Tilly Walker’s place in baseball history

tilly walker On this day in 1887, Tilly Walker was born.  Unless you’re a devoted baseball historian, Walker is pretty much an unknown as baseball players go. 

Coming to the bigs in 1911, he was a journeyman outfielder playing for the Senators, Browns and Red Sox before finding a more permanent home with the Philadelphia Athletics where he played for six years between the years of 1918-1923.  He was a solid hitter for his era, ranking up there among the leaders in extra-base hits, slugging and yes, even homeruns. 

His homerun numbers during his career weren’t Ruthian by any means.  He ranked 3rd in the American League in 1914 with a grand total of six.  As time went by, his total grew getting up into the double-digits even reaching as high as 37 in 1922.

But Tilly Walker has one major distinction, perhaps fodder for a trivia question.  In 1918 while playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, he tied Babe Ruth for the AL lead in homeruns with 11.  He was the last person to lead the league in that category before the Babe Ruth era.  Ruth then continued his dominance of baseball by leading the AL in homers 10 of the next 12 seasons (the exceptions?  In 1922 when Ken Williams had his career year for the Browns and 1925 when Ruth had his famous “Bellyache Heard ‘Round the World” aka gonorrhea).

If you look over Walker’s stats, you’ll note that those 11 homeruns he hit in 1918 is only time he ever led his league in any category. 

Walker ended his career with 118 career homeruns which probably doesn’t seem like a lot.  But considering that the career leader at the time of his retirement had 238 and that was Babe Ruth, he probably ranked pretty high. 

Tilly Walker has obviously passed on (in 1959) in his home state of Tennessee.  But he does have a place in baseball history.  Happy Birthday, Tilly Walker!

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