In baseball lore, there legends and gods – Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Cy Young. The legacies of these men are passed on from generation to generation. But outside baseballs Mt. Olympus, there are other greats, greats who have been or will be neglected by history. Here are some of these players, disrespected and underrated.
Bill Dickey, C- Bill Dickey was born on June 5, 1907 in Bastrop, Louisiana. He played his entire career for the Yankees, from 1928-1946. Dickey won seven World Series out of the eight he played in. Following his career, he managed the Yankees for a short span and became a coach, helping Yogi Berra achieve the status as one of the greatest catchers of all time.
Dickey might be the most name recognizable name on the list, as his number is retired and he is in the baseball Hall of Fame. But people underestimate how great he was really was as a hitter and catcher, often looking to Cochrane and his successor Yogi Berra instead.
Dickey’s career line was .313/.382/.486/.868/127+ with 678 BB to 289 K. His best season was in 1936, when he hit .362/.428/.617/1.045/158+ with 22 HR. Those totals are amazing, and the fact a catcher put those numbers up is mind boggling.
However, Dickey was also a great catcher. Although CS and SB against a catcher were not recorded, many reports say Dickey had a really strong arm. In 1720 games, he had just 76 passed balls. In comparison, the best defensive catcher of all time, Johnny Bench, had 94 passed balls in 1742 games.
Johnny Mize, 1b- Mize was born on January 7, 1913 in Demorest, Georgia. The Big Cat was a slugger for the St. Louis Cardinals from the 1930′s-1950. He finished with a line of .312/.397/.562/.959/158+ and a final EqA of .330. His best seasons were 1937-1940. Over that span in his early career, Mize received MVP votes each season.
1937: .364/.427/.595/1.022/172+ with 25 HR
1938: .337/.422/.614/1.036/175+ with 27 HR
1939: .349/.444/.628/1.070/178+ with 28 HR
1940: .314/.404/.636/1.040/176+ with 43 HR
That comes out to an average line of .341/.424/.618/1.042/175+ with 31 HR
Following that “peak” Mize still put up five seasons of an OPS+ greater than 150. Mize served in the US Army from ’43-’45, losing what could have been the prime of his career. Is that the reasons he is oft forgotten? Maybe. But Mize was an all time player.
Career Totals:.312/.397/.562/.959/158+ and 359 HR over 6443 AB’s.
Roberto Alomar, 2b- Born in Puerto Rico on February 5th in 1968, Alomar is a funny fellow, since he had several good years spread out, not one definite peak. I will do my best to select one and show his other good seasons/career.
His 1992 and 1993 seasons for Toronto were quite good.
1992: .310/.405/.427/.832/129+ with 49 SB at a 84% clip
1993: .326/.408/.492/.900/141+ with 55 SB at a 78% clip
His next city pit stop was Baltimore, where he had two more good seasons.
1996: .328/.411/.527/.938/136+ with 17 SB
1997: .333/.390/.500/.890/134+ with 9 SB
But his “peak” was his three years in Cleveland.
1999: .323/.422/.533/.955/139+ with 24 HR, 37 SB at a 86% clip
2000: .310/.378/.475/.853/114+ with 19 HR, 39 SB at a 90% clip
2001: .336/.415/.541/.956/150+ with 20 HR, 30 SB at a 83% clip
Average line: .323/.405/.921/134+ with 21 HR, 35 SB
His final career stats were: .300/.371/.443/.814/116+ with 210 HR, 504 2B, 474 SB at an 80% clip and 132.6 WARP3
Pretty great for a 2b right? Well, not only did he hit and run, but Alomar was a premium defender. He has won 10 GG awards, and he won a GG in all seasons pointed out but 1997.
Alomar cleared 30 Win Shares in a season 5 times, and led the league on 3 occasions. He hit .313 in the postseason (230 AB). Coming into 2004, he had 373 career Win Shares, an outstanding total.
Why has he not stood out more? Well, one reason people have not had the time to soak in greatness, since he retired this decade. Moreover, Alomar faded quickly, finishing with five sub par seasons, an image fresher in fans minds than his MVP caliber seasons. Roberto was also good everything- stealing, hitting, and defense- but never stood out. Many people now may remember his name, but not recognize him as an all time great.
Barry Larkin, SS- Barry Larkin was born on April 28, 1964 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the town in which he would make it big as a professional baseball player. Larkin is the third greatest short stop of all time, second greatest if you discount A-Rod. Yet Larkin is often forgotten about and if remembered, cast aside when talking about all time greats. Barry was another middle infielder that could hit, field, and base run, all impressive for a SS.
For his career, Larkin finished with a line of: .295/.371/.444/.815/116+ with 379 SB at an 83% success rate, .291 EqA, and 939 BB to 817 K’s. Career WARP3 of 121.8
Those numbers are good, but when one considers it was done from a shortstop, it really stands out. Here is a graph showing how the short stop position exploded, once Larkin was on the decline:
During his entire career, the average shortstop hit just .256/.317/.361, while Larkin hit .295/.371/.444 – an OPS difference of 20.2%. Very few players dominate a position like that for so long and only two big-name shortstops from the past 30 years have out-performed the rest of the position offensively more than Larkin did.
Not only was his bat a bonus from a SS, but he was a quality defender, taking home three Gold Glove awards. His prime seasons were 1995-1998, with 1997 being cut short due to injury.
1995: .319/.394/.492/.886/133+ with 15 HR and 51 SB against 5 CS. Won the Gold Glove.
1996: .298/.410/.567/.977/154+ with 33 HR and 36 SB against 10 CS. Won the Gold Glove.
1998: .309/.397/.504/.901/134+ with 17 HR and 26 SB against 3 CS.
Larkin should be a HOF’er. And yes, he was better than Mr. Cal Ripken Jr. Despite having a ton more HR and 2b, Ripken’s slugging percentage is just .03 higher, while trailing Larkin in OBP, OPS, OPS+, SB, EqA, RC/G, and that’s not to mention Larkin was the better fielder.
Much like Alomar, Larkin is a recent player so his name is familiar. But he should be more than a familiar name. Larkin was a fantastic short stop who should have a plaque in Cooperstown eventually.
Frank Baker, 3b- Frank “Home Run” Baker was born on March 13, 1886 and would become a famous ballplayer for the Philadelphia A’s. Not in the same class as Schmidt, Matthews, and Brett at all, but Baker is typically a 3b that people forget because he played in the dead ball era. In fact, he was arguably the best 3b of the pre-war era.
Despite playing in a time of big ball parks and pitcher dominance because of the rules and regulations, Baker managed to hit .307/.363/.442/.805/135+. At the height of his career in 1912, Baker hit .347/.404/.541/.945/173+. That same year the AL’s ERA was 3.34 and there were less than 9 hits per game. In context, Baker was terrific and would have had better slugging stats had he played in a different era.
Ralph Kiner, OF- Ralph was born in October of 1922 was a baseball legend for the Pittsburgh Pirates before retiring due to injuries. Currently he is a broadcaster, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.
Kiner is forgotten because he only played ten seasons, nine with 500+ AB’s. Yet he was one of the greatest mashers of his generation, and surely would have hit 500-600 HR’s had he been able to play into his thirty’s.
Kiner finished with the line of .279/.398/.548/.946/149+ with 369 HR’s. But check out his three best seasons.
1947: 51 HR, .313/.417/.639/1.056/171+, 9.9 RC/G, .343 EqA
1949: 54 HR, .310/.432/.658/1.090/186+, 10.7 RC/G, .351 EqA
1951: 42 HR, .309/.452/.627/1.079/184+, 10.7 RC/G, .355 EqA
Average Line: 49 HR, .311/.434/.641/.1075/181+, 10.4 RC/G, .350 EqA
Simply amazing. Ted Williams created a listed using his secret formula, and concluded Ralph Kiner was the 20th best hitter of all time. It’s a shame he does not receive that type of accolade.
Harry Heilman, OF- Born in 1894 in the town of San Francisco, the man known as ‘Slug’ was one of the best sluggers in baseballs history, yet many people do not even recognize his name. He played for Detroit through the dead and live ball eras.
His final career stats are just amazing. He hit .342/.410/.520/.930/148+ with 856 BB to 550 K. Heilman’s best season came in 1923, at the age of 28. Heilman hit .403/.481/.632/1.113/194+ with 44 2b, 18 HR, and almost twice as many BB as K’s.
Why was he not known? Maybe it was because he played long ago, but Heilman is someone who should be revered as an all time great.
Al Simmons, OF- On May 22, 1902, Simmons was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Sporting News once ranked him as the 43rd greatest player of all time.
He was not a great base runner or fielder, but Simmons is a name that never comes up when talking about all time greats. Simmons starred for Oakland in his hey, hitting to an average of .376/.419/.639/1.058/165+ with 25 HR and a .322 from 1927-1931. Over that span, he slugged over .600 three times, including .708 in 1930.
Simmons sizzled down to a career line of .334/.380/.535/.915/132+ with 539 2b and 307 HR.
Addie Joss, SP- Joss was born in 1880. The reason Joss is forgotten is because he played in the dead ball and died early, at the age of 31. But if not for the tragic death, he might be considered just as good as Christy Mathewson.
In 2327 innings, Joss gave up 1888 hits, 19 HR, 364 BB, had a 1.89 ERA, 142 ERA+, and 0.968 WHIP.
He posted an ERA under 2.00 in five of his eight full seasons. He was the All-time career leader in WHIP with .9678. He had the Second best all-time ERA of 1.89. Joss pitched a perfect game in 1908 and another no-hitter in 1910. Won 160 games in less than 9 full seasons. Would have had a longer career but illness cut his life short at 31. Think about that again. Finished his career with a 1.89 ERA and a 0.9678 WHIP! That coming over 2300 career innings. And in a time of spit balls, Joss achieved his success without altering the baseball in any way.
Check out his peak years-
1906: 282 IP, 1.72 ERA, 220 H, 43 BB, 151 ERA+, 0.93 WHIP
1907: 338 IP, 279 H, 54 BB, 1.83 ERA, 137 ERA+, 0.98 WHIP
1908: 325 IP, 232 H, 30 BB, 1.16 ERA, 205 ERA+, 0.80 WHIP
1909: 242 IP, 198 H, 31 BB, 1.71 ERA, 149 ERA+, 0.94 WHIP
And oh yeah, in 1904 he also had a great season:
192 IP, 160 H, 30 BB, 1.59 ERA, 160 ERA+, 0.98 WHIP
Look at his 1908 season again. Over 300 IP yet just 30 BB and he kept a 1.16 ERA! It was so good that he was able to put a 205 ERA+ when the league ERA was 2.39, the best league ERA during his career.
These men were all giants of the game and should be recognized as giants of the game.
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