Golden Baseball Magazine
One Great Year

This feature discusses a season in which a team finished much higher than they did in the immediate past or future or a player far surpassed any other year of his career.


Snuffy Stirnweiss


Joe Gordon


Joe McCarthy


Tony Cuccinello

Snuffy Stirnweiss 1945
George "Snuffy" Stirnweiss had an excellent 1944 season and an even better 1945 campaign.
  • The Yankees' 2B led the American League in the following categories in 1945:
    • Plate appearances - 718
    • AB - 632
    • R - 107
    • H - 195
    • 3B - 22
    • SB - 33
    • BA - .309
    • Slg. % - .476
    • OPS - .862
    • OPS+ - 145
    • Total Bases - 301
    His .309 average was the third lowest ever for an AL champion.
  • He also led the Junior Circuit the previous year, 1944, in five of those categories and had high numbers in another five. (League highs are bold.)
    • PA - 723
    • R - 125
    • H - 205
    • 3B - 16
    • SB - 55
    • BA - .319
    • Slg. % - .460
    • OPS - .849
    • OPS+ - 139
    • TB - 296
  • Snuffy hit .319 that season, ten points higher than a year later, but finished fourth behind Cleveland SS Lou Boudreau's .327.
  • In the other seven seasons of his career, Snuffy had these highs.
    • PA - 673
    • AB - 571
    • R - 102
    • H - 146
    • 3B - 8
    • SB - 18
    • BA - .256
    • Slg. % - .342
How did a journeyman ballplayer produce two of the best seasons any hitter ever had?
  • By 1944, World War II had diverted the vast majority of major league baseball players into the armed services.
  • 1945, the last year of the war, saw the biggest percentage of 4F's, has-beens, never-wases, and rookies in the two leagues.
  • So Stirnweiss was facing very few major league-quality hurlers.

That begs the question: Why wasn't Snuffy serving in the military?

  • Stirnweiss, who got his nickname because of a lifelong sinus condition, was rejected for service because of gastric ulcers, which had plagued him since college.
  • He stole an International League record 73 bases in 1942 for the Yankees' farm club in Newark (NJ).
  • He joined the parent club for 1943 but, with Joe Gordon, the reigning AL MVP, holding down 2B, manager Joe McCarthy switched Stirnweiss to SS. But he hit only .219 in 83 games.
  • McCarthy liked the scrappy, hustling rookie infielder and had him sit beside him in the dugout so he could impart his wisdom to him every game.
  • When Gordon entered the military, Snuffy played 2B in 1944 and served as McCarthy's leadoff man. By midseason, Joe was calling him "the best second baseman in the game today." That was certainly true for the depleted personnel that filled ML rosters.

In 1945, Stirnweiss enjoyed an even better season.

  • Watching his old club struggle to finish fourth, Babe Ruth praised Snuffy. "That sawed-off runt playing second base is the only ballplayer who could have gotten a uniform when the Yankees had a real ball club."
  • Stirnweiss roared from behind to overtake Tony Cuccinello of the White Sox for the batting title. Hitting .297 entering play on September 20, nine points behind Cuccinello, Snuffy ripped multiple hits in each of his next four games.
  • He finished with a flourish, going 3-for-5 in each of his last two games to overtake Cuccinello, who sat helplessly as his last three games were rained out.
    Cuccinello was a prime example of a player who occupied a spot on a big league roster only because of World War II. An All-Star with the Dodgers (1933) and Braves (1938), Tony had played in fewer than 40 games in each of the war seasons of 1942, 1943, and 1944.

When the troops came home for the 1946 season, Stirnweiss kept his spot in the starting lineup at 2B.

  • The Yankees traded Gordon to Cleveland before the 1947 season in which the Yankees captured the pennant and the World Series under new manager Bucky Harris.
  • Facing true ML pitching, Snuffy hit .251 in '46 and .256 in '47. He compiled a .259 average in the seven-game Fall Classic.
  • 1948 was his last year as the Yanks' regular 2B. He hit .252 in 141 games.
  • Jerry Coleman started most of the games at the keystone sack for new manager Casey Stengel in 1949.
  • Stirnweiss hung on for another two seasons before retiring.

 

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One Great Year Archive - I
1899: Buck Freeman
1945: Chicago Cubs
1945: Roger Wolff
1950: Jim Konstanty
1951: Walt Dropo
1952: Bobby Shantz
1955-6: Herb Score
1996: Brady Anderson

One Great Year Archive - II
1912: Chief Wilson
1918: Scott Perry
1924: Sloppy Thurston
1950: Johnny Groth
1956: Johnny Kucks
1957: Von McDaniel
1962: Kenny Hubbs
1976: Mark Fidrych
1985: Danny Cox
1989: Jerome Walton

One Great Year Archive - III
1912-13: Washington Senators
1945: Disenfranchised All-Stars
1948: Gene Bearden
1951: Ned Garver
1954: Dusty Rhodes
1964: Wally Bunker
1970: Cito Gaston
1970: Wes Parker
2001: Bret Boone

One Great Year Archive - IV
1945: Snuffy Stirnweiss
1956: Johnny Kucks
1961: Norm Cash
1980: Oakland A's Staff


 

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