Year Inducted: 1971 (Veterans Committee)
SABR Bios are a wonderful resource. They provide all the details of the lives of many players in the Hall of Fame (sadly not all), and they are always both charmingly human and educational. They discuss all the major moments of a player’s career, but also show how he grew up and what happened after his playing days were done. They summed up today’s player brilliantly in the quote below:
More Everyman than Superman, he is a mirror of the game and its human touches in ways that his myth-encrusted contemporaries never can be. Though he never led the American League in any major statistical category, Hooper crafted a solid statistical resume…
And the word solid is the best to describe, not just Harry Hooper, but a lot of the players that are appearing in this set of the rankings.
Hooper spent most of his career with the Red Sox, patrolling right field in Boston for 12 of his 17 seasons. During that time, he hit .281/.368/.387 for a wRC+ of 116. Hooper was primarily used as a lead-off hitter for the Bosox, and used that position to score 1429 runs, and even managed to drive in over 800 as well. And, despite playing most of his career in the Dead Ball Era of the game, he managed to swat 75 home runs along with 389 doubles and 160 triples. Always an intelligent player and person (he graduated as an engineer from St. Mary’s College in California), he realized that speed and not power was to be key in the game during his career, and taught himself how to hit left handed in order to shorten his distance to first base. This also helped him become a solid base runner, stealing almost 400 bases in his career despite being worth only -2.4 runs as a base runner.
Hooper was renowned for his defensive abilities. According to Fangraphs his fielding was worth 77 runs in his career. Among all outfielders in his career, he was the third best overall defender, behind two other Hall of Fame players in Tris Speaker and Max Carey. Hooper, along with Speaker and Duffy Lewis, helped for the “Million Dollar Outfield” for the Red Sox that carried them to World Series victories in 1912, 15, 16 and 18.
Hooper had some excellent years in the game, twice being worth more than 5 WAR and twice being worth over 4 WAR. However, he never was consistently great. A right fielder that doesn’t hit for power would need a high average consistently (like Tony Gwynn and Ichiro) to be considered a great player, and Hooper never really was that. He was a solid player, a useful one to have on a team, but not necessarily one that was legendary.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 8/2/16 this Hall of Fame shortstop was involved with the game for over 60 years.