Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hall of Fame Spotlight - Luke Appling

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Plaque photo borrowed from www.baseballhall.org

White Sox great Luke Appling (b. 1907 - d. 1991) played in the majors from 1930 to 1943 and 1945 to 1950 (all for the White Sox). He was a very talented shortstop and is widely considered one of the best of all time. When he retired, he had career numbers of: 2,749 hits, 45 home runs and a .310 batting average. As a shortstop, especially in that era, he was a great hitter. He was a 2-time batting champion. He wasn't the best fielding shortstop around, each season he was around the top 3 in errors committed. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the writers' association in 1964 on 94% of the run-off ballot.

What makes him a Hall of Famer?

  • 2-time batting champ (1936 - .388 and 1943 - .328)
  • His .388 batting average in 1936 was the highest ever for a shortstop in the 20th century and the first time an American League shortstop won a batting crown
  • Had 13 full seasons where he batted over .300
  • At the time of his retirement, he was the all-time leader in games played and double plays by a shortstop. Both records would end up being broken by Luis Aparicio.
  • Was a 7-time All Star (1936, 39, 40, 41, 43, 46 and 47)
Should he be a Hall of Famer?
  • Never won a World Series
  • Never won an MVP award, but came close twice by finishing second in 1936 and 1943
  • Did not reach 3,000 hits. Could have reached it had he not missed half of the 1938 season with a broken leg or missing the 1944 and most of the 1945 seasons because of World War II.
  • He has the worst fielding percentage of any player since 1910 with at least 1,900 games played
  • He was known to complain constantly about numerous nagging injuries, earning the nickname 'Old Aches and Pains'
  • Appeared on 8 Hall of Fame ballots (including the winning run-off ballot in 1964) and averaged 32.45% of the vote

The Verdict?

YES, Appling is a Hall of Famer. He is considered one of the best-hitting shortstops of all time. His defensive numbers are suspect, but as a hitter, he was very good, especially for his position. He shouldn't be penalized too much for not winning a World Series, he played on some light-hitting White Sox teams during his tenure there. Sadly, he never reached the postseason at all in his time there.

Baseballs autographed by Appling average around $80 each, while an autographed photo would possibly cost you around $20.

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