Fun Fact, 1959-Style

I noticed this recently – I forget whether this is a record or not and haven’t had time to check, but in 1959 Ernie Banks led the Cubs in RBI by a margin of 91. Banks drove in 143 runs; #2 on the team, Bobby Thomson, drove in 52.
Banks actually had a pretty short peak – for all but about 7 seasons he was mainly a mediocre first baseman – and he wasn’t a very patient hitter (he topped 50 unintentional walks only once), but with the arguable exception of Arky Vaughan, there wasn’t a shortstop between Honus Wagner and A-Rod who could stand up to him with a bat in his hands.

19 thoughts on “Fun Fact, 1959-Style”

  1. I would think that has to be a record, unless there is some team that traded it’s number two hitter halfway through the season. I thought Lance Berkman would be up there, but his margin was 74.
    Although he did not manage a similar margin, I think honorable mention should go to Nate Colbert of the 1972 Padres, who drove in 111 runs for a team that only scored 488. The #2 guy there (Leron Lee) drove in 47.

  2. I have to admit, Crank, that I underestimated Banks’ stick-work. I knew he wasn’t among the all-time greats when you included defense, but I didn’t realize his hitting was THAT good, when you adjust for ballpark, etc.
    I actually went to Baseball-ref to find counter-examples. But after about 10 minutes, I have to agree with you. Vaughn’s in his league as a hitter. Boudreau gets close from ’43-48, but you have to really discount his ’43-’45 stats, due to the war.
    And Reese, Chapman, Appling, and many others fall well short.
    I guess I got to caught up on Banks’ low walk rate, and over-emphasized the Wrigley factor (which according to the ballpark factors at Baseball-Ref, was a neutral park in those years), while not giving enough credit to the 40+ homers.

  3. I think the Wrigley factor is way over-blown. Yes, there are days that the wind is blowing out, but there are as many or more days when teh wind is blowing in too.
    I remember the end of Ernie’s career and he was spoken with reverence about by everyone, including the Cardinals who hated the Cubs even more then than they do now.

  4. It’s not just the wind, Madd. The power alleys are close, and the foul territory’s not huge.
    Wrigley’s a hitters park.

  5. Wrigley is a hitter’s park, but 40 homers is what in a tougher park? 32? Still a lot for a shortstop in the 50’s. Hell, it’s a lot for anybody. And I recall what Joe Morgan said in 1998. 70 homers in batting practice for a year is a lot.

  6. Daryl-
    Exactly. And for some reason, I’d discounted Banks (relatively speaking) as being “just a 40 HR guy,” not realizing the inherent absurdity in that.

  7. Yes, the alleys are short and there is little foul ground, but when the wind is howling “in” at Wrigle, which is a significant amount of the time, nobody hits homeruns.
    Dave Kingman is the only hitter I can recall who hit balls regularly are far as McGwire and He only hit in the low 30’s at Wrigley when he played for the Cubs.

  8. Irish, the player I recall who hit the longest home runs until the 90s was Mickey. Ruth supposedly was like that. Big moonshots. Ted was like Gehrig, and Piazza was like that too: laser beams.
    Kingman is the perfect example of why hitting a major milestone means little for posterity. He came close to 500, yet was as poor a player as you could want. He couldn’t field, he couldn’t make contact on a bet, never walked, struck out a lot, and was a stupid baserunner. Yet he hung around hurting teams based on one silly stat (he also got hurt a lot). Sosa too. His nubmers are better, at least he could get on base, and his slugging was pretty good. Not HOF good, but pretty good.
    Banks seems to be between the two, but he played in a different era, and played a pretty good shortstop for a while. I think Banks made the Hall because he put up numbers at short that belied what the Roy Macmillans, Marty Marions and Scooters and PeeWees did, and the writers didn’t know what to make of it. I would not have voted for him because I don’t think a player on a last place team should get it, but that is only my personal opinion. I guess they didn’t want to penalize him only because the Cubs thought a pitcher was something you poured water from.

  9. Believe me, I am not comparing Kingman with the greats of baseball. The only reason I reference him is because of, not his over all HR totals, but the length of his HR’s. A great example of this is the year McGwire hit 70, his average HR length for the season was longer than Juniors longest. I use Kingman as an example of someone who hit long HR’s in a park that is considered a hitters park, yet his HR totals were not higher than what he achieved in other parks. He had one good year in Chicago, 48, but his next two best totals were at Shea and in Oakland, 37 & 35 (twice).

  10. Sorry to belabor it, Madd, but I can’t agree. In three seasons with the Cubs, Kingman hit 48 HRs in 532 ABs, 28 in 395, and 18 in 255. Those are fantastic ratios of HR:AB.
    For the rest of his career — playing in pitchers parks like Oakland, Candlestick & Shea — he averaged about 25% fewer homers per at-bat.

  11. Wasn’t she the woman in the paintings loading the cannons at Valley Forge (or at least in that general time frame)?
    Fergie Jenkins spent 2 forgettable years with the Red Sox (22-21) and was traded for…yes! John Poloni who pitched a total of 7 innings in his career, none with Boston. Jenkins promptly went 18-8 with Texas.

  12. As a kid I remember the Gibson – Jenkins duals. They were always a war. Great baseball!!! The game just isn’t played the same way.

  13. Yes Mike, Molly was the General’s wife. Legend has it that when the minutmen ran out of gunpowder, she threw the cannonballs with a mean curve, which broke lots of windows. Hence the term, “The pitcher has a hard breaking curve ball.”

  14. Just for fun, biggest gaps between 1st and 2nd place in RBI on one team in one year:
    94 — ’01 Cubs (Sosa 160, Rick Gutierrez 66)
    91 — ’59 Cubs (Banks 143, Bobby Thomson 52)
    79 — ’34 Yankees (Gehrig 135, Ben Chapman 86)
    73 — ’22 Cards (Hornsby 152, Milt Stock 79)
    70 — ’35 Braves (Berger 130, Pinky Whitney 60)
    70 — ’37 Tigers (Greenberg 183, Gee Walker 113)
    70 — ’25 Yankees (Meusel 138, Gehrig 68)

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