“One of the grandest guys ever to wear a baseball uniform, one of the greatest batting teachers I have ever seen, one of the truest pals a man ever had and one of the kindliest men God ever created,” Casey Stengel said of Wheat.
Growing up in Missouri, Wheat made his major league debut in 1909. He played 19 season in the major leagues, 18 of which came with Brooklyn, though he finished his career in 1927 with the Philadelphia Athletics, a team that featured five other eventual Hall of Famers.
At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Wheat batted left-handed and threw right-handed. The outfielder hit over .300 14 times in his career, led the National League in batting in 1918, and finished with a .317 career batting average. He was also known for being a graceful outfielder with a strong arm.
Wheat’s Brooklyn teams were mostly bad, but he did play in two World Series in 1916 and 1920, though his team lost both of them.
Wheat, who was nicknamed “Buck,” spent the first part of his career in the dead-ball era and his best season during that timeframe was in 1914, when he hit .319 (batting average)/.377 (on-base percentage)/.452 (slugging percentage) with 26 doubles, 9 triples and 9 home runs. He finished ninth in the MVP voting that year.
Zack got to play with his younger brother, Mack, from 1915 to 1919.
Wheat was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1959 and passed away in 1972.
“The idea of being in the Hall of Fame still hasn’t sunk in,” Wheat said after learning of his induction. “I wonder if I would have been any good with the live ball today.”