Friday, November 11, 2005

November 11th, 1899

Bill Lange Retires

When players retire they often cite a desire to spend more time with their families. It's probably true of course, but very few players retire--and stay retired--in their prime (or close to it) for more family time. Bill Lange however, was definitely no poseur in that department. Nicknamed "Little Eva," Lange was a great ballplayer, finishing with a career .330 average (albeit against a league average of .298) and 124 OPS+. Lange still holds the Cubs' single-season batting average record at .389 in 1895. He was also a demon on the base paths, and for a long while considered the last man prior to Maury Wills to steal one hundred bases, although the number has since been reduced to eighty-four. Lange also contributed to the Cubs by convincing them to sign "The Peerless Leader," Frank Chance.

Lange's career lasted only seven years however, in large part because of the social conventions of the time. Lange was in love with a young woman, the daughter of a
San Francisco real estate tycoon. Given that at the time ballplayers were--to some extent fairly--regarded as little better than drunken ruffians, the woman's father refused to let his daughter marry a ballplayer. Forced to choose between his fiancee and baseball, Lange retired so that the wedding could go on.

Although his marriage would eventually end in divorce--so much for spending more time with the family on that front--Lange never returned to the game and spent the rest of his life in
San Francisco, dying there in 1950.

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