Friday, June 24, 2005

 

June 24th, 1907

Rollie Hemsley Born


I mentioned Rollie Hemsley ever so briefly as one link in the chain from Frank Bowes to Arnie Munoz, and being that today is his birthday (or would be, he died in 1972) it seems fitting to do him. Hemsley came up in the Pirates system in a prosperous period for the franchise that also produced Kiki Cuyler and Paul (Big Poison) and Lloyd (Little Poison) Waner. Those three went to the Hall of Fame and all but Cuyler were long-term Pirates. Hemsley made some All-Star teams, but never developed into a star. The reason is fairly clear in his nickname "Rollicking Rollie," earned because Hemsley enjoyed a good time and a good drink. Bill James, in a phrase so clever I wish it were my own, wrote that Hemsley "seemed to take prohibition as a personal challenge."

He played, almost entirely as a back-up, for
Pittsburgh, the Cubs, Cincinnati, the Browns, Cleveland, the Yankees and the Phillies in a nineteen year career. The Indians got him to AA during his time there and managed to get one of Hemsley’s better seasons out of him before he fell off the wagon. Hemsley was never known for his hitting, but rather as a strong defensive catcher, on par with the best of any era, but his lack of commitment to the game caused his frequent moves around the league. He ended his playing career after a few appearances for the Philles in 1947 at age forty, and moved on to a career as coach and scout, ending as I mentioned earlier, with his death in 1972.





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