Schechter: Ken Williams’ amazing 1922 season

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at The National Pastime Museum on August 14, 2014:

You may not have noticed that a common occurrence was missing from the Major League landscape in 2013: for only the third time since 1986, nobody achieved a 30-30 season. It also didn’t happen in 2010 and in 1994, when a strike curtailed the accumulation of statistics before the season was three-quarters done.

The 30-30 season has become so commonplace that we don’t make a big deal of it anymore, saving the accolades for additions to the still-exclusive “40-40 Club,” currently occupied only by Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano. Through 2013, there have been 68 seasons combining 30-plus home runs and 30-plus stolen bases, including five apiece by Barry Bonds and his father, Bobby. Curiously, of the 38 men to pull off the feat, only three have plaques in the Hall of Fame: Willie Mays (twice), Hank Aaron, and Barry Larkin.

When Mays wowed the baseball world in 1956 by belting 36 home runs and swiping 40 bases, he was just the second player to reach 30-30. Until then, it had been done only by Ken Williams, a fine ballplayer who is virtually unknown today. He deserves acclaim as a groundbreaking slugger-speedster, so let’s take a closer look at what went into his amazing 1922 season, when he compiled Ruthian numbers including a .332 average, 39 home runs, and 155 runs batted in, along with a quite un-Ruthian 36 stolen bases.

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Originally published: August 14, 2014. Last Updated: August 14, 2014.