The third part of my series that looks at players who missed time to World War II and attempts to fill in the blank seasons on their resumes. I averaged their two seasons before the war with their two seasons after it to try to get a picture of what their numbers would have looked like.
"Flash" Gordon was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, more than 30 years after his death and nearly 60 years since his last game. You have to wonder if the nine-time All-Star second baseman would have gotten in sooner had he not lost his age 29 and 30 seasons to Army service. He could have beefed up his career totals, which weren't very impressive due to the short length (11 seasons) of his career. He even might have retired as the position's all-time home run leader. As it were, the Jeff Kent of his time finished 48 dingers shy of Rogers Hornsby.
1944-1945 averages: 74 R, 135 H, 25 2B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 72 BB, 224 TB, 6 bWAR
Career totals: 1,062 R, 1,800 H, 314 2B, 291 home runs, 1,131 RBI, 903 BB, 3,155 TB, 69.1 bWAR
Travis was very much on the Hall of Fame track before the war interrupted his career, costing him three prime seasons (age 28-30). Though he played a good amount of baseball in the army, he suffered severe frostbite during the Battle of the Bulge and nearly lost his feet. When he returned late in the 1945 season, he wasn't the same player who had made three All-Star teams and batted .327/.381/.436 in his nine pre-war seasons. He hit just .241/.307/.302 after coming back and retired at age 34 after the 1947 campaign--easily the worst of his career.
1942-1945 averages: 74 R, 176 H, 32 2B, 13 3B, 80 RBI, 248 TB, 4.4 bWAR
Career totals: 961 R, 2,248 H, 393 2B, 130 3B, 977 RBI, 3,038 TB 47.3 bWAR
Old Reliable was a late bloomer who didn't make his first All-Star team until he was 29, then spent the next three seasons in the Coast Guard.When he returned to the diamond in 1946 he was already 33 years old. Based on the success he achieved directly before and after the war, it's reasonable to assume that he would have remained an All-Star caliber player during the war years and could have pushed his career totals closer to borderline Hall of Fame levels. Given his status as a Yankee favorite and World Series hero, he would have had a good shot at getting voted in by a lenient Veteran's Committee.
1943-1945 averages: 96 R, 144 H, 29 2B, 20 HR, 83 RBI, 74 BB, 246 TB, 3.8 bWAR
Career totals: 1,189 R, 1,729 H, 356 2B, 243 HR, 1,044 RBI, 934 BB, 2,999 TB, 47.2 bWAR
While Scooter is roundly viewed as one of the least deserving players in the Hall of Fame, that probably be the case had he not spent his age 25-27 seasons in the Navy. The Yankee shortstop was already a finished product when he debuted in 1941 and earned an All-Star nod the following year. If not for the war, he likely would have approached/exceeded several notable benchmarks such as 1,000 runs, 2,000 hits and 200 stolen bases. He would have compared very favorably to Pee Wee Reese and might have even been inducted off the writer's ballot as opposed to waiting for a Veteran's Committee to give him the call in 1994.
1943-1945 averages: 69 R, 146 H, 22 2B, 53 RBI, 15 SB, 190 TB, 4 bWAR
Career totals: 1,084 R, 2,026 H, 305 2B, 722 RBI, 194 SB, 2,635 TB, 52.6 bWAR
Along with Tony Conigliaro, Herb Score, and Ray Fosse, Reiser will always be one of the greater what if? cases in baseball. His breakneck style of play resulted in several collisions with outfield walls, with the walls usually winning. Pistol Pete was stretchered off the field 11 times (a record) and never played anything close to a full season after his 29th birthday. His career was further shortened by army service that robbed him of his age 24-26 seasons.
1943-1945 averages: 87 R, 142 H, 29 2B, 65 RBI, 18 SB, 216 TB, 4.6 bWAR
Career totals: 734 R, 1,212 H, 242 2B, 563 RBI, 141 SB, 1,845 TB 35.5 bWAR
Vernon was a professional hitter before there was such a thing. A two-time batting champ and seven-time All-Star, Vernon played until he was 42 and totaled close to 2,500 hits and 500 doubles over 20 seasons. Those numbers would have looked even better had he not missed two prime seasons (age 26 and 27) to the war. With a couple strong seasons to boost his numbers even higher, he may have earned a Hall of Fame nod.
1944-1945 averages: 89 R, 178 H, 40 2B, 8 HR, 78 RBI, 19 SB 58 BB, 256 TB, 4 bWAR
Career totals: 1,374 R, 2,851 H, 570 2B, 188 HR, 1,467 RBI, 175 SB, 1,071 BB, 4,253 TB, 42.6 bWAR