Luderus starred with the Phillies 1910-20

The Phillies have announced that fan voting is now open in the first step towards naming a 2015 honoree on the franchise Wall of Fame.

Of all the names on the ballot, possibly the least well-known is also the most worthy: Fred Luderus.

Many Phils fans are probably asking themselves “Who?” when confronted with that statement. But for anyone with a sense of the history of this 132-year old team the name should indeed be familiar.

Fred Luderus was the Philadelphia Phillies regular first baseman every season from 1911-1919, pretty much the entirety of the second decade of the 20th century. He helped lead the team to its first-ever NL Pennant in 1915 and hit the first World Series home run in franchise history that year. He has played more games (1,326) at first base than any player in franchise history.

Luderus’ offensive numbers might seem low when compared with modern players, such as Ryan Howard, who is second on the club all-time Games list for first basemen, or Pat Burrell, another Wall of Fame nominee this time around who played just five fewer career games with the Phillies.

But it must be remembered that Luderus had a significant handicap, having played his entire career during baseball’s “dead ball era” of the early 20th century. During these years the baseballs themselves were actually softer and were often used nearly until the laces fell off.

Another factor during this period working against hitters like Luderus was that pitchers could “doctor” the ball. The spitball, for instance, was legal during the entirety of his career, not outlawed until 1921, a year after he retired.

Unlike today when a number of modern ballparks have generous hitting dimensions, in those days many ballparks were nightmares for hitters with 500+ foot deep fences.

Even the rules were against home run hitters. Prior to Luderus’ last season of 1920, balls hit over the fence in fair territory, but landing in foul, were ruled foul balls.

Largely due to these factors, Luderus’ home run totals are dwarfed by Howard and Burrell, and his RBI totals significantly behind theirs. But he actually has more doubles than Howard and his total is just four behind Burrell’s on the Phillies all-time career list.

Luderus’ career batting average of .270 is better than both players and his 55 career Phillies stolen bases dwarfs both Howard and Burrell’s career Phillies totals combined.

In fact, a reasonable look at the regular starting first basemen during the 1910’s shows that only Jake Daubert, who played for the National League’s Brooklyn Spiders during the majority of the decade, was more productive at the position in that decade than Luderus was for the Phillies.

Fred Luderus
Pat Burrell is the favorite in
Phillies Wall of Fame voting

In the current round of balloting, fans are asked to vote at the Phillies website, choosing their top three favorites from among a dozen candidates: Luderus, Burrell, 1920’s-30’s third baseman Pinky Whitney, 1920’s-30’s catcher Jimmy Wilson, 1950 NL MVP Jim Konstanty, 1960’s outfielder Tony Gonzalez, late-60’s-early 80’s eras pitchers Rick WiseLarry ChristensonGene Garber, and Ron Reed, catcher/coach Mike Ryan, and 1993 NL Pennant-winning manager Jim Fregosi.

The team will accept votes through February 6th at 5:00 pm. The top five vote-getters will then be sent on in a final ballot to a special Wall of Fame Selection Committee, who will make the actual choice of this year’s honoree.

The excellent play provided to the Philadelphia Phillies franchise by Fred Luderus has largely been lost to time. It would be understandable that modern voters are more likely to instinctively vote for Pat ‘the Bat’ Burrell or maybe the popular ‘Macho Row’ coach Jim Fregosi.

But the contributions of Fred Luderus, the player who manned first base more often than any other in that 132-year team history, and who produced outstanding results during an extremely difficult hitting era, deserve that he be rewarded with a plaque on the Phillies Wall of Fame.

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