|Name:||Elmer Harrison Flick||Position:||Right Field|
|Accolades:||Hall of Fame (1963)|
|Best Season (1906)||157||624||98||194||34||22||1||62||54||39||.372||.441||.311||.813|
When Cleveland expanded to the American League in 1901, they didn’t have a great showing, finishing 7th of 8 AL teams with a 54-82-2 record, but they quickly worked to remedy the problem. Among improvements for the 1902 Cleveland Blues was free agent Elmer Flick, jumping from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Athletics prior to 1902, then to Cleveland after being granted free agency due to a court injunction in April of 1902. The suit brought on by the Phillies would help the Indians gain Napoleon Lajoie as well as it was determined that players under contract with the Phillies couldn’t play for another team in Philadelphia.
Flick was already an established bat, having hit at least .300 while playing at least 125 games each year from 1898 through 1901. He had a particularly special season in 1900 with the Phillies, batting .363 while leading the NL in RBI with 110. Despite having four full seasons at the Major League level, Flick was only 26 when he came to Cleveland and he would play there for the rest of his career, which lasted 13 seasons.
While holdover from year one, Bill Bradley, continued to be a solid presence in the line-up, the primary reason the Blues/Brochoes scored 20 more runs in their second season was a trio of newcomers: Charlie Hickman, Lajoie and Flick. Flick was the lesser of these four as far as power is concerned, but he lead the whole team in walks and steals and he would continue to lead the team in walks in 1903 while increasing his extra base production. The improved offense as well as the addition of two new star pitchers, Addie Joss and Bill Bernhard, would completely turn around the ballclub as they won 69 games and finished 15 games better in the standings.
Flick would continue to improve each year in Cleveland, batting .306 in 1904 with a league high 38 steals. He also hit 30 doubles that year and 17 triples, numbers he hadn’t seen since his days with the Phillies. These numbers would only get more impressive as he played in 18 less games the next year, but lead the league in hitting (.308), slugging, OPS and triples (18) while still hitting 29 doubles.
With the exception of the 1905 season, the team continued to improve as well. The future Hall of Famers, Flick, Lajoie and Joss lead the way, but Earl Moore, Red Donahue and Bernhard were still extremely important as were Bradley and Harry Bay. They won 55% of their games in 1903, 57% in 1904 and 58% in 1906, finishing in third.
Now 30 years old and nine years into his career, Flick would have the proverbial career year. He set career highs in playing time, doubles, triples and steals and had his best numbers in Cleveland in nearly every other stat. In addition, he lead the league in games, runs, triples and steals and his 22 triples remain in the top five in Indians history for a single season. His 39 steals would break his own team record of 38 set in 1904 and he would break that number again the following season with 41 more. This record would last a bit longer as it held until 1917 when Braggo Roth and Ray Chapman both surpassed 50.
As often happens in baseball, the surprising late career bloom can mark the nearing of the end. In 1907, Flick would have another great year, batting .302 and leading the league in triples for the third straight time, but this would be his final season with more than 120 games played, ending his streak at 11 straight years. He became a more patient hitter as he aged, setting his best marks in walks and strike outs in the 20th century and made the latter count with his career best 41 steals.
Chronic stomach problems would cause Flick nearly all of 1908, when he played just 8 games and in 1909 it was recommended that he have his appendix removed, but he didn’t and played in just 66 games that year. After 24 more games in 1910, he was sold to the minor league Kansas City Blues, but was unwilling to play for the team.
Flick was born in Bedford, Ohio and had come up with teams in Youngstown and Dayton and after leaving Cleveland, he would play for the Toledo Mudhens from 1911 through 1912. Being physically unable to play, Flick retired after the 1912 season.
While he didn’t make it initially with his class, the Veteran’s Committee voted Flick into the Hall of Fame in 1963 at the age of 83, the oldest player ever inducted. He was inducted into the Indians team Hall of Fame the same year.
Flick has one more claim to fame. In 1907, Flick was having issues with the Naps management and the Tigers were already tired of the 21 year old Ty Cobb. In one of the worst decisions in Cleveland baseball history, the Indians kept Flick, who would play just one more solid season while Cobb would go on to play through 1928, amassing over 4,000 hits in his own Hall of Fame career.