May 10, 2015

Former Bronx Born New York Giants Player: Billy Jurges (1939-1945)

William Frederick Jurges was born on May 9th, 1908 in the Bronx, New York. He grew up in Richmond Hill, Queens, getting signed by the Chicago Cubs in the early 1930’s.

By 1933 he would become the Cubs main short stop and one of the best defensive gloves in the league.

He led the NL in fielding %, four times from 1932-1937, as well as put outs, assists & games played one time each. Jurges anchored a strong infield of Stan Hack, Billy Herman and Charlie Grimm / Phil Cavarretta. He batted a career high .298 in 1937, winning a pennant the following season. He played in three World Series with the Cubs, losing each time.

Drama: In 1932 Jurges received an alarming phone call, from his ex-girl friend- lounge singer Violet Valli. She soon appeared in his hotel room with a gun, attempting to kill herself. Jurges pulled the gun from her head, but suffered two gunshot wounds, one in his hand & one in the ribs. Some believe this incident inspired the scene in the novel & the movie “The Natural”.

That season he batted .364 (4-11) in a World Series loss to the A.L. New York club. It was in this series that Babe Ruth had supposedly called his HR shots. He also won pennants in Chicago in 1937 & 1938.

In December of 1938 he came over to the New York Giants with team mate Al Demaree & spent the next seven seasons with the Giants. He was their main short stop from 1939-1943 before becoming the great infielder; Buddy Kerr’s back up. These were not good years for the Giants, they did not win any pennants under Hall of Famer Managers- Bill Terry & Mel Ott.

In 1941 Jurges had his best Giants season, batting .293 with a .361 on base %, 25 doubles & 61 RBIs. In his career he had five twenty plus doubles season, & two seasons of ten or more triples.

In 1946 he went back to the Cubs playing out his last two seasons.

In his 17 year career he played in 1816 games, 1540 games at short stop (54th all time) with 3133 put outs (37th all time) 4959 assists (59th all time) with a .964 fielding %. He batted .258 with 1613 hits 245 doubles 55 triples 43 HRs & 656 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days he was a minor league coach & then a coach for the Washington Senators. In 1959 he was named manager of the Boston Red Sox.

He improved the team from 8th place to a 5th place finish. He would also help promot Pumpsie Green in Boston, in breaking the Red Sox color line.

Jurges left the team in 1960, due to nervous exhaustion, that season was Ted Williams final season as a player. 

Retirement: Jurges  the scouted many years for the Washington Senators, Texas Rangers & Houston Astros.

He later retired in Clearwater Florida, passing away there in 1997 at the age of 88.

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