A Case for Cupid Childs

Clarence Childs had a chunky, compact build which gave him a cherubic appearance.  Given his roly-poly image, he was tagged with such nicknames as “Fats,” “The Dumpling,” and the one that stuck, “Cupid.”  However, despite his squatty body, Childs was an elite second baseman and quite possibly the best of the 1890s.  Although he wasn’t quite of the same defensive caliber as Hall of Fame peer Bid McPhee, Cupid was an above average defender with exceptional range that belied his build.  When you couple Cupid’s solid defensive stats (he ranks 22nd all-time in career putouts at 2B) with his offensive abilities, you get a player far and away superior to his Hall of Fame peer.

Given that Childs has all of one Hall of Fame peer, McPhee, who played in the same era and manned the same position, one must broaden their scope when judging Childs against Cooperstown residents.  George Davis also played during the 1890s and though not a 2B he was a middle infielder and therefore comparing the two isn’t as foolish as comparing Childs with a corner outfielder.  Both Davis and McPhee played much longer than Childs, who suffered from malaria which hindered his effectiveness late in his career.  Be that as it may, Childs still exceeded the two Hall of Famers in many categories.

A well-rounded performer, not just his build but also his playing ability, Childs was one of the greatest on-base machines of baseball’s early years.  He possessed an exceptional batting eye which allowed him to post eleven seasons in which he finished in the Top Ten in walks drawn.  Much like Ted Williams, Childs posted astronomical on-base percentages while maintaining high batting averages.  His career BA was .306 and his career OBP was .416.  These two stats far exceed his Hall of Fame peers.  McPhee retired with a .272 BA/.355 OBP while Davis had a .295 BA/.362 OBP.  Over the course of his career he had six seasons with an OBP above .400 (Davis had four, McPhee had three) and was able to enjoy three monster seasons with an OBP above .460–Davis and McPhee had one season apiece in which their OBP exceeded .420.

Given his exceptional on-base skills, Childs was a run-scoring machine for the old Cleveland Spiders of the National League.  Although the Spiders are long forgotten, having been disbanded just before the American League became a Major League, they had plenty talent with such Hall of Famers as Cy Young and Jesse Burkett.  Cupid was the man on the club who raced home at amazing clips.  He ended his career with an average of 0.833 runs scored per game which easily eclipsed Hall of Fame peers McPhee (0.788) and Davis (0.651).  Biddy posted two years in which he scored 125 or more runs while Davis had one such campaign.  As for Childs, he had a three-year stretch, from 1892 to 1894, in which he posted 136, 145 and 143 runs scored in succession. 

Many on-base gurus tend to draw a lot of walks which hinders their total of base hits.  Cupid was that rarity, like the Splendid Splinter, who draw a massive amount of walks while also banging out a great number of safeties.  Bid McPhee had just two seasons in his career in which he exceeded 155 base hits while Childs had six such campaigns, five in a row.  To go with those hits, Cupid drew an immense amount of walks.  In four of his 155+ base hit seasons, he drew 100 or more walks which allowed his OBP to reach those Williams heights.  He currently rests 24th all-time in career on-base percentage, well above the majority of the Cooperstown elite. 

Bid McPhee has the distinction of being the only player from the 19th Century inducted into the Hall of Fame in the 21st Century.  It’s a rarity when the powers-that-be at Cooperstown look back in the books and champion an old-timer, especially one as old as Childs, for Hall of Fame induction.  Also, Cupid spent the bulk of his career with the Cleveland Spiders, a team that only baseball historians have heard of.  His relatively short career and his affiliation with an obscure team may keep him out of Cooperstown for all time, but it is quite clear that he was an exceptional performer who was head and shoulders above McPhee in many categories.

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