Even the most devout baseball fan is hard-pressed to recall the exploits of more than a few old-time Hall of Famers. Some players, no matter how renowned and accomplished and admired in their era, are often forgotten with the passage of time. An example is Earle Combs, a long-time teammate of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on numerous powerhouse New York Yankees teams. Almost 85 years after perhaps his greatest season, Combs is an afterthought to most afficionados, while Ruth and Gehrig are still household names to even the common fan.
Why? Why is Ruth an icon, Gehrig a legend, and Combs an unknown? Part of the answer lies in the ability to hit with power. Power, in this sense, means to compile extra-base hits, i.e. doubles, triples, and home runs. Combs was an excellent hitter and possessed outstanding speed ; he remains one of the all-time leaders in triples. His career high in home runs, however, was 9.
In comparison, in 1927 as an example, Combs and Ruth each had a .356 batting average, and Gehrig hit at a .373 clip. Each was among the league leaders. Combs hit an astounding 23 triples and a rather modest 6 home runs. Gehrig hit 52 doubles and 47 home runs; Ruth hit his historic 60 home runs. During his glorious 12-year career, Combs hit a total of 58 homers!
If you want to be a legend, hit with power. If the goal of baseball is to get on base and score runs, why not accomplish that feat sooner, rather than later. Combs was a great player and was soon forgotten; Gehrig and Ruth were great power hitters and will always be remembered.