No. 241 Bobby Doerr (Number 21 Second Base)

Doerr and Joe Gordon are very close. Both were good fielding second basemen who were good hitters for their positions, especially for their time. I have Gordon slightly ahead, but they could go either way.

I think the perception of a lot of people was that Doerr was better, since his hitting statistics looked better. Doerr played in Fenway a strong hitters park at the time while Gordon played in New York and Cleveland both pitchers parks. Also, Doerr was a smooth fielder. One writer called him one of the best fielding second basemen ever. No one called Gordon that even though he was recognized as a good fielder. So, Gordon was elected to the hall of fame first. He was elected in 1986 while Gordon wasn’t elected until 2009.

However, Bill James said two things that convinced me that Gordon was better. First let me tell you that Bobby Doerr had a lifetime average of .288 and Gordon had a lifetime average of .268. However, Joe Gordon had a better batting average in every park both played. It was just that Doerr spent more than half of his career batting in better hitting parks, so the batting average is distorted that much. The other is Doerr had his best year in 1944 when almost all the best players were overseas fighting WWII. Gordon spent two years in the service and Doerr spent only one year in the service. Doerr seemed to have all the luck, except the team he played for always came up short and Gordon played on five World Series Champions.

One thing happened when he was older, his homerun power increased. He hit 20 only once before the war with a personal best of 22 while his 2nd and third best were 16. However, when he came back from the war, he hit 18, 17, 27, 18, and 27 his first five years. The first time he hit 27 homeruns he was 30 years old. So, five of his best homerun seasons came after the war.

Bobby Doerr started in the majors at the age of 19. By age 21 he was an above average hitter and was one the rest of his career. However, his career ended early at age 33. What happened at 33 was he hurt his back badly when making a fielding play. He had trouble getting out of bed the next morning. He came back 3 weeks later and played well for 5 games. He had 9 hits in those 5 games. However, two days later Doerr batted once and couldn’t play anymore. He didn’t have a ruptured disk but was told to rest for the rest of the season.

During the offseason Doerr decided he had a pretty good career and retired to the farm rather than risk further injury to his back. It appears to me that he made a wise decision.

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