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Rogers Hornsby

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Rogers Hornsby


St. Louis Cardinals 1915-26, 33
New York Giants 1927
Boston Braves 1928
Chicago Cubs 1929-32
St. Louis Browns 1933-37
Widely regarded as the greatest right-handed hitter in history, Rogers Hornsby was the National Leagues’ version of Ty Cobb.  Over the course of his 23-year career, “Rajah” racked up batting titles, won awards, and made few friends along the way.


Born on April 27, 1896 in Winters, TX, he was the given his mother’s maiden name, Rogers.  Hornsby joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915, playing 18 games at shortstop and hitting just .246.  In 1916, the 20-year-old split time between third, first, and short and showed signs of his potential, hitting at a .313 clip in 146 games. 


From 1917-19, Hornsby continued to progress and by 1920 he had found a home at second base and won his first batting title with a .370 mark.  It began a historic stretch in which he topped the circuit in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage each year from 1920-25.  During that span Hornsby hit .400 three times, including .424 in 1924, led the NL in hits, doubles and RBI four times, runs scored three times, homeruns twice, and triples once.  In 1922 he won the Triple Crown.


In 1925, at the age of 29, Hornsby was named the Cardinals player/manager.  He didn’t let the extra duties affect his play however; all he did was win another Triple Crown, pacing the NL with .403 average, 39 homers, and 143 RBI. 


The following season, the native Texan’s average dipped to .317, but the Cards won the NL pennant and upended the Ruth/Gehrig led Yankees in the World Series.  It must have seemed unthinkable to the fans at that time, but Hornsby was on his way out of St. Louis.


Known for his clean living, he didn’t smoke or drink, Hornsby’s temperament was another story.  For years he had clashed with the organization’s office, refusing to give them access to the clubhouse, constantly mocking them, and ignoring orders.  Team owner Sam Breadon had had enough and shipped the local legend to the New York Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring.  The St. Louis fans were furious.


Stripped of his managing duties, Hornsby quickly became John McGraw’s right hand man in New York, serving as deputy manager which didn’t make him any friends on the team.  After one season, in which he hit .361, Hornsby was sent packing to the Boston Braves.  In 1928, his only season in Boston, Hornsby posted a .387 batting average, good enough for his seventh, and final, batting title.  Following the season, he was shipped to the Chicago Cubs.


During Hornsby’s four-year stint in the Windy City, he won an MVP (1929) and the Cubs won two pennants (1929, 1932).  In 1930 he was named the teams manager late in the season.  By 1932, his days as a player were virtually over as he never again appeared in more than 57 games in a season.


“Rajah” made a return to the Cardinals in 1933, hitting .325 in 83 at bats, but left midseason to take over as manager of the cross-town Browns.  Hornsby managed and played sparingly for the lowly Browns until 1937.  He was done as a player, but would return to manage the Browns and Cincinnati Reds from 1952-53.


In 23 years as a big league player, Hornsby posted a .358 average, second only to Ty Cobb, while amassing 2,930 hits, 301 homeruns, and 1,584 RBI.  As a manager his record stood at 701-832.  He was inducted in to the Hall of Fame in 1942.


Hornsby remained close to the game throughout the rest of his life, managing in the minor leagues and scouting and coaching for the New York Mets.  Even though his playing days were decades behind him, Hornsby stuck by his creed of not going to the movies or reading books because he feared it would damage his batting eye.  The greatest right-handed hitter that ever lived died on January 5, 1963.  He was 66.


-David Zingler, March 2005


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