Owner of the highest single-season batting average in ML history (.440 in 1894), Duffy was one of the’ game’s early stars. He was an outstanding outfielder for Boston in the 1890s, and later, as a Red Sox coach, was a tutor to the young Ted Williams.
Originally an infielder in the New England League, Duffy idolized Cap Anson and signed with Anson’s Chicago White Stockings (later the Cubs) for the 1888 season despite being offered more money by the local Boston club. Only 5’7″, Duffy replaced Billy Sunday, soon to be a world-famous evangelist, as Chicago’s right fielder. Duffy was sold to Boston (American Association) after three seasons, and then became a Brave when the AA broke up. With Duffy now patrolling centerfield, he and right fielder Tommy McCarthy became known as the “Heavenly Twins.”
Duffy hit over .300 in nine of his ten seasons in Boston, but 1894 was his best year by far. Not only did he hit .440, but he won baseball’s first Triple Crown with 18 HR and 145 RBI as well. He also led the NL with 236 hits, 50 doubles, and a .679 slugging percentage. He never approached those numbers again, although he did win another home run crown in 1897. Duffy was not successful as a manager; in eight seasons, he finished over .500 only twice, never higher than fourth, and three times in the cellar. Still, as a Red Sox coach emeritus, he patiently indulged reporters’ requests for tales of the good old days, while maintaining that his rookie pupil, Ted Williams, was the best hitter he had ever seen. In 1945 Duffy was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.