William Frank Isbell (August 21, 1875 – July 15, 1941) was a Major League first baseman, second baseman, and outfielder in the 1910s. He played for the Chicago Cubs in 1898 briefly, where he had 37 hits in 159 at bats (.233 batting average). With the Cubs, he pitched and played outfield more than anything else. Thirteen of his seventeen games pitched came with the Cubs. After not being seen in baseball for the next year, he showed up again in 1900 playing for the Chicago White Sox as a full-time first baseman. The American League was not recognized in the Majors until 1901. He played with them until 1909. He batted left-handed, but threw right-handed.
Born in Delevan, New York, Isbell was nicknamed Bald Eagle due to his receding hairline, something he was quite sensitive about. Isbell was a good enough hitter to earn a starting spot on some very good White Sox teams including the pennant-winning 1901 team, managed by Clark Griffith, the 2nd place 1905 team led by Fielder Jones, and finally the 1906 World Series champion White Sox that included shortstop George Davis and pitchers Doc White and Ed Walsh. That team was known as one of the worst hitting teams to ever win the World Series, with only Davis and Isbell hitting above .260 (Davis hit .277, Isbell .279). He also set many other offensive World Series records that year, including doubles and extra base hits in a game. However, Isbell was better known for his outstanding speed, even for that day-in-age. He never beat out his 1901 season when he had 52 stolen bases and led the Majors, but he averaged 37 steals a year and ended out with 253 in his career.
In a 10-year career and 1119 games, he ended out with a .250 batting average with 13 home runs and 455 RBIs. He had 1056 career hits in 4219 at bats. As a pitcher, he went 4–7 with a 3.59 ERA.
Isbell also became notable for being manager and owner of many teams in the Western League. He died in Wichita, Kansas.
By Dean Hanley
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