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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What could have been?

Joe Posnanski has a wonderful article on his blog tonight about players who might have been hall of famers had they originally been signed by a different team. It's an excellent read, and includes this little tidbit about a former Reds player who I'd never heard of (my knowledge of the Reds past, with the exception of Ted Kluszewki and Frank Robinson, starts at about 1970):
Hank Sauer

Might be in the Hall of Fame if: The Cincinnati Reds didn't HATE home run hitters.

The Honker did not get a chance to play full-time in the big leagues until he was 31 years old -- after that he hit 281 home runs. As Bill points out, that's more homers after 31 than, among others: Stargell, Musial, Schmidt and McCovey. It's one fewer than Reggie Jackson.

Why didn't Sauer get his chance earlier? The Reds were anti-home run. There's really no other way to look at it. From 1941 to 1947, the most homers hit by a Reds player was 20 (by Frank McCormick hit in the war-torn year of 1944). The Reds were all about pitching and defense ... and they never did appreciate Sauer. They finally gave him his shot in 1948, and he hit 35 homers -- he shattered the Reds' record by five homers.

His reward was to be traded to the Cubs the very next year for Harry the Hat Walker and Peanuts Lowery. Sauer hit 30-plus homers five times after that, including a monster 41-homer season in 1954 when he was 37. That matched Cy Williams NL record for most homers in a season by a player 35 or older.