Year Inducted: 1946 (Veteran’s Committee)
Johnny Evers, along with Frank Chance and Joe Tinker are forever linked in history due to anchoring the Cubs to their (still) only World Series Championship teams in 1907 and 1908, as well as being the subject of a famous baseball poem, which you can find here. It makes all the sense in the world that all three were inducted into Cooperstown in the same year. It also makes sense that none of them were really good picks.
In his career, Evers hit .270/.356/.334 for a wRC+ of 109. Offensively, Evers wasn’t much to write home about. He collected only a dozen homers over parts of 18 seasons, but still managed a decent OBP for a middle infielder. Evers’ main gift offensively was being a successful sacrifice guy (he had over 200 in his career), and being a decent runner. Evers swiped 324 bases in his career and legged out 70 triples, both very respectable numbers. Where Evers made his name was his defense. Evers is probably the first player to appear on these rankings that was almost solely inducted due to his defense. And, to be fair, he was great defensively. Fangraphs has him worth +127 runs above average defensively, putting him among some of the best second basemen in Cooperstown.
So, what about one-dimensional fielding players? They certainly have value in the game. Managers always want someone that can come in the late innings and solidify your defense at a key position, or even hold his own during the game. But, as far as the Hall of Fame goes, they have to actually supply something offensively to be worthy of induction.
Ozzie Smith is a good example. Ozzie is typically thought of as one of the players in Cooperstown who got solely in based on his glove work. While there is some truth to that (he is the best shortstop ever defensively, and probably the best defender ever), it isn’t like he did nothing with the bat. He had over 2000 hits and stole over 500 bases. It wasn’t as much as other shortstops like Cal Ripken or Derek Jeter, but it was still enough so the overall package was a Hall of Fame worthy player. Evers though? Not as much. Why was he inducted? The poem is the most likely explanation, but it’s tough to discount his achievement with the Cubs great run in the early 1900’s.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 7/6/15 this Hall of Famer was another inductee by the Frisch/Terry coalition. He died tragically during a very short career.