How often does it happen that a player leads the league in more categories than the average Hall of Famer and does not get elected to Cooperstown himself?
*The average Hall of Famer’s black ink is 27.
Even harder to come by, then, must be the man who also places among the league leaders, without actually pacing the loop himself, more frequently than the average Hall of Famer. That’s measured using grey ink,* and yes, it is rarer.
*The average Hall of Famer’s grey ink is 144.
Though Sherry Magee is an unfamiliar name in most baseball circles today, he also ranks among that number, with black and grey ink of 35 and 210, respectively. Mostly forgotten now and severely underrated even then, he played from 1904 to 1919 for the Phillies, Braves and Reds as one of the top outfielders in the National League.
Finishing with 2,169 hits, 166 triples, 441 stolen bases, 1,112 runs and 1, 176 RBI, he took home a ring with Cincinnati in the tainted 1919 World Series against Chicago and—fairly-and-squarely—won the batting title in 1910 with a .331 mark.
In fact, he batted .300 or better five times in an era when league averages in the .250s were the norm—his .291 career mark was 32 points higher than the aggregate .259 average the National League hit when he played.
Pacing the loop in offensive WAR, slugging percentage and total bases twice, extra base hits three times and RBI four times, Magee was an offensive powerhouse in a time when they were a rarity.
Consider that he played in the Dead Ball Era, when offenses were depressed and pitching reigned. Had he played in the modern game, he would have hit .312 with over 2,500 hits, 500 stolen bases, 1,350 runs scored and 1, 450 RBI, per the neutralized statistics from Baseball Reference.com.
For a player of his time, he was a slugger, despite seemingly weak home run totals. His 83 dingers don’t look like much, but he played during an era when 20 home runs in a season was unheard of and 5 or fewer was the norm; Ty Cobb had less than than 5 thirteen times.
In 2021, 119 players have clobbered 15 or more dingers, and we’re not even done with the season. Over the 16-year span of Magee’s career, that mark was reached 13 times total. And Magee managed two of those instances, in 1911 and 1914, and finished among the league leaders in homers seven times.
According to the now-defunct BaseballLibrary.com, “Magee was one of the great players of the dead-ball era, 1900-1919. He could hit, run, field, and throw with the best, and played intelligently and aggressively,” and according to the also-defunct TheBaseballPage.com, “he had no real weaknesses…” The Baseball Reference Bullpen says, “[he] was one of the top players of his time.”
So, what is a player who had “no real weaknesses,” who could, “hit, run, field, and throw with the best” and who was “one of the top players of his time” not doing in the Hall of Fame? Your guess is as good as mine. Even Hall of Fame voters didn’t give him much love, as he received support in eight regular elections but peaked at one percent of the vote. Granted, he was competing with men like Babe Ruth, Cy Young and Pete Alexander* for attention, so it is understandable how he was overlooked.
*It wasn’t even easy for Alexander to earn induction. He received less than 25% of the vote his first time around and didn’t get elected until his third try.
But inexcusable is that even during the years of Hall of Fame inflation, the 1960s and 1970s, Magee was still ignored. During that time, under the guidance of Hall of Fame infielder and Veterans Committee Chairman Frankie Frisch, such names as Rube Marquard, Jesse Haines and George Kelly were selected for Cooperstown.
Yet Magee remained on the outside looking in. Heck, the last time he was even considered was by the Veterans Committee in 2009, the year Joe Gordon was elected; he received 25% of the vote.
From 1904 to 1919—the span of his career—Magee appeared in more games, had more plate appearances, more at-bats, more runs, more doubles, more triples, more RBI, more total bases, more extra base hits and was on base more than anyone in the National League. Number two in each of those categories was Honus Wagner.
Wagner received 95.1% of the vote in his first try on the Hall of Fame ballot.
The ghost of Magee is still waiting for the call.