Top 100 Cleveland Indians: #19 Elmer Flick

Elmer Flick - didthetribewinlastnight.com

Next on the list is the first great outfielder the franchise ever had, Hall of Famer Elmer Flick.

Elmer Harrison Flick

Right Fielder, 1902-1910

Height: 5'9" Weight: 168 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Left

How Acquired: Free Agent, May 16, 1902

Left Via: Released July, 1910

This native of Bedford, Ohio was the third of five children to Zachary and Mary Flick. Zachary was both a farmer and the owner of a chair-making shop. He was also a daredevil who liked trying to fly without an airplane.

As is typical of most of the players on our countdown, Elmer was a skilled athlete in his youth. He wrestled, boxed, and played football, but gained his greatest notoriety as the catcher for Bedford High School squad. In 1891, when he was just 15, a barefooted Flick joined the Bedford town team on a day they only had eight players and the manager pulled him from the stands. Flick hit pretty well that day and become a regular member of the team.

When Flick was 20, the Youngstown Puddlers of the Interstate League (Class C) signed him up. The Puddlers already had a catcher, so Flick moved to the outfield. Using a lathe from his father's shop, Flick made a bat to use for his first minor league exposure. The bat paid off in his short 31-game career at Youngstown, as he hit .438 with 5 doubles, 9 triples and 6 home runs. His defense was not as pretty: He struggled to discern the distance on fly balls and his fielding average was a terrible .826.

In 1897, he switched to the Dayton Old Soldiers. They were also part of the Interstate League, but now classified as a Class B club. He tore the cover off the ball. In 126 games, he had 183 hits, 42 doubles, 10 home runs, and a league leading 20 triples. He swiped 25 bags and scored 135 runs. His defense was better with another year's experience, and his fielding percentage jumped to .921.

The manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, George Stallings, observed one of his games that year and signed Flick to a major league contract for 1898. The plan was to use Flick as the fourth outfielder, but veteran Sam Thompson got hurt early on, and Flick ended up the starter in right field for the rest of the year. From 1898 to 1901, he put up a .338/.419/.487 line, good for a 156 OPS+.

Each year with the Phillies, his defense improved. The Baker Bowl had a short right field that allowed him to play a very shallow position and pick up a number of assists throwing out batters at first base. Flick and teammate Nap Lajoie often got into arguments as they both felt like the shallow flies in right were theirs to catch. There was another disagreement in 1900, when they disagreed and brawled. Lajoie had a good 40 pounds on him, but Flick held his own and Nap broke a thumb on a missed punch.

The fledgling American League had taken root in 1901 and continued to raid the National League for stars. Flick jumped to the Philadelphia Athletics to join former teammates Lajoie, Chick Fraser, and Bill Bernhard, who had jumped a year earlier. However, shortly after the start of 1902, the state of Pennsylvania granted an injunction against Lajoie, Fraser and Bernhard from playing in the state unless it was for the Phillies. Even though Flick was not named in the documentation, he felt it best to move on, and when his hometown Cleveland Blues/Bronchos came calling, he willingly joined Lajoie and Bernhard in the Forest City. The former Phillies teammates all avoided games against the Athletics in Philadelphia until the National Agreement was signed in September 1903.

He played in 110 games and slashed a 297/371/408 120 OPS+ with 11 triples as he manned right field that first season in Cleveland. The highlight of that season were the three triples he hit on July 6 against the White Sox, setting an AL record that still stands today (it has been tied three times). In 1903 he hit 296/368/413 136 OPS+ and hit another 16 triples. But 1904 is when Flick showed his full dominance to the Cleveland faithful. He hit 306/371/449 156 OPS+, led the league with 38 steals, and finished second in runs scored with 97.

In 1905, he even topped his previous season, leading the league in average, slugging, OPS, OPS+ and triples with a 308/383/462 166 OPS+ line, 18 triples and another 35 steals. [It should be noted the .308 average that lead the league would be the lowest in history until Carl Yastrzemski in 1968]. The Naps (they had been renamed that in 1903) finished a distant fifth that year, leading to Nap himself becoming the player manager after 41 games.

In 1906, the Naps lead by both Lajoie and Flick, had their first bona fide pennant race. They finished five games back of the White Sox, but Flick did more than his part. He played every game, notching 700 plate appearances and led the league with 98 runs scored, 22 triples and 39 steals while finishing with a 311/372/441 156 OPS+ line, all top seven in league.

Interestingly enough, in the spring of 1907, Tiger manager Hughie Jennings was at wits end because he had this unruly 19 year old who kept getting into fights with his teammates. He asked for flick straight up for this problem child, but the Naps president/owner, Charlie Somers offered Buck Congalton instead. Jennings decided to stick with the head case, who turned out to be Ty Cobb. That is how close Cleveland got to receiving one of the top players (and headaches) of all time. Nowadays, I think the offer of a 20 year phenom for a 31 year old would have been consummated.

Flick had held out in 1904 as he wanted to solidify his farm business. And he almost retired prior to that 1907 season, but did sign shortly after the proposed Cobb trade had gone kaput. He went on to have his fourth consecutive season with a 150 OPS+ or better. He hit 302/386/412 153 OPS+, led the league with 18 triples and swiped another 41 bases. The Naps won another 85 games, but finished in fourth place, 17 games back of the Tigers while Cobb started his string of eight consecutive batting championships and 160 OPS+ or better.

While Flick continued to produce very well, his all-out hustle started to take a toll on him physically, or so he thought. He disliked the spring trainings in the south and the east coast road trips in the summer months. In July of 1907, he felt very weak and constantly talked about retirement. In the spring of 1908, he developed a severe stomach issue. He played in only nine games that year while the doctors tried to figure out was wrong. Some believe he had acute gastritis while other felt his appendix needed removing (that was a very complex surgery in those days and very dangerous).

His weight had dropped to 130 pounds and he had no power in his swing. He muddled through 66 games in 1909 and another 24 in 1910. Those 376 plate appearances from 1908 to 1910 were just terrible. He hit 254/326/325 which was still good enough for a 103 OPS+. He felt close to death a number of times, and finally in July 1910, the Naps released him to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. He refused to report and headed back to Bedford to rest for the remainder of the year.

Flick tried to finagle a major league contract for 2011, but found no takers. He instead hooked up with the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association. He played all of 1911 and 1912 with them. He hit .326 in 1911, but slumped down to .262 in 1912 before calling it quits. Although his local Bedford team coaxed him out for some games as a second baseman in 1914.

He settled down with his wife Rosa Ella and their five daughters. He farmed, hunted, and was an avid horseman. Did some agriculture real estate and even scouted for the Indians occasionally. When he came up for election on the 1938 Hall of Fame vote, Flick netted just one vote and was removed from the ballot. His short but fantastic career was mostly forgotten about until 1961 when Ty Cobb passed away. It was then the stories of how he had almost been traded for him were repeated, which led the Veterans Committee to voting him in in 1963. He was the oldest living member ever inducted at 87. He passed away two days short of his 95th birthday in 1971 in his hometown.

Flick was voted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in 1963, the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, the Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987, and one of the Top 100 Indians of All-Time in 2001. A statue of his likeness was dedicated in September 2013 at the Bedford Commons and one of the baseball parks in Bedford bears his name.

Sources

SABR Biography Project by Angelo Louisa; Wikipedia; Baseball-Reference

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB HBP SH Pos
1902 26 CLE 110 482 424 70 126 19 11 2 61 20 47 31 .297 .371 .408 .779 120 173 3 8 *O
1903 27 CLE 140 593 523 81 155 23 16 2 51 24 51 60 .296 .368 .413 .781 136 216 8 11 *O
1904 28 CLE 150 659 579 97 177 31 17 6 56 38 51 68 .306 .371 .449 .820 159 260 9 20 *O/4
1905 29 CLE 132 573 500 72 154 29 18 4 64 35 53 69 .308 .383 .462 .845 166 231 8 12 *O/4
1906 30 CLE 157 700 624 98 194 34 22 1 62 39 54 65 .311 .372 .441 .813 156 275 7 15 *O/4
1907 31 CLE 147 637 549 80 166 15 18 3 58 41 64 79 .302 .386 .412 .798 153 226 11 13 *O
1908 32 CLE 9 39 35 4 8 1 1 0 2 0 3 3 .229 .289 .314 .604 96 11 0 1 /O
1909 33 CLE 66 259 235 28 60 10 2 0 15 9 22 27 .255 .322 .315 .637 98 74 1 1 O
1910 34 CLE 24 78 68 5 18 2 1 1 7 1 10 10 .265 .359 .368 .727 126 25 0 0 O
CLE (9 yrs) 935 4020 3537 535 1058 164 106 19 376 207 355 412 .299 .371 .422 .792 145 1491 47 81
Selected Awards/Leaders
  • Hall of Fame: 1963 (Veterans Committee)
  • AL WAR: 6th, 1906-6.5; 8th, 1904-6.5; 9th, 1907-5.6
  • AL WAR Position Players: 3rd, 1905-5.3; 4th, 1906-6.5; 4th, 1904-6.5; 4th, 1907-5.6; 8th, 1903-4.4
  • AL oWAR: 1st, 1905-5.6; 2nd, 1904-6.2; 3rd, 1906-6.2; 3rd, 1907-5.2
  • AL Average: 1st, 1905-.308; 4th, 1904-.306; 4th, 1907-.302; 7th, 1906-.311
  • AL On Base Percentage: 2nd, 1905-.383; 3rd, 1904-.371; 3rd, 1907-.386; 4th, 1906-.372; 8th, 1903-.368
  • AL Slugging: 1st, 1905-.462; 3rd, 1904-.449; 3rd, 1907-.412; 4th, 1906-.441
  • AL OPS: 1st, 1905-.845; 3rd, 1904-.820; 3rd, 1907-.798; 4th, 1906-.813
  • AL At Bats: 1st, 1906-624
  • AL Plate Appearances: 1st, 1906-700; 8th, 1903-593; 8th, 1904-659; 9th, 1907-637
  • AL Runs Scored: 1st, 1906-98; 2nd, 1904-97; 8th, 1907-80; 10th, 1905-72
  • AL Hits: 3rd, 1906-194; 5th, 1904-177; 5th, 1907-166; 10th, 1905-154
  • AL TB: 2nd, 1904-260; 3rd, 1906-275; 5th, 1905-231; 5th, 1907-226; 10th, 1903-216
  • AL 2B: 3rd, 1906-34; 4th, 1904-31; 8th, 1905-29
  • AL 3B: 1st, 1905-18; 1st, 1906-22; 1st, 1907-18; 4th, 1904-17; 6th, 1902-12; 6th, 1903-16
  • AL Home Runs: 4th, 1904-6; 8th, 1907-3; 9th, 1905-4
  • AL RBI: 10th, 1905-64; 10th, 1906-62
  • AL Bases on Balls: 4th, 1907-64; 5th, 1903-51; 6th, 1906-54; 7th, 1905-53; 9th, 1904-51
  • AL Strikeouts: 3rd, 1907-79; 8th, 1905-69; 9th, 1903-60
  • AL Stolen Bases: 1st, 1904-38; 1st, 1906-39; 2nd, 1907-41; 7th, 1905-35
  • AL Singles: 5th, 1906-137; 8th, 1907-130; 10th, 1904-123
  • AL OPS+: 1st, 1905-166; 2nd, 1904-159; 3rd, 1906-156; 3rd, 1907-153; 10th, 1903-136
  • AL RC: 2nd, 1904-94; 3rd, 1905-86; 3rd, 1906-101; 4th, 1907-85; 10th, 1903-78
  • AL Extra Base Hits: 2nd, 1904-54; 2nd, 1906-57; 4th, 1905-51; 6th, 1907-36
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 5th, 1903-8; 5th, 1904-9; 7th, 1905-8; 7th, 1907-11; 10th, 1906-7
  • AL Assists as OF: 4th, 1904-19; 4th, 1905-18; 5th, 1907-22
  • AL Double Plays Turned as 3B: 3rd, 1907-7
  • AL Fielding % as OF: 5th, 1906-.981
Cleveland Indians Career Leader
  • 14th WAR Position Players (31.2)
  • 14th oWAR (30.3)
  • t-23rd Average (.299)
  • 32nd On Base Percentage (.371)
  • 45th OPS (.792)
  • 38th Games Played (935)
  • 32nd At Bats (4020)
  • 31st Plate Appearances (4020)
  • 29th Runs Scored (535)
  • 26th Hits (1058)
  • 32nd Total Bases (1491)
  • t-40th Doubles (164)
  • 3rd Triples (106)
  • t-49th Runs Batted In (376)
  • 34th Bases on Balls (355)
  • 32nd Strikeouts (412)
  • 6th Stolen Bases (207)
  • 25th Singles (769)
  • 7th OPS+ (145)
  • t-31st Runs Created (544)
  • t-33rd Extra Base Hits (289)
  • 9th Hit By Pitch (47)
  • 23rd Sacrifice Hits (81)
Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-43rd WAR (6.5, 1906)
  • t-48th WAR (6.4, 1906)
  • t-35th oWAR (6.2, 1904, 1906)
  • t-29th At Bats (624, 1906)
  • t-32nd Plate Appearances (700, 1906)
  • t-35th Hits (194, 1906)
  • t-3rd Triples (22, 1906)
  • t-8th Triples (18, 1905, 1907)
  • t-11th Triples (17, 1904)
  • t-14th Triples (16, 1903)
  • t-15th Stolen Bases (41, 1907)
  • t-19th Stolen Bases (39, 1906)
  • t-21st Stolen Bases (38, 1904)
  • t-33rd Stolen Bases (35, 1905)
  • t-48th Singles (137, 1906)
  • t-28th OPS+ (166, 1905)
  • 36th OPS+ (159, 1904)
  • t-41st OPS+ (156, 1906)
  • t-49th OPS+ (153, 1907)
  • t-26th Hit By Pitch (11, 1907)
  • t-46th Hit By Pitch (9, 1904)

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