Remembering Pat Seerey
Yesterday’s post on three home run games inevitably led me to think of Pat Seerey, a tremendous slugger and strike out artist (wrong kind) of the World War II and slightly after years. Here’s a SABR biography of the man’s career.
Pat was a slightly larger version of Hack Wilson — Seerey was 5’9″ tall and weighed between 195 lbs and 220 lbs during his playing career, usually much closer to the latter than the former. Seerey was extremely popular despite never developing into a major star, because his home runs and strike outs were both prodigious and his body looked like those of a lot of his fans. He was known in his playing days as both the “People’s Choice” and “Fat Pat.”
Seerey was clearly a man ahead of his time, the kind of player common in today’s sabermetrically informed game (Rob Deer, Mark Reynolds, and Adam Dunn all spring to mind, and I could come up with a lot more if I really stopped and thought about it). However, he played in an era and for a manager (the Indians’ Lou Boudreau) where his skills were not fully appreciated.
Seerey was an all or nothing hitter, and he had two of the greatest games in baseball history. On July 13, 1945, Seerey hit three home runs and a triple against the New York Yankees. On June 18, 1948, after having been traded to the White Sox, Seerey hit four HRs in a ten inning game against the Philadelphia Athletics. Seerey’s 31 total bases in his best two games have only been matched by Shawn Green and Willie Mays. However, he also led the American League in strikeouts each of the four seasons in which he managed to get between 365 and 485 plate appearances, and he hit only 86 HRs total in his major league career.
How good a player Seerey really was is hard to say. Most likely, in the right time and place, he could have had a major league career approximately twice as long as the one he actually had. On the other hand, his career .224 batting average was terrible, particularly when you take into account the fact that three of his four seasons as a semi-regular were 1944 through 1946 — two war years and the year when most of the big stars came back after many years away and were rusty.
That being said, Seerey probably would have hit more HRs in a different era. The baseballs used during the latter war years didn’t carry well, limiting HR run totals. Seerey finished 8th, 6th, 4th and 9th in the AL in home runs in the four years he played semi-regularly (1944-1946 and 1948). In today’s game, that would be enough to keep him on a major league roster despite the low batting average and strikeouts.