You would think that, after over 100 years, the Veteran’s Committee would have elected all Hall of Fame-deserving players from the 19th century.
You’d think that, but that may not necessarily be the case.
Paul Hines began his professional career in 1872, playing in the National Association until 1875. He then played in the National League from 1876 to 1890 and in 1891, he wrapped up his career in the American Association.
Including his time spent in the National Association (the first professional baseball league, though it is not officially recognized as a major league by Major League Baseball), Hines hit .302 with 2,133 hits, 1,217 runs, 399 doubles and a 131 OPS+.
Ostensibly, his numbers look very good, but not necessarily Hall of Fame worthy. He never reached a major milestone, he spent the first few years of his career is a pseudo-major league and he didn’t even hit 100 home runs.
But you have to remember: He played in the 1800s. Until 1882, the baseball season wasn’t even 100 games long. It is hard to compile 3,000 hits when a player is not even allotted 100 games in a season to do so.
If you neutralize his statistics and convert his career to 162-games seasons, he winds up with over 3,300 career hits.
Though he did not hit many home runs (it was a time when hitting home runs was not in vogue, after all), Hines still managed to win the Triple Crown in 1878 (the first Triple Crown in major league history) by leading the league with four dingers, 50 RBI and a .358 batting average. He also led the league in slugging percentage, OPS and total bases that season.
The following year, he led the loop in batting average, hits, games, plate appearances, at-bats and total bases.
He appeared atop the leader board in plate appearances again in 1880 and in 1881 and 1884, he led the league in doubles. He also led the league in two-base hits in 1876.
Arguably, he was one of the best players in the National League in the circuit’s first five seasons—he had more hits, at-bats and doubles than anyone else in the half-decade span from 1876 to 1880 and he had the second-most runs and RBI, behind only Hall of Famers Jim O’Rourke and Cap Anson, respectively.
Recall that Hines played at a time when seasons were considerably shorter than they are now.
With that in mind, it seems rather impressive that he still ranks ahead of Hall of Famers Duke Snider, Harmon Killebrew and Chuck Klein in hits, Joe Medwick, Pie Traynor and Jim Bottomley in runs and Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Collins and George Kell in at-bats.
Black ink and grey ink are measures developed by Sabermetrician Bill James to gauge how often a player led the league in various categories and was in the top 10 in the league in various categories, respectively.
Hines has a black ink of 30, which is three points higher than the average Hall of Famer, and a grey ink of 186, which is 42 points higher than the average Hall of Famer.
In fact, he is 61st all-time in black ink, directly ahead of Hall of Famers Arky Vaughan, George Sisler and Snider. He is 50th all-time in grey ink and ahead of Cooperstowners Eddie Mathews, Snider, and Eddie Murray.
Many of Hines’ contemporaries, including Jim O’Rourke, King Kelly and Tommy McCarthy are in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps it is time to include Hines’ plaque alongside them.
He was, after all, considered “one of the top stars in the early days of baseball,” by the Baseball-Reference Bullpen.