Perry Wherritt Werden
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 220 lb.
- Debut April 24, 1884
- Final Game October 3, 1897
- Born July 21, 1861 in St. Louis, MO USA
- Died January 9, 1934 in Minneapolis, MN USA
Perry Werden is considered the greatest minor league player of the 19th Century and was also a good major league player. "Moose" hit .341 in the minor leagues with at least 350 stolen bases, 1,214 runs and 392 doubles in 1,539 games. Overall, he hit 174 triples and stole over 500 bases in the minors. He won six minor league home crowns, two batting titles, led in triples twice in the majors and once in the minors, led in doubles twice in the minors and once paced his league in steals. Werden is tied for 5th all-time in most minor league home run titles, trailing Ken Guettler (8), Bunny Brief (7), Muscle Shoals (7), Norman Small (7) and Ray Perry (7) and even with Bernardo Brito (6), Merv Connors (6), Ted Norbert (6) and Steve Balboni (6).
Werden began his career as a 22-year-old pitcher for the St. Louis Maroons and went 12-1 but an injury forced him to move to first base for most of his baseball time. In 1885, he hit .254/?/.356 for the Memphis Browns.
By 1886 he was in the Western League, where he spent much of his career. That season he hit .317 for the Lincoln Tree Planters, tied for fourth in the league, while leading the league with 27 2B and 9 HR. He scored 67 runs in 68 games. He was with the Topeka Golden Giants the next year, helping them to the WL title; he hit .396 with 32 doubles and 12 homers. He tied for fifth in the league in doubles and was sixth in homers; as walks counted as hits, his average was not in the league's top 5. He played briefly for Des Moines around this time. In 1888, Werden spent 46 games with the Troy Trojans of the International Association as a 2B-OF, hitting just .185/?/.230. Werden spent another 56 games in the Southern League with the New Orleans Pelicans, long enough to lead the league with 65 stolen bases and 5 HR. He also breifly appeared with the 1888 Nationals in the majors.
Returning to the IA with the Toledo Black Pirates in 1889, Perry put on a show, leading the league in average (.394) and hits (167), stealing 58 bases and scoring 107 runs. He slugged .535. That earned Perry a return trip to the majors, where he had an OPS+ of 150 and led the 1890 AA with 20 triples; he was also in the top 5 in total bases, walks and homers and in the top 10 in OBP and slugging. When the number of major leagues shrank from 3 to 2 the next year, Werden had a 123 OPS+ and was third in the league in triples. He was in the top 10 in RBI, total bases and steals as he continued to show superb speed and power. At age 29-30, with only one league with all the top talent, Werden maintained a regular job and posted a fine 111 OPS+ and was sixth in the National League in home runs (8) for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, his 5th major league team in six seasons. Returning to St. Louis, he had a similar season and led the 1893 NL with 29 triples.
When St. Louis failed to meet Werden's salary demands, he was sold to the Minneapolis Millers of the reformulated Western League. Given a small park to shine in, he hit .416/~.463/.761, outslugging anyone else by 59 points. He hit 43 homers, a record for Organized Baseball at that point in time and stole 33 bases. He was 5th in average in the high-offense Western League. Perry's record was short-lived - the next season, he smashed 45 home runs, stole 32 bases, and won the batting title as well with a .428 mark (he slugged .762). He also led in hits (241 in 123 games) and scored 179 runs in 123 games. He had a 40-game hitting streak from July 6th to August 20th, during which he hit .477 with 18n home runs. His Organized Baseball home run record would stand for 25 years until another ex-pitcher, Babe Ruth, broke it. He hit 37 homers at home, including one 4-homer game.
With a change in home park when the Millers evicted from the bandbox Athletic Park and moved to the more spacious Nicollet Park, Werden's home run total fell to 18 in 1896 but he again led the WL (tied with teammate William Schriver), while upping his stolen base total to 54. He was third in average (.377) and led in triples (18). He smacked 42 doubles and slugged .607. Werden returned to the major leagues at age 31-32 with the Louisville Colonels. He had a 112 OPS+ and finished 10th in the league in triples in 1897 but broke his leg in the off-season after that and never made it back to the big leagues. In the majors, Werden had a solid 119 OPS+.
After a year off due to the injury, Werden returned to Minneapolis as a player-manager in 1899 and hit .346/?/.452 with 99 RBI. The next year, the Western League was renamed the American League. He led the new league in slugging and tied Socks Seybold for the homer lead with 9. Overall his line was .315/~.360/.468 for the Millers and also became the first doubles leader in AL history with 39, although that was before it became a major league.
He returned to the Western League in 1901 with the Des Moines Hawkeyes and St. Paul Saints, batting .322/?/.444 with 91 RBI. Werden hit .293/?/.375 and swiped 20 bases for Minneapolis in 1902 and .297/?/.414 for the Memphis Egyptians in 1903.
He managed the Fargo team in the 1904 Northern League (and batted .306/?/.434). In 1905, he hit .328/?/.374 for the Hattiesburg Tar Heels at age 39/40. He was player-manager of the 1906 Vicksburg Hill Billies and batted .220/?/.288. He went 0 for 1 as a pinch-hitter with the 1908 Indianapolis Indians.
Sources include The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics by Marshall Wright, The Minor League Register ed. by W. Lloyd Johnson, Total Baseball, The Western League by W.C. Madden and Patrick Stewart and 1894 and 1900 statistics from researcher Ray Nemec.
- 2-time League Triples Leader (1890/AA & 1893/NL)
- AA Winning Percentage Leader (1884)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1891)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1890 & 1891)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1890)
- Joel Rippel: "Perry Werden's Record-Setting 1895 Season and the 1890s Minneapolis Millers", in Daniel R. Levitt, ed.: Short but Wondrous Summers: Baseball in the North Star State, The National Pastime, Volume 42 (2012), pp. 25-28.
- Baseball History Daily story on Perry Werden