In Boston, Hornsby again assumed the managerial reins during the season and won his final batting championship with a .387 average. He also led the league in walks and slugging percentage. But the Braves were inept and finished next to last. After the season, it was announced that Hornsby had signed a three-year contract to manage Boston, but then he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for five inconsequential players and $200,000.
In 1929, playing on his fourth National League team in four years, Hornsby didn't have to manage, and he played in every inning of every game. He won his second Most Valuable Player Award with another exceptional season—thirty-nine homers, a .679 slugging percentage, a .380 batting average, and a league-high 156 runs. The Cubs won the pennant but lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics. During the season, Hornsby developed a calcified heel and played in pain. Shortly after the World Series ended, he lost many thousands of dollars in the great stock market crash of October 1929. He had off-season heel surgery and appeared healthy, but he injured his ankle in 1930 and his season ended early. Near the end of the 1930 season, he took over as manager. Although he continued to play himself on occasion, his regular playing days had ended because of age and injuries, and he concentrated on managing. The Cubs had winning records under Hornsby in 1931 and 1932, but he was released in August 1932. It came out that Hornsby owed money to several of his teammates; he had been borrowing from them to finance his gambling habit. Newspapers raised allegations that Hornsby had led a horse-race betting pool among Cubs players, but he denied it, and Landis refused to investigate the charges. Privately, Landis said, according to Alexander's book: "That fellow will never learn. His betting has got him in one scrape after another, cost him a fortune and several jobs, and still he hasn't enough sense to stop it."
In 1933, Hornsby hooked on for a last tour with the Cardinals, playing in forty-six games. He then served as player-manager for the American League's St. Louis Browns, where he stayed through 1937. The Browns were a perennial also-ran, and Hornsby used himself mainly as a pinch-hitter. His playing career ended when he hit .321 at age forty-one in twenty games. He finished with a career batting average of .358, second only to Cobb. Hornsby also ranks eighth in lifetime on-base percentage at .434, and his .577 lifetime slugging percentage is ninth among all retired players.
Because of his refusal to stop gambling and his prickly personality, Hornsby eventually became unwelcome in major league baseball. But baseball was everything to Hornsby, especially considering that his second marriage had also ended in divorce, and he continued to manage in the minor leagues, in Mexico and Texas. Umpire Len Roberts remembered Hornsby as "a true gentleman on the field—he never questioned a decision. I don't think there was a dishonest bone in his body," according to the Baseball Research Journal.
In 1942, when Hornsby was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he was managing in the low minors. He got a reprieve when the Browns hired him as manager in 1952, but he was fired in mid-season and took over in Cincinnati, where he lasted through most of the 1953 season before again getting dismissed. In his managerial career, he was traded or fired six times, and compiled a record of 701 wins and 812 losses. In the 1950s, Hornsby coached for the Chicago Cubs and in 1962 joined the New York Mets coaching staff. Late that year, he went to a Chicago hospital for eye surgery, but suffered a heart attack and died on January 5, 1963.
Hornsby will be remembered as a hitter of unequalled accomplishments and a player of exceptional drive and focus. Though not as reviled as Cobb, Hornsby was never a popular player among his teammates. But social skills don't win ball games, and Hornsby concentrated on winning. His discipline at the plate—swinging only at strikes, and not trying to overpower the ball—became a model for many future great hitters.
- Rogers Hornsby - Career Statistics
- Rogers Hornsby - Related Biography: Manager John Mcgraw
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