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.

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Steven, No comments enabled on chat transcripts, so I'll add my comment here instead, figuring you'll find it. I've bought the annual book for over a decade. I confess that I never did read the back of the book essays from the 2009 book. I think that it has to do with what time of the year the book is released. I love the essays in the Hardball Times Annual (and find their recaps of the season to be dull) because I'm ready for deeper reflection in December or January. By the time I receive the Baseball Prospectus book in early March or so, I'm gearing up for fantasy baseball drafts and it's the player comments that grab my attention. When I have time, the regular season has started and who wants to go back to read off-season analysis then?
A bit off-topic, but perhaps a feather in the cap. Bill Simmons joins the SABeRmetic revolution, quotes BP stats in a positive manner:
The essays have always been my favorite part of the book, and I admit I was disappointed this year. So add one more voice.
I must admit that when I clicked on this link I thought that this was a tasteless way to remember Mike Cuellar.
I would never, never do that with a recently deceased player.