Monthly Archives: January 2011

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Walt Dropo

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
The first Rookie of The Year Award ever bestowed upon a member of the Boston Red Sox happened to also be one of their best players in the post-World War II era and a college standout at the University of Connecticut. Walt Dropo passed away on December 17th, 2010, and would have turned 88 years old today.

Walt Dropo was born on January 30th, 1923, in Moosup Connecticut and soon the “Moose from Moosup” made a name for himself as he excelled in basketball, baseball, football and track at Plainville High School. Considered one of the greatest athletes to play for UConn, Dropo remains second all time for career scoring average per game, more than sixty years after he graduated. He was one of the very few players in history to be drafted by the Basketball Association of America and the National Football Association in addition to being drafted by Major League Baseball.

Before he could start his career as a professional athlete, Dropo was drafted by the United States Military to serve in World War II. His collegiate career was put on hold for three years to serve as a combat engineer in Italy, France, Germany and Africa. He returned to UConn in 1943 and continued building his impressive athletic accolades. Following his graduation, Dropo was courted by the Providence Steamrollers of the BAA and the Chicago Bears of the NFL before signing with the Boston Red Sox in 1947.

Dropo tore through the minor leagues, hitting better than .300 in two full seasons, prompting the Red Sox to promote the first baseman briefly in 1949. After a poor showing in just eleven games, he was sent back to the Sacramento Salons, the Triple A team for Boston. Slugging 17 home runs to go along with a .287 average, it was clear that Dropo belonged in the big leagues in 1950.

A month into the 1950 season Dropo was called up and inserted into the lineup on May 2nd. The next day, he cranked his first career home run off of future Hall of Famer Bob Feller. He added 33 more home runs en route to his greatest season in the big leagues. In addition to hitting .322 on the season, he also drove in 144 runs, averaging more than a run batted in per game; a feat that would not be duplicated for thirty years until George Brett’s 1980 season with the Kansas City Royals.

Dropo also had a slugging percentage of .583 and an OPS+ of 133 en route to his American League Rookie of The Year honors and his only trip to an All-Star Game. For the 1950 season, he ranked among the top 10 in most offense categories for the league. In short, Dropo had one of the most impressive rookie years in baseball history.

Unfortunately for the surging first baseman, he suffered a fractured wrist in 1951 and lost a great deal of his offensive power. By 1952, the Boston Red Sox decided to part ways with Dropo and traded him to the Detroit Tigers in June of that year in a nine player deal. Included in that deal was Johnny Pesky, a Red Sox fan favorite. Dropo rebounded well in his new surroundings, slugging 23 home runs in 115 games. His 29 home runs on the season nearly tripled his 1951 total of 11. Most impressive, however, was the fear he accomplished soon after joining the Tigers. Between July 13 and 15, Dropo collected 12 straight hits against the pitching of the New York Yankees and Washington Senators. He also holds the record for most hits in four consecutive games, 15 he collected during this same stretch.

Emil Rothe recaps Walt Dropo’s impressive feat of 12 consecutive hits in this September 1973 issue of Baseball Digest. Click here to check it out!

Dropo had a penchant for adapting well to new teams, with the Chicago White Sox being the first example. After being traded by the Tigers following a subpar 1954 season where he hit just 4 home runs, Dropo slugged 19 home runs during the 1955 season. He again improved his numbers with new teams following subpar seasons with the White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. Over the course of the second half of his career with Chicago, Cincinnati and the Baltimore Orioles, he hit 62 home runs to go along with a .266 average. He was released midway through the 1961 season, at which point the 38 year old called it career.

Throughout his retirement, he received honors for his great athletic career. Among the accolades, he was named to the 11 player All-Time UConn Football team in 1969 and 1998, as well as the All-Time UConn Basketball team in 2001. In 2006 he was inducted into the first class of UConn’s Huskies of Honor. He was inducted into the Birmingham Barons’ Hall of Fame in 2007, the Double A team(at the time, the Boston Red Sox affiliate) which he slugged 14 homers and hit .359 during the 1948 season.

Also Born Today:

Mickey Harris, born in 1917, played nine seasons in the major leagues, and was a key member of the 1946 American League Champion Boston Red Sox. He missed four seasons in the majors due to serving in World War II, and returned to win 17 games and earn a trip to his only All-Star Game. He passed away on April 15th, 1971.

Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Davey Johnson, born on January 30th 1963, played 13 seasons in the big leagues primarily with the Baltimore Orioles. He was the starting second baseman on a Oriole dynasty that won two World Series titles in four trips to the Fall Classic between 1965 and 1972. He logged another 14 seasons as a manager of the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Orioles, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite his greatest success as the manager of the 1986 World Champions, he routinely led his teams to first and second place finishes. His managerial record is 1148-888.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: John Lowenstein

21 players in Major League Baseball history have been born in the state of Montana, and none have hit more home runs than John Lowenstein. Lowenstein ranks as arguably the greatest ballplayer to come out of “The Last Best Place” behind only Dave McNally, the late pitcher who won 184 games over 14 seasons.

John Lowenstein was born on Janury 27th, 1947 in Wolf Point, Montana, the same hometown as the NFL’s Detroit Lions former tight end Casey FitSimmons. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 18th round of the 1968 amateur draft and reached the major leagues on September 2nd, 1970.

Between 1970 and 1977, Lowenstein averaged 90 games played, and topped out with 140 games during the 1974 season. A .239 hitter with the Indians, Lowenstein developed a following that was known as the John Lowenstein Apathy Club. Approached by a fan with the hopes of creating a fan club, Lowenstein suggested a fan base that neither booed nor cheered as both can negatively effect a ballplayer. Thus, a fan following emerged, neither booing nor cheering for John Lowenstein. A well known incident during a game in 1980 exemplifies his sense of humor. He was struck in the neck by an errant throw while running the bases, and required a stretcher carry off the field. As the stretcher reached the top of the dugout, Lowenstein sat up and waved to the fans.

Though he may not have embraced the idea of being a fan favorite in the traditional sense, there are plenty of Baltimore Orioles fans that remember the greatness that was John Lowenstein. After a one year stopover with the Texas Rangers, he joined the Baltimore Orioles for the start of the 1979 season. As fate would have it, the Orioles were in thick of the playoff hunt as ’79 came to a close. Facing the California Angels in the American League Championship Series, Lowenstein provided the drama in Game 1 with a 3 run walk-off home run. The home run set the tone for the series, as the Orioles took the series 3 games to 1. Though the they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, it was the not the end of the Lowenstein postseason heroics.

In his own words, John Lowenstein recalled his postseason heroics in a Baseball Digest magazine article in August of 1990. Click here to read the full article!

John Lowenstein experienced something of a career revival with the Baltimore Orioles. Over seven years he averaged a .274 average and ten home runs a year. During 1982, at the age of 35, he had a career year by slugging 24 home runs and hitting .320 on the season. A year later, the Orioles were back in the World Series, this time facing the Philadelphia Phillies. In Game 2 with the O’s trailing by a run and down one game already, Lowenstein cranked a 5th inning home run that tied the game. The Orioles promptly peeled off four straight victories to take the series and give Baltimore their first title since 1970.

The 1983 World Series proved to be the height of the career revival, as he slumped during the 1984 season and played in just 12 games at the age of 38 in 1985. He retired after 16 seasons in the major leagues, and today ranks 19th all-time in MLB for fielding percentage of left fielders. Following retirement, Lowenstein was a color commentator for the Baltimore Orioles between 1986 and 1995.

Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Phil Plantier, born on January 27th, 1969, was a big league outfielder for eight seasons and may be best remembered for his time with the Boston Red Sox and his career year with the San Diego Padres in 1993 when he slugged 34 home runs. With 91 career home runs, Plantier holds the major league record for most home runs for a player born in the state of New Hampshire.

Eric Wedge, born in 1968, was a teammate of Phil Plantier’s in the minor leagues of the Boston Red Sox organization. Though his career was much shorter as a player, he has become a solid big league manager. As manager of the Cleveland Indians between 2003 and 2009, he led the team to a third place finish or better four times. The Indians were one victory away from a trip to the World Series in 2007 when they were defeated by the Boston Red Sox. On October 18, 2010, the Seattle Mariners announced Wedge as the manager for the 2011 season.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Vern Ruhle

Prior to the 1980 season, the Houston Astros franchise spent the majority of its seasons to that point in the basement of the National League standings. With the arrival of Nolan Ryan to compliment Joe Niekro, J.R. Richard and Ken Forsch, the Astros were poised to make a push for the postseason.

In July of that year, J.R. Richard suffered a stroke prior to a start and missed the rest of the season; for Richard, it wasn’t just the season on the line as his promising career also came to an abrupt end. As a result, the Astros leaned heavily on Vern Ruhle in the stretch run of the 1980 season and the occasional starter became a central part of the rotation that eventually led the team to their first postseason berth.

Baseball Digest magazine’s John Kuenster wrote about the promising career of J.R. Richard in a June 1980 article, a month before the fateful July day that changed things forever. Click hear to read the article!

Drafted in the 17th round of the 1972 amateur draft by the Detroit Tigers, Vern Ruhle blazed his trail through three minor league seasons by winning 35 games. He was inserted into the rotation of the Tigers in 1975 and won 11 games for the team that lost 102 games. He nearly duplicated his numbers in 1976, despite a 9-12 record. Ruhle stumbled a bit the next season and just before the 1978 season was released by the Tigers. He was out of a job for less than a day when the Houston Astros swooped in and signed the right handed pitcher from Coleman, Michigan.

Ruhle rebounded in 1978 in his new role out of the bullpen with occasional starts with a 3-3 record and a 2.12 ERA. His numbers dropped a bit in 1979 and heading into 1980 when he was thrust into the rotation during August. He more than handled his own, as he had a career year with 12 wins and a 2.37 ERA in 159+ innings, his highest total since 1976 with the Detroit Tigers. In the final seven starts of the season, Ruhle threw 5 complete games, including two shut outs. In Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the eventual World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, Ruhle earned a no decision while giving up three runs in seven innings.

In 1981, Ruhle returned to his role as a spot starter and occasionally working out of the bullpen. However, by the end of the season he was taking regular turns in the rotation. Helping the Astros to their second straight playoff appearance, Ruhle dominated in his only 1981 playoff start. He was the tough luck loser against Fernando Valenzuela, losing 2-1 in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

Ruhle transitioned between 1982 and 1984, working more out of the bullpen than taking turns in the rotation. 1984 marked the end of his time in Houston, and he played with the Cleveland Indians and California Angels during the final two seasons of his career. Vern Ruhle’s final pitching appearance came during the 1986 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. Though he surrendered a few runs in Game 4, the Angels rebounded and won the game in extra innings.

After retirement, Vern Ruhle held coaching jobs with several organizations, most recently with the Cincinnati Reds in 2006. In 2006, Ruhle was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and died on January 22, 2007 after a year long battle.

Born On This Day:

Les Nunamaker, born on January 25th in 1889, was a 12 year veteran with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. He was a member of the 1912 World Champion Red Sox team, and played in the 1920 World Series with the Cleveland Indians. He died on November 14, 1938.

Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Derrick Turnbow, born in 1978, was a seven year veteran with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Milwaukee Brewers. He was an All-Star in 2006 and notched 63 saves for the Brew Crew between 2005 and 2006. He retired from baseball in 2010 after several failed attempts to come back from injuries.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Alan Embree

Though he will be forever remembered as a member of the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that ended the 86 year World Champion drought, the term “Journeyman Reliever” fits Alan Embree like a glove. The veteran has come out of the bullpen for ten different teams over the last sixteen seasons. The lefty turns 41 today.

Alan Embree was born on January 23rd, 1970 in The Dalles, Oregon. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifth round of the 1989 Amateur Draft. His professional career began as a starting pitcher and after two successful years in the minor leagues, was given a shot with four starts with the Indians during the 1992 season. In his first start, he allowed a home run to to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. His 7.00 ERA during his cup coffee resulted in a return to the minor leagues for the 1993 season. He sustained a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the entire ’93 season aside from one appearance.

Following a sub par performance as a starter in 1994, Embree began the transition to a relief pitcher. With a 0.89 ERA out of the bullpen in 1995, he was summoned to the big leagues in July of that year. Though his ERA was north of 5.00 for in both 1995 and 1996, Embree had reached the big leagues for good. Embree helped the Cleveland Indians to the postseason during the late 1990’s, pitching in the 1995 World Series against the Atlanta Braves.

Prior to the 1997 season, Alan Embree was included in the trade that sent Kenny Lofton to the Atlanta Braves for David Justice. The trade was the first of several in Embree’s future, and he thrived while pitching with the Braves. He had a 2.54 ERA and made one appearance in the 1997 National League Championship Series.

Between 1997 and 2002, Embree had an ERA of 4.09 with six different teams. During this time he was traded four times and reached the postseason for the fourth time in his career with the 2000 San Francisco Giants. The June 26, 2002 trade from the San Diego Padres to the Boston Red Sox for two minor leaguers proved to be a key pickup for the Red Sox.

Alan Embree’s longest tenure with any team was the four seasons he spent with the Boston Red Sox. Though the team missed the 2002 playoffs with a 93 win season, Embree maintained a sub 3.00 ERA down the stretch. Despite a season ERA above 4.00 in 2003, Embree was pivotal to the Red Sox postseason run with an impressive September, allowing just 3 runs in 15 appearances. In 8 games through the 2003 ALDS and ALCS, Embree didn’t allow a single run. He improved upon his game in 2004, maintaining a sub 4.00 ERA through the middle summer months and a sub 3.00 ERA during the final month of the season. His postseason dominance continued, as he allowed just 2 runs in 11 appearances over the three series. He may be best remembered for being on the mound when the Red Sox completed their improbably come from behind series victory over the New York Yankees.

Alan Embree played a role in altering the Red Sox – Yankees Rivalry forever, Jeff Stone wrote about the historic rivalry in a July 2004 issue of Baseball Digest. Click here to read the article!

Embree started the 2005 season with the Red Sox, but struggled mightily. For the first time since his 2001 season, his ERA was nearly 8.00. The Red Sox released the World Series hero in July of that year and he was picked up by the New York Yankees less than two weeks later. He was unable to shake his struggles and became a free agent at the end of the season. He returned to the San Diego Padres for the 2006 season and drastically improved his numbers. His 3.27 ERA was the lowest of his career since 2002. He spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Oakland Athletics and notched 17 saves in his first career stint as an every day closer, filling in for the injured Houston Street.

Embree’s final season in the big leagues was with the 2009 Colorado Rockies. In an interesting twist, Embree had a better ERA at home(4.91) compared to his road games(7.20). Prior to the 2010 season, Embree signed with the Boston Red Sox. He had a brief stint with the Pawtucket Red Sox and was even called up to the big leagues, but never appeared in a game. Released by the Red Sox on May 1st, he signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox. He struggled in eight games, and was not recalled by the team. He is currently a free agent as the 2011 season approaches.

Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Mark Wohlers, born on January 23rd 1970, played 12 seasons in the big leagues and may be best remembered for his 9 seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He allowed a pivotal home run to New York Yankees’ Jim Leyritz in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series. Wohler’s battled control problems towards the end of his career, leading observers to diagnose him with baseball’s “Steve Blass Disease“.

Kurt Bevacqua, born in 1947, was primarily a back up with six teams over 15 seasons. He may be best remembered for his game winning home run in Game 2 of the 1984 World Series against the Kansas City Royals while a member of the San Diego Padres.

Frank Sullivan, born in 1930, played eleven seasons in the big league, mostly with the Boston Red Sox. He was a two time All-Star while with Boston and won at least 13 games between 1954 and 1958. He led the American League in victories with 18 in 1955. He was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2008.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Ubaldo Jiménez

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
In the eighteen year existence of the Colorado Rockies franchise, there has never been a pitcher matching the caliber of Ubaldo Jiménez. There have been players with flashes of greatness, but few match the rising promise of the current Rockies ace. The right hander born in the Dominican Republic turns 27 years old today.

Ubaldo Jiménez was signed by the Colorado Rockies as a 17 year old amateur free agent in 2001 and after a brief struggle during his first year as a professional, he began to climb the ranks of the minor leagues. Though he spent more than five seasons in the minor leagues, Jiménez was just 22 years old when he made his major league debut on September 26, 2006. By July of 2007, Jiménez was inserted into the rotation where he has remained since.

In September of 2007, Jiménez put his name in the records forever as Barry Bonds crushed a pitch from the rookie that turned out to be Bonds’ 762nd and final career home run. Despite his early connection to Bonds and playing in a homer friendly ballpark, he has ranked among the top 6 for fewest home runs allowed per nine innings in the National League over the last three seasons.

2008 was Ubaldo Jiménez’s first full season in the big leagues, and he responded with just the 6th sub 4.00 Earned Run Average season in Rockies history while leading the NL with 34 starts. Entering the 2011 season, he now holds three of the nine sub 4.00 ERA seasons in the team history.

Though Jiménez has just three full seasons under his belt, he has already set a new standard for pitching in Colorado, quieting proving that it is possible to succeed at Coors Field. He currently holds the all-time franchise lead in career ERA, WHIP and WAR for pitchers. If he continues his upward trend, Jiménez will soon become the franchise leader in most of the pitching categories. He displayed his dominance during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, when he struck out 10 of 13 batters he faced while pitching for the Dominican Republic.

Unlike Ubaldo Jiménez’s career numbers, pitchers have long struggled in Colorado. In a June Baseball Digest article in 1998, Mike Klis of the Denver Post wrote about Darryl Kile’s decision to embrace the challenge by signing with the Rockies prior to the 1998 season. Click here to check it out!

Early in the 2010 season, Jiménez offered a glimpse into what fans can expect as he enters the prime of his career. In the third start of the seasons, Jiménez threw the first no hitter in team history in a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves. He continued his scoreless inning streak in April, keeping the offense scoreless for three starts and more than 25 innings. He ran off another stretch of holding hitters scoreless when he threw 33 scoreless innings in May. For such a hot start, Jiménez was named the National League Player of The Month for both April and May, the first pitcher named for April and May since Pedro Martinez in 1999. He was also selected to his first All Star Game, and made the start for the NL squad.

Ubaldo Jiménez finished the 2010 season with 19 wins and a 2.88 ERA, the highest win total in a single season for the franchise and the lowest ERA for a Rockies pitcher since Marvin Freeman’s 2.80 ERA in 1994. With the 2011 Spring Training less than a month away, there’s no doubt we’ll continue to hear about the future of Ubaldo Jiménez.

Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Chone Figgins, born in 1978, has played with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Seattle Mariners during his nine years in the major leagues. During his career, he has reached the postseason six times and has swiped 322 bases. Figgins is currently the Angels’ franchise leader in stolen bases and ranks among the top ten in many more categories.

Mike Caldwell, born on January 22 1969, spent the majority of his 14 big league seasons with the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Milwaukee Brewers. He may be best remembered for his runner up finish to Ron Guidry for the 1978 American League Cy Young Award.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Johnny Oates

Before the 2010 season, the greatest era of the Texas Rangers franchise centered around the managerial career of the late Johnny Oates. Before Johnny Oates, the Texas Rangers were either miles away from contention or thisclose to reaching the postseason. Born on January 21st, 1946, the backup catcher took the long way to reaching his greatest achievements in baseball.

Picked from Virginia Tech by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round of the 1967 amateur draft, Oates powered his way through five seasons in the minor leagues with a .282 batting average. By 1972, he had reached the majors and played more games behind the dish than any other catcher on the team that year. During the middle of the off-season, he was shipped off to the Atlanta Braves as part of a six player trade.

In a December 1978 issue of Baseball Digest, Gary Mihoces gets insight from Johnny Oates with regard to head on collisions with catchers. Click here to read the article!

In Atlanta, like his time in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York, Oates served as a backup or platoon with other catchers. Despite the relegated role, he held his own with a .250 average, .309 OBP, and a steady defense behind the plate. In addition to eleven seasons as a catcher, Oates reached the postseason in three straight years. He went to the NLCS with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976 and the World Series in 1977 and 1978 with the Los Angeles Dodgers against the New York Yankees. 1978 was not the last time Johnny Oates would battle the Bronx Bombers for a chance at a World Series title.

By 1980, Johnny Oates’ playing days were winding down and he spent the final two seasons with the Yankees; the very team he battled in two previous World Series. Oates wasted little time making the transition from player to manager, debuting as the skipper of the Yankees Double A Nashville Sounds in 1982 and leading the team to a Southern League title. A year later, he managed the Triple A Columbus Clippers to a 83-57 record. He spent several seasons with the Chicago Cubs following the 1983 season, but he was far from finished as a manager.

By 1989, the team that first drafted the former catcher came calling, and tabbed him for manager of the Triple A Rochester Red Wings. By the following year he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles coaching staff and when Frank Robinson faltered in 1991, Oates was given reigns of the team. Despite a slow start in 1991, Oates guided the team from a 6th place finish to third place one year later. Following another third place finish in 1993, Oates and the Orioles climbed into second place at the time of the player’s strike in 1994. When new owner Peter Angelos took over, it marked the end of Johnny Oates’ career in Baltimore.

Johnny Oates wasn’t unemployed for long, as the Texas Rangers brought him in to guide the impressive offense. Oates’ impact on the team was nearly immediate. With a sub par debut season behind him, where the team finished in third, the 1996 Texas Rangers came out gangbusters by winning 51 games in the first half of the season. The skipper was named the 1996 American League Manager of The Year(along with Joe Torre), but the team struggled in the postseason against the budding dynasty of the New York Yankees.

Reaching the postseason in three out of four years between 1996-1999, the Rangers were handily defeated by the Yankees, winning just one game in three different Division Series. While the Yankees continued their winning ways beyond 1999, the Rangers struggled mightily in 2000 with a 91 loss season. After a tough start to 2001, Johnny Oates resigned his post.

Oates was planning on resuming his managerial career when news came out that he was stricken with a brain tumor. Though given a bleak outlook, the veteran manager beat the odds and survived more than three years before succumbing to the tumor on Christmas Eve, 2004. He was able to attend his induction with the inaugural class into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. In August of 2010, Oates was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame as well.

Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Rusty Greer, born on January 21st 1969, spent 9 major league seasons with the Texas Rangers, 7 under the leadership of Johnny Oates as manager. Though hobbled by injuries for much of his career, Greer was renowned for his hard nosed play.

Chris Hammond, born in 1966, spent 14 years in the big leagues. An unremarkable starting pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds, Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox, he revitalized his career in 2002 following 3 full seasons out of the majors. His final five seasons were spent with a different team each year and he managed a cumulative 2.93 ERA in the second ‘half’ of his career.

Mike Krukow, born in 1952, played 14 seasons at the major league level and may be best remembered for his playing days and as a commentator with the San Francisco Giants. A 20 game winner in 1986 and a member of the 1987 Giants that went to the National League Championship Series, “Kruk” has developed his own baseball vocabulary better know as the “Kruktionary”.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Max Carey

Considered the Tris Speaker of the National League and perhaps most comparable in the stolen base category as Ty Cobb in the American League around the same time, Max Carey remains one of the greatest base stealers ever to play the game. Though his last game played was in 1929, Carey still ranks 9th all-time with 728 stolen bases.

There are ballplayers who make their names in playing baseball, and it’s literally true when it comes to Max Carey, who was born as Maximillian George Carnarius on January 11 in 1890. Unlike many players in baseball, Max Carey wasn’t drafted by a major league team. Baseball wasn’t even the sport he had the most talent for, he had a athletic background in track and swimming. However, he did play infield in college, and approached the manager of the South Bend team of the Central League following a game in Terra Haute, Indiana in 1909 when he learned they had sold their shortstop to another league. Not wanting to risk his amateur status, he made up a name that was recorded as “Max Carey”. By the end of 1910, Carey had been mentioned to the Pittsburgh Pirates and upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, Honus Wagner noticed the skills of Carey and suggested a move to the outfield. The name Maximillian George Carnarius and the status as an infielder were both changed forever.

In a January 1957 article of Baseball Digest, Max Carey lists his own Top 20 Players of the day, using his own system to rank players. Click here to find out who Carey ranks first!

Though his offensive numbers were less than impressive with South Bend, Carey more than held his own. In a two decade career, Carey hit .285 and used his speed to terrorize opposing pitchers. He hit just 70 home runs, but had 419 doubles and 159 triples in his career. His most impressive numbers came on the basepaths. In addition to leading the National League in stolen bases 10 times, he remained the all-time leader in stolen bases for the National League until 1974, 36 years after he last swiped a base. He also saved some of his best offensive feats for the postseason. His only World Series appearance came in 1925, and he hit .458 in the series victory over the Washington Senators.

Max Carey remained active after his playing days were over. His first position was as the Brooklyn Dodgers manager for the 1932 and 1933 seasons, compiling a 146-161 record. After being replaced by Casey Stengal, Carey held several different positions in baseball when he moved to Florida with his family. Beyond his playing days, he may be best remembered for his time as the president of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1944 til 1950, which were considered the peak years of the league.

Though the all time leader in the National League for stolen bases at the time of his retirement, Max Carey did not get the call to the National Baseball Hall of Fame until the Veteran’s Committee elected him in 1961. He passed away in 1976 at the age of 86.

Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Lloyd McClendon, born on January 11 1959, played 8 seasons at the big league level mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates and also managed the Pirates from 2001 til 2005.

Elmer Flick, a Hall of Famer born in 1876, played 13 seasons between the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Naps. His batting title in 1905 with a .308 average was the lowest for a batting champ until Carl Yastzremski’s .301 batting average in 1968 won him a title.

Schoolboy Rowe, born in 1910, spent 15 seasons in the majors mostly with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He was a member of three Tiger squads that reached the World Series(’34,’35,’40), including the World Champion 1935 team that defeated the Chicago Cubs.