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.
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
Ryan @ Baseball-Reference.com
Simply Baseball Notebook
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