July 6 – Happy Birthday Roy Hartzell
The 1910 New York Highlander season had been successful in terms of wins and losses but an embarrassment for the club in all other ways. The team had surprised everyone by finishing a strong second in that year’s American League Pennant race with an 88-63 record but during the season the team’s manager, George Stallings had been replaced as skipper by Hal Chase, the team’s star first baseman in a scandalous episode. Stallings had been so sure that Chase was throwing games that year that he had finally reported him to the team president, Frank Farrell and league president, Ban Johnson. Since Chase was the darling of New York’s fans at the time, both men not only sided with him, Farrell actually fired Stallings and made Chase his player manager.
Now Chase may have been crooked but he knew his baseball. He felt that if he could acquire a better hitting third baseman during the offseason, his club would have a great shot at winning it all in 1911. Jimmy Austin had started at the hot corner for New York in both 1909 and ’10 but though he was a switch-hitter, he wasn’t very good offensively from either side of the plate and had averaged just .218 in the just-completed season.
Ironically, the third baseman Chase was able to get in exchange for Austin had also hit just .218 that year, playing third for the St. Louis Browns. Chase knew, however that just one year earlier, Roy Hartzell had hit .271 for the Brownies and banged out 161 hits. He was hoping his new third baseman’s 1910 slump was just temporary and he was right.
Hartzell had an outstanding inaugural season for New York, averaging .291. Even more impressively, the then 29-year-old native of Golden, Colorado led the team with 91 runs batted in. Hal Chase had been right about the impact a new third baseman would have on his team’s lineup. The problem was that New York’s pitching collapsed in that 1911 season and the Yankees finished a disappointing 76-76.
Unfortunately for Hartzell, he had joined the team at the beginning of the darkest era in the franchise’s history. In his second season with the ball club, New York finished with a woeful 50-102 mark and during the five full seasons he played there, the team’s cumulative record was a horrible 332-439. But you couldn’t blame Hartzell. He did everything asked of him during his Yankee career, including playing third, short, second and all three outfield positions when the need arose and averaging a solid .261 lifetime for New York. He was also respected enough by his teammates to be named team captain.
By 1916, Hartzell had turned 34 years of age and the Yankees were ready to move forward without him. He accepted an offer to manage the Denver club in the Western Association, permitting him to move home to his native Colorado. In the article announcing Hartzell’s new job, the New York Times called him “the handiest utility man the Yankees ever had.”
|NYY (6 yrs)||699||2809||2365||283||617||72||34||8||266||98||328||187||.261||.355||.330||.686|
|SLB (5 yrs)||591||2414||2183||220||529||40||21||4||131||84||127||195||.242||.293||.285||.579|