Wallace’s association with baseball spanned more than 60 years. He came to the major leagues as a pitcher with the Cleveland Spiders in 1894. Though he won ten games and hurled two shutouts in 1896, he moved to third base in 1897. With the Cardinals in 1899, he shifted to shortstop, remaining a regular at that position for 14 years.
Though known primarily for his fielding skills, Wallace batted better than .300 in 1897, 1899, and 1901 and finished second in the NL with a career-high 12 home runs in 1899. In 1897 and 1899 he drove in more than 100 runs. He became a highly coveted player. In 1902, the Browns lured him away from the Cardinals with a five-year, no-trade contract worth more than $32,000 – a fortune at the time. That June 10, he set a still-standing AL record with 17 chances accepted at shortstop in a nine-inning game. He often led the league in one fielding category or another and stands ninth among shortstops in career chances, putouts, and assists. Though his hitting dropped off in the AL, he continued to show good speed, collecting 153 career triples and stealing 201 bases.
As his career wound down, Wallace’s time on the diamond was curtailed by a broken hand in 1912 and serious burns in 1914, and was interrupted by a stint as an AL umpire from June 1915 until August 1916. He finished his ML playing days with the Cardinals in 1918 at age forty-four. He managed in the minors, coached briefly for Cincinnati, and scouted for them for 33 years until his death. He compiled the worst record in history for a manager with 200 or more ML games – 62-154 – with the Browns in 1911-12 and the Reds in September 1937. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1953.