Rogers Hornsby Biography
Summary of the life and baseball career of Rogers Hornsby.
Rogers Hornsby was born in Winters, Texas on April 27, 1896. In 1914, he began playing baseball with a Class D club in the Texas-Oakland League. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased his contract in 1915 for $500.
Hornsby wasn't much of a hitter in the minor league. Cardinals manager Miller Huggins was convinced that if he put on some weight, Hornsby might be able to hit better. During the winter of 1915, Hornsby worked on his uncle's farm and packed on 20 pounds. The extra weight gave him the added strength he needed to become a powerful hitter. During the 1916 season, Hornsby had a batting average of .313. Over the next few years he gained another 20 pounds and increased his powerful swing.
Hornsby won his first batting title in 1920 when he had a batting average of .370. That year he was moved from the outfield to play second base full-time. Hornsby continued with a streak of batting titles for the next five years in a row. His all time record came in 1924 with a batting average of .424 with only 22 hitless games. Hornsby led the National League in 1924 with 121 runs scored, 43 doubles, 373 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .696. Between 1921 and 1925, Hornsby maintained an unbelievable .402 batting average. He led the league 9 times for slugging percentage, 4 times in runs batted in (RBIs), and had 302 career home runs. He won Triple Crown awards in 1921 and 1925 and won the National League's Most Valuable Player awards for those years as well. Hornsby attributed his great hitting ability to the care that he gave his eyes. He protected his eyes in every way he could and went so far as to avoid going to movies or reading books.
The St. Louis Cardinals, led by Hornsby, won their first World Series championship in 1926. The baseball world was surprised to see him traded to the New York Giants in 1927 for Frankie Fisch and an unknown pitcher named Jimmy Ring. Hornsby stayed with the Giants one year. He had a batting average of .361 and hit 26 home runs in 1927 along with 125 RBIs. The Giants traded him to the Boston Braves in 1928.
Happy to be playing for the Braves, Hornsby showed his gratitude by leading the National League with a .387 batting average in 1928. The Braves reluctantly traded him to the Chicago Cubs at the end of the season in a multiple player deal that included $200,000 cash for Hornsby. In 1929, Hornsby helped the Cubs win the pennant that year and replaced Joe McCarthy as manager the following year. He was a player and manager until August of 1932 when he was fired by the Cubs general manager, William Veeck Sr. Hornsby returned to the Cardinals briefly as a pinch-hitter and a utility outfielder before he left to become the manager of the St. Louis Browns in June of 1933. Hornsby stayed with the Browns until after the death of owner Phil Ball in 1937.
Hornsby was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942 and still holds the highest single season batting average, which was .424 in 1924. He also holds the National League record for the highest career batting average, which was .358 over his 23 years in the major league. After a long absence from baseball, Hornsby returned in 1952 to manage the Browns again. He only lasted through part of the season and moved to manage the Cincinnati Reds for part of the 1952 and 1953 seasons.
After retiring from baseball permanently, Hornsby worked for The Chicago Daily News and running baseball schools for boys. He died of a heart attack on January 5, 1963 in Chicago and is buried at the Hornsby-Bend Cemetery in Travis County, Texas.