Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hall of Fame Spotlight - Ernie Lombardi

Plaque photo borrowed from www.baseballhall.org

Ernie Lombardi (b. 1908 - d. 1977) was considered one of the better hitting catchers of all time. He played from 1931 to 1947 for the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers), Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves and New Tork Giants. Lombardi was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986 by the Veterans' Committee after failing to be elected after appearing on 9 ballots from 1950 to 1967. During his eligibility, he didn't receive more than 16.4% of the vote. He retired with 1,792 hits, 190 home runs and a .306 batting average.
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What makes him a Hall of Famer?
  • Won the World Series in 1940 with the Reds
  • 1938 NL MVP
  • 2-time batting champion (1938 and 1942)
  • Last catcher to win a batting title until Joe Mauer won it in 2006
  • 7-time all star (1936-1940, 1942 and 1943)
  • .306 career batting average is very good for a catcher
  • batted over .300 10 times in his career

Should he be a Hall of Famer?

  • Regarded as one of the slowest players of all-time
  • Grounded into 261 career double plays (20th all-time); leading the league 4 times
  • Led the league 9 times in passed balls (152 - career, 66th all-time)
  • Led the league in 1941 in stolen bases allowed (44)
  • Appeared on HOF ballot 9 times, averaging 6.27%
  • Never reached any 'Golden Ticket' numbers (3,000 hits, 500 home runs)

The verdict?

Lombardi was one the best-hitting catchers of all-time. Ok, he didn't hit for all that much power, but he definitely hit for average. A lot speaks to the fact that no other catcher would win a batting title between his batting crown of 1942 and Joe Mauer's of 2006. The catching position is a difficult one, and it takes its toll during a grueling season. Being able to hit consistently over the period of time that Lombardi did is definitely noteworthy. Does that make him a Hall of Famer? YES, I believe it does. The Veterans' Committee got this one right.

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Lombardi caught both of Johnny Vander Meer's back to back no hitters. He also attempted suicide in 1953 after suffering from depression. He slit his throat from ear to earand begged not to be saved. He was saved, however, and made a full recovery.

An autographed index card from Lombardi averages approximately $70.00 and a signed baseball was not found on Ebay or any other memorabilia page.

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