Sunday, November 11, 2012
100th birthday of Hal TroskyPosted by Chris Jaffe
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.
3,000 days since Kenny Lofton gets his 2,000th hit.
6,000 days since Roberto Alomar’s career-best hitting streak peaks at 22 games.
6,000 days since C. Arnhold Smith, the first Padres owner, dies at age 97. He sold the team to Ray Kroc in 1973.
7,000 days since Jeff Bagwell gets hit by a pitch, breaking the fifth metacarpal bone in the left hand, knocking him out for the rest of the season.
8,000 days since the Cubs sign Houston closer Dave Smith as a free agent. This turns out to be a very lousy signing.
10,000 days since a Florida State League organist in Clearwater is ejected for playing “Three Blind Mice” after a disputed call in the game.
10,000 days since Reggie Jackson belts his 11th and final career grand slam.
15,000 days since the Mets trade pitcher Jim Bibby and three others to the Cardinals for four players.
1880 The Boston Braves sign pitcher Jim Whitney for $150/month. He’ll be one of the better pitches of the decade but will be hamstrung by poor defensive support.
1886 The Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players re-elects Monte Ward as its president.
1889 In a joint agreement, the National League and American Association agree to allow two substitutions per team in a game. Previously, they just allowed one.
1891 The NL dismisses charges of collusion the Cubs levied at other teams. Chicago said rival squads, most notably the Giants, laid down for the Boston Braves late in the year, letting them win the pennant.
1891 Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville is born.
1898 Pie Traynor is born.
1915 George Case, speedster outfielder, is born.
1928 19th century ballplayer Oyster Burns dies.
1928 The Browns sign catcher Rick Ferrell.
1948 Joe DiMaggio undergoes surgery for bone spurs on his right heal.
1953 The Orioles hire Jimmie Dykes as their manager.
1964 Roberto Hernandez, closer, is born.
1982 Joe Altobelli officially succeeds Earl Weaver as Orioles manager.
1986 The Reds release Pete Rose. Well, as a player anyway. He’s still their manager.
1987 The Cubs name Jim Frey the director of their baseball operations. He’s in over his head.
1997 Florida trades Moises Alou to the Astros.
1998 The White Sox trade Mike Cameron to the Reds for Paul Konerko.
1998 LA trades Bobby Bonilla to the Mets for Mel Rojas.
1999 In a five-player trade, Toronto sends Pat Hentgen to the Cardinals.
2001 Mark McGwire announces his retirement.
2008 Herb Score, one-time phenom pitcher, dies at age 75.
2011 The Phillies agree to terms with free agent reliever Jonathan Papelbon.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.