Harry Stovey belongs in the Hall of Fame. That’s plain and simple. His statistics support his inclusion as do his innovations, inventions, and career narrative. Stovey has it all.
On BaseballReference.com’s statistical player pages, the league-leading numbers are listed in bold black ink. Near the bottom of each player’s page, there is a section called, “Hall of Fame Standards”. The first statistical measurement is called, “Black Ink“.
The formula awards points for topping the league in a statistical category. Four points are given for when a player leads his league home runs, RBI or batting average, three points for runs scored, hits or slugging percentage, two points for doubles, walks or stolen bases, and one point for games, at bats or triples.
The average Black Ink score for members already inducted into the Hall of Fame is 27. Stovey’s total is 56 which puts him 28th all-time. Among those who fall below Stovey’s score of 56 are no-doubt Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski (55), Rickey Henderson (50), Mel Ott (50), Albert Pujols (45), Miguel Cabrera (43), and a host of other Cooperstown men.
Immediately after the Black Ink listing is Gray Ink. That method takes top-ten finishes into account. Points are award similarly as the Black Ink. The average score of all hitters in the Hall is 144. Stovey far surpasses that with a 210 total. Only 45 men in history scored higher.
Detractors of Stovey’s Hall of Fame case point to his career counting numbers and WAR total. However, context always matters, and in Stovey’s case more than most.
WAR and career totals heavily depend on the number of games played. During his day, teams played an abbreviated schedule. In the first four years of his career, Stovey’s teams never played in as many as 100 games. Over the course of his 14-year big league career, Stovey’s teams averaged less than 120 games per season.
Stovey’s squads played 73.9% of the games of the modern schedule. Looking at it another way, in 14 seasons of today’s schedule, he would’ve appeared in 26.1% more games – that’s about 3 2/3 more seasons.
Additionally, Stovey’s 509 steals are among the most of his era despite the statistical lapses that keep him from getting credit for even a single stolen base in his first six seasons. Those numbers simply aren’t available.
Stovey’s case for Cooperstown is buoyed by his innovations regarding the foot-first and pop-up slides as well as the invention of the sliding pads worn under the uniform. Establishing MLB’s single-season home run mark and holding the career record for 8 seasons round out his narrative. Harry Stovey is one of a handful of men to retire as the game’s all-time home run leader.
The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) agrees. In 2009 the organization began identifying the most under-appreciated men from the 1800s. Their choice for Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend for 2009 was Pete Browning who has quite a case for the Hall himself. In 201o they selected Deacon White who was voted into Cooperstown three years later. Choosing from all the players from the 19th century not in Cooperstown, SABR chose Stovey as their man in 2011.
Harry Stovey clearly performed at a Hall of Fame level throughout his career. He dominated the game, set records, and contributed innovations and invention in the game’s earliest professional days.
His omission from Cooperstown needs to be rectified.
Here is the back of the passes from the previous image. The 1932 pass shows the facsimile signature of Red Sox team president Bob Quinn in his final year as owner of the team. The pass below that shows Quinn’s successor, 30-year old Tom Yawkey in his first year at the helm of the Sox. Both passed are adorned with the exceedingly rare signature of 1800s home run king Harry Stovey