Simply Baseball Notebook's Forgotten In Time

Jimmy Ryan

Hilton Smith
Larry Doby
Seattle Pilots
1994 Expos
Ray Chapman
Flashes in the Pan
Steve Blass
St. Louis Browns
Wally Pipp
Rocky Colavito
Dom DiMaggio
Ellis Valentine
Bill Buckner
Jim Bottomley
The Federal League
Stuart 'Slim' Jones
Billy Hamilton
Ed Delahanty
Eddie Waitkus
George Davis
Riggs Stephenson
1920 White Sox
Luke Easter
Herb Washington
Eddie Robinson
Bobby Mathews
Jimmy Ryan
A.G. Spalding
"Dummy" Hoy
Albert Belle
Jack Quinn
Ken Williams
Al Oliver
Jack Taylor
Fred Lindstrom
Jim Thorpe


Chicago Cubs 1885-89; 91-1900
Chicago Pirates (PL) 1890
Washington Senators 1902-03

Jimmy Ryan collected more than 2,500 hits, scored more than 1,600 runs, stole more than 400 bases, drove in more than 1,000 runs, and posted a .306 career batting average. Along with that impressive list of accomplishments, the longtime Cub was also one of the top power hitters of his time; finishing in the top 10 of his league in home runs seven times. Despite his brilliant all-around career, you won't find Jimmy Ryan's plaque anywhere in Cooperstown.

Born on February 11, 1863 in Clinton, MA, James Edward Ryan debuted with the Chicago Cubs late in the 1885 season and collected 6 hits in his first 13 major league at bats. His success continued into the next season, when the left handed throwing outfielder hit .306 in 327 at bats and pitched 23 1/3 innings.

Ryan continued his two-way duties in 1887, hitting .285 while driving in 74 runs and scoring 117. On the mound, he posted a 2-1 record in a career high 45 innings. The Massachusetts native enjoyed his finest season in 1888, leading the NL with 16 home runs, a .515 slugging percentage, 33 doubles, 182 hits, and 283 total bases. He also finished second in the league in batting with a .332 mark, and fifth in steals with 60.

After another stellar season in 1889 (.307, 17HR, 72 RBI, 140 runs), Ryan jumped to the Chicago franchise of the newly formed Players League. While he continued his excellent play, hitting .340, the league folded after only one season and the outfielder returned to the Cubs.

Following three seasons in which he failed to crack the .300 mark (.277, .293, .299), Ryan returned to form, batting .361 in 1894 while scoring 132 runs. He continued that success for the remainder of the decade, cracking the .300 plateau each season.

Known as a jovial prankster with a free speaking, devil-may-care attitude, Ryan would sometimes draw the ire of his more serious teammates. That was never more apparent than in 1898 when Tom Burns became the Cubs manager and named Ryan the team captain. Many of his teammates objected, feeling Bill Lange was more deserving of the honor. When the team staged a sit-down strike before the season opener, Burns caved in and stripped Ryan of the title. Ryan would eventually get the last laugh however, when Burns was relieved of his duties a year later.

After the 1900 campaign when he posted a.277 average, Ryan sat out the 1901 season, before surfacing with the Washington Senators of the rival American League in 1902. He enjoyed one more successful season, hitting .320 and scoring 92 runs. After a mediocre showing in 1903, he retired at the age of 40.

Ryan's career resume includes 2,502 hits, 1,642 runs, a .374 on base percentage, and 418 steals. He struck out just 361 times in 8,164 at bats and posted a 6-1 record on the mound. The former Cubs' star remained in Chicago until his death in 1923 at the age of 60.

Like many of his 19th Century contemporaries, Ryan's accomplishments have been overlooked by today's writers and fans. He may be the best all-around player not enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

-David Zingler, March 2004


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