Cieradkowski: Fran Boniar, the greatest hitter you never heard of

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski at Studio Gary C on October 23, 2019:

Baseball has always been a game of numbers. From the tally of hits, home runs and wins to the digits worn on every player’s back, the game and its history is defined by numbers. And among all these figures and statistics, certain combinations carry a significant connotation that every fan can identify, such as 400 – as in a .400 batting average.

Since the beginning of organized baseball, hitting .400 or above has been the mark of an elite batsman, a rarefied position reached only by the likes of Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams. Indeed, since Major League Baseball was established in 1876, this number has been surpassed only 28 times, with Ed Delahanty, Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby each hitting .400 or better three times each, and no player besting Hugh Duffy’s .440 set in 1894.

In the minor leagues, the list of .400 hitters is a bit longer, but even with lower-quality pitching, the ability to belt the ball at a .400 clip through an entire season is still a noteworthy accomplishment. Out of the 15 players who recorded the highest single-season batting averages in the minors, more than half made it to the majors. And out of those 15, only one name appears twice – yet, he is not one of the players who got the call to The Show.

Who was this guy, and why didn’t he get the call despite batting over .400 twice? His name is Fran Boniar, and this is the story of the greatest hitter you never heard of.

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Originally published: October 23, 2019. Last Updated: October 23, 2019.