Year Inducted: 1947 (BBWAA, ballot #6, 136/161)
After winning the World Series in 1926, the Cardinals and Rogers Hornsby (their player-manager and best player) were in contract disputes. Hornsby wanted a new three year deal, while Sam Breedon and Branch Rickey wanted a one year deal to prove himself after an injury plagued season (and off field issues). At the same time, manager John McGraw of the Giants had a bitter falling out with his second baseman, so the teams agreed to a swap. That’s how the disgruntled Hornsby left St Louis. The player the Cardinals got for the best right handed hitter of all-time? Well, he just happened to do pretty well, too.
Frankie Frisch was one of the finest switch hitters to ever play. In his career, The Fordham Flash hit .316/.369/.432 with a wRC+ of 112 as a second baseman. Frisch collected 2880 hits in his career, with 466 doubles, 138 triples and 105 homers. Frisch was a prototypical speedy leadoff hitter; he stole over 400 bases, scored over 1500 runs and was worth nearly 60 runs on the bases. Frisch was also able to drive in his fair share of runs with 1244 RBI in his career, a great total for a top of the order hitter.
Not only was Frisch a good hitter and runner, but he was an excellent defensive second baseman. Frisch had great agility and quickness in the field, and used those skills to be worth over 200 defensive runs while being the leader on several NL Pennant winning teams.
Frisch’s career slash line suffers from a long decline phase. Through his age-33 season (1919-1931), Frisch had a line of .323/.375/.452 and was worth 66.3 fWAR (behind only Ruth and Hornsby for that period). His final six seasons saw him put up a line of .295/.349/.374 and was only worth 8.4 fWAR. Age caught up with him quickly, as did the stress of being a player-manager. Frisch took over the reigns of the Cardinals in the middle of the 1933 season and while active as a player, he won 95 games twice and never had a sub-.500 record. Once he retired and got old, he began romanticizing the past and didn’t have the same drive he did before.
Frisch ended his career as a player with the most defensive runs ever for a second baseman, a title he maintains to this day. He also had the fifth most homers ever for a second baseman, along with the fourth most runs scored and the third most steals. Frisch was an excellent, multi-faceted second baseman that historically can only be beaten out by some of the true greats like Hornsby and Eddie Collins. Yes, he did an absolutely terrible job as head of the Veteran’s Committee, but that shouldn’t take away from one of the finest second basemen of all-time.
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