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April 2, 2010

You Can Blog It Up

Dead Player of the Day and Other Notes #5

by Steven Goldman

Dead Player of the Day

In which I pick a page from the encyclopedia at random and riff on what I find.

Sammy Byrd-OF-1929-1936 (1906-1981)

Babe Ruth’s Legs” hit .288/.375/.439 in his first five seasons (1102 PAs). It must be nice when all you wanted was a sub and you get a starter, when you were bargaining for Reggie Willits and got Franklin Gutierrez. Byrd picked the wrong season to have an off-year, hitting only .246/.318/.335 in 1934, Ruth’s last year with the Yankees. Without Ruth, the Yankees had no need of legs that couldn’t hit, and sold him to the Reds that season. Cincinnati let him play every day, but Byrd was just a league-average guy when starting. He quit to become a pro golfer and was very successful at it, winning 23 tournaments in his career. The sad thing about Byrd was that he probably could have played, but being Ruth’s caddy (and he was actually called “Babe Ruth’s Caddy” in addition to his legs) killed his career. He had hit well in the lower minors (.371 with a .599 slugging percentage at Albany of the Eastern League in 1928) but never got a proper apprenticeship at the higher levels, having been rushed up at 22 to take a spot on the bench. In his first two seasons he played a total of 154 games and hit .296/.388/.454, and had he gotten a chance to play at that point might have been an interesting hitter at his peak, but instead he got stagnation.  Appropriately for Ruth’s legs, Byrd played about an equal number of games in left field and right; the same was true of Ruth, who avoided the sun field, wherever it was. However, with help from the Reds, Byrd actually played his largest number of games in center.

Rushing Off to New York City...

...Where Jay Jaffe and I will be in-studio on the Brian Lehrer show at 11:30 AM EST. You can listen live at the WNYC site. The current events section of DPOTD will return on Monday.

Yesterday's Chat Was a Gas

The transcript can be found here. I learned one thing: only a vocal few of you missed the back-of-book essays in the annual, with more preferring the extended player comments. Do not despair, o back-of-book enthusiasts: I think we're going to add one back in... But just one. Enjoy your weekend. Back with more DPOTD on Monday.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

5 comments have been left for this article.

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