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  • Hank Leiber

    Here's a guy who I think might have had Hall of Fame potential.

    Hank Leiber spent 10 years in the big leagues, from 1933 to 1942. He hit .288/.356/.462 with 101 home runs, 808 hits and a 122 OPS+. The three-time All-Star eclipsed the .300 BA mark three times, the 20 home run mark twice, the 100 RBI mark once, the 100 runs scored mark once and the 200 hit mark once.

    In 1935, the centerfielder hit .331/.389/.512 with 22 home runs, 107 RBI, 110 runs scored, 203 hits, 37 doubles and only 28 strikeouts, finishing 11th in the league in MVP voting. He also led the league in hit by pitch that year, with 10, and defensive games played at centerfield.

    *Who only managed five career steals

    His postseason experience was limited, but in the 1937 World Series, Leiber hit .364 with two runs and two RBI. It was for naught, however, as his squad lost the Fall Classic.

    Statistically, he is similar to one Hall of Famer: Monte Irvin. He is also similar to Wally Judnich, Garrett Atkins, Andre Ethier, Hunter Pence, George Selkirk, Shane Mack, Ron Northey, Jerry Lynch and Ellis Valentine. Through age 24, he was most similar to Honus Wagner.

    One has to wonder if beanballs and concussions led to his early demise. In 1936, he was clocked in the head by Bob Feller and in 1941, he was hit by Cliff Melton. He didn't serve in the War, but one also wonders if the war's occurrence also had an effect on his career.

    What do you think? Did Hank Leiber have Hall of Fame potential?
    11
    Yes
    0.00%
    0
    No
    45.45%
    5
    Maybe
    0.00%
    0
    Not a Hall of Famer, but he had Hall of Fame potential
    54.55%
    6

  • #2
    Spring 1937, hit in the head by a Bob Feller pitch - tried to tough it out but was badly injured (optic nerve damage); out for 2/3 of the season.

    June 1941, hit in the head by a Cliff Melton pitch - badly injured again (would have been worse but was wearing a protective cap liner); out for 2/3 of the season.

    Retired after the 1942 season (in which he appeared in 58 games).

    ..........................


    "Did the beanings have anything to do with his quitting?

    " 'They had everything to with it,' said Leiber, now a prosperous ranch salesman in Tucson. 'When Feller hit me in 1936 [sic] it slowed me up a little. Cliff Melton put the finishing touch when he hit me in 1940 [sic].'

    "Leiber holds no bitterness for the hurlers who beaned him ..."

    from an interview in The Lewiston Daily Sun, March 24, 1954
    Last edited by westsidegrounds; 06-02-2012, 04:21 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by westsidegrounds View Post
      Spring 1937, hit in the head by a Bob Feller pitch - tried to tough it out but was badly injured (optic nerve damage); out for 2/3 of the season.

      June 1941, hit in the head by a Cliff Melton pitch - badly injured again (would have been worse but was wearing a protective cap liner); out for 2/3 of the season.

      Retired after the 1942 season (in which he appeared in 58 games).

      ..........................


      "Did the beanings have anything to do with his quitting?

      " 'They had everything to with it,' said Leiber, now a prosperous ranch salesman in Tucson. 'When Feller hit me in 1936 [sic] it slowed me up a little. Cliff Melton put the finishing touch when he hit me in 1940 [sic].'

      "Leiber holds no bitterness for the hurlers who beaned him ..."

      from an interview in The Lewiston Daily Sun, March 24, 1954
      Well, I guess that answers that, huh?

      Comment


      • #4
        That 1935 season was his first full season. A 140+ OPS+ for a CF is a pretty good start. However, it was a fairly late start as he was 24. I will generously give him potential but it is on the slimmest of threads and assumes no beanings and no WWII.

        Comment


        • #5
          I'd be torn between no and had potential. 1935 leans toward potential, but then 1936 is a letdown. Was he injured then as well?
          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.

          Comment


          • #6
            He was a holdout in 1936, even taking a job as baseball coach at the University of Arizona - "we're going to have a snappy club this year ... I'm here to stay" (The Milwaukee Journal, March 3 1936). He wanted $12,500, Terry wouldn't budge from $10,000. Eventually they came to an agreement.

            But ...

            (The Milwaukee Journal, Feb. 26 1937): "The New York Giants signed outfielder Hank Leiber Thursday night by giving him a contract for $12,000, plus a $2,500 bonus if his hitting is satisfactory.

            "Leiber had not signed previously because of a feeling he was overlooked last year, when he was used largely in reserve roles, while rookie Jimmy Ripple held down center field for the National League champions.

            "Manager Bill Terry announced Leiber will play the full season at a regular outfield position for the Giants, batting in the clean-up position."

            So, it looks like the Giants were pretty steamed about Leiber's well-publicized holdout before the '36 season and retaliated by benching him frequently. So he never got into a groove, plus he probably missed a lot of spring training. Hence the off year that season. 1937 might have been a great year for Leiber, until a fast ball got away from Bob Feller in a pre-season exhibition game.


            PS - That $2500 Leiber & Terry were fighting over in 1936? It was the equivalent of $40,600 in 2011 dollars. (source: Consumer Price Index conversion tables)
            Last edited by westsidegrounds; 06-04-2012, 08:12 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Hank Leiber is an unfortunately forgotten ballplayer. In the mid-to-late 1930s, he was one of the best in the game.

              Highest OPS+, major leagues, 1935-1939 (min. 500 games):

              Code:
              Johnny Mize	173
              Hank Greenberg	167
              Jimmie Foxx	166
              Lou Gehrig	166
              Mel Ott	        166
              Joe DiMaggio	152
              Joe Medwick	152
              Arky Vaughan	146
              Dolph Camilli	141
              Bob Johnson	140
              Bill Dickey	138
              Charlie Gehringer137
              Ernie Lombardi	137
              Wally Berger	133
              Gabby Hartnett	133
              Hal Trosky	132
              Earl Averill	131
              George Selkirk	131
              Hank Leiber	130
              And he shined even brighter in the NL.

              Highest OPS+, National League, 1935-1939 (min. 500 games):

              Code:
              Johnny Mize	173
              Mel Ott	       166
              Joe Medwick	152
              Arky Vaughan	146
              Dolph Camilli	141
              Ernie Lombardi	137
              Wally Berger	133
              Gabby Hartnett	133
              Hank Leiber	130

              Comment


              • #8
                Most home runs, NL, 1935-1939:

                1. Mel Ott, 158
                2. Dolph Camilli, 130
                3. Joe Medwick, 107
                4. Wally Berger, 106
                5. Johnny Mize, 99
                6. Chuck Klein, 81
                7. Ival Goodman, 78
                8. Ernie Lombardi, 72
                9. Hank Leiber, 71
                10. Ripper Collins, 65

                I don't know what's more surprising -- that Leiber ranked as high as he did, or that Dolph Camilli ranked as high as he did.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Camilli is a stealth "near great" player for a period of 6-7 years. Actually, back when I looked at such things I was surprised at how good he was.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Have to wonder what Camilli's record would have looked like if he'd spent ages 22-25 with a major league club instead of with the PCL Sacramento Senators.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Perhaps it was just age, but something caused Camilli to decline greatly from 1941 to 1942 to 1943. Anyone know the cause?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        His '42 wasn't bad - his slash line took a hit, but he had only 11 fewer RBI, 8 fewer HR, and 19 fewer hits (in five less at bats), plus 30 fewer strikeouts, than in his MVP year. And he was 8th in MVP voting. No reason to push the panic button.

                        But in July 1943, Brooklyn traded him to the Giants. Camilli refused to go, because he "hated the Giants and their fans". For real. He went back home to California, played in the PCL for a while, and closed out his major league career with a 63-game stint for the BoSox in '45 (.212 BA, 2 HR).
                        Last edited by westsidegrounds; 07-10-2016, 02:08 PM.

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