Year Inducted: 2000 (Veterans Committee)
Baseball is indebted to its history. The game, like this country, was built on the shoulders of giants. And, it is for this reason, it’s important to remember the players that came first. Many of them were pioneers in their fields, be it fighting for labor rights, making strides on how a position is played, or bringing the game into popular culture, without the efforts of many players the game may not have survived and thrived for as long as it has. That’s why the Veterans Committee was brought about-to not forget the past. Sometimes, as is the case with today’s player, it can take a very long time for players to gain their recognition.
Bid McPhee, the second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, was probably the best second baseman of the early years. McPhee played his whole career before 1900, and didn’t use a glove for the most part (he was forced to one year after a finger injury). In the field, he was superb. He was worth nearly 200 runs defensively in his career, and it’s important to remember this, without using a glove at a difficult position. The year he did use a glove, he set the single season record for fielding percentage, so it’s easy to see he would have been even better defensively had he used one for every year of his career. Upon his retirement in 1899, he held records for games played at second base, put outs, assists, double plays, and of course fielding runs. And he had a huge gap between him and the second place player for each stat, further indicating what a gifted fielder he was.
Offensively, he was very good as well. He stole over 500 bases in his career and was worth 30 runs on the base paths. With the bat, he slashed .271/.355/372 for a wRC+ of 108 in 18 seasons. He hit over 50 home runs (which ranked 4th for second basemen all-time at his retirement), 303 doubles and 188 triples. He drove in and scored more runs than any second baseman ever had to that point as well. His presence at the plate was nearly as good as his presence in the field.
So, with all that said, why did McPhee have to wait so long for induction? His numbers never really changed between 1899 and 2000, so why was he constantly overlooked? It’s possible that he was so long ago, and so many other second basemen had passed a lot of his offensive numbers by (very quickly by Lajoie and Hornsby, then later years by guys like Morgan, Alomar, Sandberg, Kent, etc.) that he was just forgotten about. McPhee also didn’t have the boisterous personality that Anson or King Kelly had that helped them stick out, so he just faded in public and voter consciousness.
McPhee was, without a doubt, the top second basemen of the early game. He combined speed, great defense and great offense to be one of the most well rounded players of the early years, and his accomplishments are still being felt today.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/24/16: This pitcher was another spitball pitcher, but actually had impressive control over the pitch.