56 years ago last week, two-sport star Gene Conley and long-delayed-first-African-American Red Sock Pumpsie Green got off the team bus and just kind of…disappeared for a while. Conley longer than Green. It was very weird, and they were both very weird, interesting characters, so they and their “intentional walk” are our topic for Episode 59.
Much like Conley, I disappeared from this space without explanation for a week. But like Green and Conley, I came back!
White and Dahlen fared very well on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot with White getting inducted and Dahlen falling two votes shy. I’m always drawn to the underdog and have been building the case for 19th Century shortstop Jack Glasscock ever since. Glasscock didn’t even appear on that 2013 ballot (nor did he appear again in 2016 when Doc Adams fared well but Dahlen lost momentum).
Glasscock, like Dahlen and White, fit the profile of a player overlooked by Cooperstown—very good at everything, but lacking the bold offensive numbers. But Glasscock hit very well, twice leading the league in hits and winning the NL batting title in 1890. He hit .290 across 17 seasons with a 112 OPS+. Per Baseball-Reference’s WAR he was worth 155 runs above average at the plate. Glasscock was also an above average baserunner, but that wasn’t a major part of his game.
Where he drew his modest fame (and a good amount of his WAR total) was his stunning defense. According to Baseball Reference’s WAR, Glasscock was worth 149 runs above average (7th all time among primary shortstops). Can we trust 19th Century defensive numbers? Maybe not. Glasscock’s traditional numbers are eye popping: he led his league’s shortstops in fielding percentage six times (top 3 12x), assists six times (top 3 8x), Range Factor per 9 innings five times (top 3 10x), double plays four times (top 3 9x), and putouts twice (top 3 9x).
His reputation in his time was impeccable and he earned the nickname “King of Shortstops.” Al Spink, founder and editor of The Sporting News, raved that Glasscock “was acknowledged by all his fellow players to be the greatest in [sic] his position” and “one of the greatest players from a fielding standpoint the game has ever known.”
Glasscock ticks the advanced metrics, traditional metrics, and anecdotal boxes when it comes to his defensive reputation. If you’re 150 runs above average as a hitter and defender while playing shortstop for your entire career, you provided Hall of Fame value. I don’t feel that’s too big of a leap. But here we are and Glasscock can’t even get on the ballot to be considered.
Deacon White had supporters for decades. Dahlen has a book written about him. Glasscock has nobody. I’ve even tried contacting his descendants and can’t seem to get them excited about supporting his candidacy either. That’s probably why Glasscock is so important to me. He’s MY candidate. He’s the Indie band I love that nobody else seems to appreciate. But his greatness is right there for anyone willing to look slightly deeper than the surface.