Year Inducted: 1974 (Veterans Committee)
Baseball is a game that remembers its numbers and records more so than the rest of the sports. Numbers like 4256, 755, and 5714 have tremendous meaning for fans of the game. Some players, like Hack Wilson, can set insane records and make it all the way to the Hall of Fame because of it. Of course, Wilson had other things going for his induction. A similar player that was inducted on the strength of a record was Jim Bottomley.
Bottomley played in parts of 16 seasons, mostly with the Cardinals. In his career, he hit .310/.369/.500 for a wRC+ of 124. He collected over 2300 hits with 218 home runs and 465 doubles. He topped 30 home runs once in his career, twice led the league in RBIs and won the NL MVP in 1928. His main claim to fame was being an RBI-man, and in addition to leading the league twice, he also drove in over 1400 in his career (nearly 100 every year). Bottomley’s record also relates to RBIs. In his third season, against the Robins (Dodgers), Bottomley went 6/6 with 2 homeruns and 12 RBIs in a single game.
Bottomley was a very good hitter in his career. He was also a solid base runner, being worth +8 runs on the base paths in his career. He wasn’t a great fielder, either, being worth -73 runs at first base which is probably the easiest position on the diamond. He also suffers from a somewhat elongated decline phase.
In 1931, Bottomley suffered from an injury which began his slow slide into mediocrity. He rebounded well in 1931 (with a wRC+ of 148 in 108 games), but that was his last great season offensively. In 1932, his final year with the Cardinals, he played in only 91 games with a wRC+ of 115. Following a trade to the Reds in the offseason, Bottomley became a league average hitter for another couple of seasons before slipping into below-average production in the last 3 years of his career.
Bottomley was a solid, above average hitter who flashed some signs of dominance in his career. Part of what hurts him is that the average first baseman in his career would have had an OPS of .824 and a batting average of .302, both of which are fairly similar to Bottomley’s numbers. That, along with his long and abrupt decline, make him one of the weaker members of the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next update to close out the month of July with a look at yet another member of a Yankee dynasty.
On deck 7/31/16 After pitching for the Yanks, this Hall of Famer became a legendary broadcaster.