James Philip “Jimmy” Austin
Born: December 8, 1879 - Swansea, Wales
Died: March 6, 1965 - Laguna Beach, CA
Career BA: .246
Managerial Record: 31–44
New York Highlanders AL (December 8, 1879 - March 6, 1965)
St. Louis Browns AL (1911–1923, 1925–1926, 1929; player-manager: 1913, 1918, 1923)
Born in Wales, the sport of rugby and a job as a machinist delayed Jimmy Austin’s Major League baseball career until the age of 29, but he made up for lost time with a dogged determination that won the hearts of fans, teammates, and coaches alike. Austin played 18 seasons, the last 16 for the lowly St. Louis Browns. His statistics were hardly remarkable, but he played ball like every game was his last. Maybe it was his way of compensating for his late arrival to the big leagues. Austin played until the age of 49, although he only played in 46 games after the age of 40.
A third baseman with effective speed, Austin was a double-edged sword for his clubs. In 1911, he led the American League in both strikeouts and sacrifice bunts. Austin’s Jekyll-and-Hyde nature carried over to the field where he led the league in errors three times, but also in assists and putouts two times each. Good or bad, you could never question Austin’s effort. George Stallings, his manager with the New York Highlanders, gave Austin the nickname “Pepper” due to his non-stop nature. Constant movement and a bouncy, child-like demeanor characterized Jimmy Austin, who served as player-manager for the Browns for parts of 1913, 1918 and 1923.
He remained with the Browns as a coach through 1932 but did play one game only in 1925, 1926 and 1929 before retiring as a player at age 49. He then coached for the Chicago White Sox until 1940. In retirement, Austin took his leadership skills to another level, becoming mayor of Laguna Beach, California, making him one of the few Major Leaguers to make an improbable yet seamless move from the hot corner to the corner office.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html