1931 National League All-Star Team

ONEHOF-Wilbur Cooper

P-Watty Clark, BRO

P-Ed Brandt, BSN

P-Ray Benge, PHI

P-Carl Hubbell, NYG

P-Bill Walker, NYG

P-Tom Zachary, BSN

P-Bob Smith, CHC

P-Heinie Meine, PIT

P-Phil Collins, PHI

P-Bill Hallahan, STL

C-Spud Davis, PHI

C-Shanty Hogan, NYG

1B-Bill Terry, NYG

2B-Rogers Hornsby, CHC

2B-Tony Cuccinello, CIN

2B-Frankie Frisch, STL

3B-Pie Traynor, PIT

SS-Travis Jackson, NYG

SS-Woody English, CHC

LF-Chuck Klein, PHI

LF-Chick Hafey, STL

CF-Wally Berger, BSN

CF-Mel Ott, NYG

RF-Paul Waner, PIT

RF-Kiki Cuyler, CHC

 

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ONEHOF-Wilbur Cooper, P

1916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1923

216-178, 2.89 ERA, 1252 K, .239, 6 HR, 106 RBI, 53.5 Career WAR

 

Every season, I pick a player to go in the ONEHOF, the One-A-Year Hall of Fame. It is the best player that isn’t already part of that group. This year I picked a player who didn’t even make Cooperstown and indeed never received over 4.4 percent of the vote. Yet for eight straight seasons, the lefty Cooper was the dominant pitcher on the Pirates and one of the best in the National League. From 1916-to-1923, he never finished out of the top 10 in Pitcher WAR and never below eighth during that time. In 1922, Coop led in that category while finishing 23-14 with 27 complete games. His problem is that the Pirates played mediocre ball during that time. In that eight year stretch, Pittsburgh finished 593-594 while Cooper went 153-111. He’s arguably the best Pirates pitcher of all time. He and Babe Adams are so close, it’s hard to pick, though Cooper has made the ONEHOF, while Adams is still in the nominee category. And speaking of nominees….

The nominees for next year are Hardy RichardsonJimmy CollinsElmer FlickJohnny EversLarry DoyleArt FletcherWally SchangJoe Sewell, Charley JonesFred DunlapGeorge GoreNed WilliamsonBid McPheeSam ThompsonJack ClementsAmos RusieCupid ChildsClark GriffithJesse BurkettJoe McGinnityEd WalshNap RuckerEd KonetchyLarry GardnerJake DaubertBabe AdamsBobby VeachGeorge SislerHeinie GrohCarl MaysDave BancroftUrban ShockerEddie Rommel,  Sam Rice, Burleigh Grimes, Dazzy Vance, Goose Goslin, and Al Simmons.

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P-Watty Clark, Brooklyn Robins, 28 Years Old

1928 1929

14-10, 3.20 ERA, 96 K, .250, 0 HR, 5 RBI

MVP Rank: 20

WAR Rank: 1

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require nine more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

Wins Above Replacement-6.3

Home Runs per 9 IP-0.154

Sit. Wins Saved-3.1

Fielding % as P-1.000

3rd Time All-Star-This is going to be an interesting year in the National League. After a 1930 season in which hitting number were through the roof, the league is going to settle down this year. In 1930, the NL averaged 5.68 runs per games, this season that number dropped over an entire run to 4.48. The number would never hit five again until the steroid era.

The other peculiar thing is that there weren’t any great individual seasons. According to bWAR, the best player in the league was this Brooklyn lefty, whose WAR was 6.3. That is the lowest total to ever lead the Senior Circuit. Only Hank Aguirre’s 6.2 WAR leading the American League is lower for the two Major Leagues. (Technically, the lowest total to lead any league was George Zettlein’s 4.5 in the 1871 National Association, but that league played a 30-game season.)

This was the last season for Wilbert Robinson as manager after 18 seasons at the Brooklyn helm. The team finished in fourth place for the second straight season, with a record of 79-73.

SABR says of the Brooklyn skipper, “Robinson and [Giants manager John] McGraw finally reconciled at the National League winter meetings in December 1930, ending their 17-year feud. Robbie remained on as Brooklyn manager through the end of the 1931 season, after which he left for his hunting camp, Dover Hall, near Brunswick, Georgia. He wasn’t there long when he received word that the Dodgers had replaced him as manager with Max Carey.

“In early August 1934 he fell in his hotel room, hitting his head on the bathtub and breaking his arm. While being administered to, he uttered his most famous line: ‘Don’t worry about it, fellas. I’m an old Oriole. I’m too tough to die.’
“He was wrong. Having suffered a brain hemorrhage, Wilbert Robinson died in Atlanta on August 8, 1934, with his wife at his bedside. It was just five months and 14 days after the death of McGraw.”

Clark died at the age of 69 on March 4, 1972 in Clearwater, FL.

brandt

P-Ed Brandt, Boston Braves, 26 Years Old

18-11, 2.92 ERA, 112 K, .256, 0 HR, 8 RBI

MVP Rank: 10

WAR Rank: 2

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require nine more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

Win Probability Added-3.9

1st Time All-Star-Edward Arthur “Big Ed” Brandt was born on February 17, 1905 in Spokane, WA. The six-foot-one, 190 pound lefty pitcher started with the Bravos in 1928 and led the National League in losses with 21. During his first three seasons, he never finished with an ERA under five. It wasn’t until this year, his best season ever, he put together a solid season.

Bill McKechnie managed the Braves as the team dropped from sixth to seventh with a record of 64-90. Despite the good year for centerfielder Wally Berger, Boston couldn’t hit, scoring the fewest runs in the league.

SABR, on Brandt’s season, states, “At some point, probably during spring training in 1931, McKecknie had a conversation with Brandt in which he asked the lefty, also known as Big Ed for his tall frame, what he liked to do in the winter. Brandt said he liked to hunt, to which McKechnie said, ‘Then you’d better make up your mind that you’re a major-league pitcher and not just a semipro star. If you don’t, you’ll be scratching the year ‘round on a job in a sawmill or a tin shop. Get me?’

“Brandt had undergone surgery for a chronic sinus condition over the winter, so whether it was McKechnie’s admonition or better health or both, he started the 1931 season like a house afire, winning his first eight starts, all complete-game victories. Although he cooled off a little once the dog days of summer arrived, Brandt still finished the season with 18 wins and 11 losses for a team that won only 64 games and finished in seventh place, 37 games out of the lead. His 2.92 earned-run average was third lowest in the league and his 23 complete games were second-most.”

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P-Ray Benge, Philadelphia Phillies, 29 Years Old

1928

14-18, 3.17 ERA, 117 K, .205, 0 HR, 7 RBI

WAR Rank: 4

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require 21 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

WAR for Pitchers-6.2

2nd Time All-Star-What a tough chore it was to pitch in the bandbox known as the Baker Bowl, the Phillies’ home park. Unless you’re Ray Benge, that is. He had no problem shutting down teams in Philly, going 10-7 with a 2.79 ERA. It was on the road he struggled, compiling a 4-11 record with a 3.55 ERA. It helped him that run scoring in the whole league had dropped so dramatically. See Watty Clark’s blurb for details.

Manager Burt Shotton helped the team make some ground in the National League, directing Philadelphia from eighth to sixth with a 66-88 record. Despite the presence of Benge and Phil Collins, the Phillies’ pitching still was their downfall.

SABR, as usual, details his season, saying, “But the 1931 season launched a career best four-year run for Benge. Except for a rough start against the Cincinnati Reds on May 15, 1931, that month was one of the best of Benge’s career: a 1.19 ERA and four victories, including his fifth career shutout. On June 16, he carried a 1-0 three hit shutout into the ninth inning against the Cardinals before back-to-back one out home runs by right fielder George Watkins and Frankie Frisch—the latter a massive drive off the roof of St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park—sent Benge to a crushing defeat. He collected a career high marks in innings pitched (247) and strikeouts (117) and won seven of his last 10 decisions to finish with his first 14-win season. During the offseason, Benge, to his great displeasure, was rewarded for his work with a pay cut when the Phillies, like other major league clubs, cited financial hardship amid the Great Depression, and reduced roster payrolls.”

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P-Carl Hubbell, New York Giants, 28 Years Old

1929 1930

14-12, 2.65 ERA, 155 K, .241, 1 HR, 6 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1947)

Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)

 

Led in:

 

Walks & Hits per IP-1.121

Hits per 9 IP-7.657

3rd Time All-Star-When you glance at the names above Hubbell on this list, you won’t be blamed for saying, “Who?” None of the three are even close to being Hall of Famers. The title for best pitcher in the National League during this stretch was between Dazzy Vance, who didn’t make the All-Star team this year, and King Carl. Vance was starting to fade, while the best of Hubbell remains ahead.

This would be the last full season for John McGraw, but I’ll save his wrap-up for next year. The Giants went 87-65, finishing in second place, 13 games behind the Cardinals. With my pick for MVP, Bill Terry, leading the way, New York finished third in the NL in runs scored. Hubbell’s leadership also gave it a stellar pitching staff.

For the year, Hubbell finished sixth in WAR for Pitchers (4.4); second in ERA (2.65), behind teammate Bill Walker (2.26); ninth in innings pitched (248); and second in Adjusted ERA+ (139), again behind Walker (163).

Previewing some of the upcoming years for Hubbell, he’s not going to win 20 games in a season until he turns 30 and then he’ll accomplish that five straight seasons. At this point in his career, he’s obviously good, but has yet to make the top 10 in WAR or the top five in WAR for Pitchers. He’s going to hit those marks many times in years ahead. It’s not often a pitcher three decades old performs like Hubbell did, but that’s the fun part of baseball. You can always see something new.

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P-Bill Walker, New York Giants, 27 Years Old

1929

16-9, 2.26 ERA, 121 K, .065, 0 HR, 3 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require 19 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

1931 NL Pitching Title (2nd Time)

Earned Run Average-2.26 (2nd Time)

Shutouts-6

Adjusted ERA+-163

Adj. Pitching Runs-36

Adj. Pitching Wins-3.8

Base-Out Runs Saved-35.02 (2nd Time)

Base-Out Wins Saved-3.8 (2nd Time)

2nd Time All-Star-After making the All-Star team in 1929, Walker pitched decently in 1930, going 17-15 with a 3.93 ERA, but couldn’t make the list. He’s back this year with a great season, only lacking enough innings to rate higher. For the second time, Walker led the National League in ERA (2.26).

SABR wraps up his life, stating, “At the age of 36, Walker retired after a 20-year professional baseball career. The two-time National League ERA leader won 97 games and posted a 3.59 ERA (114 ERA+) in 1,489⅔ innings. He won 132 games and pitched more than 2,100 innings in his 13-year minor-league career.

“A resident of East St. Louis and St. Clair County, Illinois, his entire life, Walker married Bernadine Parish in 1941. They had two children, Ann and Bill. A lifelong baseball fan, Walker regularly attended games at Sportsman’s Park and participated in occasional reunion games for the Gas House Gang. He supported local American Legion baseball and coached during the years his son played. Walker enjoyed a distinguished and varied career as an elected and appointed public servant in East St. Louis in his post-playing days. Even before retiring, he was elected trustee of the East Side Levee and Sanitation District in 1939, and subsequently was elected treasurer of St. Clair County, and later Probate Court clerk in Belleville.

“William Henry Walker died of cancer at Christian Welfare Hospital in East St. Louis on June 14, 1966, at the age of 62. Praised for his ‘indomitable spirit’ for overcoming his childhood health problems, Walker was buried in the Valhalla Garden of Memory in Belleville, Illinois.”

zachary2

P-Tom Zachary, Boston Braves, 35 Years Old

1926

11-15, 3.10 ERA, 64 K, .167, 0 HR, 3 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require six more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

2nd Time All-Star-After making the All-Star team for the St. Louis Browns in 1926, Zachary had an interesting career. In midseason 1927, he was traded by the St. Louis Browns to the Washington Senators for General Crowder. Then in midseason 1928, Zach was selected off waivers by the New York Yankees from the Washington Senators. This gave him his third postseason opportunity as he pitched a complete game victory over the Cardinals, allowing three runs and striking out seven. Then towards the beginning of the 1930 season, Zachary was selected off waivers by the Boston Braves from the New York Yankees. He’ll end up spending the rest of his career in the National League.

Wikipedia mentions, “Zachary is well known for giving up Babe Ruth‘s record-setting 60th home run in 1927. Then the next year, pitching for Ruth’s team, the New York Yankees, he won the third game of the World Series, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Zachary went 12–0 for the 1929 Yankees, which is still the major league record for most pitching wins without a loss in one season.

“Zachary was a very good hitting pitcher, posting a .226 batting average (254-for-1122) with 79 runs, 6 home runs, 112 RBI and drawing 62 bases on balls. He had a career high 14 RBI in 1926 and batted a career high .306 (22-for-72) in 1928.”

This season, he finished fifth in WAR for Pitchers (4.8); seventh in ERA (3.10); and seventh in Adjusted ERA+ (123). He’ll probably make one more of these lists.

smithb3P-Bob Smith, Chicago Cubs, 36 Years Old

1927 1930

15-12, 3.22 ERA, 63 K, .218, 0 HR, 4 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require nine more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

Fielding % as P-1.000

3rd Time All-Star-Despite making the All-Star team in 1930, Smith was traded by the Boston Braves with Jimmy Welsh to the Chicago Cubs for Bill McAfee and Wes Schulmerich. It was a good pick up for the Cubs as Smith gave them a solid season. It will be his last season as a starter and, most likely, his last season on this list.

Smith finished 10th in WAR for Pitchers (3.8) and 10th in ERA (3.22). Also on the mound, he accepted 63 chances without an error.

After this season, Smitty went to the bullpen for the most part and stayed with the Cubs in 1932. He pitched in relief in the World Series for Chicago that year and gave up two hits and one run in one inning to the Yankees. Then before the 1933 season, he was traded by the Chicago Cubs with Rollie HemsleyJohnny Moore and Lance Richbourg to the Cincinnati Reds for Babe Herman. The Reds released him and then we was selected off waivers by the Braves, where he would finish his career.

Back in 1927 when Smith made his first All-Star team, I should have mentioned he didn’t start his career as a pitcher, but as a shortstop. That was his main position for the Braves from 1923-25. He wasn’t a very good hitter, with 1925 being his best year when he slashed .282/.302/.379 for an OPS+ of 80.

Smith would live a long life, dying at the age of 92 in Waycross, GA.

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P-Heinie Meine, Pittsburgh Pirates, 35 Years Old

19-13, 2.98 ERA, 58 K, .146, 0 HR, 1 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require 49 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

Wins-19

Innings Pitched-284

Games Started-35

Batters Faced-1,202

1st Time All-Star-Henry William “Heinie” or “The Count of Luxemburg” Meine was born on May 1,1896 in St. Louis, MO. The five-foot-11, 180 pound righty pitcher started with the Browns in 1922 pitching just one game. He then didn’t pitch in the Majors until 1929 when the Pirates picked him up and he muddled through two seasons. Then came this year and Meine shined for the first time, including leading the National League in wins with 19, along with Jumbo Elliott and Bill Hallahan. It was the first time in the Majors any league didn’t have a 20-game winner, not counting Al Spalding in the 1871 National Association when he only had 19 wins also. But his team played only 30 games. It, of course, happens frequently nowadays. The NL hasn’t had a 20-game winner since 2016.

Did those wins help the Pirates? Not really, as they ended up in fifth place with a 75-79 record. Thanks to Meine, their pitching was strong, but they had weak hitting. Jewel Ens managed his third and last season, altogether going 176-167. It’s surprising he didn’t get another chance in the Majors.

Wikipedia says, “He was given the nickname ‘The Count of Luxemburg’ on account of his operating a speakeasy/tavern in the Luxemburg section of St. Louis.

“After the 1931 season, Meine participated in an exhibition game at St. Louis between Max Carey‘s All-Stars (an all-star team of major leaguers) and the St. Louis Stars of the Negro Leagues. Meine gave up 10 runs as the Stars won 10–8. The game may have inspired Kevin King’s 2007 fictional account of a Negro League team defeating a team of major league all-stars. In King’s account, Negro League star Mule Suttles tries to recall the list of major league all-stars who played in the game: ‘Heinie Manush, Heinie Meine, Heinie Schuble. They had Heinies coming out of the hiney, and we kicked their hineys.’

“In March 1968, Meine died of cancer at the Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis.”

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P-Phil Collins, Philadelphia Phillies, 29 Years Old

1930

12-16, 3.86 ERA, 73 K, .168, 0 HR, 12 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require 19 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

Putouts as P-17

2nd Time All-Star-I mentioned in Ray Benge’s blurb how tough it was to pitch in the Baker Bowl, but Collins had a modicum of success there, now making his second straight All-Star team. Unlike Benge, who was incredibly more successful in his bandbox home field, Collins was ever, allowing a 4.03 ERA at home and a 4.06 ERA on the road.

The Phillies are the ultimate example of how much the National League changed from 1930 to 1931. For instance, Collins had an ERA of 4.78 in 1930 and I rated him as the second best pitcher in the league. This year, his ERA was 3.86 and I have him rated ninth. In 1930, Philadelphia scored 6.1 runs a game and gave up an atrocious 7.7. This season, the Phillies scored 4.4 per game while give up just 5.3. Those 5.3 runs still were the most in the NL.

The New York Times mentions this dip in scoring in an article about the depression, saying, “As the 1931 season dawned, Frank J. Navin, the acting American League president and the owner of the Detroit Tigers, saw no sign of the impending collapse.

“’Former business depressions have not hurt baseball,’ he told The Associated Press, ‘and I do not think the present depression will materially affect attendance this year.’

“But the hard times did arrive, and quickly. Attendance fell 16 percent in 1931, driven not just by rising unemployment but also a decision by the owners to dampen the scoring boom by changing the rules for what constituted a home run and tinkering with the composition of Spalding’s baseballs.”

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P-Bill Hallahan, St. Louis Cardinals, 28 Years Old

1930

19-9, 3.29 ERA, 159 K, .099, 0 HR, 5 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require 19 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

Wins-19

Strikeouts-159 (2nd Time)

Bases on Balls-112 (2nd Time)

Wild Pitches-11

2nd Time All-Star-St. Louis dominated the National League this year, but the surprising thing to me is it just had three All-Stars and only one pitcher on this list, Hallahan. He was incredible during the year and in the World Series, where he won two games in leading the Cardinals to their third league title. They won the World Series in 1886 when they were the St. Louis Browns and in 1926 over the mighty Yankees. This year, they took down yet another powerhouse, the Athletics.

Gabby Street managed the team to an outstanding 101-53 season. Led by Chick Hafey, they had good hitting and led by Hallahan, the Cards showcased the league’s best pitching staff.

Wikipedia says, “In 1931, Hallahan again led the NL in strikeouts (159) and walks (112) and won 19 games, as St. Louis again took the league championship for a rematch against the Athletics. This time, Hallahan was even more effective. He shut out the A’s again in Game 2, pitched a complete game 5–1 victory in Game 5, and nailed down the decisive Game 7 in relief by getting the last out in the ninth inning. Altogether, he gave up only 12 hits and one run in ​18 13 innings — an ERA of 0.36 — as St. Louis triumphed in seven games. Hallahan’s dominance is even more impressive because the A’s featured a predominantly right-handed-hitting lineup, including fearsome sluggers Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons.

“After retiring from baseball, Hallahan worked as a supervisor for General Aniline and Film Co. (now GAF) in Johnson City, New York. He lived on Davis Street on the West Side of Binghamton, where he led a very quiet life. He was a local legend to the young kids in that neighborhood who frequently begged him to show them his World Series watches and rings. He always obliged. Wild Bill would attend Little League games at nearby Recreation Park to cheer on the neighborhood kids. The field there is dedicated in his honor.

“He died at age 78 in Binghamton, New York.”

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C-Spud Davis, Philadelphia Phillies, 26 Years Old

.326, 4 HR, 51 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require 11 more All-Star seasons. 18 percent chance)

 

Led in:

 

Def. Games as C-114

Assists as C-78

Stolen Bases Allowed as C-48

Caught Stealing as C-40

1st Time All-Star-Virgil Lawrence “Spud” Davis was born on December 20, 1904 in Birmingham, AL. The six-foot-one, 197 pound righty catcher started with St. Louis in 1928, but after playing just two games for it, he was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals with Don Hurst and Homer Peel to the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named later, Art Decatur and Jimmie Wilson. The Philadelphia Phillies sent Bill Kelly (May 12, 1928) to the St. Louis Cardinals to complete the trade. He became the Phillies’ regular catcher fairly quickly and he’s going to put together a good enough career, he’ll actually garner some Hall of Fame interest.

SABR says, “While Davis left the pennant-winning Cardinals for the 43-109 Phillies, he didn’t mind the switch, saying many years later that he was happy to go anywhere that he could get a chance to play. Spud hit his first career home run on with the Phillies on June 8, taking Sheriff Blake of the Cubs deep for a game-winning three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth of the Phillies’ 6-5 win. Davis finished his rookie season hitting .280 with three home runs and 19 RBIs for the last-place Phillies, who finished 51 games behind the Cardinals squad he had begun the season with. Davis split the catching duties for the Phillies with fellow rookie backstop Walt Lerian.

“Davis became the Phillies’ primary backstop in 1930, not so much because of his play but because of tragedy. Just weeks after the conclusion of the 1929 season, Walt Lerian was killed in Baltimore when a delivery truck jumped a curb at a trolley stop and caught him as it ran into a building.”

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C-Shanty Hogan, New York Giants, 25 Years Old

1928 1930

.301, 12 HR, 65 RBI

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require 15 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

Fielding % as C-.996

3rd Time All-Star-I haven’t mentioned in Hogan’s first two write-ups as to why he was nicknamed Shanty and that’s because I can’t find a reason. Lord knows, I’ve done minutes of research, but I’m coming up empty. Whatever the reason for James Francis Hogan being known as Shanty, he continued to be one of the best catchers in the National League. When comparing the hitting of 1931 with 1930 and accounting for NL’s offensive decline, Hogan’s hitting was similar.

The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract names Hogan the slowest player of the 1930s and indeed, starting in 1932, he’d never steal another base and also never hit more than two triples in a year. It was because Hogan always carried some extra weight. As Wikipedia says, “His vaudeville / baseball partner Andy Cohen recalled Hogan as someone who ‘could have been one of the best catchers ever… but he ate himself out of the big leagues.’ Hogan showed up for camp one year weighing 265 pounds (120 kg) and would run in a rubber suit and take hot showers in an effort to lose weight, but then he’d eat more to regain his strength, and weight. Giants manager John McGraw tried to control Hogan’s weight by watching his meal checks, but Hogan developed a system where he would write down foods McGraw would want him to eat, which the waitresses knew to replace with the foods Hogan wanted to eat. As Cohen recalled, ‘He’d write down spinach, but that meant potatoes. He had a whole code of his own.’”

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1B-Bill Terry, New York Giants, 32 Years Old, 1st MVP

1927 1928 1929 1930

.349, 9 HR, 112 RBI

MVP Rank: 3

WAR Rank: 3

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1954)

Ron’s: No (Would require one more All-Star season. Sure thing)

 

Led in:

 

WAR Position Players-6.1 (2nd Time)

Runs Scored-121

Triples-20

Def. Games as 1B-153 (2nd Time)

Assists as 1B-105 (3rd Time)

5th Time All-Star-From 1910-1914, there was a Most Valuable Player award called the Chalmers Award, named after Hugh Chalmers of Chalmers Automotive. The from 1922-28 in the American League and 1924-29 in the National League, there was a League Award, with restrictions on voting, including a player unable to win more than once (in the AL only, the NL had no such limitations). Starting this season was the modern-day MVP award voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

In the NL, that award went to Frankie Frisch, the Cardinals’ second baseman, who had a decent season, but probably garnered votes because his team was so dominant. I had a hard time choosing my MVP, but I’m giving it to Terry, who was probably the best hitter in the league.

Wikipedia says everything I just said, but pithier: “While Terry never again reached the lofty heights of 1930, he had another excellent season in 1931. He led the league in runs scored with 121 and in triples with 20 while batting .349 with 112 runs batted in, and he finished third in the new Baseball Writers’ Association of America National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. He became the only Giants player (as of 2014) to hit two doubles and two triples in a game when he did so against the Cincinnati Reds on September 13, 1931.”

So to wrap up his season, Terry finished third in WAR (6.1), behind Brooklyn pitcher Watty Clark (6.3) and Boston pitcher Ed Brandt (6.2); first in WAR Position Players (6.1); second in Offensive WAR (5.4), trailing Philadelphia leftfielder Chuck Klein (5.7); second in batting (.349), behind St. Louis leftfielder Chick Hafey (.349); eighth in on-base percentage (.397); seventh in slugging (.529); and fifth in Adjusted OPS+ (149).

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2B-Rogers Hornsby, Chicago Cubs, 35 Years Old

1916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929

.331, 16 HR, 90 RBI

WAR Rank: 8

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: Yes (Inducted in 1924)

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1942)

Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1918)

 

Led in:

 

On-Base %-.421 (9th Time)

On-Base Plus Slugging-.996 (11th Time)

Adjusted OPS+-163 (12th Time)

Offensive Win %-.787 (12th Time)

15th Time All-Star-Hornsby only played 42 games for the Cubs in 1930 and this year managed to play 100. However, for the rest of his career, which would last six more years, he’ll never play over 57 games as he’ll finish out his playing days with the St. Louis Browns of the American League. This will be his last All-Star team and I have him rated as the eighth best player of all time. Here’s the full list (through the 1931 season):

  1. Walter Johnson, P
  2. Ty Cobb, CF
  3. Cy Young, P
  4. Babe Ruth, RF
  5. Tris Speaker, CF
  6. Eddie Collins, 2B
  7. Honus Wagner, SS
  8. Hornsby, 2B
  9. Pete Alexander, P
  10. Cap Anson, 1B

I suggest you read the whole SABR article on Hornsby, as he had a long baseball career even after leaving the Majors.  I just want to post a bit: “Like all men with superior athletic ability of one kind or another, Hornsby was far from perfect. He mostly made a mess of his personal life and his blunt, opinionated, outspoken, speak-your-mind-at-any-time approach to life kept him in turmoil and cost him any number of jobs. He was, not surprisingly given his Texas upbringing at the time, bigoted and anti-Semitic, although he had a number of Jewish friends. Although he always claimed that he was hurting no one but himself, his betting on the horses got him cross-ways with Commissioner Landis, who may have blackballed Hornsby for a number of years.

“On the other hand, Hornsby had a real fondness for children, working with thousands over many years. He was a more successful minor-league than major-league manager, suggesting that he had more patience at that level. But as a player he was so good that any all-time team without him at second base is highly suspect. The Rajah was indeed royalty with a bat in his hands.

“In the fall of 1962 Hornsby entered a Chicago hospital for cataract surgery and suffered a stroke. He was unable to leave the hospital during the holidays and on January 5, 1963, the Rajah suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 66 years old.”

cuccinello

2B-Tony Cuccinello, Cincinnati Reds, 23 Years Old

.315, 2 HR, 93 RBI

MVP Rank: 25

WAR Rank: 9

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require eight more All-Star seasons. 31 percent chance)

 

Led in:

 

Assists-499

Def. Games as 2B-154

Putouts as 2B-376

Assists as 2B-499

Errors Committed as 2B-28

Double Plays Turned as 2B-128

1st Time All-Star-Anthony Francis “Tony” or “Cooch” or “Chick” Cuccinello was born on November 8, 1907 in Long Island City, NY. The five-foot-seven, 160 pound righty second baseman started with Cincinnati in 1930 as a third baseman. He moved to second this season and was the Reds best player, so of course, he was traded before next year.

Dan Howley managed the Reds again and they dropped from seventh to eighth. Maybe they should stop trading their best players. Cincinnati finished 58-96 due to terrible pitching and mediocre hitting.

This Day In Baseball says, “On August 13, 1931 — 1931 – Tony Cuccinello wakes up the last-place Reds by going 6 for 6, with three singles, two doubles and a triple, as Cincy wins the first game of a doubleheader against Boston, 17 – 3. Cuccinello doesn’t stop there, belting a three-run homer in the 8th of the nitecap to give the Reds a 4 – 2 win. ‘Cooch’ has eight RBIs for the day.”

This was Cuccinello’s best season as he finished ninth in WAR (5.2); sixth in WAR Position Players (5.2); sixth in Offensive WAR (4.7); seventh in Defensive WAR (1.1); and some stellar defensive stats. Over his career, it would be his defense which would garner him fame.

As a Reds fan, it’s sad to me how few great players Cincy had during this stretch of time. When Rogers Hornsby played for four different National League teams in four years, the Reds weren’t one of them. They’re going to eventually win a World Series in about a decade, but they’ll be pretty bad before then.

frisch102B-Frankie Frisch, St. Louis Cardinals, 33 Years Old

1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1930

.311, 4 HR, 82 RBI

MVP Rank: 1

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: Yes (Inducted in 1930)

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1947)

Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1925)

 

Led in:

 

1931 NL MVP

Stolen Bases-28 (3rd Time)

10th Time All-Star-Some players seem to just be winners. Frisch was one of those. He led the Cardinals to their second straight pennant and the World Championship. Well, maybe. The truth is some people are always given credit for the intangibles they bring to a team, I think of someone like Pete Rose. Yet Frisch was probably only the third best second baseman this season and didn’t actually have a great World Series. Still, let’s give Frisch credit that he now has been on seven teams that have won the pennant and been part of three Fall Classic winners.

Wikipedia says, “Frisch played eleven seasons with the Cardinals. In 1931, he was voted the Most Valuable Player in the National League after batting .311 with 4 home runs, 82 RBI and leading the League in stolen bases with 28. The 1931 Cardinals also triumphed in the World Series, defeating Connie Mack‘s defending two-time champion Philadelphia Athletics in seven games.”

I’m not exactly sure why Frisch won the first National League Baseball Writers Most Valuable Player. His hitting was worse than it had been in over 10 years. Sure, he stole 28 bases, but this was a time of baseball history where steals didn’t add much value. It could be there were no real standout players on the Cardinals and the writers felt they had to pick a player who was on the pennant winning team. This would be a common them over the history of the MVP reward. In case you’re wondering, I picked Bill Terry.

traynor4

3B-Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh Pirates, 32 Years Old

1923 1925 1927

.298, 2 HR, 103 RBI

MVP Rank: 13

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1948)

 

Led in:

 

Win Probability Added-5.2

Def. Games as 3B-155 (3rd Time)

Putouts as 3B-172 (5th Time)

Errors Committed as 3B-37 (3rd Time)

4th Time All-Star-Back in Traynor’s 1923 write-up, I expressed doubt to whether or not he would make another All-Star team. He’s now made three more since then. It should be noted this isn’t due to a great ability, but to a lack of good third basemen in the National League during this stretch. His WAR this season is only 2.6, but that’s the highest there is among people at his position and I needed someone at the hot corner, so here he is.

SABR says, “Traynor’s reputation as a third baseman has taken a bit of a beating in recent years. Although people once called Traynor the best third baseman in history, Bill James ranks him just 15th. A discussion on the Baseball Think Factory website indicates there are some very knowledgeable fans who think Traynor is grossly overrated, some who don’t even consider him a worthy Hall of Famer.

“If the Beatles had released ‘Please Please Me’ or ‘She Loves You’ in 2015 instead of 1963, we never would have heard of them. Those songs sound terribly dated today; people don’t make music that sounds like that anymore. Times change. But that doesn’t diminish the Beatles’ legacy or the historic significance of those early recordings; in the context of their time, they were amazing. Similarly, in the context of his time, Pie Traynor was an amazing third baseman. Although history might have overrated Traynor for a while, today the pendulum seems to have swung a little too far in the other direction. No discussion of great third basemen should exclude him.”

jacksont6

SS-Travis Jackson, New York Giants, 27 Years Old

1926 1927 1928 1929 1930

.310, 5 HR, 71 RBI

MVP Rank: 7

WAR Rank: 7

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1982)

Ron’s: No (Would require one more All-Star season. Sure thing)

 

Led in:

 

Defensive WAR-2.8 (3rd Time)

Def. Games as SS-145 (3rd Time)

Assists as SS-496 (4th Time)

Fielding % as SS-.970 (2nd Time)

6th Time All-Star-In the late 1890s and through the first decade and a half of the 20th Century, the National League had the best shortstop ever seen, one Honus Wagner. There were some other good ones like Bill Dahlen and George Davis, but it isn’t a position that’s given true superstars. (To me, it’s a true shame Dahlen isn’t in Cooperstown.) At this point in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Jackson could be considered a superstar. No other shortstop in the league flashed leather like he did and his consistency at making this list will put him in my Hall the next time he receives this honor.

The New York Times says, “Although he was widely regarded as the best shortstop in the National League for most of his career, Jackson, who joined the Giants in 1922 and played through the 1936 season, much of his time as the team captain, was passed over for the Hall of Fame during his initial period of eligibility. It wasn’t until 1982 that the Hall’s Veterans Committee gave formal recognition to what Giant fans had known all along – that the man they called Stonewall or Stoney, for short, was a very special player.”

For 1931, Jackson finished seventh in WAR (5.4), fourth in WAR Position Players (5.4), and first in Defensive WAR (2.8). He’s not going to make the All-Star team in 1932 or 1933 due to injuries, but he’ll be back in 1934 and make my Hall of Fame. I’ll bet you can’t wait!

english2

SS-Woody English, Chicago Cubs, 25 Years Old

1930

.319, 2 HR, 53 RBI

MVP Rank: 4

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require 11 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

Games Played-156 (2nd Time)

Plate Appearances-727 (2nd Time)

Putouts as SS-322

2nd Time All-Star-When English made the All-Star team last season, he made it as a third baseman, playing more games at third (83) than short (79). This year he’s back at short, but next year will be moving to third again. It’s puzzling why he wasn’t kept at short, because he was a heck of a fielder, according to dWAR.

SABR says, “English had another outstanding year at the plate in 1931. Again playing in all 156 games, he batted .319 and finished first in the NL in plate appearances (727), second in at-bats (634) and times on base (277), third in runs scored (117), tied for third in hits (202), fourth in sacrifice hits (18), fifth in walks (68), and in the top ten in total bases (262), doubles (38), and stolen bases (12). He led the league’s shortstops in putouts (322) and was third in the majors in fielding percentage at short (.965). That year English was fourth in voting for the National League MVP Award and runner-up to Philadelphia’s Chuck Klein in The Sporting News’s sportswriters’ poll of the league’s MVP.”

All of my lists and awards and honors are all based on numbers to some extent, because I’m trying to take feelings out of my picks. Still, it’s important to look at what the players and observers of their time saw. I wouldn’t have picked English as fourth in the MVP voting or second in The Sporting News poll, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. Of course, it doesn’t mean they’re correct, either, but that’s the great thing about baseball, we all have a voice.

klein3

LF-Chuck Klein, Philadelphia Phillies, 26 Years Old

1929 1930

.337, 31 HR, 121 RBI

MVP Rank: 2

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1980)

Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. 50 percent chance)

 

Led in:

 

Offensive WAR-5.7

Slugging-.584

Runs Scored-121 (2nd Time)

Total Bases-347 (2nd Time)

Home Runs-31 (2nd Time)

Runs Batted In-121

Runs Created-138 (2nd Time)

Adj. Batting Runs-43

Adj. Batting Wins-4.2

Base-Out Runs Added-57.05 (2nd Time)

Situ. Wins Added-5.4

Base-Out Wins Added-5.3

Assists as LF-9

3rd Time All-Star-This is the first year Klein made the All-Star team as a leftfielder. It should be noted his stats, like all National League hitters, declined this year, but it was still an impressive outing. He was again greatly helped by his home park, slashing .401/.465/.740 in Philly and .269/.327/.421 on the road. Also, 22 of his league-leading 31 homers were smashed at the tiny Baker Bowl.

Wikipedia says, “On July 1, 1931, in a game against the Chicago Cubs, Klein hit for the cycle, going 4-for-5 with five RBI. At the end of the season, he led the National League in runs scored with 121 and RBI with 121. He also lead the league in home runs for the second time in his career with 31, and amassed at least 200 hits for the third season in a row.”

The Kokomo Tribune wrote an article called “Who was Chuck Klein?” Here’s a bit of it: “A sign on West Rockville Road in Indy announces “The Chuck Klein Sports Complex,” a set of fields where soccer and softball games are played. An honor to be sure, but who is or was Chuck Klein?

“Known as the ‘Hoosier Hammer’ and the ‘Hoosier Hercules,’ his first five seasons were equal to anyone who ever played the game.

“Charles Herbert ‘Chuck’ Klein, the ‘Hoosier Hercules,’ Hall of Famer,  on the Sporting News list of 100 greatest players, nominated for Major League Baseball’s list of 100 greatest players,  jersey retired by the Phillies,  named by President Nixon on his greatest players list,  that’s who Chuck Klein was. And is.” I love local papers!

hafey4

LF-Chick Hafey, St. Louis Cardinals, 28 Years Old

1927 1928 1929

.349, 16 HR, 95 RBI

MVP Rank: 5

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1971)

Ron’s: No (Would require six more All-Star seasons. Impossible)

 

Led in:

 

1931 NL Batting Title

Batting Average-.349

4th Time All-Star-Hafey was a big reason the Cards made their fourth World Series in six years and also won their second championship in that time frame. He didn’t do well in the Series itself, hitting just .167 (four-for-24) with no extra base hits, but it didn’t matter as St. Louis downed the mighty A’s, four games to two.

Hafey won a tough battle for the batting title, as described by SABR, which says, “Carrying the numbers out an extra decimal place, Hafey’s average stood at .3489, Terry’s at .3486. There was some sentiment that Terry should share in the title because he had played in all but the last (canceled) game, while Hafey missed 32 games. National League President John A. Heydler ruled that Hafey had the higher average and was the champion. Overlooked in the matter was Jim Bottomley, Hafey’s roommate, who had finished at .3481. If Bottomley had made one more hit he could have won the title. Whether Heydler would have disallowed Bottomley because he appeared in even fewer games than Hafey (108 with 382 at bats) is a question that will never be answered.

“He was planning to come to a reunion of the 1933 National League All-Star Team, but that was not to be as he died on July 2, 1973. In keeping with his quiet persona, Hafey’s funeral was private; it was not until a few days later that the public at large became aware that one who had achieved much in his baseball career was no more.”

berger

CF-Wally Berger, Boston Braves, 25 Years Old

.323, 19 HR, 84 RBI

WAR Rank: 5

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: No

Ron’s: No (Would require seven more All-Star seasons. 43 percent chance)

 

Led in:

 

Games Played-156

Def. Games as CF-156

Double Plays Turned as CF-5

Def. Games as OF-156

1st Time All-Star-Walker Anton “Wally” Berger was born on October 10, 1905 in Chicago, IL. The six-foot-two, 198 pound righty centerfielder had a famous rookie year in 1930, when he crushed 38 homers. That was the record for a rookie (along with Frank Robinson in 1956) until 1987 when Mark McGwire smashed 49. However, because everyone was hitting that season, he didn’t make the All-Star team. He’s back this year, though, putting together a decent season in a year there weren’t too many of those.

SABR has a lot to say about that 1930 season, but I’m going to copy and paste what they say about this one: “The team slipped to seventh in 1931 when Berger was reunited with his Los Angeles teammate, a five-foot-eleven, 210-pounder dubbed ‘Big Wes’ Schulmerich. Schulmerich, who the Braves thought might duplicate Berger’s rookie heroics, hit over .300 but with little power. Berger failed to match his 1930 home run total but achieved career highs in games played (156), at-bats (617), and batting average (.323). He showed his speed with 13 of his 36 career stolen bases and on May 30, 1931, became one of only five players ever to hit a ball out of Baker Bowl to left field. (Bogart)”

For the year, Berger finished fifth in WAR (5.7); second in WAR Position Players (5.7), behind Giants’ first baseman Bill Terry (6.1); third in Offensive WAR (5.2), trailing Philadelphia leftfielder Chuck Klein (5.7) and Terry (5.4); ninth in slugging (.512); sixth in steals (13); and seventh in Adjusted OPS+ (141).

ott4

CF-Mel Ott, New York Giants, 22 Years Old

1928 1929 1930

.292, 29 HR, 115 RBI

WAR Rank: 6

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1951)

Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1930)

 

Led in:

 

Bases on Balls-80 (2nd Time)

AB per HR-17.1 (2nd Time)

4th Time All-Star-With Master Melvin’s batting average dipping from .349 to .292, it certainly looked like an off season for the Giants’ star. Yet Ott’s Adjusted OPS+ actually went up from 1930 (150) to 1931 (151). He played only 138 games this season, the last time he’d play below 150 until 1939. This will be the only year he makes this list as a centerfielder instead of in right.

With Rogers Hornsby declining, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the battle for National League’s best player was now between two teammates – Bill Terry and Ott. However, Terry was 10 years older than the incredible Ott, so I’m giving that meaningless title to this man.

Ott’s Hall of Fame page says, “During his playing career, longtime New York Giants outfielder Mel Ott was one of the game’s most feared sluggers. And according to Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher, one of the most popular: ‘I never knew a baseball player who was so universally loved. Why even when he was playing against the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, he would be cheered and there are no more rabid fans than in Brooklyn.’”

His 1931 stats are as follows: 6th in WAR (5.6); third in WAR Position Players (5.6), behind Terry (6.1) and Braves centerfielder Wally Berger (5.7); fourth in Offensive WAR (5.1); fourth in slugging (.545); and fourth in Adjusted OPS+ (151). At this point in his young career, Ott hasn’t reached the World Series, but that will be coming.

waner6

RF-Paul Waner, Pittsburgh Pirates, 28 Years Old

1926 1927 1928 1929 1930

.322, 6 HR, 70 RBI

WAR Rank: 10

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1952)

Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1930)

 

Led in:

 

Putouts as RF-334 (2nd Time)

Assists as RF-27

Double Plays Turned as RF-9

Assists as OF-28

Double Plays as OF-8

Range Factor as RF-2.64 (2nd Time)

Fielding % as RF-.976 (3rd Time)

6th Time All-Star-No doubt Mel Ott is going to have a more prestigious career than Big Poison as a rightfielder, but that shouldn’t take away from Waner’s great career. He was so good, his much less talented brother Lloyd went in on his coattails. (The two are pictured above). Bleacher Report agrees he shouldn’t be in Hall, saying, “Waner did set a major league record with 198 singles during his rookie year and was a .316 hitter, but he was not an elite player for his era.

“Waner had an OPS+ of 99 during his career, which is below average. This fact makes it hard to see Waner as a Hall of Famer. Even with his ability to get on base at a high rate, Waner did not reach 3,000 hits, and he had a below-average OPS compared to his contemporaries.”

Sometimes people make the Hall because they’re paired in the minds with others during their time. Tommy McCarthy, another bad choice for Cooperstown, made the Hall because he was part of the Heavenly Twins, along with Hugh Duffy, from 1892-1895. By the way, Duffy didn’t make my Hall either, as he had his best hitting seasons during an easy time for batsmen.

This season, Paul Waner finished 10th in WAR (5.0); seventh in WAR Position Players (5.0); fourth in on-base percentage (.404); and first in many fielding categories. By the way, you might notice Waner had nine double plays as a rightfielder to lead the league and only eight as an outfielder, which also led the National League. This is obviously a mistake by Baseball Reference.

cuyler6

RF-Kiki Cuyler, Chicago Cubs, 32 Years Old

1924 1925 1926 1929 1930

.330, 9 HR, 88 RBI

MVP Rank: 12

Hall of Fames:

ONEHOF: No

Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1968)

Ron’s: No (Would require one more All-Star season. 50 percent chance)

 

Led in:

 

Times on Base-279 (3rd Time)

6th Time All-Star-Will Kiki Cuyler make my Hall of Fame? He needs to make one more of these All-Star teams and as you can see by his having a 50 percent chance of doing so, it’s a coin flip.By my guess,  it will depend on his 1934 season. If he makes it that year, he’s in, if not, he’s out. He had a good career, but I’m not sure he should be in Hall. Or maybe I do. He’s that close.

SABR says, “Cuyler proved to be one of the few bright spots in the Cubs’ mediocre and inconsistent season in 1931, during which players bristled at Hornsby’s autocratic managerial methods. Batting leadoff through most of June, Cuyler was moved back to the third spot to provide the team with more offense in light of Wilson’s precipitous drop in power (13 home runs). He batted .330, tied for third in the league with 202 hits, and ranked fourth by scoring 110 runs.

“Ironically Cuyler’s athleticism, seemingly effortless play, and gentlemanly persona also drew criticism. ‘Cuyler had only one flaw that kept him from being rated with the immortals of the game,’ suggested The Sporting News in his obituary, echoing sentiments heard throughout the player’s career. ‘He lacked the ruthlessness that might have carried him to greater heights and made his record even more brilliant.’ Considered sensitive to criticism, Cuyler responded best to players’ managers, like McKechnie and McCarthy, instead of authoritarian types (Bush and Hornsby).”

In 1932, Cuyler will have an injury that will hinder the rest of his career.

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