Depending on who you ask, Heinie Zimmerman was the first National
Leaguer to win the Triple Crown in the 20th Century and the only third baseman to accomplish the feat. Since RBI (runs
batted in) wasn't an official statistic until 1920 and his total in 1912 was disputed, many won't include Zimmerman on the
elite list of Triple Crown winners. Since his entire career was surrounded by controversy, it is only fitting that Zimmerman's
"Triple Crown" is still subject to debate.
Henry Zimmerman was born on February 9, 1887 in New York City. He debuted
with the Chicago Cubs in 1907, and acted as the team's utility man until 1911 when he took over as the everyday third baseman.
After batting .307 in 143 games that season, Zimmerman was primed for the season that would define his career.
The 25-year-old finished the 1912 season with a .372 average, 14 home
runs and 103 RBI, all of which led the NL. However after a careful recount, Zimmerman's RBI total dropped to 99, which dropped
him out of the league lead. In any case, Zimmerman had a career year and finished 6th in the NL MVP voting. (Today most sources
list his RBI total in 1912 as 99, but some still tout him as a Triple Crown winner).
Always known as the rowdy type, Zimmerman was involved in a post game
fight with umpire Bill Finneran in 1912 and was ejected three times in five games in June of 1913. The string of ejections
prompted a fan to send him half of a $100 bill, which included a letter that promised the other half if Zimmerman could go
two weeks without getting another ejection.
After hitting .313, .296 and .265 from 1913-15, the veteran was dealt to
his hometown, New York Giants in August of 1916. In 1917, the Giants won the NL pennant and faced the Chicago White Sox in
the World Series. With his team trailing the Series three games to two, Zimmerman made a costly throwing error in the 4th
inning of Game 6 and allowed Eddie Collins to score on a botched rundown. The Sox won the game and the Series, and Zimmerman
was left as the goat.
In February of 1919, the Giants acquired 1B Hal Chase from the Cincinnati
Reds. Chase, who had been accused of fixing games several times during his career, quickly struck up a friendship with Zimmerman.
In September of that season, with the Giants in a heated pennant race, manager John McGraw suspended the pair indefinitely
without explanation. Neither one ever played another inning of major league baseball.
At the Black Sox trial in September of 1920, McGraw testified that he had
sent Chase and Zimmerman home during the 1919 season because he had strong evidence that the duo was fixing games and had
tried to enlist teammates Fred Toney, Rube Benton, and Benny Kauff in their scam. After that testimony both Zimmerman and
Chase were permanently banned from baseball by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
In Zimmerman's 13 year career, he posted a .295 average with 1,566 hits,
58 HR, 796 RBI and 175 stolen bases. The former ballplayer remained in his native New York until his death on March 14, 1969.
It is unclear if he ever applied for reinstatement.
-David Zingler, March 2004