James P. Ryan (Pony)
- Bats Right, Throws Left
- Height 5' 9", Weight 162 lb.
- School Boston College, College of the Holy Cross
- Debut October 8, 1885
- Final Game September 24, 1903
- Born February 11, 1863 in Clinton, MA USA
- Died October 29, 1923 in Chicago, IL USA
"I see from the figures that Sir James has very few assists to his credit this season. Small wonder - there are few men left in the big League who do not know the force of James' left wing. Year after year Ryan's lightning throws have pinned the runners on the bases, and the sprinter who would risk himself against one of those rapid fires nowadays is hard to find." - a correspondent to Sporting Life, July 30, 1898
Jimmy Ryan is one of the forgotten greats of the 19th Century. He has more lifetime major league runs scored than any other player who is not in the Hall of Fame (other than Pete Rose, who is a special case). In addition to Jimmy's 1,642 runs scored and 2,502 hits, he also had a pitching record of 6-1, and he is one of few players to hit for the cycle twice (in 1888 and 1891).
Ryan was born in Massachusetts, but spent almost all of his major league career in Chicago. After attending Holy Cross and playing in the Eastern League in 1885, his contract was purchased late in the season by the Chicago White Stockings. He became the club's regular rightfielder in 1886 and hit .306 as the club won their second straight National League pennant. Over each of the next three seasons, he stole at least 30 bases, and in 1888, he led the NL in hits (182), home runs (16), doubles (33), slugging percentage (.515) and total bases (283) while finishing second in batting average (.332).
Ryan jumped to the Chicago Pirates of the newly formed Players League in 1890. He hit .340 (fifth best in the circuit), but the league folded after just one season. He then returned to the White Stockings for another decade. He hit .361 in 1894 and maintained an average over .300 in each of the next five seasons.
In 1900, Ryan's average fell to .277, and he was released by Chicago. He spent 1901 with the St. Paul Saints of the Western League as player-manager before returning to the big leagues with the Washington Senators of the American League in 1902. After hitting .320 with the Senators in his first year there, his average dipped to .249 the next season, his final one in the majors.
Ryan was primarily a center fielder, although he played many games in right field and left field as well. He also played some games at shortstop despite throwing left handed.
Based on similarity scores, seven of the ten most similar players to Ryan are in the Hall of Fame, and one who is not, Kenny Lofton, may get in. The most similar player, George Van Haltren, is not in the Hall but there is a good argument that he should be. In 1889, Ryan, Van Haltren, and Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy comprised the outfield for the White Stockings.
During his big league career, Ryan had two brushes with disaster. In August 1893, he was with the team on a train that derailed. Of the players, he was the most seriously hurt, and there were fears he would never fully recover. He ultimately received a large settlement from the railroad company. An article in the August 24, 1893 New York Times described how he came very close to death.
On August 5, 1894, a fire broke out in the stands of Chicago's West Side Park, causing a fan stampede and hundreds of injuries. Ryan and Walt Wilmot were given credit for saving hundreds of lives by using bats to break down barbed wire fencing, which allowed fans to escape onto the field.
Following his baseball days, Ryan stayed in Chicago and eventually became a deputy sheriff. He died of heart failure in 1923.
- NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1888)
- NL Hits Leader (1888)
- 2-time NL Total Bases Leader (1888 & 1889)
- NL Doubles Leader (1888)
- NL Home Runs Leader (1888)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 8 (1887-1889, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1897 & 1898)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 2 (1887 & 1888)