Wednesday, February 23, 2005

 

February 23rd, 1969

Bubbles Hargrave Dies

Eugene "Bubbles" Hargrave (I can't find anything that explains the nickname) was a catcher in the teens and twenties for the Cubs, Reds and Yankees. He came up with the Cubs in 1913, and played three seasons, but never more than twenty five games and was returned to the minors. He re-emerged with Cincinnati in 1921 after they bought his contract for $10,000 or $25,000 or something in between (reports vary). He hit .289 his first season with the Reds and then proceeded to rattle off a string of six straight years hitting .300 or better. In 1926, he won the batting title with a .353 average, still the best single-season average for a catcher.

As was common for catchers in that era, Hargrave appeared in just ninety-three games as a catcher, although twelve pinch-hitting appearances pushed him over the one hundred game minimum needed to qualify for the batting title. Despite this, Hargrave had just 2.3 plate appearances per game, well under the 3.1 required for modern batting title qualifiers. The second place finisher was Hargrave's teammate "Cuckoo" Christensen who hit .350 but also would have been ineligible under modern rules as he had just 2.4 plate appearances per game. To find a qualifier under the current rules, one has to go all the way down to fifth place finisher Paul "Big Poison" Waner who hit .336 with 3.9 plate appearances per team game and in his rookie season no less.

Hargrave had one more good season for the Reds in 1927 and played in 1928. He went to the minors for one season in 1929 and returned to MLB in 1930 as a back-up to Yankees' catcher Bill Dickey. He retired after that season and lived in Cincinnati working as a supervisor for a valve company until his death.




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