by Martín Abresch
One of the most consistent and productive hitters of the Deadball Era, Tug Appel hit .300 or better in each of his first nine seasons and lined 3,027 hits over an 18-year career.
Hailing from far western Canada, the son of Dutch settlers, Appel quite literally had one of the longest journeys to the majors of any player. The youngster got his shot in the majors with the Detroit Wolverines in 1896, debuting alongside another promising outfielder, Dutch Eagle. Appel and Eagle formed a legendary partnership, and they roamed Wolverine Field’s outfield together for a dozen seasons.
Appel hit .314 as a rookie and would hit .300 in each of his first nine seasons. He hit a career high .349 in 1898 and led Detroit to a 94-64 finish. The Wolverines took a 2-1 lead over Brooklyn in the World’s Championship Series only to drop the last three. Regular season success and playoff woe became a Detroit theme. They won the western division in 1899, 1902, and 1905, but they lost in the playoffs each time. Appel had a particularly outstanding 1899 World’s Championship, going 10-for-30 with nine runs scored.
While Appel’s power totals look slight by modern standards, his 89 career home runs were respectable for the day. In 1906, he even led the league with eight home runs. (This is the second lowest league-leading total of this century. In 1918, Fennimore McAffree led the league with five home runs.) Appel scored 100 runs five times and drove in 100 runs five times. In 1900, he hit in 21 straight games. He was a fast but overenthusiastic runner. Over his career, he stole 560 bases but was caught stealing 499 times. His speed served him better in left field, where he posted a career +129.5 Zone Rating.
Appel was as big a pain in the dugout as he was a force on the field. In 1907, having grown weary of his laziness, management traded him to Chicago for a handful of beans by the names of Mudcat O’Grady and Ernst Wallis. In 1909, Appel hit .292 while playing for the most dominant team in baseball history. The Traders went 123-35 and won the World’s Series, but a late season injury meant that Appel was a playoff spectator. In 1910, Chicago once again played in the World’s Series, and this time Appel was able to play. He hit .379, and Chicago won the series with a famous extra-inning victory in game seven.
In 1911, at the age of 37, Appel had one last, brilliant season, batting .337 and hitting a career-high 11 home runs while driving in 104. He retired two years later.
Appel led the league in hits (1904), home runs (1906), RBIs (1902, 1906), total bases (1901), on-base percentage (1898, 1901), slugging percentage (1901), OPS (1898, 1901-02), and WAR (1898, 1901). He won Rookie of the Month once, Player of the Week nine times, and Batter of the Month eight times. He was a member of two Championship teams (Chicago 1909-10). He hit .311 for his career with 3,027 hits and 1,494 runs scored.
In 1949, voters elected Tug Appel to the Hall of Fame, the first Canadian so honored.