Year Inducted: 1982 (Veterans Committee)
The New York Giants of the 1920’s were one of the best teams in history. And their entire infield was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame. Freddie Lindstrom was their third baseman, George Kelly played first base (along with Bill Terry) and Frankie Frisch and Rogers Hornsby were at the keystone position. While Terry, Frisch and Hornsby were rightly voted in by the BBWAA, Lindstrom and Kelly got inducted by the Veterans Committee when it was headed by Frisch and Terry. However, after Terry and Frisch were reduced in power, the Veterans Committee realized that they had missed a very important position, shortstop. That’s primarily how Travis Jackson got inducted in 1982.
The ironic part is that of all the players that Terry and Frisch inducted, the one from their team that they forgot about (Jackson) was arguably the best. While Jackson wasn’t the hitter that a lot of those players were (he hit .291/.337/.433 in 15 seasons with a wRC+ of 101), he was still a solid hitter. He collected over 1700 hits with 135 home runs and 291 doubles, which helped him drive in nearly 1000 runs and score over 800 times. Despite the higher offensive environment, anytime a shortstop can provide a team with league average offense or better, he brings a lot of value with him. Adding in the fact that he was a solid, above average base-runner and his value goes up even more.
The most important job of any shortstop, of course, is defending. And Jackson was a very good defender at his position. Over his 15 seasons with the Giants, Jackson was worth 227 runs defensively, a very impressive total. To this day, he still ranks 15th all-time for shortstops when it comes to defense, which is amazing considering the advances in scouting and technology (not to mention the increased talent pool). Upon his retirement in 1936 he was 9th all-time, ahead of luminaries such as Honus Wagner and Dave Bancroft (whom he had replaced at shortstop with the Giants in his rookie season).
Unfortunately, no matter how great a player is there are some things he can’t beat. Jackson battled knee injuries throughout a great deal of his career, causing him to lose a lot of playing time in the early 1930s, and bouts of the flu, appendicitis (including having his appendix removed) and the mumps hampered many of his seasons. His injuries and illnesses probably derailed a sure-fire Hall of Fame career. Jackson’s induction wasn’t met with nearly the criticism of his fellow Giants, and rightfully so. While he may be a weaker Hall of Famer, he still has a good case for induction.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On 8/11/16 this fireballer from the 1950’s won exactly 300 games in his career.