Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
Tommy McCarthy was a selection to the Hall of Fame that, according to Wikipedia, was instantly controversial.
If ever there were a player that was inducted that someone wanted to use as evidence to the Hall of Fame being broken, this is probably the guy.
McCarthy played in the early years of the game, and put up a slash line of .292/.364/.375 for a wRC+ of 105. 5% better than league average. That’s barely acceptable. He did make up for it, slightly, by being a force on the bases in his best years. From 1888-1894, McCarthy stole no fewer than 37 bases a season en route to a career total of 468. Along with fellow outfielder and future Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy, he helped form what was known as the “Heavenly Twins” outfield for Boston. Duffy and McCarthy became known for their cunning outfield play, while Duffy was a better hitter and McCarthy a better runner. They combined to lead the Boston team to dominance from 1892 until 1894. While Duffy still had some good years left in him, McCarthy started a massive decline. Mostly this was due to his drinking habits. McCarthy and Duffy joined together to open a joint bar and bowling establishment in Boston. It was here that, according to SABR Bios “McCarthy enjoyed bending an elbow with the Beaneaters fans who patronized the establishment. But the venture did little to enhance his baseball skills and initiated the weight gain that would plague him for the remainder of his playing career, and life thereafter.” McCarthy was soon out of shape and out of the league.
McCarthy’s career accomplishments are not spectacular. He did manage to score over 100 runs in seven consecutive seasons, and twice managed to drive in over 100 runs, but his numbers just aren’t there overall. He should be lauded for his ability to run the bases before he started boozing and helping to invent some new styles of play. Monte Ward credited McCarthy with developing the hit-and-run play (not sure how much of that is to be developed, but fair’s fair), and was one of the first to use fake throws to try to catch runners trying to advance (and since McCarthy originally came up as a pitcher, he had the arm strength to help get them out), as well as letting shallow fly balls fall in order to catch the lead runner on a force-out. The last one there means that he is almost singlehandedly responsible for the Infield Fly Rule.
While there isn’t much to warrant his induction, he is still an interesting read. A lot of these players are, which is what makes baseball so great.
Stay tuned for the next update:
On deck 6/28/16 This Cardinal outfielder is one of two players to wear glasses on his Hall of Fame plaque.