December 5, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Monday, February 11, 2013
150 years ago today, a player that arguably deserves to be in the Hall of Fame was born: center fielder Jimmy Ryan. And though you’ve probably never heard of him, he sure was one of the best in the game for a span.
Born Feb. 11, 1863, Ryan made it to the majors as a 22-year-old in 1885, kicking off a 18-season career. By 1887, he was a regular member of the outfield for the Cubs. It proved to be the first of 15 seasons with 100 or more games. In 1888, he peaked by leading the league in homers (16), hits (182), slugging percentage (.515), and total bases (283). The next year he led the league in plate appearances and total bases, but he would never again lead the league in anything.
He was never necessarily the best player in the game, but he was always among the best. His consistent quality paid off, as he ended his career with over 2,500 hits and a .308 average. He had over 700 extra-base hits, and stole 419 bases, as well. He was an all-around offensive threat.
In fact, when he retired in 1903, he was all over the all-time leaderboards. He ranked third all-time in games (2,014), fourth in home runs (118), fifth in doubles (451), fifth in runs (1,643), sixth in hits (2,513), 12th in RBIs (1,093), 12th in walks (804), 14th in triples (157), and 21st in steals (419).
Despite that, Ryan is not in the Hall of Fame. In fact, he never received a single vote. He’s possibly the best eligible player to be completely shut out like that.
Two reasons explain his total lack of Cooperstown support. First and foremost, obviously, he played so far long ago. By the time voting for Cooperstown began in 1936, it was already 33 years since his last game, 40 since his prime, and nearly a half-century since his first season. Even back in those olden days, he was an old timer.
Second, while Ryan was very good for a long time, he was never the best. He could get lost in the shuffle and, as time moved on, he faded from memory. It certainly couldn’t have helped that he died in 1923, well before Cooperstown had the Hall. Even in the last 20 years of his life, he didn’t have much to do with baseball, instead becoming a deputy sheriff in Cook County, Illinois.
In fact, in the inaugural 1936 Hall of Fame election, there was an Old Timers vote to pick the best 19th-century players. It ultimately failed to elect anyone, but even there, in a body where 40 players received votes, not one single one went for Ryan. He just wasn’t memorable enough. He was Tony Perez without the postseason highlight; a slightly better version of Bobby Abreu; Jim Edmonds without the sliding catches.
But Ryan could play. He had a prolonged prime lasting over a decade. He may not be in Cooperstown, but he’s better than more than a few who are. And he turns 150 years old today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened x-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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