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Overrated? Underrated?

June 2024
1min read

Ray Robinson’s nomination of Dickie Kerr as the most underrated ballplayer of all time might spark a lively discussion in the bar after a SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) convention. But as history or baseball analysis it’s pretty flimsy, and Robinson has to know it.

Kerr became something of a popular hero when it was revealed that he’d won two games in the 1919 World Series while eight of his Chicago White Sox teammates were plotting to lose. But even the Black Sox weren’t brazen enough to try to tank a best-of-nine series by losing five straight games, and they didn’t have to. Chicago’s top two pitchers, Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, were in on the fix, and they could be counted on to lose whenever they had to.

On the other hand, the conspirators knew it would be tricky to throw a game behind an honest pitcher without being ridiculously obvious about it. What clearly happened was that the Black Sox played their games when Cicotte and Williams pitched and played it straight when Kerr was on the mound. Certainly it was a notable accomplishment for an unheralded pitcher like Kerr to beat Cincinnati twice in the World Series. But given how good the Sox could be when they all pulled in the same direction, it was hardly earth-shattering.

Kerr was never a great pitcher. He won fifty-three games in a four-year big-league career and had one dramatic moment in the spotlight. For this he was neither unappreciated in his own time nor overlooked in baseball history. He was and is recognized for his honesty and perseverance. As for being overrated or underrated, Kerr is neither. He’s rated right where he should be.

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