Friday, December 09, 2005

December 9th, 1957

Steve Christmas Born

Well, it is that time of year. You might think Steve has a decent shot at being the best player with a holiday name--there are, after all, few people named "Jim Thanksgiving" or, say, "Jacob Chanukah." However, there is no miracle for Steve Christmas, alas. Christmas played three years in the Majors in the eighties for three different teams, but never saw action in more than twelve games in a season, and played only twenty-four in his entire career, posting a rather limp .162/.197/.297 line.

So who was the best holiday player? That honor lies with Luke Easter. Easter a Negro League star who didn't make his Major League debut until age thirty-three with
Cleveland. (Although until much later in his life Easter claimed he was born in 1921 and therefore just twenty-eight.) He became a regular a season later. Easter hit twenty-eight home runs (sixth in the league) and drove in over a hundred runs while hitting .280. Easter would have the best year of his career two years later in 1952 when he posted a 141 OPS+, hit thirty-one home runs--good for second in the league behind teammate Larry Doby--and finished thirteenth in the MVP voting. Easter lasted with the Indians until 1954 and continued to play in the minors through 1963 (when he was forty-eight). Easter's final stop was the Rochester Red Wings, whom he joined while also serving as President of Luke Easter Sausage Company and offered five pounds of sausage to any Red Wings player who hit a home run.

Easter died in 1979 when he was killed by an armed robber at the bank where he was working at the time. His legacy remains both the question of what kind of player Easter could've been had he played his whole career in the Majors and of course, the post as the greatest holiday player.

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