Monday, October 27, 2014

MVPs We Hardly Know (1960-1974)

Dick Groat (1960 NL MVP)
Groat could have chosen basketball as a career if he had wanted to. He was an All-American at Duke University,winning the UPI National Player of the Year award in 1951. He began his pro baseball career with the Pirates the following season. Without the benefit of any minor league experience, he hit .284 in 95 games and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. At season's end, he returned to Duke to complete his degree and ended up being selected in the first round of the NBA draft. He played in 26 games for the Fort Wayne Pistons, averaging 11.9 points per game. His season ended prematurely when he was drafted into the Army. Upon receiving an honorable discharge in 1955, Groat considered pursuing both sports, but ultimately chose hardball over the hardwood.

With the addition of Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski in the mid-50s, the Pirates climbed into contention after several years of mediocrity. Groat held his own, combining solid defense with timely hitting. In 1959, he earned his first All-Star selection. He followed with his signature season, winning a batting title, a World Series ring and an MVP Award. Although he was an offensive no-show in the Series that year, he was widely praised for his leadership. His RBI single in the eighth inning of Game 7 helped ignite a historic Pirate rally that sank the powerful Yankees. Groat had some good seasons after 1960, getting named to three more All-Star teams before calling it quits in '67. In later years, he ran a golf course outside of Pittsburgh and served as a commentator at Duquesne University basketball games.

Ken Boyer (1964 NL MVP)
 Boyer came from a family of fourteen children. He was one of three siblings who made it to the majors. Cloyd--the oldest--had the shortest career, spending five seasons in the Show as a pitcher. Clete--the youngest--enjoyed great success with the New York Yankee teams of the late-'50s/ early-60s. Together, Clete and Ken combined for 444 lifetime homers, placing them third on the all time list among big league brothers. Only the Aarons and DiMaggios surpassed that total.

Ken began his big league career with the Cardinals in 1955. He blossomed into one of the finest defensive third basemen in the National League, capturing five Gold Glove Awards. He enjoyed his peak offensive years from '56-'64, gathering no fewer than 23 homers and 90 RBIs on eight occasions during that span. His finest hour came in 1964, when he earned his sixth All-Star selection and only World Series ring. At season's end, he was named NL MVP. Slowed by back trouble the following year, Boyer's numbers began to taper off. He played for three different clubs between '66 and '69 then retired. He took over as Cardinals manager in '78, but was fired just 51 games into the 1980 campaign. Two years later, he died of lung cancer. His number (14) was retired in St. Louis.

Denny McLain (1968 AL MVP)
Originally property of the White Sox, the Tigers obtained McLain in the 1963 minor league draft. For five seasons, he was among the best pitchers in the American League, capturing two Cy Young Awards and earning three All-Star selections between 1965 and 1969. In '68, he became the last pitcher of the modern era to win 30 games during the regular season. He added another win in the World Series against the Cardinals, finishing with 32.

McLain's SABR biography describes him as "cocky, arrogant, reckless." He had a habit of pulling his cap down so low that he had to tilt his head back to see the signs from his catchers. He treated batters to a steady diet of fastballs and hard sliders, employing a "Here it is--hit it if you can" strategy. Off the field, he was compared to a high school wise guy. He flew his own airplane and sometimes played the organ at Tigers games. McLain had little success after 1969 as the strain of averaging nearly 300 innings per season over a three-year span began to take its toll. Traded to the Senators in 1971, he compiled an 18-36 record before retiring from baseball two years later. McLain could not keep his personal life in order after baseball. He was sent to prison twice for charges of fraud and embezzlement. In 2008, he failed to show up in court to testify in a foreclosure and eviction case. He ended up in jail.

Boog Powell (1970 AL MVP)
Powell's unusual nickname came from his father, who used the word "Boog" as shorthand for the term "Bugger." After graduating from Key West High School in Florida, Powell quickly ascended through the Orioles minor league ranks. Called to the majors in September of '61, he would spend thirteen full seasons at first base in Baltimore. A big man at six-foot-four, 230 pounds, he was little more than adequate with a glove. His primary value to the club was on offense. Between 1963 and 1970, he smashed 25 or more homers five times while gathering 80 or more RBIs on six occasions. He had his shining moment in 1970, when he finished among the AL top five in at least half a dozen categories, among them homers, RBIs and total bases. He continued to hit well in the World Series against Cincinnati, driving in 5 runs with a  double and a pair of homers. It was Baltimore's only championship of the decade.Powell played in four Fall Classics with the Orioles altogether, coming out on the winning end twice.

After another solid effort in 1972, Powell's numbers tapered off. Traded to Cleveland in '75, he bounced back with 27 homers, 86 RBIs and a .297 batting average. It was his last excellent season. After his retirement, Powell appeared in a series of TV commercials for Miller Lite Beer. He currently owns Boog's Barbeque, an eatery located on Eutaw Street at Camden Yards. A second restaurant is located in Ocean City.

Jeff Burroughs (1974 AL MVP)
Burroughs got his start in the Senators organization, but would spend his most productive years with the Rangers and Braves. A right-handed outfielder with some power, he had a breakthrough season in 1973, launching 30 home runs--second in the league to Reggie Jackson of the A's. The following year--at just 23 years of age--Burroughs captured MVP honors on the strength of his 60 extra-base hits and league-high 118 RBIs. He won the vote by a wide margin over four different members of the championship A's, among them Jackson and Catfish Hunter.

Burroughs struck out at an alarming rate over the course of his career, but drew a fair amount of walks as well. After hitting just .226 in '74 and .237 the following year, he was traded to Atlanta. He reached a career high for homers in '77, going deep 41 times. That total was eclipsed by George Foster of the Reds, who became the first player to hit more than 50 long balls in a season since Willie Mays accomplished the feat in '65. After receiving his second All-Star selection in 1978, Burroughs became a rather ordinary player. He never hit more than 16 homers or drove-in more than 56 runs in any season from 1979 to 1985, which was the year he retired. He coached his son Sean's team to consecutive Little League World Series berths in 1992 and '93. Sean later ascended to the majors with the Padres. As of 2014, he was playing for Bridgeport of the Atlantic League after compiling a .278 batting average in portions of seven big league seasons.      

Monday, October 20, 2014

MVPs We Hardly Know (1950s)

Jim Konstanty (1950 NL MVP)
Though Konstanty had only one brilliant season, he has been widely credited with legitimizing the role of the closer. Konstanty was a multi-sport star at Syracuse University, graduating with a degree in Phys Ed. While pitching in the minors, he doubled as a high school coach. He had a slider and a curve in his arsenal, but didn't gain success until he mastered the palmball. After appearing in 53 games for the Phillies in '49, he became the club's official closer. 1950 was Konstanty's biggest year. He led the league in appearances (74) and saves (22) while gathering 16 wins. No National League reliever had ever appeared in as many games or registered as many victories. From July 23 through August 29 of that year, he yielded just 1 run in 17 assignments, bringing his ERA to a season-low 2.14. The 1950 Phillies were dubbed "The Whiz Kids" on account of their youth and hustle. They won the pennant by a slender margin over the Dodgers then met the Yankees in the World Series. Philly manager Eddie Sawyer tried to ride Konstanty's arm to a championship, designating him the starter in Game 1. Konstanty pitched brilliantly in the unfamiliar role, scattering four hits over eight innings against the likes of Johnny Mize, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. But New York's starter, Vic Raschi, was even better that day, spinning a complete game shutout. Konstanty made two more appearances in the Series, but was not as effective as the Yankees completed a sweep. The bespectacled right-hander hung around the majors for several more seasons, but never matched the success of his MVP campaign. He later served as athletic director at Hartwick College for several years.

Bobby Shantz (1952 AL MVP)
At five-foot-six, 138 pounds, Shantz was one of the smallest pitchers in major league history. He weighed even less when he joined the Army out of high school in 1944. After serving in the Philippines for sixteen months, he returned to the states, where he began a brief and successful minor league career. He led the Western League in wins and strikeouts during the 1948 campaign and was called to Philadelphia the following year. The A's weren't very good in those days and neither was Shantz initially. In his first two seasons, he went 14-22 with a 4.16 ERA. Then in 1951, he suddenly found his groove, winning 18 games. In his MVP season of '52, the diminutive southpaw posted a 24-7 record and 2.48 earned run average (third best in the league). Even more impressive is that he finished 27 of his 33 starts. In a shortened All Star Game, he struck out all three batters he faced, including Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial. There would be no more extracurricular activity for Shantz that year as the A's finished in fourth place. After several rocky seasons, it became evident that Shantz lacked the durability to be a long term starter. He hung around the majors as a swingman until 1964, winning eight Gold Glove Awards. He had several successful seasons with the Yankees, accruing a 30-18 record between 1957 and 1960. His 2.45 ERA was tops in the American League in '57. In six World Series appearances with the Yankees, he met with mixed success. The Bombers lost both of the Series he appeared in.

Hank Sauer (1952 NL MVP)
Sauer did not become a full time player until he was thirty-one years old. Painfully slow afoot, he lacked range in the outfield and was somewhat of a liability on the base paths. For several seasons, he made up for those shortcomings with his bat, cracking 30 or more homers six times and reaching the 100 RBI plateau on three occasions. He had a pair of three-homer games during his career. When Sauer was named MVP in '52, it set off a storm of controversy since he was a one-dimensional player for the fifth place Cubs. No one was more surprised than Sauer himself, who commented: "I thought maybe the other guy, Roberts, would win it." The Roberts he was referring to was none other than Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts, who won 28 games for the Phillies that year. Sauer had a handful of good offensive seasons after '52. In all, he spent portions of fifteen seasons in the majors with four different clubs. He later scouted for the Giants.

Al Rosen (1953 AL MVP)
Rosen was of Jewish ancestry. A stint as an amateur boxer taught him not to back down from a fight. He stood up to several opponents who directed anti-Semitic slurs at him and sacrificed three full seasons during World War II while serving in the U.S. Navy. In a 2010 documentary, he commented: "There's a time when you let it be known that enough is enough...You flatten [them]." Carrying the nickname of the "The Hebrew Hammer," Rosen languished in the Indians' farm system for several years waiting for an opening at third base. He was twenty-six years old when he attained full time playing status. A right-handed hitter with power, he enjoyed his peak seasons between 1950 and 1954, leading the league in homers and RBIs twice apiece. He was named to four straight All-Star teams. In his MVP season of '53, he paced the circuit in runs scored (115), homers (43) and RBIs (145). He narrowly missed a Triple Crown, finishing one percentage point behind Mickey Vernon of the Senators with a .336 batting average. Rosen had a good follow-up season though he missed a significant amount of playing time with a broken finger. The Indians won 111 games that year and were heavily favored to win the World Series over the Giants. Rosen was limited to 3 games and couldn't prevent his club from being swept as Cleveland hitters managed an anemic .190 collective batting average. Rosen's career ended rather abruptly after that as injuries began to take their toll. He suffered from back trouble and reportedly broke his nose more than a dozen times. After retiring as a player, he worked as a stockbroker. He later served as President of the Yankees for two seasons. He was General Manager of the Astros for six years and the Giants for eight more.

Don Newcombe (1956 NL MVP)
Newcombe was solidly built at six-foot-four, 225 pounds. Before joining the Dodgers, he played for the Newark Eagles and was named in a newspaper poll as one of the greatest Negro Leaguers of all time. He was certainly no flash in the pan at the major league level, dominating the NL for three straight seasons before losing two full campaigns to military duty. He struggled in his '54 return, but bounced back with a stellar 20-5 record the following year. 1956 was Newcombe's signature season as he jumped out to a 15-1 start before the All-Star break. He finished the season at 27-7, leading the league in winning percentage for the second consecutive year. He was the first player to receive Cy Young and MVP honors in the same season. After that, he began a downward spiral, exiting the majors after the 1960 slate. In 1962, he played for the Chunichi Dragons of Japan, serving as a first baseman and outfielder. He had always hit well for a pitcher with a .271 lifetime batting average to prove it. After his playing days, he worked in the Dodgers front office. He struggled with alcoholism but later cleaned himself up and turned his life around.  

Jackie Jensen (1958 AL MVP)
Jensen became infamous for his debilitating fear of flying--an affliction that ended his major league career. Long before then, he was the University of California's "Golden Boy," setting a record for rushing yards as the school's starting running back. He was equally skilled at baseball and ended up being signed by the Yankees in 1949. Though he struggled for playing time in New York, he eventually became a regular in Washington and Boston. Between 1954 and '59, Jensen finished among the top ten in homers, RBIs and total bases every year. He reached a career zenith in '58 with 122 ribbies and 66 extra-base hits. The MVP vote was close, but Jensen beat out pitcher Bob Turley of the Yankees by a handful of votes. As Jensen began to suffer panic attacks on airplanes, he ended up traveling to numerous games in his own car. The pressure was too much and he retired in 1960. He made a comeback attempt the following year, but was not the same player. He coached baseball at the Universities of Nevada and California during the 1970s. He suffered fatal heart attack in 1982.     

Monday, October 13, 2014

MVPs We Hardly Know (The WWII Era)

Bucky Walters (1939 NL MVP)
Walters began his career as a two-way player, splitting time on the mound and at third base. He served primarily as an infielder until 1936, when he made 33 starts for Philadelphia. The Phillies lost 100 games that year and Walters led the league in that category. On the bright side, he paced the circuit with 4 shutouts. In those days, the Phillies played their home games in a dilapidated old bandbox known as the Baker Bowl, which was an offensive paradise. Walters' earned run averages suffered every year. Traded to Cincinnati in June of 1938, he completely turned his career around. In 1939, he was the best pitcher in the majors, claiming a triple crown with 27 wins, 137 strikeouts and a 2.29 ERA. His performance not only helped the Reds to a World Series berth, but it earned him NL MVP honors. During the war years, Walters was among the most successful pitchers in the majors. From 1939-1944, he posted a 121-73 record with a 2.67 ERA. Extremely durable, he logged no fewer than 246 innings per season. When the war ended, he steadily lost his effectiveness, retiring after the 1950 slate.

Frank McCormick (1940 NL MVP)
Considered tall for the era at six-foot-four, McCormick was one of the most productive first basemen in the majors during WWII. Spending most of his career with the Reds, he led the league in hits from 1938-1940. Though he captured MVP honors in 1940, he actually had a better all around offensive campaign in '39, hitting .332 with 128 RBIs and 99 runs scored. His average "slipped" to .309 during his MVP year though he did pace the NL with 44 doubles. McCormick rarely struck out, averaging just one whiff per 30 at-bats during his career. He was also extremely reliable, playing in 652 consecutive games at one point. Exceptionally skilled with a glove, he won four fielding titles at first base. During his thirteen years in the big leagues, he was named to eight All-Star teams. After retiring in 1948, he managed in the minors, guiding the Quebec Braves to a league championship in 1949. He also coached for the Reds in '56 and '57.

Dolph Camilli (1941 NL MVP)
The left-handed Camilli was a free swinger who led the league in strikeouts four times. But he also drew a fair share of walks, topping the 100 mark in that category on four occasions. He began his career with the Cubs in 1933 then spent portions of fours seasons at first base with the Phillies. Traded to Brooklyn in 1938, he became one of the most productive players on the club. Appearing most often as a clean-up man, he hit .345 with the bases loaded during his career and .285 with runners in scoring position. He earned his only All-Star selection in 1941--the same year he claimed the NL MVP Award with a league-best 34 homers and 120 RBIs. Camilli had one more great season left in him after that, slamming 26 long balls while driving in 109 runs during the '42 campaign. Traded to the Giants in 1943, he refused to report, retiring to his cattle ranch in California. He returned for a curtain call with the Red Sox in 1945. When his playing days were over, he coached and managed in the minors. He later scouted for the Yankees and Angels.

Mort Cooper (1942 NL MVP)
Cooper kicked around the Cardinals' minor league system for portions of six seasons, finally earning a call-up in 1938. Before the U.S. entered World War II, the big right-hander compiled a 38-28 record with a 3.56 ERA. As many of the game's most talented players were called to military duty, Cooper emerged as one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League. From 1942-'44, he won no fewer than 20 games per year while leading the league in shutouts twice. His finest effort came in 1942, when he notched a 22-7 record with a 1.78 earned run average. He led the Cardinals to three pennants and two world championships in a three-year span. Cooper pitched with bone chips in his elbow for years. He once told a reporter that he performed better when he was in pain. The condition finally took its toll in 1947, when his record fell to 3-10 with the Giants and Braves. He finished his career with the Cubs in 1949.

Spud Chandler (1943 AL MVP)
With a lifetime mark of .717, Chandler is baseball's all time winning percentage leader. It certainly didn't hurt that he played for the most successful club in the majors. During his eleven-year career, spent entirely with the Yankees, the Bombers won seven pennants and six World Series (including a run of four straight championships that began a year before Chandler's major league debut). Chandler lost portions of several seasons during the 1930s with a balky right elbow. When he was healthy, he was a fiery competitor and an intimidating presence on the mound. He finished among the top ten in hit batsmen three times, leading the league in 1940. His best season came in 1943, when he led the league with 20 wins and a 1.64 ERA. Additionally, he paced the loop in complete games and shutouts. The performance earned him MVP honors. After serving in the Army from April of '44 through September of '45, he was a bit rusty when he returned. He regained his form the following year with a 20-8 record and a 2.10 ERA (second best in the AL). In his final big league season of 1947, he made 17 appearances and led the American League with a 2.46 earned run average. He served as A's coach for two seasons and later scouted for the Indians and Twins.

Marty Marion (1944 NL MVP)
Marion received a fair amount of Hall of Fame consideration, peaking at forty percent of the vote in 1970. An MVP in 1944, he finished among the top ten in balloting two other times. Marion spent his prime years with the Cardinals, earning wide acclaim for his defensive excellence. With his long arms and wide range, he picked up the nickname of "The Octopus." He led the league in fielding percentage three times and finished among the top five in putouts and assists for ten straight seasons. A childhood accident left him with a right leg that was shorter than the other along with a trick knee that could be easily dislocated. The affliction kept him out of World War II. Marion was named to seven All-Star teams during his career. A competent but not exceptional hitter, he compiled a .267 batting average with a personal-best 63 RBIs during his MVP year. When his playing days were over, he served as manager of the Cardinals, Browns and White Sox. He later owned the Houston Buffs of the American Association.  

Phil Cavarretta (1945 NL MVP)
A quietly consistent performer, Cavarretta remained with the Cubs for twenty seasons and served as player/manager for three of those campaigns. He lost his job during spring training of 1954, when he told owner Philip K. Wrigley that the club would finish near the bottom of the pack that year. Fired for his "defeatist attitude," he moved across town to close out his career with the White Sox. Cavarretta helped the Cubs to three pennants and hit .317 in 17 World Series games. He enjoyed his finest season in 1945, when he led the league with a .355 batting average and a .449 on-base percentage. On the strength of those numbers, he was named NL MVP. Cavarretta was a steady hitter throughout his career, maintaining an average of .270 or better in nineteen of his twenty-two major league seasons. Following his retirement in 1955, he coached for the Tigers and Yankees. He also worked as a hitting instructor for the Mets.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

MVPs We Hardly Know (1911-1929)

There have been three versions of baseball's Most Valuable Player Award. In 1910, business mogul Hugh Chalmers chose to promote his automobile company by presenting a brand new Model 30 to the player with the highest batting average. It ended up being the most controversial race in history as members of the St. Louis Browns deliberately allowed Cleveland's star second baseman Napoleon Lajoie to beat out several bunts on the last day of the season. The ruse was designed to rob the tremendously unpopular Ty Cobb of the batting crown. When league officials got word of the plot, they blacklisted Browns manager Jack O'Connor from the majors along with pitching coach Harry Howell. Though Cobb was declared the winner by a narrow margin, cars were awarded to both contenders.

In 1911, Chalmers rebooted the award, appointing a committee of baseball writers to choose the "most important and useful player to [his] club and to the league." The selection was made every year until 1915, when Chalmers terminated the promotion on the grounds that it wasn't generating enough revenue for his company.

It would be several years before postseason accolades were reinstated. In 1922 and '23, a group of eight sportswriters chaired by Chicago Tribune scribe James Crusinberg voted for the best player in the American League. In 1924, the NL followed suit. Referred to as the League Awards, the tradition continued in both circuits through the 1929 campaign.

In 1931, the Baseball Writers Association of America created the Most Valuable Player Award, which has endured to the present day. Each year, the top players in both leagues are rank ordered from one to ten with points being assigned to each rank. Though the number of sportswriters casting ballots has varied a bit over the years, there have been no significant changes to the selection process.

It should come as no surprise that baseball's MVP awards (in whatever form) have been dominated by the all time greats. Of the many players selected during the twentieth century, most are in the Hall of Fame or have a legitimate shot at getting there. The others fall into two distinct categories: minor stars or flashes-in-the-pan. Over the next several posts, we will take a look at these odd men out and learn what happened to them after the greatest seasons of their careers.

Frank Schulte
 With the colorful nickname "Wildfire," Schulte was definitely no flash-in-the-pan.He patrolled the Cubs outfield for portions of thirteen seasons, leading the NL once in triples and twice in homers. A productive hitter in the postseason, he appeared in four World Series for Chicago, gathering 26 hits--7 for extra bases--in 21 contests. He was on the last Cubs team to win a World Series in 1908. Known for his defensive excellence Schulte enjoyed his finest offensive campaign in 1911. He was the first player to hit 4 grand slams in a season and the first to have at least 20 doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases. That feat went unmatched until Willie Mays pulled it off in 1957. After claiming the 1911 Chalmers Award, Schulte's offensive stats became more ordinary. He was traded to the Pirates in 1916. While wrestling playfully with teammate Duster Mails, he broke two ribs and was never the same afterward. He hit just .214 in 1917, prompting another trade to the Phillies. He finished his big league career with the Senators in 1918.

Larry Doyle
Known for his cheerful disposition, Doyle earned the nickname "Laughing Larry." He once commented: "Gee, it's good to be young and a Giant." It certainly was as Doyle helped the club to three straight World Series appearances (all losing causes) from 1911-1913. He was an offensive star in the 1911 Fall Classic, leading New York regulars with a .304 batting average. He scored the winning run in Game 5, but never touched the plate according to umpire Bill Klem. Had the A's tagged him, he would have been out. Doyle won the Chalmers Award in 1912 though he didn't lead the league in any major offensive category. He actually had a better all around season in 1915, when he paced the NL in hits (189), doubles (40) and batting average (.320). It was not the only time he finished atop NL leaderboards. In '09, he paced the loop with 172 hits and in 1911, his 25 triples were most in the majors. Doyle served as captain of the Giants for five seasons, filling in for manager John McGraw after ejections or suspensions (which were numerous). He hung around the majors through the 1920 slate, retiring with a commendable .290 batting average. He never received any serious Hall of Fame consideration.  

Jake Daubert
When two baseball organizations (SABR and STATS) gave out retroactive Gold Glove awards for decades before the honor existed, Daubert was named the best first baseman of the 1910s. He held his own offensively as well, leading the league twice in triples and once in sacrifice hits. His lifetime total of 392 sacrifices is second only to Hall of Famer Eddie Collins. Daubert spent a majority of his career in Brooklyn, winning consecutive batting titles. His .350 average in 1913 coupled with his slick fielding won him the Chalmers Award. Traded to Cincinnati in 1919, Daubert won his only World Series. The victory would be forever tainted when eight of his opponents admitted to throwing games. Over the course of his career, Daubert finished first or second in fielding percentage ten times. He hit .300 or better the same number of times, never dropping below .261. Beaned by Allen Sothoron of the Cardinals in May of 1924, he missed a total of fifty games while suffering from headaches and insomnia. At season's end, he grew weak and was re-hospitalized. He died a week after an appendectomy was performed. One of the attending physicians listed the secondary cause of death as "a concussion resulting from a pitched ball." 

 Roger Peckinpaugh
 Peckinpaugh was at least partially responsible for major league baseball's decision to wait until after the World Series to hand out MVP awards. After receiving the honor in 1925, he set an all time record for defensive ineptitude with 8 errors in the Fall Classic. Several of his miscues directly affected the outcome of games. Before then, he was widely hailed as the best defensive shortstop in the majors, turning more double plays than any of his AL peers on six occasions. Additionally, he led AL shortstops in assists four times. Peckinpaugh was a competent but not exceptional hitter, peaking at .305 in 1919. In his MVP year, he hit .294. After his horrific performance for the Senators in the Series, one sportswriter joked that he should have been named NL MVP as well. His downfall from the majors was swift. He hit just .238 in 1926, prompting a trade from Washington to Chicago. He got into 68 games for the White Sox then retired after the '27 slate.

George Burns
Burns's nickname "Tioga George" helped distinguish him from the George Burns who played for the Giants and Reds during the same era. "Tioga George" spent sixteen seasons in the American League, giving his best seasons to the A's, Indians and Red Sox. He led the league in hits and total bases while playing for Philly in 1918. His .352 batting average that year was second in the AL to Ty Cobb. Burns had an even better year with Cleveland in 1926, when he rapped a league-best 216 hits and set a single season record with 64 doubles. The mark was broken in 1931 by Earl Webb of the Red Sox. After capturing MVP honors in '26, Burns had an excellent follow-up season, slamming 51 more doubles while completing a run of seven straight campaigns with a batting average over .300. By 1928, Burns's skills were fading. He played through the '29 slate then continued in the minors until 1934. He served as a player/manager from 1930-'34.

Bob O'Farrell
O'Farrell had a long major league career, spending twenty-one years in the majors with four different clubs. A solid defensive catcher with a strong arm, he finished among the top five in fielding percentage five times and runners caught stealing on four occasions. He foiled 48% of attempted steals during his career, placing him among the top fifty in that category. Ascending to full-time status with the Cubs, he hit .324 in 1922 and followed with a .319 effort in '23. He lost his starting job to Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett the following year. Traded to the Cardinals in May of 1925, he became a first-stringer again. In his MVP year of 1926, he hit at a healthy .293 clip and guided a relatively mediocre pitching staff to a pennant. His 146 catching assignments should not be taken lightly considering the sweltering heat and humidity in St. Louis. In the '26 World Series, O'Farrell hit .304 and caught all seven games as the Cardinals edged the Yankees for a world championship. In 1927, he served as player/manager, replacing Rogers Hornsby. He guided St. Louis to a second place finish and was fired at seasons' end. He had some decent offensive campaigns after that, topping the .300 mark at the plate in 1930 and '31. When his major league career was finished, he played and managed in the minors through the 1938 campaign.