Jack Fournier

Jack FournierFournier was a very good hitter whose career straddled the Deadball Era and the Lively Ball Era of the 1920s when home runs started to become vogue. His career was split: he spent the Deadball Era in the American League with the White Sox and briefly the Yankees; then he was a star in the National League in the 1920s with the Cardinals and Brooklyn Robins.

The St. Louis Cardinals traded Fournier after the 1922 season for three reasons: (1) he was 32 years old, (2) they had a younger version of him in a player named Sunny Jim Bottomley, and (3) Brooklyn had a player the Cardinals liked named Hi Myers. Fournier didn’t prove to be an “old 32” and he kept slugging well into his late 30s. Myers was an old 34 and never did much for the Cards. Bottomley had a long career for St. Louis and ended up in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There’s no evidence based on the statistical record that Jim Bottomley was a better player than Fournier. Both were tall, strong, hard-hitting first basemen, but Fournier was born eleven years earlier. So he didn’t get to play the first half of his career in an offensive era that better suited his skills. Another first baseman of the 1920s who ended up in the Hall of Fame, George “High Pockets” Kelly, was even worse in comparison to Fournier.

For his career, Fournier had a 142 OPS+. Among players with at least 6,000 plate appearances in their careers, that ranks 43rd all-time. Among first basemen it ranks ninth. Overall, Fournier’s career was a little short, though and there were other things that worked against him. He missed an entire season over a contract dispute, preferring to stay on the west coast to play in the Pacific Coast League. He was, by accounts, a terrible defensive player, a fact that hampered his ability to stay on a roster during the Deadball Era. Teams highly valued defense in the days before the lively ball.

Ultimately, the tale of Fournier is a case of bad timing. He was a big, strong, talented slugger who was born about a decade too early. He also played too much of his career in ballparks not suited for his swing. Slap him in Brooklyn in 1921 as a rookie and he could have hit 300 home runs and possibly won a batting title, who knows? Instead, he’s largely forgotten, except by the most ardent baseball historians.

Highest Batting Average, NL (1917-1924)

Rogers Hornsby … .366
Edd Roush … .341
Zack Wheat … .334
Ross Youngs … .332
Jack Fournier … .328

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

We have Jack Fournier as a member of the Dodgers All-Time Team >