Year Inducted: 1963 (Veterans Committee)
There are many players inside and outside The Hall of Fame that are incredibly talented, excellent baseball players. What separates the ones that get inducted and the ones that don’t? It may just come down to luck. Guys like Chick Hafey and Ross Youngs were lucky that the Veterans Committee was headed by Frisch and Terry, people that played with them and valued them as both teammates and players. Earle Combs was lucky that he played for the Yankees during some of their glory years. George Kell and Phil Rizzuto were lucky that they found careers in the broadcasting booth following their playing careers. And Elmer Flick was lucky that his career got revived in the early 1960s and Branch Rickey was part of the Veterans Committee.
Flick played in parts of 13 seasons in his career, batting .313/.389/.445 for a wRC+ of 145. A dynamic line, with a wRC+ higher than Al Kaline, Reggie Jackson and Roberto Clemente. Flick may have had only 48 home runs, but he smashed over 200 doubles and over 150 triples in his brief career. Flick also was a force on the basepaths, stealing over 300 bases and being worth 16 runs as a base runner. He was also a solid fielder with +30 fielding runs. It seems like there wasn’t much that Flick couldn’t do on the baseball field.
One of the things he couldn’t do was either scoring or driving in runs. He may have created over 1000 runs, but only scored 950 and drove in 756, both totals paling in comparison to other right fielders in the Hall of Fame. And, while his defense was solid, right field wasn’t a terribly difficult position in the deadball era. Like others though, his low score mostly comes down to playing time.
Flick started out with the Phillies along with a couple of other Hall of Famers like Nap Lajoie. After the 1901 season, the two of them went to play for the crosstown Athletics, despite still technically being employed by the Phils. Early in the 1902 season, the Phillies got an injunction preventing any of their players that went to the A’s from playing in the entire state. Because of this, Nap and Flick both got traded to Cleveland, where Flick played the remainder of his days. Interstingly enough, for the remainder of that season neither Flick nor Lajoie could even travel through the state, so they had to catch trains that went around the state of Pennsylvania. Flick became an instant star in Cleveland (not quite as big as Lajoie, however), which led to a few years of contract disputes. Following the 1907 season, however, Flick developed stomach problems. Cleveland believed the problem resulted from overeating, but a doctor believed his appendix was the problem. Opting to not have the surgery (his condition made it difficult for him to eat so he was down to only 130 lbs) for fear of it not being successful, he was only able to play in 99 total games in the next 3 years. And, with Cleveland acquiring Shoeless Joe Jackson following the 1909 season, he was sold to Kansas City in the American Association. Not wanting to play for Kansas City, and still suffering from his stomach condition, he was released.
It’s sad that Flick’s stomach condition had cut short a definite Hall of Fame career. But, Flick lucked out in the early 1960s. Ty Cobb passed away in 1961, which caused a lot of baseball writers to discuss a potential trade that almost occurred between the Tigers and Indians from the early 1900’s. Fed up with Ty Cobb’s personality, the Tigers wanted to trade him to the Indians for Flick. The story created quite a stir following Cobb’s death, and brought his name to the forefront when the Veterans Committee met in 1963. Branch Rickey, the only person on the committee who saw Flick play, is thought to have used the momentum from the revived stories to help Flick get inducted. In fact, he was unanimously inducted by the Veterans Committee. It’s impossible to not see the talent that Flick had, but it’s also tough to discount the brief career. Many writers both at the time and more recently questioned the decision and thought that it was a poor pick by the Veterans Committee.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 7/25/16 This outfielder from the Washington Senators was known for his high batting average.