LGFT: Terry Turner (1904-1918)

Every period of time has produced these bubbles of artificial fame, which are kept up a while by the breath of fashion, and then break at once and annihilated. The learned often bewail the loss of ancient writers whose characters have survived their works; but perhaps, if we could now retrieve them, we should find them only the Granvilles, Montagues, Stepneys, and Sheffields of their time, and wonder by what infatuation or caprice they could be raised to notice.

     - Samuel Johnson, The Rambler No. 106

Look at just about any Indians career franchise leader board, and you'll see Terry Turner's name somewhere on it. He's nestled between Hall of Famers Earl Averill and Lou Boudreau in At Bats, behind Omar Vizquel in Plate Appearances,  just ahead of Bobby Avila in Runs Scored, and ahead of both Hal Trosky and Jim Thome in Hits. He even leads a pretty important franchise category, Games Played, five ahead of Napoleon Lajoie. Yet he's an obscure player even in Indians lore, largely for good reason. His offensive statistics are poor even for the era he played in. His best offensive season by far was a 123 OPS+ campaign in 1906; most other seasons, he didn't come close to a league-average OPS.

Yet Turner managed to play more seasons and in more games than any position player in franchise history. So what did Turner bring to the table that allowed him to set these marks?

It was defense.Turner was regarded by his peers as the best defensive infielder in the AL, and second only to Honus Wagner in baseball with the glove. Bill James, in his Historical Baseball Abstract, ranked the Turner-Lajoie double-play combination as the best in the game during the decade of the 1900s. It's difficult to back these opinions up, as all we're given from that era are things like assists, fielding percentage, and double plays, and since Turner was often serving as utility infielder, wasn't a perennial leader in those counting stat categories. His 1906 defensive season, however, was ranked 9th All-Time using Baseball-Reference's Defense WAR statistic. That season, he led the AL with 570 assists; that mark still ranks 12th in MLB history even after five decades of the 162-game season. So there's some evidence of his greatness at the position, though it's rather fleeting. Turner would only play a full season at shortstop three seasons (1905-1907); injuries and illnesses would hamper him most of his early career, and as he got older, he was turned into a super-utility player.

Like most players of his generation, Turner had a cool nickname. "Cotton Top" was given to him by opposing fans early in his career because of his blond hair. Turner, a native of Western Pennsylvania (Mercer County), first made a brief appearance with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they sold him to Columbus (American Association) after just a couple games. He had two nice offensive seasons in the minors, and Cleveland acquired him towards the end of the 1903 season; he made his AL debut the next season. The Naps needed a shortstop badly; their regular starter, John Gochnaur, hit just .185/.265/.240 the previous season, so Turner had a great opportunity to break into the big leagues. Turner wasn't a whole lot better than Gochnaur in his first season, but apparently his defensive prowess convinced Cleveland to keep him on for the 1905 season.

Turner had one of his best offensive seasons in 1905, hitting .265/.289/.360 (104 OPS+), and playing in every team game. The Naps were one of the best offensive clubs in the league, led by Lajoie (151 OPS+) and Elmer Flick (166 OPS+), and next season they'd put it all together, with Turner helping out a great deal (123 OPS+). Eight of the nine regulars had an OPS+ over 100, three of their four starters (Otto Hess, Addie Joss, and Bob Rhoads) posted an ERA+ over 140, and they had a great defense, led by Turner's great season. But somehow the Naps finished third in the AL; based on their Pythogorean W-L record (98-55), they should have dominated the league, but they won only 89 games and finished seven games behind the White Sox.

That was Turner's high-water mark as an all-around player. He would be an everyday player in 1907, but his offense fell off dramatically. In 1908, when the Naps had another outstanding club, Turner was sidelined most of the season. Bill James believed that this was because of a beaning (Turner was quoted about a past beaning in the Cleveland Press in the aftermath of the Ray Chapman tragedy), although there were several other seasons where it would fit (1909, 1912, 1915). Whatever the cause of his absence, after the 1908 season, Turner would never again play an entire season at shortstop. In today's game, a player with Turner's skill-set would have played for at least 5 or 6 teams, always in-demand as a specialist, but never valuable enough to get him a long-term contract. Turner would play over 600 games at third (then also considered a defense-first position) and shortstop, and even filled in for Lajoie when he was hurt or needed a day off.

Until Kenny Lofton passed him, he held the franchise lead for stolen bases (254). Turner credited himself with introducing the head-first slide to major-league baseball. He had kept injuring his ankle while slide feet-first, so he began using the new technique early in his career.

The Indians released Turner late in the 1918 season. He caught on the with the Athletics in 1919, but only got into 38 games. After his baseball career was over, he got a job with the Cleveland Street Department. He died in Cleveland in 1960, and is buried in Mayfield.

Turner was selected as one of 100 Greatest Indians in 2001, Cleveland's 100th season in the American League.

Career Statistics

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ SH Pos
1901 20 PIT NL 2 7 7 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .429 .429 .429 .857 146 0 /5
1904 23 CLE AL 111 434 404 41 95 9 6 1 45 5 11 .235 .255 .295 .550 74 19 *6
1905 24 CLE AL 155 621 586 49 155 16 14 4 72 17 14 .265 .289 .360 .649 104 15 *6
1906 25 CLE AL 147 643 584 85 170 27 7 2 62 27 35 .291 .338 .372 .709 123 18 *6
1907 26 CLE AL 140 561 524 57 127 20 7 0 46 27 19 .242 .272 .307 .579 84 16 *6
1908 27 CLE AL 60 226 201 21 48 11 1 0 19 18 15 .239 .298 .303 .602 95 8 O6
1909 28 CLE AL 53 226 208 25 52 7 4 0 16 14 14 .250 .304 .322 .626 94 2 46
1910 29 CLE AL 150 651 574 71 132 14 6 0 33 31 53 .230 .301 .275 .576 80 19 65/4
1911 30 CLE AL 117 470 417 59 105 16 9 0 28 29 34 .252 .310 .333 .643 79 18 546
1912 31 CLE AL 103 419 370 54 114 14 4 0 33 19 31 .308 .363 .368 .731 106 17 *5
1913 32 CLE AL 120 481 388 60 96 13 4 0 44 13 55 35 .247 .348 .302 .650 88 33 546
1914 33 CLE AL 121 512 428 43 105 14 9 1 33 17 44 36 .245 .319 .327 .646 91 38 *54
1915 34 CLE AL 75 305 262 35 66 14 1 0 14 12 29 13 .252 .329 .313 .642 90 13 45
1916 35 CLE AL 124 495 428 52 112 15 3 0 38 15 40 29 .262 .325 .311 .636 86 27 54
1917 36 CLE AL 69 202 180 16 37 7 0 0 15 4 14 19 .206 .263 .244 .507 50 8 54/6
1918 37 CLE AL 74 269 233 24 58 7 2 0 23 6 22 15 .249 .316 .296 .613 78 13 54/6
1919 38 PHA AL 38 136 127 7 24 3 0 0 6 2 5 9 .189 .220 .213 .432 21 4 64/5
17 Seasons 1659 6658 5921 699 1499 207 77 8 528 256 435 156 .253 .308 .318 .626 89 268
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/5/2011.

 

Player Value

Year Age Tm Lg PA Rbat Rbaser Rroe Rdp Rfield Rpos Rrep RAR WAR oRAR oWAR dWAR Salary Pos Awards
1901 20 PIT NL 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.1 1 0.1 0.0 $ /5
1904 23 CLE AL 434 -11 0 0 0 7 7 14 17 1.4 10 1.2 0.2 $ *6
1905 24 CLE AL 621 -1 -1 0 0 -2 10 20 26 2.6 28 3.1 -0.5 $ *6
1906 25 CLE AL 643 15 2 0 0 34 10 20 81 8.4 47 5.1 3.3 $ *6
1907 26 CLE AL 561 -14 2 0 0 17 9 18 32 3.0 15 1.6 1.4 $ *6
1908 27 CLE AL 226 0 1 0 0 0 -1 7 7 0.8 7 0.7 0.1 $ O6
1909 28 CLE AL 226 -2 1 0 0 6 2 7 14 1.4 8 0.9 0.5 $ 46
1910 29 CLE AL 651 -12 2 0 0 8 8 21 27 2.5 19 2.2 0.3 $ 65/4
1911 30 CLE AL 470 -16 3 0 0 3 4 16 10 1.0 7 0.7 0.3 $ 546
1912 31 CLE AL 419 3 0 0 0 4 3 14 24 2.4 20 2.1 0.3 $ *5
1913 32 CLE AL 481 -3 0 0 0 5 4 16 22 2.1 17 1.8 0.3 $ 546 MVP-22
1914 33 CLE AL 512 -5 0 0 0 7 3 17 22 2.1 15 1.7 0.4 $ *54
1915 34 CLE AL 305 -4 -1 0 0 2 1 10 8 0.8 6 0.7 0.1 $ 45
1916 35 CLE AL 495 -4 2 0 0 6 2 16 22 2.2 16 1.7 0.5 $ 54
1917 36 CLE AL 202 -11 0 0 0 2 1 7 -1 -0.4 -3 -0.3 -0.1 $ 54/6
1918 37 CLE AL 269 -7 0 0 0 4 2 9 8 0.7 4 0.5 0.2 $ 54/6
1919 38 PHA AL 136 -12 0 0 0 -1 1 5 -7 -0.9 -6 -0.7 -0.2 $ 64/5
17 Seasons 6658 -83 11 0 0 102 66 217 313 30.2 211 23.1 7.1 $
Lg PA Rbat Rbaser Rroe Rdp Rfield Rpos Rrep RAR WAR oRAR oWAR dWAR Salary Pos Awards
CLE (15 yrs) 6515 -72 11 0 0 103 65 212 319 31.0 216 23.7 7.3 $
PIT (1 yr) 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.1 1 0.1 0.0 $
PHA (1 yr) 136 -12 0 0 0 -1 1 5 -7 -0.9 -6 -0.7 -0.2 $
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/5/2011.

 

Bibliography:

Sowell, Mike. The Pitch That Killed.

James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.

Turner, Scott. "Terry Turner", The Baseball Biography Project at this address.

Ritter, Lawrence. The Glory of Their Times.

Snyder, John. Indians Journal.

and last, but not least, the incomparable Baseball-Reference.com

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker