Left field is always difficult to judge due to the fact that it is typically occupied by big bulky sluggers who are poor defenders. As such, those few that can actually field well (Yaz, Rickey, Bonds) tend to get a boosted ranking because they can stand out more. Still, if a player isn’t a big power hitter, it’s tough for them to be considered a great left fielder. Left fielders have a median score of 22948, which would be Fred Clarke’s score with 19 left fielders in Cooperstown already. Here’s how a few outsiders look:
Year Induction: 1966 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 282/302)
In 1941, baseball saw two of the best in the sport’s history permanently etch their names among the immortals. Beginning in May and lasting until July, Joe DiMaggio set a record for most consecutive games with a hit. Somehow, miraculously, Joltin’ Joe had gotten a hit in 56 straight games. However, as impressive as that was, in Boston, the Red Sox had a player trying to do something that hadn’t been seen since 1930. On the last day of the season, prior to a double header, Ted Williams stood with a .39955. Had he elected to sit out, it would be rounded to an even .400, giving him just the 28th season with such an average. Instead, Williams (who probably had the largest ego of all-time) decided to play both games, went 6/8, and ended with a season average of .406. While that moment was the highlight of Williams’ career, it certainly wasn’t the only reason that he got into the Hall of Fame.
Year Inducted: 1989 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 423/447)
Life isn’t always fair, is it? If a player is a right fielder in New York, no matter how great he is there is always the shadow of Babe Ruth hanging over his head. The same could be said of whoever is the catcher in Cincinnati, or the shortstop in Pittsburgh (which it was, unfortunately for Arky Vaughan). The same is true of whoever plays in left field for the Red Sox. Whoever plays there knows that, not only can they never be the best left fielder in Sox history, he can never be the best player in Sox history either, as Ted Williams has that title pretty much for eternity. Yet, when Carl Yastrzemski replaced Williams following Ted’s retirement, little could the Red Sox know that they wouldn’t miss a beat with him in the outfield.
Year Inducted: 2009 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 511/539)
For many years, the main trait for a leadoff hitter was speed, followed by an ability to get on base. While that has changed more recently, it certainly has held true for most of baseball’s existence. Players like Lou Brock (who was a very good hitter, but never carried a high OBP) were more common than Matt Carpenter (who has a high OBP but little speed). Even less common were hitters that had power and could leadoff. Only one player in baseball history could hit, draw walks, hit for power, and steal bases out of the leadoff position. That was Rickey Henderson.
Year Inducted: 1945 (Veterans Committee)
There are some players that get celebrated more for their personality than for their play. Most of these would be players from the early years of the game. Players like King Kelly and Rube Marquard are some very good players, but get remembered due to their antics than their stats. Sometimes, even a player’s death can cement them in baseball lore forever. Such is the tale of Ed Delahanty.
Year Inducted: 1987 (BBWAA, ballot #6, 354/413)
In the mid-2000’s, Albert Pujols’ consistency with the Cardinals led to the nickname “The Machine”. For 10 years, Pujols hit 30 homers, had a .300 batting average and drove in 100 runs, with 100 runs scored nearly every year, too. Very few players can have that sort of consistency. Hank Aaron was one of those players, as was Eddie Murray. But, so was Chicago Cubs left fielder Billy Williams, who year after year put up great numbers while toiling for a poor Cubs team.
Year Inducted: 1953 (BBWAA, ballot #9, 199/264)
Mike Trout has had the greatest start to a career that any player has ever had. Naturally, the question becomes who else has started similarly. Most recently, Albert Pujols’ first ten seasons were historic and cemented him as the greatest player in the game, a title that Pujols has obviously relinquished to Trout as he becomes more and more like Dave Kingman it’s scary. Before Pujols’ beginning, many other players laid claims to a Hall of Fame career based on their first seasons as well. Players like Ken Griffey were pegged for greatness almost from their first game. But the first player to really jumpstart a Hall of Fame career on the strength of his first 10 seasons would be Al Simmons.