Year Inducted: 1939 (Veterans Committee)
The nineteenth century has had some marvelous ballplayers, despite the fact that no one remembers them that well. Cap Anson and Roger Connor had records that stood for roughly 30 years until players like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played more games and were able to blow by previous numbers. But, none of them were catchers. The fact that Buck Ewing was a well-regarded catcher led many people, like Connie Mack, to dub him the best of the time.
Ewing was a multi-faceted player. He hit .303/.351/.456 with a wRC+ of 123 in his 18 seasons of professional ball. While playing mainly with the Giants, Ewing hit 71 homers along with 250 doubles and 178 triples. He led the league in homers once and in triples once. Ewing never played in a 162 game season, but still managed to drive in 883 runs and scored 1129. Speed was a prominent weapon in Ewing’s arsenal. Stolen bases weren’t counted until his seventh professional season, but he still was credited with over 350 steals and was worth 28 runs above average on the base paths.
As great as he was offensively, he was also excellent defensively. Ewing played primarily catcher, and was superlative there (58 fielding runs), but he was also a star at first base and the outfield, bringing him up to a total of 74 fielding runs.
Upon Ewing’s retirement, his ranking among overall players in many stats doesn’t look very impressive. However, among his fellow catchers he ranked first in fWAR, 3rd in wRC+ and second in homers. Ewing was easily the finest catcher among the early years.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Ewing. He was one of the finest players of the nineteenth century and one of the first early position players to be inducted in 1939.
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On deck 10/25/16, this pitcher once won 27 games while his team won 59.