Joseph Floyd Vaughan
born as Floyd Vaughan
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10½", Weight 175 lb.
- High School Fullerton Union High School
- Debut April 17, 1932
- Final Game September 22, 1948
- Born March 9, 1912 in Clifty, AR USA
- Died August 30, 1952 in Eagleville, CA USA
Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan was one of the greatest shortstops ever. He played 14 years in the majors with a batting average of .318, which puts him at # 59 on the all-time list for career batting average. Honus Wagner, generally considered the greatest shortstop of all time, is nine points higher, and Derek Jeter finished at .310 in 20 seasons. Wagner had played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and was a coach for the Pirates during most of Vaughan's time with the team, giving Vaughan help on hitting.
Before the majors
Vaughan was born in Arkansas and moved to California as an infant; a childhood friend gave him the nickname "Arky" due to his birthplace.  His given birthname was Floyd but he changed his first name to Joseph after he became Catholic.  An all-around athlete, he received several football scholarships (he had played peewee football with Richard Nixon).  The New York Yankees sent scout Bill Essick to sign Vaughan but he took his time there to scout other players; in the meantime, Pirates scout Art Griggs came to see Vaughan's teammate Willard Hershberger while Griggs was on vacation in L.A. Griggs was more impressed with Vaughan and signed him, leaving Essick to sign Hershberger when he arrived.  The Yankees offered $40,000 for Vaughan but the Bucs turned them down. 
He was farmed out to the Wichita Aviators, which were owned by Griggs.  He tied Lee Riley and Ed Hall for 4th in the Western League with 16 triples, was third with 21 homers (behind Stan Keyes and Bill Swansboro), ranked 5th in total bases (between John Stoneham and Riley), led in steals (43, one ahead of Tony Piet) and was 6th in average (between Jim Oglesby and Piet).  He was not named the WL All-Star shortstop somehow as Gus McIsaac was picked instead.  He had a streak of nine straight at-bats with hits (two of them homers) in a two-game period in September then hit .444 in the postseason.  The Detroit Tigers offered a large sum of money for him but Pittsburgh wisely turned them down. 
1932-1941: A decade of dominance
He was the youngest player in the National League when he broke in in 1932 and hit .318. His teammates included future Hall of Famers Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner and Pie Traynor. The original plan had been for Tommy Thevenow to start at short but he got off to a terrible start and Vaughan took his place.  He finished with 71 runs, 10 triples and 61 RBI, posting a .375 OBP and .413 slugging, though defense was a concern with 46 errors. He tied Hal Lee, Traynor and Paul Waner for 7th in the 1932 NL in three-baggers, tied Pinky Whitney for 10th with 129 singles, tied Dick Bartell for 5th in times plunked (6), tied Adam Comorosky for 8th in sacrifice hits (13), led in errors regardless of position (two more than Billy Urbanski) but was 9th in defensive wins above replacement (1.0, between Joseph Morrissey and Billy Herman) in addition to being 9th in offensive wins above replacement (3.9, between Bartell and Traynor). He was .1 shy of Wally Berger for 10th in the NL in wins above replacement by a position player. Even though he was a rookie, he got a vote for the 1932 NL MVP. Had a Rookie of the Year award existed, he surely would have won according to writer Joe Posnanski. 
To help improve Vaughan's defense, the Pirates brought in Wagner to coach him and the other young infielders. Wagner roomed with Vaughan and predicted he would become the best infielder in the league.  While Gus Suhr said that the pair of greats became close friends and Wagner spent lots of time hitting grounders, his coaching was not stellar.  Vaughan said "When I asked Mr. Wagner what to do, he just said 'You just run in fast, grab the ball and throw it to first base ahead of the runner. But he didn't tell me how."  He hit .314/.388/.478 for a 146 OPS+ for the 1933 Pirates, with 85 runs, 19 triples and 64 walks to 23 strikeouts. He drove in 97 and improved his fielding .011 to .945. He hit for the cycle for the first time.  Between Max Carey in 1925 and Bob Elliott in 1945, no other Pirate would hit for the cycle; Arky did it twice.  Despite being the 4th-youngest player in the 1933 NL, he was all over the leaderboards: 7th in average (between Pepper Martin and Berger), 3rd in OBP (after Chuck Klein and Spud Davis), 5th in slugging (between Joe Medwick and Davis), 4th in OPS (between Davis and Herman), tied Traynor for 7th in runs, 7th with 180 hits (between Medwick and Frankie Frisch), 5th with 274 total bases (between Paul Waner and Martin), first in triples (3 ahead of Paul Waner), 5th in RBI (between Medwick and Herman), 4th in walks (between Martin and Paul Waner), 3rd in OPS+ (trailing Klein and Berger), first in intentional walks (12, 5 more than the runners-up) and tied for second in caught stealing (11, even with Ernie Orsatti; so there was one flaw). While he again led the league in errors (one ahead of Herman and Bartell), he was only 7 assists shy of leading NL shortstops (Blondy Ryan led the pack). He was 9th in defensive wins above replacement (1.1, between Gabby Hartnett and Sparky Adams), 2nd in offensive wins above replacement (6.7, 1.6 behind Klein), 3rd in wins above replacement by a position player (after Klein and Berger) and 5th in wins above replacement (between Berger and Martin). He somehow only tied Randy Moore for 23rd in voting for the 1933 National League Most Valuable Player Award, behind Bucco teammates Traynor and Larry French.
After missing the first All-Star Game, he made the NL team for the second one, in 1934. He pinch-hit for Travis Jackson in the 5th and grounded out against Mel Harder both times up.  He slightly improved his numbers on both offense and defense, batting .333/.431/.511 (148 OPS+) with 41 doubles, 11 triples, 12 homers, 115 runs, 94 RBI and 94 walks while fielding .952 in 1934. He was among the NL leaders in average (tied Ripper Collins for 4th), OBP (1st, .002 ahead of Paul Waner), slugging (6th, between Medwick and Klein), OPS (4th, between Paul Waner and Len Koenecke), runs (4th, between Collins and Medwick), hits (10th, 186), total bases (285, 6th, between Paul Waner and Jo-Jo Moore), doubles (3rd, one behind co-leaders Kiki Cuyler and Ethan Allen), triples (tied for 5th with Jim Bottomley and Martin), RBI (tied Tony Cuccinello for 9th), walks (1st, 9 ahead of Mel Ott), steals (10, tied Jack Rothrock for 8th), OPS+ (5th, between Koenecke and Berger), extra-base hits (64, 5th), times on base (282, 2nd, 5 behind Paul Waner), assists (480, 3rd), errors (41, down to a third-place tie with Lou Chiozza), fielding % at SS (4th, between Bartell and Lonny Frey), offensive wins above replacement (7.6, 1st, .6 ahead of #2 Ott), wins above replacement by a position player (7.3, 1st, .1 ahead of Ott) and wins above replacement (3rd, behind Dizzy Dean and Curt Davis). While he was (by modern metrics) the best offensive player in the league, he again was only 23rd in MVP voting, tied with .383-slugging Al Lopez and 18-16 Van Lingle Mungo.
Vaughan had one of the best seasons ever by a shortstop the next year. In the 1935 All-Star Game, he hit second and played short for the NL. He was retired by Lefty Gomez in the first but doubled in the fourth and scored on a Bill Terry single for the only NL run. He drew a walk from Gomez in the 6th then grounded out against Harder his last time up. He finished the 1935 campaign at .385/.491/.607 with 34 doubles, 10 triples, 19 dingers, 108 runs, 99 RBI and 97 walks while only striking out 18 times. He fielded .950. He was the first shortstop to slug .600 in a season.  He had the best batting average of a NL shortstop in the 20th Century, .004 shy of Hughie Jennings' 19th-century record.  He nearly had the best average of any shortstop in the 20th Century; Luke Appling hit .388 a year later but with a much lower OPS+. He won the 1935 NL batting title by .032 ahead of Medwick, won the OBP title by .084 ahead of Ott, led in slugging by .031 ahead of Medwick, led in OPS by a whopping 136 ahead of Medwick and Ott, led in walks by 10 ahead of Augie Galan, led in times on base by two more than Galan, led again in offensive wins above replacement handily (10.0, 3.7 ahead of Ott) and led in wins above replacement (2.3 ahead of Dizzy Dean). He was at .400 on September 10 before slipping a bit.  He was also among the leaders in runs (tied Moore for 8th), doubles (tied Terry Moore for 10th), triples (tied for 10th), homers (tied for 8th with a third Moore, Johnny Moore), RBI (6th) and assists at SS (422, 3rd, behind Billy Jurges and Bartell while falling to 5th in errors at SS). Bill James wrote in 2000 that it was the best season in baseball history by a shortstop other than Wagner.  It was the highest average by a Pirates batting titlist, .004 ahead of Wagner's .381 in 1900 and .005 ahead of Paul Waner's 1927. The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, pg. 619 </ref> Not only was it the best average in Pirates history, it also was the best OBP, a distant .035 ahead of Barry Bonds' 1992 season and the best OPS, 9 points ahead of slugger Ralph Kiner's 1949. All this while being a shortstop! As of 2023, the only higher Wins Above Replacement by a Pirate were Wagner's 1908 and 1905 seasons. Despite it being a season for the ages, he only finished third in the voting for the 1935 NL MVP behind Hartnett and Dean!
While you can't put up historic seasons like that every year, Vaughan remained an excellent player. Making his third straight All-Star team in 1936, he somehow was not used as Leo Durocher played the game at short instead. He batted .335/.453/.474 for a 148 OPS+ and fielded .945 for the 1936 Pirates with 122 runs, 30 doubles, 11 triples and 118 walks to 21 whiffs. He had the most walks of any 20th Century NL shortstop.  He was 5th in average (between Frank Demaree and Herman), win his third straight OBP title (.005 ahead of Ott), was 6th in OPS (between Medwick and Babe Phelps), tied Suhr and Buddy Hassett for the most games played (156), led in runs (one more than Martin), was 8th in hits (190), tied for 7th in three-baggers, led in walks (two ahead of Dolph Camilli), was 6th in OPS+ (between Paul Waner and Phelps), led in times on bases (313, 18 more than #2 Paul Waner), led in putouts at short (322), was second to Bartell in assists at short and second to Frey in errors at short. For the third straight year, he led NL position players in Wins Above Replacement (8.0, .2 ahead of Ott) and was second to only Carl Hubbell among players in Wins Above Replacement. The lack of respect continued as he didn't even get one vote for the 1936 NL MVP even though 21 players got votes, including teammate Paul Waner.
Arky played third base and hit third for the NL in the 1937 All-Star Game. He singled off Gomez, was retired by Tommy Bridges twice and once by Harder and singled off Harder. Interestingly, he had never played third base in the major leagues to that point (and wouldn't for another five years). For the 1937 campaign, he hit .322/.394/.463 for a 133 OPS+. He legged out 17 triples. It was his worst performance since his rookie year (he also missed some time due to injuries) but he still was an elite player: 9th in OBP (between Pinky Whitney and Heinie Manush), 9th in OPS (between Demaree and Paul Waner), 1st in triples (3 ahead of Suhr), 7th in OPS+ (between Paul Waner and Herman), 5th in defensive wins above replacement (1.1, between Lopez and Rabbit Warstler), 6th in Offensive Wins Above Replacement (6.0, between Camilli and Paul Waner) and 8th in Wins Above Replacement. He again did not get a MVP vote.
He again sat out the entire All-Star Game in favor of Durocher, in 1938. He fielded .961, his best yet, and produced at a .322/.433/.444 clip with 88 runs, 35 doubles and 104 walks to 21 whiffs. As usual, he was all over the NL leaderboards, among the top ten in average (5th, between Medwick and Stan Hack), OBP (2nd, .009 behind Ott), slugging (10th), OPS (8th, between Camilli and Phil Weintraub), runs (9th, between Frank McCormick and Herman), hits (174, 7th, between Paul Waner and Herman), doubles (tied Suhr for 5th), walks (3rd, behind Camilli and Ott), steals (14, tied Don Gutteridge for 4th), OPS+ (141, 5th, between Ival Goodman and Medwick), intentional walks (12, tied Collins for 3rd), putouts at short (306, 1st by 18 over Bartell), assists at short (507, 1st, 60 more than Bartell), errors at short (only 5th), double plays at short (107, 1st by 17 over Durocher), range factor at SS (second to Bartell), fielding percentage at short (2nd, .005 behind Durocher), Defensive Wins Above Replacement (2.9, 1st by .2 ahead of Pep Young), Offensive Wins Above Replacement (7.0, 2nd to Ott by 1.3) and Wins Above Replacement (8.8, 2nd, .1 behind Ott). He was now a good all-around player, as his defense had made significant improvement over the years. He was third in voting for the 1938 NL MVP, behind Ernie Lombardi and Bill Lee.
In the 1939 All-Star Game, he scored the first run. Hitting 8th and playing short for the NL, he singled off Red Ruffing to open the third and came around on a Frey double. He hit into a double play facing Bob Feller his next time up then lined out against Feller. For the 1939 Pirates, he fielded slightly better at .962 but his offensive numbers fell off a bit to .306/.385/.424 (119 OPS+). He had 30 doubles, 11 triples, 94 runs and 70 walks to 20 strikeouts. He tied Hassett for 8th in the 1939 NL with 182 hits, was 8th with 252 total bases (between Hack and Harry Danning), tied Jurges for 5th in triples, was 9th in walks (between Billy Myers and Elbie Fletcher), stole the 6th-most bases (12, between Hassett and Ernie Koy), tied for third with six times plunked, led the entire league with 531 assists (19 ahead of Myers), tied Billy Werber for 3rd in errors (34), was 8th in defensive wins above replacement (1.2, between Burgess Whitehead and Durocher), 3rd in offensive wins above replacement (5.6, behind Johnny Mize and Ott) and was 7th in wins above replacement (5.7, between Claude Passeau and Myers). He hit for the cycle for the second time, becoming the second Pirate to have two cycles (Fred Clarke was the other).  In the next 83 years, only Wally Westlake would join them - not Roberto Clemente, Dave Parker or so many other great Buccos.  He did not get a MVP vote for the third time in four years.
Vaughan led off for the NL in the 1940 All-Star Game. He again singled off Ruffing, then scored the winning run on Max West's homer. He later struck out against Ruffing and flew out against Bobo Newsom then was replaced by Eddie Miller. He had an off-year on defense, fielding .942 with a career-high 52 errors, but batted .300/.393/.453 with 40 doubles, 15 triples, 113 runs, 88 walks to 25 whiffs and 95 RBI; his OPS+ was 134. He was among the 1940 NL leaders in OBP (7th, between Hack and Jim Gleeson), runs (1st, two ahead of Mize), hits (4th, 178, between Mize and Medwick), total bases (269, 5th, between Camilli and Hack), doubles (2nd, 4 behind McCormick, triples (1st, one ahead of Chet Ross), RBI (8th, between Camilli and Danning), walks (4th, between Camilli and Mize), steals (12, tied Bama Rowell for 8th), caught stealing (10, tied for 3rd), assists (546, 1st, 34 ahead of Frey), errors (1st, 3 more than Bobby Bragan), fielding % at SS (4th, between Bobby Mattick and Bragan), defensive wins above replacement (1.0, 8th), offensive wins above replacement (7.0, 2nd, .7 behind Mize) and wins above replacement (6.9, 4th, between Bucky Walters and Frey). He was 15th in voting for the 1940 NL MVP.
In the 1941 All-Star Game, he hit 6th and played short for the NL. He was retired by Feller then singled off Thornton Lee. In the 7th, with the NL down 2-1, he hit a two-run homer off Sid Hudson. He then took Eddie Smith deep in the 8th for a three-hit, four-RBI, two-homer All-Star contest. Both shots went into the right field upper deck. It was forgotten in retrospect as Ted Williams hit a game-ending, game-winning homer.  Falling under 100 games at short for the first time in his career, he still hit .316/.399/.455 (140 OPS+) for the 1941 Pirates. He was 6th in the 1941 NL in average (between Mize and Nick Etten), 8th in OBP (between Ott and Bartell), 9th in OPS (between Etten and Hack), 10th in OPS+ and 8th in Offensive Wins Above Replacement (4.7, between Mize and Dixie Walker). He tied Danning, Hubbell and Cookie Lavagetto for 35th in the 1941 NL MVP voting.
1942-1952: The rest of his career and life
Things went downhill from there. Pirates manager Frisch, a fiery fellow, got into conflict with his star shortstop and instigated a trade.  He was shipped to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Pete Coscarart, Luke Hamlin, Babe Phelps and Jimmy Wasdell. The Dodgers moved him to third as they had their own Hall-of-Fame shortstop, the younger Pee Wee Reese. He made his 9th straight NL All-Star team. In the 1942 All-Star Game, he batted second and played third. He grounded into a double play facing Spud Chandler then grounded out and took a walk from Al Benton. Elliott took over at the hot corner. He fielded .959 at his new position but his offensive performance was down, though still respectable - .277/.348/.341, 82 R. He was the 5th-hardest batter to fan in the 1942 NL (between McCormick and Mickey Witek) but didn't make any other leaderboard on offense, a rarity for someone usually loaded with such accomplishments. Only Hack and Merrill May had better fielding percentage among third basemen in the '42 NL.
With Reese being called up to the military, Vaughan became the starting shortstop for the 1943 Dodgers though he still saw some action at third. Falling from the All-Star roster for the first time since he was a rookie, he rebounded on offense at .305/.370/.413 (125 OPS+) with 39 doubles, 112 runs, 60 walks (to 13 whiffs) and 20 steals (though caught 11 times). He made the 1943 NL leaders for average (8th, between Lombardi and McCormick), runs (1st, 4 ahead of Stan Musial), hits (5th, between Bill Nicholson and Elliott), total bases (252, tied Ron Northey for 5th), doubles (4th), steals (1st, 7 ahead of Peanuts Lowrey), extra-base hits (50, 5th), caught stealing (tied Jim Russell for first), hardest to K (Musial was a good deal behind at 2nd), Offensive Wins Above Replacement (5.9, 3rd, behind Musial and Nicholson) and Wins Above Replacement (9th, between Mort Cooper and Frey). He tied Whit Wyatt for 14th in voting for the 1943 NL MVP. It would be his last big season, though.
Vaughan missed three years after leaving the Brooklyn Dodgers because of a conflict with manager Leo Durocher, or else his lifetime stats would have been even better. When he came back in 1947 he was still able to hit .325 as a back-up.
Arky Vaughan died in a boating accident at age 40 in California's "Lost Lake." His fishing boat capsized and Arky was unable, because of the freezing water, to swim all the way to shore. His early death and his relatively short career explains to some extent the lack of support he received in Hall of Fame voting; it was not until the early 1980s that the Veterans Committee came around to selecting him, in spite of his flawless credentials. He had become all but forgotten by then, although his star began to shine again when sabermetric writers such as Bill James began to extol him as one of the greatest shortstops ever.
He is the uncle of Glenn Vaughan.
- 9-time NL All-Star (1934-1942)
- NL Batting Average Leader (1935)
- 3-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1934-1936)
- NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1935)
- NL OPS Leader (1935)
- 3-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1936, 1940 & 1943)
- 3-time NL Triples Leader (1933, 1937 & 1940)
- 3-time NL Bases on Balls Leader (1934-1936)
- NL Stolen Bases Leader (1943)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 5 (1934-1936, 1940 & 1943)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1985
- Frank Garland: Arky: The Baseball Life of Joseph Floyd “Arky” Vaughan, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2020. ISBN 978-1-4766-6980-9
- The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia by David Finoli and Bill Ranier, pg. 267
- The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski, pg. 258
- The Western League by W.C. Madden and Patrick Stewart, pg. 173
- ibid., pg. 172
- ibid., pg. 170-171
- The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, pg. 267
- The Baseball 100, pg. 259
- The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, pg. 267
- The Baseball 100, pg. 260
- The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, pg. 267
- ibid., pg. 623
- 1934 All-Star Game
- The Baseball 100, pg. 260
- Great Baseball Feats, Facts & Firsts by David Nemec, pg. 158
- The Baseball 100, pg. 260
- The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, pg. 592
- Great Baseball Feats, Facts & Firsts, pg. 159
- The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, pg. 823
- Baseball's 50 Greatest Games by Lowell Reidenbaugh, pg. 152-155
- The Baseball 100, pg. 261