Larry Doyle was one of the most respected players of his time. The Deadball Era batting champion and MVP remains one of baseball’s most underappreciated stars.
Doyle broke in with John McGraw’s Giants as a fresh-faced 20-year old in 1907. In his first full season, Doyle led NL second basemen in triples, batting average and slugging percentage.
The following year Doyle paced the National League in hits. The NL’s only second baseman to hit .300 that season, he also led Senior Circuit second sackers in home runs.
The best Giants position player, Doyle was so highly regarded that he became team captain. He took over the team whenever McGraw was ejected or suspended. It was no small job – McGraw held the all-time record for ejections for more than 70 years.
From 1910-1916 Doyle roomed on the road with Christy Mathewson. They became lifelong friends, both enjoying checkers.
On the field, McGraw’s men earned three consecutive pennants starting in 1911. Doyle was central to the team’s success.
In ’11 he led the league with 25 triples. Doyle’s .310 average, .397 on-base percentage, and .527 slugging mark earned him a third-place finish in MVP balloting. The 24-year old Doyle declared, “It’s great to be young and a Giant.”
He was even better the next year. Doyle hit a career-high .330, placed sixth in the NL in homers and fifth in runs batted in. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the National League.
In 1913 Doyle became the first player to hit a home run out of the Polo Grounds. The Giants made the Fall Classic for the third and final time of Doyle’s career.
The second baseman earned the batting title in 1915. Not since Ross Barnes in the National League’s inaugural season of 1876 had a man at the Keystone position worn the crown. Doyle tallied the most hits and doubles in the NL and finished second in total bases.
A rare power-hitting Deadball Era second baseman, Doyle was among the NL’s top five in homers five times, and doubles four times.
By the time he retired in 1920, Doyle had the third-highest career batting average and third-most homers among men with at least 1,000 game played at second base. For good measure he also finished with 298 career steals.
Doyle’s 125 OPS+ ranks above ten Cooperstown second basemen including Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, Craig Biggio, and Frank Frisch. Many believe Doyle’s case for Cooperstown deserves another look by the Veterans Committee.
Doyle enjoyed a long life after leaving the game. He outlived both Matty and McGraw by decades and remained close to their widows Jane and Blanche until they passed.
In the collection is this vintage photo from United Press International featuring Doyle and New York skipper John McGraw. The Giants captain has signed the photo in the space between the two men.