Sunday, June 28, 2015

Here's to Hornsby!

The more I read about Rogers Hornsby is the back issues of The Sporting News, the more I like him as an old-school ballplayer.

While perusing the Jan. 19, 1963, issue of TSN, I found several items that reinforced that image.

In an editorial in that issue, TSN said . . . 

Rogers Hornsby was tough, he was demanding. He was never schooled in the niceties of diplomacy. 
But it must be remembered that he not only was one of the game's greatest hitters, but a man who held baseball in such high esteem that he could not tolerate those who did not.

As an example of Hornsby's single-mindedness where baseball was concerned, the sporting paper described how he had blown off his mother's funeral to prepare for the World Series.

Hornsby's mother had died in Texas shortly after the Cardinals, whom he managed, had clinched the 1926 NL pennant in the East in the final week of the season. The World Series was scheduled to start the next week in Yankee Stadium. 

"I've got a job to do here," Hornsby explained, "getting this club primed for our games with the Yankees. Mother would have understood," he added. "She always stressed doing the job we had to do." 

The Cardinals split the first two games of the '26 Series at Yankee Stadium, then went on to win the World's Championship in seven games.

Such traits did not endear Hornsby to large segments of baseball's family. In 1924, the year he batted .424, Hornsby didn't even win the NL MVP Award.

That went to Dazzy Vance, who was 28-6 for the second-place Dodgers. 

Hornsby lost the MVP when Jack Ryder, Cincinnati's representative on the NL MVP Committee refused to name the Rajah on his ballot. "Hornsby is a Most Valuable Player to himself, not to his club," Ryder said. Besides the award, Hornsby lost out on a $1,000 cash prize, paid in gold coin.

Hornsby didn't mellow any when his days as a player and manager were over. 

At sprig training in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1962, when Hornsby was a coach for the expansion N.Y. Mets, photographers tried to get a picture of him posing with baseball's new home run king, Roger Maris.

Maris refused to pose with Hornsby over comments Hornsby had made about Maris' .269 batting average while hitting 61 homers. Hornsby exploded, "That thick-skulled busher! There never was a time when he could have carried my bat."

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