COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The math says that Bobby Doerr is the oldest living Hall of Fame player. But the context of Doerr’s remarkable life is even more astounding.Consider this: Ninety-two years ago this week, Doerr was born into a nation that was embroiled in the first World War.
Ninety-two years later – April 7, 2010 – Doerr celebrates his birthday as one of baseball’s most beloved figures.Breaking into the big leagues in 1937 – 13 days after his 19th birthday – Robert Pershing Doerr quickly established himself as one of the game’s best second basemen. In his first full season with the Boston Red Sox in 1938, Doerr drove in 80 runs – an unusually high total for middle infielders of the day and a plateau he eclipse in nine of his next 12 seasons.Defensively, Doerr was regarded as one of baseball’s best in the days before Gold Glove awards. He once handled 414 chances without an error and finished his 14-year career with a fielding percentage of .980.He never played a defensive position other than second base.“I never saw him misplay a ball,” said Johnny Pesky, the Red Sox’s shortstop who teamed with Doerr as Boston’s double-play combination for seven seasons. “And he had the best backhand of any second baseman I ever saw.”Doerr took 1945 off to serve in the Army, but returned the next year – driving in 116 runs and finishing third in the American League Most Valuable Player voting while helping the Red Sox win the AL pennant. In Boston’s seven-game World Series loss to the Cardinals, Doerr hit .409.Over the next four years, Doerr averaged almost 109 RBI a year.Doerr retired after the 1951 season with 2,042 hits, 1,247 RBI and a .288 batting average in 14 years – all with the Red Sox. He was named to nine All-Star teams.“Bobby Doerr is one of the very few who played the game hard and retired with no enemies,” said Tommy Henrich, whose New York Yankees battled with the Red Sox for American League supremacy throughout the 1940s.Doerr was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 by the Veterans Committee.Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum