Apr 26, 2018

1962 Mets Hitting Instructor / Third Base Coach: Rogers Hornsby (1962)

Rogers Hornsby was born on April 22, 1896 in Winters, Texas growing up in the Fort Worth area. The great Hornsby, nicknamed “the Rajah” was hired by George Weiss, the Mets first General Manager in 1961. He was to serve as a scout of the other NL teams, then became a coach for 1962 Mets in their inaugural season.

Hornsby was more of a batting instructor that gave out hitting tips, rather than a hitting coach by today’s standards. There really was no such official title as a hitting coach until the mid seventies.

Hornsby’s theory was to hit the ball straight up the middle. Mets Manager Casey Stengel would say, Hornsby could hit up the middle because he had enough power to hit it over the center field fence. Contrary to his style, Stengel believed in hitting down the lines, because that’s where the worst fielders played.

Hornsby was always tough critic on players and very outspoken. The best compliment he could come up with on his scouting reports were “the guy looks like a major leaguer”. Ed Kranepool who was only an 18 year old rookie at the time said, the only thing Hornsby ever said to him was “they don’t make them like they use to & swing at a strike”.

While coaching for the 1962 Mets, he was asked if he was still playing, how good he thought he could hit against the pitchers of the modern day. In a classic response he said: "I guess I'd hit about .280 or .290". When asked why he'd hit for such a low average, Hornsby replied "Well, I'm 66 years old, what do you expect?".

He only was a Mets coach / hitting instructor for one season. In January 1963 after going for an eye surgery, he would pass away from a sudden heart attack in Chicago, at the age 66.

Before his coaching with the Mets he had been a player manager (1925-1937), then a full time MLB Manager for two more seasons (1953-1954). He had trouble relating to his players, and they didn’t like him very much. He was known for being difficult to get along with. He was a harsh critic, very obnoxious and very outspoken of how he felt. He never sugar coated anything.

Winning was everything to Hornsby, no matter what, at any expense. Some stories remember him for being just as mean and full of hate, as Ty Cobb was. Hornsby would put on a fake smile to try * hide his emotions. He never drank or smoked, but was a big gambler, betting on horse races. He married three times & would father two children. 

Playing Days: During his playing days, Hornsby was one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game, winning seven batting titles & two MVP Awards. He was a man obsessed with playing baseball. His .359 batting average is second best all time, behind only Ty Cobb and it is the best average all time for a National League Player.

With those seven batting titles, six  of them came in a row (1920-1925). He would bat over .400 three times in his career (1922, 1924, 1925), and fell short by three points in the 1927 season. He is the only player to bat .400 & hit 40 HRs in the same season. He & Ted Williams are the only players to ever win the Triple Crown Award twice. He led the league in runs scored five times, RBIs, hits & doubles four times each, walks three times, HRs & triples twice each (1922 & 1925).

Hornsby also has led the league in slugging percentage eight times, more than any other player has done in that category, finishing with a .577% (10th all time).

In his spectacular career he has a .434 on base % (8th all time) with 2930 hits (39th all time) with 541 doubles (37th all time) 1584 RBIs (42nd all time) 169 triples (25th all time) 1579 runs scored (54th all time) 1038 walks (104th all time) 301 HRs (144th all time) with 1011 extra base hits (37th all time) & 2259 games played (126th all time).

Hornsby refused to go to the movies or read anything, during the season, in fear of ruining his eye sight.

On the field he also considered one of the best second baseman, in baseball history. He posted a lifetime .965 fielding %, with 5166 assists (21st all time) & 3206 put outs (52nd all time).

He had a 23 year career spending 13 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals (1915-1926) St. Louis Browns (1928 / 1934-1937) New York Giants (1927) & Boston Braves (1928) Chicago Cubs (1929-1932). 

New York: In his one season with the NY Giants he helped manage the team as John McGraw had health issues, he led the league in runs scored & walks while batting .361 (third in the NL). He did not get along with owner Charles Stoneman & his own gambling problem made his stay in New York short as he was traded at the end of the year..

World Series: Hornsby played in two World Series winning  a World Championship with the 1926 Cardinals. In that Series he hit just .250 driving in four runs. In Game #6 he drove in three runs with a single & ground out RBI.

In the 1929 Fall Classic loss to the Philadelphia A's he had two multi hit games going 5-21 overall with one RBI.

A Cardinal legend, he has his name retired by them (there were no numbers to retire back then) and he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942.

Rogers Hornsby opened his own baseball camp starting in 1939 through 1952. He would usually have up to 200 prospects at the camp. He had instructional help from MLB players like, Cy Young, Jimmie Foxx, Tris Speaker & School boy Rowe. 

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." - Rogers Hornsby

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