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Baseball: Baseball Trivia Question #18---500 Putouts in a Season

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posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 06:20 PM
One of the rarest feats in all of baseball history is for an outfielder--that is, a center fielder--to register 500 putouts in one season. The last I knew, it had been done by only three people in American League History, and by maybe six or seven people in National League history.

But I (the correct answer to this question) did it four different times. And I am a Hall of Famer.


HINT: Although I am NOT an ancient player, and in fact played 100% of my career after World War II, I have a Dead Ball Era like career stat: 109 career triples and 29 career HR's.

As usual, no reference materials, on-line or otherwise.


[Edited on 4/13/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]

[Edited on 4/13/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]

posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 09:31 AM
Got me on this one. I can't think of a HOF CF with 29 career HRs. I might've guessed Chet Lemon, only he's not in the hall, and I know he had more than 29 homers. Otherwise...

I give.

[edit to add] Another player who I know it can't be (not HOF) just popped into my head- Cesar Geronimo. I grew up with a bunch of Reds fans and would travel to Cincy once or twice a summer to see the Reds play. (I was never a Reds fan, but when there's a chance to go somewhere...) Anyway, I remember watching, mouth agape, the pre game warmups when The Chief with his back to the CF wall would throw the ball to home on the fly. He never was much of a power hitter, but whotta ARM! I have no idea what his putout stats were, but they've got to be pretty respectable.

[edit to add] ok but throwing a guy out isn't a putout, is it? So never mind.

[Edited on 4/14/06 by yeahright]

[Edited on 4/14/06 by yeahright]

posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 01:58 PM
No, those are "assists," and the king of those is Tris Speaker. But the two most legendary defensive CF's, Speaker (first half of century) and Mays (second half) are NOT the answer to this question.


posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 02:00 PM
BTW, Chet Lemon IS one of the very, very few players who belong to the 500-putouts-by-an-outfielder club. But he did it once, so he's not the answer.

posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 05:08 PM
OK, time for some hints:

Not only did this guy hit only 29 career HR's, he hit 7 of them in his final season at age 35, playing in the Polo Grounds, with its infamously shallow foul lines, for a famously atrocious team.

But he will forevermore be known for the team he had all those great defensive years with. He was also good, very good or great in all the offensive categories that are NOT related to HR's (e.g., slugging, RBI's, etc.). But statistically, it is on paper that he shines. Perhaps Tris Speaker or Willie Mays or Curt Flood or Gary Maddox or Andrux Jones is, in reality, the greatest defensive CF of all time, but on paper, this guy is BY FAR the greatest of all time.

After being DRAFTED by that horrible team, and putting up good numbers in a legendarily hopeless cause, he decided to retire at age 35 and become the radio announcer of his longtime team's games. And he spent the remaining 35+ years of his life as their announcer.

In my opinion, despite the fact HR's are such a huge part of a hitter's value, this guy is one of the most underrated players of all time. Almost NOBODY thinks of him when they think of the great CF's, and while he certainly cannot rate with The Great Five, he's legitimately with the second-tier players.

Bill James has him as the #16 CF. I don't think that's nearly high enough. I would certainly put him ahead of Edd Roush, Earl Averill, Wally Berger and Sliding Billy Hamilton, and would possibly put him ahead of Jimmy Wynn, Larry Doby and Dale Murphy, and maybe even ahead of Kirby Puckett.

The last four, I'll admit, are pretty dubious on my part, and reflect the degree to which I respect this guy's achievements as a player. The first four, i.m.h.o., are not close, and that's enough to put him at #12 in a position which begins with Mays, Cobb, Mantle, Speaker and DiMaggio.


[Edited on 4/14/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]

posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 09:00 PM
C'mon, guys.

Geographically speaking, I would expect at least Gibbs Baby!!! and BirdstheBest to come up with this one [and that fact is a clue for more than just the two of them, but check especially where BtB said he was from]. Though born in Nebraska, this guy was an absolute god in the big city where he became a baseball legend, and while a certain corner infielder may have supplanted him as the city's #1 baseball legend, I would reckon he didn't do so by all that much. And this guy called all, or very nearly all, of that famous corner infielder's games.


[Edited on 4/14/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 04:23 PM
OK. Please be advised: The answer to this question will be posted at 11 p.m. Eastern tonight, or as close to that as my age-and-past-sins-enfeebled memory will allow. There are, I think, a few people who may kick themelves if they don't get this one.


posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 09:38 PM
The answer is R i c h i e A s h b u r n.

Not only does he have by far the best defensive stats of all time, he was a MUCH better offensive player than people realize. No, he didn't get HR's and RBI's (he was a leadoff hitter), and his career slugging average was an abysmal .382. He never created 8 runs per 27 innings in a season, though he came close twice.

B U T:

In all of the categories not related to HR's, in the 13 seasons from 1948 through 1960, here is how he did:

1. ON-BASE PERCENTAGE: Led the N.L. FOUR times, and was in the Top 10 NINE times. He also would have led the N.L. in his final season, 1962, if he'd had about 30 more plate appearances. By the way, he spent his final season as a member of the unforgettable 1962 Mets, hitting .308 and having, as I said, the best on-base percentage in the league;

2. BATTING AVERAGE: Led the league TWICE, and was in the top 10 nine times;

3. RUNS SCORED: Top 10 seven times, despite usually playing for atrocious teams;

4. TOTAL HITS: Led the league THREE times, top 10 nine times;

5. DOUBLES: Top 10 three times;

6. TRIPLES: Led the league TWICE, top 10 eight times--could run;

7. WALKS: Led the league FOUR times, top 10 eight times;

8. STOLEN BASES: Led the league ONCE, top 10 TWELVE times;

9. SINGLES: Led the league FOUR times; top THREE ALL 13 YEARS;

10. RUNS CREATED: Top 10 three times;

11. TIMES ON BASE: Led the league FIVE times; Top 10 ELEVEN times.

12. HIT BY PITCH: Top 10 three times.


OK. Look at that long list, and at how very often Ashburn was in the top 10. He was always Top 3 in singles, usually Top 10 in walks (a great combo), nearly always Top 10 in on-base percentage, and nearly always among the hardest to K. His career on-base percentage was .396, which is excellent, and that's playing for horrendous teams (except the 1950 Philly "Whiz Kids").

People simply do not appreciate the breadth or depth or Ashburn's feats. We all recognize Speaker, Cobb and Wagner's names as being those of three all-time immortals, and they couldn't hit HR's, either. Now, yeah, all three were FAR better players than Richie Ashburn, but my point is that you don't have to be able to hit HR's to be a great player. Look at the above stats, and at the startling frequency with which Ashburn was either the league leader or among the league leaders in major categories.

Now realize that he was, statistically, the greatest outfielder in MLB history. People can argue for Curt Flood, Tommy Agee, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio (a really strained argument, there), Paul Blair, Gary Maddox, Andruw Jones and, of course, Willie Mays as the greatest defensive CF of all time. And one might be correct in picking any one of those people--except, I believe, DiMaggio--at #1.

But on paper, it's Ashburn hands down. I mean, VERY few players have ever had a 500-putout season in the outfield. I've tried to find a list, but have failed. I did find an A.L. list, and I think it consisted of Dom DiMaggio, Chet Lemon and Rickey's old outfield-mate on the A's, Dwayne Murphy. Period. THREE guys.

I believe there are something like 5 or 6 in the N.L., all of whom--like D. DiMaggio, Lemon and Murphy--have "only" one season with 500 putouts. And Richie Ashburn had FOUR such seasons. It's like single-season slugging averages over .730 or so used to be, prior to Steroid Ball. Babe Ruth had seven of the top 11 single seasons, including two which were so far ahead of anyone else as to be "untouchable."

How many more mind-blowing stats have you heard than this 500-putouts stat? Cy Young's 511 wins? Well, maybe. If one understands how people "pitched" in the Dead Ball Era, that stat might seem tame compared to four seasons of 500+ putouts as an outfielder.

And it's not a case of Ashburn's having had to catch everything in the OF, because of lame guys in RF and LF. WILLIE MAYS had epically horrible LF's to deal with: Hank Sauer, Leon Wagner, Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey. Throw in Dave Kingman and Greg Luzinski, and you've perhaps got the six worst defensive LF's of all time, yet Mays never registered more than 448 putouts. And remember, it was 445-455 to the power alleys in the Polo Grounds, where Mays played from 1951-1957, and it was 483 to dead center (yeah, that's true).

People in Philly loved Ashburn as their announcer, and they knew he was a good enough OF to make the HOF, but they apparently don't know just how great a player he was. As good as The Great Five center fielders? No, of course not, not even close.

But as good as Bill James' next five--Duke Snider, Griffey, Puckett, Sliding Billy Hamilton (1888-1901) and Jimmy Wynn? Well, I'd take Snider and Griffey ahead of him, for sure, but I'd have to take a LONG look at Puckett and Wynn before rating them ahead of Ashburn, and I really doubt I'd put Hamilton and his prehistoric SB's and .344 average up there.

And the guys James has at 11-15 in CF? I like Earl Averill (#14), but I see no case for rating him, Wally Berger (#13) or Edd Roush (#15) ahead of Ashburn. And with all due respect to Larry Doby and the years he lost to segregation, the 13 years he didn't lose do not impress me enough to put him ahead of Ashburn. Also, Doby was a natural second baseman who, AFTER getting to MLB, had to receive intensive one-on-one training from no less than TRIS SPEAKER to learn how to play CF. Sound like Ashburn? NOT!

James' #12 guy, Dale Murphy, is another like Rice and Schmidt whose star shone brightest in the 1980's, and who doesn't get full credit for being the very good player he was. Still, I'm not at all sure I take him over Ashburn.

Yeah. Richie Ashburn really was THIS good. If your fantasy team includes defensive stats, how'd you like a guy who, in addition to getting on base 40% of the time, registers 500 putouts in one season AS AN OUTFIELDER?


[Edited on 4/15/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]

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