Bid McPhee

Position: Second baseman
Teams: Cincinnati (AA), 1882-1889; Cinncinnati (NL), 1890-1899

Bid McPhee
Bid McPhee is considered by many
to be the finest second baseman
of the 19th century.

They called him "Biddy" because he was small, just 5'8" and 150 pounds or so. But as a defensive player, he was a giant of his time. Considered by most to be the finest second baseman of the 19th century, his fielding stats can leave one breathless.

McPhee (1859-1943) holds the record for lifetime putouts at second base, with 6,545. Eddie Collins and Nellie Fox are the only others with more than 6,000. For his career, he is fourth all-time in assists among second sackers. He is third lifetime in chances accepted per game. Only seven men in history have played more games at second.

Among all the men who have played second base since, only Frankie Frisch topped McPhee’s record of 993 chances in a single season -- and no one has come within 40 of the 529 putouts he recorded in 1886. He led the league in double plays 11 times, in putouts eight times, and in fielding average eight times. In the sophisticated new stat of “fielding runs,” McPhee is the fourth best defensive player -- at any position -- who ever played the game.

Two historical facts underscore McPhee's greatness. One, his era was well before the "rock 'em, sock 'em" style of baseball that Babe Ruth invented in the 1920s and '30s, and which has been resurrected today. In McPhee's day, with runs much more at a premium, defense was absolutely critical. Bid was the best of them all.

The second fact to realize is that McPhee did it all barehanded. Many players were wearing gloves in McPhee's time. Gloves were in general use by 1886, but McPhee resisted using one until 1896, near the end of his career. He told a reporter in 1890, "True, hot-hit balls do sting a little at the opening of the season, but after you get used to it, there is no trouble on that score." In the year he did put on the leather, he fielded .978, breaking the previous second base record by 19 points.

At the plate, McPhee was a consistent run-producer, scoring 100 runs or more 10 times. He even led the league with seven homers in 1886. Of course, they were all inside-the-park jobs. McPhee, also a gentleman, was never fined or ejected from a game.

In 1886, owners, crying poor, set a rule capping the top available salary at $2,000. But smart players were able to duck the rule. A handwritten note uncovered by Professor Harold Seymour indicated that McPhee earned an additional $300 above and beyond his stated $2,000 salary. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, making him the first player from the 19th century to be voted in during the 21st century.

Here are Bid McPhee's major league totals:


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