October 24 – Happy Birthday Bunny High

Yesterday, we celebrated the birthday of a starting Yankee outfielder nicknamed “Birdie.” Today, we celebrate the birthday of the guy who took Birdie’s job and his nickname is “Bunny.” Hugh “Bunny” High was the oldest of three brothers to play big league baseball. He made his Major League debut in 1913 as an outfielder with the Detroit Tigers. At the time the Tigers had one of baseball’s best outfields in Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford and Bobby Veach so High spent much of his first two big league seasons watching games from the Detroit dugout.

In 1915, the financially troubled New York Yankee franchise had been sold to Jake Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston and both men were determined to upgrade the team’s mediocre roster. One of their first purchases brought High and the slugging Tiger first baseman, Wally Pipp to New York. High immediately replaced Birdie Cree as the Yankees’ starting center fielder for the 1915 season and then became New York’s starting left-fielder for the next two years. Back then the league’s cumulative batting average was only in the high .240s so when High averaged .258 and .263 during his first two seasons in New York, it was considered a very respectable performance. But when he slumped to .236 in 1917 he became a marked man, especially after the Yankees fired Manager Wild Bill Donovan at the end of that season and replaced him with the much more demanding Miller Huggins. With World War I raging, baseball lost many of its upper tier outfielders to military service in 1918 so High was still a Yankee when that season opened but Huggins kept him on the bench. It became evident to the then 30-year-old outfielder that his future with New York was not very bright with Huggins calling the shots so he asked the team to trade him and when no deals for his services resulted, he simply left the team to begin a new career in the shipyards.

I couldn’t find out how Hugh High got the nickname of Bunny. If he had played for New York a half century later than he did, you could make a case that it was derived from another famous “Hugh” who had a special affinity for “bunnies.” In any event, Bunny shares his October 24th birthday with another Yankee outfielder and this 2013 Yankee relief pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1915 NYY 119 505 427 51 110 19 7 1 43 22 62 47 .258 .356 .342 .698
1916 NYY 116 452 377 44 99 13 4 1 28 13 47 44 .263 .349 .326 .675
1917 NYY 103 432 365 37 86 11 6 1 19 8 48 31 .236 .329 .307 .636
1918 NYY 7 11 10 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .091 .000 .091
6 Yrs 516 1837 1546 176 386 54 21 3 123 56 212 168 .250 .345 .318 .662
NYY (4 yrs) 345 1400 1179 133 295 43 17 3 90 43 158 123 .250 .343 .323 .666
DET (2 yrs) 171 437 367 43 91 11 4 0 33 13 54 45 .248 .349 .300 .649
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/24/2013.

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