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Thread: Bad Bill Dahlen

  1. #1

    Bad Bill Dahlen

    I wanted to post our transgressions on the forgotten great Bill Dahlen for the 19th century aficionados here to get their reactions.

    I'll start out with something I composed over in the Hall of Fame section here at BBF.

    Quote Originally Posted by csh19792001
    This gave me the idea to start this thread. I wanted to see what everyone thought about his candidacy. If possible, I'll add a poll as well after we've had a chance to discuss things a bit.

    For those who prefer historical/biographical accounts and narrative:

    For those who prefer statistical analysis:

    394 career Win Shares put him just ahead of Tim Raines and just behind Tony Gwynn in terms of career value.

    Even when evaluated using WARP3 (which makes an enormous 30% dent in his raw numbers), Dahlen still comes out with much more career value than even the much ballyhooed Ron Santo, who was somewhat like Bad Bill in his fielding brilliance, but came replete with a TON of support for his induction due to the fact that he was a beloved contemporary ballplayer.

    According to all accounts (as well as all of the best fielding statistics available) Dahlen was one of the greatest fielders in baseball history. There isn't much debate on that from anyone.

    This is a nice analysis below (I've extricated the portions on Dahlen, the article considers the case of "Indian" Bob Johnson, as well):

    "With their statistics easily accessible to anyone that is willing to look at Total Baseball or The Baseball Encyclopedia, both Dahlen and ("Indian Bob") Johnson have faired well with the better known statistical analysts, Bill James, Pete Palmer, Charles Faber, and Frank Peterson.

    Bill James and Jim Henzler, in their Win Shares, rank Dahlen the sixth best shortstop of all time and tie him with Wade Boggs as the 40th greatest player to ever play major league baseball as of 2002; Palmer, in the seventh edition of Total Baseball, rates him the second best shortstop, the top defensive shortstop, and the 31st greatest player of all time as of 2001; Faber, in his Baseball Pioneers: Ratings of Nineteenth Century Players, has him as the fourth best of the pre-1901 shortstops and, when combined with Faber's ratings of post-1900 players, the 99th greatest player up to 1995; and Peterson, in his REAL Major League Baseball: Rankings of Efficiency and Longevity, By Position, 1893-1995, places him as the eighth best shortstop and the 138th greatest player between 1893 and 1995.

    And if those statistics don't sound impressive enough, keep in mind that currently there are 195 major league players in the Hall of Fame. So, if Dahlen's all-time rankings are averaged, he would be considered the 79th best player ever to put on a major league uniform and certainly worthy of inclusion in baseball's pantheon.

    Furthermore, both men were highly respected for their playing abilities at the time that they performed. Dahlen was a key player on four pennant-winning clubs, and John McGraw, a shrewd judge of baseball talent and arguably the finest manager in the history of major league baseball, traded two players to get him, despite the fact that "Bad Bill" was almost 34 years old when the trade took place.

    However, neither man has faired well with the Hall of Fame voters. Dahlen received one vote in 1936 and another in 1938; Johnson received one vote in 1948 and one in 1956. In addition, both men may have received some votes from the former versions of the current Veterans Committee, but since those votes were never publicized, no one will ever know.

    Thus, this raises the question of why haven't these two stars at least received more consideration from the Hall of Fame selectors if not been voted into the shrine itself.

    There is no conclusive evidence to answer this question, but in Dahlen's case, it's known that he didn't get along well with sportswriters and other ballplayers. And who were and still are the voters for Hall of Fame membership? Sportswriters and, for the Veterans Committee, former ballplayers. Of course, by now, all of the Sportswriters and ballplayers that knew Dahlen are dead, but then, also by now, few if any sportswriters and ballplayers have ever heard of Bill Dahlen or have made an effort to learn about him."

    And, as I see it, a complete lack of fame and popularity are the only reasons Dahlen wasn't inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame long ago.
    So what do you guys think? Is Dahlen the most unheralded and forgotten great in baseball history?

    And here's a link to the book for those interested in the historical narrative:

  2. #2
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    Nov 2005
    Logan, OH
    Dahlen is definately underrated. I'd place him as a border line HOFer, barely in. Of course, if I got the key to the place, I'd turn away about 1/3 of the guys already in there! I hadn't noticed his defense before, but he does rate VERY well against his peers....thus moving himself to 8 or 9 on my SS list, well ahead of the 50's guys(Reese, Aparicio and Rizzuto) and behind Wagner, ARod, Vaughan, Ripken, Pop Lloyd, and a couple more I'm probably missing off the top of my head.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    North Idaho
    Quote Originally Posted by csh19792001
    I wanted to post our transgressions on the forgotten great Bill Dahlen for the 19th century aficionados here to get their reactions.

    I'll start out with something I composed over in the Hall of Fame section here at BBF.

    So what do you guys think? Is Dahlen the most unheralded and forgotten great in baseball history?

    And here's a link to the book for those interested in the historical narrative:
    Dahlen isn't in the HofF because the veterans have been busy inducting players from the twenties and thirties. Who remembers Dahlen anymore? The one negative I have with him is that he received a nice healthy $4000 contract from John Dovey, the Dove (Brave) President at the time, for the 1909 season. Presumably Dahlen wanted to leave Boston. He had one of his worst years, and Boston had its worst season up to that time.

  4. #4
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    I don't think I'd put Dahlen at the very top of the list of excluded players--more like fourth, behind Santo, Blyleven and Dick Allen. That said, he'd be a fine addition to the Hall.

    Jim Albright
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
    Some minds are like concrete--thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
    A Lincoln: I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.

  5. #5

    Bill Dahlen and Tommy Corcoran

    I've spent the last 1-1/2 yr studying defense at all positions. I'm seeing a shift of preferences from the great hitting SS of the late 1880s early 1890s to a preference to great fielding SS in late 1890s and 1900s. Statistically, a better fielding SS is more valuable to his team than a better hitting SS. Bill Dahlen and Tommy Corcoran lead the list.

  6. #6
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    Minneapolis, Boston, New York, Jerusalem

    Dahlen for the HOF

    I rank Dahlen as the greatest position player not in the Hall of Fame, just ahead of Mark McGwire (who won't be inducted anytime soon because, ahem, he doesn't want to talk about the past). I also have him as the 13th best SS of all time, behind Honus Wagner, Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, Ernie Banks, Joe Cronin, George Davis, Luke Appling, Robin Yount, Arky Vaughan, Derek Jeter, Ozzie Smith, and Barry Larkin, though I am being convinced by some of the people here to move him further up, probably to tenth.

    He's certainly ahead of his contemporaries now in the HOF, including Joe Tinker, Hughie Jennings, and Bobby Wallace.

    So my real question to those who know more about such matters is why did he not make the HOF in the first place? When the voters were voting for Jennings and Wallace, why did they pass Dahlen over?

  7. #7
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    Dec 2003
    Kansas City
    I certainly go along with Dahlen being in the HoF, but I'd rather see the VC elections abolished. They just make too many major mistakes. In the last one they passed over Dahlen without much argument and came within one vote of electing Allie Reynolds.
    Buck O'Neil: The Monarch of Baseball

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by KCGHOST View Post
    I certainly go along with Dahlen being in the HoF, but I'd rather see the VC elections abolished. They just make too many major mistakes. In the last one they passed over Dahlen without much argument and came within one vote of electing Allie Reynolds.
    Joe Gordon has somehow slipped into the Baseball Hall of Fame yet Bill Dahlen has no prayer of ever getting consideration. How tragically unfair! One guy (Dahlen) is one of top few most skilled/valuable defensive players in baseball history, and the other was merely a "very good" player with a very short career, by HOF standards. Gordon had the incredible fortune to be signed by a dynasty.....a member of the most hyped, over-covered, and storied franchise in sports history.

  9. #9


    Gordon is also in what is among the most overhyped generation of players.

    It seems anyone who had a 100 RBI season during the 1940s and was breathed upon by Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio or David Halberstam or Ken Burns or Tom Brokaw is in the HOF.

    Bill Dahlen is better than 90 players in the HOF.

    The HOF sucks. Why anyone with a brain pays attention to it is unknown.

    I nominate Chet Laabs.
    Last edited by Hargrave; 07-30-2009 at 10:11 PM.
    "On the sandlot, we used to play all day. We used to get 10 at-bats before lunch."
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  10. #10
    Dahlen was traded in 1899 for Gene DeMontreville. How many Hall of Famers are traded at age 28, even up for a player who is hardly a star of any great magnitude himself? Maybe a few, but I can't imagine there have been many.

    Joe Gordon was traded by the Yankees -- at age 31, and for Allie Reynolds, who may not be a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate but is a lot closer to it than Gene DeMontreville. Certainly, the Dahlen trade was a bad mistake on the Chicago management's part but they didn't do it without a reason. When a player has a reputation for deliberately getting run out of games in order to get a head start at the race track, he will earn some disfavor.

    Whether that justifies excluding a player of Dahlen's unquestionable quality, I don't know. I am baffled, though, at why he has become the fair-haired child of the 19th century in preference to Deacon White, who was a greater player, a more interesting and admirable personality and to some degree a central figure in baseball history in a way that Dahlen was not.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beady View Post
    Dahlen was traded in 1899 for Gene DeMontreville. How many Hall of Famers are traded at age 28, even up for a player who is hardly a star of any great magnitude himself? Maybe a few, but I can't imagine there have been many.
    In 1898, DeMontreville was 8th in the league in batting and 3rd in stolen bases. He actually hit .343, .341, and .328 in 1896-98, drove in 93, 83, and 76 runs, and stole 30, 49, and 47 bases. Although when he played at short he led the league in errors twice, he did lead it in assists as well in 1896, by 1898 he had made the move to second, where he was actually quite good.

    Dahlen had been injured for part of the season in 1897, and in both 97 and 98 he had failed to hit .300. He stole only 15 and 27 bases those years and was three years older than DeMontreville. It seems to me to be a perfectly logical trade (at the time) and I would imagine it looked like Dahlen had seen his best days and Gene was on his way up.

  12. #12
    There had already been complaints about DeMontreville drinking when he was with Washington, and the Dahlen trade was DeMont's second in two years, which might be a tipoff in itself. I have seen a sampling of comments at the time the deal was made by various correspondents in The Sporting News and a few daily papers. Not a few -- in fact, perhaps a majority-- thought Chicago got the better of the deal. However, their arguments were made on the grounds, first, that DeMont was an excellent young player and, second, that Dahlen was indifferent and a thorn in the side of the Chicago management. I haven't read anybody saying Dahlen wasn't as good as he ever had been, provided he played up to his ability. That was the catch.

    In Lyle Spatz' biography of Dahlen, Chicago manager Tommy Burns is quoted as follows:

    I dont want to be quoted as saying that I believe DeMontreville is a better player than Dahlen, but I believe that he will be and that he is now a better player for Chicago than Dahlen. The exchange was made in the interests of discipline and will strengthen the team in other ways as well.

    Trying to translate those words from public relations into plain English, I think they pretty clearly say, "I'm only going to look foolish if I pretend we got 100% value in pure baseball terms, but Dahlen's attitude had just gotten too much to put up with. So we made the best deal we could given our weak bargaining position, and we acquired a young player we hope may turn out a good one."

    That Dahlen was a great player I don't doubt, and trading him for DeMontreville was a big loss for Chicago. But the fact is, Dahlen was traded at age 28 for a pretty good young player with baggage of his own, and at the time much of the baseball world thought the move made perfect sense.

  13. #13
    Here's how ridiculously misinformed and completely biased the BB HOF voters are:

    Bill Dahlen's Career Value

    Looking back through the entire history of baseball...Dahlen has more career value than any SS eligible (who hasn't already been inducted).

    He's arguably the most valuable fielder in baseball history

    And how many HOF ballots has he received in the past 75 years?

  14. #14
    Unfortunately, if we're going to take this as evidence that the HOF selectors are ridiculously misinformed and biased, then we'll be compelled to conclude that all or most of the population of earth have been complete morons up until a couple of years ago, because it wasn't just the selectors -- nobody ever made very much of Dahlen.

    When I was young, people talked about Jennings and Long, then some time back George Davis became the flavor of the month, and I can't remember anybody talking up Dahlen until after Davis was in the Hall.

    I will admit I am biased myself, because the last time Dahlen was a candidate his nineteenth century competitor was Deacon White, and with no disrespect to Dahlen I can say that White was easily a greater player and a more worthy candidate for the HOF, yet Dahlen got all the attention. I generally don't care much who gets in the Hall, but I'll make an exception for White, who should have been in sixty years ago, and I got sick of hearing about Dahlen.

    There's nothing ridiculous about being uninformed if you don't have access to the facts. For much of the history of the Hall of Fame, the electors did not have nearly the full battery of statistics for Dahlen that we have, and in fact the statistics they did have were not accurate to be relied on with great

    On the other hand, if people thought of Johnny Bench as a third baseman, and assessed him as a Hall of Fame candidate on that basis, that certainly would be ludicrously, absurdly misinformed. You don't need accurate or detailed statistics to know Deacon White was the best catcher of the 1870's, when the catcher was arguably the most important player on the field. Anybody who thinks of White as a third baseman should not have the right to vote on his HOF candidacy. Let them vote on Dahlen, i don't care about him. Fine player, though.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Beady View Post
    Let them vote on Dahlen, i don't care about him. Fine player, though.
    Davis, who was only slightly more valuable career wise (but also egregiously neglected) only got in because history freaks such as myself petitioned to get him. Cohoes is very, very close to where I live.

    I agree my reasoning is illogical and also unfair, but it isn't misguided in sentiment. I understand that the imposition (or projection of) Jamesian or any 21st century paradigms onto HOF voters or players!! of yore is illogical. It's analogous to the droves of people on this site who constantly whine about how "overrated" players like George Sisler were/are and how tremendously flawed players were who didn't focus more on slugging and drawing walks (do they even know that all people cared about- or tracked- were runs, hits, and batting average? Do they know about very lucrative contract clauses based on hits and batting average in those days?).

    We should all be petitioning for Tony Mullane and Bill Dahlen to be elected. These were clearly among the top few most valuable and coveted players of their era. The era in which they played completely negates the possibility of them getting in, without some monumental grass roots effort i.e., George Stacy Davis).
    Last edited by csh19792001; 01-16-2011 at 09:24 PM.

  16. #16
    Now, there you are again, ignoring the best position player of his decade in favor a player who, by your own statement, wasn't even the best at his position. And Deacon White went on to a long career and was an interesting and admirable person, which you certainly can't say for Dahlen.

    I do think the old HOF selectors had a bias when it came to 19th century players, and that is a preference for players on the glamor teams: Chicago, New York and Boston in the 1880's, Boston and especially Baltimore in the 1890's. That is probably a large part of the reason Jennings was in long ago, and people used to talk about Long more than Dahlen or Davis.

    The McGraw factor also comes into play. McGraw had a big audience of sportswriters, and he loved talking about the old Orioles spitting tobacco into their wounds and going out and playing. Of course, sometimes they would get really sick or sprain an ankle or something like that, in which case they'd play 119 games over the course of two seasons, the way McGraw himself did. Maybe tobacco isn't the best antiseptic.

    McGraw also had a soft spot for old ball players and liked to hire them for work around the ball park, which made the Polo Grounds a hangout for other old players, and everybody would sit around and tell the writers stories. Not all of the old guys were former Giants or old teammates of McGraw, but enough were that I think there came to be a historiographic bias in favor of the old New York and Baltimore players. This is perhaps a factor people overlook when they talk about Mickey Welch getting into the Hall, for example, although in Welch's case his election came late enough that the McGraw factor may no longer have been operative.

    Of course, when the Hall was young, knowledge of prior generations of baseball history was relatively fuzzy, but on the other hand there were still people like Mack, Griffith, Comiskey and many others, to whom Davis, Dahlen, Jennings and Mickey Welch, for that matter, were living memory. For most people interested in the subject now, they are just statistical lines. That probably has its good side and its bad.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Beady View Post
    Now, there you are again, ignoring the best position player of his decade.
    I'm confused (it happens frequently)... are you claiming I'm ignoring Deacon White? If I am that's mea culpa; you're correct, I don't know nearly enough about him- in fact, lamentably, hardly anything.

    I suppose I'm based because read the bio of Dahlen and did a fair amount of research independently. However, it's patently clear that he was one of the best fielders ever and far more valuable than a good percentage of guys already inducted due to cronyism and personal biases of writers.

    Cal McVey and Ross Barnes garnered more Win Shares than White during the 1870's. Deacon wasn't clearly the best player of the decade, at least on paper.

    In fact, if you set the parameters on 1871-1890, which includes all of his years and excludes many years of the other greats, he's 7th in overall value.

    Win Shares 1871-1890 (position players only)
    Anson- 335
    O'Rourke- 315
    Hines- 283
    Connor- 277
    Kelly- 265
    Brouthers- 256
    White- 248
    Gore- 231
    Richardson- 222

    Regardless, I'd love to learn about White from you.

  18. #18
    PS- I realize that cutting and pasting Win Shares data is reductive and intellectually lazy. In fact, I've been railing against this type of heuristical approach for years. Hopefully this will serve as a starting point to a discussion, whereas in the past numbers like this have served only to say "my guy was better than your guy" in an endless series of sophomoric palavers.

  19. #19
    Well, my own methodology is not exactly rigorous, but I hope it's not absurd, either. With the exception of pitcher, the most important position by far in 1870's baseball was catcher. A large number of major league players now were either pitchers or shortstops in high school; if you look at the 1870's and 1880's, the comparable position of choice was catcher. Casey Stengel's old joke about needing a catcher, otherwise you'll have all passed balls had more point in a day when the only equipment a catcher had was a pair of skintight gloves.

    Again, whenever you look at salary data, including not only actual payrolls but general statements about how much players at each position got or plans to set pay ceilings according to fielding position (a rather common idea in the late 1870's), the battery players always get the most, with the catcher sometimes behind the pitcher, sometimes equal -- then the infielders follow the battery players and the outfielders get less than the infielders. So there's no question catcher was seen as an extremely important position.

    Now, I don't know how White looks as a defensive catcher in Win Shares or any other of the Sophisticated New Metrics, but one would need immense faith in the SNM's that measure fielding to feel a lot of confidence that they can get 1870's catchers right (and with a few exceptions, the people who work with the SNM's the most so seem to be suitably cautious). I suspect, also, that even if they can distinguish accurately between the good catchers and the bad ones, they undervalue the importance of good play at the position.

    By contemporary reputation, however, I think White would have been regarded as the best defensive catcher in the game through most of the 1870's; certainly if you factor in his hitting, he was the best catcher overall. So he was the best player at the most crucial defensive position, and he hit as well as almost anybody. That certainly makes him a prime candidate for player of the decade.

    To put it in another, even cruder way, White had the career Johnny Bench would have had, if Bench had succeeded in making the transition to third base and gone on for another five years at that position. That seems like a Hall of Famer to me.

    Beyond that, White's advantage in playing time relative to the others you mention is not as great as might seem on the surface, because the playing season was very short in the early 1870's and White was just about past his peak by the time the NL schedule got even as long as 84 games.

    I would highly recommend "Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero," by Peter Morris, which talks about the crucial role of the catcher in the early game, and concludes with a brief chapter on the Deacon.

  20. #20
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    --I strongly suspect that win shares is a less than accurate tool for measuring balplayers of the 1870s and 80s. Its imperfect enough for measuring more modern ones. However, assuming its reasonably accurate that woud make Deacon White the 7th best ballplayer of the first 20 years of organized ball. To me that sure looks like a Hal of Famer.
    --I think he has a case for player of the decade for the 1870s, although I'd go with Barnes and perhaps have another player or 2 ahead. Just being in the discussion for best player of any decade is another strong indicator of Hall of Fame quality though (and Dahlen is not in that discussion for any decade or any 10 year period for that matter).
    --White, like all players who peak was in the early, extremely short schedule period, has his career lines dragged down by having more games in their decline years due to lengthening schedules. That needs to be factored in when accessing their careers.
    --Dahlen probably was a Hall of Fame caliber player. He is not the 19th century player I'd be most likley to get behind as a candidate though. White is first on that list. I'd also be on the Paul Hines and Ross Barnes bandwagen. Cal McVey is another very interesting character. He could be a Hall of Famer depending on how much weight you give his pre-1871 playing time - which was breif but notable - and his post NL career as a player and manager in the west (for which details are quite murky).

  21. #21
    I started thinking about this when I was looking at Ross Barnes' record after reading how Bill James treated him in the first Historical Abstract. James dismissed Barnes in part because of the quality of play in the NA and I thought, well, whatever else you say about the league, there are a lot of players Barnes played with in the NA who lasted a long time and are recognized as outstanding players in James' list. How did they compare to Barnes' play when they were teammates of his? (This skips over the fair-foul issue, but I don't really regard that as significant, because it really wasn't a very great part of Barnes' game)

    I found, as I expected, that Barnes compared very well with O'Rourke, McVey, Anson and one or two others, but I realized that Deacon White actually held up against Barnes better than I had expected. He didn't have the record Barnes did, certainly, but he stood up very respectably. I believe you just can't underestimate the value of a catcher at this period, and a good catcher who can hit the way White did is a pearl without price, so that's when I started thinking of White as something more than just another very good player. For whatever it may be worth, he was also at the center of a number of significant incidents in baseball history and was an interesting and admirable character. You couldn't say any of that for Dahlen except maybe the "interesting" part.

    It's amazing White could hit as he did, given the constant wear and tear that catching with almost no protective equipment would put on your body generally, and especially your hands. He did have the advantage of working with Spalding much of the time, so he had a pitcher with good control who didn't overthrow.

    Barnes and McVey were both terrific players, however. According to the figures I have, when they signed to jump from Boston to Chicago as half of the Big Four in the summer of 1875 the two of them got $2,500 each, which was a lot of money in those days, but White got $3,000. Spalding got the same, with an added attendance bonus that I think was his payment for managing and captaining the team. This is the way it works in this period. If the battery players are any good, they will probably be the highest paid players on the team. If the battery players are not any good, the team won't be, either.

    If McVey had not decided to move out west and had played into the 1880's, though, he not only would have put up better statistical record, but he would have been active in the major leagues at a time when interest in the game was growing and the press was paying much more attention, with the result that he would be a lot better remembered today. He seems to have been a remarkable athlete who could do just about anything.

    Sorry to take this thread off course, but let's face it, you could have just one 19th century thread and there wouldn't be so many contributuons on so many different topics that it got terribly confusing.

  22. #22
    I see now that in the first voting in 1936 for veteran players, or 19th century players -- I'm not sure exactly how they were defined -- Herman Long finished eighth with 15.5 votes, ahead of Hughie Jennings who had eleven votes, while Dahlen got one and Davis none. Jerry Denny got six.

    I don't present this as evidence for or against anybody's fitness for the Hall or lack thereof, merely as a specimen of how people thought. My theory, as I have said before -- and when I wrote it I did not realize how strong Long's showing had been in '36 -- is that in early years the Hall voting for 19th century players put a great premium on having played for glamor teams, which in the 1890's means Baltimore first, Boston second and everybody else last.

    I'll point out, though, that Jerry Denny got very little of this glamor premium. He played for Providence's 1884 champions, the famous Radbourn team, but after that was mired on losers and didn't come to New York until the Giants' first championship days were over.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Troy, NY
    I believe many trades were of an attitude nature back then and although Dahlen was talented, his moodiness and superiority complex is the reason he is not in the HOF

    I mean, his nickname was BAD BILL and he pissed off John McGraw

    Now, if you have a major attitude, you better be one of the best players in the league...but Dahlen only led the league in RBI and that was 1904
    His main proof to be a HOF candidate are % stats, which I feel have problems with the 1890 players, yet his cumlative stats for a player who was in the leagiue 21 seasons is very mediocre offensively. 2461 hits? 413 doubles? 96 grey ink which counts top 10 finishes in statistical categories?

    Very good player, great defensive SS which is why he was in the league 21 seasons, but not a HOFer. As for the wants people to buy it...I never like comparing players
    in different eras...they should be compared to their peers.

    I love Sherry Magee and he has an astronomical 210 grey ink, but Magee with his attitude talked himself out of the league

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by csh19792001 View Post
    I wanted to post our transgressions on the forgotten great Bill Dahlen for the 19th century aficionados here to get their reactions.

    So what do you guys think? Is Dahlen the most unheralded and forgotten great in baseball history?
    If the question were simply about Bill Dahlen and the HoF, I would have refrained from posting at all. That is because, after wrestling with pre-1901 professional baseball, I just decided [for myself] that pre-1900 was another game altogether, and that MLB as we know it today, had finally evolved only after the end of the 1900 season.

    However, Dahlen DID have several seasons beyond 1901 and the several references extolling his elite all-time status, got me to looking at my own notes on defense, staring with 1901.

    First, in looking at Dahlen, in what I figure is a fair and square straight up comparison with other SS of his own time, I checked the birth dates of each player with whom I was comparing Dahlen. Dahlen was born in 1870.

    George Davis b. 1870
    Bobby Wallace b. 1873
    Billy Clingman b. 1869
    Herman Long b. 1866
    Honus Wagner b. 1874
    Geore McBride b. 1880
    Terry Turner b. 1881

    Toss out the last two if you believe the 10-11 year DOB disparity is too much. From 1901 through 1907, I have Davis, Wallace, Long, Wagner, Clingman and Turner, in turn equal to or better than Dahlen, except for 1907 when he was tops, defensively ... and 1904 when he was in the top 3.

    I cannot see Dahlen as the best from his own generation, much less among the elite who have played through the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.

    Anyone with any deep appreciation for the challenges of playing SS skillfully at the MLB level [right now I'm emphasizing defense] might wonder how disposable the likes of a Gene Alley might be.

    If those published writers who hold Dahlen in such esteem have some special connection with 19th Century play [and players], their reach and grasp are certainly well beyond my own.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by leewileyfan View Post
    I cannot see Dahlen as the best from his own generation, much less among the elite who have played through the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.
    He wasn't. George Davis was, and it took a massive grass roots campaign to get the Veterans Committee to even consider him.

    That said, you're vastly underrating him:
    Compare him to contemporaries or to all time SS's

    If any player from before 1920 is a lock, it's him. He's still 65th in career Win Shares, despite hanging up his spikes over 100 years ago.

    And more importantly, based on Win Shares and WAR, he's one of the top few fielders in the entire 141 year history of our National Pastime. At any position!

    The all time leaders in defensive Win Shares are, in order:
    1. Ivan Rodriguez
    2. Bill Dahlen
    T2. Rabbit Maranville
    4. Honus Wagner
    5. Cal Ripken
    6. Ozzie Smith
    7. Gary Carter
    8. Luis Aparicio
    9. Dave Concepcion
    10. Omar Vizqel
    11. Tommy Corcoran
    12. Bob Boone
    13. Tris Speaker
    14. Lave Cross
    15. Bobby Wallace
    16. Nellie Fox
    17. Joe Tinker
    18. Pee Wee Reese
    19. Jim Sundberg
    20. Bill Mazeroski

    Infielders were simply much more important/valuable in Dahlen's day...and SS was considered the toughest and most important of all.
    Last edited by csh19792001; 02-17-2013 at 08:44 PM.

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