Nobody likes roadblocks on the avenue of life. We generally like to cruise down the freeway with no obstacles in our path, but such is never the case. Few people traveled a more debris laden road to the Major Leagues than Tommy Holmes, who was an outfield prospect with the New York Yankees in the late 1930s. All he had to contend with were guys named DiMaggio, Henrich and Keller.
When the Yankees realized they couldn’t clear a spot for Holmes, they shipped him off to the National League where he could cause them no harm. To the Braves Tommy went as he made his debut with them in 1942 at the age of 25. He led National League center fielders in base hits as a rookie. But America was at war and many stars left the game to serve their country. The Yankees lost Joe D and Tommy Henrich while Holmes was able to play out the war on the baseball field.
In 1943, Tommy led NL center fielders in base hits and showcased his greatest trait: a remarkable batting eye. He drew 58 walks and only whiffed 20 times; he would never eclipse 20 strikeouts in a single season his entire Major League career. Tommy’s greatest years came at the end of the WWII era. In 1944, he finished third in the league in hits and doubles, but it was in 1945 that Holmes was at his best. That year, the final season WWII invaded rosters, Tommy led the NL in hits, doubles, homeruns, slugging average and total bases. He finished second in the league with a robust .352 batting average and fashioned an astounding seven-to-1 walk to strikeout ratio.
When the stars came back from the war in 1946, all eyes were on Holmes to see if he could sustain his stardom in the years after the war. Although he never again showcased much power, Tommy was still a gifted hitter, capable of hitting .300 with exceptionally low strikeout totals. In ’46, Tommy had 568 at-bats but the opposition only managed to fan him 14 times.
In 1947, Tommy had his fourth consecutive .300 season when he paced the National League in base hits. His .309 batting average was tops among Major League right fielders. Named to the All-Star team in the Braves magical year of 1948, Tommy led National League right fielders with a terrific .325 batting average. His Braves went to the World Series but were beaten by the Cleveland Indians of Gene Bearden.
After a rough 1949 season, Tommy’s playing time gradually reduced over the years. His last good year was 1950 when he fanned just eight times in 322 at-bats. He managed the Braves briefly in 1951 and 1952, but wasn’t on hand to pilot the club an entire season.
G 1,320/R 698/H 1,507/2B 292/3B 47/HR 88/RBI 581/SB 40/BB 480/SO 122/BA .302/SA .432/OBP .366