History-making White gets crack at Hall
Barehanded catcher recorded professional baseball's first hit
If you think catching is a tough job these days, just consider how imposing it was in the Deacon White era.In the late 1800s, White was a standout catcher at a time when catchers did not use any equipment and were positioned much farther from the pitcher than is the case in modern-day baseball. Nevertheless, White had a flair for receiving pitches and throwing out runners on the bases.
Considered one of the best barehanded catchers of all time, White had a career batting average of .303 with 1,619 hits and 756 RBIs. That all-around excellence has lifted White to Hall of Fame consideration. White has a shot to join the Hall's Class of 2009 by way of the Veterans Committee ballot. Any players receiving at least 75 percent of the vote from the Veterans Committee, which consists of the 64 living Hall of Famers, will be enshrined in Cooperstown. Results of the Veterans Committee vote will be announced on Dec. 8 from baseball's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.The other members of the pre-1943 Veterans Committee final ballot are Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, Joe Gordon, Sherry Magee, Carl Mays, Allie Reynolds, Vern Stephens, Mickey Vernon and Bucky Walters. White played 20 seasons in the big leagues with nine different teams from 1871-1890. He was the first player to be named Most Valuable Player, earning that honor in 1875, when he hit .367 and his Boston Red Stockings went 71-8. White, who died at 91 in 1939, played until he was 42 and was the oldest player in his league for his last four seasons. He led his league in batting average twice and in RBIs three times. In the second half of his career, White came out from behind the plate and showcased his defensive skills as a premier third baseman. At one time or another over his two-decade stint in the big leagues, White played all nine positions. White had the distinction of collecting the first hit in baseball's first fully professional league. Playing for Forest City of Cleveland, he stroked a double off Bobby Mathews of the Fort Wayne Kekiongas in the first inning of the first game in National Association history on May 4, 1871. White played with many of the legendary characters of 19th century professional baseball and never took a backseat when it came to production. Catchers have to be rugged performers these days, but in White's era, that was particularly true.
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.