On September 10, 1915...
A skinny shortstop out of Class D ball made his major league debut for the Cardinals with an uninspiring 0-for-2 performance at the plate in a 7-0 loss to Cincinnati.
Fortunately it only looked up from there for the man who made his name as the top National League slugger of the 1920s -- albeit as a second baseman, not a shortstop. His name: Rogers Hornsby.
The Rajah hit .246 for the rest of the 1915 season and then, as legend has it, was told by the front office that it seemed like he needed more time down on the farm. Hornsby took the suggestion literally and went to work on an actual farm -- building his muscles and getting into excellent shape in time for spring training 1916.
After that, Hornsby failed to hit .300 or better only once until 1932. In the meantime, he led the National League in batting average seven times, runs five times, RBIs and doubles four times and home runs and triples twice. He also was player manager of the Redbirds in 1926, leading St. Louis to its first World Series title.
The earlier day Albert Pujols holds the record for best career batting average by a righthanded hitter -- .358 -- and won a pair of National League MVP awards.
Hornsby got into a contract dispute after the 1926 season and was traded to the Giants for a fellow future Hall of Famer, Frank Frisch. Although the Fordham Flash went on to be a great player for the Redbirds, fans were not pleased by the deal.
Cardinals owner Sam Breadon found his auto dealership draped in black crepe the next day, as if for a funeral. He hired extra security after fans jumped on the running boards of his car and threatened him as he drove through the streets of St. Louis. Cardinals rooters also petitioned the commissioner's office to ask that they trade not be allowed.
Although the move was painful at the time, Hornsby was only at the peak of his game for a couple of years following the trade. After leaving the Cardinals, Hornsby only played more than 140 games a season twice in his career. He made a cameo with the Cardinals in 1933, hitting .325 in 83 plate appearances. But the Redbirds set him free when he got a chance later in the season to become the player-manager of the Browns.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.