Hal Chase

Among the most unsavory characters in the history of the game, Chase was an oddly charismatic star. He was considered by contemporary observers to be the best-fielding first baseman ever, but he repeatedly threw games for the quick money he could make betting against his own team, and he was eventually banned for life.

He led his league’s first basemen in errors seven times, but only in 1911, as a playing manager, did he lead in any positive fielding categories (putouts and assists, but also errors once again). He holds the AL career first baseman’s mark for errors (285). On September 21, 1906, he tied the ML record for putouts by a first baseman in a nine-inning game with 22; two other times he had 21.

The venal gate attraction jumped the Highlanders (later the Yankees) after the 1907 season, demanding a $4,000 salary. Management gave in to him, but he jumped anyway, playing for San Jose (California League) under an assumed name. He was suspended, then reinstated; when he returned to New York, his teammates presented the redhead with a silver loving cup. In 1910 manager George Stallings accused Chase of throwing games. Chase beat the charge and then used his popularity to take over the managerial post himself at the end of the season. In his first full year at the helm, the team dropped from second place (88-63) to sixth (76-76). Traded to the White Sox in June 1913 after his lackadaisical play became blatant, he jumped to the Federal League a year later. Playing in a small park, he hit an atypical 17 HR (his previous high was four) to lead the league in 1915. This made him much sought-after when the FL folded, and he was signed by the Reds. He led the NL in batting in 1916 with a career-high .339. He hit .300 four times, but usually with very few walks. He did steal as many as 40 bases (1910), and he finished his career with 363 steals. However, Chase never scored more than 85 runs or drove in more than 89, both highs coming in 1915.

In 1918, playing under the scrupulously honest Christy Mathewson, Chase was suspended for throwing games. He was initially cleared by an establishment eager to disbelieve Chase’s accusers, but the charge was later proven. John McGraw of the Giants, always sure of his ability to reform the wayward, tried Chase in 1919, but by the end of the season wouldn’t play him. Chase was implicated in the Black Sox scandal when the World Series was thrown at the end of the season, and thereafter he was persona non grata.