Year Inducted: 1976 (Veterans Committee)
It can be difficult to remember that baseball was around for roughly 50 years before Babe Ruth played a game. And yet, today, perhaps no name is more aligned with the homerun than the Babe’s. However, baseball did occur before Babe Ruth, and there were some truly great players. Guys like Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins and Cap Anson all became household names years before Ruth hit a home run. But, none of them were known for hitting homers; that honor fell to Roger Connor, the original home run king.
Connor played his entire career before 1900, mostly with the Giants. In 18 seasons in the Pro’s, Connor slashed .317/.397/.486 with a wRC+ of 143. Along with a then-record 138 home runs, Connor smashed 441 doubles and 233 triples. Connor was one of the first truly big players (Fangraphs has him at 6’3″ and over 200 lbs) in the game’s history, and used his strength to his full advantage. He also drove in 1322 runs and scored 1620 times, proving to be a full on consistent force in the lineup.
One thing that Connor was poor at was running the bases, despite the record number of triples that he had. Connor is rated as a negative baserunner, with -25 runs above average according to Fangraphs despite stealing 244 bases. However, being a first baseman, this didn’t hinder him in the field where he was worth 83.5 runs defensively.
As great of a player as Connor was, why did it take so long for him to gain induction? Until players like Cobb and Ruth came along, baseball fans and writers didn’t pay much attention to career records, and with a player that wasn’t loud or boisterous, Connor just faded in memories. That is, of course, until one night in April of 1974. When Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record, many people started wondering about whose record did Ruth break? That drew a bit of a spotlight on Connor, who would gain induction two years later.
Connor was a consistently dominant offensive force in the early years of the game, and an underrated star of the early years.
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