Every now and then, I like to peruse the physical and virtual history books, searching for players I may have forgotten about somewhere along the way. One player I recently stumbled across is Max Bishop, who manned second base for the Philadelphia A’s and Boston Red Sox from 1924 to 1935.
Bishop earned the nickname “Camera Eye” due to his propensity for drawing walks. Among players with fewer than 6000 career plate appearances, none has drawn more than Bishop and it’s not even close:
Baseball’s all-time walks leader, Barry Bonds, checks in at 121.8 BB per 600 PA in case you’re wondering. For some perspective, Dunn, owner of a career .383 OBP, would need to draw bases on balls in two-thirds of his next 359 trips to the plate to match Bishop’s walk rate. That’s kind of insane.
What’s also insane is Bishop’s career slash line: .271/.423/.366. The list of players with at least 3000 PA and a higher OBP is a very short one, indeed. Among those who trail Bishop in that category are Mickey Mantle, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, and… well, all but 16 players in big-league history.
Bishop’s best season came in 1928, with the A’s, when he hit .316/.435/.432. His OBP ran north of .400 every year from 1925 to 1934 except one: In 1929, Bishop just missed, with a .398 OBP; he led the AL with 128 walks that year but hit .232.
Bishop was part of two World Championship squads — the ‘29 and ‘30 A’s. He didn’t distinguish himself in those series (or in ‘31, when Philadelphia lost to the Cardinals), hitting .182/.316/.182 in 18 career post-season games. However, he did play a key role in the decisive sixth game of the 1930 World Series. As John Kieran of the New York Times described it then:
…he got two bases on balls, was hit by the pitcher and scored two runs. This chap doesn’t need a bat at all. He gets on in a variety of ways. The Cardinals think he does it by political influence.
Before joining the A’s in 1924, Bishop starred for the International League’s Baltimore Orioles for several years. Baltimore won four straight IL championships from 1919 to 1922 (these were dominant teams with records of 100-49, 110-43, 119-47, and 115-52 in those years). According to an item in the February 13, 1923, New York Times, owner/manager Jack Dunn had made a “promise to sell at least three of his star Orioles before the beginning of the  season.” Although Bishop was reportedly close to being sold to the Boston Red Sox in 1923, he remained in Baltimore, for whom he hit .333 with 22 home runs as the Orioles “slipped” to 111-53 (they won at least 100 games every year from 1919 to 1926).
After the 1933 season, “financial pressure [from] Philadelphia bankers” forced Connie Mack to sell off his best players (he sold Mickey Cochrane to Detroit and George Earnshaw to the White Sox). Bishop was traded with Lefty Grove and Rube Walberg to the Red Sox for Bob Kline, Rabbit Warstler, and $125,000. Bishop sputtered with his new club, which acquired him a decade too late, and he couldn’t displace light-hitting Ski Melillo at second base.
Bishop played two seasons with the Red Sox before returning to his hometown Orioles, where he served as player-manager before retiring. From there, Bishop went on to become head baseball coach for the U.S. Naval Academy; he remained there from 1938 until his death in 1962. (In a particularly cruel twist of fate, he died mere days before he was scheduled to retire, having returned to his place of birth to attend his mother’s funeral.)
The New Bill James Historical Abstract ranks Bishop as the #43 second baseman in history, nestled between Robby Thompson and Steve Sax. And now you know.