June 29 – Happy Birthday Bobby Veach
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was an outstanding ballplayer who struggled to get good press because he always played in the same outfield with Hall of Famers. He started his career in 1912 with the Tigers, playing left field alongside the immortal Ty Cobb and the great Sam Crawford. When Crawford called it quits, Harry Heilmann took his place and Veach remained the third best outfielder on the team. How good was he? He drove in over 100 runs six different times, leading the league in that category in 1915, ’17 and ’18. From 1915 until 1922, no one in baseball had more RBIs or extra base hits than Bobby Veach. He averaged better than .300 in seven of his last eight seasons in Detroit and finished his 14-year big league career with a .310 lifetime mark. He was also an excellent defensive outfielder and one of the game’s best bunters. This guy was a reliable star who played the game hard but not mean. It was this lack of meanness that his mercurial teammate, Cobb did not appreciate. When the Georgia Peach took over as Tiger skipper in 1920, he was bound and determined to trade Veach but Bobby kept playing so well he made it difficult to justify such a move. Finally, in 1923, another future Hall of Fame outfielder named Heinie Manush showed up in Detroit, making Veach expendable. The Tigers sold the St. Charles, Kentucky native, who was by then 35-years-old, to the Red Sox. He had a very good year in Boston in 1924. In early May of the following season, Veach was traded to the Yankees. He appeared in 56 games for New York and one of his 127 Yankee at bats made history when he became the first and only player to ever pinch hit for Babe Ruth. He ended up hitting .353 during his one partial season in the Bronx but that Yankee team was so loaded with talent, Veach was waived before the end of the year. The Senators picked him up and he ended up playing in his only World Series that year with Washington. 1925 turned out to be Veach’s last season as a big leaguer.