1956 – Bob on Buck Leonard and the Negro Leagues’ Joe Vosmik and Tony Cuccinello

Buck Leonard

I have Leonard 5th on my ballot, with only rev at 6th and shins, who didn’t have him on his ballot at all, lower. Everybody else has him #1 or #2. There are two reasons I have him as low as I do: I do hold some back for 1st year players, and BBR’s stats for him aren’t THAT impressive. Really good, but not quite great. But….

I may have him too low.

First off, folks, don’t take BBR’s numbers too seriously. It’s a small sample size (Leonard had less than 2000 PAs) and SABR is not done compiling stats from boxscores yet. Look at his BAs in 1939 and 1942. He went from .417 to .210? That just screams “sample size”, doesn’t it? Or look at walks. In 1938, he had 0 in 82 PAs; in 1939, he had 17 in 98 PAs. In 1943, he had 0 walks in 198 PAs; combining 1942 and 1944, he had 22 in 224 PAs.

Second, everyone who saw him play raved about him, and the rep seems justified. He was after all the clean-up hitter on arguably the greatest team (and not just black team) of all time. Let me do his Gray Ink Test listings:
1937 3rd HRs, 2nd Doubles, 5 Triples
1938 2nd BA, 2nd HRs
1939 3rd BA, 3rd HRs
1940 3rd BA 1st HRs. 1st Doubles, 1st Triples
1941 1st HRs, 5th Doubles, 1st Triples
1943 3rd HRs, 2nd Doubles, 2nd Triples
1944 2nd HRs, 1st Doubles, 2nd Triples
1945 5th BA, 3rd HRs
1946 2nd Triples

People say his comp is Hank Aaron. Whether that is true or not I don’t know, but let’s say it is. What would Aaron’s stats look like if I took his first 12 seasons and his last 3 seasons? Leonard played 15 years as an Aaron-esque player.
2140 Games
8156 At Bats
1403 Runs
2528 Hits
431 Doubles
82 Triples
440 Homers
1469 RBIs
807 Walks
.310 BA
.372 OBA
.545 SLG

Sort of looks like Johnny Mize, who we’ll see in ’59, altho Mize would probably be better, especially if you add in some bulk for his lost war years. Depending who is still on the ballot in ’59, Mize might be as high as #2 on my ballot (Satchel Paige will be my #1, as I assume he’ll be on most ballots). I still think I got Leonard pegged just about right on my ballot for this year. I tend to rate really, really, really good first baseman below really, really, really good shortstops (Cronin and Appling) and catchers (Mackey). And Wilson was just a stud. If Leonard makes it in this year (and it looks like he probably will), I will be okay with that: he is truly deserving of GOR selection.

Oops

Shortly after first starting the GOR, I made a list of players to put on the ballots. Basically I included anyone who played 1000 games or won 100 games. It was a time consuming task, but I made it all the way thru those who retired by 1950. As someone who lives to study baseball’s past, I enjoyed getting you guys to look at Jimmy Slagle and Jack Tobin and Bob Groom and hundreds of other guys some of you had never heard of. I knew that 99% of these guys wouldn’t get a single 10th place vote, but I hoped that you would learn something new about baseball’s past.

But I made a logistics mistake that I wish I hadn’t. As I originally envisioned the GOR, I did not include NeLers; I had planned on having Special Elections just for them starting in 1970 or so, to coincide when the NeLers first started being enshrined. I was convinced by a number of you to include them instead in their own time and place and to compete for GOR election along side their white contemporaries. The mistake I made was not including white guys like Jack Smith or Fred Frankhouse or Frank Demaree or, in this year’s election, Eddie Miller, Harry Gumbert and Frank Gustine, but rather not including the NeLers of the same skill level. I basically only included black players who were above the Chick Hafey/Rube Marquand line.

I am no expert on the Negro Leagues, that’s for sure, but I do have resources that many of you don’t possess. I’ve been a member of SABR’s Negro Leagues Committee for years, so I have gotten updates on a monthly basis for 20 years. I get SABR’s yearly periodicals that often have NeL articles, so I do keep up-to-date with NeL analysis. I have a couple of friends who are very active in the SABR Committee that over the past couple of months I’ve been able to contact for their insight and input for my voting.

And that’s where I messed up, not putting the black Frank Crosetti or black Tony Cuccinello or black Joe Vosmik on the ballots. Having just the NeL super stars on the ballot may have dimmed their greatness a bit.

But I must say, even with my oversight, we’ve done a pretty good job of getting the right NeLers elected. I don’t totally agree with a couple that we’ve chosen, but there has been no bad choice, no Frischian caliber honorees. So in spite of me, we dun goodly.

 

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