Tuesday, December 4, 2012


"...a very quiet man personally inclined to the serious side of life and scarcely one who would be taken for an athlete."

Yes, a quiet man, who would have been right at home in Marvin Miller's MLBPA. The man of few words made them count in 1890, the fateful year of the Players League:

"No man is going to sell my carcass unless I get half."

That would be James Laurie (Deacon) White, one of very early baseball's (as in early 1870s, before there was a National League) greatest players.

White should have been selected in 1939. But, as David Nemec relates in his indispensable Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871-1900, the 91-year-old White was not even invited to the award ceremony.

White played for twenty years, but only amassed 1560 games due to the short schedules that were in play during most of his career. WAR-mongers have tended to give him short shrift, but when we take into account season length, we see that White's WAR/162 is extremely impressive.

It has taken the Hall of Fame 74 years to right one of its original wrongs, but let's not dwell on the negative, shall we? Instead, let's linger on the words of Henry Chadwick, who among his many indelible writings has left us with a memorable portrait of the singular Deacon White:

"[I have never seen] a catcher so quick and expert in his movements behind the bat. His forte is in taking low balls wide of the bat and in capturing difficult foul balls. A cat after a mouse is not quick than James is after a foul ball. As for pluck, he is fearless of the hottest balls, and stands dangerously close to the bat at times."

And he came dangerously close to being left out of the Hall, too. Kudos to the Veterans Committee, which is at last showing signs of coming to its senses.