Before OPS and WAR and all the other advanced states of today, the ultimate stat for how good a hitter was overall was Total Bases. Simply put — the addition of singles (1 base), doubles (2 bases), triples (3 bases), and homers (4 bases) a player accumulates. Walks do not count.
There have been 11 Yankees to lead the American League in Total Bases for a season. The NY Mets have NEVER had a player lead the league in Total Bases.
It is a really select club. Here are the Yankees who have done it:
- Babe Ruth — 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1928
- Lou Gehrig — 1927, 1930, 1931, 1934
- Joe DiMaggio — 1937, 1941, 1948
- Johnny Lindell — 1944
- Snuffy Stirnweiss — 1945
- Mickey Mantle — 1956, 1958, 1960
- Roger Maris — 1961
- Bobby Murcer — 1972
- Don Mattingly — 1985, 1986
- Alex Rodriguez — 2007
- Mark Teixeira — 2009
It’s an elite list — except for Lindell and Stirnweiss — who slipped in during the WW II years of 1944 and 1945.
And when I say “slipped in” — Stirnweiss was a .250 hitter before and after 1944 and 1945 — when he had back-to-back spectacular seasons, with a ton of triples and batting averages of .319 and .309 respectively. He may have been feasting on watered down pitching since so many players were in the war. He in fact became the Yankee regular second baseman and leadoff hitter in 1944 after Joe Gordon was drafted into the Army.
The Newark Bay Rail Accident
According to Marty Appel via email, Stirnweiss himself deferred from the draft due to ulcers. According to his wikipedia page he later suffered a heart attack at age 38 and ultimately died in a tragic train accident — known as the Newark Bay Rail Accident — when the Central Railroad of New Jersey train he was on drove straight through signals and flew off the open Newark Bay lift bridge. Marty Appel has written a blog post on it.
Lindell similarly had his best season by far in 1944 — as a hitter. (Lindell turned into a starting pitcher at age 36.) Like Stirnweiss, a ton of triples (16 in 1944) helped Lindell claim the Total Bases lead.
Some of that may have been due to the old Yankee Stadium, which had the cavernous centerfield (464 feet to the wall).
The Full List and Recent Total Base Leaders
Here is the full list of Total Base Leaders — it is older stats like this that Baseball Almanac is a very good source for:
PS: as of this writing, the current American League leader in Total Bases is Matt Chapman of Oakland with 48; Aaron Judge is second with 47. Rafael Devers led the AL last year; J.D Martinez the year before. Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Altuve (cheater) have led the AL in recent years. You are talking about that kind of elite ballplayer — similar to the OPS stat.