With 232 players enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, it comes as no surprise that many of the games immortals are unknown to today’s fans. After all, how many of these 232 legendary ballplayers can YOU name?
Chances are it’s a lot fewer than you think; everyone knows the Cal Ripken, Nolan Ryan, and Babe Ruth, but what about Gabby Hartnett, Frankie Frisch, and George Kell?
There are many great players, especially those from hall of fame classes inducted over 50 years ago, that for one reason or another have fallen out of recognition as the preeminent players of their time.
This recurring article will take a one-by-one look at some of baseball’s most unknown hall of famers. Up today is Luke Appling, perennial shortstop of the Chicago White Sox during the 1930’s and '40s.
Not much of a defender or power hitter, Luke Appling was a model of sheer consistency throughout his hall of fame career. Batting over .300 in sixteen of his twenty seasons, Appling collected 2,749 career hits, while playing his entire career for the White Sox.
While he had the makings of a perfect lead-off man, with eight seasons of OBP over .400, Appling often batted third for the offensively-inept White Sox teams of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Known for a keen batting eye and amazing ability to make contact, Appling walked 1,302 times during his career while only striking out in 528.
Even more impressive, Appling was known throughout the league to purposely foul off as many as twenty pitches during an at-bat while waiting for one he could rip for a base-hit. It is not surprising that Appling owns the record for most pitches seen in a single at-bat, with 24.
A seven-time all-star, Appling’s best season came in 1936, when he won the first of two career batting titles, hitting at a .388 clip and becoming the first shortstop in history to lead the league in hitting.
That same season, Appling knocked in a career high 124 RBI, scored 111 runs and banged out 204 hits.
Famous for his incessant daily complaining, “Old Aches and Pains” won another batting title in 1943, hitting .328 that season for missing two seasons to serve in WWII. Upon his return, Appling hit over .300 four straight seasons before plummeting to .234 in 1950.
After seeing his performance diminish, Appling retired, after an astounding 2,422 games. At the time that mark was a record for shortstops (since broken by Luis Aparicio), and Appling also owned the career records for double plays, as well as the AL records for putouts, assists, and total chances.
Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964 (receiving 84% of the vote), Appling remained in baseball as a scout, hitting instructor, minor league manager, and coach well into the '80s.
He also famously hit a 250 foot home run off fellow Hall of Fame member Warren Spahn during a 1982 old-timers’ game at RFK Stadium in Washington.