150th birthday: Jimmy Ryanby Chris Jaffe
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.
1,000 days since Tyler Clippard, Nationals reliever, gets his 10th decision of the year in his team’s 40th game. Only one other reliever had ever done that, Mike Marshall in 1979.
2,000 days since Albert Pujols homers in his fifth straight game. Because he’s so incredibly Albert Pujols like that.
2,000 days since Barry Bonds belts his 600th career double.
2,000 days since the Rangers destroy the Orioles, 30-3, setting modern records for biggest margin of victory and most runs scored in one game.
3,000 days since Nintendo buys over 50 percent of the Seattle Mariners after spending $67 million to acquire the shares of the former company president.
4,000 days since Jeff Kent breaks his thumb, claiming he was “washing his truck” at the time. Soon the world learns that he was actually doing stunts on his motorcycle when he wiped out. Oops.
4,000 days since Boston fires GM Dan Duquette. Mike Port becomes the interim GM.
5,000 days since Carlos Beltran enjoys his first multi-home run game.
5,000 days since Vinny Castilla hits three homers in one game.
7,000 days since Florida drafts Antonio Alfonseca from the Expos in a minor league draft.
9,000 days since Will Clark has his best game according to WPA: 1.133 WPA by going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer for seven RBIs in the Giants' 8-7 win over San Diego.
15,000 days since Mike Lieberthal is born.
20,000 days since Walt Terrell is born.
25,000 days since Brooklyn releases former Pirates star Paul Waner. The Yankees sign Waner this same day.
40,000 days since Cleveland forfeits to the Tigers when umpire Tom Connolly ignores complaints by Indians manager Nap Lajoie that the ball should be taken out of play. Angered by Connolly’s deaf ear, Lajoie throws it into the stands, and thus the forfeit.
40,000 days since Iron Man Joe McGinnity of the Giants win both ends of a doubleheader, 6-1 and 4-3, over the Dodgers.
Also, at some point today it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since Nolan Ryan issues his 1,777th career base on balls, passing up Early Wynn as all-time baseball champion in this stat.
1887 Ray Collins is born. He’ll win 20 games for the 1914 Red Sox and then blow his arm out.
1900 Baltimore, an NL franchise on the verge of extinction, sells John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson.
1900 The Boston Braves purchase Bill Dineen, Buck Freeman, and Shad Barry from the Washington club about to be contracted in the NL.
1901 Star third baseman Jimmy Collins jumps from the Braves to the crosstown Red Sox.
1904 The Cardinals purchase future Hall of Fame first baseman Jake Beckley from the Reds.
1911 The Yankees trade Jimmy Austin and Frank LaPorte to the Browns for Roy Hartzell and cash.
1914 The Cubs trade longtime star second baseman Johnny Evers to the Braves.
1915 The Giants object to plans by the International League to place a club in the Bronx.
1916 After two years in Cleveland, the American Association’s Mud Hens move back to Toledo. They were very good in the AA at the time while the Indians were bad, causing the minor league team to out-draw the major league club in the same town.
1918 The Red Sox name Ed Barrow their new manager, making him one of the few 20th-century people who never played baseball to become a skipper. He’ll guide the Red Sox to a world title this year but then become a Hall of Fame front-office executive.
1923 Judge Emil Fuchs and two associated buy the Braves for $350,000.
1923 The Dodgers trade Clarence Mitchell, one of the few remaining legal spitballers, to the Phillies.
1928 The Giants trade Burleigh Grimes, who will later be the last legal spitballer, to the Pirates for Vic Aldridge.
1932 The Giants sign aging Cuban pitcher Dolf Luque.
1934 The Cardinals purchase veteran pitcher Flint Rhem from the Phillies.
1937 Connie Mack is interviewed on a TV demonstration by Philco.
1941 Sammy Ellis, pitcher, is born. He’ll win 22 games for the 1965 Reds—and then lose 19 for them in 1966. (Admittedly, his 22 wins will be largely a product of run support. Still, he never did anything else).
1945 John Paciorek, the all-time king of one-game wonders, is born. On Sept. 29, 1963, he’ll go 3-for-3 with two walks in five plate appearances, scoring four runs and driving in three. Pretty impressive, but he’ll never play again.
1946 The Yankees release outfielder George Selkirk.
1949 Ben Oglivie, slugging Brewers outfielder, is born.
1950 Hall of Fame outfielder Kiki Cuyler dies at age 51.
1972 Brian Daubach is born. He’ll be a career minor leaguer who ends up replacing AL MVP Mo Vaughn at first base for the Boston Red Sox in 1999, and spend much of the year out-hitting Vaughn.
1974 Twins pitcher Dick Woodson becomes the first person to go through salary arbitration.
1977 The Cubs trade Bill Madlock to the Giants for Bobby Murcer.
1981 Houston trades young prospect Bruce Bochy to the Mets.
1987 Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz is born.
1993 California signs free agent Scott Sanderson.
1993 In an interview on Primetime Live, embattled Reds owner Marge Schott says her critics are conducting a witch hunt against her and that everyone says “niggers.” That's Schott, not only racist but completely clueless how about out-of-step she is with the dominant culture.
1993 Nolan Ryan announces this will be his last year in major league baseball.
1994 MLB owners vote to change the rules so that the commissioner can’t use the "best interests of baseball" clause in the collective bargaining agreement to end a lockout, like Bowie Kuhn had done in 1976.
1994 Longtime Brewers star Robin Yount announces his retirement.
2001 Three Rivers Stadium implodes.
2002 Longtime Yankees organizational stalwart Frankie Crosetti dies at age 91.
2002 Baseball owners approve the sale of the Marlins and Expos. John Henry sells the Marlins to Jeffrey Loria, who sells to Expos to a limited partnership of the other 29 teams.
2003 Baltimore signs free agent pitcher Rick Helling.
2003 The Mets sign free agent Jay Bell.
2005 Jose Canseco’s new book, Juiced, becomes available in certain markets in advance of his highly anticipated 60 Minutes appearance.
2005 The Mets announce that Darryl Strawberry will rejoin the team as a special outfield instructor in spring training.
2008 Baltimore signs infamously slow-working pitcher Steve Trachsel.
2008 The Pirates sign first baseman free agent Doug Mientkiewicz.
2009 Slugging free agent Adam Dunn signs with the Nationals.
2009 Miguel Tejada pleads guilty to lying to Congress. He said he didn’t know about any players involved in steroids, but he’d talked with Adam Piatt.
2009 Toronto signs free agent Kevin Millar.
2010 Two players who didn’t appear in 2009 announce their retirement: Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
2011 Former Pirates manager Chuck Tanner dies at age 82.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.