The Pre-1900 Batting Stars

This article was written by Eugene C. Murdock

This article was published in the 1973 Baseball Research Journal


Little detailed information has been available on batting stars of the pre-1900 period until recent years.  Previously we had little more than the batting averages and total games.  Cap Anson was usually recognized as the best hitter because he had gone year after year hitting over .300.  Not much was known about the triple hitters and the good RBI sluggers.

In 1971, SABR conducted a survey on oldtime players who had not been elected to the Hall of Fame.  Although the period covered by the survey ran to 1951, many of the votes went to long-forgotten players of the 1880s and 1890s.  The research effort described below was conducted to establish just who were the good hitters of that period.  Essentially all figures were drawn from the Macmillan Encyclopedia, which is easily the best compiled source for the pre-1900 era.

First, several power categories were selected — runs, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in, slugging average, and batting average — and 12 leaders in each category were chosen.  However, these leaders were determined not by their numerical listing in the all-time totals, but rather on a “per game” basis.   By doing this, players who did well but had shortened careers, were placed on an equitable basis with those who had long careers and compiled large numerical totals.  To be eligible, players had to play 10 years and participate in more than 1000 games. Thus Pete Browning who played only 12 years and had 295 doubles finished ahead of Cap Anson, who played 22 years and belted out 528 doubles.

Lists of the 12 leaders in the seven categories were then prepared, and quality points awarded to each player listed.  The player finishing first in a category received 12 points, the player placing second 11 points, and on down the list.   The points were then totaled up and a final list compiled.

Leading all of the 19th century players is Dan Brouthers with 67 points, followed by Sam Thompson and Ed Delahanty.  Next comes Harry Stovey, Pete Browning, Roger Connor, and Mike Tiernan,  players long neglected by the Hall of Fame selection committee.  If such a study as this serves any purpose, it should be to demonstrate the need that Hall of Fame selections for the real oldtimers should be based more on detailed statistical records rather than obscure legends and personal preferences.

It was interesting to learn that the number of three-base hits was much higher in the old days and that it was a reflection of the long-ball hitter just as the home run was.  Also, almost all of the great run scorers played before 1900.  Three — Billy Hamilton, George Gore, and Harry Stovey  — averaged more than one run a game.

Hamilton had some very high season totals, including 192 in 1894, and one of the reasons he was scoring so frequently was that Sam Thompson, the best RBI man of the period, was batting behind him.

There follows the 12 leading batters in each category according to their per-game performance. In the case of slugging and batting averages, the regular percentage is given.  Complete figures on RBIs are not available for all early hitters; best estimates were made based on existing information.  Lastly, the final table shows the players who performed the best across the board on a percentage basis – the real power hitters of 19th century baseball.

 

Doubles

     

Triples

 

Player

Games

2B

#/G

 

Player

Games

3B

#/G

Delahanty

1835

522

0.285

 

Ewing

1315

178

0.135

Brouthers

1673

460

0.275

 

Brouthers

1673

205

0.122

Browning

1183

295

0.249

 

Reilly

1142

139

0.121

Hines

1481

368

0.248

 

Stovey

1486

175

0.117

K. Kelly

1463

360

0.246

 

Connor

1997

233

0.116

Thempson.

1407

360

0.243

 

Thompson

1407

160

0.113

Stovey

1486

347

0.234

 

E. Smith

1235

136

0.110

O’Rourke

1774

414

0.233

 

Tierman

1476

161

0.109

Anson

2276

528

0.232

 

T.P. Burns

1186

129

0.108

Richardson

1331

303

0.228

 

J. Kelley

1834

194

0.105

J. Ryan

2012

451

0.225

 

G. Wood

1280

132

0.102

Connor

1997

441

0.221

 

Beckley

2386

242

0.101

                 
                 
 

Runs Scored

     

Home Runs

 

Player

Games

Runs

#/G

 

Player

Games

HR

#/G

Hamilton

1591

1690

1.062

 

Thompson

1407

129

0.091

Geo. Gore

1310

1327

1.013

 

Stovey

1486

121

0.081

Stovey

1486

1492

1.004

 

Tiernan

1476

109

0.074

K. Kelly

1463

1364

0.932

 

Connor

1997

136

0.068

McGraw

1099

1024

0.931

 

Brouthers

1673

106

0.063

Griffin

1511

1406

0.930

 

Duffy

1736

105

0.060

Brouthers

1673

1523

0.910

 

Denny

1237

74

0.059

Latham

1627

1478

0.908

 

Reilly

1142

67

0.058

Duffy

1736

1553

0.894

 

J. Ryan

2012

118

0.058

Thompson

1407

1256

0.892

 

Pfeffer

1670

95

0.057

Tiernan

1476

1314

0.890

 

D. Lyons

1121

62

0.055

Delahanty

1835

1599

0.880

 

Richardson

1331

73

0.055

RBI per Game

 

Slugging Average

 

Batting Average

Thompson

0.923

 

Brouthers

0.519

 

Delahanty

0.346

Anson

0.826*

 

Thompson

0.506

 

Hamilton

0.344

Delahanty

0.797

 

Delahanty

0.505

 

Brouthers

0.342

Brouthers

0.754*

 

Connor

0.485

 

Browning

0.341

Duffy

0.748

 

Browning

0.466

 

Keeler

0.341

T.P. Burns

0.689*

 

Tiernan

0.464

 

Burkett

0.338

Browning

0.679*

 

Stovey

0.461

 

McGraw

0.334

Ewing

0.672*

 

O’Neill

0.458

 

Thompson

0.331

Beckley

0.660

 

Ewing

0.455

 

Anson

0.329

O’Neill

0.658*

 

J. Kelley

0.452

 

O’Neill

0.326

Connor

0.655*

 

Duffy

0.446

 

Duffy

0.324

Jennings

0.653

 

Anson

0.446

 

Connor

0.317

*Estimate

 

TOTAL QUALITY POINTS FOR PRE-1900 BATTERS

Player

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SA

BA

Total

Dan Brouthers

6

11

11

8

9

12

10

67

Sam Thompson*

4

7

7

12

12

11

5

58

Ed Delahanty

1

12

10

10

12

45

Harry Stovey*

10

6

9

11

6

42

Pete Browning*

10

6

8

9

33

Roger Connor*

1

8

9

2

9

1

30

Mike Tiernan*

2

5

10

0

7

24

Hugh Duffy

4

7

8

2

2

23

Billy Hamilton

12

11

23

BuckEwing

12

5

4

21

Adrian Anson

4

11

1

4

20

King Kelly

9

8

17

John Reilly*

10

5

15

John McGraw

8

6

14

George Gore*

11

 

11

Tom P. Burns*

4

7

11

Tip 0’Neill*

 

3

5

3

11

Paul Hines*

9

 

9

Willie Keeler

8

8

Jesse Burkett

7

7

Mike Griffin*

7

7

Joe Kelley

3

3

6

James Ryan*

2

4

6

Elmer Smith*

6

6

Jerry Denny*

6

6

Jake Beckley

1

4

5

Jim O’Rourke

5

 

5

K. Richardson*

3

1

4

Fred Pfeffer*

3

3

Denny Lyons*

2

2

George Wood*

2

2

Hugh Jennings

1

1

*Not in Hall of Fame

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