Why Irv Waldron may have left the majors

It ranks as one of the more enduring mysteries in baseball history. The inaugural 1901 season of the American League also marked the debut in the majors of 29-year-old Irv Waldron. While not a star, the 5’5″, 155-pound outfielder hit .311 between the old Milwaukee Brewers [who became the St. Louis Browns in 1902] and Washington Senators, with a 106 OPS+ for the year. And that was it for Waldron. While he played another nine seasons for various minor league teams, he never returned to the majors after 1901.

I’ve written about one-season MLB careers before. What makes Waldron’s unusual is that it didn’t end for the typical reasons– injury or lack of ability. Granted, he finished third in errors by an outfielder, his defense suspect enough to inspire a derisive Chicago Inter Ocean cartoon, at right. But Waldron likely could have gotten more work playing in the majors. Late in the 1901 season, the Boston Beaneaters of the National League expressed interest in signing him for their depleted outfield. Tangentially, one of the Beaneaters stars of 1901 figured in where Waldron played in 1902. More on that in a moment.

To my knowledge, no one’s ever definitively stated the reason for Waldron’s exit from the American League. Seemingly, no one thought to interview him before his death in 1944, with his obituary making no mention of why he left the majors. Waldron has no SABR biography and scant details accompany his stats at Baseball-Reference.com. What’s been written is largely speculative, like this book noting, “His reputation for bone-headed playing must have stayed with him.” The Ultimate Baseball Book classes Waldron “among the most mysterious figures to wear major league uniforms.”

Waldron’s departure was mysterious even at the time. MLB historian and veteran baseball author John Thorn sent me an excerpt from a Febuary 1, 1902 article in Sporting Life that asked of new Washington manager Tom Loftus:

Why has he permitted Sam Dungan and Irving Waldron to slip away and fall into the minor leagues? They hit way over .300 last year why were they not good enough for 1902? The ways of managers are past all explanation, and what’s the use of trying to fathom their ideas?

Loftus’s presence in Washington could hint at why Waldron left. Loftus took over for Jim Manning, who served as both manager and co-owner for Washington in 1901 before selling his controlling shares in the team. The New York Times noted on October 30, 1901 that while several stockholders lobbied Manning to retain control, he sold because of his strained relationship with notoriously imperious American League president Ban Johnson. Instead, Manning and future Hall of Famer Kid Nichols, who anchored the Boston Beaneaters pitching staff in 1901 got joint control of a Western League team, the Kansas City Blue Stockings, with Nichols to serve as manager. In January 1902, Nichols signed a number of players including, on January 19, Waldron.

I mentioned Waldron and Manning’s simultaneous move from Washington to Kansas City to baseball historian David Nemec, who wrote much of the text in The Ultimate Baseball Book. Nemec replied:

I checked my notes after we talked.  They confirm everything you found and more.  Manning was very popular with many players he managed and Nichols was still at the top of his game.  He hated it in Boston and went to KC as part-owner.  Although salary figures are unavailable, I suspect Waldron made more in 02 than he did in 01 with Washington.  After Nichols left KC to come back to the majors, Waldron left too and went to SF in the fledgling PCL.  Probably he followed the money; the PCL even then paid fairly well.  Waldron I suspect was a lesser version of Willie Keeler, good contact hitter but one that didn’t walk much despite the small strike zone he presented.

I’ve mentioned before here– and I’m not the first person to say it– that generations ago in baseball, effective players with a glaring flaw or two like Waldron could often earn more in the minors than the majors, with the added bonus of being able to play in western states the majors didn’t extend to before 1958. Indeed, as a longtime reader pointed out to me when I emailed him about it, most of Waldron’s minor league career after 1901 is a series of sojourns through places like San Francisco, Denver and Lincoln, Nebraska.

There’s one other thing worth noting. Early in the 1902 season, with Waldron on his way to hitting .322 for Kansas City, he got an offer to jump to the Louisville Colonels of the American Assocation. George Tebeau who’d managed the previous Western League team in Kansas City in 1901 offered Waldron $350 a month, not far off of the National League maximum annual salary of $2,400. Waldron turned Tebeau down, giving his telegram to Nichols to keep as a memento. In an article on the incident in the April 30, 1902 Topeka Daily Capital, Nichols laughed, “Tebeau has always been anxious to sign Waldron. He was after him in the East at the time that I landed him.”

There may never be a definitive answer to why Waldron didn’t play in the majors after 1901. Short of tracking down one of his descendants through ancestry.com, which I don’t yet have access to, I’m not sure the historical record exists. But one thing is clear– for many years after 1901, Waldron remained in demand as a baseball player.

Tim Hudson, the Hall of Fame and the importance of Game 7

Someone asked me at work this morning who I see winning Game 7 of the World Series this evening. It’s a tough call. On one hand, I’ve been a Giants’ fan since first grade. Even my girlfriend, a devout A’s fan, hasn’t broken me of this. But I’ll admit my girlfriend and I didn’t make it through all of last night’s game. We’re big fans of the F/X series “Sons of Anarchy” and while the sixth season, which was just added to Netflix, has thus far been relentlessly downtrodden, it was a more appealing option than watching the Royals expand the 8-0 lead they took in the third inning last night.

Based on Tuesday’s game and the fact that no road team has won a World Series Game 7 since 1979, my gut says Kansas City will prevail this evening. And I don’t know if that bothers me too much. While the Giants have two titles from the past five seasons, “Back to the Future” was in theaters the last time the Royals won anything. I always like a good underdog story. But there’s a good thing that could happen if the Giants win tonight: Tim Hudson might cement his Hall of Fame candidacy.

In sabermetric circles, I suspect Hudson already seems destined for Cooperstown. According to the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool, Hudson’s lifetime 56.9 WAR is second-best among active pitchers, behind Mark Buehrle. Hudson bests Buehrle for FIP, 3.75 to 4.10 and ERA+ as well, 122 to 117. According to the Play Index tool, Hudson is also one of 13 pitchers who have at least 200 wins and a 120 ERA+ but aren’t enshrined. I suspect the majority of these pitchers will be inducted over the next 10-20 years. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Kevin Brown, 211 wins, 127 ERA+
  • Bob Caruthers, 211 wins, 122 ERA+
  • Eddie Cicotte, 209 wins, 123 ERA+
  • Roger Clemens, 354 wins, 143 ERA+
  • Roy Halladay, 203 wins, 131 ERA+
  • Tim Hudson, 214 wins, 122 ERA+
  • Randy Johnson, 303 wins, 135 ERA+
  • Silver King, 203 wins, 121 ERA+
  • Pedro Martinez, 219 wins, 154 ERA+
  • Mike Mussina, 270 wins, 123 ERA+
  • Curt Schilling, 216 wins, 127 ERA+
  • John Smoltz, 213 wins, 125 ERA+
  • Will White, 229 wins, 121 ERA+

But sabermetrics has only recently entered into consideration for some Hall of Fame voters [with many other voters still rejecting it] and even by advanced metrics, Hudson doesn’t look anything like the lock Bert Blyleven was for Cooperstown. For WAR and ERA+, Hudson ranks as something like his generation’s version of Billy Pierce, maybe one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball history by sabermetrics but a distant Veterans Committee candidate today. Much as some of my friends in baseball research may protest, I fear Hudson is destined to be historically underrated as well. It’s why I didn’t recently predict Hudson being inducted in the next 20 years.

A memorable outing from Hudson tonight could change this. A memorable postseason performance can make a good but generally not great player a viable Hall of Fame candidate. Just ask Bill Mazeroski or Jack Morris. While much talk in the media today has centered around how much Madison Bumgarner may pitch in relief on three day’s rest, I’d like to think the 39-year-old Hudson has something special in store.

From the archive: Baseball's eternal debate

Bill James has a recurring feature in at least a few of his books called “Old Ballplayers Never Die.” The idea is that for almost as long as baseball has existed, former players have lamented the decline in play. For instance, in his 2001 historical abstract, James included an excerpt from an article 1890s standout Bill Joyce wrote for the 1916 Spalding Base Ball Guide. Joyce concluded:

“It makes me weep to think of the men of the old days who played the game and the boys of today. It’s positively a shame, and they are getting big money for it, too.”

Conversely, James also notes that for almost as long as baseball has existed, there have been people who would say that the latest version of the game is the greatest. Today’s edition of this column concerns an example of this latter trend, from a 1908 article in the Oakland Tribune. It begins:

“No matter what they tell you about baseball going back and not being as spectacular, etc., as it used to be in the good old days, you just tell them that baseball, as a whole, is a mighty improved game over what it was ten, aye twenty years ago, and you’ll not be more than a mile wrong.”

The article and several accompanying pieces then highlight several stars of the late 19th century. It’s a neat series of articles.

I go back and forth on the question of whether today’s player’s are better or worse. To be blunt, I don’t know if it matters. Every generation of baseball has had players worth celebrating, ones who could perform astonishing feats. Near every generation of baseball has also been vastly different than the one that preceded it. I think that various individual statistical feats that seemingly point to declines or increases in quality of play are more evidence of whatever the current rules and trends are in baseball.

There is, of course, a far broader debate that could be had here. I’ll look into this more another time, though the comments are open.

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“From the archive” is a Friday series that highlights old baseball-related newspaper clippings.

Others in this series:

Predicting the next 20 years of Hall of Fame inductees

In his seminal 1994 book The Politics of Glory, later retitled Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?, Bill James memorably predicted 25 years worth of Hall of Fame inductees. It’s fun to go back now and see where James was spot-on and where he absolutely whiffed [Ruben Sierra, anyone?]

In the same spirit, I spent a few hours today coming up with some predictions of my own. The next 20 years of the Hall of Fame ballot, particularly the next decade look like a mess, but I figured someone ought to make sense of it looking forward.

I’ll preface this by saying I made my picks assuming the Veterans Committee will keep its current election structure, having three sub-committees for different eras that rotate with one sub-committee getting to vote each year. I wouldn’t be surprised if this voting structure is tweaked in the next decade, as Veterans Committee processes change often, though I have no idea what the new voting practice will be. I also think the players I suggested have a good shot of going in regardless of when the Veterans Committee allows them to be voted on.

One other thing– I didn’t mess around predicting managers, executives or Negro League selections [though I’d like to see Buck O’Neil and Double Duty Radcliffe enshrined at some point.] That’s for another post.

Anyhow, without further adieu, here is who I see going into the Hall of Fame over the next 20 years:

2015: Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Craig Biggio in his third year of eligibility

2016: Ken Griffey Jr. in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; John Smoltz in his second year of eligibility; Mike Piazza in his fourth year of eligibility; Bill Dahlen through the Veterans Committee

2017: Trevor Hoffman in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Jeff Bagwell in his seventh year of eligibility; Jack Morris through the Veterans Committee

2018: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Minnie Minoso through the Veterans Committee

2019: Mariano Rivera in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Curt Schilling in his seventh year of eligibility; Jack Glasscock through the Veterans Committee

2020: Derek Jeter in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Mike Mussina in his seventh year of eligibility; Alan Trammell through the Veterans Committee

2021: Ichiro Suzuki in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Omar Vizquel in his fourth year of eligibility; Dick Allen through the Veterans Committee

2022: Roy Halladay in his fourth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Jim McCormick through the Veterans Committee

2023: Todd Helton in his fifth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tommy John through the Veterans Committee; a newly-appointed Steroid Era Committee will enshrine strongly-suspected or confirmed PED users whose eligibility with the BBWAA has expired, namely Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. It’s lame it might take another decade to begin to resolve the steroid mess on the Cooperstown ballot, but I don’t see it happening sooner. There isn’t huge incentive to take drastic action, for three reasons:
1. This year’s selections of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas showed that top-tier clean candidates can be enshrined their first year of eligibility even with suspected and admitted steroid users clogging the writers ballot.
2. I don’t see the Hall of Fame and Veterans Committee overstepping the authority it’s granted the BBWAA beyond the Hall’s recent move to shorten the window of eligibility for players on the writers ballot from 15 years to 10.
3. It’s not like players stop being eligible altogether for Cooperstown under current voting rules. It’s perfectly logical that the Hall of Fame will allow more time– as much as it deems necessary and then some– for emotions to settle from this period in baseball history before deciding how to honor it.

2024: Vlad Guerrero in his eighth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Billy Wagner in his ninth year of eligibility; Jim Kaat through the Veterans Committee

2025: Jimmy Rollins in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Andruw Jones in his eighth year of eligibility; Harry Stovey through the Veterans Committee

2026: Albert Pujols in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tim Raines through the Veterans Committee

2027: Yadier Molina in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Adrian Beltre in his third year of eligibility

2028: Joe Mauer in his third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tony Mullane through the Veterans Committee

2029: Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Lee Smith through the Veterans Committee

2030: Robinson Cano in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Dustin Pedroia in his third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Luis Tiant through the Veterans Committee

2031: Jose Reyes and Jered Weaver in their third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Pete Browning through the Veterans Committee; another meeting of the Steroid Era Committee will enshrine Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Rodriguez and David Ortiz

2032: Andrew McCutchen in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Edgar Martinez through the Veterans Committee

2033: David Wright in his fifth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Pete Rose, in a sympathy vote from the Veterans Committee shortly after his death

2034: Felix Hernandez in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Paul Goldschmidt in his second year of eligibility

Did I miss anyone? Let me know…

Will get in sometime after 2034, but not too long: Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Craig Kimbrel

Wouldn’t mind seeing these guys go in, but it seems unlikely in this timeframe: Carlos Beltran, Ken Boyer, Will Clark, Jim Edmonds, Dwight Evans, Bobby Grich, Keith Hernandez, Gil Hodges, Tim Hudson, Jeff Kent, Kenny Lofton, Evan Longoria, Dale Murphy, Graig Nettles, Tony Oliva, Dave Parker, Scott Rolen, Bret Saberhagen, Johan Santana, Ted Simmons, Cecil Travis, Chase Utley, Larry Walker, Smoky Joe Wood

Ben Shields and the fight against fate

A longtime reader asked me recently which pitcher in baseball history had the most wins without any losses. In using the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool to research the answer to this question– Clay Rapada, who is 8-0 through seven seasons– I came across an obscure pitcher who seemingly wouldn’t rate a mention today.

Ben Shields’ career spanned just 41.1 innings between 1924 and 1931. While he went 4-0 lifetime, which is tied for the fourth-most wins without any losses of any pitcher in baseball history, the remainder of his stats are ghastly: an 8.27 ERA, 5.82 FIP and a projected -4.0 Wins Above Average for a full season’s work. At one point, however, Shields was a top Yankee prospect. If not for a disease that’s long since been eradicated in the western world, Shields might have pitched for the 1927 Murderers Row club.

Shields certainly looked like one of the few bright spots for an otherwise abysmal Yankee club when he joined the team in September 1925. The left-hander had gone 21-14 for Richmond of the Virginia League that season, setting a strikeout record for the circuit. And after pitching a scoreless inning in his season debut for the Bronx Bombers on September 22, Shields proceeded to win his next three appearances, pitching two complete games. But his illness during spring training the following year would forever alter his career.

After Shields came back to the majors with the Boston Red Sox in 1930, there were stories his career had been disrupted because he’d taken a Babe Ruth line drive to the chest during spring training in 1926, suffering internal injuries. I couldn’t find any record of this in perusing newspaper accounts from 1926. The truth appears to be less dramatic, as it often is, with the Yankees shelving Shields for the 1926 season after he contracted tuberculosis. He’s not the only ballplayer to battle the disease, with Christy Mathewson and Rube Waddell both dying from it. Shields overcame it and lived to old age, dying in 1982, though he didn’t pitch professionally in 1927, ’28 or ’29, working as a taxi driver in Richmond.

The Red Sox thought enough of Shields, however, to pay $150 to cover his travel expenses when they worked him out in the winter of 1930. Shields made just three appearances for Boston, allowing 16 hits and 10 earned runs in ten innings, though the Phillies brought him back the following year after he asked manager Burt Shotton for a tryout. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted on March 3, 1931:

Now the Phillies have him– a burly, healthy-looking fellow, whose weight is up to 213 pounds. But the health bug has bitten Ben for fair now. It’s more weight than he wants, and he’s the hardest worker on the Winter Haven lot to boot.

But that isn’t all. After Burt Shotton dismisses his baseball class every day, Shields hies himself to a lake in Winter Haven and rows around in circles for an hour or more. ‘I’m going to get as hard as steel,’ Ben promises.

I admire people like Ben Shields, folks who persevere, thumb their nose at bad fate and work to make their own better destiny. I want to believe the Ben Shieldses of the world can and will succeed with enough hard work. I want to believe because I see a bit of myself in him. But there was nothing Shields could do about the ’31 Phillies, a sixth-place team that allowed the most runs in the National League and played in the notoriously hitter-friendly Baker Bowl. Shields allowed nine runs over four appearances that totaled 5.1 innings and that was it for him as a baseball player.

From the archive: It will always be 2014 for Travis Ishikawa

This is it for Travis Ishikawa. As I watched replays last night of Ishikawa racing around the bases after his three-run homer to win the National League Championship Series, I found myself wondering if he understood that this was his high point, the greatest moment he’ll have as a baseball player, perhaps the greatest moment of his life. I mean this as no disrespect to a player who’s spent seven seasons in the majors and started for another pennant-winning Giants team. But whatever Travis Ishikawa does the rest of his life, this is what he will be remembered for.

Every baseball generation has one or two of these players, known for a game or instant of playoff glory, from Bill Wambsganss and his unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series to Cookie Lavagetto’s double to break up a no-hitter in the ’47 Series to Francisco Cabrera’s bloop to win the 1992 NLCS. [I suspect Wambsganss might be somewhat forgotten; Baseball-Reference.com, which sets sponsorship rates for pages based on traffic, has Wambsganss’s page available for $10. And for good reason. Wambsganss ranks among the worst regulars in baseball history. According to Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index tool, Wambsganss’s -19.2 Wins Above Average is 10th worst all-time.]

Names like Wambsganss, Lavagetto and Cabrera would be lost to baseball history if not for their moments. Ishikawa is the latest to join this club. There will surely be more to follow.

Aside from Bill Mazeroski, Carlton Fisk, Kirk Gibson or Joe Carter, Bobby Thomson might be the best player defined by an instant of postseason heroics. While never destined for the Hall of Fame on playing merit, even before a career-altering injury in spring training in 1954, Thomson’s lifetime stats at least place him squarely in the Hall of Very Good: 264 homers, 33.1 WAR and three All Star appearances. But whenever Thomson’s name comes up today, it’s always about his Shot Heard Round the World to send the Giants to the 1951 World Series. Already on social media, people have been comparing Ishikawa’s shot to Thomson’s.

For the remaining six decades of his life, people never stopped talking to Bobby Thomson about his home run. The article I posted above offers a retrospective written by Murray Olderman of the Newspaper Enterprise Association 20 years after. And when Thomson died in 2010, the home run headlined his obituary in the New York Times. “I can remember feeling as if time was just frozen,” the Times quoted Thomson saying. “It was a delirious, delicious moment.”

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“From the archive” is a Friday series that highlights old baseball-related newspaper clippings.

Others in this series:

Rube Ehrhardt's unique place in baseball history

Few baseball fans may know of Rube Ehrhardt. Seemingly, there’s no good reason. Ehrhardt pitched for Brooklyn Robins and Cincinnati Reds from 1924 to 1929, going 22-34 with a 4.15 ERA, sub-par even for the high-scoring age in baseball history. With the exception of 1924, when Ehrhardt’s stellar pitching after a mid-July purchase from a Class C team helped keep Brooklyn in the pennant race until the season’s final days, he had an unremarkable career. Half the battle for Ehrhardt was just getting to the majors, as he didn’t debut until age 29 due to multiple serious injuries and service in World War I. Perhaps it stunted his professional growth.

Ehrhardt has a niche in baseball history, though, as one of five pitchers who threw a shutout in their final game, according to this Baseball Research Journal article and a review of recent seasons I did with the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool.

Three of the other men who threw shutouts in their final game– Lew Krausse Sr. on September 2, 1932, Don Fisher on September 30, 1945 and Brian Denman on October 2, 1982— were young pitchers who barely made a dent in the majors and played in the minors for some time after. The fourth pitcher to hurl a shutout in his last game, one-time All Star Don Wilson on September 28, 1974, died months later at 29 of carbon monoxide poisoning. Ehrhardt is the only member of this group who voluntarily didn’t pitch another professional game after his shutout finale.

I’d like to think of Ehrhardt as the baseball equivalent of an entertainer dropping his mic and walking off stage after an epic performance; maybe it isn’t that simple. Ehrhardt was a few months from turning 35 when he blanked the World Series-bound Chicago Cubs on the last day of the 1929 season, triumphing over another journeyman pitching the last game of his big league career. Ehrhardt went to spring training training with Cincinnati in 1930, though the Reds released him in April after he declined to be sent to the minors. The Boston Braves signed Ehrhardt a few months later, though he never pitched for them, instead closing out the year playing semi-pro ball in his native Chicago.

Ehrhardt’s baseball career seemingly over after 1930, he pursued various other lines of work the remainder of his life, at different times a car salesman, taproom operator and, for 20 years, an employee in a Chicago-area steel mill. [Long before free agency or baseball’s pension plan, former ballplayers usually had to work after their careers ended. I’ll dive into this more in a future post.] By the time of Ehrhardt’s death at 85 in 1980, I imagine his baseball career was a distant memory for all but those closest to him.

The "One and Only" Club: Pitchers

On Monday, I looked at hitters who retired with one of a certain stat. I enjoyed researching and writing that enough that I decided to expand this to pitchers. Via the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool, here are six pitchers since 1901 who retired with the most innings pitched in the statistical category they represent:

Randy Hennis, one hit allowed in 9.2 IP: Quietly and without anyone knowing it at the time, Randy Hennis had one of the best final appearances in major league history. A 24-year-old September call-up for the Houston Astros in 1990, Hennis threw a one-hitter over 6.1 shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds on the last day of the season. Hennis got rocked during 1991 spring training, however and that was it for him in the majors.

Juan Pena, one run allowed in 13 IP: Whenever someone talks about a great Boston Red Sox pitcher from 1999, it’s generally Pedro Martinez who had one of the best years ever for a pitcher that season. Seemingly no one ever talks about Juan Pena, who got sent to the disabled list twice in short succession after he went 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA in two starts. Pena never pitched again in the majors, though one can only wonder what might have been. Had Pena pitched 210 innings in 1999 [and not regressed], his stats project to a 742 ERA+ and 12.9 WAR.

Jack Nabors, one win in 269.2 IP: Poor Jack Nabors. There was no hope for the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, who were in the middle of a long rebuilding stretch and went 36-117, boasting three pitchers with at least 20 losses. Nabors was one of them, going 1-20 with a 3.47 ERA, 82 ERA+ and 3.12 FIP. Playing on an A’s team that scored just 447 runs, Nabors received two runs or less of support in 18 of his 30 starts. His only win came April 22 when the A’s scored six runs. Connie Mack said late in the season that Nabors would be back in 1917, though he pitched just twice more in his career.

Rube Vickers, one homer allowed in 458 IP: Some context is in order here. Rube Vickers pitched 317 innings in 1908 without allowing a home run, but there were just 116 hit in all of the American League that year. One team, the Chicago White Sox managed three homers all season, with Hall of Fame pitcher Ed Walsh accounting for one of the bombs. In contrast, the average American League team in 2014 hit 144 home runs.

Kirk Rueter, one shutout in 1,918 IP: With just four complete games, a 4.27 ERA and a career spanning an era that strongly favored hitters, it’s a wonder Kirk Rueter lasted as long as he did. His only shutout is more unbelievable: a one-hit, seven strikeout gem on August 27, 1995. Ironically, it came against the San Francisco Giants, where Rueter would play the majority of his career. Or maybe that’s why the Giants traded for Rueter.

Tom Seaver, one save in 4,783 IP: Decades before relief specialists were common, staff aces pitched with some regularity out of the bullpen. Walter Johnson had 34 saves lifetime. Christy Mathewson, Dizzy Dean and Grover Cleveland Alexander all had at least 30 saves as well. Heck, Lefty Grove led the American League in saves the same season he won 28 games. By Seaver’s era, though, the trend had slowed. Tom Terrific made just nine relief appearances in his career, collecting his only save in the second game of a 1968 doubleheader.

Book review series delays

Faithful visitors to this site will notice that once again there is not a promised new book review posted.

I started a Friday book review series a month ago to clear a roughly 30-book backlog that had accumulated since I promised four years ago to review any book sent to me. When the series began, I promised to review a book a week. That quickly became once every two weeks when I couldn’t read the books quickly enough. Now, it’s been three weeks since my last review and I’m halfway through my latest book.

Suffice it to say, I don’t know when my next book review will be posted. It’s important to me to be a person of my word, and I’m tired of making promises I keep breaking. I don’t know if I need to stretch my book review schedule to once every month or abandon it entirely and post reviews as I finish reading these books, even if it’s one every six months. I’d rather post an infrequent but thorough review than rush up hastily-written screeds about books I’ve only skimmed. That said, I’m also concerned about having no incentive to read these books at a reasonable pace.

I’d welcome feedback on this from anyone who’d like to give it.

The "One and Only" Club

It takes some players awhile to collect certain stats. Ben Revere finally hit his first home run this year, five seasons into his big league career. Also in 2014, with less fanfare, Yonder Alonso got his first triple. And, after nearly 1,000 plate appearances, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez stole his first base.

Revere hit his second homer before the regular season ended and other players have gone on to collect more stats in areas they were formerly without luck. I got to wondering, though, about players who retired with just one of a certain stat. With the help of the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool, here are eight players. Each has the most plate appearances for any position player since 1901 in the statistical category they represent:

Skeeter Shelton, one hit in 43 plate appearances: Shelton’s big league career barely spanned a week late in the 1915 season. He was perfect in 22 chances in the outfield, with Shelton’s SABR bio noting that he robbed Bobby Veach of a triple. But even in the Deadball Era on a New York Yankees team that hit just .233, there was nothing that could be done about Shelton’s .025 batting average. His SABR bio notes that he served in World War I, coached baseball at West Virginia University and sold insurance, among other things, after he left the majors.

Mike Schemer, one strikeout in 114 plate appearances:

Schemer hit .333 after the New York Giants made him a late-season replacement for Phil Weintraub in August 1945. But while he also won praise for his defense, his power– one home run and a .407 slugging percentage– left something to be desired for a first baseman. “Schemer isn’t an impressive batter,” the Associated Press noted two weeks into his career. “He looks husky enough to powder the ball but he doesn’t get much distance.” Johnny Mize returned from World War II the following season and that was it for Schemer.

Joe Cannon, one walk in 232 plate appearances: There were hints of the inept free-swinger Cannon would become as he progressed through the minors. The 1974 first round draft pick hit .299 with the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate 1976-78, but he averaged 95 strikeouts and 28 walks. Houston dealt Cannon to the Toronto Blue Jays in November 1978. Getting his most playing time in the majors the following season, Cannon’s issues came full surface. In 146 plate appearances, he managed just a .211/.217/.254 slash. His only walk came August 24, buttressed by 34 strikeouts.

George Twombly, one double in 477 plate appearances: Here’s an odd one. Deadball Era outfielder Twombly was by all accounts a hapless hitter, offering a .211/.289/.247 slash over parts of five seasons. That he managed just one double and had no home runs isn’t a surprise. It’s the seven career triples, including five in just 266 plate appearances as a rookie in 1914 that seem wholly out of place.

Duane Kuiper, one home run in 3,754 plate appearances: Maybe I’m biased as a San Francisco Bay Area sports fan, but I assume Giants announcer Kuiper’s one home run is the most well-known of any stat on this page. It even inspired a commemorative bobblehead from the Giants earlier this year. “The thing I always ask myself, and I’ll ask it about this function: If I would have hit two, would there be a bobblehead?” the San Jose Mercury News quoted Kuiper as saying. “No? Well, then this is fantastic!”

Rod Barajas, one triple in 3,784 plate appearances: Lumbering catchers often don’t have many triples or stolen bases in their careers, so it isn’t stunning that Barajas appears here. [He came close to making this list for steals as well, with two lifetime.] He had five triples in his first four seasons in the minors, though.

Gus Triandos, one stolen base in 4,424 plate appearances: I’ll give Triandos credit for knowing not to run. Russ Nixon, who went 2,715 appearances without a stolen base, was thrown out seven times trying to steal. Cecil Fielder was 2-for-8 stealing lifetime. Triandos’ only career stolen base and attempt came the last day of the 1958 season, in the second game of a doubleheader, in the ninth inning. “I went in standing up on that one, too,” Triandos told the Baltimore Sun in 2009. “[Opposing catcher Darrell] Johnson never got over that.”

Pete Rose, one grand slam in 15,890 plate appearances: Had Charlie Hustle played in a better hitter’s era or batted deeper in the order– 90 percent of his PAs came in the first or second spot in the lineup– this stat might be different. That being said, as Tim Kurkjian noted for ESPN.com in 2006, Rose’s sole slam came off his future manager Dallas Green. On a side note, Derek Jeter just retired with one career grand slam as well.