Back in the days where baseball players
were in it for the sport, not the paycheck
, players traveled around in poor transportation modes to play "the game". This was before the turn of the century. None of them ever expected to be recognized over a hundred years later, let alone getting inducted into the yet-to-be-invented "Hall of Fame".
Back in the days of yore, players like Jake Beckley toiled away, perfecting their little corner of the baseball world. Jake's corner was at first base. He ended up being so good at playing first that he still holds the career record of put-outs by a first baseman (23,709). He is also second only to the great Eddie Murray for total games at first base in a career (2,376). This is perfectly fitting for a Hall of Famer, even one that nobody would recognize (with the exception of baseball trivia geeks and True Fans).
Jake was born Jacob Peter Beckley on August 4th, 1867 in Hannibal, Missouri. He had natural sports ability, and at the age of 21 he joined the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He stayed in Pittsburgh, progressing through the Pittsburgh Burghers until he hit it big with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he stayed for five years. In 1896, he was traded to the NY Giants, then moved on to the Cincinatti Reds from 1897-1903 - the longest stretch on a team for Jake. He finished his career with his hometown team, the St Louis Cardinals, and lived mostly in the Missouri area (and had a quick stint as an umpire in 1913) until he died in 1918 at the age of fifty one.
His career had impressive statistics, worthy of a Hall of Fame nomination. During his 20 seasons in the game he averaged .309, including batting over .300 in thirteen seasons. He just missed out on the 3000 club - he had 2,930 career hits including an impressive 246 triples. He wasn't a monster power hitter (only 86 home runs in his career), but he could be counted on to get on base. In 9,526 at bats, he struck out only 270 times. This earned him the nickname "Old Eagle Eye" due to his uncanny ability to read pitches.
Jake Beckley was a dapper gent, usually sporting a thick moustache. He had a good sense of humor, and played pranks on his teammates. Ed O'Neill wrote in the Courier Post in 1971:
"He was so good at 'laying down' the ball that he had a trick of his own whereby he would flip the bat, grab the meat end of the club in his hands and bunt the ball perfectly with the handle of the bat."
Jake was a lefty, and is arguably one of the best first basemen of his time. His induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame occurred in 1971, voted in by the Veterans Committee.
kthejoker says re Jake Beckley: A wonderful anecdote about Beckley: playing first base, big-time speedster Slidin' Billy Hamilton reached on a walk. Beckley (a pretty slow old guy) knew Hamilton would steal, so he took a few steps away from the bag, and took a pretty big lead towards second. When Hamilton took off, so did Beckley, and he slid into second before Hamilton! Then he turned to him and said, "That's how we run here in the big leagues, kid." That's how I'll always remember Eagle Eye. Also, at one point in his career, Beckley was the all-time leader in hits, doubles, triples, home runs, and RBIs - the only player to ever hold that distinction.