Cleveland Indians 1921-25
Chicago Cubs 1926-34
Riggs Stephenson was, in many ways, a 1920's version of Bo Jackson; minus
the catchy advertising campaign. A two sport star at the University of Alabama, Stephenson's career as a fullback was
ended by an injury. Although he went on to have a productive baseball career -- he finished with the 22nd best
career batting average -- that injury kept him from ever realizing his full potential.
Jackson Riggs Stephenson was
born on January 5, 1898 in Akron, AL. An excellent all-around athlete, he enrolled at the University of Alabama in the
late 1910s and became a star quarterback and second baseman. During the 1920 football season, he suffered an injury
to his shoulder that ended his career on the gridiron.
Falling back on his first love, baseball, the 23-year-old
quit school and jumped straight to the major leagues joining the defending World Champion Cleveland Indians in 1921.
A defensive liability because of his bum shoulder, Stephenson played sparingly but hit well. From 1921-24, he hit .330,
.339, 319, and .371, but never appeared in more than 91 games.
In 1925 the Indians sent the Alabama native to the
minor leagues in an effort to make a full time outfielder of him. Following the season, Cleveland send him packing,
dealing Stephenson to the Chicago Cubs. It turned out to be the break he'd been waiting for.
Following the 1926
season in which he appeared in 82 games, Stephenson became one of the team's full-time outfielders. He responded by
hitting .344 and leading the NL with 46 doubles. He also earned the nickname "Old Hoss" because of his reliability with the
Teamed up with Hall of Famers Kiki Cuyler and Hack Wilson, Stephenson helped form one of the greatest outfields
in history. All three were perennial .300 hitters and, in 1929, they became the only outfield trio in NL history to drive
in over 100 runs each.
The 1929 season was also significant because the once lowly Cubs won the NL Pennant. The season
ended in disappointment, however, as the Cubs lost in five games to Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.
a career high .367 in 1930, and missing most of the 1931 season with a broken ankle, Stephenson helped the Cubs win another
pennant in 1932. This time, they were swept aside by the powerful New York Yankees. Stephenson, however, did his
part in the post season, batting .378 with 7 RBI in 9 career World Series games.
During the next to seasons, Stephenson's
playing time began to diminish. By 1934 the injuries had caught up with him, and he was relegated to pinch-hitting duty.
He retired following the season after hitting just .216 in 38 games. "Old Hoss" finished with a .336 career average,
1,515 hits, and a .407 on base percentage. Like Bo Jackson, he left fans wondering what might have been.
five years spent playing and managing in the minors, Stephenson retired for good in 1939. He returned to his native
Alabama, and was inducted into the state's Hall of Fame in 1971. On November 15, 1985, at the age of 87, Riggs Stephenson
passed away at his home in Tuscaloosa.
-David Zingler, August 2003
Stephenson @ Baseball-Reference.com
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