In 1888, Beckley played 38 games with the St. Louis Whites of the “A” level Western Association, hitting .319 with 17 stolen bases and 15 doubles. He made his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Allegheny’s in June, and eventually hit .343 in 71 games, 66 points higher than team second best Doggie Miller. He also led the team with a .979 fielding percentage, making only 16 errors out of 779 total chances. Pittsburgh finished the season in the middle of the pack, in sixth place with a 66-68 record.
1889 would see Beckley spend his first full major league season with the Pirates. He hit .301 with 91 runs scored, 24 doubles, 10 triples (NL tenth), and nine home runs (NL eighth) with 97 RBI (NL seventh), 11 stolen bases, and 29 walks. He also ranked high defensively, with 1236 putouts (NL fifth), 53 assists (NL fifth), 73 double plays turned (NL second), and a .982 fielding percentage (NL second). He led the club in every offensive category except for doubles (Doggie Miller had 25) and stolen bases, even though he was the youngest regular on the team. The Allegheny’s posted a 61-71 record, finishing fifth in the NL.
In 1890, Beckley made the jump (along with most of the other Pirates) to the upstart rival Player’s League Pittsburgh Burghers. He did pretty good for himself, hitting .324 in 121 contests with 109 runs scored, 38 doubles, a league record 22 triples, and nine home runs for 120 RBI. The Burghers finished sixth in the first and only Players League season, at 60-68. The Allegheny’s (in their last season known as anything other than the Pirates) posted a franchise all-time worst record of 23-113.
Beckley and most of the other Bucs rejoined the Pirates in 1891, hitting .292 (NL eighth) over 133 contests, with 94 runs, 162 total hits (NL eighth), 20 doubles, 19 triples (NL second), and four home runs for 73 RBI. He walked 44 times and stole 13 bases. He also had 1250 putouts (NL fifth), an NL leading 87 assists, 63 double plays turned (NL fifth), and a .982 fielding percentage (NL third). The team posted a 55-80 record, finishing last in the eight team National League.
1892 would see Beckley hit a career low .236 (until he hit .209 in 1907) in 151 games. He scored 102 runs with 21 doubles, 19 triples (NL fourth), and 10 home runs (NL third) for 96 RBI (NL third), and a career high 30 stolen bases. He led the NL with 1523 putouts and 132 assists with 88 double plays turned (NL fourth). He also made a career high 38 errors at first base, resulting in a .976 fielding percentage. Despite his unBeckley-like season, the Pirates improved to 80-73, finishing in sixth place in the then-12 team National League.
In 1893, Beckley rediscovered his hitting stroke, as his average climbed to .303 with 54 walks against only 26 strikeouts in 131 games (NL 10th). He scored 108 times with 32 doubles (NL third), 19 triples (NL fifth), five home runs and 106 RBI (NL 10th) and 15 stolen bases. For the third season since their historic low in 1890, Pittsburgh improved their record, this time to 81-48. The record was good enough to finish second in the NL, five games behind the Boston Beaneaters.
1894 would see Beckley hit a then-career best .345 over 132 games (NL eighth) at first base for Pittsburgh. He scored 123 times with 36 doubles (NL eighth), 19 triples (NL 10th), seven home runs and a career high 122 RBI (NL tenth) with 21 stolen bases. He also drew 43 walks and struck out 16 times. He also ranked third in the league with 22 sacrifice hits and second with 19 hit-by-pitches. He again led the league with 1230 putouts and with 85 assists, ranking second with 80 double plays turned and fourth with a .978 fielding percentage. The Bucs finished in seventh place at the close of the season, sitting right in the middle of the National League with a 65-65 record.
In 1895, Beckley hit .328 in 130 games with 104 runs scored, 31 doubles (NL 10th), 19 triples (for the fifth consecutive year and fifth best in the league), five home runs and 111 RBI (NL seventh) with 20 stolen bases. He ranked second in HBP for the third season in a row, with 21. He led the NL with 1349 putouts and third with 76 double plays turned. 71-61 wasn’t quite good enough for Pittsburgh to escape the second division, as they finished seventh in the NL. Beckley hit .253 for Pittsburgh through the first 59 games in 1896. The Pirates decided to trade him to the New York Giants on July 25th for first baseman Harry Davis (213 games with the Pirates, .278, 47 triples, 110 RBI) and $1,000.
After 63 games over two seasons with the Giants (.288, 10 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs, 49 RBI), Beckley joined the Cincinnati Reds for the next seven seasons (880 games, .325, 178 doubles, 77 triples, 26 home runs, 570 RBI). He finished up his career after four seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals ending in 1907 (395 games, .286, 61 doubles, 25 triples, 175 RBI).
After getting 1.3% of the Hall of Fame vote by the Veteran’s Committee in 1936 and 0.4% of the BBWAA vote in 1942, Beckley was finally admitted to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1971.
All-Time Statline: Nine seasons, 930 contests, 1140-for-3803, .300/.359/.442, 701 runs, 186 doubles, 113 triples, 43 home runs, 664 RBI, 138 stolen bases, 254 walks, 231 strikeouts, 25.1 wins above replacement.
Next man up: a guy who only played four and a half seasons with the Bucs, but still managed to place sixth on Pittburgh’s all-time home run leaderboard, with 165.