December 14 – Happy Birthday John Anderson
His nickname was Honest John and he was the first native Norwegian to play in the Major Leagues. He was also the first New York Yankee (Highlander) starting position player to bat from both sides of the plate. Anderson was already familiar with the Big Apple when the St Louis Browns traded the then 30-year-old to New York after the 1903 season because he had been a starting outfielder for Brooklyn for most of the previous decade. With New York, he joined Wee Willie Keeler and Patsy Dougherty to form a strong Highlander outfield that helped lead that team to a 92-victory season, falling just one and a half games short (to Boston) of the franchise’s first AL pennant. Anderson hit .278 and led the team with 82 RBIs. When he had a slow start at the plate the following year, New York waived him and he was picked up by the Senators, with whom he rebounded nicely by hitting .290 the rest of that season. During his second season playing in our Nation’s Capitol, he led the AL with 39 stolen bases in 1906. Honest John retired after the 1908 season with 1,843 hits and a .290 lifetime batting average during his fourteen seasons of big league ball.
The only other Major League position player to have been born in Norway was also a Yankee, serving as Bill Dickey’s backup at catcher for most of the 1930′s. Do you know his name? I’ll give the answer in tomorrow’s post.
Today is also the birthday of this former Yankee relief pitcher.