Baseball: Past and Present

Of the eleven players who won four or more batting titles, only Bill Madlock isn’t in the Hall of Fame. (The other ten are listed at the end of my column; try to name them before looking. Note: some spoilers in the text.)

Does this mean that Mad Dog Madlock has been unjustly ignored? Or is the former third baseman who played for multiple teams (Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers) just not qualified for baseball’s highest honor?

In anticipation of Baseball Past and Present’s pending announcement of the 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame, my questions are timely and appropriate.  A reminder that all ballots must be submitted to Graham Womack (e-mail address here)by 9:00 PM PST December 1st.

Madlock, who won his titles in 1976 and 1977 for the Chicago Cubs and in 1981 and 1983 for the Buccos, ended his career with an impressive .305 average. And Madlock stacks up well, at least as a hitter, against others from his era excluding of course Mike Schmidt. The Phillies’ star had it all over Madlock in fielding (10 Gold Gloves) and power numbers (548 HRs and 1,595 RBIs) but not average (.267)

Interesting footnotes to Madlock’s batting crowns abound. His record of four batting titles as a third baseman stood until 1988 when Wade Boggseclipsed it. And since 1970, only Tony Gwynn has won more National League batting titles (eight). Madlock is also one of only three right-handed hitters to have won multiple National League batting titles since 1960. Roberto Clemente also won four and Tommy Davis captured back-to-back titles in 1962 and 1963.

Madlock won one of his titles by the narrowest margin. In 1976, on the season’s last day against the Montreal Expos, Madlock went 4 for 4 (all singles) to raising his average from .333 to .339. At the beginning of the day, Madlock was in second place behind the Cincinnati Reds’ Ken Griffey (.338) Sr. Hoping to win the batting championship by default, Griffey rode the pine for the final game. But when word reached Griffey that Madlock was on a tear, he entered the game—but too late. Griffey’s 0-2 (two strike outs) put him at .336.

To answer the questions I posed earlier about Madlock’s Hall worthiness, I’ll simply say that I didn’t include him. And in 1993, Madlock’s first and only year on the Cooperstown ballot, he received only 4.5 percent of the total votes cast.

Here’s an alphabetical list of the ten other four-time batting champs: Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Roberto Clemente, Ty Cobb, Tony Gwynn, Harry Heilmann, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Honus Wagner and Ted Williams.


4 Comments so far

  1.    Mike on November 30, 2011 6:24 pm      

    Unfortunately, he was a consistently bad defender, and not enough of an offensive force to make up for his defensive shortcomings. HOVG, no doubt, but not HOF.

  2.    Daniel Falcone on December 3, 2012 8:56 pm      

    If a Red Sock or Yankee had 4 batting titles they’d anoint him for sainthood. BM = HOF

  3.    sam rocker on April 1, 2014 4:13 pm      

    IF ONLY HE WAS WHITE ?

  4.    Pgh Mike on April 3, 2014 7:29 pm      

    In a high pressure situation Madlock would be my choice before Bonds.
    As a Pirate Madlock always performed under pressure. Put him in the Hall.

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  • Written by Graham Womack