Max Bishop

Max BishopBishop was once described in the pages of The Sporting News as “bland, blond, and phlegmatic.” They went on to say that Bishop “has no color” and that he’s “just a good workman.”

It’s true that Bishop was not flashy, nor did he have a personality that drew attention his way. His numbers were not extraordinary given the era he played in – the 1920s and 1930s when high batting averages were in vogue and home run totals were starting to bulge.

Bishop was a career .271 hitter who topped the .300 mark just once (then dropped to .232 the following season). He only once hit as many as 10 homers, in fact the bulk of his hits went for one base. But he was skilled at one thing that didn’t draw much attention from fans, sportswriters, and most other players in his era: he drew walks. As a result he scored runs, four times topping 100 runs while batting leadoff for the Philadelphia A’s.

Nicknamed “Camera Eye” due to his knowledge of the strike zone, Bishop walked 100 or more times in eight straight season, from 1926-1933. He was an integral part of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia teams that win three consecutive pennants from 1929-1931. While many of his teammates have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame (Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane), Bishop is one of the most anonymous good players in baseball history. He still remains the greatest second baseman to ever don the uniform of the A’s for the bulk of his career (Eddie Collins having went on to the ChiSox after leaving Philadelphia).

By the best methods we have to measure such a thing, Bishop was a good defensive second baseman too. For two months in 1926, from May 3 to July 3, he went 53 straight games without making an error – a feat that was remarkable in that era when fields were often riddled with stones and the gloves were not that large.

Max was one of many A’s stars who spent a long spell with the Baltimore Orioles in the International League prior to matriculating to the big leagues. That team won seven straight league flags (Bishop played on five of them) and was probably just a tick below major league caliber for much of the 1920s. Bishop’s double play partner with the Orioles was Joe Boley, who also signed with Mack but never enjoyed much success in the majors.

Bishop’s career on-base percentage of .423 ranks 15th all-time in baseball history.