In 2011, baseball experts know the importance of on base percentage, which is of greater significance than batting average, yet there is no award for the on base percentage leader.
It is difficult to assess individual achievements since the 1994 strike-shortened season. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens and yes, even Andy Pettitte are among those who have introduced an uncontrollable variable into the game.
Therefore, let’s return to the 1950s, which many fans consider a golden age of baseball and examine the National League.
The following table lists each league’s batting champion and on base percentage leader: Batting average is the first number and on base average is the second number.
YEAR Batting Leader OBP Leader
1950 Musial .346, .437 Stanky ..300, .460
1951 Musial .355, .449 Kiner .309, .452
1952 Musial .336, .432 Robinson .308, .440
1953 Furillo .344, .393 Musial .337, 437
1954 Mays .345, .411 Ashburn .313, .441
1955 Ashburn .338, .449 Ashburn .338, .449
1956 Aaron .328, .365 Snider .292, .399
1957 Musial .351, .422 Musial .351, .422
1958 Ashburn .350, .440 Ashburn .350, .440
1959 Aaron .355, .401 Cunningham .345, .453
Narrowing the analysis, Richie Ashburn led the league in both categories in 1955 and 1958. Stan Musial led in both categories in 1957.
The only 1950s batting champion not in the Hall of Fame is Carl Furillo. The only on base leaders not in the Hall are Eddie Stanky and Joe Cunningham.
Admittedly, to paraphrase General Douglas Mac Arthur, although old batting champions never die, they just fade away. On base leaders don’t even fade away because they never are honored properly.
Duke Snider is a prime example based upon his 1956 season.. Snider batted under .300, which in those days was the artificial cutoff point between average and good hitters. Even today, a certain amount of prestige accompanies a .300 batting average.
It is a rare fan that knows Snider led the league in on base percentage in 1956, which didn’t become an official statistic until 1984.
Snider’s on base percentage was .399. Batting champion Hank Aaron’s was .365.
Simple arithmetic reveals that Snider had an OBP 107 points higher than his batting average while Aaron had an OBP a mere 37 points greater than his batting average.
Want to start a rally? How about the Duke of Flatbush.
In 1950, Eddie Stanky’s OBP average was 160 points greater than his batting average. His lifetime OBP was .410 to go along with a mediocre .268 batting average. Stanky deserves recognition for having reached base more often than anyone in the league, including the batting champ.
Hank Greenberg was one of the most feared sluggers of all time. Pitchers would often prefer to walk him rather than give him a pitch he could drive. Greenberg has a .412 OBP. Stanky’s OBP is .410.
The player who leads his league in on base average deserves to be awarded.