|SURVEY OF BEST FIELDERS SINCE 1900|
Fielding has been a long-neglected area in player evaluation. To remedy this, the Sporting News began issuing gold glove awards in 1957. But what about all those earlier years? SABR thought some effort should be made to establish just who were the great fielders by position since 1900. This would be done for each decade and each league since the turn of the century. But how do you go about this? Who knows who the great fielders were 50-60 years ago?
SABR sent ballots out to a selected list of old time writers, broadcasters, players, and some baseball historians of more tender years who at least knew how to research those early years. Of more than 50 ballots sent out, only 24 were returned, including information from such authorities as Fred Lieb, Ken Smith, Leonard Gettelson, Ernie Harwell, and George Sisler. While almost all selected their all-time fielding team, some did not fill out the early decades. Therefore, it is not the most conclusive survey, but it did produce some results. At least the voters did not automatically put down Tinker, Evers, and Chance for the NL 1900-09 team. At the same time, readers should not assume that Fielder Jones was selected just because of his first name; he really was an excellent fielder.
Some voters complained about fitting certain good fielders into decades; others had problems picking an all-time fielding team because of the difficulties of comparing fielders of different generations such as Hans Wagner and Luis Aparicio. The gloves have changed and the playing fields have changed. Errors have been reduced about 50 percent since the early 1900’s. Nevertheless, the voters have come up with a fielding team that is well balanced historically.
Carried below are the leaders by position, by decade, and by league since 1900. Because of the small number of ballots, some ties resulted in the early periods. For players to have competed in the decade listings, they must have played at least five years of that period. Outfielders are chosen generally and not by specific position. The team of the 1960’s is based primarily on annual gold glove winners and was not selected by the voters. For the all-time team, the votes are given for the leaders and the chief contenders.
HISTORICAL SURVEY OF BEST FIELDERS BY POSITION
VOTING FOR ALL-TIME FIELDING TEAM, 1900-72