Before making his mark as a standout manager, Jennings starred as a shortstop. The redheaded, freckled firebrand wore a major league uniform for more than three decades as a player, coach, and manager. He also earned a law degree and built a successful off-season legal practice.
His best years as a player were as captain of the powerful, brawling Baltimore Orioles who were National League champions in three straight years, from 1894 to 1896. Operating within and outside the rules, Jennings and teammates John McGraw, Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley, and Wilbert Robinson were the scourge of opponents and umpires. During his five full seasons in Baltimore, Jennings never batted below .328 and achieved a high of .398 in 1896, the ML record for shortstops. In addition, he stole as many as 70 bases in a season and was the leader in fielding average and putouts three times each.
Though durable, Jennings suffered an incredible string of mishaps on and off the field. He was often hit by pitches - a then-record 49 times in 1896 alone. Two skull fractures, one the result of an accidental dive into an empty swimming pool, slowed but did not stop him. Although his hitting declined in later years, and a sore arm forced a move back to first base, Jennings' remained gainfully employed as a player-manager because of his superior skills as a strategist and field leader. He played for pennant winners in Brooklyn in 1899 and 1900, and later captained the Phillies before embarking on a managing career in the minors.
Purchased by the Tigers in 1907, Jennings guided the team to pennants in his first three years at the helm. He managed 16 seasons in the majors, and in his first three years (1906 to 1908), Detroit captured successive American League pennants. His distinctive "Ee-yah" yell of encouragement from the coaching box became his trademark. He won a fourth pennant in 1924 as manager of the New York Giants, and won 1,131 games in his career.
A nervous breakdown after the 1925 season brought his baseball days to an end. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945.
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