Part-Time Player, Full-Time Leader

This article was written by L. Robert Davids

This article was published in 1974 Baseball Research Journal

In order to be eligible for a batting or slugging title a player must go to bat a certain number of times.

No such regulation dictates who leads in a cumulative category like home runs or stolen bases.   The highest total takes the crown, no matter how many games the player was in.   There have been several cases where full-time players suffered the embarrassment of having a part-time colleague take the cake.

In 1941, for example, rookie Denny Murtaugh came up with the Phils in mid-year.   He played in only 85 games, but led the NL in steals with 18.   He topped such regulars as Lonnie Frey, Lee Handley, and Stan Benjamin.

In 1919, Cliff Cravath, near the end of his career, played in 83 games and went to bat only 214 times.   Yet, he led in homers with 12, topping Benny Kauff, Cy Williams, and Rogers Hornsby, who went to bat more than twice as many times.  Cravath batted for .341 and slugged for .640, both top marks, but he was not eligible for either crown.  Neither was he eligible for having the highest home run percentage, although his was about three times better than any one else.

Being hit by a pitch is more of a specialty and most players do not care to lead in that obscure category.

Several part-time players have led in HBP, including Rick Reichardt in 1966, Floyd Baker in 1945, Roberto Ortiz in 1944, and Jimmy Welsh in 1929.  The most pronounced case was that of Vince Barton of the Cubs who led the NL in 1931 with 9 although playing in only 66 games and going to bat 239 times.