Year Inducted: 1986 (Veterans Committee)
Back in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the Red Sox won one American League Pennant despite having some of the top players in the league. Ted Williams, of course, was the statistical leader of the team, but they also had Dom DiMaggio (Joe’s brother) patrolling centerfield, Johnny Pesky at short, and their soft spoken, Teddy Roosevelt like clubhouse leader playing second base. That player was Bobby Doerr.
Doerr played his entire 14-year career in Beantown, becoming a top player and cultural icon for the team. Doerr hit .288/.362/.461 for a wRC+ of 115. That may seem lower than a lot of recently covered players, but the fact that he did that as a second baseman is significant. That was roughly 10th all-time among second basemen at the time of his retirement. He hit 223 home runs, 381 doubles and 89 triples for the Bosox, driving in over 1200 runs and scoring over 1000. Although not really fast or a great runner, Doerr did manage to steal 54 bases in his career.
Defense is of course more important at second base than offense is. Doerr was one of the best defenders of all-time. He was worth over 100 runs defensively in his career, and held the record for double plays turned at the keystone position when he retired.
Upon his retirement in 1951, among all second basemen, he ranked 10th in doubles, 3rd in homers, 5th in RBI, 10th in BB, 10th in defensive runs and 9th in fWAR. Anytime a player is a consensus top-10 player at his position, he should be a lock for induction. So, why did the BBWAA completely overlook Doerr? For one, his numbers in a vacuum aren’t phenomenal, their significance really comes from comparing him to other second basemen. Another was that one teammate of his completely overshadowed everyone on the team, Doerr included. As great as Doerr’s numbers are, they can’t hold a candle to Williams’. The lack of a championship also hurts him.
This is one of those picks where faith is restored in the Veterans Committee. Doerr was a great second baseman, even if it was for only 14 years. Doerr lost a year to WWII, but even taking that into account his career was fairly short. In his final season, Doerr severely hurt his back fielding a groundball and decided that, rather than trying to play more and possibly handicapping himself for life, to retire at age 33 and let his back heal. Doerr’s career may have been short, but he more than deserved his induction.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 10/2/16, we stick at the keystone position to look at another second baseman. This player, inducted in 1975, manned the keystone spot primarily for the Cubs.