Kind of an oddity during the Deadball Era–he weighed 200 pounds–Bob Bescher was nevertheless one of the most prolific base stealers of his time. Despite his bulky build, the switch-hitting outfielder was a four-time stolen base champ. A speedster with a decent batting eye, Bescher once finished fifth in MVP voting and led the league once in both runs scored and walks drawn.
Bescher made his debut with John Ganzel’s 1908 Cincinnati Reds. Cincy had a poor outfield headed by strikeout champ Dode Paskert. Needless to say, cracking the lineup in 1909 wasn’t a difficult chore for the fleet-footed Bescher. In his first full season, Bob paced the National League in stolen bases with 54. He took his total up a notch in 1910 when he pilfered a new career high 70 bases–also a league leading stat. A well-rounded player, Bob also drew plenty walks, which coupled with his knack for taking the extra base, enabled him to score many runs. He crossed the plate 95 times in 1910–a decent amount for the low-scoring era in which he played.
In 1911, Bescher established a new career high in stolen bases when he swiped 81 bases for the Reds. His high total of thefts led the NL for the third straight season, but Bescher was more than a stolen base artist. In top form in 1911, Bob tied for second in the NL in the runs scored department, led senior circuit left fielders in base hits and was the only Major Leaguer to reach 100 walks and 30 doubles during the season.
Bob was even better in 1912. For the fourth straight season he led the National League in stolen bases. He came in fifth in MVP voting as the led the National League with 120 runs scored. Among his left field peers, Bescher topped them in both the doubles and triples departments. The Reds finished a hair under .500 with Bob as their offensive leader.
His string of leading the National League in thefts came to an end in 1913 when he managed to pilfer just 38 bags–sixth in the league. Bob was still atop the leader board however as he paced the senior circuit with 94 walks. Although he was still a productive player, the Reds sent Bob to the New York Giants for infielder Buck Herzog and backstop Grover Hartley. The Giants of John McGraw were a much better team than the Reds clubs he played for and Bob came the closest to postseason play his lone season in New York. The Giants finished second as Bob, who McGraw used in center field, paced NL center fielders in runs scored.
Baseball around this time was volatile with the upstart Federal League interrupting play of the two established leagues. Before the 1915 season, McGraw needed pitching so he shipped Bob off to the Cardinals for Pol Perritt. Like many speedsters, Bob’s numbers began to dip once he reached his 30s. After posting a career low 27 steals in 1915, he had his last good year in 1916 when he swiped 39 bags–third in the National League. His last Major League action came with the 1918 Cleveland Indians. Bob, however, played on into his 40s in the minor leagues.
G 1,228/R 749/H 1,171/2B 190/3B 74/HR 28/RBI 345/SB 428/BA .258/SA .351/OBP .353