|THE PRE-1900 BATTING STARS|
By Eugene C. Murdook
Little detailed information has been available on batting stars of the pre-1900 period until recent years. Previously we had little more than the batting averages and total games. Cap Anson was usually recognized as the best hitter because he had gone year after year hitting over .300. Not much was known about the triple hitters and the good RBI sluggers.
In 1971, SABR conducted a survey on oldtime players who had not been elected to the Hall of Fame. Although the period covered by the survey ran to 1951, many of the votes went to long-forgotten players of the 1880s and 1890s. The research effort described below was conducted to establish just who were the good hitters of that period. Essentially all figures were drawn from the Macmillan Encyclopedia, which is easily the best compiled source for the pre-1900 era.
First, several power categories were selected -- runs, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in, slugging average, and batting average -- and 12 leaders in each category were chosen. However, these leaders were determined not by their numerical listing in the all-time totals, but rather on a "per game" basis. By doing this, players who did well but had shortened careers, were placed on an equitable basis with those who had long careers and compiled large numerical totals. To be eligible, players had to play 10 years and participate in more than 1000 games. Thus Pete Browning who played only 12 years and had 295 doubles finished ahead of
Cap Anson, who played 22 years and belted out 528 doubles.
Lists of the 12 leaders in the seven categories were then prepared, and quality points awarded to each player listed. The player finishing first in a category received 12 points, the player placing second 11 points, and on down the list. The points were then totaled up and a final list compiled.
Leading all of the 19th century players is Dan Brouthers with 67 points, followed by Sam Thompson and Ed
Delahanty. Next comes Harry Stovey, Pete Browning, Roger Connor, and Mike Tiernan, players long neglected by the Hall of Fame selection committee. If such a study as this serves any purpose, it should be to demonstrate the need that Hall of Fame selections for the real oldtimers should be based more on detailed statistical records rather than obscure legends and personal preferences.
It was interesting to learn that the number of three-base hits was much higher in the old days and that it was a reflection of the long-ball hitter just as the home run was. Also, almost all of the great run scorers played before 1900. Three -- Billy Hamilton, George Gore, and Harry Stovey -- averaged more than one run a game.
Hamilton had some very high season totals, including 192 in 1894, and one of the reasons he was scoring so frequently was that Sam Thompson, the best RBI man of the period, was batting behind him.
There follows the 12 leading batters in each category according to their per-game performance. In the case of slugging and batting averages, the regular percentage is given. Complete figures on RBIs are not available for all early hitters; best estimates were made based on existing information. Lastly, the final table shows the players who performed the best across the board on a percentage basis – the real power hitters of 19th century baseball.
TOTAL QUALITY POINTS FOR PRE-1900 BATTERS
*Not in Hall of Fame