Year Inducted: 1954 (BBWAA ballot #14, 209/252)
Baseball players are often remembered for their personality and zeal rather than accomplishments on the field. Hughie Jennings was a good hitter, but remembered for his braying at opposing players more than all his hits. Dizzy Dean was a dominant pitcher in the 20’s and 30’s, but remembered more for his flamboyant attitude and his post-game interviews. Mark Fidrych wouldn’t be nearly as adored if he didn’t groom the pitcher’s mound or talk to the ball and make people think he was insane. One of the better examples from baseball’s earlier years was a little shortstop from the Boston Braves known as Rabbit.
Rabbit Maranville played shortstop for 23 seasons, mostly with the Boston Braves. His antics at the position, along with legitimately great defense, quickly endeared himself to fans at a time when the Braves weren’t a great team. Maranville’s trademark came in the way he caught pop flys. SABR Bios describes it:
Maranville settled himself under pop-ups with what seemed to be total unconcern, arms at his side; as the ball plummeted towards earth, apparently ignored, he suddenly brought his hands together at waist level and let the ball fall into the pocket of his glove.
The Braves decided to build up their defense more during the 1914 season by purchasing second baseman Johnny Evers from the Chicago Cubs. The two teamed up to turn more double plays than Evers had in any one season in Chicago. In that 1914 season, the two of them led the Braves from being in last place on July 4th to World Series Champions, finishing 1-2 in the voting for the Chalmer’s Award (the predecessor to the MVP) with the winner being Evers.
Maranville’s glove work is what got him inducted into Cooperstown by the BBWAA. In his 23 seasons, Fangraphs has him rated as being worth 278 runs with the glove, turning over 1100 double plays at the position and getting over 7000 assists. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a great hitter with a career slash line of only .258/.318/.340 for a wRC+ of only 83. His defensive scores were the second best of all-time at his retirement (to only Joe Tinker), but his offense brought a lot of his value down. He had the 11th most WAR (42.5) among shortstops in history at the end of his career, but well behind players like Tinker (55.5), Bobby Wallace (62.4) and especially Honus Wagner (138.1).
Following his career, which ended due to breaking his ankle by sliding into the plate and having a bone pop out, Maranville worked with youth in a few big cities, mostly the Big Apple, teaching thousands of kids how to play the game. For his contributions with his glove and with young kids, Maranville deserves his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 8/7/15 The second baseman of the 1927 Yankees.