Hank Aaron's League-Leading .328 BA Wasn't Worth Duke Snider's .292

Harold FriendChief Writer IDecember 17, 2011

MILWAUKEE - APRIL 7:  Hank Aaron throws out the first pitch before the Milwaukee Brewers game against the Montreal Expos at County Stadium on April 7, 1998 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Kirn/Getty Images)
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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 MacArthur, although old batting champions never die, they just fade away.  On-base leaders don't even fade away because they are never 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.