The greatest shortstop of all-time, Honus Wagner once claimed that Parent was one of the more adept shortstops at turning the double play. Freddy Parent was a terrific defender who covered far more ground than the average shortstop, but given the crude method in which errors were recorded during the game’s early days, Parent would often exceed 50 errors a season. That isn’t a knock against Parent’s game, but a knock against the record keeping of the Deadball Era.
Parent had a two game trial with the Cardinals in 1899, when they were still called the Perfectos. When the American League became a Major League in 1901, Parent finally got his chance to play everyday at the highest level. Clearly one of the top shortstops in the business, Parent had his high water mark for batting average as a rookie while also leading AL shortstops in runs scored, hits and doubles. To give you some insight on how liberal official scorers were with errors back then, Parent was charged with 63 miscues but posted a fielding percentage twenty-two points above league average.
Before Wagner established himself as an everyday shortstop in Pittsburgh, Parent might have been the top shortstop in the Majors during the beginning of the modern two-league platform. In 1902, Freddy topped Major League shortstops in runs scored and base hits. Defensively he led shortstops in assists and from 1901 to 1904, he was the top shortstop in the new-fangled stat of “defensive games.”
By 1903, the Pirates stopped their positional carousel with Honus Wagner and allowed him to entrench himself at short. That season, Wagner and Parent were the only shortstops in the Majors to slug over .400. Freddy, playing for AL powerhouse Boston, drove in 80 runs during the season while no other American League shortstop reached 50 RBI. The 1903 season is remembered by historians as the first year of the modern World Series. In the first modern Fall Classic, Freddy hit .281 with three triples.
Parent was without a peer in the American League in 1904. The Boston shortstop led his AL position peers in numerous stats. He topped the list in batting average, runs, hits, homeruns, RBI and slugging average. With the leather, Parent finished second in both putouts and assists. But his bat mysteriously dried up in 1905 as his batting average fell 57 points and his RBI total dropped an alarming 44 points. Still stuck with low averages (BA, SA and OBP) in 1906, Freddy nevertheless led Major League shortstops in triples.
Freddy raised his batting average back up to its old standards in 1907 but his run production suffered greatly as the once powerful Red Sox became the American League’s doormat. Looking to shake up their roster, the Red Sox traded Parent to the White Sox. He struggled his first year in the Windy City thanks to injury (he suffered a beaning and began wearing a helmet, but discarded it when opposing players questioned his courage) but rebounded nicely in 1909. The veteran shortstop posted a career high 32 stolen bases and posted his best on-base percentage since his rookie year. But 1909 was Parent’s last good year.
After a disastrous 1910 season in which his batting average fell to .178, Parent was sold to the minor league Baltimore Orioles. Although his days as a Major League player were over, Freddy was an instrumental figure in the game’s progress. With Baltimore, Parent took an immature young southpaw under his wing, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, and later recommended the Sultan of Swat to his chums in Boston. Parent would live on into the 1970s and when he died a few years away from his 100th birthday, he was the last surviving participant of the first modern World Series.
G 1,327/R 633/H 1,306/2B 180/3B 74/HR 20/RBI 471/SB 184/BA .262/SA .340/OBP .315