The Rickey Awards: Leadoff Triple Crown Leaders of the 1950s

I was reading the Old STATS Baseball Scorecards and they had a leadoff Triple Crown. It consisted of On Base Average, Runs and Stolen Bases. This is logical as On Base Average relates to batting average, Runs relates to RBIs and stolen bases is like, but not as helpful to winning as home runs.

I wondered who would be the leaders every year, as non-leadoff hitters try to get on base and score runs. Some even try to steal bases. I developed a formula like Bill James did for the regular triple crown. As Bill did his study, he came up with 1,000 total points which is impossible to hit. I did the same:

On Base Average: Maximum 400 points. I award two points for every point above .300 and up to .500.

Runs. Maximum 300 points. I awarded 2 points for every run up to 150 runs.

Stolen Bases. I award 3 points for each stolen base up to 100.

I debated the number of points for stolen bases, but decided I wanted an advantage for actual lead off men. Also, there haven’t been many years someone exceeded 100 stolen bases.

After reading a few of these listings, a Bill James online a reader came up with the name Rickey awards after Rickey Henderson, the man many of us consider the greatest leadoff man in baseball history. So, I will periodically call these the Rickey Awards.

Here are the leaders for the AL in 1950 along with the number of points:

1. Dom DiMaggio Bost 535
2. Larry Doby Clev 528
3. Eddie Yost Wash 526
4. Phil Rizzuto NY 522
5. Johnny Pesky Bost 504
6. Ferris Fain Phil 450
7. George Kell Det 443
8. Billy Goodman Bost 442
9. Al Zarilla Bost 436
10. Hoot Evers Det 431

What I did was take the top 10 in each of the categories from Baseball-Reference and add up the points on a spread sheet of all of them. Most years the player who finished 9th or 10th might not be correct, but that is the best I could do.

I started in the 50s as I figured I would see different players winning and might learn more. I figured if I did it early, I would just see Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb winning every year.

Things I remember learning in year one, league one. I have just finished my 20th year (1969).

I am glad I went with 3 points for stolen bases, because if I went with 2 points it would be a 3-way tie.

The first winner was a leadoff man, Dom DiMaggio. Spoiler, this doesn’t always happen. DiMaggio led the league in runs and stolen bases and finished 8th in on base percentage.

Joe DiMaggio came in 11th. For someone with an excellent reputation as a baserunner, Joe wasn’t much of a base stealer, even for those days. In the first four years of his career he stole 16 bases with one caught stealing. In the last 9 years of his career he stole 14 bases while being caught 8 times. I guess he was smart not to steal much.

The St. Louis Browns had three players in the top 10 in stolen bases; Dick Kokos, Tom Upton and Ray Coleman. They had 8, 7 and 7 stolen bases respectively, but they can tell their Grandchildren and people like us they were in the top 10 in stolen bases on year. I wonder if they knew.

NL 1950

Here is the NL in 1950:

1. Eddie Stanky NY 577
2. Earl Torgeson Bsn 509
3. Stan Musial StL 499
4. Jackie Robinson Brook 480
5. Ralph Kiner Pitt 446
6. Tommy Glaviano StL 444
7. Duke Snider Brook 424
8. Andy Pafko Chi 396
9. Pee Wee Reese Brook 383
10. Sam Jethro Bsn 381

Things I learned.

Rookie Sam Jethro led the NL is stolen bases with 35. He was 33 years old and played 3 full major league seasons and made an appearance in a fourth. He probably would of had a real good career if he was able to start younger.

Spoiler Alert, The National League Star Player will be a lot more noticeable in the next 20 years than the American League’s. Of course, they had more stars.

Eddie Stanky was known for the quote he couldn’t do anything but beat you. One the things he did in his career was walk a lot. He was maybe an above average fielder and a little below average base stealer. However, for a player with a .268 career average with not a lot of power, he ended up with a .410 lifetime on base average. Now we know what he did well. It surprises me he walked a lot as he had a very aggressive personality.

AL 1951

Here is the AL in 1951:

1. Minnie Minoso Clev-Chi 561
2. Ted Williams Bosn 549
3. Eddie Yost Wash 482
4. Eddie Joost Phil 462
5. Larry Doby Clev 436
6. Ferris Fain Phil 428
7. Johnny Pesky Bost 426
8. Elmor Valo Phil 407
9, George Kell Det 386
10. Billy Goodman Bost 381

Things I Learned:

Ted Williams led the league in on base, Minoso in stolen bases. Minoso scored 3 more runs to take the victory.

Of course, Ted Williams is not really a leadoff man, he just had super on base averages.

The difference between Minoso and Eddie Yost is almost all stolen bases. Yost was one point ahead in on base average and Minoso scored 3 more runs.

Dom DiMaggio led the league in runs scored but had only 4 stolen bases and ended up with 378 points, just outside the top 10.

1951 NL

Here is the NL in 1951:

1. Ralph Kiner Pitt 558
1. Stan Musial StL 558
3. Jackie Robinson Brook 545
4. Richie Asburn Phil 457
5. Monte Irwin NY 454
6. Sam Jethro Bsn 419
7. Gil Hodges Brook 411
8. Earl Torgeson Bsn 408
9. Eddie Stanky NY 402
10. Pee Wee Reese Brook 390

Things I learned:

The top 5 and Pee Wee Reese are hall of famers.

Gil Hodges and the Boys of Summer do well in this study. They scored a lot of runs and had a lot of people get on base.

Ralph Kiner and Stan Musial tied for first aren’t what you would think of as lead off men, practically Kiner. They both scored 124 runs to lead the league and finished in the top two spots in on base average. There weren’t many stolen bases in the league so no one could catch them. Slaughter used to make fun of Kiner running the bases, but Kiner scored 100 runs 6 times in his 10-year career and scored 90 runs when hitting only .244. The sluggers dominate more in the 50s as there aren’t that many stolen bases.

Sam Jethro improved his on base average. I think if he could have played longer, he would have been an All Star 2 or 3 times.

1952 AL

Here is the AL in 1952:

1. Elmor Valo Phil 438
2. Ferris Fain Phil 428
3. Minnie Minoso Chi 408
4. Al Rosen Clev 400
5. Larry Doby Clev 389
6. Mickey Mantle NY 388
7. Bobby Aliva Clev 382
8. Eddie Joost Phil 379
9. Eddie Yost Wash 352
10. Jackie Jenson NY-Wash 334

Things I learned:

This was a boring year in the American League. There were only two players with on base percentages over .400, 3 with over 100 runs scored and 2 with at least 20 stolen bases. This was 7 different players.

Mickey Mantle makes the top 10 the first of many times.

The Athletics had 3 of the top 5 in on base average and led the league in on base average. They led the league in walks by 57 over the Indians. Despite not a lot of power, they were fourth in runs scored and 3rd in offensive OPS in the American League.

1952 NL

Here is the NL in 1952:

1. Jackie Robinson Brook 560
2. Stan Musial StL 495
3. Pee Wee Reese Brook 416
4. Solly Hemus StL 397
5. Richie Asburn Phil 358
6. Ralph Kiner Pitt 357
7. Gill Hodges Brook 352
8. Earl Torgeson Bsn 341
9. Enos Slaughter StL 336
10. Whitey Lockman NY 330

Things I Learned:

Jackie Robinson was first in on base average, 3rd in runs one behind the two leaders Musial and Hemus and 3rd in stolen bases.

Pee Wee Reese led the National League in stolen bases. I never thought of him as practically fast and that he had stolen a lot of bases.

Sam Jethro was 2nd in stolen bases and his on base average really faded. This was his last complete season.

1953 AL

Here is the AL in 1953:

1. Minnie Minoso Chi 503
2. Al Rosen Clev 498
3. Eddie Yost Wash 441
4. Mickey Mantle NY 430
5. Mickey Vernon Wash 420
6. Gene Woodling* NY 392

  1. Ray Boone Clev-Det 377
    8. Ferris Fain Chi 365
    9. Larry Doby Clev 363
    10. Hank Bauer NY 348Things I learned:The top 10 in on base average all made the list. Stolen bases are so low in this era that shouldn’t be a total surprise. The top 5 in runs scored are all in the top 10 in on base average.

    Gil Coan of the Senators was in the top 10 in stolen bases with 7 despite only playing 68 games. He totaled a grand total of 28 runs. He had an OPS+ of 61. In 1951 one of two years as a regular he came in 23rd in the MVP voting. He apparently was a above average fielder as he has some positive numbers in WAR. However, he played left field as a regular. That could have been more difficult in Griffith Park. Other years, he seemed to rotate between the three outfield positions. However, for his career he played a lot more in left field than center and right field combined.

1953 NL

Here is the NL in 1953:

1. Duke Snider Brook 550
2. Stan Musial StL 537
3. Jackie Robinson Brook 519
4. Jim Gilliam Brook 479
5. Richie Asburn Phil 450
6. Eddie Mathews Bost 435
7. Red Schoendienst StL 433
8. Pee Wee Reese Brook 430
9. Roy Campanella Brook 408
10. Gill Hodges Brook 391

Things I learned:

Brooklyn scored 955 runs in 1953, 178 more than the two runner-up’s St. Louis and New York. You can see why as they had 6 of the top 10 here.

Rookie Bill Burton led the league in stolen bases but had an on base average of only 306. He would improve in that category in future years. His not ours.

1954 AL

Here is the AL in 1954:

1. Ted Williams Bos 586
2. Minnie Minoso Chi 514
3. Mickey Mantle NY 489
4. Bobby Aliva Clev 455
5. Eddie Yost Wash 433
6. Nellie Fox Chi 414
7. Al Smith Clev 404
8. Al Rosen Clev 378
9. Jackie Jenson Bos 368
10, Cal Abrams Bal 349

Things I learned:

Ted Williams had an on base percentage over .500 it didn’t cost him the title despite Minnie Minoso being the runner up in on base average runs and tied for second in stolen bases.

Nellie Fox made the list for the first time, but he didn’t do as well as I expected. Eddie Yost did better than I expected.

1954 NL

Here is the NL in 1954:

1. Richie Asburn Phil 537
2. Duke Snider Brook 504
3. Stan Musial StL 499
4. Willie Mays NY 484
5. Eddie Mathews Bost 468
6. Pee Wee Reese Brook 428
7. Ted Kluszewski Cinn 422
8. Wally Moon StL 408
9. Jackie Robinson Brook 371
10. Gill Hodges Brook 367

Things I learned:

Ted Kluszewski might be the most unlikely looking leadoff person so far. Even more than Kiner. At least Kiner played in the outfield. No stolen bases for the big Klu in 1954.

Willie May came back from the Army and finished in fourth place. He will do better.

1955 AL

Here is the AL in 1955:

1. Mickey Mantle NY 528
2. Al Kaline Det 502
3. Al Smith Clev 493
4. Billy Goodman Bos 403
5. Minnie Minoso Chi 389
6. Jackie Jenson Bos 376
7. Nellie Fox Chi 349
8. Hank Bauer NY 338
8. Bill Tuttle Det 338
10. Larry Doby Clev 326

Things I Learned:

Jim Rivera led the league with 25 stolen bases. He just missed the top 10 with 321 points.

Al Smith has done well in these categories. I just knew him as the guy who had beer spilled on him.

Explain this one to me. George Kell was 5th in on base percentage with a total of 389. Because he had only 504 plate appearances, he was on base 191 times. How did he score only 44 runs. He hit 8 home runs so he scored only 36 runs in his other 183 times on base. This seems exceptionally low.

1955 NL

Here is the NL in 1955:

1. Willie Mays NY 518
2. Richie Asburn Phil 516
3. Duke Snider Brook 515
4. Eddie Mathews Mil 451
5. Stan Musial StL 425
6. Ted Kluszewski Cinn 399
7. Wally Post Cinn 397
8. Johhny Temple Cinn 375
9. Pee Wee Reese Brook 364
10. Roy Campanella Brook 358

Things I Learned:

Not surprising Willie and Mickey won their respected leagues.

In one of the closest battles, Willie’s stolen bases give him a narrow victory.

1956 AL

Here is the AL in 1956:

1. Mickey Mantle NY 622
2. Ted Williams Bos 500
3. Minnie Minoso Chi 498
4. Eddie Yost Wash 436
5. Charlie Maxwell Det 425
6. Jackie Jenson Bos 403
7. Bob Neiman Chi-Bal 401
8. Harvey Kuenn Det 393
9. Al Kaline Det 379
10. Gil McDougald NY 377

Things I Learned:

Luis Aparicio led the league in stolen bases for the first time, but only with a 21, not enough to make up for his on base average of .311.

1956 NL

Here is the NL in 1956:

1. Jim Gilliam Brook 465
2. Willie Mays NY 460
3. Duke Snider Brook 431
4. Frank Robinson Cinn 426
5. Wally Moon StL 388
6. Richie Ashburn Phil 386
7. Eddie Mathews Mil 370
8. Willie Jones Phil 357
9. Stan Musial StL 352
10. Hank Aaron Mil 348

Things I Learned:

Jim Gilliam used his stolen bases to pass Duke Snider, but Willie May used his stolen bases to almost pass Jim Gilliam. Duke score more runs and easily had more RBIs than Gilliam but finished 10th in the MVP voting while Gilliam finished 5th. Snider was the best position player according to WAR.

Seven of the top 10 players were later elected to the hall of fame.

Roy McMillian who I never thought was a good hitter finished 10th in on base average.

1957 AL

Here is the AL in 1957:

1. Mickey Mantle NY 690
2. Ted Williams Bos 592
3. Minnie Minoso Chi 462
4. Nellie Fox Chi 441
5. Roy Sievers Wash 377
6. Gene Woodling Clev 364
7. Bob Boyd Bal 328
8. Jackie Jenson Bos 322
9. Vic Wertz Clev 316
10. Charlie Maxwell Det 313

What I learned:

Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle both had On base averages over .500. Williams lost 14 more points than Mantle, but Mantle won easily.

The top 3 was the same for two consecutive years. Nellie Fox had his best finish in 1957.

Not that I needed any convincing, but this cements the fact that in my opinion Minnie Minoso is a hall of famer. Besides I have his bobblehead.

1957 NL

Here is the NL in 1957:

1. Willie Mays NY 552
2. Stan Musial StL 411
3. Richie Asburn Phil 405
4. Johhny Temple Cinn 401
4. Eddie Mathews Mil 401
6. Hank Aaron Mil 395
7. Frank Robinson Cinn 376
8. Ernie Banks Chi 370
9. Don Blasingame StL 365
10. Ed Bouchee Phil 347

What I learned:

Willie Mays won easily. He was second in on base average, 3rd in runs and first in stolen bases.

1958 AL

Here is the AL in 1958:

1. Mickey Mantle NY 594
2. Ted Williams Bos 481
3. Pete Runnels Bos 441
4. Minnie Minoso Clev 396
5. Jackie Jenson Bos 385
6. Rocky Colavito Clev 370
7. Norm Siebern NY 349
8. Al Kaline Det 337
9. Bob Cerv KC 337
10. Harvey Kuenn Det 307

What I learned:

Williams and Mantle lost about 70 points each off their on base averages, but still led the American League.

Luis Aparicio led the American League in stolen bases for three straight years, but still hasn’t made the top 10. Next year his stolen bases total goes from the high 20s to the 50s so we will see.

1958 NL

Here is the NL in 1958:

1. Willie Mays SF 573
2. Richie Ashburn Phil 566
3. Johnny Temple Cinn 419
4. Hank Aaron Mil 402
5. Bob Skinner Pitt 396
6. Ernie Banks Chi 382
7. Stan Musial StL 374
8. Ken Boyer StL 355
9. Jim Gilliam LA 320
10. Lee Walls Chi 312

What I Learned:

Close race between Mays and Ashburn. Mays was 3rd in on base average, but first in runs and stolen bases. Ashburn was first in on base average, second in stolen bases by one stolen base to Mays, but only 5th in runs scored.

1959 AL

Here is the AL in 1959:

1. Eddie Yost Det 527
2. Mickey Mantle NY 451
3. Pete Runnels Bos 438
4. Harvey Kuenn Det 423
5. Al Kaline Det
6. Jackie Jenson Bos 406
7. Luis Aparicio Chi 396
8. Minnie Minoso Clev 362
9. Jim Landis Chi 356
10. Nellie Fox Chi 343

What I Learned

Luis Aparicio made the top 10 despite a on base average of .316.

The league champion White Sox had 3 players in the top 10, although the lower top 10. They didn’t play in a hitter’s park.

1959 NL

Here is the NL in 1959:

1. Willie Mays SF 493
2. Vada Pinson Cinn 467
3. Hank Aaron Mil 458
4. Frank Robinson Cinn 448
5. Joe Cunningham StL 442
6. Jim Gilliam LA 425
7. Eddie Mathews Mil 422
8. Wally Moon LA 419
9. Johhny Temple Cinn 406
10. Ken Boyer StL 376

Things I learned:

Joe Cunningham had 557 plate appearances with a on base average of .453 but scored only 65 runs. That means he was on base 252 times. I’m guessing he was slow as he was 2 for 8 in stolen bases in 1959 and 1 for 8 in 1960. For his career he was 16 out of 43.

Willie Mays won the best lead off like hitter here despite being only 9th in on base average. Vida Pinson was second despite not being in the top 10 in on base average. Although he just missed the top 10.

Top 10 AL 1950s

Specifically, for this article I figured the top 10 in each league for the decade as a whole. I gave points for each of the top 10. I gave 12 points for first, 10 for second 8 for third on down to 1 point for 10th. Here are the top 10 for the decade with their total points for the decade listed behind them.

  1. Mickey Mantle 78
  2. Minnie Minoso 74
  3. Ted Williams 52
  4. Eddie Yost 51
  5. Jackie Jenson 27
  6. Larry Doby 25
  7. Farris Fain 23
  8. Al Kaline 21
  9. Al Rosen 20
  10. Nellie Fox 17

Wow, there is a big gap between the top 4 and the rest of the top 10. Jackie Jenson came in 5th despite not finishing higher than 5th in any one year. He only finished 5th once, he finished in the top 10 seven times. It didn’t take much to make the top 10. I wonder if the National League will be different.

I expected Mickey Mantle to win, I didn’t expect Minnie Minoso to be so close to him.

There are 5 Hall of Famers in the top 10, Mantle, Williams, Doby, Kaline and Fox. I think Minoso should be in also.

Top 10 NL 1950s

Here is the top 10 for the NL in the 1950s:

  1. Stan Musial 69
  2. Willie Mays 65
  3. Richie Asburn 64
  4. Duke Snider 42
  5. Jackie Robinson 37
  6. Eddie Mathews 5
  7. Jim Gilliam 26
  8. Ralph Kiner    22
  9. Pee Wee Reese 21
  10. Hank Aaron 21

For the National League 9 of the 10 players are Hall of Famers. All but Jim Gillam. The spread is wide, but not as wide as the American League.

I thought Mays would win, but Musial was a player all 10 years and Mays was able to play 7 years. Mays had four firsts and one second in the last 5 years of the decade.

I thought this over for a couple of hours and realized that there are only 58 points available every year so only 580 for the decade. With a few players getting about 30 percent of the points, the points will be limited for the rest of the players, thus lower totals.

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