Zack Wheat

Last updated
Zack Wheat
Zack Wheat by Conlon, 1912.jpg
Left fielder
Born:(1888-05-23)May 23, 1888
Hamilton, Missouri
Died: March 11, 1972(1972-03-11) (aged 83)
Sedalia, Missouri
Batted: LeftThrew: Right
MLB debut
September 11, 1909, for the Brooklyn Superbas
Last MLB appearance
September 21, 1927, for the Philadelphia Athletics
MLB statistics
Batting average .317
Hits 2,884
Home runs 132
Runs batted in 1,248
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg
Induction 1959
Election MethodVeteran's Committee

Zachariah Davis "Zack" Wheat (May 23, 1888 March 11, 1972), nicknamed "Buck", [1] was a Major League Baseball left fielder for Brooklyn in the National League. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1959.


A consistent hitter throughout his 19-year career, he still holds many Dodger franchise records. Most notably, Wheat has the most hits by any player while still a member of the team in the franchise's history, with 2,804. [2] His brother McKinley "Mack" Wheat also played in the major leagues, and the two were teammates in Brooklyn for five seasons. [3]


Born in Hamilton, Missouri, he was the son of Basil and Julia Wheat. His father was of English descent, and his mother was a full-blooded Cherokee. Wheat began his professional baseball career in 1906 for Enterprise in the Kansas League, followed by Wichita in 1907, Shreveport Pirates of the Texas League in 1908, and to round out his minor league career, he played for the Mobile Sea Gulls of the Southern Association in 1909. [4] It was during that 1909 season that the Brooklyn Superbas of the National League purchased Wheat for $1200, [4] and he made his major league debut in September. [3] He batted with a corkscrew type of swing, and held his hands down near the end of the bat, unlike most hitters during his time, a time noted as the "Dead Ball Era". Even with his consistent high levels of hitting, he was also noted for his graceful and stylish defense. [5]

What Lajoie was to infielders, Zach Wheat is to outfielders, the finest mechanical craftsman of them all ... Wheat is the easiest, most graceful of outfielders with no close rivals.

Baseball Magazine, 1917 [5]

Wheat played his first full season in 1910. He played every game for the Superbas that season as the regular left fielder, leading the league in games played. [3] He batted .284 that season, the second-lowest average of his career, which led the team, and was among the league leaders in hits, doubles, and triples. [5] It was in 1911 that his reputation as a slugger began to take hold. Along with hitting .287, he finished eighth in the league with 13 triples, and slugged five home runs. In an era when players rarely hit double-digit home runs for a season, five was enough for people to take notice. [5]

Wheat continued his steady and consistent climb up the batting charts in 1912, hitting .305, and finished the season among the league leaders in home runs and slugging percentage. [1] Over the next four seasons, he continued to be among the leaders of many offensive categories including home runs, batting average, slugging average, hits, doubles, triples, and RBIs. It was during the 1912 season that Wheat married Daisy Kerr Forsman, and she became his default agent, encouraging him to hold out for a better contract each season. Players in his day generally signed one-year contracts before every season. Each time Wheat held out, he received more money, the club not wanting to lose one of its best hitters and the team's most popular player. [5] This tactic of threatening to hold out served him well during throughout his career, including during the World War I era, when he raised and sold mules to the United States Army as pack animals. He claimed that he did so well, that he didn't need to play during the summer. The team, fearing that they might lose a great player during the prime of his career, succumbed to his demands every year. [5]

Zack Wheat baseball card, 1911 Gold Borders (T205) Zack wheat.jpg
Zack Wheat baseball card, 1911 Gold Borders (T205)

In 1916, he topped off the string of seasons with a finish in the top ten in all the above categories, topping the league in total bases and slugging. [1] He also had a career-high hitting streak, which reached 29 games. [5] The Brooklyn Robins won the National League pennant that season. In the World Series, they faced the Boston Red Sox, which had the formidable pitching rotation of Ernie Shore, Dutch Leonard, Carl Mays, and Babe Ruth. The Red Sox won the series four games to one, holding the Robins to a .200 batting average, and Wheat to a paltry .211. [6]

During the 1917 and 1918 seasons, Wheat hit well, but missed many games due to injuries. He had tiny feet, size 5, and this is believed to be the cause of the many nagging ankle injuries that caused to miss many games in his career. [5] However, he led the league in batting average for the only time in his career with a .335 batting average, his highest average up to that point. For a player known as a slugger, and consistently in the top ten in most offensive categories including home runs, he hit none that season, and just one the season prior. [1] Not until Rod Carew in 1972 would another player win a batting title without hitting a home run during the season.

Starting in 1919, Wheat returned to the league slugging leaders once again, as the baseball began to become livelier, proved by the offensive output by the likes of Ruth and Rogers Hornsby. The Robins made their second World Series appearance in 1920, this time facing off against the Cleveland Indians. The Robins lost this series as well, 5 games to 2, although Wheat's series average was .333. [7] Wheat's statistics climbed during this new live era of baseball, reaching double-digit home runs for the first time with 14 in 1921, and again three more times in the next four years. Wheat hit .320 or higher every season from 1920 through 1925, topping out with .375 in consecutive seasons. He failed to lead the league in hitting those two seasons, not getting enough at bats in 1923 to qualify, and Hornsby topped the league with .384, [8] and in 1924, his .375 was a distant second to Hornsby's .424. [9]

A subtle, but longstanding friction existed between Wheat and his manager, Wilbert Robinson. The friction reportedly stemmed from Robinson's belief that Wheat pursued the manager's job behind his back. [5] When owner Charles Ebbets died in 1925, new team president Ed McKeever reassigned Robinson into the front office and named Wheat as player-manager. Newspapers confirm that he managed the Dodgers for two weeks. [5] McKeever caught pneumonia at Ebbets' funeral, and died soon afterward, and Robinson quickly returned to the manager's position. As it turned out, Wheat never again managed in the majors, much to his disappointment. Moreover, Wheat's 1925 managerial stint never made it into the official records. In 1931, Steve McKeever, Ed's brother, hired Wheat as a coach, leading to widespread speculation that he was being groomed for the manager's spot, threatening Robinson's job for a second time in seven years, and he treated his former star as coldly as ever. [5]

Wheat was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics after his release from Brooklyn in 1927. After the season, he was released again; this time he signed and played for the minor league Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. He played very little that season due to a heel injury, and retired from playing following the season. [4] He still holds the Dodger franchise records for hits, doubles, triples and total bases. [10]

Career statistics

In 2,410 games over 19 seasons, Wheat posted a .317 batting average (2,884-for-9,106) with 1,289 runs, 476 doubles, 172 triples, 132 home runs, 1,248 RBI, 205 stolen bases, 650 bases on balls, .367 on-base percentage and .450 slugging percentage. He finished his career with a .966 fielding percentage as a left fielder. In 12 World Series games (1916,1920), he batted .283 (13-for-46) with 4 runs, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 RBI and 3 walks. [1]


After Wheat retired from baseball, he moved back to his 160-acre (0.65 km2) farm in Polo, Missouri, until the Great Depression forced him to sell it in 1932. [5] He moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he operated a bowling alley with Cotton Tierney. [5] [11] He later became a police officer. [4] It was during his duties as an officer in 1936, that he was chasing a fleeing felon in his vehicle, when he crashed and nearly died. Wheat spent five months in hospital after the accident, and after he was discharged, he moved his family to Sunrise Beach, Missouri, a resort town on the Lake of the Ozarks, to recuperate. It was here that he opened a 46-acre (190,000 m2) hunting and fishing resort. [5]

One of the grandest guys ever to wear a baseball uniform, one of the greatest batting teachers I have seen, one of the truest pals a man ever (had) and one of the kindliest men God ever created.

Casey Stengel, 1965, speaking of Zack Wheat. [4]

Wheat was first voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1957, but could not be inducted because he had not been retired for the required 30 years. In 1959, the committee unanimously elected him. [5] In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. In 2006, the stretch of Route 13 that runs through Caldwell County, Missouri was named the Zach Wheat Memorial Highway. [12] Due to his Cherokee ancestry, Wheat was featured in "Baseball's League of Nations: A Tribute to Native Americans in Baseball", a 2008 exhibit at the Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave, N.Y. [13]

Wheat died of a heart attack on March 11, 1972. [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

Dan Brouthers American baseball player

Dennis Joseph "Dan" Brouthers was an American first baseman in Major League Baseball whose career spanned the period from 1879 to 1896, with a brief return in 1904. Nicknamed "Big Dan" for his size, he was 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) and weighed 207 pounds (94 kg), which was large by 19th-century standards.

Harry Stovey Major League baseball player

Harry Duffield Stovey, born Harry Duffield Stowe, was a 19th-century Major League Baseball player and the first player in major league history to hit 100 home runs. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Stovey played for 14 seasons in the majors and was appointed player-manager on two separate occasions during his career.

Todd Helton American baseball player

Todd Lynn Helton is an American former professional baseball first baseman who played his entire 17-year career for the Colorado Rockies of Major League Baseball (MLB). A five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, and three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Helton holds the Colorado Rockies club records for hits (2,519), home runs (369), doubles (592), walks (1,335), runs scored (1,401), runs batted in, games played (2,247), and total bases (4,292), among others.

Bill Dahlen American baseball player

William Frederick Dahlen, nicknamed "Bad Bill" for his ferocious temperament, was an American shortstop and manager in Major League Baseball who played for four National League teams from 1891 to 1911. After twice batting over .350 for the Chicago Colts, he starred on championship teams with the Brooklyn Superbas and the New York Giants. At the end of his career he held the major league record for career games played (2,443); he ranked second in walks and fifth in at bats (9,033), and was among the top ten in runs batted in (1,234), doubles (414) and extra base hits (661). He was also among the NL's top seven players in hits, runs (1,589), triples (163) and total bases (3,447). After leading the league in assists four times and double plays three times, he set major league records for career games (2,132), putouts (4,850), assists (7,500), total chances (13,325) and double plays (881) as a shortstop; he still holds the record for total chances, and is second in putouts and fourth in assists. His 42-game hitting streak in 1894 was a record until 1897, and remains the fourth longest in history and the longest by a right-handed NL hitter.

Babe Herman American baseball player and coach

Floyd Caves "Babe" Herman was an American right fielder in Major League Baseball who was best known for his several seasons with the Brooklyn Robins.

Willie Davis (baseball) American baseball player

William Henry Davis was a center fielder in Major League Baseball who played most of his career for the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the end of his career he ranked seventh in major league history in putouts (5449) and total chances (5719) in the outfield, and third in games in center field (2237). He was ninth in National League history in total outfield games (2274), and won Gold Glove Awards from 1971 to 1973. He had 13 seasons of 20 or more stolen bases, led the NL in triples twice, and retired with the fourth most triples (138) by any major leaguer since 1945. He holds Los Angeles club records (1958–present) for career hits (2091), runs (1004), triples (110), at bats (7495), total bases (3094) and extra base hits (585). His 31-game hitting streak in 1969 remains the longest by a Dodger. When he tied Zack Wheat's previous record at 29 games, the message board at Dodger Stadium flashed a message sent via telegram by Wheat from his home in Missouri, saying, "Congratulations. Keep going. You have done a good job. Good luck."

Harry Lumley (baseball) American baseball player

Harry Garfield Lumley was a right fielder and manager in Major League Baseball. He spent his entire career with the Brooklyn Superbas in the National League.

Sherry Magee American baseball player

Sherwood Robert "Sherry" Magee was an American left fielder in Major League Baseball. From 1904 through 1919, Magee played with the Philadelphia Phillies (1904–14), Boston Braves (1915–1917) and Cincinnati Reds (1917–1919). He batted and threw right-handed and in a 16-season career posted a .291 batting average with 83 home runs and 1,176 runs batted in through 2,087 games played.

Jack Fournier Major League Baseball first baseman

John Frank "Jack" Fournier was an American professional baseball first baseman and outfielder. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Robins, and Boston Braves from 1912 to 1927. Fournier was known for having outstanding batting abilities but subpar fielding abilities.

Joe Vosmik American baseball player

Joseph Franklin Vosmik was an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians (1930–36), St. Louis Browns (1937), Boston Red Sox (1938–39), Brooklyn Dodgers (1940–41) and Washington Senators (1944). He helped the Dodgers win the 1941 National League Pennant.

Bill Joyce (baseball) Major League Baseball player, manager

William Michael Joyce was an American professional baseball player and manager. He was a third baseman over parts of eight seasons with the Brooklyn Ward's Wonders, Boston Reds, Brooklyn Grooms, Washington Senators, and New York Giants. He also served as manager during his tenure with the Giants.

Hi Myers American baseball player

Henry Harrison "Hy" Myers was a professional baseball player. He was an outfielder over all or part of 14 seasons (1909–1925) with the Brooklyn Superbas/Robins, St. Louis Cardinals, and Cincinnati Reds.

Ray Schmandt American baseball player

Raymond Henry Schmandt born in St. Louis, Missouri, was a first baseman for the St. Louis Browns (1915) and Brooklyn Robins (1918–22).

Albert Richard Nixon was an American professional baseball outfielder. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Brooklyn Robins, Boston Braves, and Philadelphia Phillies between 1915 and 1928.

Joe Riggert American baseball player

Joseph Aloysius Riggert was an outfielder in Major League Baseball. He played for the Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Robins, St. Louis Cardinals, and Boston Braves. Riggert also had a long minor league baseball career and accumulated a total of 2,717 hits in the minors. He stood at 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) and weighed 170 lbs.

Ivy Olson American baseball player

Ivan Massie "Ivy" Olson was an American professional baseball shortstop. He played fourteen seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1911 to 1924 for the Cleveland Naps, Cincinnati Reds, and Brooklyn Robins.

George Cutshaw American baseball player

George William Cutshaw, nicknamed "Clancy", was an American professional baseball second baseman. He played twelve seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1912 to 1923 for the Brooklyn Dodgers/Robins, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Detroit Tigers.

Jimmy Williams (second baseman) American baseball player

James Thomas Williams was a second baseman in Major League Baseball from 1899 to 1909. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, New York Highlanders, and St. Louis Browns. The power-hitting Williams set several records during his rookie season and led a major league in triples three times. He stood at 5' 9" and weighed 175 lbs.

The 1920 Brooklyn Robins, also known as the Dodgers, won 16 of their final 18 games to pull away from a tight pennant race and earn a trip to their second World Series against the Cleveland Indians. They lost the series in seven games.

Cotton Tierney Major League Baseball player

James Arthur "Cotton" Tierney was an American professional baseball second baseman and third baseman. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Braves, and Brooklyn Robins between 1920 and 1925. Tierney was born in Kansas City, Kansas.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Zack Wheat's Stats". Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  2. "Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers All Time Hits Leaders". Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  3. 1 2 3 "Zack Wheat's Stats". Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Zack Wheat's Obit". The New York Times, Sunday, March 12, 1972. Archived from the original on 2008-04-03. Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Zack Wheat at the SABR Bio Project , by Eric Enders, retrieved 2008-04-19
  6. "The 1916 World Series Stats". Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  7. "The 1920 World Series Stats". Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  8. "1923 National League Stats". Archived from the original on 2007-04-29. Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  9. "1924 National League Stats". Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  10. "Zack Wheat's Hall of Fame profile". Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  11. Grayson, Harry (July 5, 1943). "Black Lightning Zack Wheat Most Popular Player Brooklyn Ever Had". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 7. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  12. "Missouri Revised Statutes; Chapter 227, State Highway System, Section 227.309, August 28, 2007". Retrieved 2008-03-26.
  13. Mallozzi, Vincent M. (2008-06-08). "The American Indians of America's Pastime". The New York Times.