Baseball Digest Birthdays: Jackie Jensen

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Throughout baseball history players have retired due to ability, injury, and even refusing trades. Some players simply did not want to play elsewhere. In the case of the late Jackie Jensen, he could not overcome a combination of the pull of family life and a fear of flying. The 1958 American League MVP was born on March 9th, 1927 and his career blossomed during a time of expansion and the advent of aviation.

Jensen’s career began with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in 1949,the team that traded him to the New York Yankees along with Billy Martin following the season. After spending parts of two seasons with the New York Yankees, Jensen became an every day player when the team elected to trade him to the Washington Senators in 1952. He achieved his first of three career All-Star nods while with the Senators. Following the 1953 season, the Senators traded Jensen to the Boston Red Sox, where his career drastically changed for the better.

Over seven seasons with Boston, Jensen topped 100 RBIs five times and led the league in three of those seasons. During his first six seasons as a Red Sox, he averaged 26 home runs and a .285 average. Jensen achieved his greatest success during the 1958 season when he earned the American League Most Valuable Player Award following a season where he hit .286 with 35 home runs and 122 RBI.

In a December 1999 issue of Baseball Digest, Barry Sparks examined where Jackie Jensen ranked among his era of players. Click here to check it out!

With the expansion of baseball to the west coast and more teams moving by the early 1960’s, Jensen retired from baseball in January 1960 citing a desire to be with his family and a fear of flying that increased through the late 1950’s. After missing the entire 1960 season, Jensen attempted a comeback in 1961 and retired again when he failed to produce as well as he did prior to his first retirement. Beyond baseball, Jensen kept busy as a baseball coach with the University of Nevada and the University of California. He passed away in 1982 at the age of 55, caused by a heart attack.

In 2000, the Boston Red Sox honored the ’58 AL MVP by inducting him into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Also Born Today:

“Arky” Vaughan(b.1912) was a Hall of Fame shortstop that is considered to be one of the greatest hitting shortstops in the history of the game. A nine time All-Star, Vaughan topped 100 runs score five times in his career and led the league twice. Vaughan played with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Brooklyn Dodgers during the course of his 14 year career. He sat out three seasons during the 1940’s due to a disagreement with manager Leo Durocher. He died suddenly in August of 1952 when his boat sank while fishing.

Billy Southworth(b.1893) was a Hall of Fame manager with the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Braves. He led teams to four National League Pennants and was a two time World Series Champion as manager. In addition to his managing days, he played 13 seasons as an outfielder with five different teams, including his time as a player/manager in 1929 with the Cardinals. He died in November of 1969.

Benito Santiago(b.1965) played two decades in the big leagues with nine different teams. A bulk of his career was spent with the San Diego Padres where he set a record by a catcher with a 34 game hit streak. He also earned Rookie of The Year honors in 1987 with the Padres, four trips to the All-Star Game, four Gold Glove Awards and Four Silver Slugger Awards while in San Diego. He bounced around the major leagues for more than a decade after leaving his first time. He slugged the first home run in franchise history as a member of the 1993 Florida Marlins.


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