Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Nice work if you can get it

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

From an outsider's perspective in the 1930s, N.Y. Yankees catcher Arndt Jorgens must have had the softest job in major league baseball.

At least that's how St. Louis Times sports writer Dick Fannington saw it. In his "Fanning with Fannington" column in the March 28, 1940, issue of TSN, he wrote, "Catcher Arndt Jorgens has had his name in 56 box scores for the Yankees in four seasons and each fall pulls down a full World's Series check. Three games last year, no times at bat and .000."

Jorgens was born in Norway in 1905. He spent five years in minor league ball beginning in 1926; the last two seasons split between the Yankees and their top farm team in Jersey City.

When Jorgens came to the major leagues to stay, he stayed on the bench. He had the fortune -- or the misfortune -- to come up a year or so behind future Hall of Fame Yankees catcher Bill Dickey.

He never played in more than 58 games in any of his 11 major league seasons. And though he was on the roster of five Yankees championship teams (1932, 1936-39), he never appeared in a World's Series game; his 23 games on the bench are a record.

Jorgens was Dickey's primary backup from 1931-35, but from 1936 on was never higher than third on the depth chart. In those championship years he appeared in 23 games in 1932, 31 in 1936, 13 in 1937, nine in 1938, and, as Farrington pointed out, three in 1939.

According to baseball salary historian Michael Haupert, Jorgens annual salary in those years was $7,000. His World's Series winner's share checks totaled $29,404.09, a bonus of about 84%.

Not to mention a fistful of gold World's Series rings.

Or a seat in the dugout with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and a dozen other Hall of Famers.

Jorgens retired after the 1940 season, going into the chain grocery business with his father-in-law in Wilmette, Ill.

Jorgens appeared on three mainstream bubblegum cards during his Yankees days, 1934 Goudey and 1939-1940 Play Ball, though by the time his 1940 PB card was issued, he had retired.

While the back of that 1940 card says Jorgens could be the regular catcher on many other major league teams, that might have been a stretch. Over his big league career he batted only .238 and had only four home runs.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments, criticism, additional information, questions, etc., are welcome . . . as long as they are germane to the original topic. All comments are moderated before they are allowed to appear and spam comments are deleted before they ever appear. No "Anonymous User" comments are allowed.