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Rogers Hornsby

Swinging At Strikes

Hornsby had simple rules for hitting. The most important was never to swing at balls out of the strike zone. He didn't vary his stance, standing almost upright and rigid in the batters' box, left foot closer to the plate than right. He rarely pulled the ball down the left-field line, and always tried to hit the ball where it was pitched. He also placed paramount importance on a confident attitude, saying, as quoted in Alexander's biography, "Never get the idea that you can't hit a certain pitcher. … You must believe in yourself." Other than that, he tried not to think too much or overanalyze the situation or the pitcher he faced. "The only emotion or thought I ever had for a pitcher," he said, "was to feel sorry for him."

Awards and Accomplishments

1917, 1920-25, 1927-29 Led National League in slugging percentage
1920-25, 1928 Led National League in batting average
1920-25, 1927-28 Led National League in on-base percentage
1920-22, 1925 Led National League in runs batted in
1920-22, 1924 Led National League in hits
1920-22, 1924 Led National League in doubles
1921 Led National League in triples
1921-22, 1924, 1927, 1929 Led National League in runs scored
1922, 1925 Leads National League in home runs
1922, 1925 National League Triple Crown
1924, 1927-28 Led National League in walks
1925 National League Most Valuable Player
1926 Manager of World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals
1926, 1929 Played in World Series
1929 National League Most Valuable Player
1942 Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame

Though Hornsby always hustled and had enough speed to beat out many infield hits, he never was much of a base-stealer. As a fielder, he was inconsistent. His fielding percentage of .958 lifetime is subpar. Even after settling at second base as a regular position, he continued to play games at first base, third base, and the out-field. But he was excellent at turning the double play. With a runner on first base, he would play in on the edge of the infield dirt and "cheat" toward second base to get a jump on any potential double-play grounders. He was unmatched at taking throws from other infielders, making the difficult pivot with a runner sliding into him, and getting off quick, accurate throws to first base.

In an era when many players indulged in drinking and carousing and cared little for conditioning, Hornsby subordinated every other aspect of his life to baseball. He never drank or smoked. He went to bed before midnight and tried to sleep 12 hours a night. He took special care of his eyesight. He avoided reading, and preached that hitters shouldn't ruin their eyes by reading on trains or trolleys. He never went to the movies during baseball season, saying that motion pictures would harm his eyesight and lessen his batting abilities. His one vice was overeating. He ate lots of steaks, milk, and ice cream, and after his playing days ended, his weight ballooned.

In fact, baseball was about the only thing Hornsby really cared about. His only other hobby was gambling, and that got him into trouble. Despite organized baseball's well-publicized problems with gamblers in that era, Hornsby always defended his right to bet on horse (and dog) racing. He lost much of his salary in doing so. But the other interests shared by most ballplayers, such as golf, left him cold. It's once said that Cardinals owner Branch Rickey dragged Hornsby to a golf course during spring training in Florida in 1924, and Hornsby, who had never played golf, shot a 39 for nine holes, beating Rickey, an experienced golfer, by nine shots. But Hornsby never played golf again.

Hornsby was far from gregarious. He insisted on rooming alone, and was aloof from his teammates. He rarely talked with anyone about anything other than baseball, and he always spoke his mind—often too bluntly. His usual pastime on the road was to sit in hotel lobbies and watch people come and go, talking about baseball to anyone who approached him.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsBaseballRogers Hornsby Biography - Baseball Hungry, Chronology, Hitting Machine, Swinging At Strikes, Awards And Accomplishments, Management Problems