- 1B, OF, P
- December 20, 1856
- 5' 11"
- 175 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 5-01-1880 with WOR
Stovey combined slugging power with great running speed and a strong arm. He was the first to wear sliding pads and among the first to slide feet first. A home run hitter in the dead-ball era, he led his league in homers six times, with a personal high of 19 in 1889. He led in hits twice, doubles once, triples three times, runs four times, batting (.404 in 1884) and stolen bases (97 in 1890) once each. Gentlemanly and articulate in an age when few ballplayers were, he played as Stovey rather than Stowe (his real name) so that his mother would not see his name in box scores.
Harry began his career as an outfielder/first baseman in 1880 for the Worcester Ruby Legs under the surname of Stovey instead of his birth name of Stowe due to his desire to keep his family from discovering he was making his career at baseball, which was seen at the time as not a respectable profession. He made an immediate impact that first season, leading the league with 14 triples and six home runs, while also finishing in the top ten in many other offensive categories. On July 17, he hit his first ML HR off Jim McCormick of the Cleveland Blues.
For the 1881 season, his offensive numbers did not slow down, again finishing in the top ten in several offensive categories, though he did not lead the league in any this time around. On August 17, 1881, Worcester suspended Captain Mike Dorgan‚ and Harry took over the position for the remainder of the season. Lee Richmond‚ who had quit because of conflicts with Dorgan‚ rejoined the team after this switch.
In 1882, his last season for the Ruby Legs, his batting average saw an increase, up to .289 from the .270 the year before, but his numbers in relation to the rest of the league took a slight dip, appearing in the top ten in runs scored with third place 90, and five home runs garnering a fourth place finish.
For the 1883 season, Harry moved on to play for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association, and it was during the next seven years when he had his best years, and made his greatest impact on the game. His first season in Philadelphia saw him set the single season record for home runs with 14, breaking the old mark of nine set by Charley Jones in 1879. He kept this record for only one season, as Ned Williamson set a new mark the very next season with 27. Not only did he set the home run record, he batted .306, and led the league in runs scored with 110, doubles with 31, and games played with 112, while also finishing in the top five in most offensive categories.
The offensive explosiveness continued throughout his stay in Philadelphia, leading the league in runs scored four times, doubles once, triples three times, and home runs three times. The accumulation of home runs led to him becoming the career home run leader, overtaking Charley Jones with his 51st career homer on September 28, 1885. He held onto the career lead for a two season until he was passed for a short period of time by Dan Brouthers for the 1886 and the 1887 seasons. Harry regained the lead, and held it until Roger Connor passed him in 1895.
Boston and the Players' League
In 1890, a rival league to the National League and the American Association began, and it attracted many of the game's star players, including Stovey who "jumped" to the Boston Reds. He had a good season, batting .299, hit 11 triples, and 12 home runs. On September 3, 1890, Harry became the first player to hit 100 homers for a career, off of Jersey Bakely in a game against Cleveland, a significant milestone in a day when home runs were relatively rare.
Staying in Boston
After the 1890 season, the Players' League folded with many of the players returning to their former ballclubs. Stovey‚ who played with the A's in 1889, was not claimed by that club through a clerical error, so on February 5, 1891, he signed with the Boston Beaneaters of the National League. He led the league that season with 16 home runs, and 20 triples, while also hitting .279 with 31 doubles as well. It proved to be last great season of his career.
He played only 38 games for the Beaneaters in 1892, before he was released on June 20, but he was quickly signed by the Baltimore Orioles. He finished the season with a .272 batting average with the Orioles and hit 11 triples, including three in one game on July 21 in a 10-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 1893 season was Harry's last season in the majors. He was released by the Orioles on May 22 after only eight games, and was signed three days later on May 15 by the Brooklyn Grooms. He finished the season with Grooms and retired after the season was over.
Article on Baseball Library about Stovey and the Hall of Fame
Harry Stovey is, quite simply, the best player not in the Hall of Fame. Not Ron Santo, not Mark McGwire, not Pete Rose and not Joe Jackson. Harry Stovey. Let’s look at the facts… Stovey was the best all-round player in the American Association over its 10-year (1882-1891) existence. One indication of this is that he earned the unusual distinction of becoming the first player to be hyped by his league – it is believed that the AA padded his offensive stats (an act of enthusiasm that has since been corrected) as part of its never really settled war with the National League, with the goal of making it even more obvious that the NL had lost a superstar when Stovey in 1883 jumped to his hometown Philadelphia Athletics (instead of his hometown Phillies) from the failed Worcester franchise. However, Stovey didn’t need any help. A power hitter and one of the best base runners of his time, he dominated the AA, running up 56 points in the Black Ink Test – a total exceeded by retired hitters outside the Hall by only Rose and Barnes. And part of those 56 points came from leading the NL in home runs, triples and slugging percentage, and the Players League in steals. Stovey also set the major league single season home run record when he hit 14 in leading the Athletics to the 1883 pennant and was the career home run leader when he retired in 1893… a double matched to date by only Babe Ruth. All that offense added up to 1492 runs scored in 1486 games – the third best mark of all time. And, he was a good fielder, with a strong arm and excellent range factors at both first and the outfield.
So why isn’t Harry Stovey in the Hall? In the original 1936 election, he received six votes – twice as many as Kid Nichols and six more than Jim O’Rourke, both later no-questions-asked Hall of Famers. However, he died the next year in relative obscurity in Massachusetts, and never received another vote.
- Harry Stovey