Ross Youngs vs. Curt Walker: One More Time

A new book on Ross  Youngs by David King is coming our way soon.

A new book on Ross Youngs by David King is coming our way soon.

Curt Walker started his professional career as a Houston Buff in 1919.

Curt Walker was a Houston Buff in 1919.

Curt Walker of Beeville, Texas was one of my earliest baseball idols, but it had nothing to do with seeing him play or knowing first hand how really good he was. He was my dad’s friend, one of my fatherless dad’s earliest role models from our shared birthplace of Beeville. Dad and his buddies used to go to downtown Beeville as kids of the 1920s to check on Cincinnati Reds scores because of Curt. Before I was born, Dad and Curt later played town ball together for Beeville in the 1930’s. They hunted together. They grabbed coffee together at the old American Cafe on Washington, Beeville’s “main street” business drag.

By the time I reached adolescence and started accessing published records of baseball’s past performers,  I learned that our family friend, Curt Walker, had done pretty well for himself as a big league ballplayer from 1919-1930. Then, years later, in 1972, I was astonished by the news that another deserving small town Texas contemporary named Ross Youngs had been approved for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee.

What about Curt? I wondered. I’m no stat head, and this is no knock on Ross Young’s deservedness for the honor, but I just couldn’t see what made Youngs a superior candidate for that honor than Curt Walker. From anecdotal sources, I got the idea that  Youngs may have been the faster between these two fast men, but both were great defending outfielders with great batting eyes. Physically and by age too, they were virtually Texas twins. The only really major differences were that Youngs played all of his ten-year MLB career with the New York Giants and Curt Walker played most of his twelve-year career with the Cincinnati Reds.

With the new book on Youngs by David King coming out soon, I have to take us through this basically unscientific comparison one more time:

Curt Walker was born in Beeville, Texas on July 3, 1896. Ross Youngs was born in Shiner, Texas on April 10, 1897.

Curt grew to a playing height and weight of 5’9″, 170 pounds; Ross rose to 5’*8″ and 162. Both batted left and threw right.

Ross batted .322 in a career that covered 5,336 plate appearances; Curt batted .304 over 5,575 plate trips.

Ross banged out 2BH, 3BH, & HR totals of 236-93-42; Curt closed on same with totals of 235-117-64.

Ross had R/RBI totals of 812/592. Curt finished with totals of 718/688.

Ross racked up 1,491 career hits. Curt posted 1,475 total hits.

Ross registered OBP/SA totals of .399/.441; Curt went in the same tub with .374/.440 marks.

Ross walked 550 times; Curt drew 535 bases on balls.

Ross struck out only 390 times in 5,336 plate appearances, but Curt fanned only 254 times in 5,575 plate trips.

Ross Youngs died of Bright’s Disease at age 30 on September 22, 1927 in San Antonio, Texas. Curt Walker died of a heart attack at the age of 59 on December 9, 1955 in Beeville, Texas.

My Conclusion: Ross Youngs had more friends in high places than Curt Walker. Youngs also played his career in New York and was struck down by a terrible disease at the height of his career. Lot’s of sympathy votes hatch from going out that way. Curt Walker was more of an everyday, quiet kind of guy who played out his career in a small market city, lived into his retirement years to the boondocks of little Beeville, a place that hardly a Veterans Committee member ever visited.

Sabermetric guru Bill James takes this position on the Youngs/Walker controversy: He basically concludes that it isn’t so much that Walker deserves the HOF as much as Youngs, but that Ross Youngs never should have been inducted in the first place. He believes that both men were good ballplayers, just not statistically good enough in either case for the Hall of Fame.

With their shared affinity for avoiding the “K”, I would gladly take either man for the top of my batting order in 2013.

It will be interesting to see what new light David King brings to the legacy of Ross Youngs. For some of us, he will always be connected to the disappearing act that the Veterans Committee performed on Curt Walker.

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One Response to “Ross Youngs vs. Curt Walker: One More Time”

  1. David King Says:

    Many of Ross Youngs’ “friends in high places” were dead in 1972, along with most of the memories of his career and his untimely death, Frankie Frisch was the head of the veterans committee, which is the main reason he was selected. Ross also was acknowledged as the best defensive right fielder in the game for 7-8 years, and he was a guy who John McGraw could use successfully in just about any spot in the batting order. I don’t want to get into any sort of discussions about the statistical validity of one player’s inclusion in the hall of fame, but I thought it was worth pointing this out.

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