Bill Nicholson: The Best Player I’d Never Heard Of

Jan 22, 2013 by Adam Darowski
Bill Nicholson: Photo Credit

Bill Nicholson is the best player I had never heard of.

I recently came across Willis Hudlin and his Hall Rating of 49. That led me to wonder who the best players were that I had never heard of. By “never heard of”, I mean I couldn’t tell you either the general era they played in or their position just by looking at their name. For example, I don’t know much about Murry Dickson, but I knew he was a pitcher. So, he counts as “someone I’ve heard of”.

So, Nicholson was the best player I had never heard of. That kind of surprises me, as he was pretty valuable. With 41.8 WAR and a Hall Rating of 74, he had a pretty great career.

Nicholson’s list of similar players starts with Hall of Famer Earle Combs and includes Dolph Camilli, Darryl Strawberry, David Justice, Ken Williams, and Kent Hrbek. That gives you an idea of the type of player he was.

So, why haven’t I heard of him? It’s probably because all of his accomplishments pointed out in the list above took place during World War II, when many stars were overseas. Nicholson was not—and he dominated.

I know I have seen Nicholson’s name before. But I think I subconsciously associated him with Dave Nicholson, the TTO (Three True Outcomes) legend. I think because I’m so familiar with Dave (relatively speaking, compared to his actual body of work), I assumed that he and Bill were the same person. I was wrong—and I’ve been missing out on a pretty good player.

Roy Thomas: Photo Credit

After finding Nicholson, I looked at each of the 501 players with a Hall Rating of 70 or better. I was familiar with 497 (99.2%) of them. Not bad. Beyond Nicholson, there was:

Bill Bradley: Photo Credit

Bradley actually had the best peak of the trio, boasting three (consecutive) 6+ WAR seasons. In those three years, he totaled 19.6 WAR, 89 batting runs, and 28 fielding runs as he hit .317/.352/.471. Nicholson’s peak was the next-best, but came during World War II (1942–1944). He was worth 18.3 WAR, 133 runs at the plate, and two on defense. He hit .297/.386/.517 with 83 homers and 328 RBI. All of his league leading totals came from that stretch. Thomas’ top three seasons weren’t consecutive, but featured a pair of 5+ WAR seasons (and a total of 15.6 WAR). Heath’s top three seasons (his only ones with 4+ WAR) were spread out (1938, 1941, and 1948).

If you’re curious, here’s the list of every player with a 70+ Hall Rating. How many do you know?

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