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right fielders

This post details the careers of some Negro League right fielders who haven’t made the Hall of Fame.

Nicknamed “The Mirror,” Otto Briggs was a star outfielder for the Hilldale Club throughout the 1920s.  A mite of a player, Otto was a swift leadoff man with solid on-base skills.  An expert of the Deadball Era style of play, Briggs was adept at “accidentally” getting hit by pitched balls.  He often got on base and when he did, he didn’t hesitate to pilfer second base.  Otto managed at the end of his career and was successful after baseball as circulation manager of the Philadelphia Tribune.

Christopher Columbus “Crush” Holloway was a fleet-footed outfielder for the Baltimore Black Sox of the 1920s.  He ascribed to the Ty Cobb style of “baseball is war,” by playing all out.  Noted for keeping his spikes sharpened to remind infielders that he owned the basepaths, Crush used his feet to enhance his game.  He became an expert drag bunter and could chase down flyballs in right field well.  He posted a lifetime .290 batting average when he played in Cuba during the winters.

A terrific average hitter with exceptional speed, Terrible Ted Page was a nomadic outfielder who played for two of black baseball’s greatest dynasties: the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays.  Page earned the nickname “Terrible Ted” for his excessive mean streak.  He once knocked out two of teammate/roommate George Scales’ teeth and the night of the fight, the two men stayed up all night, facing one another, concealing weapons for protection.  He was a batter of his times, able to hit for lofty averages.  After his playing days, he owned and operated a bowling alley but met with a grim demise when robbers beat him to death with a baseball bat.

 image of Ted Page

Herbert “Rap” Dixon was a star right fielder for the Harrisburg Giants of the 1920s and later with the Baltimore Black Sox.  A toolsy player, Dixon had the talent to excel in every facet of the game.  He was a solid defender with a terrific throwing arm and possessed an uncanny knowledge of the strike zone.  Dixon guarded the plate well and was considered a great two-strike hitter.  A gifted hitter for both power and average, Rap is credited with a lifetime average of .340 in league action.

An expert of the “Smallball” style of play, Jelly Gardner was the ideal leadoffman for Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants of the 1920s.  A little fellow with blazing speed, Jelly wasn’t the type to sock the ball deep into the outfield but the man who beat out infield hits and bunted for safeties.  The little Arkansas native was one of the fastest players in the Negro Leagues and used his speed to excel in the outfield.  Noted for his exceptional range in right field, Jelly essentially gave Foster two center fielders.  Gardner was a feisty ballplayer who had a bad reputation around the league, but Rube Foster could control him.  After Foster suffered a nervous breakdown, new skipper Dave Malarcher, the Connie Mack of black baseball, had trouble controlling Jelly who was quite fond of the nightlife and the bottle.

A reliable .300 hitter for the Kansas City Monarchs of the 1920s, Hurley McNair was a solid switch-hitter who could play all over the outfield as well as pitch.  Hurley helped the Monarchs capture three straight pennants in the mid 1920s.  Noted for his clutch hitting, he was not easily shaken and is said to have prided himself on being a two-strike hitter.  After his playing days McNair umpired in the Negro Leagues.

A star player for the Memphis Red Sox and Chicago American Giants of the 1920s and 1930s, Nat Rogers excelled on the game’s biggest stage.  In 1927 he had a 31-game hitting streak which led the American Giants to the pennant.  In the 1932 and 1933 playoffs, Rogers hit .328 and .373 respectively.  Rogers was a spray-hitter with a devastating line-drive stroke.  Although not a large man, Nat was strong, having grown up driving spikes for the railroad.  By World War II, Nat was an old veteran but he played through the war while no longer resembling his old self.

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This is as list of HOF eligible right fielders that have not been profiled on this blog.  They are listed in order of career runs scored.

David Justive (929), Claudell Washington (926), Raul Mondesi (909), Darryl Strawberry (898), Pete Fox (895), Dave Martinez (795), Dave Philley (789), Jack Smith (783), Von Hayes (767), Bruce Campbell (759), Danny Tartabull (756), Shano Collins (747), Jeff Burroughs (720), Roy Johnson (717), Jesse Barfield (715), Al Cowens (704), Richie Zisk (681), Carl Reynolds (672), Hubie Brooks (656), Oscar Gamble (656), Lee Lacy (650), Lou Finney (643), Cliff Heathcote (643), Derek Bell (642), Nemo Leibold (638), Pat Kelly (620), Tony Armas Sr. (614), George Browne (614), Kevin Bass (609), Ival Goodman (609)

Dan Ford (598), Tommy Griffith (589), Willard Marshall (583), Jay Johnstone (578), Rob Deer (578), Orlando Merced (564), Sixto Lezcano (560), Joe Orsulak (559), Red Murray (555), Bake McBride (548), Ducky Holmes (545), Glenallen Hill (528), Johnny Wyrostek (525), Jim L. Hickman (518), Jerry Morales (516), Shad Barry (515), Keith Moreland (511), Al Zarilla (507), Willie Crawford (507), George Harper (505), Jungle Jim Rivera (503)

Don Mueller (499), Candy Maldanado (498), Jack Rothrock (498), Gene Moore (497), Jim Eisenreich (492), Ivan Calderon (470), Elmer J. Smith (469), Chet Laabs (467), Mark Whiten (465), Joel Youngblood (453), Glenn Wilson (451), Frankie Baumholtz (450), Jim Lemon (446), Cory Snyder (439), Mike Marshall (433), Mike Davis (419), Homer Summa (413), Eddie Murphy (411), Jim Dwyer (409), Sam Mele (406), Ollie Brown (404)

Mike Hershberger (398), Merv Rettenmund (393), Randy Bush (388), Ron Northey (385), Myril Hoag (384), Pat Mullin (381), Ellis Valentine (380), Geronimo Berroa (379), John Vander Wal (374), Jim King (374), Bernie Carbo (372), Gino Cimoli (370), Leon Roberts (342), Darren Bragg (340), Bob Bailor (339), Walt Williams (284), Dave Clark (248), Otto Velez (244), Danny Heep (208), Andy Kosco (204) and George Thomas (203)

The most reliable defensive right fielder in the history of baseball, Puhl ended his career with a .994 fielding average at the position.  No other right fielder before or since can match Terry’s excellence in the corner pasture.  In a number of seasons, Puhl had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage but the Canadian was more than a glove man.  Terry was also a swift base runner who stole a lot of bases and as a batter, he owned a keen batting eye which gave him solid on-base percentages and allowed him to walk as much as he struck out.

The Astros signed Puhl out of Canada and he made his Major League debut at the age of 20 in 1977.  As a rookie, Terry hit .301 and posted a terrific OBP of .385.  He only appeared in 60 games that year but he was terrific in that short showcase, so the Astros let him play everyday in 1978.  Puhl rewarded the Astros by making the National League All-Star Team his first year as a regular.  He slapped out 169 hits, stole 32 bases and scored 87 runs.  His 1979 season was almost identical although his homerun total rose from three to eight.  Terry played 110 games in center field in 1979 and another 40 in right and between the two locales didn’t make an error all season. 

Houston made the postseason for the first time in 1980.  Led by an aging pitching staff that lost ace J.R. Richard to a stroke during the season, the Astros captured the NL West flag as Puhl had his best year for power that season–he clubbed 13 round-trippers.  In the NLCS, Terry was more difficult to cool off than a raging volcano.  Against the eventual World Series champion Phillies, Puhl hit .526 and posted an otherworldly OPS of 1.222.  Over the course of Puhl’s career, he was a .372 postseason hitter.  The Astros again made the postseason in the strike shortened ’81 season but fell to the Dodgers.  Puhl was perfect again afield during the regular season, posting an unblemished 1.000 fielding percentage.

Terry hit .292 in 1983 and then had another .300 season in ’84.  That year Puhl walked 59 times compared to just 45 whiffs as the Canadian outfielder honed his batting eye to perfection.  By 1985 Terry settled in as a fourth outfielder as foolish skippers like Bob Lillis and Hal Lanier allowed inferior players like Billy Hatcher and Jerry Mumphrey to play ahead of Puhl.  The Astros looked like a team of destiny in 1986 but the Mets beat them in a roaring NLCS that saw Puhl hit .667 against New York pitching.  In 1988 Terry began to platoon in the outfield and he fashioned his third .300 season that year.  As a veteran in ’89, Terry rotated around the outfield and never committed a single error in 103 games played.  He would play his last Major League game with the Royals in 1991.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,531/R 676/H 1,361/2B 226/3B 56/HR 62/RBI 435/SB 217/BB 505/SO 507/BA .280/OBP .349/SA .388

Over the course of his career, Hank was a member of seven World Series champion teams and after his playing days he won another championship as skipper of the Baltimore Orioles.  But it was a miracle that Bauer even made the Major Leagues at all.  Before his debut at the highest level, Hank served his country during World War II.  Bauer wasn’t one of the idle boys who just played ball during his tenure.  Attached to the Marine Corps, Bauer saw heavy combat action in the European Theatre of Operations and won numerous battlefield citations.

After his stint with Uncle Sam was completed, the war hero went back to baseball and the Yankees gave him a cup of coffee in 1948.  His playing time increased in 1949 as he socked ten homeruns rotating all over the outfield.  Hank made at least 20 starts at every post in the pasture.  Hank saw some action in the World Series that year as the Yankees were victorious over Brooklyn.  He would be a regular on the Yankees roster when they captured the World Series title the next four seasons. 

Bauer had his best year for batting average in 1950 when he hit a resounding .320 during the regular season.  He reached 70 RBI and 70 runs scored for the first time that year as the Yankees made quick work of the Philadelphia Whiz Kids in the World Series.  Hank hit .296 in 1951 and then socked 17 homers in ’52, but in all those seasons, Hank was a fine hitter during the regular season but a no-show in postseason play.  In 1951 he hit .167 in the World Series but that was a mighty mark compared to his ’52 Fall Classic batting average of .056.  Despite Bauer’s weak showing in the World Series, they nevertheless copped the title each year.

Hank put his World Series woes to rest in 1953.  A member of the American League All-Star team, Hank set a personal high with a .394 on-base percentage.  In the ’53 World Series, Bauer finally topped the .200 batting average when he hit Brooklyn pitchers at a .261 clip.  For the first time since the Yankees made Bauer a regular in their lineup, they failed to reach the World Series in 1954.  Hank was named to his third straight All-Star team that season, but, surprisingly, when his power numbers spiked, his name was no longer called for the Midsummer Classic.

Bauer helped the Yankees return to the World Series in 1955 when he clubbed 20 dingers and scored a career high 97 runs.  He hit a robust .429 in the World Series but the Dodgers finally had the Yankees number and beat the Bronx Bombers.  The following season, 1956, Bauer’s batting average reached an all-time low but it may have been his best season.  He set personal highs in both homeruns (26) and RBI (84) as New York won yet another AL pennant.  Hank finally notched his first World Series homerun in the ’56 Fall Classic as the Yankees got their revenge over the Dodgers. 

Bauer had two more years left with the Yankees.  In 1957 he paced the American League in triples and socked a pair of homeruns in a World Series loss to the Braves.  His best Fall Classic performance was right around the corner however.  As a 35-year-old veteran, Hank socked four homeruns and drove in eight runs in a World Series triumph over Milwaukee.  After a dozen years with the Yankees, New York shipped Hank to Kansas City after the season.  The trade was made because Bauer was aging and he had a reputation for wild nightlife living.  It was written that the Yankees wanted to clean up their image so they sent the brawling, heavy-drinking Bauer to the Athletics for a kid named Roger Maris.  Bauer’s career was essentially over while Maris won back-to-back MVP Awards with New York.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,544/R 833/H 1,424/2B 229/3B 57/HR 164/RBI 703/SB 50/BB 521/SO 638/BA .277/OBP .346/SA .439

One of the top right fielders of his day, Bruno was a solid power hitter and a well above average defender at his position.  Tom utilized a rifle-like throwing arm to rack up impressive outfield assists totals before runners learned not to test him.  A slugger in the batter’s box, Brunansky wasn’t a high average hitter like teammate Kirby Puckett but he was a fine power threat who drew his share of walks.  The right-handed hitter from West Covina High could swat twenty homers a season with little effort.

Originally drafted in the first round by his home state Angels in 1978, Bruno was called to the parent club in 1981 and blasted three homeruns in just eleven games at the end of the season.  California knew he had talent but the young up-and-comer came with red flags.  He hit for a low average and struck out a bit too much.  In his brief trial in ’81, Tom hit just .152 and fanned ten times in 33 at-bats.  The Angels opted to deal their former first rounder in the off-season to the Twins for Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong.  Tom would eventually become an All-Star in Minnesota.

The Twins were beginning one of the game’s greatest youth movements in the early 1980s and Tom was a key ingredient.  After the trade he was inserted as the Twins everyday right fielder and responded with 20 dingers, a .272 batting average and a .377 on-base percentage.  The following year his BA and OBP plummeted but his power numbers and run production improved substantially.  He hit 28 homers and nearly doubled his RBI output from 1982.  In the pasture, Tom racked up 16 assists (4th in the AL). 

The Twins were a coming team in the mid 1980s and Tom was a big part of their rise in the standings.  In 1984 he reached a personal best with 32 homeruns.  In his All-Star year of 1985 he drove in 90 runs and posted his third straight season with 70 or more runs scored and 80 or more RBI.  After hitting 23 dingers in 1986 he blasted 32 to match his single season high as the Twins romped their way to the World Series.  At his best in the ALCS against the Tigers, Bruno blasted a pair of homers, drove in nine runs, hit .412 and posted an otherworldly 1.524 OPS.  He came back down to earth in the World Series but Minnesota beat the Cardinals in seven games.  But the next year he would be a member of the World Series losing Cardinals.

Shortly after Opening Day of 1988 Tom was dealt to the Redbirds for second baseman Tommy Herr.  Tom hit 22 homers for the Cardinals and paced NL right fielders in fielding percentage his first year in the National League.  For the eighth consecutive year in 1989, Bruno hit at least 20 homeruns.  But after a sluggish start in 1990, he was dealt to Boston for closer Lee Smith and his string of 20+ homerun seasons came to an end.  Although he remained a decent power threat, Brunansky would never reach 20 dingers again.  After driving in 74 runs for the Red Sox in ’92 he signed a free agent deal with the Brewers for the 1993 season.  Tom struggled in his brief tenure in Milwaukee and was traded back to Boston for journeyman catcher Dave Valle in 1994–his last season.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,800/R 804/H 1,543/2B 306/3B 33/HR 271/RBI 919/SB 69/BB 770/SO 1,187/BA .245/OBP .327/SA .434

A slightly built right fielder, Flack’s career split the Deadball Era and the Lively Ball Era.  An exceptional ballhawk, Max led his position peers in fielding percentage twice and on three separate occasions posted 20 or more outfield assists.  In just twelve seasons Flack gunned down 181 foolish baserunners who tried testing his arm.  But Flack’s greatest asset was perhaps his exceptional bat control.  He once led the league in sacrifices and was one of the most difficult men to strikeout during his era.  In 1919 for instance, Max only fanned 13 times in 469 at-bats.

Flack made his Major League debut in 1914.  That year was one of turmoil in the Major League ranks since the Federal League established itself as a major circuit and raided rosters of the AL and NL.  Like a number of young fellows, with eight new teams in the Majors, Flack was given his first trial.  Max played with the Chicago Whales and had a so-so freshman season before breaking out as a sophomore.  In 1915 he hit at a solid .314 clip and finished fifth in the Federal League in runs scored.  As a young player he already possessed a keen batting eye and was the second most difficult man to strikeout in the upstart league.

When the Federal League folded the American and National League’s clamored for their displaced stars.  Flack opted to remain in Chicago and signed with the Cubs.  The pint-sized outfielder led the National League with 39 sacrifices.  But with the level of talent a bit higher than it was in the Federal League, Max hit just .258 for the Cubs.  After a down year in 1917, Max scored 74 runs for the 1918 Cubs in a year influenced by World War I.  When baseball was back to normal in 1919, Flack showed that he had the National League figured out and effectively lost the Federal League tag.

Max hit .294 in 1919 and set a personal high in homeruns.  An exceptional go-getter in the outfield, Max posted a .986 fielding percentage while the league average at his post was .963.  Runners finally got wise to Max’s arm as he posted 18 outfield assists–a fine total but inferior to his three 20+ assist seasons before the 1919 campaign.  When the Lively Ball Era was adopted in 1920 it really didn’t have much of an effect on Flack.  An angular man, he wasn’t built for striking the long ball like Ruth.  But Max nevertheless upped his batting average to .302 and posted a career high .373 on-base percentage.  His keen batting eye was in top shape that season as he walked 52 times with just fifteen whiffs.

Max only fanned fifteen times again in 1921 as he reached .301 in batting average and tied his career high in homeruns.  But after a slow start in 1922 Max was traded to the Cardinals for Cliff Heathcote.  Max hit .291 with 82 runs for the 1923 Redbirds in his last good season. He spent two more years in St. Louis as a reserve outfielder before ending his Major League days.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,411/R 783/H 1,461/2B 212/3B 72/HR 35/RBI 391/SB 200/BB 474/SO 253/BA .278/OBP .342/SA .366

One of baseball’s first great slugging sensations, Freeman was a failed pitcher who returned to the Pennsylvania mines where he worked before he signed with the Washington Statesmen as a 19-year-old.  Originally signed as a pitcher, Buck’s inability to find the strike zone prompted his dismissal from the Majors.  He returned home to Wilkes-Barre, worked in the mines, an played semi-pro ball.  He shifted to the outfield and returned to organized ball where he flourished as a slugger.  Buck eventually became a two-time homerun and RBI champ at the highest level.

Freeman’s first trial in the Majors came with the American Association’s Washington Statesmen in 1891.  Buck walked 33 batters in 44 innings and was sent back to the Pennsylvania mines.  He transformed himself into a slugger and bashed his way through the minors en route to a return trip to the Majors.  The American Association had long been disbanded by the time Buck returned in 1898.  He joined the Senators of the National League and slugged at an amazing .523 clip at the end of the season.  He cemented his role for the upcoming season.

Freeman enjoyed his breakout year in 1899.  In 155 games, Buck led the National League with 25 homeruns.  This total was a new modern record.  Ned Williamson had hit 27 homeruns under different rules many years before, but when Buck blasted his 25 dingers in 1899, he did so under the modern set of rules we use today.  Buck finished second in triples, RBI and slugging percentage in what was his first full Major League season.  But Buck was no spring chicken when he accomplished this feat–he was already 27.  Baseball would fall into disarray shortly thereafter.  The National League contracted a handful of teams, one being Freeman’s Senators, and his contract was purchased by the Boston Beaneaters–who eventually became the Braves.  Buck played one season under skipper Frank Selee before he jumped to the newly formed American League in 1901.

Buck didn’t jump very far.  He left the Beaneaters and joined the Red Sox.  He put that one off -year under Selee behind him and established himself as the American League’s first star power hitter.  In the AL’s first year of existence, Buck clubbed a dozen homeruns (2nd in the league) and drove home 114 runs.  The next three years Buck would see his name atop several important offensive statistical columns.  In 1902, he led the league with 121 RBI and finished as the runner-up in long balls again.  He boasted an uncommon offensive line, for the Deadball Era, with a .309 BA/.352 OBP/.502 SA with 38 doubles and 19 triples.  He was even more productive the following year.

Freeman topped the American League in both homeruns and RBI in the Red Sox championship season of 1903.  His 281 total bases also paced the junior circuit.  The American and National Leagues weren’t on the best of terms, given the constant roster raiding, but they agreed, after two years of all out war, to pit their best teams against each other in a classic clash that would be called the World Series.  Buck, the AL’s leading long ball swatter, helped his Red Sox defeat the Pirates.  He hit .290 during the contest with three triples and a slugging average just under .500.

In the 1904 season, Buck turned 32 years old but had just spent five full seasons in the Majors.  He legged out 19 triples that season, which paced the league but his slugging percentage dropped to a low of .412.  Age caught up with the former miner in 1905 when his numbers dipped mightily.  After slugging just .349 in 1906, the once great slugging star was on his way out.  Freeman ruled the roost for about five seasons at the highest level.  Buck could have put up much mightier career numbers had he settled in as an outfielder earlier.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,126/R 588/H 1,235/2B 199/3B 131/HR 82/RBI 713/SB 92/BB 272/SO 388/BA 293/OBP .346/SA .462