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Rogers, On Board

On the day when we salute the best of the best in baseball, I thought it a good idea to salute the best hitter ever associated with the New York Mets.

So a cap-tip, kudos, and remembrance to Hall of Famer, and 1962 Mets hitting coach Rogers Hornsby.

For those to young to remember, and that should be just about all of you, Rogers Hornsby was among the greatest players in Baseball History (A Sporting News poll from about 10 years ago ranks him 9th).

Hornsby played regularly as a second baseman from 1916 to 1929, primarily with the Cardinals, but also for the Giants, Braves, and Cubs, then dabbled in occasional baseball for a bit to the point where his career spanned 23 years. Among the highlights:

* A .358 batting average, with 301 HR

* He hit .400 or better 3 times

* He won the Triple Crown twice

* He led the NL in OPS 11 times

* He won a World Series in 1926 as a player/manager

In 1922, Hornsby hit .401 with 42 home runs and 152 RBI.

Yet for all his accolades, he was described in a Robert Lipsyte story in April of 1962 as controversial and unpopular, and there's good reason behind that. He was nasty to management and ownership as a player, and nasty to players as a manager, similar in some ways to Ty Cobb.

That didn't make him the most ideal of fits for the 1962 Mets, but Hornsby as there as a hitting coach. He lasted only a season, dying in January of 1963.

The lack of descriptions and accounts of some of the games of his playing era makes it difficult to describe fully the details of some of Hornsby's best moments of that season. But I know of at least three walk-offs of significance.

On May 4, the Cardinals rallied from a 7-3 hole to beat the Reds, 8-7, scoring five times in the ninth inning. Hornsby capped the crazy rally with a game-ending single.

On July 7, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers, 6-5, winning on Hornsby's two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth off future Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance. Or, as The New York Times put it:

"It remained only for Hornsby to smite the ball in the ninth to settle matters."

The newspapers describe a home run chase that season between Hornsby and teammate Ken Williams. Hornsby was the standard-setter, and became so for National League history with one more dramatic home run.

This one came on July 19 against the Boston Braves. It was a three-run home run with two outs in the ninth, with the Cardinals trailing, 6-4.

Hornsby's home run not only won the game, but marked his 25th blast of the season, breaking the NL record for home runs in a season. That's pretty clutch.

So although Hornsby wasn't a particularly admirable person in a lot of respects, we offer today as a day to salute him and remember the great accomplishments of his Hall of Fame career.

True Metsbys know...Rogers Hornsby finished his career with 5 walk-off home runs. Had he played entirely for the Mets, that would have been a club record.

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