Over a career of 18 years, played entirely for Cincinnati teams in the 19th century, Bid McPhee was the best second baseman in the game. He was deservedly called King Bid. Only four men have played more games at 2B. Only Eddie Collins made more career putouts or handled more chances; only Frankie Frisch topped his record for total chances in a season, and no one has yet exceeded the 529 putouts he achieved in 1886. In an era when fine fielding was highly prized, he led his league in double plays in 11 seasons and had the best fielding average in nine. His .978 mark in 1897 was the highest of any second baseman in his time. And he did it all barehanded. Gloves were in general use by 1886, but McPhee resisted their use until 1897, when his career was winding down.
The righthanded leadoff batter was a consistent run producer, scoring more than 100 runs a season ten times. He hit with fair power, leading the league with seven HR in 1886, and he had 189 career triples, including a league-high 19 in 1887. That was impressive long-ball hitting for the dead-ball era. In his rookie year in the American Association (1882), color-coded uniforms were introduced to help new fans learn the players’ positions (the players called them “clown suits”). McPhee wore orange and black, the designation for second base. Throughout his career, fundamental changes were made in baseball’s rules. Pitchers threw underhand from 45′ when he broke in, and it took seven balls to earn a walk. He adjusted to overhand pitching for the next nine seasons, and to the modern distance of 60’6″ thereafter.
McPhee was a sober and sedate man, never fined or ejected from a game, and always in condition. He performed without flair, but his excellence thrilled the fans. He retired as a player while still commanding respect.