Tuesday, March 01, 2016

A Brief Look at Billy Holbert - a Late 19th Century Brooklyn Gray/Dodger

I figured it was about time I take a moment to highlight an old-time Dodger player; albeit a Dodger who only played 15 games for the old club.  Featured above is William "Billy" Holbert on an 1888 N172 Old Judge Baseball card that is currently available at BST Auctions.  He is shown bent-over home plate -- complete with an fantastic vintage "spider" style catchers mask and tipped-finger workman’s style baseball glove.  (Click on the pic to embiggen)

Billy is well known for several reason.  First, he was the favorite catcher to dominant Hall of Fame pitcher Tim Keefe when he played for both the Troy Trojans and the New York Metropolitans.

(Via DPL)
Secondly, Holbert holds an MLB record that still stands today.  In 2,335 career Major League at-bats he did not hit a single home run.  Zilch!  Nada!

He was the living embodiment of the no-hit, good defense kind of catcher. (Check out another card of his on the right from the same set as seen above)

Granted, he did play ball during the deadball era -- a time period known more for slap hitting rather than homers.  Still, you'd think with the large expansive outfields of the time he'd have at least one round-tripper next to his name.  BTW, Tom Oliver of the early 30's Red Sox owns the modern record for most at-bats without a homer with 1,931.

As a Brooklyn Gray/Dodger his time with us was largely uneventful.  Holbert came over from the NY Metropolitans as part of a seven player trade/sale. He would play in Brooklyn for part of only one season, 1888, and get into only 15 games before retiring.  As a Brooklyn player he would slash a measly .120/.170/.140/.310. 

After leaving the game as a player he would go on to become an umpire for a short time; including being an umpire for the short-lived Players League of 1890.  Billy would soon serve with the US Secret Service soon thereafter. 

Check out his career statistics below, via Baseball Reference:

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