Stuffy McInnis was the starting first baseman for five pennant-winning teams, and he was known as one of the best defensive players at his position during the Deadball Era. In some ways he was a lot like another fine first baseman a few generations later – Keith Hernandez. Both hit for good averages and were great fielders at first, renowned for their ability to range well to their right for the baseball.
McInnis drew the unenviable task of replacing star Harry Davis at first base for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1911, but he performed ably and soon helped fans forget Davis. McInnis starred for seven seasons as Mack’s anchor at first base in his infield, helping the club win pennants in 1911, 1913, and 1914. When Mack dismantled his team for the first time after their defeat in the 1914 World Series, McInnis was one of the only stars he kept. But in 1918 even Stuffy was shipped out and he found himself in Boston with the Red Sox. He helped the club to a World Series title that first season, hitting .272 in the regular season. For his career though, the right-handed batter hit for a lofty.307 mark, lining the ball to all fields.
Stuffy was one of the best contact hitters in baseball history. In 1924 with the Boston Braves, McInnis made contact with the ball in record fashion. That season he put the bat on the ball 575 times in 611 plate appearances for a rate of 94.1% – the highest such contact rate for a single season in baseball history since strikeout records have been kept. According to biographers Aaron Davis and C. Paul Rogers III: “on April 29, 1911, McInnis went five-for-five, all singles, against the New York Highlanders’ Hippo Vaughn and Jack Quinn while seeing only seven pitches. He hit the first pitch he saw for a single three times and the second pitch twice.”
McInnis rarely struck out (six times in ’24, and just 32 times over a four-stretch from 1921-24), and he didn’t walk much either. He was a free swinger who averaged more than 180 hits per season.
From May 31, 1921, to June 2, 1922, McInnis went 163 games and 1,625 chances without making an error at first base, a record at the time. He was a pioneer among first basemen in using the one-handed catching technique. Previously, first basemen used both hands to reach for throws, which obviously reduced their ability to stretch for throws.
He played in his final World Series in 1925 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, having won titles in four of his five trips to the Fall Classic. He retired with more than 2,400 hits and 1,000 RBI. He managed one season in the big leagues, in 1928 with the Phillies, but did not have success and did not care for the job.
McInnis was the most famous of these five first basemen because he played for the best team. He was mostly a singles hitter and he never learned how to steal bases effectively, so his best attributes were his fielding and bunting ability.