St. Louis Sports Online

Chevys, Cadillacs & Big Mac

by Mark Bausch (10.7.98)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Because the topic of home runs serves as the centerpiece for this story, alert St. Louis Sports Online readers can no doubt guess where the article is headed in this, the year of the home run in St. Louis.]

Who was it that said singles hitters drive Chevys...but home run hitters drive Cadillacs?

And just who are those singles hitters?

You know the type...the punch-and-judy kind of batsman who puts the bat on the ball but seldom jacks it over the fence.

Among the top singles hitters of the past fifty years (arbitrarily broken down by decade) include Richie Ashburn (the 1950s), Matty Alou (the 1960s), Dave Cash (the 1970s), Willie Wilson (the 1980s), and Brett Butler (the 1990s).

For consecutive four-year periods, the per season totals, for home runs and singles, and the four-year sums, for those five players, are listed below.

Richie Ashburn
the 1950s

year

HR 

 1B

1951

4

 181

1952

1

 135

1953

2

 169

1954

1

 150

4-yr

8

 635

Matty Alou
the 1960s

year

HR 

 1B

1967

2

 156

1968

0

 153

1969

1

 183

1970

1

 171

4-yr

4

 663

Dave Cash
the 1970s

year

HR 

 1B

1974

2

 167

1975

4

 166

1976

1

 162

1977

0

 139

4-yr

7

 634

Willie Wilson
the 1980s

year

HR 

 1B

1980

3

 184

1981

1

 115

1982

3

 157

1983

2

 127

4-yr

9

 583
Brett Butler
the 1990s

year

HR 

 1B

1990

3

 160

1991

2

 162

1992

3

 143

1993

1

 149

4-yr

7

 614

Going back further, Wee Willie Keeler, Ty Cobb, Lloyd Waner, Doc Cramer, and Johnny Pesky were among the base-hit leaders during the first five decades of the twentieth century. Their homer and single totals, again for four seasons, are also listed below.

Willie Keeler
the 1900s

year

HR 

 1B

1900

4

 179

1901

2

 176

1902

0

 163

1903

0

 143

4-yr

6

 653

Ty Cobb
the 1910s

year

HR 

 1B

1909

9

 164

1910

8

 139

1911

8

 169

1912

7

 167

4-yr

32

 639

Lloyd Waner
the 1920s

year

HR 

 1B

1927

2

 198

1928

5

 180

1929

5

 181

1930

1

 82

4-yr

13

 641

Doc Cramer
the 1930s

year

HR 

 1B

1936

0

 150

1937

0

 138

1938

0

 154

1939

0

 147

4-yr

0

 589
Johnny Pesky
the 1940s

year

HR 

 1B

1942

2

 165

1946

2

 159

1947

0

 172

1948

3

 124

4-yr

7

 620

The totals for Doc Cramer, a second baseman for the Boston Braves, suggest that he is the patron saint of singles hitters everywhere.

Cramer, beginning with the '36 season, went homerless four seasons in succession...while banging out 589 singles.

And in 1927, Pirates 2B Lloyd Waner set the modern-day homer-single differential when he singled on 198 occasions, but homered only twice.

Also of interest is the fact that, in 1947, Red Sox SS Johnny Pesky set the major league record for most singles (172) in one season without homering...and over a four-year period that was interrupted by military service, managed but seven homers and 620 singles.

It is unfair to label the great Cobb solely as a singles hitter, since he led the AL in doubles three times, triples four times, and homers in 1909. On top of that, Cobb finished second in HRs in 1910 and 1911, and finished third in 1912.

Suffice it to say that Ty Cobb was simply a good hitter.

The constancy of the data, though, for all ten decades of the twentieth century, is remarkable: big-time singles hitters who seldom smack homers average a couple of homers per season...and a hundred and fifty or so singles.

Such a constancy suggests a certain regularity to the sport of baseball...for an entire century.

That enduring regularity endears the sport to its many fans.

And evidently, a high-quality Chevy can make it all the way to Cooperstown, since, along with Cobb, both Lloyd (Little Poison)Waner and Richie Ashburn are members of baseball's Hall of Fame.

And who are baseball's Cadillac drivers?

Who are the men best known for hitting home runs? The sluggers?

Broken down by decade, the heaviest of baseball's heavy hitters in the twentieth century are listed below.

These are the men who bash home runs but seldom stop at first base. In other words, their singles totals are quite low.

As was the case for the singles hitters, four year summaries that list total home runs and singles are listed for each player.

Duke Snider
the 1950s

year

HR 

 1B

1953

42

114

1954

40

110

1955

42

 84

1956

43

 67

 4-yr

167

 375

Harmon Killebrew
the 1960s

year

HR 

 1B

1961

46

 83

1962

48

 64

1963

45

 70

1964

49

 95

4-yr

188

312

Willie Stargell
the 1970s

year

HR 

 1B

1970

31

 73

1971

48

 77

1972

33

 82

1973

44

 66

4-yr

154

 298

Mike Schmidt
the 1980s

year

HR 

 1B

1980

48

 76

1981

31

 60

1982

35

 80

1983

40

 76

4-yr

154

 292

Mark McGwire
the 1990s

year

HR 

 1B

1995

39

 35

1996

52

 59

1997

58

 63

1998

70

 61

 4-yr

219

 218

Harry Davis
the 1900s

year

HR 

 1B

1904

10

 83

1905

8

 110

1906

12

 100

1907

8

 103

 4-yr

38

 396

Gavvy Cravath
the 1910s

year

HR 

 1B

1913

19

 112

1914

19

 95

1915

24

 87

1916

11

 87

4-yr

73

 381

Babe Ruth
the 1920s

year

HR 

 1B

1927

60

 95

1928

56

 82

1929

46

 94

1930

49

 100

4-yr

209

 371

Jimmy Foxx
the 1930s

year

HR 

 1B

1932

58

 131

1933

48

 110

1934

44

 102

1935

36

 109

4-yr

186

 452

Ralph Kiner
the 1940s

year

HR 

 1B

1947

51

 99

1948

40

 83

1949

54

 92

1950

47

 75

 4-yr

192

349

The homer-single numbers for the first two decades of the twentieth century indicate that those years were different from the rest, as far as power production was concerned.

Indeed, neither Davis, who hit more home runs than any other big league player in this century's first decade and led the AL in homers in the four seasons beginning with 1904, nor Cravath, who led the NL in homers in six of the seven seasons beginning with 1913, are in the Hall of Fame.

Of course, the game changed in the 1920's, and Babe Ruth led the assault. The numbers don't lie.

And starting with Ruth, the power surge has continued to this day.

Jimmie Foxx and Ralph Kiner were among the pre-eminent power hitters in the '30s and '40s, respectively, followed by Duke Snider (in the '50s) and Harmon Killebrew (in the '60s).

And Willie Stargell, Mike Schmidt, and Mark McGwire are among the best power hitters in their respective time periods--the '70s, '80s, and '90s.

It is worth noting that all of those players (except the still-active McGwire) are members of the Hall of Fame...

And as was the case with the singles hitters, the yearly totals for Ruth, Foxx, Kiner, Snider, Killebrew, Stargell, and Schmidt were comfortably constant--in the neighborhood of 45 HRs and 90 singles per season.

And those averages hold true for now-retired power hitters such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Howard...and McGwire contemporaries such as Albert Belle, Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Cecil Fielder and Andres Galarraga--their four year HR and 1B totals are listed below.

 player

 seasons

HR

1B

 Hank Aaron

1970-3
 159  319

Cecil Fielder

1990-3
 160  364

Frank Howard

 1967-70
 172  372

Mickey Mantle

1955-8
 165  391

Willie Mays

1962-5
 186  404

Ted Williams

 1941-2; 6-7
 141  416

 Albert Belle

1995-8
 177  367

 Barry Bonds

1995-8
 152  342

 Andres Galarraga

1995-8
 163  406

Ken Griffey 

1995-8
 178  311

Sammy Sosa

1995-8
 178  370

 Frank Thomas

1995-8
 144  406

But Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire stands alone in the following singular way.

For the past four seasons (starting with his injury-marred 1995 campaign in Oakland), Mark McGwire has more home runs (219) than singles (218).

Think about that. Since 1995, when baseball fans watched Mac, they saw him hit more home runs than singles.

Indeed, McGwire's record-breaking 1998 season (70 HRs and only 61 singles) was not the first time that he had achieved such a feat.

In 1995, Mac had 39 homers and 35 singles.

Taken together, then, Mark McGwire, over four years (beginning with the '95 season), accomplished something that no other player has ever accomplished--not once, not in any year (with more than 100 games played).

Roger Maris, in his historic season in 1961, came closest, when his 61 homers were "blemished" by 79 singles.

So all those old-timers...the honored and wise old-timers...guys like Jack Buck and Red Schoendienst and George Kissell and Jim Toomey...when they said "I've never seen anything like McGwire"...they were right.

 

No Comparison...

Twenty power hitters are mentioned in this article.

With the exception of McGwire, in a given season those hitters, at the zenith of their power production, those hitters averaged 45 HRs and 90 singles per season.

Mark McGwire, at his best, over a four-year period, averaged 55 HRs and 55 singles, per season.

So, in the pantheon of power hitters...of sluggers...of Cadillac drivers...Mark McGwire stands alone.

But maybe it's unfair to imagine Mac driving a Cadillac.

That's too pedestrian for a guy who has shattered virtually every single season-related home run record.

How about a classic Cardinal red '62 Corvette?

1999 Update


1999 FINAL
153 games; 521 ABs
 1Bs:58  HRs:65


St. Louis Sports Online

Going to Disney World?
Stay at the Caribe Royale-
Orlando's finest all-suite resort

Full-Service Printing & Copying

Carbondale IL
for expert import auto repair
value & service
in your ISP...

Murphysboro IL