January 03, 2013
For 13 long years, Buzz Arlett toiled in the minors, putting up incredibly gaudy numbers as both a pitcher and a hitter. Major league teams came calling, but his team, the Oakland Oaks, wanted far more money for his services (minor league teams used to sell their players to the Majors) than any team was ready to spend. And so, year after year, he destroyed Pacific Coast League pitching, setting a record for most home runs in the minor leagues that still stands today and regularly hitting in the high .300s. Finally, in 1931, the pitiful Philadelphia Phillies decided to pay the money and give him a shot.
He started the 1931 season on fire, and after six weeks, he was leading the majors with a .385 average and had already hit 11 homers. Fans at the Baker Bowl had something to cheer about for the first time since 1915. But he hurt his leg while sliding, then broke his thumb in June. His defense, always a liability, had certainly not improved with age and injuries, and he made regular blunders in the field. He would finish the season with a .313 average, 18 homers, and 72 RBIs. Despite those numbers, the Phillies decided to waive him, and he was claimed by minor league giants the Baltimore Orioles, where he played for several more years. He would play in the minors until 1937, never again getting a cup of coffee in the pros. In 1984, SABR named him the greatest minor league ballplayer of all time.