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Tom Hall

August 26, 2009

Tom Hall 75

Football season hasn’t begun yet, but in a way it’s always football season in America. By now, late August, it has already begun to dominate the sports landscape. This depresses and oppresses me. I followed football when I was a kid, loving it as a fan more than any other sport besides baseball, but when I started playing basketball in junior high, football moved into second place, and it’s been falling ever since.

Maybe I gravitated toward baseball and away from football because I have been a skinny weakling most of my life (though a little less skinny now), and whenever I tried to play football, well, I sucked at it and it hurt, so much so that it took away the possibility of even imagining myself into the game, which was, after all, my main port of entry into any sport. There was no place for the likes of me in football.

But baseball? In baseball, you can be short or tall, muscular or doughy, downright fat or so thin that if you pose on a baseball card as if looking in for a sign, your Afro-elongated head tilted forward, you look like a human bobble-head doll. Even I was never quite as thin as the player enacting this pose, Tom Hall (6’0″, 158 pounds, according to the back of the card), and yet here he is, an established major leaguer, so strangely emaciated that he seems to have cleared the stadium of onlookers perhaps frightened away by his habit of turning sideways and disappearing.

Hall, who must be the left-handed relief ace on the All-Time All-Emaciated-Guy team, comes up in Nice Guys Finish Last, Leo Durocher’s 1975 autobiography. While manager of the Cubs, Durocher chafed against the makeup of the club, specifically its over-reliance on aging, plodding sluggers. He couldn’t get permission from club owner Phil Wrigley to even mention the man he most wanted to jettison, Ernie Banks, in trade talks, but after the 1971 season he apparently got very close to dealing the second-most beloved Cub of the time (and of all time), Ron Santo. Durocher rejected the first package put on the table by the Twins, who offered Tom Hall (“a skinny colored relief pitcher,” according to Durocher) straight up for the Cubs’ perennial All-Star third baseman. Durocher turned the deal down, and then for a moment, until the Twins, without warning, went in a different direction (“a man’s word doesn’t mean what it used to,” Durocher grumbled), it looked as if a deal of Santo and pitcher Joe Decker for Cesar Tovar and Tom Hall had been worked out.

Perhaps Durocher should have taken the first offer: In 1972 Tom Hall climaxed a three-year run of bullpen excellence (513 innings pitched, 349 hits, and 551 strikeouts in that span) by helping the Reds to the pennant with a 10–1 record and a 2.61 ERA in the hitter’s haven of Riverfront Stadium.

He stuck around for a few more years after that, but seems to have lost something. (The sponsor of his page on baseball-reference.com, The Human Karaoke Experience, mentions injuries.) This decline would have certainly been more difficult for him had it occurred in Chicago, where every time he surrendered a shot onto Waveland the fans would look at him and feel the gnawing absence of Santo. (Then again, Santo went into his own decline and was shipped south a few miles, to the White Sox, for his final season in 1974.)

But back to this notion of an All-Time All-Emaciated Guy team. Can we put together a squad in honor of Tom Hall and all skinny weaklings everywhere? Who are the greatest ectomorphs in baseball history?

40 comments

  1. I’m drawing a blank right now on players from the God’s era…but currently, Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox comes to mind.

    George Hendrick always seemed stretched out too…but the log pants look was ahead of his time. That may have contributed.

    Rusty Meacham of Tigers and Royals fame always seemed skinny as hell too.


  2. gb5hof:
    Those are some good ones. It’s hard to come up with unusually thin guys. The only guy that has come to mind so far for me, besides your first mention, Alexi Ramirez, is Ron Guidry. George “Stork” Theodore just occurred to me, too.

    Here’s the thin roster so far (Ramirez can move to second if necessary)…

    C-
    1B-
    2B-
    SS-Alexi Ramirez (6’3″, 185 lbs)
    3B-
    OF-George “Stork” Theodore (6’4″, 195)
    OF-George Hendrick (6’3″, 195)
    OF-

    LSP-Ron Guidry (5’11”, 162)
    RSP-
    LRP-Tom Hall (6’0″, 158)
    RRP-Rusty Meacham (6’2″, 175)


  3. And Kent Tekulve!

    C-
    1B-
    2B-
    SS-Alexi Ramirez (6′3″, 185 lbs)
    3B-
    OF-George “Stork” Theodore (6′4″, 195)
    OF-George Hendrick (6′3″, 195)
    OF-

    LSP-Ron Guidry (5′11″, 162)
    RSP-
    LRP-Tom Hall (6′0″, 158)
    RRP-Rusty Meacham (6′2″, 175)
    Closer-Kent Tekulve (6’4″, 180)


  4. Alexei Ramirez was my first thought too. According to baseball-reference, Lou Whitaker has the most home runs by anyone who was at least 5’10” and 160 pounds or less. I don’t remember him as emaciated though. Whitaker is third in hits in that group, behind Ozzie Smith and Brett Butler.
    If you make it at least six-feet tall, the hits leader is a guy named Bones Ely, who probably belongs on the team for his name alone. BB-ref says Juan Encarnacion is 6’2″, 160 pounds. He’s second on the hit list and first in HR.


  5. I’m not one for self-promotion, but what the hell.

    Wilton Guerrero has to play second base. 5-11, 145, and I just wrote about him. Not only physically emaciated, but symbolically:

    http://pitchersandpoets.com/2009/07/22/the-brother-grim/


  6. Updated (I moved Ramirez to second, created a utility spot for the versatile Wilton Guerrero, and added Ewell Blackwell)…

    C-
    1B-
    2B-Alexei Ramirez (6′3″, 185 lbs)
    SS-Bones Ely (6’1″, 155)
    3B-
    OF-George “Stork” Theodore (6′4″, 195)
    OF-George Hendrick (6′3″, 195)
    OF-Juan Enarnacion (6’2″, 160)
    Util-Wilton Guerrero (5’11”, 145)
    LSP-Ron Guidry (5′11″, 162)
    RSP-Ewell Blackwell (6’6, 195)
    LRP-Tom Hall (6′0″, 158)
    RRP-Rusty Meacham (6′2″, 175)
    Closer-Kent Tekulve (6′4″, 180)


  7. Looks like the pitching staff is rounding into shape….but another current pitcher, Mike MacDougal, could be thrown in the mix. Formr Chisox and Royals righty. I think he might be with the Nationals this year.


  8. Cecil Upshaw was also 6’6″, but is listed as weighing 10 lbs. more than Ewell Blackwell. Sergio Ferrer, who had a brief career as a utility infielder, was listed as 5’7″, 145. Either Ralph Kiner or Bob Murphy used to call him Little Sergio Ferrer.


  9. Here are some others, with their baseball-reference heights and weights, a lot of which I don’t believe:
    Derek Lowe: 6-6, 170
    Ramon Martinez: 6-4, 173
    Satchel Paige: 6-4, 180
    Pascual Perez: 6-2, 163

    Connie Mack or Miller Huggins could manage.


  10. Jim Leyland may have smoked his way into a Manager spot. He has to weigh less that 140 pounds.


  11. Geez, how did bb-ref get that weight for Lowe? (Yahoo and ESPN have him at a much more plausible 230 lbs.)

    I like Leyland as the manager. A thin-guy team should have a manager with a gaunt, haunted look.


  12. If Jerry Blevins (6’6″, 180 lbs, BMI 20.8) ever has any kind of career, he might push out Tom Hall (BMI 21.4) for LRP.

    If I still had my stats database, I’d run a query to calculate the lowest all-time BMIs. Alas, though, I don’t.


  13. Not a lot of skinny catchers come to mind, do they? Is there one lighter than 165 lb. infamous Met Choo Choo Coleman? Of course, at 5’9″ he’s not exactly skinny , but maybe for a catcher.


  14. Looks like Benito Santiago (6’1″, 182) was a shade skinnier than Coleman. Can’t think of anyone skinnier behind the plate. Third base is also a toughie.


  15. Wow!! I remember this card very well.

    Hall got traded to the Mets in 1975, so this card was looked at frequently to see how good a player Hall had been.

    Hall always reminded me of Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington from Welcome Back Kotter which began around this time.

    I was a big football fan when I was a kid and I think I actually enjoyed playing it more than baseball. I had been hit in the eye with a baseball during my first little league practice and it really made me scared to step in the batter’s box. I was never really bothered by all the blood and the cuts and scraps playing football and I never remember feeling scared playing football as I did in the batter’s box which is kind of ironic.

    I never played football in high school so I think High School football really soured me on Football in general. I really hated the elitist way football players where treated.

    I still really liked professional football but I think that kind of soured after high school when it just seemed like 70% of all football fans where complete jerks.


  16. How about a representative from the Negro Leagues at 3B? Judy Johnson was 5’11 and 150 lbs.

    http://www.nlbpa.com/johnson__william_-_judy.html


  17. Couple more pitchers. Oil Can Boyd 6’1″ 155. Pascual Perez 6’2″ 163. 6’4″ lefty Bill Scherrer looked a helluva lot cigarette skinnier than the 180 he’s listed at.

    Had a high school teammate, Rainbow Raymond, a 3rd baseman who could hide behind his uniform number (1).


  18. There were probably a bunch of 19th Century candidates for this team, like, well, Wee Willie Keeler.

    I’m still around, Josh. I’ve just been more into the 1870s lately.


  19. Ennui Willie Keeler: Thanks for checking in!

    Not sure about Wee Willie Keeler. I think of him more as a short guy than a starvingly-thin guy (but you’re the expert, of course).

    Here’s the updated list, now with a starting rotation. I’m a little surprised that the only position that has yet to be filled is first base, which doesn’t seem to be a position requiring a low center of gravity, a la catcher and third.

    C-Benito Santiago (6′1″, 182 lbs)
    1B-
    2B-Alexei Ramirez (6′3″, 185)
    SS-Bones Ely (6′1″, 155)
    3B-Judy Johnson (5′11″, 150)
    OF-George “Stork” Theodore (6′4″, 195)
    OF-George Hendrick (6′3″, 195)
    OF-Juan Enarnacion (6′2″, 160)
    Util-Wilton Guerrero (5′11″, 145)
    SP-Ron Guidry (5′11″, 162)
    SP-Ewell Blackwell (6′6, 195)
    SP-Oil Can Boyd (6’1″, 155)
    SP-Pascual Perez (6’2″, 163)
    LRP-Tom Hall (6′0″, 158)
    RRP-Rusty Meacham (6′2″, 175)
    Closer-Kent Tekulve (6′4″, 180)


  20. George Kelly (6’4″, 190) could play first.


  21. Mascot . . . Manute Bol.

    What a freak!


  22. George Kelly is a good one, but I just remembered a certain all-important stringy-limbed member of the Harlem Globetrotters who got his start as a first baseman for the Indianapolis Clowns:

    http://coe.ksu.edu/nlbemuseum/history/players/tatum.html

    C-Benito Santiago (6′1″, 182 lbs)
    1B-Goose Tatum (6’6″, 190)
    2B-Alexei Ramirez (6′3″, 185)
    SS-Bones Ely (6′1″, 155)
    3B-Judy Johnson (5′11″, 150)
    OF-George “Stork” Theodore (6′4″, 195)
    OF-George Hendrick (6′3″, 195)
    OF-Juan Enarnacion (6′2″, 160)
    Util-Wilton Guerrero (5′11″, 145)
    SP-Ron Guidry (5′11″, 162)
    SP-Ewell Blackwell (6′6, 195)
    SP-Oil Can Boyd (6′1″, 155)
    SP-Pascual Perez (6′2″, 163)
    LRP-Tom Hall (6′0″, 158)
    RRP-Rusty Meacham (6′2″, 175)
    Closer-Kent Tekulve (6′4″, 180)


  23. Elrod Hendricks is listed as 6’1″, 175 lbs, so he could platoon with Santiago behind the plate. While checking third baseman Jim Ray Hart’s weight (heavier than I thought) between naps at work, I found a utility player named Frank Johnson (remember him? Mid-sixties Giants? No??). He’s 6-1 155 pounds and listed as a third baseman, but played other positions as often or more.

    Kalvoski, I also was surprised by Bill Scherrer’s weight; I would’ve guessed 165 or so. When I first saw him with Detroit , I thought he was gonna be a great one.

    Brooks Robinson’s weight also surprised me. He looked really thin; of course most players from that era look frail compared to today. In fact I have a ’58 Al Kaline card that lists him at 6’2″ 172 pounds.


  24. Lightest player ever was . . . surprise, surprise Eddy Gaedel . . . 65 lbs. Not really considered “skinny” given his height. Lightest “real” player, according to Bill James Historical Abstract: YoYo Davalillo, 140 lbs. (5’3″). Vic Davallillo’s brother.


  25. Sorry, James’s abstract was listing YoYo as the lightest during the 1950s.


  26. That team wouldn’t win the game or the fight after the game.


  27. If they did win, the post-game victory manpile would be almost delicate.


  28. Here’s a fun Tom Hall stat: in 1970 he struck out 184 batters in 155 1/3 innings, or 10.66 K/9IP. Had he pitched enough innings to qualify (and he only needed 6 2/3 more), that K rate would have been the second best all-time single season performance. Here’s what the top 5 would have looked like as of 1970:

    10.7143 — Sam McDowell, 1965
    10.6609 — Tom Hall, 1970
    10.5461 — Sandy Koufax, 1962
    10.4202 — Sam McDowell, 1966
    10.2423 — Sandy Koufax, 1965

    How about that?


  29. Baseball-reference says the lightest non-midgets are Candy Cummings, Sparrow McCaffrey, and Dummy Leitner, all at 120 pounds. Sparrow and Dummy only played two and five games, but Candy is in the Hall of Fame. Another Hall of Famer, Johnny Evers, weighed 125.

    Evers and Cummings were 5’9″, Leitner was 5’7″, and there’s no height listed for McCaffrey.


  30. Candy Cummings is in the Hall of Fame because he is considered to be the inventor of the curveball. Not that his pitching numbers were bad, but he only played six years in what was thought of as major league baseball.


  31. Man…I would pay some big bucks to see our team get on the field (all in their primes, naturally) just trying to visualize it is hilarious.


  32. bb-ref doesn’t list a height for Keeler, but they list his weight at 140.


  33. It seems a lot of the tall skinny pitchers are left-handed, no? I thought of ex-Sox Tom Bolton (6’3″, 175) when I read this thread. Not historically skinny, but he’s what popped into my head.


  34. Nope, I guess on second read through, Guidry is the only lefty. Doh!


  35. I love this card. I can recall seeing the card of the equally diminuative Bud Harrelson from this same Topps series. I took great comfort in looking at the back to note that we shared the same age, height and weight.


  36. BTW, Tom Hall’s nickname was “The Blade.”

    Don’t know what his body will turn into in the future, but right now Rox rookie Dexter Fowler’s got to be on the all-skinny team.


  37. Late to the party here. Josh, I am surprised that, as a Red Sox devotee, you did not think of Rogelio – sorry, Roger – Moret. 6′ 4″ 175 lbs and with as colorful a history as Oil Can Boyd, though a somewhat sadder one.


  38. bigchrisis: You are so right, and I am so ashamed. It’s about time “Roger” got his due on this site.


  39. While sifting through an old shoebox of random cardboard dieties at my parents’ place, I consciously started rooting about for players who were light-of-weight.

    Most of these, the Joe Morgans, the Cesar Tovars, the Sandy Alomar (Sr.)’s, were short of stature, too, usually listed at around 5′ 7″ or 5′ 8″. Too compact to qualify for “emaciated” status.

    I did come up with a “Rookie Shortstops of ’74” card that featured the likes of Dave Rosello, and future Mets Frank Tavares and Leo Foster, all of whom were 5’11-6 feet tall and weighed 162 or less at the time. (they were joined by the more generously proportioned Tom Heintzelman.)

    A card of Gene “Stick” Michael had him at 180 lbs. when he was enmeshed as a Yankee shortstop, and I found a ’75 Bud Harrelson card that had him at 150, though I am pretty sure that Buddy weighed in at no more than a buck-forty-five when he first breached the Met lineup in the sixties.

    The biggest gem I uncovered was a 1983 Dickie Noles card from when he was with the Chicago Cubs. 6’2″ – 160. Gawky, if not emaciated. Presumably he had put on some 30 lbs. of gristle by the time his career wound up in the early ’90s, at least according to “baseball reference.”

    But those cards can’t always be trusted, anyway. I mean, I found a card of Mickey Lolich with the Mets, which rather generously listed him at 215; at least a stone shy of how I seem to remember him. At least.


  40. I’m only a year late on this, but how could Enos Cabell (6-4; 170) be left off the team? He could play 1b, 3b, lf, cf, rf — not well, but he could and did play them.



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