Jim Bottomley

Jim BottomleyThere’s nothing wrong with a Hall of Fame that has Jim Bottomley in it. For about five years he was a terrific slugger, he won an MVP Award, he was on several pennant-winning teams. He had some impressive feats and he was famous. He’s not one of the elite players in the Hall, but he was a productive, well-liked, famous player on some great teams. Sort of like Tony Perez, but actually not even as good as Perez.

The problem with Bottomley being in the Hall though is that from the age 30 on he was pretty average and his final numbers, while very good, are not great. But most troubling, they are not as good as other first basemen who have never sniffed Cooperstown. That includes a contemporary named Jack Fournier, who outslugged or matched Bottomley hit for hit, total base for total base, during much of Sunny Jim’s prime years.

Historically, Bottomley’s career OPS+ (on base plus slugging adjusted for era and ballparks) of 125 is worse than Fournier (142), Norm Cash (139), Will Clark (137), Dolph Camilli (135), and even Bob Watson (128). There are half a dozen other first basemen who had a better career OPS+ too.

For the other reasons mentioned above, I don’t have a problem with Bottomley having a plaque in Cooperstown, but his entry is troubling because his numbers are not nearly as good as many other better-hitting first baseman. Does his fame, sunny disposition, postseason appearances, and the 12-RBI game make up for that?

Highest OPS, NL (1920-1926)

Rogers Hornsby … 1.094
Jim Bottomley … .921
Jack Fournier … .921
Cy Williams … .916
Zack Wheat … .887
Edd Roush … .876
Ross Youngs … .856
Irish Meusel … .839
George Kelly … .828
Frankie Frisch … .824

Jim Bottomley Day

On August 15, 1936, a civic group in St. Louis held a “Jim Bottomley Day” at Sportsman’s Park for the popular first baseman, by then a member of the Browns. Bottomley was given a milking cow, a few ducks, and a goat, among other farm-related gifts. In a contest voted on by fans, the goat was named “Fielder’s Choice.” Bottomley owned a farm in Bourbon, Missouri.