Hornsby also played for the Chicago Cubs, the New York Giants, the Boston Braves and the St. Louis Browns. Though his Hall of Fame picture and plaque do not identify a team, I have assigned him to the Cardinals, where he had most of his success.
The list of the game's finest right-handed hitters starts and stops here. His .358 lifetime batting average (second all time behind Ty Cobb) and 7 batting titles aside, consider this: no one else topped the league in both slugging percentage and on-base average for 6 years running - not Williams, Ruth or Cobb. He won two Triple Crowns. His .424 average in 1924 remains the highest of the live-ball era and tops this century. He led the National League in total bases 7 times, slugging percentage 9 times and on-base average 8 times; according to Stats, Inc., he led the NL in "runs created per 27 outs" 10 times, something which only Babe Ruth can match. Hornsby hit .400 or better three times, had two-hundred plus hits seven times, led the league in doubles four times, and led or tied the league in runs scored five times. He was, without a doubt, one of the best five hitters in the history of major league baseball.
Just as clearly as Babe Ruth was the best player of the 1920s, Hornsby was the second best. His 250 home runs in the 1920s topped all other National Leaguers (except Cy Williams) by 100 or more - his .382 batting average so eclipsed everyone else in the majors that only two players were even within 25 points (Ty Cobb and Harry Heilmann). He always stood in the far back corner of the batter's box, and strode into the pitch with a diagonal stride and perfectly level swing that covered the entire plate effectively. He hit line drives to all fields, and was swift down to first and going for extra bases.
He was even-tempered, imperturbable at the bat, never arguing with umpires and never getting tossed from a ballgame. Hornsby was professional, likable and even heroic - when Sam Breadon traded him to the Giants in 1926, following his first MVP year and at the height of his popularity as a World Series-winning player-manager, St. Louis rocked in a hurricane of protest. But Breadon had had a bellyful of Hornsby; he knew the darker side of his star, a cold, contentious personality with an extreme aversion to authority. Owners and front-office men invariably saw him at his most belligerent - he would lock his hazel eyes into theirs and kick them out of his clubhouse.
For Breadon, the last straw was a contract dispute - Hornsby wanted a three-year deal at $50,000 each year, and Breadon lost patience with him: he dealt him for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring. In New York, Hornsby got along fine with manager John McGraw, but publicly fought with owner Charles Stoneham, who got rid of him to the Boston Braves at the end of the season. Hornsby was well-liked in Boston, but when the Cubs came knocking with five players and $200,000 the Braves couldn't say no.
At the age of 33, in 1929, he compiled a season of sumptuous performance for the Chicago Cubs - 409 total bases, .380 AVG, 39 HR, and 149 RBI, to win the MVP award and take the Cubs to their first pennant since 1918. He might have continued to play after that season and add to his already magnificent career stats (for instance, his 289 career HR at second base are an all-time record), but a broken leg kept him out of action in 1930, and he took managerial duties in later years that limited his playing time.
"I don't like to sound egotistical, but every time I stepped up to the plate with a bat in my hands,
I couldn't help but feel sorry for the pitcher."
- Rogers Hornsby
"Players who stand flat footed and swing with their arms are golfers, not hitters."
- Rogers Hornsby
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