June 19, 2013
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Sunday, November 11, 2012
One hundred years ago today, Hal Trosky was born.
He had tremendous talent, tremendous success, but ultimately Trosky became a tremendous disappointment. He’s one of the great also-rans in baseball history, a sad what-might-have-been tale.
Trosky made his big league debut as a 20-year-old with the Cleveland Indians in 1933. By age 21, he was not only their everyday starting first baseman (and I mean every day—he led the league with 154 games played), but he belted 35 homers, posted a .330 average and collected in 142 RBIs. Yeah, the 1930s AL was a hitters' wonderland, but adjust for era all you want, and that’s still damn impressive stuff.
Two years later, Trosky was even better. He became one of the few, the proud, the men with over 400 total bases in one season when he slugged 45 homers, hit 42 doubles, and legged out nine triples among his 216 hits. His 405 total bases led the league, and he drove in 162 runs, an Indians franchise record until Manny Ramirez had 165 in 1999.
The 1930s was a great era for American League first baseman with Hank Greenberg, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx, but given how good Trosky was and how young he was, one could be forgiven for thinking he might end up with the best career of them all. At the very least, he looked like a clear Hall of Famer in the making.
It didn’t quite happen like that, though, did it?
In 1937, the year after his 405-total-bases season, Trosky's average dropped by 45 points to .298, though he still slugged 35 homers. Just a one-time dip, right?
Sure enough, his average revived, spending back-to-back years in the .330s in 1938-39, but his power flopped to around 20 homers a year. In 1940, Trosky hit .295 with 25 homers, nice numbers—especially given that the AL’s overall offensive numbers were down—but nothing like Foxx, Gehrig, or Greenberg.
In 1941, he only played half a season and hit just 11 homers. Then came World War II, but even without the war, Trosky’s career appeared over.
What happened? Simple: migraine headaches so severe they derailed his career. As early as 1939, he played in just 122 games. The migraines made it impossible for him to concentrate enough to play the game, and that’s why his once-stellar career fell apart.
Without the headaches, Trosky might have been one of those guys who peaked early anyway. Hey, it happens. But the headaches explained why he fizzled so ferociously.
Trosky went into farming and real estate, dying in 1979 at age 66.
But his journey began with his birth, exactly 100 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through the things.
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