Doubleday Double Talk Remembers: Rogers Hornsby

Doubleday Double Talk Remembers is designed to connect fans with the game of baseball’s past one player and story at a time. A Doubleday Double Talk Remembers will be published every Friday and will go over the life and legacy of the players from our past, from Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron to Steve Dalkowski to Eddie Gaedel, every player has a story and Daryll Dorman and Giuseppe Vitulli are here to provide you with just that. Sometimes we forget about how important baseball’s past is, so Doubleday Double Talk Remembers is simply the writers at Doubleday Double Talk’s way to pay homage to the past of the beautiful game of baseball.

Rogers Hornsby was the greatest right-handed hitter in Major League Baseball history. With a single-minded devotion to the game of baseball and obsession with his results on the field, Hornsby hit for power while posting tremendous batting averages every season. To Rogers Hornsby, a life without baseball was not a life at all, and he will forever go down in history as the greatest second baseman and right-handed hitter in baseball history.

“Baseball is my life,” Hornsby said. “It’s the only thing I know and care about.”

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Hornsby once famously said.

Hornsby grew up doing nothing but playing baseball and was the star of his high school baseball team in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1914, at age 18, Hornsby played his first season of legitimate professional baseball in the minor leagues in Hugo, Oklahoma. That following year, Hornsby played for Denison, Texas, in the Texas League. Hornsby, who played shortstop at the time, committed 58 errors that season. Despite this, the St. Louis Cardinals bought him for $500 and Hornsby would soon get his call to the show.

Hornsby appeared just 18 games as a shortstop, batting only .246. Hornsby still was a skinny young man, 5 foot 11 inches but weighing only 130 pounds. That following winter, Hornsby bulked up at his uncle’s farm in Texas, adding 35 pounds, and making himself a power threat at the plate. From then on, Hornsby would go on to forge one of the greatest careers in Major League history.

“I don’t like to sound egotistical,” said Hornsby, who was, “but every time I stepped up to the plate with a bat in my hands, I couldn’t help (but) feel sorry for the pitcher.

“I’ve always felt Rogers Hornsby was the greatest hitter for average and power in the history of baseball,” Ted Williams once said.

Hornsby would end his 23-year career after leading the league in batting average seven times, runs five times, slugging ten times, and hits, doubles, and home runs four times. Additionally, Hornsby’s career .434 OBP and .577 slugging are also the best of all-time for a second baseman. Hornsby won two Most Valuable Player Awards in his Major League career and finished in the top three in the voting two more times.

“He’s the only guy I know who could hit .350 in the dark. ” Frankie Frisch said.

For 12 seasons in his Major League career, Hornsby was a player/manager. In his first full season as a player-manager, Hornsby led the St. Louis Cardinals to the team’s first World Series Championship in franchise history.

Hornsby hit .400 three times, including .424 in 1924 (a Major League record that still stands today), and compiled a legendary .358 lifetime batting average, second only to the great Ty Cobb (.367). Hornsby was also the first National League player to ever hit 300 career home runs (301) and “The Rajah” is one of two players to ever win two Triple Crowns, joining only the great Ted Williams. Hornsby also joined Ty Cobb as the only players to ever hit .400 three times.

Hornsby attributes a good deal of his success to his undying obsession with winning, saying, “I’ve always played hard. If that’s rough and tough, I can’t help it. I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a good loser. I wouldn’t sit down and play a game of cards with you right now withing wanting to win. If I hadn’t felt that way I wouldn’t have got very far in baseball.”

When Hornsby retired and was granted admission to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942, to become the Hall’s 27th member. Hornsby was just the third-second baseman to ever be inducted into the Hall.

Off the field, Hornsby was tough, uncompromising, and outspoken. On the field, Hornsby was the greatest right-handed hitter in Major League Baseball history.

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