Bill Terry

Terry’s .401 batting average in 1930 makes him the last NL player to hit over .400. Though there were unusually high batting averages that year (the entire NL averaged .303), 30 other future Hall of Fame members playing regularly in both leagues in 1930 did not hit .400. Terry was a great hitter who had three other seasons over .350 and averaged .341 for his 14-season career. When he wanted to, he could pull the ball into the stands; in 1932, he slugged 28 homers. But more typically, he hit doubles and triples into the deep power alleys of the Polo Grounds.

Defensively, he was the best of his day. In the ten seasons he played regularly, he led NL first basemen in fielding average twice, double plays three times, putouts and assists five times each, and total chances per game nine times. Terry was 26 before he came to the ML and then had to move future Hall of Famer George Kelly off first to play regularly for the Giants. Most of his record was achieved from the age of 30 on, and, during his last five seasons, he also served as the Giants’ manager.

Terry’s Giants won the 1933 pennant and WS with a tattered team he’d taken over the season before from an ailing John McGraw. After rebuilding the club, he won pennants in 1936 and 1937.

But despite his accomplishments with a bat and glove, and as a manager, he was never a favorite with the New York writers. He was blunt and unwilling to cater to them. Most of all, they resented his insistence on keeping his private life private. Among other gripes they had was his refusal to hand out his private telephone number; he spent 16-18 hours available at the Polo Grounds and that was enough, as far as he was concerned.

Early in 1934, when he was asked about the perennially tail-end Dodgers, he responded jokingly, “Is Brooklyn still in the league?” His off hand remark was widely considered a contemptuous put-down. When the Dodgers won the last two meetings of the season to knock the Giants out of the pennant, some New York writers insisted Terry’s “arrogance” had cost his team the title.

The baseball writers elected Terry to the Hall of Fame in 1954, 18 years after he retired as a player. Terry showed no bitterness that his election was so long delayed and became a regular participant in the annual induction ceremonies for many years.

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