syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers |
"RAJAH OF SWAT"
by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
1921 to 1925 Hornsby averaged .397, .401, .384, .424, and .403. No other hitter,
either right or left handed, has equaled that record.|
1950, I was a bit beyond "Knot Hole Gang" days, but still a close observer of
my hometown Beaumont Exporters, a baseball team in the old Texas League. Knot
Holers were kids who received reduced admission costs to Stuart Stadium so they
could sit in a section of the left field bleaches and root for the Exporters.|
By then, aged 15, I had moved to a right sideline seat beside my father, near
the Exporter's dugout, and a good view of their manager for the year, Rogers Hornsby.
Hornsby was quite a baseball celebrity then, for though he had played in the "big
leagues" twenty-five years earlier, he still had the best batting average of any
right-handed batter. Since I sat near enough to hear the "Rajah" speak, I can
also report that he was the most profane man I had ever (then) heard. So he had
a fault. Hornsby could hit.
Hornsby was born in 1896 on his family's ranch
near Winters, Texas, and played minor league ball in Hugo, Oklahoma, and Dennison,
Texas, before joining the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915. Hornsby weighed only 130
pounds then, but added another thirty pounds over the winter and hit for a remarkable
average of .313 during his first full season. From 1921 to 1925 Hornsby averaged
.397, .401, .384, .424, and .403. No other hitter, either right or left handed,
has equaled that record. Hornsby's lifetime batting average of .358 is second
only to Ty Cobb's .367.
During his playing days, Hornsby refused to attend
motion pictures or read to avoid straining the remarkable eyesight that enabled
him to meet the ball with a solid bat. He also refused to use alcohol or tobacco
because he believed they would reduce his physical strength and interfere with
his success in batting.
Hornsby managed five major league teams after his
career as a player ended, and he also managed the Fort Worth Cats in the Texas
league, in addition to the Beaumont Exporters in 1950. That was a remarkable team.
Second baseman Gil McDougall later played second base for the New York Yankees,
and its catcher, Clint Courtney, warmed a bench for the Yankees behind Yogi Berra
and Ralph Houk (another former player-manager for the Exporters), then played
for other major league teams.
Beaumonters of that period remember this
team over all others. It was the only edition of the Exporters that ever won the
straight-way pennant of the Texas league, although it lost in a weird competition
to the fourth-place San Antonio Missions to represent the league in the Shaunassey
Series. Ičll bet Hornsby had gained another 100 pounds by then. The Rajah died
May 16-22 ,
Published with permission
This column is provided
as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald
is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.