Born a decade too soon, Walker was one of the top sluggers in baseball during the end of the Deadball Era and thus one of best power threats during the start of the Lively Ball Era. Tilly finished in the Top Five in homeruns seven times during his career and paced the American League in 1918. The heart and soul of Connie Mack’s offense during the time, Walker had little protection on a poor Philadelphia roster throughout his heyday.
Tilly made his debut with the Senators in 1911 but he was never given a chance to claim everyday duty in Washington. The Senators made one of the worst moves in baseball history when they traded/sold Walker and Hippo Vaughn (who would become an ace in Chicago) to the minor league Kansas City squad. Kansas City cashed in later by selling the two prospects–Tilly to the Browns. Able to play in St. Louis, Walker had his breakout year in 1914 when he led American League left fielders in numerous categories. He topped his position peers in BA, SA, homeruns, triples and base hits.
After his breakout year in 1914, Tilly finished third in the homerun department in 1915. Although he was establishing himself as a quality bat, his fielding was erratic. He showed signs of solid defensive skills by leading his position in assists but he also topped left fielders in errors committed. Given his adventures in the outfield, the Browns sold Tilly to the Red Sox. Boston went to the World Series Tilly’s first season there and he hit a solid .273 in the 1916 Fall Classic.
After a down year in 1917, Walker was the “player-to-be-named-later” in the Stuffy McInnis trade that sent him to the Athletics. Under Connie Mack, Walker became an offensive monster. In his first year with the A’s, Tilly tied the legendary Babe Ruth for the most homeruns in the junior circuit. Even better in 1919, Tilly, Ruth and George Sisler were the only three players in the Major Leagues to reach 30 doubles and 10 homeruns. But the A’s were the AL’s doormat and Tilly would never again play for a winner.
With the advent of the Lively Ball Era in 1920, Walker’s power numbers spiked. He finished third in homeruns in 1920 and in 1921 he clubbed 23 long balls and drove in 101 runs for the lowly A’s. In 1921, Tilly was the only player on Connie Mack’s roster to slug over .500. One of the first players in baseball history to have a 30 homerun season, Walker reached 37 in 1922. He scored 111 runs for the 7th place A’s which was good for fifth in the American League. The Lively Ball Era was good for Tilly but it came to late. Already in his mid 30s, Walker played one last season with the Mackmen in 1923 before hanging them up.
G 1,421/R 696/H 1,423/2B 244/3B 71/HR 118/RBI 679/SB 129/BB 416/SO 504/BA .281/OBP .339/SA .427