Joe Sewell Essentials

Positions:
Bats: L Throws: R
Weight: 155
Born: Year: 1898 in Titus, AL USA
Died: 3 6 1990 in Mobile, AL USA
Debut: 9/10/1920
Last Game: 9/24/1933
Hall of Fame: Inducted as a Player in 1977 by Veterans
Full Name: Joseph Wheeler Sewell

 

“There’s no excuse for a major league player striking out 100 times a season—unless he’s blind,” declared Joe Sewell, who fanned only 114 times in 8,333 plate appearances over his 14-year career. Sewell, a slick-fielding, left-handed hitting shortstop, easily ranks as the toughest strikeout in modern MLB history: he fanned once every 62.5 at-bats (0.14% of the time); his nearest competitor, Lloyd Waner, went down on strikes once every 44.9 at-bats. Sewell struck out twice in a game on only two occasions, and over his final nine seasons (1925-33), he averaged five Ks per year. (In 1925, he hit .336 while fanning only four times in 699 plate appearances.) Sewell, whose vision was said to rival that of Ted Williams, later explained: “I can’t ever remember when I couldn’t throw up a Coca-Cola cap or a rock and hit it with a broomstick handle or a hickory stick.”

The diminutive batsman (5-foot-6, 155 lbs.)—owner of 2,226 hits and a .312 AVG—wasn’t just some “Punch and Judy” hitter; he was a run-producing, extra-base machine, averaging 35+ doubles, 83 RBI, and 66 walks per full season over his career. Sewell faced 226 different pitchers between 1925 and 1933, only three of which fanned him more than twice: George Blaeholder, Ed Wells, and Wes Ferrell struck out Sewell three times apiece. Sewell dominated against Hall of Famers, compiling a career .325 AVG with only three Ks in 680 plate appearances versus Cooperstown-bound hurlers. He slashed .371/.425/.542 in 41 PAs against Walter Johnson; hit .358 in 75 PAs against Herb Pennock; and .338 over 155 PAs versus Ted Lyons. Lefty Grove called Sewell the toughest hitter he’d ever faced, as evidenced by his stats versus the “King of Contact”: one K, two HRs, and a .297 AVG over 129 PAs.

Sewell often cited Ty Cobb as the man he most tried to emulate at the plate. “He was just my idol,” declared Sewell, who early in his career used Ty Cobb model bats. “Cobb was the greatest baseball player I’ve seen in the major leagues.” Decades later, Sewell opined: “I’ve played with Babe Ruth and roomed with Lou Gehrig, seen Tris Speaker, George Sisler, . . . DiMaggio, Willie Mays, but Cobb could do more things to beat ya.” However, even the great “Georgia Peach” couldn’t compete with Sewell when it came to making contact: Cobb reached double-digits in Ks 23 times (all but one season); over one of his best three-year spans (1910-12), during which time he posted a composite .403 AVG, Tyrus fanned 118 times, four more than Sewell’s career total of 114.