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Dave Bancroft

Dave Bancroft

Position(s):
SS, 2B, OF, 3B
Nicknames:
Beauty
Born:
April 20, 1891
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 9"
Weight:
160 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-14-1915 with PHI
Hall of Fame:
1971

Sportswriter Frank Graham called Dave Bancroft "the greatest shortstop the Giants ever had and one of the greatest that ever lived." A competitive and inspirational leader, Bancroft helped Phillies win their first pennant, and later contributed to three pennants and two World Series titles wioth the Giants. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971.

In 1921 he batted .318 in 153 games, scoring 121 runs, collecting 193 hits, 15 triples, and 67 RBI. He slugged a career-best .441 and walked 66 times while striking out just 23. He was brilliant in the field, leading NL shortstops in putouts, assists, double plays, and fielding.

The formidable Mickey Doolan had been the Phillies' shortstop for nine years before jumping to Baltimore of the Federal League in 1914, and the team floundered until Bancroft arrived from Portland (Pacific Coast League). A beauty from the start, he was a key player in the 1915 pennant drive and two subsequent second-place finishes. Thereafter, the team descended to the cellar, where owner William Baker's policy of selling stars for cash would keep it for a generation. For Bancroft, the Giants gave Baker plenty of money, 35-year-old Art Fletcher, and the first, and lesser, of two Giant pitchers named Hubbell.

Bancroft's three-plus years with the Giants were his best. He was McGraw's field leader and designated cutoff man. In 1921-22, he led the league in putouts, assists, and double plays. In 1921 he batted .318 in 153 games, scoring 121 runs, collecting 193 hits, 15 triples, and 67 RBI. He slugged a career-best .441 and walked 66 times while striking out just 23. He was brilliant in the field, leading NL shortstops in putouts, assists, double plays, and fielding.He had a six-for-six day in 1920, and hit for the cycle in 1921.

In late 1923, he was dealt to the Braves with Casey Stengel and Bill Cunningham for Billy Southworth and Joe Oeschger. McGraw, all heart, said he was giving up the league's best shortstop as a favor to Christy Mathewson (then fronting the listless Braves as their president) and to Bancroft, who would become their playing manager. The truth was that Bancroft was an aging 32, and New York had 20-year-old hotshot Travis Jackson with no place to put him.

Bancroft was a player-manager for the Braves for four seasons from 1924 until 1927. He then went to play for the Brooklyn Robins in 1928 and 1929. He ended his career in 1930 back with the Giants and was a coach with the club from 1930 until 1932.

Being manager of the Boston Braves is a job very few men get excited about. Bancroft assumed that role after his trade from the Giants in 1923. His hard-nosed style rubbed more than a few Braves players the wrong way, or maybe it was the players who were lazy, either way Bancroft had some personality clashes as Braves' skipper. On June 18, 1927, one of those clashes came to a head when Pirates' catcher Earl Smith (who had played for the Braves under Bancroft) decked his former manager. Bancroft and Smith had an exchange of words that precipitated the violence and the Boston manager was carried off the field. Smith drew a $500 fine and 30-day suspension, which was a fairly common punishment for fighting in those days.

Bancroft also managed the Chicago Colleens in the 1948 AAGPBL and the 1949-1950 South Bend Blue Sox.

The origin of Bancroft's nickname "Beauty" is somewhat in dispute. Some sources claim it's what teammates yelled at Bancroft when he made a fine play in the field. Other sources say Bancroft himself would yell "Beauty!" when something went his team's way. Regardless, it stuck, and eventually made it's way to Bancroft's Hall of Fame plaque.

Bancroft was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame on February 2, 1971 by the Veterans' Committee. However, he is one of the most controversial players in the Hall, with many attributing his election to the presence of former team mates on the Veterans' Committee, notably Frankie Frisch, rather than his baseball achievements. Most players with similar statistics do not have much of a chance of being elected to the Hall of Fame. However, he is also looked upon as the Ozzie Smith of his era, and he was a better hitter than Smith.




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Tagged:
Beauty, Boston Braves, Brooklyn Robins, Dave Bancroft, Earl Smith, Frank Graham, Hall of Fame, New York Giants

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