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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,268

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This is the grave of Ross Youngs.

Born in 1897 in Shiner, Texas (yep, home of the famous bock), Youngs grew up fairly working class. His father had worked on the railroads, but got hurt. He wasn’t completely disabled as the family worked on a ranch for awhile. His mother ran a hotel in San Antonio for some time as well, so I don’t know if that meant that they were divorced or what exactly. I guess it doesn’t matter that much because the reason to know Ross Youngs is that our young friend could hit him a baseball. He ended up going to school at West Texas Military Institute, where he played both football and baseball. He was good enough at football to get scholarship offers, but he wanted to play baseball. This was the 1910s after all and football was still a pretty minor sport compared to King Baseball (or perhaps King Boxing).

Youngs tooled around the minors for a few years and even struggled at first. But in 1917, he got called up by the New York Giants. That was only a cup of coffee, but he got a full year in 1918 and he took off, batting .302/368/376 in 1918. He also led the league in strikeouts that year. Our undisciplined crazy hitter here had all of 49 whiffs. I think Eugenio Suarez has had that many whiffs in the time it took to write this post. He was known as “Pep” by him teammates for a reason–this was a high energy player who inspired those around him. He was a right fielder who wasn’t much of a defensive player, but he could sure hit. He was a consistent hitting machine and even developed some power in the 1920s. His best year, at least according to Baseball Reference’s WAR statistic, was in 1920, when he hit .351/427/477, which really is a major increase in both OBP and SLG from his 1918 seasons. 100 points of slugging is a lot of run production. That year, he also hit a whopping 6 home runs, but he did whack 14 triples. This was all good for a 6.5 WAR. Most years, Youngs was more a solid player, in the 3s. All of this helped the Giants win the World Series in 1921 and 1922.

There was one controversy around Youngs. At the end of the 1924 season, the Giants were battling with the Dodgers for the pennant. The Giants were playing the Phillies, who were of course horrible. So Giants outfield Jimmy O’Connell tried to bribe Phillies shortstop Heinie Sand to throw the series. Sand went straight to the authorities. Kenesaw Mountain Landis immediately suspended O’Connell, as well as Giants coach Crazy Dolan, for life. O’Connell tried to implicate a bunch of his teammates, including Youngs. Landis, who always was very selective in who he wanted to punish, just ignored him. Who knows if Youngs was involved or not. In any case, the Giants did win the pennant, but the Senators won the World Series that year.

Youngs was a very consistent player. By the 1926 season, there was no reason to think his career was coming to a close. He had an off 1925, but came back and was real solid in 1926. But in August, he was diagnosed with Bright’s Disease. His kidneys were failing and there was nothing anyone could do. He left the team and tried to get whatever passed for treatment, but he was doomed. He died the following October, at the age of 30.

In the aftermath of his death, there were long calls for Youngs to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but the case was kind of weak. Even had he lived, he probably was not a Hall of Fame caliber player. But he had a lot of key supporters. That started with John McGraw and then continued with Ford Frick and Bill Terry. But for a very long time, voters looked at the record and were like, meh. But then Terry and Frankie Frisch joined the Veterans Committee in 1967 and they started voting in all their friends. This is the era of the extremely skeptical HOF induction. And that allowed Youngs to be inducted in 1972. His was one of the selections that led to the weakening of the Veterans Committee power.

Ross Youngs is buried in Mission Burial Park South, San Antonio, Texas.

If you would like this series to visit other right fielders, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Ross Youngs is, according to the Baseball Reference JAWS stat, the 72nd best right fielder of all time, which should put him far, far away from Cooperstown. For context, #71 is Shin-Soo Choo and #73 is Brian Jordan. Good luck making cases for those guys to go to the Hall. But in any case, Roy Cullenbine, who is #69 and who was a pretty fair player in the 40s for a variety of teams, is in Rochester, Michigan and Gaavy Cravath, who is #74 and who had some very good yeras with the Phillies in the 1910s, is in Anaheim, California. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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