Today was supposed to be Opening Day for Major League Baseball, when hope springs eternal; however, Coronavirus has changed so much in this country and around the world. Perhaps this reflection on the National Pastime will brighten someone’s day.
Since my first visit to Arlington Stadium at age 12, when my father taught me how to keep score, I’ve always been fascinated by the statistics of major leaguers. Thus, the genesis for this posting happened more than 30 years ago.
In 1989, I was producing Rangers games for Home Sports Entertainment. One night in August, our color analyst, Norm Hitzges, mentioned on air what an amazing accomplishment it is for a player to get 75 extra base hits (XBH) in a single season. He brought it up because Ruben Sierra – 23 years old and in his fourth year – was on a tear… and, in fact, would end up with 78 XBH (35 doubles, 14 triples, 29 home runs). Alas, despite playing until age 40, Sierra never again reached that lofty plateau, although he did come close two years later, falling just short with 74.
Whether baseball purists and statheads give 75 XBH any credence, for me, the achievement is a measurement of the greatness of the best hitters ever. In my research on baseball-reference.com, I examined the season results of the players ranked in the top: 100 doubles, 100 triples, 150 home runs, 100 slugging percentage, and 200 WAR (Wins Against Replacement, which is a respected measurement of career achievement). I also looked at more than 100 players who weren’t on any of those lists.
World War II and the Korean War disrupted the careers of several Hall of Famers – and the ’81 and ’94 strike-shortened seasons impacted recent players. Then again, there are many who achieved it during the steroid era. Draw your own conclusions.
If you’d like to dive into the rabbit hole with me, click here.