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  • Buzz Arlett

    Until a few days ago I'd never heard of Russell Loris "Buzz" Arlett. He was called the "Babe Ruth of the Minor Leagues". He started out as a pitcher in the Pacific Coast League in 1918 then became a full time outfield in 1923 and crushed the ball for a decade. In 1931, at age 32, he played in his only major league season with the Philadelphia Phillies hitting .313/.387/.538, 138 OPS+. In only 121 games he hit 18 HRs which was 4th in the NL that season. After 1931 he went back to the minors and continued to crush the ball until he retired. In his minor league career he hit .341, 432 HR, 1,786 RBI and slugged .604. Here is a SABR article about him.

    Lefty O'Doul said this about Arlett.

    Looking back at the 1931 season, Lefty O'Doul, a contemporary of Arlett in the Pacific Coast League, offered a sobering commentary on Buzz's only season in the sun. He remarked to press that had Arlett been in the big leagues five years earlier, he would have been "the Babe Ruth of the National Circuit."

    http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/4419031b

    ArlettBuzz.jpg

    186969d1273976775-gambo-t_wil1-photopack-buzz_arlett.jpg

    Arlett-Ruth-Gehrig 2.jpeg

    Arlett 1a.jpeg

    Arlett 2a.jpeg
    Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 10-12-2013, 08:37 PM.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  • #2
    Looks like he spilled some coffee on his uniform before taking the photo with Lou and Babe.
    "If I drink whiskey, I'll never get worms!" - Hack Wilson

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Dude Paskert View Post
      Looks like he spilled some coffee on his uniform before taking the photo with Lou and Babe.
      Arlett was a big man. Ruth and Gehrig were not small men and Arlett is taller and heavier than both of them.
      Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

      Comment


      • #4
        --Arlett was probably amoung the top hitters in baseball for most of a decade before he made his debut/swan song in the majors. He was apparently no great shakes in the field, but still would have been a big star given the opprotunity. Well he WAS a big star on the west coast, the major leagues just hadn't made it that far yet.

        Comment


        • #5
          Buzz started playing in the minors when he was 19 years old for the Oakland Oaks. Initially he was a pitcher and went 95-71 over 4 seasons. In 1921 he pitched 427 innings and won 29 games, though of course one should mention that PCL seasons lasted 200 games. In 1923 his skills declined as a pitcher so they moved him out to the outfield. Where he hit 19 homers and drove in 101 runs. His career year was 1926 when he batted .382, 25 homers, and 140 RBIs.

          Apparently the Oakland Oaks didn't get a serious major league offer for him until 1930 when Brooklyn tried to get him. The deal fell through at the last minute when Brooklen backed out of the deal after Buzz got into a fight with an umpire and was cut below his eye by the umps mask.

          The next year the Phillies purchased his contract and he started off well. He was batting .324 as late as August 9th but he went into a bit of a slumped and finished the season with a .313 batting average. At the end of the season the Phillies put him on waivers and no major league club took a bite.

          After no team in the majors wanted him Baltimore of the International League picked him up and he hit 49 homers that season. Twice he hit four homers in a game. One time he hit a ball so far that it flew out of the stadium and through a window of a neighboring house and hit a 45 year old woman in the head.

          A few years later Buzz somehow lost his ring finger in spring training but he went on to hit .360 with 25 homers and 101 RBIs that year. Buzz retired in 1937 after a handful of games with the Syracuse Chiefs.

          Buzz played 2,390 minor league games, hit 432 homers, and had a lifetime .341 batting average. He was the career home run leader for almost 50 years. It wasn't until Hector Espino came along and played 25 years in the Mexican League that somebody else topped him.

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          • #6
            I wonder why after the Phillies released Arlett after the 1931 season no other major league team would even give Arlett a chance? Was his defense that bad? Physically, Arlett reminds me a bit of Hank Greenberg.
            Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
              I wonder why after the Phillies released Arlett after the 1931 season no other major league team would even give Arlett a chance? Was his defense that bad? Physically, Arlett reminds me a bit of Hank Greenberg.
              I looked up Arlett's splits before and he was way off in the 2nd half...I'd honestly guess that he must have been hurt, unless there was some weakness the ML pitchers exploited that didn't hurt him much in the PCL (seems unlikely, that was a good league). He also had a fairly normal H/R split in the Baker Bowl despite being a switch hitter, but then I also noticed he was a far better hitter as a righty than a lefty. Maybe he couldn't pull the ball effectively as a lefty to take advantage of that crazy wall in right, or maybe it was just a random thing.
              Smead Jolley was another hitter from the era who played a lot of seasons in the minors, hit well in a short ML career, but had a rep for playing such bad defense that he couldn't stick. Smead fell off quite a bit with the bat in his last ML year, so it's easier to see why he didn't come back. Smead hit .404 with 45 HRs for SF in the PCL in '28, and then returned to the PCL with Hollywood in '34 with enough stick left to hit .360 with 23 HRs.
              "If I drink whiskey, I'll never get worms!" - Hack Wilson

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              • #8
                Bump.
                Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                Comment


                • #9
                  I remember reading a humorous ditty back in the late 1950's / early 1960's summing up Buzz Arlett's major league career:

                  "Buzz Arlett weights half a ton
                  He cannot field, he cannot run.
                  But when he swings his trusty wood,
                  The pellet leaves the neighborhood!"

                  I don't remember the author of it, but I suspect I read it in an issue of baseball Digest 'way back when.....

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    "For the Oakland Oaks, Arlett was more than just a hitter; he was the heart and soul of the ballclub, a man who was as likeable as he was talented. ... Arlett had a powerful fastball and an excellent spitball. ... Had not a sore arm ended his pitching career, Arlett would likely have been one of the PCL's greatest pitchers. However, ... Between 1923 and 1930 he averaged .355, with 30 home runs and 138 RBI. ... This remarkable consistency did not, however, earn him an invitation to the major leagues. Arlett could blame Cal Ewing for that. The Oakland owner reportedly demanded nothing less than $100,000 for his prize outfielder ... because he had never appeared in the majors, Arlett was not subject to the draft."

                    From Barbary Baseball, by R. Scott Mackey, definitely recommended reading for anyone interested in the Coast League.

                    PS - with the Phillies, he wasn't that bad of a right fielder: 14 assists (3d in the NL), 10 E (3d), 196 PO (4th). But he was 32 years old, and the Phils had a 27-year-old RF available: Chuck Klein, who hit like Babe Ruth and Ted Williams combined (in the Baker Bowl anyhow).
                    Last edited by westsidegrounds; 10-29-2012, 01:11 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks westsidegrounds for this info. This explains everything. I couldn't understand why not one major league club tried to sign Arlett.
                      Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dude Paskert View Post
                        I looked up Arlett's splits before and he was way off in the 2nd half...I'd honestly guess that he must have been hurt, unless there was some weakness the ML pitchers exploited that didn't hurt him much in the PCL (seems unlikely, that was a good league). He also had a fairly normal H/R split in the Baker Bowl despite being a switch hitter, but then I also noticed he was a far better hitter as a righty than a lefty. Maybe he couldn't pull the ball effectively as a lefty to take advantage of that crazy wall in right, or maybe it was just a random thing.
                        Smead Jolley was another hitter from the era who played a lot of seasons in the minors, hit well in a short ML career, but had a rep for playing such bad defense that he couldn't stick. Smead fell off quite a bit with the bat in his last ML year, so it's easier to see why he didn't come back. Smead hit .404 with 45 HRs for SF in the PCL in '28, and then returned to the PCL with Hollywood in '34 with enough stick left to hit .360 with 23 HRs.

                        Here's your answer.

                        Despite his regimen of getting into shape, Buzz started slow in spring training. The 32-year-old war-horse just had trouble getting into the big league routine. Although officially listed at 230 pounds at the start of the season, Arlett likely tipped the scales a few pounds over that figure. Indeed, everything about Buzz was big, even his bat. Ash was his material of choice, and he preferred to swing lumber weighing in at a staggering 44 ounces! He once placed an order that was rejected by the manufacturer; the supplier thought the 44-ounce designation was an error. Arlett personally weighed all new bats and felt only two out of any given dozen would be good. He had a favorite bat, lovingly referred to as "Big Bertha," claiming this particular bat had more hits in her than any other. In the off season, he'd oil "Bertha" every two weeks to ensure she wouldn't chip during the regular season.

                        Manager Burt Shotten was patient with the former PCL star and worked with Buzz in building his confidence, emphasizing the brilliant dozen years he'd contributed in the Coast League.

                        Toward the end of spring training, in Winter Haven, Buzz started to show signs of life at the plate. On the trip north, he caught fire and didn't look back. When the season started on April 14, Buzz continued his fine stick work and the aging rookie became the most talked about player in all of baseball. Six weeks into the season, his numbers showed a league-leading .385 batting average, while placing second with 11 homers. For a while, it looked like he'd proven his worth as a major leaguer, until injuries took their toll.

                        How did comrades around the league take to the affable giant? In a May series, the Cubs invaded Philadelphia and decided to have some fun with the big rookie. The bench started to razz him about his physique and the number of years spent in the minor leagues, all spiced with salty language. Buzz marched over to the bench and started to remove his uniform shirt. The sight of big Buzz's hairy chest and general invitation to "step out of the dugout and take a licking" had a calming effect on the Cub players. No one stepped forward, and subsequently the league became very careful in riding the big Californian.

                        By June, Arlett was thrilling fans with his exploits on the field. With Buzz hitting explosive home runs and creating excitement on the base paths, the small groups of fans at Baker Bowl at least had something to cheer. Buzz's girth and shy demeanor made him appear surly to some fans. In reality, the gentle giant was friendly with press and public alike.

                        The injuries began in Cincinnati. Buzz hurt his leg while sliding and never quite regained his early-season form. In mid-June, he fractured his thumb in Philadelphia, trying to steal second base. At this point in the season, his average had fallen to .348, with Buzz stuck on 11 home runs. Buzz was out of the lineup for two weeks and when he returned, he couldn't swing from the left side of the plate.

                        Arlett played some first base while recuperating, but his overall performance was just not the same. Buzz seemed to become indifferent and lackadaisical in spirit, further affecting his play. He probably sealed his fate on a hot August day, when he misplayed a routine fly to right. Pitcher Jumbo Jim Elliot was livid with the miscue and recommended an on-field rocking chair for the aging player. Buzz saw less playing time as the season progressed, spending most of his time in pinch hitting roles.

                        Buzz ultimately produced a .313 batting average, 18 homers and 72 RBI in his only big league season. His slugging percentage of .538 and was bested only by the likes of Chuck Klein, Rogers Hornsby, Chick Hafey, Sam Leslie and Mel Ott. His fielding percentage, as a flychaser, was a low .955. Although the colorful giant was popular with Phillies fans -- and the team improved to 6th place -- some personnel changes had to be made for 1932.
                        Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I never heard of him until earlier today but after reading more about him, I'm glad I did. Thanks Honus.
                          "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

                          "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
                            I never heard of him until earlier today but after reading more about him, I'm glad I did. Thanks Honus.
                            You're welcome chicago. I'm puzzled why Arlett is so forgotten? Here are Arlett's minor league stats.

                            Arlett minor lg stats.JPG
                            Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
                              You're welcome chicago. I'm puzzled why Arlett is so forgotten? Here are Arlett's minor league stats.

                              [ATTACH]117502[/ATTACH]
                              Regardless of how good he was, he wasn't in the Majors. He was, essentially, a regional phenomenon, as good as the PCL was in the early radio days. East of the Mississippi, his best was missed.
                              Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
                              Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
                              Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
                              Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
                              Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

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