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Rogers Hornsby

Management Problems

Hornsby and his second wife had a new son in 1925. In mid-season, he took over as manager of the Cardinals, displacing Branch Rickey, and bought one-eighth of the club's stock, as part of a three-way power struggle for control of the club that also involved owner Sam Breadon. As a manager, Hornsby drove his players hard. He told pitchers they should knock down a batter if the count was no balls and two strikes, and he fined them $50 if a batter hit a pitch on that count. Hitters were fined $50 if they took a called third strike with runners on second or third base. Battling minor injuries, Hornsby again won the Triple Crown, with a .403 average, 39 home runs and 143 RBIs. He was named Most Valuable Player, and local newspapers dubbed him "the Rajah."

In 1926, Hornsby pushed the Cardinals ever further. Relentlessly hectoring his teammates and charges, Hornsby made winning a championship his first priority. He battled a thigh infection and fell into a batting slump, sinking to a .317 average. He defied Breadon by refusing to send many of his key players to exhibition games that Breadon had scheduled in September in the middle of the pennant race. The championship was the first in the history of the Cardinals franchise.

In the 1926 World Series, St. Louis faced Ruth and the heavily favored New York Yankees. Ruth homered three times in the fourth game of the series, the first two times after Hornsby had told his pitcher to throw him something slow. As he had during the pennant drive, Hornsby kept calling on Grover Cleveland Alexander, an epileptic and heavy drinker. After Alexander started the sixth game, Hornsby brought him back in the seventh and deciding game in relief, and he struck out Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded and saved the game by walking Ruth in the ninth inning; the series ended when Ruth was thrown out trying to steal second base.

Related Biography: Manager John McGraw

Hall of Famer John McGraw is considered by many baseball experts to be the best manager in major league history. As a player with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s, McGraw was instrumental in perfecting an allout style of play now known as "small ball" that focused on stealing bases, bunting, and hustling. He mixed these skills with an intimidating approach to opposing players and umpires. McGraw was constantly baiting and brawling and was frequently ejected from games.

As the manager of the New York Giants from 1902 through 1932, McGraw drove his players to 2,784 wins, second only to Connie Mack on the all-time list. His teams won nine pennants and three World Series and dominated the National League throughout most of his tenure. He was known as "The Little Napoleon" for his autocratic managing methods.

McGraw was constantly trying to get star players from other teams to help his club. From the very start of Rogers Hornsby's career, McGraw coveted him. He frequently urged Giants owners to propose trades to the St. Louis Cardinals. McGraw finally got his wish when Hornsby was traded to the Giants after the 1926 season. During the 1927 season, the only one they spent together, McGraw and Hornsby became close friends. They shared a love of betting on horse races and they shared a single-minded, ruthless approach to baseball. When McGraw battled illnesses during the season, Hornsby took over as manager and did so well that McGraw did not return at the season's end even though he had recovered.

After the 1927 season, Hornsby was traded to the Boston Braves after several run-ins with Giants owner Horace Stoneham. The deal was done while McGraw was spending the off-season in Havana, Cuba, and it was executed without McGraw's knowledge. He surely would not have consented to losing the player he had always wanted to get.

Hornsby was now at the pinnacle of the baseball world—at thirty years old, he was the game's best hitter, and he had managed a World Series winner. Things went quickly downhill, however. Breadon and Hornsby had had a long-standing feud, exacerbated by Hornsby's refusal to quit gambling on horses. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was trying to clean up baseball and backed Breadon. In a stunning trade, Breadon sent Hornsby to the New York Giants for second baseman Frankie

Rogers Hornsby

Frisch and pitcher Jimmy Ring. There was one problem: Hornsby still owned stock in the Cardinals, now his rival team in the same league. After long negotiations, pushed by Landis's insistence on cutting Hornsby's ties to his former team, Hornsby sold the stock for a handsome profit just before Opening Day of the 1927 season.

Hornsby fit perfectly with longtime Giants manager John McGraw, who had been trying to acquire him for ten years. Both men were demanding perfectionists on the diamond, and they shared a love for betting on the ponies. McGraw had health problems in 1927, and Hornsby took over as manager for thirty-three games near the end of the season. He led the league in runs and walks and hit .361. But Hornsby again made enemies in the front office and among his Giants teammates and had well-publicized legal problems involving gambling debts. Hornsby was traded again, this time to the lowly Boston Braves for two mediocre players, Jimmie Welsh and James Hogan.

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