Year Inducted: 1954 (BBWAA, 14th ballot, 195/252)
There have been roughly 60 posts so far on this blog discussing the candidacies of certain players in the Hall of Fame. A quick search reveals at least 9 posts where Bill Terry was mentioned, and yet no post has been specifically about him yet. And, all of those posts probably were harsh criticisms of his and Frankie Frisch’s selections as chairs of the Veterans Committee for induction, while not dissecting Terry’s career or Frisch’s. It’ll be a nice change of pace to actually praise them on this blog for once because, let’s face it, they were truly great players.
Hitting in the Polo Grounds in the same lineup as Mel Ott, but not aiming for the short right field line as Ott did, Terry put up an excellent batting line of .341/.393/.505 with a wRC+ of 137. Terry focused on hitting the ball to left field and up the middle, so he only got 154 home runs in his career, but he also stung 373 doubles and 112 triples, so he did have power (and an ISO of .165 isn’t terrible, especially during his playing days). His line-drive style of hitting helped him drive in 1078 runs while scoring 1120. He was an excellent hitter.
On the bases, Terry showed his size. He was a tall, stocky guy weighing over 200 pounds through most of his prime, so speed was not his element. Nonetheless, he scored quite a few runs for a guy that didn’t hit a lot of home runs, and managed to steal 56 bases in his 14 seasons. Fangraphs rates him as a slightly above average runner on the bases, and cursory accounts of the time marvel at how quickly he moved despite his size.
Terry came up in the minors mostly as a pitcher, but also playing a little first base and outfield. When finally called up to the Giants, he had to learn how to play first base at the Major League level, so his first few years defensively weren’t great. Eventually, while being mentored by a future Hall of Famer that he helped induct, Terry became an excellent defensive first baseman, being worth 73 runs as a fielder.
The only problems looking back at Terry are his knees and his hitting environment. His knees sapped a lot of power out of Terry, and after a career high of 28 home runs in 1932 he hit a total of 22 home runs in the next 4 seasons, playing on knees that were shot. He also was forced to retire early due to the pain he had in said knees, preventing a shot at much loftier numbers. With his batting ability, and the cozy confines of his park, it isn’t hard to see him putting up 2500 or more hits had he played another 2 or 3 years. But, his lack of home runs does hurt when he gets compared to his fellow ball players. After Ruth starting hitting everything over the fence, offense started to explode all over the game and batting averages started spiking like crazy. The average first baseman in Terry’s career hit over .300 and displayed similar power to Terry, so the shine does come off his numbers slightly.
Nevertheless, Terry was one of the best hitters of his time, and definitely deserving of the Hall of Fame. He had a rocky relationship with the BBWAA, especially after taking over as manager of the Giants following John McGraw’s retirement. This probably prevented him from being voted in on his first ballot. It’s surprising that it took him 14 ballots to reach induction, but it certainly was well deserved.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/4/16-Sticking to first base, and the Giants, the next player amassed over 500 home runs in a very long career.