Monday, April 17, 2006

April 17th, 1923

Solly Hemus Born

Short for Solomon, if you were wondering--I was--Solly Hemus was a shortstop for the Cardinals and Phillies in the 40s and 50s. Actually, he was a shortstop in the sense that most days when you showed up at the ballpark and Hemus was in the line-up he would be playing there but you would never confuse him with say, Ozzie Smith. Hemus played fewer than four hundred seventy-five games at short in his career but nonetheless managed to make eighty-four errors; most accounts I've read imply (if not outright state) he was an absolute butcher out there.

Which is too bad, because Hemus was a pretty good offensive player. Although Hemus never hit for much power--although his slugging percentage generally hovered around league average, a valuable quality for a shortstop--he posted consistently excellent on-base percentages, sometimes over .400. His best season was probably 1952 when Hemus hit .268/.392/.425 in regular duty, leading the league in both runs scored and HBP. The HBP was a crucial part of Hemus' game; actually, he led the league two other times besides '52 and finished his career with sixty-two, which was eleven more than his total number of home runs.

His defensive shortcomings continued to haunt him however and Hemus had a difficult time staying in the line-up. He was a player/manager for the Cards in 1959 and continued to manage--but not play-- in 1960 and '61 but was fired midway through 1961 and replaced with Johnny Keane. Hemus would later coach for the Mets (in their early, really bad days) and Indians; he managed the Mets Jacksonville farm club in 1966 but retired from baseball after that season.

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