In MLB history, plenty of stars are known to baseball historians, but how about the lost stars of specific clubs, important pieces at least briefly: The NL East.
MLB history is now so deep, it is relatively easy to find “lost” stars if one goes back a bit in time, but how many had starring roles now almost entirely forgotten except by professional baseball historians? Setting out to find such players, we started with the teams currently in the NL East and began with a player who may be best known (by almost no one now) as the one player his team wouldn’t trade for Ty Cobb…
Elmer Flick, Phillies
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That was Cleveland, Flick’s last team, that wouldn’t trade him for Cobb, but the diminutive outfielder began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, and is still third on the team’s all-time list for batting average with a .338 figure for four years (1898-1901).
Ordinarily, it might be tempting to exclude a player like Flick who played the majority of his career for the team in question before the foul strike rule (1901). However, Flick went on to become a Hall of Famer, and in fact, the NL’s decision to implement the foul strike figures into this reckoning.
Flick’s initial pieces of MLB history were eye-opening as he hit .302, .342, and .367 in his first three years, beginning at the age of 22. Then came the rule counting the first two fouls as strikes, a stop-gap to a weird skill some players were developing – slapping fouls on pitches that might be called strikes until one more to their liking came along.
It was an early drag on the game’s pace.
In 1901, then, a lot of batting averages dropped. Billy Hamilton, another Hall of Famer and Phillies star, dropped 46 points between 1900 and ’01, and the new rule may very well have contributed to his decision to retire. His final average with Boston in the first year with the new rule was only the second time in his career he hit below .300.
Flick’s average also dropped, but only from his scorching .367 to .333. And he still managed to collect 180 hits in 138 games, the exact number he’d played in the year before when he gathered 200 safeties.
Originally a catcher as an amateur, Flick became an outfielder for the Youngstown Puddlers of the Inter-State League in 1896 because the team already had a good catcher. He admitted in interviews that he wasn’t much of an outfielder at first, quoting his manager in Youngstown: “The manager told me that as an outfielder, I wasn’t so hot…then he added: ‘But you can sure sting that ball.’”
However, in Philadelphia he improved, using a speed advantage to play a shallow right field, where he sometimes threw out runners at first on “singles.” Flick became a true star in Cleveland, though, leading MLB in triples twice after leading in RBI with the Phillies in 1900. This may be why he is somewhat more forgotten in Philly.
A player who sometimes turned his own bats on his father’s machine shop lathe in Bedford, Ohio, Elmer Flick was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963.