Teams: Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers, Robins), 1909-1926; Philadelphia Athletics, 1927
Zach Wheat compiled 2,884 hits, all
but 80 of them in a Brooklyn uniform.
After winning the National League pennant in 1900, the Brooklyn Dodgers fell upon hard times. Through most of the 20th century’s first decade they were one of the least inspired teams in the majors. That began to change when Zachariah Davis Wheat (1888-1972) joined them in 1909 after being purchased from Mobile of the Southern Association.
For the next 17 years, Wheat occupied left field. By the time he left the team at the close of 1926, he held Dodger records in almost every existing career offensive category. Many of those records, including hits, doubles, and triples, remain intact today.
A quiet, almost colorless performer, Wheat was never ejected from a game by an umpire. Later in his career, when the team acquired a reputation for zaniness under manager Wilbert Robinson, Wheat was something of an anachronism. Not only did he never argue with umpires, he got along well with Brooklyn owner Charlie Ebbets, the bane of several other Dodgers players, and on two occasions even lent Ebbets money to help him out of financial straits.
So popular was Wheat with fans that local advertisers outdid themselves linking him to their products. One billboard on the outfield wall in Ebbets Field read: “Zach Wheat caught 400 flies last season -- Tanglewood Fly Paper Caught 10 million.”
Wheat played on his first pennant winner in 1916 and had his finest season to date that same year when he topped the National League in slugging average and total bases. Two years later, in 1918, Zach led the senior loop in batting but notched the fewest total bases ever by a hit crown winner with over 400 at bats, as he became the last batting leader in NL history to go homerless for an entire season.
In 1918 the dead-ball era was still in full sway, but beginning two years later, when the advent of Babe Ruth abruptly changed the nature of the game, Wheat joined in the increased offensive output. Although never a slugger, Zach regularly began posting home run totals in double figures.
After hitting well above .350 for three straight seasons, Wheat sagged to .290 in 1926 and was accused of not hustling. The actual culprit, however, was age. Nearing age 40, Zach was released by the Dodgers and caught on with the Philadelphia A’s for one last season. After batting .324 in 88 games for Connie Mack’s 1927 crew, Wheat played a few months for Minneapolis in the American Association and then retired. Wheat was named to the Hall of Fame in 1959.
Here are Zach Wheat's major league totals:
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