A hard-hitting right-hander, Hafey began his career at the age of 21 with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1924, and was a key member of the pennant winning teams in 1926, 1928, 1930 and 1931 (the only world championship team for which he played). In 23 World Series contests, he hit just .205. He left for the Cincinnati Reds in 1932 and did not play on the "Gashouse Gang" world champions of 1934.
Beset with poor eyesight brought on by beanings in 1926 and a chronic sinus condition, Hafey wore glasses throughout his career. Ill health forced him to retire early, and he never played a full season after the age of 31. During his prime, he was considered the best right-handed hitter in the National League besides Rogers Hornsby; he strung together six straight years in which he batted .329 or better.
In 1929 Hafey tied a National League record with ten successive hits, and posted career highs in home runs (29) and RBI (125). After batting .336 in 1930, he held out for $15,000, reporting ten days late to spring training. He eventually signed for $12,500, but Branch Rickey fined him $2,100 for not being in playing shape. Hafey responded by winning the 1931 batting title (his only title) with a .349 mark. He then demanded $17,000 for 1932, including a return of the $2,100. Rickey offered him $13,000, a raise of just $500. Incensed, Hafey drove home to California and waited until April 11, when he found out he had been traded to the Reds for Bennie Frey, Harvey Hendrick, and $50,000; Rickey, after all, had Joe Medwick waiting in the wings.
Hafey enjoyed playing with the Reds, who paid him $15,000, even though he was going from a world championship team to a last place club. In 1932 he played just 83 games, due to his sinus condition - still, he hit .344. In 1933, the 30-year-old slugger hit just 7 HR and drove in 62 runs despite playing every day; still, he went to the inaugural All-Star game and recorded its first hit (a second-inning single).
He hurt his shoulder in 1935, but on May 24, played in the first-ever regular season night game. The evening's dampness aggravated his sinuses. He saw the future of night baseball, and realized his career was ending. He retired, sitting out the rest of 1935 and all of 1936, but attempted a comeback in '37, playing in 89 games. He then quit for good, at the age of 34.
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