Put Wally Schang in the Hall of Fame Already!
There are a lot of articles on the internet that argue about the worthiness of different players' Hall of Fame cases.
They talk - often pretty forcibly - about why so and so should have a plaque in Cooperstown. Or why (fill in the blank) is overrated and, if they're elected, then that must mean the entire Hall of Fame's a joke.
Those articles make me tired.
After all, isn't it clear there are some no doubters in Cooperstown as well as some borderline cases? Isn't it clear that election in general is a completely subjective exercise?
I know it's a subjective exercise, and because I know this I figured I’ll do my part (respectfully, of course) to contribute to this body of knowledge.
Specifically, I'm going to make a case that former deadball-era catcher Wally Schang deserves induction to the Hall.
I'm not an expert, I don't believe I have all the answers, and I admit I could be wrong.
Still, I feel strongly about Schang's case and believe it warrants a brief article explaining why.
Reasons Why Wally Schang Belongs in Cooperstown
#1. He Got On Base… A Lot
Wally Schang was really good at getting on base.
He was a very strong hitter (.284 career batting average) and was the first player in MLB history to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in the same game.
Wally also drew a good amount of walks and was hit by pitches (HBP) regularly, leading the league in HBP in 1917 and 1929.
Schang's career on-base percentage (OBP) is .393, which is second all-time among catchers, trailing only Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane.
This means that he got on base 4 out of every 10 times across his 19 year career in the big leagues.
Now that's a valuable asset to a team.
#2. He Had Great Athleticism
Many catchers are known for doing really well at one part of their game but not so great at the other parts of their game.
No so with Schang.
He was a well rounded backstop that was fast, scrappy, and was both a strong switch hitter and defender.
He collected 121 career stolen bases, including four seasons with double digits in steals.
Schang also played every position in big league games except for pitcher, first and second base.
#3. He Was Also a Strong Defensive Catcher
Although Schang was one of the best hitting catchers of his era, he was also very good at defense.
He led all American League (AL) catchers in fielding percentage (.988) in 1929, caught stealing percentage (56.9%) in 1926, and in double plays turned (16) in 1919.
Schangfinished in the top 3 among league catchers in putouts 3 times, in runners caught stealing 4 times, in caught stealing percentage 3 times, and in range factor/game 4 times.
His career fielding percentage as a catcher was .967 and his career caught stealing percentage was 46% - higher than the league average over the same time period.
#4. His Career WAR is Impressive
Wally Schang's career bWAR is 48.0.
Let's put that number in perspective for a moment.
Schang's WAR is higher than six career catchers already in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It's also higher than modern day greats like Yadier Molina (42.1 WAR) and Buster Posey (44.8 WAR).
I acknowledge that WAR isn't a perfect statistic, but it's the best one out there in my opinion for capturing a player's total value.
And when it comes to Shang's career WAR, his value is apparent.
#5. Schang Had Significant World Series Experience
Schang was a regular in the World Series during the early 20th century.
During his playing career, Schang won four World Series rings with the following teams:
- 1913 Philadelphia Athletics
- 1918 Boston Red Sox
- 1923 New York Yankees
- 1930 Philadelphia Athletics (note: did not play in the 1930 Series)
He also appeared in the 1914, 1921 and 1922 World Series, though not on the winning side.
So, in total, Schang played for seven different World Series teams.
He did well in these Series too, having a .287 batting average across them all. His best was the 1918 World Series alongside Babe Ruth, when Schang hit .444 in the Red Sox's win over the Cubs.
#6. He Thrived Among Greatness
Wally Schang was teammates with baseball legends. For starters, he played for seven seasons with Babe Ruth in Boston and the Bronx.
He also played alongside Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Harry Hooper, Chief Bender, Eddie Plank, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Herb Pennock, and others.
It wasn't just great players Schang was around but great Managers too. Guys like Hall of Fame Managers Connie Mack and Miller Huggins.
Schang held his own around this circle of greatness by consistently producing for his teams, leading the pitching staff, and continually getting on base (see above).
#7. His Stats Compare Favorably
Although comparing players to argue Hall worthiness isn't a foolproof strategy, it does produce some interesting data points.
In Schang's case, many of his career stats compare favorably when matched up to existing Hall of Fame catchers.
- Schang's .284 lifetime batting average is higher than seven current HOF catchers.
- His 769 runs are better than 5 HOF backstops, and his 121 stolen bases is sixth best among the HOF group.
- Schang's 1,501 career hits is more than 3 catchers in the HOF.
- Only Mickey Cochrane has a higher OBP, as described above.
There are other statistical categories as well where Schang's totals come in higher than the current HOF group of catchers.
In short, if you put Schang up against catchers in Cooperstown - he holds his own. This is especially true when compared to the already enshrined catchers from his era like Roger Bresnahan, Ray Schalk and Rick Ferrell.
For these reasons and more, I truly believe that Wally Schang is worthy of being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In my opinion, Schang is the best catcher from the first half of the 20th century who’s not already in Cooperstown.
Perhaps one day his name will be called by three fourths of the Hall’s Classic Baseball Era committee.
Until then, I and everyone else at Catchers Home will continue to support Schang’s case to anyone interested in listening.
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