Oct 29, 2014

New York Giants Hall Of Famer & The Last NL Player To Hit .400: Bill Terry (1923-1936)

William Harold Terry was born on October 30, 1898 in Atlanta, Georgia. Memphis Bill, as he was known, began his playing career as pitcher while he was still a teenager.

By 1922 the Toledo Mud Hens signed him & he converted to a full time first baseman. Terry more importantly who was a fantastic hitter.

That year in the minor leagues, he batted .377 with 15 HRs & was brought up to the New York Giants team by mid September.

The following season he was backup at first base to Hall of Famer; George “High Pockets” Kelly, batting .239 with 5 HRs & 24 RBIs in 77 games. The Giants won the pennant and faced the Washington Senators in the World Series.

Post Season: In Game #1 of the World Series, he got the start at first base & High Pockets Kelly played outfield & second base. Terry had a big day, collecting three hits, including a 4th inning HR off Walter Johnson in the 4-3 win. Overall he batted .429 (6-14) in that Series.

By 1925 he was the Giants main first baseman, as the infield was switched around to accommodate Terry. With an injury to Henie Groh, Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch was moved to the spot & Kelly to second base. He hit .319, but the Giants finished second & he found himself a back up to Kelly once again in 1926, as the defense was switched back to the way it was.

By the 1927 season, the Giants traded Kelly, as well as Frankie Frisch & Terry became the teams main first baseman for good. That year he had his breakout season, batting .326 (10th in the N.L.) with 20 HRs (4th in the NL) & 121 RBIs (5th in the NL). 

In 1928 he would hit .326 but even better things were ahead. In 1929 Terry hit .372 (4th in the NL) with 226 hits (4th in the NL) driving in 117 runs (9th in the NL) while blasting 39 doubles in each of the last two seasons, while coming in the top ten in most offensive league categories.

In 1929 he finished third in the MVP voting. In 1930 he had his best season, becoming the first player since Rogers Hornsby (1925) to bat over .400. Terry hit .401 & is still the last N.L. Player to accomplish this feat. Ted Williams is the only other player to have hit over .400 since Terry’s 1930 season.

Terry easily won the batting title, while leading the league in hits (254). That tied Lefty O'Douls 254, for a record of most hits in a single season, in the National League. Terry hit 23 HRs (8th in the league) with 39 doubles 15 triples (5th in the league) & 129 RBIs (5th in the league) winning the Sporting News MVP Award. Unfortunately the Giants finished third that season.

At first base he led the N.L. in put outs & assists posting a .990 fielding percentage. In his career he led first baseman in put outs & assists five times, as well as leading twice in fielding percentage & coming in runner up three more times.

In 1931 he led the league in triples (20) & runs scored (121) while coming in runner up for the batting title to the St. Louis Cardinals; Chick Hafey. Hafey beat out Terry in one of the closest batting races in history, a mere .0002 points.

Terry had another 200 plus hit season that year with 213 hits, as well as 112 RBIs. Terry would hit a career high 28 HRs in 1932 and bat .350 coming in runner up to Brooklyn's Lefty O'Doul (.368). That June he was named the New York Giants player manager, replacing legendary Hall of Famer; John McGraw who was ill & retired after managing the Giants for thirty years.

After a sixth place finish that season, Terry lead the Giants to another World Series title in 1933, as they defeated the Washington Senators in five games. Terry himself batted .322 but saw his power numbers fall to just 6 HRs & 58 RBIs.

Post Season: In the '33 World Series, he hit .273 (6-22) with a HR in Game #4 at Washington D.C. He would win another pennant as manager of the NY Giants in 1936 and bat .240 in that World Series. His power numbers certainly fell off after his .400 season, but he still batted over .310 every season, which was six more years.

In his career; Terry hit over .300 eleven times, while driving in over 100 runs six straight years. He had six seasons where he had 200 or more hits.

In his 14 year career he batted .341 (15th best all time) & in the modern era he would be ranked at tenth best. Terry had 2193 hits (182nd all time) in 6428 at bats.

He hit 154 HRs, 373 doubles (226th all time) with 112 triples (119th all time) & a .393 on base percentage (91st all time) . He scored 1120 runs (236th all time) in 1721 games played.

His defensive numbers are very impressive; playing 1579 games at first base (51st all time) making 1108 assists (34th all time) with 15972 put outs (35th all time) turning 1334 double plays (36th all time).

His range factor according to baseball reference is tenth best all time & he would have led the league in that department eight times.

If a Gold Glove Award had been issued the, speculation is Terry would have a few of them. The All Star Game didn't begin until he was 34 years old, but he still got into three of those.

Retirement: After his playing days, Terry remained the Giants manager. He won another pennant in 1937, but then never finished higher than third place.

He continued to manage the New York Giants until 1941, when his protégé & long time team mate; Hall of Famer Mel Ott, took over as the teams Player/ Manger.

After baseball he owned a car dealership & a minor league ball team in Jacksonville, Florida. Terry passed away in 1989 at the age 90.

Honors: Although he was popular with the Sports writer, he did not elected to the Hall of Fame until in 1954.

He had his Giants uniform #3, retired by the club in 1984. He was a nominee for Baseballs All Century team & was voted #59, in the Sporting News All Time Greatest Players.

No comments: