Baseball Prodigies: Best Major League Seasons by Players Under 21
by Charles F. Faber
There have been 284 men who have played major league baseball as a regular before their 21st birthday; 192 of those players lasted five or more seasons in the big leagues. In Baseball Prodigies, the latest offering from baseball scholar Charles F. Faber, the top ten hitting seasons and top ten pitching seasons by players under the age of 21 are explored in depth, while brief profiles of the remaining 172 players are included.
Many of the hitters are a “who’s who” of baseball immortality: Mel Ott, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, and the like. There are a couple of nineteenth century guys and one current player, as well as a special “star of the future” tag applied to Mike Trout, who is not included in the top ten as he does not yet qualify to be ranked, though he will once he reaches five years of big league service.
On the pitching side, only two of the top ten are Hall of Famers: Bob Feller and Christy Mathewson. The tragedy of injury befell many of the others, such as Bret Saberhagen and Don Gullett, while drugs derailed Dwight Gooden‘s route to Cooperstown. There is one current pitcher ranked, CC Sabathia, who could one day join Feller and Mathewson. But Matt Kilroy, Icebox Chamberlain, and Willis Hudlin will only be rembered—if at all—as examples of “what could have been.”
The other prodigies who are discussed briefly include both Hall of Famers (Robin Yount, Jimmie Foxx, Roberto Alomar) and those who will never be seriously considered for baseball immortality (Rick Monday, Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool).
Certainly an interesting study on youth in baseball, Faber does an excellent job of detailing each player’s career and life after baseball, recommending resources and biographies to learn more about them.
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