October 26 – Happy Birthday Snuffy Stirnweiss
A Big Apple native and the son of a New York City policeman, Stirnweiss was a superb athlete who became an All-American running back at North Carolina but chose baseball as his career when he signed with the Yankees in 1940. By 1943 he was New York’s starting second baseman and the following year he led the AL in runs, hits, triples and stolen bases. He did even better in 1945, repeating as league leader in all those categories while adding the AL batting crown to his portfolio. But when WWII ended and the Major League rosters were replenished with returning players who had served their country, Snuffy’s production suffered. He was never again the offensive force he had been during the War years but he did evolve into one of baseball’s best defensive second baseman.
He eventually lost the starting second base job to Jerry Coleman. In 1950, the Yankees traded Stirnweiss to the Browns who in turn traded him to Cleveland. When his playing career ended after the 1952 season, Snuffy tried his hand at managing in the minor leagues. When an opportunity in banking opened up in New York City, Snuffy jumped into the new career. He was on his way to a Manhattan luncheon meeting on September 15, 1958 when he was killed in a commuter train wreck in Bayonne, NJ. He was just 40 years old and the father of six young children at the time of the tragedy.
A familiar chant heard in Yankee Stadium in recent years is Hip Hip Jorge, used by fans to honor the Yankees veteran catcher. It would have been an even much more suitable refrain if used with the last name of this Yankee infielder, who also celebrates his birthday on October 26.