Year Inducted: 1985 (Veterans Committee)
When kids are playing the game, they are taught to hustle and run out everything. The reason is that it’s a great way to teach a kid to always work hard no matter what without giving them a big lecture that they wouldn’t remember in two minutes. Pete Rose, of course, embodied this philosophy on the field of play, but for the generation before him hustle and hard play was linked to one man: Enos Slaughter.
Slaughter’s hustle enabled him to hit .300/.382/.453 in his career for a wRC+ of 126. He collected over 2300 hits, including 413 doubles, 148 triples and 169 home runs. Slaughter wasn’t an incredibly fast player, stealing only 71 bases in his career and being worth only 8 runs as a base runner (it’s a shame that good data exists regarding going from first-to-third from that era, or he would definitely score much higher), he still managed to score over 1200 runs. And, while he only had modest power, he was able to drive in over 1300 runs. It seems like on the surface that Slaughter, who was very talented, maximized whatever time he spent on the field.
Slaughter’s hustle and grit was always well-known, but drew national headlines in the fall of 1946. With the Cardinals and Bosox tied at 3 games a piece in the World Series, and a 3-3 tie going into the bottom of the 8th inning of Game 7, Slaughter (playing injured with a hurt right elbow from being hit in Game 5) singled to lead off the frame. After the next two batters made outs, Slaughter (who was off with the pitch) scored all the way from first base on a double hit by Harry Walker into left-center field, running through the stop sign by the third base coach. A shutout inning in the top of the 9th sealed the Series for the Redbirds and made Slaughter a national hero.
Unfortunately, there were a few things that limited Slaughter’s time on the field to some degree, as he did play in over 2300 games. The first was WWII. Many players, including Slaughter, lost prime years in their baseball careers to nobly serve their country in a time of great need. Slaughter lost 3 seasons to the War Effort, his age 27-29 seasons. The year before his service, he hit .318/.412/.494 with a wRC+ of 161 and in his first year back he hit .300/.374/.465 and a wRC+ of 137. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that had he not missed the time (and was healthy), he would have easily been in the top 150 on this list with three more prime years of production. The second reason he is low is because, following his 1953 trade from the Cards to the Yanks, he didn’t play often. Over the following 5 seasons (which came after a slow, graceful decline in St Louis), Slaughter was mainly a part-time player for those five years, and while he was solid, his best days were clearly behind him. Slaughter also is hurt by a somewhat slow decline, as was alluded to earlier. From 1950 until the end of his career, he had sparks of the dominance he had once shown, but was much closer to league average than he had been in the past.
Slaughter, in a vacuum, probably doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. However, when the whole picture is thought of, including years of service, it is certainly a career that should be considered.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 7/30/16
The end has come. The final player inducted by the Frisch/Terry Committee is reviewed. And there was much rejoicing.