Year Inducted: 1964 (BBWAA, ballot #7, 189/201, runoff)
In 1962, the Hall of Fame welcomed two of the greatest players of all-time into their wings: pitcher Bob Feller, and second baseman Jackie Robinson. Both players, in addition to being statistical greats, were instrumental in shaping the culture of the game as well as the Hall of Fame itself. Upon gaining induction, Feller wrote a piece in The Saturday Evening Post where he campaigned for three players to be inducted. One was Satchel Paige, who would become the first Negro League player inducted in the following decade. Another was Red Ruffing, inducted within the next two ballots. The third was inducted on the following ballot, Chicago White Sox shortstop Luke Appling. A fair question to ask is, why did the writers fail to induct Appling sooner?
Appling mainly suffered from being on one of the worst teams in baseball during the newspaper years, spending his entire 20-year career with the White Sox in the decade following the Black Sox scandal and retiring before the years of the Go-Go Sox. As such, he didn’t gain the media recognition that a player of his caliber deserved. In his career, Appling pounded the ball with a slash line of .310/.399/.398 with a wRC+ of 115. That may not seem high, but it paced most shortstops in Appling’s career. Appling was not much of a power hitter, however, collecting 440 doubles, 102 triples and 45 homers. Likewise, Appling didn’t drive in many runs (he was the only good hitter on the White Sox for 2 decades), only topping 100 RBI once but still managing an impressive 1116 RBI. Appling wasn’t a fast runner (-15 runs on the bases), but still managed to score over 1300 runs and steal over 170 bases. Offensively, Appling was a very good hitter in a vaccum, but excellent for a shortstop.
Appling’s offense was supplemented by a strong defense. After 20 years in the bigs, Appling was worth over 178 runs defensively, adding to an impressive batting line to give rise to a great player.
Appling retired as the top shortstop in the AL, if not all of baseball, with the only players that came close to him being Lou Boudreau and Arky Vaughan. Luscious Luke was inducted in a runoff ballot in 1964, a player who deserved earlier induction but was condemned to languish in Chicago during one of the worst stretches of baseball ever so the writers rarely took notice of him. Appling would fare much better in an environment like today, with the Internet providing people instant access to any player and a media presence that is more likely to take a player’s surrounding team into account than in Appling’s time.
Old Aches and Pains was one of the finest shortstops ever, one that could do almost everything on a diamond beside hit for power. He definitely deserves his place in this ranking.
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