Golden Baseball Magazine

Almost Heroes

This feature discusses players whose feats were topped by another player in a crucial game and therefore forgotten to history.
Arky Vaughan
Joseph Floyd "Arky" Vaughan fashioned a 14-year major league career that earned him election to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1985.
  • His career statistics show why he was so honored:
    .318 BA - second among all shortstops to Honus Wagner's .327, 2103 hits, 1173 runs.
  • He spent his first ten seasons (1932-41) with the Pirates.
  • He finished up with the Brooklyn Dodgers 1942-43 and, after quitting base­ball for three seasons, 1947-48.
  • A left-handed batter, he hit .300 or better in every season except 1942 and his last one in 1948.
  • He won the NL batting crown in 1935 with a .385 average. Retroactive calcu­lations also show that he also topped the circuit in On Base %, Slugging %, and, of course, On-Base-Plus-Slugging %. That was also the second of three straight years he stood atop the NL in walks.
  • Arky led the league in runs scored three times: 1936, 1940, and 1943.
  • He finished #1 in triples three times: 1933, 1937, and 1940.
  • At age 35, he rejoined the Dodgers in 1947 and contributed to their pennant-winning season by hitting .325.
  • Looking at these numbers, one wonders why he had to be elected by the Veterans Committee to make Cooperstown.
Vaughan made the All-Star team nine times. But the game that is the focus of this article was the 1941 midsummer classic at Briggs Stadium in Detroit.
  • He started at short for the third straight season.
  • The National Leaguers wanted to win badly since the AL had taken five of the first eight.
  • Batting sixth in the NL lineup, Arky fouled out to LF against Bob Feller in the 2nd.
  • In the top of the 5th, he singled on the infield against Thornton Lee of the White Sox.
  • Two innings later, he clouted a delivery from Washington's Sid Hudson into the upper deck in RF with Enos Slaughter of the Cardinals on base to give the NL a 3-2 lead.
  • In the next inning, facing southpaw Eddie Smith of the White Sox, Vaughan smacked another two-run shot that went even further into the upper deck than his previous blast to stretch the lead to 5-2.
  • Dom DiMaggio's single drove in his brother Joe in the bottom of the 8th to make it 5-3.

You probably know what happened in the bottom of the 9th.

  • With Claude Passeau of the Cubs pitching his third inning, Ken Keltner of Cleveland smashed a grounder than bounced off Vaughan's replacement, Eddie Miller of the Boston Braves, for a single with one out.
  • The Yankees' Joe Gordon lined the first pitch into RCF for another one-base hit, Keltner stopping at 2nd.
  • Cecil Travis of the Senators worked a walk to load the bases.
  • That brought up Joltin' Joe, who had hit in 48 consecutive games going into the All-Star break and rapped a double earlier in the All-Star game. With the Detroit fans ready to anoint him their hero, Joe hit a grounder to Miller, who threw to Billy Herman of the Dodgers for the force at 2nd. But Herman threw wide to 1st to keep AL hopes as Keltner scored to make it 5-4.

You have quite a lineup when you can follow Joe DiMaggio with Ted Williams, who was also enjoying an epic season.

  • Ted's batting average at that point was a cool .405. (He would finish at .406 for the last time a batter in either league has topped the .400 mark.)
  • The Red Sox LF had a double and a walk earlier in the game.
  • Ted launched the 2-1 pitch high off the front of the third deck of Briggs Sta­dium to give the AL a 7-5 victory.
  • Just like that, Vaughan's heroics were forgotten.

Would Arky have made the Hall of Fame sooner if he had been the hero of the '41 All-Star Game instead of Ted Williams?

Ted Williams greeted at home plate by Joe DiMaggio (5) and the bat boy.

Arky Vaughan

Sid Hudson

Eddie Smith

Claude Passeau