Ryczek: My favorite 19th-century player: Joe Start

From SABR member Bill Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on May 23, 2018:

It’s highly unlikely that Joe Start will ever be elected to the Hall of Fame—and I don’t care. At nearly every meeting of the Society for American Baseball Research, someone is promoting the candidacy of a favorite player, but I subscribe to the philosophy of John Thorn, MLB’s official historian, who wonders why we should be so concerned about who is admitted to someone else’s country club.

Joe Start was a fine player and admirable human being regardless of whether he is ever elected to the Hall of Fame. At 5 feet, 9 inches and 165 pounds, he was not an imposing presence—small by modern standards, but about average for his time. He was a strong hitter with good power, one of the best fielding first basemen of his era, and a good base runner. His integrity earned him the nickname “Old Reliable,” and while he played with teams that were frequently accused of dishonest play, his name was never mentioned in connection with any scandal.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Start’s career was his sustained excellence over a long period of time, at a time when the game changed dramatically and the skills required to play at a high level were continually evolving. He began playing in 1859, and his last Major League season was 1886, 27 years later; he was the last of the pre–Civil War players to hang up his cleats. There have been a number of twentieth-century players who had long careers, but the game that Tommy John played during his rookie year of 1963 was very much like the game he played during his final season in 1989.

Read the full article here: https://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/my-favorite-nineteenth-century-player-joe-start

Originally published: May 23, 2018. Last Updated: May 23, 2018.