Lynch: Fred Odwell, improbable home run champ

From SABR member Mike Lynch at The National Pastime Museum on January 11, 2016:

Baseball history is littered with hitters who seemingly came out of nowhere to achieve improbable feats. In 1912 Pirates outfielder Chief Wilson set a modern-day record for triples when he clubbed 36, five more than any other batter had ever recorded and 10 more than any hitter since 1900. Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field was a great park for triples, but Wilson had averaged “only” 11 three baggers a season in his first four campaigns, and there was little evidence he’d set the all-time record.

In 1931 journeyman Red Sox outfielder Earl Webb belted 67 doubles to establish a single-season record that still stands. His next highest total was 30, which came the year before. In fact, Webb had only 55 career doubles in 924 at-bats prior to 1931. Then, of course, there’s the dubious mark of 50 home runs set by Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson in 1996, which was 29 more than his previous career best and 26 more than his second highest total.

In 1905 the player who came out of nowhere was Cincinnati Reds flycatcher Fred Odwell. The Downsville, New York, native began his professional career in 1897 as a pitcher with the Wilkes-Barre Coal Barons of the Eastern League, but he enjoyed little success, going 6–24 with a 3.06 ERA in 35 games. Clearly control was an issue for the 24-year-old right-hander as he walked 104 batters in 247 innings, hit 26 more, and tossed nine wild pitches, all of which were team highs.

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Originally published: January 11, 2016. Last Updated: January 11, 2016.