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Rogers Hornsby (April 27, 1896 – January 5, 1963), nicknamed "The Rajah", was a Major League Baseball second baseman and manager. Hornsby's first name, Rogers, was his mother's maiden name. He spent the majority of his playing career with the St. Louis Cardinals, though he also had short stints with the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Braves, and the New York Giants, and he ended his career as the player-manager of the St. Louis Browns.

Hornsby is among the greatest hitters in baseball history. He is the only player to win the National League Triple Crown twice. His career batting average of .358 is the highest in National League history, and also the highest in major league history for any right-handed hitter. His batting average for the 1924 season was .424, a mark that no player since has matched. The Baseball Hall of Famemarker elected Hornsby in 1942. He has also been given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Playing career

The 19 year-old Hornsby joined the St. Louis Cardinals at the tail end of the 1915 season, and he was a regular in the Cardinal lineup starting in 1916. Though he spent the majority of the season at third base, Hornsby played at least one game at each infield position. Hornsby immediately established himself as one of the league's leading hitters, finishing the 1916 season fourth in the batting race with a .313 average, and smacking 15 triples, one short of the league's lead. Hornsby played the entire 1917 season at shortstop, and the new stability in his defensive assignment translated into even better hitting numbers: his .327 batting average was second in the league, and he led the league in triples (17), total bases (253), and slugging percentage (.484). Hornsby's batting average dipped to .281 during the war-shortened 1918 season, though he was still among the league leaders in triples and slugging percentage. His performance rebounded in 1919, a year that again saw him playing the majority of games at third base rather than shortstop. Hornsby's 1919 batting average of .318 was second highest in the league, and he also finished second in total bases and runs batted in.

In 1920, Hornsby became a full-time second baseman, and he remained at that position for the remainder of his career. Once again, the stability in his defensive assignment translated into new hitting productivity, as Hornsby won the first of his seven batting titles with a .370 average, and he also led the league in on-base percentage (.431), slugging percentage (.559), hits (218), total bases (329), doubles (44), and RBI (94). However, all eyes in the baseball world that year were on Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees in the American League, whose 54 home runs marked the end of the dead-ball era, and ushered in a new style of play with an emphasis on power hitting.

The new Live-ball era reached the National League in 1921, and Hornsby led the charge, embarking upon a five-year hitting tear that is rivaled in baseball history only by Ruth's own performances during the periods 1920-1924 and 1926-1930. Hornsby hit .397 in 1921, and his 21 home runs were second in the league, and more than twice his total in any previous season. He also led the league in on base percentage (.458), slugging percentage (.639), runs (131), RBI (126), doubles (44), and triples (18).

Perhaps the highlight of Hornsby's career was his 1922 season, when he became the only player in history to hit over 40 home runs and bat over .400 in the same season. Hornsby won the first of his triple crowns that year, leading the league in almost every batting category including batting average (.401), home runs (42, a National League record at the time), RBI (152), slugging average (.722, another record at the time), on base percentage (.459), doubles (46), hits (250, again the highest in National League history to that point), and runs scored (141). His 450 total bases was the highest mark for any National league player during the 20th century. Hornsby also produced in the field, leading the league in putouts, double plays, and fielding percentage.

Hornsby's average dipped to .384 during 1923, which was still good enough to win the National League batting title; he also repeated as the leader in on-base percentage (.459) and slugging percentage (.627). Hornsby then raised his average to an astonishing .424 in 1924, which remains the modern National League record for batting average in a single season. He also led the league with 89 walks, producing a .507 on-base percentage that was the highest in the National League during the 20th century. His slugging percentage of .696 again led the league, as did his 121 runs scored, 227 hits, and 43 doubles. He also managed to hit 25 home runs that season.

Hornsby's second triple crown came in 1925, when he combined a .403 batting average with 39 home runs and 143 RBI. He was named the National League's Most Valuable Player, having barely missed the award in 1924. His .756 slugging percentage that year is the highest in the National League during the 20th century.

For the period 1921-1925, Hornsby's batting average was .402, a record for a five-year period that almost certainly will never be equaled. He led the league in batting average, slugging percentage, and on base percentage during each of those five years, having also led the league in those categories in 1920.

1926 was an off-year for Hornsby offensively, as he hit only .317 with 11 home runs. Nonetheless, St. Louis won its first-ever National League pennant. The Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in a seven-game World Series, with Hornsby tagging out Babe Ruth on an attempted stolen base to end the Series and give St. Louis its first undisputed world championship..

Hornsby was due for a new contract after the season, and demanded a five-year, $50,000 contract despite his diminished numbers. Cardinals owner Sam Breadon only offered four years and $40,000, though he was willing to give Hornsby a one-year contract for the $50,000 he wanted. When Hornsby refused to budge, the Cardinals traded him to the New York Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring on December 10, 1926.

Rogers Hornsby in 1928
No longer a manager, Hornsby's offensive numbers rebounded in 1927, as he hit .361 and led the league in runs scored (133), walks (86), and an on-base percentage (.448). Despite his solid year, however, he managed to alienate nearly all of his teammates. As a result, in the off-season he was again traded, this time to the Boston Braves, once again as player-manager. Undaunted by the second change in affiliation in less than two years, Hornsby was again the league's most productive hitter, winning his seventh batting title in 1928 with a .387 average, and also leading the league in on-base percentage (.498, a figure that only Hornsby himself topped among National Leaguers in the 20th century), slugging percentage (.632), and walks (107).

The Braves would have been more than willing to keep him in Boston, but when the Chicago Cubs offered them five players and $200,000 for Hornsby, cash-strapped owner Emil Fuchs found the offer too good to pass up. Hornsby duly had another career year in Chicago, hitting .380 in 1929 while recording 39 home runs and leading the league with a .679 slugging percentage. The 156 runs scored by Hornsby in 1929 were the most by a right-handed batter in the National League during the 20th century. Hornsby collected his second Most Valuable Player award that year, and for the second time he won a National League pennant. However, his season ended in disappointment, as the Cubs lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics in five games.

An ankle fracture kept Hornsby on the bench for most of the 1930 season, though he was named the team's manager when Joe McCarthy was fired with four games to go in the season.. He turned in his last great performance as a player in 1931, when he managed to hit 90 RBI and 37 doubles in only 100 games, while batting for an average of .331. He led the league in on-base percentage (.421), for the ninth and last time in his career.

Hornsby played only 19 games in . He was released on August 2, and no other team picked him up for the last two months of the season. The Cardinals signed Hornsby for the 1933 season, and again he was released mid-year, but this time he was immediately picked up by the St. Louis Browns. He remained with the Browns until his playing career ended in 1937, though after 1931 he appeared mostly as a pinch-hitter.

Legacy as a Player

Hornsby's lifetime batting average of .358 is second all-time, behind only Ty Cobb's career mark of .367. He won six National League batting titles in total, a feat exceeded only by Stan Musial and Honus Wagner who each won seven and Tony Gwynn, who won eight. Hornsby led the National League in slugging percentage nine times, a record that still stands (Barry Bonds is second with seven).

Hornsby hit more home runs and drove in more runs than any other National League player during the 1920s. Hornsby also had the highest batting average of any National League player during that decade, which makes him one of four players in baseball history, along with Honus Wagner, Ted Williams and Albert Pujols, to win a "decade" triple crown.

He also hit a career total of 301 home runs, an unusually high mark for a player who spent most of his career as a second baseman.

Hornsby was a remarkably consistent hitter who hit equally well when playing at home or on the road. His lifetime home batting average was .359, and his lifetime away batting average was .358. He had five seasons where he averaged over .400 at home, and four seasons where he averaged over .400 on the road. His consistency and longevity can be attributed to his near-fanatical training regimen. He neither smoked nor drank, and refused to read or go to the movies (at least during the season) for fear of ruining his batting eye.

Hornsby also holds a major league record of 13 consecutive games with two or more base hits, accomplished July 5 through July 18, 1923.

Ted Williams in his autobiography, "My Turn at Bat" (at page 118), stated that Hornsby was the greatest hitter for average and power in the history of baseball. One of the more remarkable aspects of Hornsby as a hitter is the fact that he accomplished his batting feats as a right-handed hitter. Throughout baseball history approximately 70% of the pitchers have been right-handed, thereby placing a right-handed hitter at a statistical disadvantage approximately 70% of the time. Most of Hornsby's serious rivals for the laurel of greatest hitter ever have been left-handed hitters (e.g., Ruth, Cobb, Musial, Bonds, Williams, Gehrig).

In addition to his hitting accomplishments, Hornsby was well respected as a fielder. In 1918, a reporter for the Washington Post described Hornsby as the outstanding fielding shortstop in the western circuit of the National League and perhaps the finest fielding shortstop in the entire league. In 1920, Hornsby led the league in putouts, assists, and double plays. In an August 26, 1925 article in the Los Angeles Times, Hall of Fame manager Hughie Jennings described Hornsby as one of the best-fielding second basemen in the game. Hornsby's average of 3.31 assists per game is the 7th highest of any second baseman in baseball history.

Hornsby was also renowned for his speed. In a January 8, 1963 article in the Chicago American, Hall of Fame player and manager, Al Lopez, said of Hornsby that, "he was one of the speediest men we ever had in baseball." His speed was often later compared to that of the young Mickey Mantle. Hall of Famer Pie Traynor, who saw both Hornsby and Mickey Mantle play, insisted that Hornsby would have beaten Mantle to first base from the right hand batter's box. Christy Mathewson once stated that he believed that Hornsby was faster than Maurice Archdeacon, a player who in the 1920s was believed to have been the fastest player to have played major league baseball. During the 1922 season, Hornsby won a 100-yard dash against Pro Football Hall of Famemarker running back Bo McMillin at Sportsman's Parkmarker in St. Louis. Hornsby did not try to steal very often, however he used his great speed to take extra bases. Between 1916 and 1927 Hornsby had 30 inside-the-park home runs, and led the league with 17 triples in 1917 and 18 triples in 1921; he had 20 triples in 1920.

During Hornsby's first nine years as a player in the National League, the Most Valuable Player Award was not yet in existence, so he had no opportunity to be declared MVP for some of his greatest seasons. In 1924 the Most Valuable Player award was given in the National League for the first time. Hornsby ended up finishing second in the balloting to pitcher Dazzy Vance when a sportwriter who worked for a newspaper in a rival National League city, completely omitted Hornsby's name from his ballot. A public outcry ensued, and many prominent persons throughout the league, including Branch Rickey and John McGraw, publicly stated their opinion that Hornsby had been the MVP, and should have received the award. Hornsby himself was more charitable telling the newspapers, "More power to Vance. He's a great pitcher." As a result of the public outcry, the sportwriter who had omitted Hornsby's name altogether from his ballot was removed as a voter for future MVP awards. The following season, 1925, Hornsby was voted the Most Valuable Player by an overwhelming margin. Hornsby repeated as winner of the National League MVP award in 1929.

Hornsby was one of the more controversial characters in baseball history. By most accounts of the time, he was as mean or meaner than Ty Cobb. As with Cobb, his photogenic smile belied a dark side. One writer characterized him as "a liturgy of hatred," and according to baseball writer Fred Lieb, Hornsby confessed to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan. His chief interest was in winning, and he wasn't shy about criticizing anyone—teammates, opponents, managers and owners alike—whom he felt didn't share his will to win. Needless to say, this made him rather difficult to get along with. His difficult manner is a major reason why he changed teams so frequently during the latter part of his career. (he played with five different teams in eight years).

When the Cardinals traded him to the Giants after the 1926 season, the deal was held up because Hornsby, as part of his contract as the manager of the Cardinals (he was a player-manager at the time), owned several shares of stock in the Cardinals. Breadon offered Hornsby $45 per share—the same price for which he'd bought the stock a year earlier. Hornsby demanded $100 per share, and neither would budge. Eventually, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled that a player could not own stock in one team and play for another. Eventually, the trade went through when Hornsby got the $100,000 he wanted plus $12,000 in attorneys' fees. The other National League owners had to make up the difference.

Although he did not drink or smoke, he bet heavily on horse races. Landis, who had banned the Black Sox for life, was not sympathetic to the notion of ballplayers gambling at the race track any more than at the ballpark. He called Hornsby into his office to reproach him for playing the horses—which was Hornsby's only real recreation outside of baseball (even after he retired). Landis did not intimidate Rogers; Hornsby recriminated Landis by pointing out that the commissioner was playing the stock market with funds from his office and this would cause a scandal if Hornsby exposed it. Hornsby told Landis that both men were essentially gambling, but "at least I'm not gambling other people's money away." Naturally, Landis relented about Hornsby's horseplaying. (Source: The Great Baseball Mystery by Victor Luhrs)

Hornsby as a Manager and Scout

The Cardinals made Hornsby their player-manager in 1925, and he piloted the team to a World Series victory in 1926. Hornsby was his own manager for each of the remaining years of his playing career, except for 1927 with the Giants (though he served as acting manager for a few games that year), 1929 with the Cubs and his brief return to the Cardinals in 1933.

As a manager, Hornsby had trouble relating to his players. As Bill Veeck related in his autobiography, Veeck as in Wreck, his father Bill Sr., who was president and general manager of the Cubs, had hired Hornsby, only to dispose of him when the usual problems surfaced. Although Hornsby had led the Cubs to a fairly solid third-place finish in his one full year as manager, the players chafed under his autocratic managing style. When Hornsby's successor, Charlie Grimm, led the Cubs to the pennant, the players hated Hornsby so much that they voted not to give him a share of World Series money. Hornsby's gambling also played a role as well; he'd been borrowing considerable sums of money from his own players to finance his horseplaying.

Some years later, in 1952, when the junior Veeck hired Hornsby to manage his St. Louis Browns (Hornsby's second term as the Browns' field boss), thinking Hornsby had mellowed after almost 16 years out of baseball. After a near-mutiny by the players, Veeck fired Hornsby, saying he'd made a mistake in hiring him in the first place. Veeck was also awarded an engraved trophy by his own players as a thank you for letting Hornsby go.

A month after being let go by the Browns, Hornsby was hired by the Cincinnati Reds. He was fired with eight games to go in the 1953 season.

In his later years, Hornsby's disdain for younger players only increased. According to the book Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?, Hornsby was hired by the fledgling New York Mets to scout all the major league players. His report was not especially useful, as the best compliment he could come up with for anyone was "Looks like a major league ballplayer"—his assessment of Mickey Mantle. In another anecdote, Hornsby was reviewing a group of major league players with his customary none-too-complimentary remarks. Among the group were Chicago Cubs' third baseman Ron Santo and outfielder Billy Williams. Hornsby had just gotten through dismissing one player with the comment, "You'd better go back to shining shoes because you can't hit," when Santo whispered to Williams, "If he says that to me, I'm going to cry." When Hornsby came to Santo, he said, "You can hit in the big leagues right now," then turned to Williams and said, "So can you." Another version of this anecdote has Hornsby declaring that Williams and Santo will "make it" after observing them in a Cubs rookie camp in 1959, when both players were 20-year-old minor leaguers. Both Santo and Williams would go on to become star players for several years.

In another quote attributed to him while coaching for the 1962 Mets, Hornsby was asked how well he thought he could hit the current crop of pitchers if he were playing today, to which he replied "I guess I'd hit about .280 or .290". When asked why he'd hit for such a low average, Hornsby replied "Well, I'm 66 years old, what do you expect?" (This quote is somewhat apocryphal, since a very similar quotation is also attributed to Ty Cobb, and even appears in a movie about his life.)

In contrast with his usual contempt for young players, he could be generous to those who had the "right stuff". When Hornsby was managing the Cincinnati Reds, players recalled him giving impromptu batting tips to the opposition, unable to help himself. Biographers of Ted Williams cite the story that the young Williams spoke with the aging Hornsby about hitting. Hornsby's secret was simply this: "Wait for a good pitch to hit." That became Williams' creed and the creed of many who followed.

Death and legacy

Hornsby died in 1963 of a heart attack after cataract surgery. He was buried in the Hornsby Bend cemetery east of Austin, Texasmarker.

In 1999, he ranked number 9 on The Sporting News list of Baseball's Greatest Players, the highest-ranking second baseman. Later that year, he was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Career statistics

See:Career Statistics for a complete explanation.
2,259 8,173 2,930 541 169 301 1,579 1,584 1,038 679 .358 .434 .577

See also


  • Baseball America, Donald Honig.
  • Ted Williams: An American Hero, Leigh Montville
  • Hitter: Life and Turmoils of Ted Williams, Ed Linn
  • Baseball As I Have Known It, Fred Lieb. Tempo, 1970.

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