William Chester “Baby Doll” Jacobson has gone down in baseball history as one of the premier outfielders of his day, and probably one of the coolest nicknames in baseball history. Jacobson was born on August 16, 1890 in Cable Illinois to Swedish immigrants and began his professional career at the age of 18 in 1909 for the Rock Islanders of Illinois, a minor league club.
Jacobson played for the Rock Islanders for three seasons before being picked up by the Giants organization in 1912 and then was quickly turned over to the Mobile Seagulls of the Southern Association–a southern minor league affiliate league. Jacobson stepped up to the plate for his first at bat with the gulls with the band playing “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” before promptly cranking a home run. Jacobson quickly earned the name “Baby Doll” and it stuck throughout his career.
Jacobson went on to be quite the prolific hitter at the plate, batting over .300 for seven seasons in a row while coming in second to Babe Ruth in RBIs back in 1922. Not only that but the dude could patrol the outfield better than anyone setting several records during his time in the bigs.
He broke into the MLB with the Tigers in 1915, but considering their stacked outfield centered around Ty Cobb there was little room for him so he was quickly traded. He continued to struggle to find a regular spot in the lineup when he moved to the St. Louis Browns, failing to hit over .300 for his first two seasons with the new team. In 1918 the young outfielder missed the entire season due to military service in World War I, and returned to the bigs in 1919 at the age of 28 and that was when his career really took off.
As bad as Jacobson was before the war, he erased it all when he returned to baseball. Jacobson was named the starting center fielder for the Browns and for the following eight seasons he was one of the best outfielders in the game. He led the league in putouts in 1921, 1923, and 1924–in fact in 1924 he set a MLB record 488 that was an American League record until 1948. Jacobson also hit for average and power hitting as high as .355 in 1920. Check it out for yourself here:
It’s pretty easy to forget Jacobson considering that he played in the Babe Ruth era where everyone obsessed over the Sultan of the Swat, but you can’t knock Jacobson. The guy was bigger than Ruth at 6’3″ and 215 and likely would have been a better hitter except for his weird swing. He stood with a very open stance practically facing the pitcher and would take a half swing at the ball–that said it’s incredible that the guy could as high as 19 homers in a season!
Jacobson went on to finish out his prime with the Browns before being sent to Boston in a three-team trade in 1926. While he did fairly well in his first season (hitting .305 while driving in 69 runs) in 1927 his production fell to its lowest point since the beginning of his career and the Sox dropped him. After he was dumped from the show the big outfielder played minor league ball for a few seasons before officially calling it quits in 1930.
After baseball Jacobson retired as a farmer living a quiet life not too far from his hometown in Illinois. Jacobson died at the age of 86 in 1977. Though the big outfielder never got much of a passing glance during his time on the field, many agree that he was one of the better outfielders in MLB history and could have made a serious run at the hall of fame.