Friday, February 04, 2005
February 4th, 1909
John Clarkson Dies
John Clarkson was a star in the 1800s, in the 50 foot mound era actually, during which time he won 328 games in just twelve seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963, more than half a century since he died and almost seventy years since he had last played a professional game.
The Hall of Fame has, including the 2005 elections of Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg--both good choices by the way--260 members elected as players, managers and executives. Until I looked him up, I knew absolutely nothing about Clarkson. Not which position he played, not for which teams, nothing. At most I could've guessed he was probably a player (there are so few managers and executives in the Hall of Fame that most of them are familiar names) and might've taken a wild guess that he played prior to World War I, since the post Great War players are also more familiar. I decided to take a look through the Hall of Fame's complete list of members (it can be found here) and see how many of them I could provide bare bones biographies for, and attempt to fill in the blanks.
Presented in alphabetical order:
- Morgan Bulkeley: So it turns out what I said a moment ago about the few executives and managers being prominent enough that I would know them is, in fact, a lie. Morgan Bulkeley was a "distinguished banker and politician" who was elected the first President of the National League. He would later serve as Governor and Senator from
- Dave Bancroft: Bancroft was a shortstop who played for the Phillies, Giants, Braves and Robins (Dodgers) in a sixteen year career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971 by the Veterans' Committee, and seems a fairly dubious selection given his lifetime numbers, which include a 98 OPS+
- Al Barlick: Oh, right. There are umpires in the Hall of Fame too. Like Al Barlick, who was the league's youngest umpire at age 25 in 1940 and would go on to umpire a record seven All-Star games.
- Jake Beckley: The B's have not been treating me kindly, I knew all 9 of the A's but these B's are killing me.
's career--like most of the players I don't know--began in the 1800s, where he put together several excellent seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates as their first baseman. Beckley
- Jim Bottomley: Bottomley was a slugging first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals who finished in the top 10 in home runs seven times, including every year of a six year stretch 1924-1929
- Stan Coveleski: Coveleski was a spitballer, one of the few "grandfathered" when the pitch was outlawed in 1921. He is another dubious selection by the Veterans' Committee.
- Nestor Chylak: I was quite confident that Chylak had been President of the American League, which meant, of course that he was an Umpire. Chylak was the Umpire who declared the Indians had to forfeit after Bill Veeck's "Ten Cent Beer Night." Ten cent beer night was, of course, the worst idea in history at least until Godfather: Part III.
- Kiki Cuyler: I really should have known this one. I read a fairly long biography of Walter Johnson not long ago and it was Cuyler, a high average outfielder with the Pirates and Cubs whose name isn't exactly run-of-the-mill, who hit a two-run double off Johnson that would break a 7-7 tie in Game 7 of the 1925 World Series.
- Tom Connolly: He was an Umpire. He called balls and strikes, safes and outs.
- Ray Dandridge: A Negro Leaguer, Dandridge was a spray hitter who was said to be the finest third baseman in the Negro Leagues.
- Ed Delahanty: I actually knew who Ed Delahanty was, he and a parade of siblings played in the 1800s, but I include him because Delahanty died when he was swept over
while drunkenly chasing a train he had been ejected from. I mean, you can't make this stuff up. Niagara Falls
- Martin Dihigo: A legendary Cuban player Dihigo was said to be able to play all nine positions with equal skill. Given the increasing specialization of roles in the modern game, I'm always surprised more players don't try to hit and pitch to make a club, but so far only Brooks Kieschnick has done it and stuck.
- Rube Foster: Foster was a slightly different jack of all trades. He began his career as a pitcher in the early 1900s but would progress on to be a successful manager and founder of the Negro National League, the first widely successful Negro League.
- Bill Foster: Rube's half brother, Bill was a leading pitcher in his sibling's league, and would later coach the team at
, his alma mater. Alcorn State
- Chick Hafey: The only one of twenty-nine "Chick's" in baseball history to have made the Hall of Fame, Hafey was a slugging outfielder for the Cardinals and Reds.
- Travis Jackson:
was the shortstop on four Giant pennant winners and is another in a long line of dubious Veterans' Committee selections. Jackson
- Judy Johnson: A Negro Leaguer, real name: William Julius Johnson. Me, I would've gone by "Bill" but to each their own.
- Joe Kelley: Another 1800s ballplayer, Kelley began his career as an outfielder but began to see time in the infield at the turn of the century. Kelley was a lifetime .317 hitter who hit over .300 eleven consecutive seasons.
- Man...there are a lot more of these than I thought there would be. Stupid Veterans' Committee.
- Bill McGowan: He was an Umpire. He called balls and strikes, safes and outs.
- Bid McPhee: If you thought John Clarkson's induction was late, meet Bid McPhee who was elected in 2000, fifty-seven years after he died and one-hundred and one years after he last played a game.
- Tommy McCarthy: An outfielder and occasion infielder with the 1800s Boston Beaneaters, McCarthy is credited with having invented the idea of trapping fly balls he couldn’t catch in order to fool opposing players and umpires. Although this strikes me as iffy at best, it's such a simple idea, McCarthy probably at most popularized it.
- Jim O'Rourke: If nothing else, all these 1800s ballplayers have slowly begun to convince me that its time to bring the waxed mustache back in style. O'Rourke was a catcher who holds two National League records of note, the first hit ever in the National League in 1876 and oldest player when he played a single game for the Giants at age 53 in 1904.
- Frank Selee: The first truly successful NL manager, Selee led his Boston Beaneaters to five NL pennants when pennants were all one could win. He later helped build the early 1900s Cub Dynasty but turned over managerial duties to Frank Chance in mid 1905, just before the Cubs went on their run of four pennants (and two titles) in five years. This was probably a good decision as Selee only lived four more years.
- Sam Thompson: Would you believe Thompson played in the 1800s? And if his Hall of Fame Plaque is any indication, he had a damned fine waxed mustache to boot.
- Willie Wells: Wells was a Negro Leaguer who was nicknamed "El Diablo" by Mexican League fans for his fielding prowess, although I much prefer his other nickname: The Shakespeare of Shortstops. Its a shame no one thought to give Derek Jeter that one, because I've got the Christopher Marlowe all lined up.
So there it is. Every Hall of Famer that I couldn't provide at least a bare minimum of detail for. All said it comes to twenty-five plus Clarkson for an even twenty-six out of two-hundred and sixty, or exactly ten percent. What have we learned? There are umpires in the Hall of Fame, the waxed mustache is coming back and I really need to get out more.