William Earl Webb
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 185 lb.
- Debut August 13, 1925
- Final Game October 1, 1933
- Born September 17, 1897 in White County, TN USA
- Died May 23, 1965 in Jamestown, TN USA
While holding a .306 lifetime batting average, Earl Webb also holds the record for the most doubles in one season in the majors, getting 67 doubles in 1931. Originally a pitcher, a position he tried out for in 1923, he didn't make it to the big leagues until he was 27 years old, in 1925. He broke in with the New York Giants that year for 3 at-bats, in the year immediately after they had won four pennants in a row.
Webb had previously played for the Newcomb Furniture Factory team, and also in the minor leagues. He hit .284 in limited time for the 1922 Memphis Chickashaws. In 1923, he hit .323 for the Pittsfield Hillies and batted .343 with 14 homers for Pittsfield the next year. He also led the Eastern League in doubles. In 1924, Earl also hit .333 in limited action with the Toledo Mud Hens. Full-time in Toledo in 1925, Webb hit .329 with 11 homers and 66 RBI.
Webb wasn't to find a spot on the Giants, a team that often had six future Hall of Famers in the lineup. Two years later, though, he came up with the Chicago Cubs, and he did stick. In between, he spent 1926 with the Louisville Colonels and batted .333 with 18 HR and 111 RBI.
Webb hit .301/.391/.506 with 14 home runs for the 1927 Cubs, when he was 29 years old. Hack Wilson and Art Nehf had come over from the Giants, too, and thus were teammates of Webb, as were Riggs Stephenson and Gabby Hartnett. Webb's 14 home runs were 2nd on the team behind Wilson, and 8th in the league.
Kiki Cuyler became the third outfielder for the Cubs in 1928 (along with Wilson and Stephenson), so Webb appeared in only 62 games hitting .250/.318/.407. With the 1929 Los Angeles Angels, Webb hit .357 and slugged .629. He hit 56 doubles, trailing Smead Jolley and Gus Suhr in the PCL, cranked out 37 homers and drove in 164, not even making the top 5 in a high-offense season (Ike Boone drove in 218 to pace the PCL).
The next year - 1930 - found him with the Boston Red Sox. He hit .323/.385/.523 with 16 home runs, leading the team by far in both categories. He also hit 30 doubles, much higher than his previous best of 18, although his 30 doubles were only good for 3rd on the Boston team. Fenway Park existed then, but there was no "Green Monster" yet off which to hit doubles.
He changed that in 1931. It was the year of the 67 doubles, more than twice the 30 he had hit the previous year, and more than three times the 18 he had hit in 1927. He was in the top ten in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Interestingly enough, he was only 2nd in the league for the most extra-base hits, with 84, as Lou Gehrig had 92. Gehrig had only 31 doubles, but he added 15 triples and 46 home runs, while Webb had 67 doubles, 3 triples, and 14 home runs.
That performance, impressive as it was, wasn't enough to keep Webb's job with the Red Sox safe for another full season. He was traded in June 1932 to the Detroit Tigers. Part of the deal was that the Red Sox got Dale Alexander, another good doubles hitter with a short career.
Between the Red Sox and the Tigers in 1932, Earl hit .285/.362/.417 with 28 doubles, less than half the total he'd hit the previous year. On the Tiger team alone, five players had more doubles that season than Webb, with Charlie Gehringer leading the team with 44.
It appears Webb was also briefly with the Columbus Red Birds that year, going just 2 for 25.
The next year was Webb's last in the majors. The Tigers let the Chicago White Sox select him off waivers in May, and at age 35, although he hit a decent .288/.387/.356 between the two teams, it was the end as a 101 OPS+ was not good enough for a corner outfielder.
In 1936, Webb returned to the minor leagues with the Knoxville Smokies, hitting .348 with 20 HR and 102 RBI. He tied Doug Taitt for the Southern Association lead in homers, was among the average leaders and tied for fifth in RBI. In '37, he slipped to .278/7/56 with Knoxville and retired.
One of the ten most similar players to Webb, using the similarity scores method, is Kal Daniels. Daniels had a seven-year career like Webb, and like Webb he showed flashes of brillance that made it hard to believe he only lasted seven seasons.
- AL Doubles Leader (1931)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1931)
- Doubles, season, 67, 1931
- Doubles, left handed batter, season, 67, 1931