- May 23, 1888
- 5' 10"
- 170 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-11-1909 with BRO
- Hall of Fame:
Once described by Branch Rickey as the best outfielder Brooklyn ever had, Zack Wheat batted over .300 in 13 of his 18 years with the Dodgers. The quiet-spoken Wheat won the 1918 batting title and batted .333 in the 1920 World Series. Though he was scrappy, Wheat wore a 5 1/2-inch shoe, and frequently suffered ankle injuries.
"What Lajoie was to infielders, Zach Wheat is to outfielders, the finest mechanical craftsman of them all." Baseball Magazine, January 1917
Wheat played in Enterprise, Kansas, in 1906; in Fort Worth in 1907; for Shreveport in 1908 (where he batted .268); and in Mobile in 1909, before his purchase by Brooklyn.
At the age of 36, Wheat finished third in NL MVP voting when he hit a career-best .375. He finished second in the league in batting, OPS, doubles, total bases, hits, and doubles. If only Rogers Hornsby had broken his wrist.
In a game against the Boston Braves, Zack Wheat of the Dodgers once hit a ball on the fly into the crease of a flag in the right field corner at Ebbets Field. Reportedly, the ball sat nestled in that position for a moment before sliding out onto the playing field, where it was retreived. The right fielder fired the ball to home to catch Wheat as he slid, but after some consultation, the two-man crew awarded Wheat with a home run, based on ground rules. National League President John Heydler upheld the ruling and Wheat kept his peculiar home run.
In the off-season, Zach Wheat raised mules on his farm in Missouri. Some of them were bought by the U.S. Army and were used as pack-mules in Europe during the First World War.
In January 1917, Baseball Magazine assessed Wheat's defensive ability: "Tris Speaker may be the greatest outfielder in the world. We have no wish to rob the Texan of his well-won honors. But Zach Wheat is the easiest,most graceful of outfielders with no close rivals. It is one of the sights of the diamond to see the great Brooklyn star with his long easy stride speeding like an arrow across the outfield, and without a perceptible effort, spearing the ball with his gloved hand." The publication also writes of Wheat: "The lithe muscles, the panther-like motions of the Indian are his divine right. But he is much more than a brilliant outfielder. He is a substantial one on every important count. His throwing arm is exceptionally good. He is fleet of foot on the base paths, and he is one of the most dreaded and murderous sluggers in the National League." Analysing his swing, the magazine wrote: "there is no chop hitting with Wheat, but a smashing swipe which, if it connects, means work for the outfielders."
"Wheat is a dark-browed, dark-haired silent man of the easy-going type," wrote Baseball Magazine in 1917. "Nomanager and no umpire ever had any trouble with him. Playing baseball is his sole occupation and his sole interest in the summer months. He isn't the least temperamental or excitable, but a steady, sturdy, brilliant ballplayer of the best possible type."
The 1927 Philadelphia A's boasted all-time greats and senior citizen ballplayers Eddie Collins (age 40), Ty Cobb (40), Zack Wheat (39), Baby Doll Jacobson (36) and Jack Quinn (43). The team finished in second place.
Ten years apart, Wheat finished in the top ten in National League MVP voting. In 1914 he was ninth, and in 1924 he was third... Wheat played all of a 26-inning, 1-1 tie between the Brooklyn Robins and the Boston Braves in 1920.