Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Hall of Merit > Discussion
Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, May 02, 2005

Sam Bankhead

Sam Bankhead

Eligible in 1952.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 02, 2005 at 08:47 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Related News:

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 03, 2005 at 01:35 PM (#1306874)
hot topics
   2. Chris Cobb Posted: May 05, 2005 at 10:32 PM (#1315240)
I haven't gathered data from Holway yet, but here is the career data for Sam Bankhead from Macmillan 8th ed.

Sam Bankhead, 1931-36 NeL, 1937 Santa Domingo, 1938-39 NeL, 1940-41 Mexico, 1942-47 NeL
(no stats from S.D. or Mexico included)

286 g, 1594 ab, 455 hits, 61 2b, 22 3b, 19 hr, 39 sb, .285 avg, .387 slg
   3. burniswright Posted: December 09, 2007 at 07:54 AM (#2639279)
The reason Sam Bankhead is usually on everybody's all-time utility player list, despite being only an above-average hitter, is pretty simple: it has everything to do with the short rosters in blackball.

Normally, teams carried a guy who could, in a pinch, play every position on the diamond. For an extended portion of the history of the KC Monarchs, for instance, that guy was Dink Mothel. Another example of the type would be someone like Namon Washington. The expectation was that they not only be able to play the outfield (which really counted for nothing, since you see pitchers in the outfield all the time in Negro Leagues boxes), but be good enough athletes to handle the infield positions without embarrassing themselves or their team. It was an added bonus if they could also go behind the plate, as both Mothel and Washington were able to do: that meant the team didn't have to carry two catchers.

As to hitting, anything that utility guy could contribute was a bonus. Mothel gets rave reviews in Phil Dixon's books because he could actually hit a little. Washington was the more usual case--hovering just above the Mendoza line.

The point is: Sam Bankhead doesn't fit this model at all. He was a wonderful defensive shortstop who also just happened to have a Bob Meusel arm and outstanding range in rightfield (or the other way around, if you prefer). Of course, he was also a defensive standout at 2B or 3B as well.

So what you have in Bankhead is a guy who would ordinarily be a starting player at any one of several positions, handle the bat in the 2nd slot, or drive in runs in the 5th or 6th. He is not a utility player in the sense that we now use the word. But, like Pete Rose (as an example), he played enough games at different positions so that he is hard to classify on a career basis.

There is some fraction of the word "utility" that applies to Bankhead in terms of his career moves: any club that had a weak spot knew that they could sign Bankhead and have that spot filled with a very fine ballplayer.

This makes his HOM status vexed, because 20th-century MLB ballclubs don't think in those terms, nor do they need to. He had far more value in the Negro Leagues than he would have had in MLB. IMO he could have been a starter in MLB, but wouldn't have been remembered with the same awe that we reserve for him in blackball.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Ray (RDP)
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Syndicate

Page rendered in 0.1399 seconds
49 querie(s) executed