as “Duffy’s Cliff.”  Before the Green Monster stood out in Fenway Park, Lewis had to man a tricky piece of pasture with a slope that gave many outfielders headaches.  Although it was a daunting task, Lewis accepted it and performed sensationally.  His first five years in Boston he notched 20 or more outfield assists.

Duffy joined the Red Sox from the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks squad and quickly established himself as a star Major Leaguer.  Although left field in Boston gave Lewis fits at first (indicated by a poor .944 fielding %) he didn’t take his frustrations to the dish.  Duffy dined with delight as a rookie, feasting on big league pitchers by finishing second in the AL in the homerun department.  Duffy paced American League left fielders in hits and doubles–he was the lone junior circuit left fielder to eclipse 20 doubles: he legged out 29.

Duffy elevated his game as a sophomore, driving his batting average up 24 points from his rookie season.  The power he showed as a rookie remained as he led left fielders in the long ball department.  His finest year may have come the year after when he had his lone 100 RBI season.  His 109 RBI was good for second in the league and Lewis was the only Major League left fielder to reach 30 doubles.  He enjoyed his third straight year of a .400+ slugging average and also reached his highwater mark for runs scored while pacing the American League with 31 sacrifices.

Duffy failed to swat a homerun in 1913 but his triples total increased to a career high of twelve.  The top left fielder in the American League, Duffy led his position peers in batting average, slugging average, hits, doubles, and RBI.  Duffy drove in 90 runs for the Red Sox.  When the Federal League established itself in 1914 it began raiding rosters of the two older leagues.  Lewis remained loyal to Boston and spurned the offers of the upstarts.  It was a wise move on his part since the Red Sox went to the World Series in 1915.

Duffy hit a robust .291 during the regular season in 1915 while also posting his fifth consecutive season with 30 or more doubles.  His BoSox club took on the surprise Phillies in the World Series and Duffy owned Philadelphia pitching by hitting them at a .444 clip with a .667 slugging average.  The Red Sox repeated as AL champs in 1916 and Duffy continued his Fall Classic heavy-hitting by ravaging Brooklyn pitchers for a .353 World Series batting average.  Duffy took part in three World Series for the Red Sox and brought a title to Boston each year.

The Red Sox failed to take the AL pennant in 1917 but Duffy was a .300 hitter.  After the season, with the war raging overseas, Duffy cast his lot with the military and missed the entire 1918 season to service in World War I.  He would never again play another game for the Red Sox.  When he returned stateside he was essentially sold to the New York Yankees with star pitchers Dutch Leonard and Ernie Shore for a bundle of cash and a handful of middling players, the best of which was pitcher Ray Caldwell.

Duffy blasted seven homeruns (a fine total then) for the 1919 Yankees while also chasing 89 mates across the plate.  Although a new livelier ball was introduced in 1920, Lewis was one of the few players who didn’t benefit from its introduction.  His slugging average reached an all-time low and the Yankees, with some kid named Ruth in the lineup, were beginning to establish themselves as a slugging outfit.  So out the door went Duffy in 1921 and he played one final Major League season with the ’21 Senators.  After his stint with Washington, Duffy returned home and was a player/manager in the Pacific Coast League for a number of years.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,459/R 612/H 1,518/2B 289/3B 68/HR 38/RBI 793/SB 113/BA .284/SA .384

www.baseball-reference.com

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1 comment
  1. brettkiser said:

    As a member of possibly the best defensive outfield of all-time, with Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper, Duffy’s name hasn’t faded in the shadows. Although his outfield mates are HOFers, it seems unlikely that Lewis will join them in Cooperstown. He only reached 1,500 career hits and had fewer than 650 runs scored.

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