As one of greatest shortstops in baseball history it should come as a shock that Rowdy Richard Bartell has never had a strong push for Hall of Fame induction. In a perfect world, the Hall of Fame induction process would be one of comparison but it all too often falls into the realm of cronyism, favoritism and, if I may be pardoned for coining a word, locationism. Bartell was the game’s greatest pepperpot of his time, which means his all-out style of play endeared him to many but also put off many as well. Bartell was all spitfire and devil-may-care on the field. He played the game with every ounce of everything he had within him and the following article will show that should be enough for Hall of Fame induction.
When comparing players one should typically stick with peers, meaning Bartell should be compared with men like Arky Vaughan and Phil Rizzuto and not folks who played different positions, like Joe DiMaggio or who played in another era, such as Honus Wagner. While stacking Bartell up with his peers he often rests atop the talent totem pole. The scrappy shortstop currently ranks 16th all-time in career putouts among shortstops. Only Pee Wee Reese, among his position and era peers, has more. Bartell tallied 3,872 career putouts, which falls under Reese’s 4,040 but rests above Joe Cronin’s 3,696, Arky Vaughan’s 2,995, Lou Boudreau’s 3,132 and Phil Rizzuto’s 3,219. Even such modern-day star shortstops fall well below Bartell’s career putouts total. Cal Ripken, Barry Larkin, Dave Concepcion and Alan Trammell all rest within the shadows of Rowdy Richard.
Fielding stats have gained more weight in recent years as new methods to judge a player’s defensive worth have been created by baseball statisticians. One of these newfangled stats is the Range Factor stat. Although a Range Factor of 5.636 means little to folks who are unaware of these new stats, comparison puts one in perspective. Bartell’s career Range Factor is the tenth best total among all-time shortstops. His Range Factor rests well above those of his era peers as Arky Vaughan is behind him with a 5.236 and Phil Rizzuto is 100th all-time among shortstops.
Even when perusing the tried and true defensive stats of fielding percentage and assists, one finds Bartell superior to his peers. Bartell’s career fielding percentage is four points above league average–Arky Vaughan’s was just two points above. Rowdy Richard posted three seasons in which he turned 100 or more double plays while Hall of Fame peer Joe Cronin had just one such season. When you compare Bartell to postwar stars Reese and Rizzuto, you find that Dick excels each of the gentlemen who had the fortune of spending their entire careers in New York. Pee Wee had two 100 double play seasons and both he and Rizzuto led shortstops in assists once during their careers. Bartell topped his position peers in assists three separate times and did the same in putouts while Scooter Rizzuto led in putouts twice.
Bartell has a clear advantage among defensive stats and he is also superior in batting records as well. Dick posted higher career numbers in every major offensive category than Rizzuto. One could argue that Rizzuto falls behind Bartell because he missed time to World War II but so did Bartell. The two military veterans have career offensive lines as follows.
HITS: Bartell 2,165/Rizzuto 1,588 RUNS: Bartell 1,130/Rizzuto 877 RBI: Bartell 710/Rizzuto 563 BATTING AVERAGE: Bartell .284/Rizzuto .273 ON-BASE %: Bartell .355/Rizzuto .351 SLUGGING %: Bartell .391/Rizzuto .355
A heady all-round ballplayer, Rowdy Richard was always among the leaders in doubles among his position peers and the pepperpot did whatever was necessary to win. He never bemoaned his status as a role player in the lineup and was willing to sacrifice his stats so the team could win. Bartell currently ranks 25th all-time in career sacrifices. With his never give-up attitude and desire to win, Bartell was an easy selection to start the first ever All-Star Game at shortstop for the National League squad. It is one of baseball’s greatest tragedies that Bartell has never even received 1% of the Hall of Fame vote when he is clearly superior to shortstop peers already enshrined in the Hall of Fame.