Rogers Hornsby (April 27, 1896 - January 5, 1963) was perhaps the greatest right-handed batter in the history of Major League Baseball, and along with numerous career records that he owns, his .424 batting average from 1924 is the highest by a player in the 20th Century. Despite being one of the most skilled players the game has ever seen, both at the plate and on the field with a calm and unwavering temperament on the field, his shortcomings as a compulsive gambler and belligerent attitude toward management and teammates made him somewhat of a pariah in the clubhouse. Rogers grew up in Texas where he started playing with the meat packing plant at which he worked until his brother Everett, a journeyman minor leaguer, landed him a tryout with the Dallas Steers of the Texas League. From Dallas, Hornsby moved up to the Denison Champions, later the Railroaders, who he led to the Western Association pennant before the St. Louis Cardinals came calling. In an attempt to save money and fill his roster, Cardinals manager Miller Huggins purchased Rogers contract in 1915 and he debuted in September 1915, hitting .246 in 57 at-bats. Though a skilled infielder, eventually settling in at second base for the majority of his career, Hornsby’s eye at the plate was like no other from the start. He combined a keen eye with tremendous power, range and speed. By his third year, he led the National League in triples with 17, something he would do again in 1921. He also led the league in slugging percentage while batting .327, second in the NL. Though he wasn’t much of a base stealer, swiping only 135 in his 23-year career, he led the NL in doubled four times and triples twice, testing defenses as he stretched would-be singles into extra-base hits. He remains among Major League Baseball’s leaders in extra base hits for his career (1,011).
In 1920, Rajah won his first of seven batting titles, hitting .370 with leagues leads in hits (218), doubles (44), RBI (94), on-base percentage (.431), slugging percentage (.559) and total bases (329). He would win six consecutive batting titles from 1920 to 1925 and a seventh in 1928. In 1922, Rogers won his first of two Triple Crowns as he batted .401, crossing the threshold of .400 that he would top twice more in 1924 and 1925, and added 42 home runs and 152 RBI. He also led the league in putouts (398), double plays (81), and fielding percentage (.967) that year. In 1924, Hornsby posted an MVP year as he hit an alarming .424 - the highest of any National Leaguer in history, and a .507 on-base percentage – seventh all-time at the time of his retirement. In 1925, he won his second Triple Crown as he batted .403 with 39 home runs and 143 RBI, finally capturing the Most Valuable Player award. In 1926, he led the Redbirds to their very first World Series championship against Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig’s heavily favored New York Yankees. However, despite his personal and the team’s success, Rogers was far too outspoken about his disdain for upper management and he was shipped to the New York Giants in 1928. Though still the best hitter in the National League, he clashed seemingly everywhere he went with management and ownership. His crippling vice also played a factor in his being moved so frequently as he spent virtually all he owned betting the ponies at local racetracks wherever he played.
Rogers played the infield, primarily at second for 23 years in the National League with the St. Louis Cardinals (1915-1926, 1933), New York Giants (1927), Boston Braves (1928), Chicago Cubs (1930-1932) and the St. Louis Browns (1933-1937). He also often served as player/manager, compiling a record of 701-812 in 1,530 games as the club leader. Rajah was an excellent infielder posting a career .965 fielding percentage, but his keen eye for hitting put him in the Hall of Fame. Hornsby won seven batting titles, hit over .400 three times, was a two-time National League Most Valuable Player (1925, 1929) and won the Triple Crown twice (1922, 1925). Rogers Hornsby finished his career with 2,930 hits including 541 doubles, 169 triples and 301 home runs while batting .358 and driving in 1,584 runs in 23 seasons. Rajah was once said to be “the only guy I know who could hit .350 in the dark” by fellow Hall enshrinee Frankie Frisch. Rogers Hornsby collected more home runs and RBI and batted higher than any other player during the 1920s to become only the fourth player to win the decade “triple crown” along with Honus Wagner (1900s), Ted Williams (1940s) and Albert Pujols (2000s). Rogers Hornsby was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942.