Professional baseball was a much different game over a century ago than it is today. While hardcore baseball fans are aware of the “dead-ball era” that benefited pitchers, the “barehanded era” is often forgotten. It was during that time that fielders commonly made mistakes in infields and in outfields.
This list contains a wide variety of names. There will be some players who are completely anonymous to casual fans. There are also Hall-of-Famers who made records for more than just the positive things they did at the plate and in the field.
Note: Stats were taken from Baseball Reference
Here are the top 10 players with the most errors committed in professional baseball history.
10. Ed McKean: 892 Errors
McKean, who spent most of his playing days in Cleveland with the Blues/Spiders, often doesn’t get recognized for what a presence he was at the plate during his best years. He finished fourth in the American Association in home runs in 1888 (6), and he was twice in the top-five in homers while in the National League. McKean belted 67 home runs and he had over 1,124 RBI during his career, both solid numbers for a hitter during the dead-ball era.
He also struggled with playing defense while in the infield.
McKean tied for first for most errors committed in the AA with 105 in 1887. He committed a NL-high 91 errors in 1891. McKean remains fifth all-time in most errors committed at the shortstop position with 857.
Comparison: Derek Jeter has, as of the posting of this piece, made 247 errors as a pro SS.
9. Jack Glasscock: 895 Errors
Glasscock was, despite the amount of miscues he made in 17 seasons, one of the best shortstops of the 1880s. He led the NL in most putouts as a shortstop in both 1881 (105) and 1889 (246). He, on six occasions, led the league in assists as a shortstop. Glasscock was in the top five for most double plays turned as a shortstop twelve seasons during his career.
He once led the NL in most errors for a shortstop in a single season with 73 in 1887.
Glasscock also had a decent bat for his time. He led the NL in batting average in 1890, and he twice led the league in hits (1889-90).
8. John Montgomery Ward: 952 Errors
Ward, a member of the Hall of Fame, was considered to be “the model ballplayer of the century” during his time. He played a major part in the New York Giants winning their first two pennants (1888 and 1889). Ward also has a place in history for helping to create pro baseball’s first ever union, and also for the creation of the short-lived Players League.
As for his place in this list, Ward, primarily as a shortstop, led the NL in errors committed in 1888 (86). He was in the top five in that list three times from 1886 through 1889. Ward was third in errors committed in the Players League in 1890.
7. Cap Anson: 976 Errors
Anson, like Ward, is rightfully in the Hall of Fame. A true superstar for his time who played in 27 consecutive professional seasons, Anson was one of the greatest hitters of his era. He twice led the NL in batting average (1881 and 1888). Anson led the league in on-base percentage on four occasions. His career hits total of 3,435 is good for sixth-best all-time.
Anson dabbled in multiple defensive positions throughout his storied career. His 658 errors committed as a first baseman is good for first all-time at that position. Anson also committed 196 errors as a third baseman.
6. Fred Pfeffer: 980 Errors
Pfeffer, in 16 seasons, had stints with the Troy Trojans, Chicago White Stockings, Chicago Pirates, Chicago Colts, Louisville Colonels and New York Giants. He was hardly a terrible second baseman. Pfeffer led the NL in most putouts as a second baseman every season from 1884 through 1891. Only twelve second basemen in history are credited with having more putouts than Pfeffer.
Shortstop was not as kind to Pfeffer in 1882, when he led the NL for most errors committed by an SS with 73. He was, for what it’s worth, second in double plays turned among shortstops with 35 in that same season.
5. Tommy Corcoran: 992 Errors
Corcoran played pro baseball for 18 seasons, and he was, despite his being part of this list, more known for his fielding than for his hitting. He hit .300 in 1894, the only time he achieved that feat. He never, outside of that single year, managed to hit even .290 in a season.
Corcoran retired with a career batting average of .256.
Corcoran never led the NL in total errors committed or errors committed as a shortstop, but he did find himself in the top five of both lists in multiple years. That said, he was also responsible for some impressive defensive statistics. He is fifth all-time in career putouts as a shortstop (4,553). Corcoran is ninth all-time in assists (7,509).
4. Germany Smith: 1,009 Errors
Germany Smith is the subject of what is, long after the fact, a rather humorous baseball story. Smith was playing for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms on June 17, 1885 when John Francis “Phenomenal” Smith, a rather cocky individual, took the mound for Brooklyn. Germany and his teammates were less than fond of the Phenomenal One.
In fact, they couldn’t stand Smith, something they made clear in the pitcher’s Brooklyn debut.
Smith’s teammates betrayed him in the field, dropping pop-ups, refusing to play grounders, and throwing the ball away on multiple occasions. Germany had seven recorded errors that day, and Brooklyn was, in total, charged with 14 errors.
Watching the team play in the first half of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, I’m starting to wonder if the Cleveland Indians aren’t a terrible team. Perhaps the players just don’t like the pitchers who are on the roster.
3. Deacon White: 1,018 Errors
White was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. He won two batting titles in the 1870s (1875 and 1877), and no player in the NL had a higher slugging percentage than did White in 1877 (.545). White led his league in RBI in 1873, 1876 and 1877.
Credited for being arguably the best catcher of the barehanded era, White is sixth all-time for most errors committed by catchers. He also led the league in most putouts for all catchers three separate times.
Only ten players committed more errors when playing third base than did White (444) during his pro career.
2. Bill Dahlen: 1,080 Errors
First, some positive numbers put up by the shortstop who was, in his day, known as “Bad Bill.” Only one shortstop in history had more career putouts than did Dahlen (4,856). Dahlen is fourth all-time in most assists among shortstops. While Dahlen did bat over .350 in 1894 (.359) and in 1896 (.352), it was his play in the field that had him under consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame a couple of years ago.
Now, for why he is on this list. Dahlen is second all-time for most errors committed by shortstops with 975. He was in the top-five in errors committed by NL shortstops ten times from 1895 through 1908. Dahlen also led the NL in total errors committed in 1895 with 86.
1. Herman Long: 1,096 Errors
There is an old saying in sports: “Records were made to be broken.”
That doesn’t apply here. Not even close, in fact. No active player in MLB has, as of June 2014, recorded even 500 errors during his career. Not even total elimination of the designated hitter would put Long’s record in jeopardy.
Long, like others on this list, was an above-average fielder in his time. He led the AA in most putouts for shortstops in 1889 (335), and he then led the NL in that same stat two seasons later (345). That said, 1,070 of his 1,09 errors came when Long was playing shortstop.
That’s another mark that Long will probably hold from now until forevermore.