One of the fun things about doing these lists is that occasionally I come across someone who I hadn't thought of as a Hall of Famer, and hasn't appeared on any ballots for the BBFHOF, but appears worthy of induction into the BBFHOF once I go through everything. When producing my adjusted win shares totals for 19th-century shortstops, I made such a discovery: Herman Long.
.... Long had the misfortune to appear when there were three better players at the position: Davis, Dahlen, and Jennings. Worse yet, most of Long's career came when there was just one major league. ...
Long also had the bad fortune to come up against a glut of great defensive shortstops as well. Glasscock won four win shares gold gloves, but he was just an A- shortstop. Wallace, who won just two such titles, was an A+ shortstop. However, the 1890s also offered A+ shortstops in Bob Allen, Germany Smith, Bill Dahlen, and Hughie Jennings, and an A shortstop in Tommy Corcoran. That's a glut. Having one league made it twice as difficult to win a win shares gold glove.
When I finished the Keltner List for Long, however, I concluded that, with the possible exception of Rizzuto, Long was the best major league shortstop outside the BBFHOF. (Rizzuto is the possible exception because giving him credit for military service may move him ahead of Long.) Long was also a leader on one of baseball's dynasties and was still rated highly by sportswriters 40 years after his peak years ended. That's a very good sign that he ought to be a Hall of Famer.
Long's reputation suffers mainly because he played against Davis and Dahlen and Jennings in a one-league era; had he achieved the same record in eras that didn't produce so many deserving shortstops, it would be easier to see that, like Davis and Dahlen and Jennings, he deserves induction into the BBFHOF. ...
Case to Consider: LONG, Herman
1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
2. Was he the best player on his team?
He led Boston’s position players in win shares in 1891. He was second among the team’s position players in 1893, but third in the majors.
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
He led major league shortstops in win shares in 1891 and 1893, and AA shortstops in 1889. He was second among NL shortstops, and hence among major league SS, in 1892.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
He had 29 raw win shares (32 per 154 scheduled games) in 1891, when Boston won the pennant by 3.5 games, so there was a lot of impact there. Long also had 26 win shares (30 per 154 games) in 1893, as the Beaneaters won by five games. Long was just barely at an All-Star level in 1897, when Boston won by two, but he was credited as a team leader. Thus, Long had an impact on several pennant winners.
5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
Since he played in 138 games at 35 and 120 games at 36 (both in 140-game seasons), I would have to say yes.
6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
By similarity scores: John Ward, Pee Wee Reese, Bid McPhee, Bobby Lowe, Jack Glasscock, Tony Fernandez, Dick Bartell, Ed McKean, Bill Dahlen, and Garry Templeton. We have three members of Cooperstown, and three BBFHOF members (although Ward is in as a contributor).
Adjusted career win shares, 1800s shortstops: Jack Glasscock 308, LONG 289, Ed McKean 240, Hughie Jennings 238. Later shortstops include Rabbit Maranville 302, Luis Aparicio 293, Tony Fernandez 280, Bert Campaneris 280, Lou Boudreau 277, Joe Sewell 277, Dave Concepcion 269, Dave Bancroft 269. This is actually a little below the cutoff area; Maranville’s 302 is the second-highest raw total among shortstops outside the BBFHOF, and Barry Larkin’s 314 is the second-lowest raw total among shortstops in the BBFHOF.
Best three seasons, 1800s SS: Bill Dahlen 95, George Davis 84, Herman Long 90, Jack Glasscock 87. Moderns with similar totals include Ernie Banks 96, Lou Boudreau 96, Vern Stephens 93, Alan Trammell 90, Jim Fregosi 89, Maury Wills 87, Rico Petrocelli 87, Johnny Pesky 87, Pee Wee Reese 85, Joe Sewell 84, Dave Bancroft 84. Long is pretty much at the border here.
Best five consecutive seasons, 1800s SS: George Davis 140, Bill Dahlen 136, Herman Long 131, Frank Fennelly 116. Later shortstops with similar totals include Lou Boudreau 135, Jim Fregosi 135, Pee Wee Reese 134, Alan Trammell 132, Johnny Pesky 130, Vern Stephens 129, Eddie Joost 126, Joe Sewell 125, and Rico Petrocelli 125. Long is right at the border here as well.
8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Long has a score of 7 (304th place) on the Black Ink test and 78 (300th) on the Gray Ink test. Both are low for position players, but good for shortstops in Cooperstown, and Long played most of his career when there was just one major league. Long also has a HOF Standards score of 36.9 (173rd), which is a little low for position players in general, but then again, he was a shortstop. Long also picked up two win share gold gloves.
Long is in neither Cooperstown nor the Hall of Merit.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
According to the win shares system, Long was an A+ defensive shortstop, and that isn’t reflected in his offensive statistics. On the other hand, Long played in the high-offense 1890s, and the South End Grounds was one of the league’s top hitters’ parks, so that boosts his raw offensive numbers.
Long was also considered one of the Beaneaters’ on-field leaders as they won five pennants in eight years.
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
No. Pearce, Cepeda, and Moore are better, in my opinion. However, one could make the case that Long is the best major league shortstop outside the BBFHOF.
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
Long had two seasons which come out to 30+ win shares per 152 scheduled games. That’s a little low for position players, but the only major league shortstop with multiple 30+ win share seasons who isn’t in the BBFHOF is Vern Stephens, and one of his came in 1944.
12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
Long recorded seven seasons with 20+ win shares per 154 scheduled games; that’s a little low, as eight is the general borderline. However, Long also had two seasons which come out to 19 win shares, and the system may underrate a top defensive player a little; nine All-Star-type seasons would push Long above the borderline.
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
At his peak, yes.
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Long holds the major league record for most errors in a career. On the other hand, his 6.4 chances per game is also the record for most per game by a major league shortstop. The two records may be related; Long was involved in a lot of plays most shortstops were not good enough to reach, and the fielding equipment of the 1800s, combined with the fact that seasons were longer in his day than they were earlier, would put him at a disadvantage compared to fielders of similar ability in other eras when it came to the number of errors made in a career.
Also, in 1936 Hall of Fame voting, Long finished eighth in the nineteenth-century vote; he’s the only one in the top ten in that vote who isn’t in the BBFHOF. He finished ahead of, among others, Brouthers, Connor, Dahlen, Davis, Jennings, Burkett, Hamilton, Kelly, Nichols, Clarkson, and Rusie. As far as I know, the 1936 Veterans’ vote was the only such vote performed by the BBWAA.
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
In general, yes.
CONCLUSION: As far as major league shortstops go, Herman Long is right at the current border between “in the BBFHOF” and “outside the BBFHOF.” The leadership he brought to one of baseball’s dynasties and the high regard writers still had about him 40 years after his peak ought to be enough to move him onto my queue.
On the other hand, he was the fourth-best shortstop of his era; among shortstops who came up between 1889 and 1891, Dahlen, Davis, and Jennings were all better. It isn’t that often that we have a glut of players at one position who arrive at around the same time and are all Hall of Famers. Kaline, Aaron, Robinson, and Clemente debuted in 1953-1956, but there aren’t many other gluts.
...Long’s major drawback is an accident of timing; had he appeared in the 1880s or 1920s or 1960s, he would have overshadowed his contemporaries instead of being overshadowed by them. That accident of timing isn’t a good reason to drop him. Long is worthy of the BBFHOF.