He Gets on Base

Kevin Youkilis is known as the Greek God of Walks. His penchant for not swinging at bad pitches and the positive impact it had on his team’s performance were popularized with the release of Moneyball and the rise of Sabermetrics. He gets on base.

The Boston third baseman specifically reached base in 38.2% of his plate appearances with 12.2% of trips to the plate resulting in a base on balls. He gets on base.

There was another third baseman that got on even more bases. Eddie Yost played more than 2,000 games at the position, including a string of 838 consecutive contests that still rank in the sport’s top 10 streaks. He walked in an incredible 17.6% of plate appearances, trailing only a handful of players before and after his 1944-1962 career.

His keen batting eye was a must, as pitchers were generally not afraid of the lifetime .254 hitter. His other high walk-rate peers were monster sluggers that pitchers feared. Yost appears next to names like Williams, Ruth, Mantle, and Bonds in the walk record books. These walks are so numerous that his career on base percentage is .394, a dozen points higher than Youkilis and on par with Mark McGwire, Frank Chance, and Stan Hack.

There’s an oft-told story from Ronald Regan’s time as a play-by-play radio announcer of baseball games. In the 1930s he would receive telegraphed reports of the action in faraway ballparks, reading out the results to listeners as if he were reporting the action in a live ballpark. During one at bat between the Cubs’ Augie Galan and Cardinals’ Dizzy Dean this connection was severed. Rather than inform the audience of technical difficulties, he improvised with a slew of foul balls until the connection was restored.

Yost pulled off a similar feat in real life. In 1953 he fouled off 13 consecutive pitches in a single at-bat. In his next trip to the plate he added another string of 7 fouls in a row.

The back of Yost’s 1952 Topps card mentions he hit a homerun in every AL park the previous year but doesn’t mention that only one of those shots came in a home game. It is also from this card that I see his parents named him “Ed Fred Yost.”

Yay! With this card I passed the one-third completion mark for the 1952 Topps set.