Thursday, May 2, 2013

Forgotten Stars of the 1940s (Part II)

Continued from my previous post, the list of neglected stars from the 1940's goes on...

8. Charlie Keller
Keller despised his nickname "King Kong," which was bestowed upon him by a teammate who felt that he had a wild look about him. In photographs, it's hard not to notice his extremely bushy eyebrows. Keller was Minor League Player of the Year before joining the Yankees in 1939. His major league debut was a smashing success as he hit .334 and drove-in 83 runs in 111 games. He would play in the outfield alongside Joe DiMaggio and Tommy Henrich--a trio considered to be among the greatest in Yankee history. Keller appeared in 4 World Series, winning 3 of them while compiling a .306 postseason batting average. A reliable RBI man, he would reach the century mark in 4 consecutive seasons before losing nearly two years to military service in the Merchant Marines. After another productive 100 RBI campaign in '46, he began to suffer from back problems. He later became a successful pinch-hitter, leading the AL in that role during the '51 slate. During his 13 years in the majors, he was great in the clutch, hitting .301 lifetime with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. In tie-game situations, he compiled a .310 average.

7. Marty Marion
Marion was one of the greatest shortstops of the 1940's, playing on 8 straight All-Star teams. He was nicknamed"The Octopus" because of his long arms and superior range. He spent the entire decade with the Cardinals, appearing in 4 World Series. He collected 18 postseason hits in all, including 7 doubles. Marion posted the highest fielding percentage among NL shortstops three times. He paced the loop in putouts, assists and double plays twice apiece. The pinnacle of his career arrived in 1944, when he was named MVP on the strength of his defense and intangible leadership qualities. He later moved on to manage the Cardinals, Browns and White Sox from 1951-'56. He was a player/manager in three of those seasons.

6. Doc Cramer
Cramer was nicknamed"Flit" (after an insecticide) by a sportswriter who felt he was "death to fly balls."  Defense was one of his strongest assets as he posted the highest fielding percentage among AL center fielders three times. His range factor placed him among the top 5 on seven occasions. Cramer began his career in 1929 and, by the time the 1940's arrived, he had already played on 4 All-Star teams. He still had several good years left in him, placing among the top ten  in base hits 4 times between 1940 and 1944. Most of his hits were singles as he led the league in that category twice during that span. His lifetime total of 2,705 hits is among the top 75 marks of all-time. Sabermetric measurements equate him to several Hall of Famers, including Nellie Fox, Richie Ashburn and Lloyd Waner.   

5. Bob Elliott
Known as "Mr. Team," the affable Elliott began his career with the Pirates in 1939. A September call-up, he hit .333 in 32 games then became a mainstay in the Pittsburgh lineup for the next 7 years. From 1940-'49, he reached the 100 RBI threshold five times and hit .280 or better on eight occasions. His average peaked at .317 in 1947, the same year he received NL MVP honors. Elliot had a good eye at the plate, leading the league with 131 walks in '48. He posted on-base percentages in excess of .400 in consecutive seasons ('47/ '48). The Pirates traded him to the Boston Braves in September of '46 in a multi-player deal that included Hall of Famer Billy Herman. Elliott led the Braves to a World Series berth in '48 and hit .333 in the postseason with a pair of homers and 5 ribbies. Though he was a bit error prone at third base, he led the league in assists three times. He was named to 7 All-Star teams during his 15 year career. He went on to manage in the majors and minors.

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