*Harold Arthur Trosky, born Harold Arthur Trojovsky (November 11, 1912 - June 18, 1979), was an American first baseman in Major League Baseball for the Cleveland Indians (1933-1941) and the Chicago White Sox (1944, 1946). Trosky was born in Norway, Iowa. He batted left-handed, and threw right-handed.
In 5161 career at bats, Trosky had a career .302 batting average, with a career high of .343 in 1936. He hit 228 career home runs and had 1012 RBIs. He had 1561 career hits. His 216 HRs with the Indians puts him 2nd on the team's all-time list, behind Earl Averill.
His 1936 season was considered truly outstanding, especially considering his power numbers (42 HR, 162 RBIs, .644 slugging percentage) and the time in which he did it. He was also noted for leading a team of players in 1940 to try to get his manager, Oscar Vitt, removed.
Hal Trosky's career was highlighted by his 1936 season, in which he led the American League in Runs Batted In with 162, but he has been consigned to relative obscurity due to his playing at the same time as the greatest triumvirate of first basemen ever assembled (Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, and Lou Gehrig).
Born Harold Arthur, he arrived on November 11, 1912, to John and Mary (nee Siepman) Trojovsky. The family, second-generation immigrants from the region of Germany called Bohemia, moved to their 420-acre farm outside Norway, Iowa, in 1917.
In the summer of 1930, Hal signed his first contract as Harold Trojovsky, but from then on he changed the name to ‘Trosky’. Hal’s siblings eventually also chose the shorter “Trosky” for convenience in their own lives.
Trosky reported to the Cedar Rapids Bunnies in early 1931, playing for a $65.00 monthly salary. He closed out the year having played in a total of 52 Mississippi Valley League games. In 162 at-bats, he managed 49 hits (including 3 home runs) for a respectable .302 batting average. He followed that mark in 1932 by hitting .307 in 56 games in the 3-I league, first with Springfield (and, after that team folded, with Burlington), and then .331 after promotion to Quincy. His 15 home runs in 68 games with Quincy attracted attention up in the Cleveland organization, and in 1933 Hal Trosky began the season as a $200.00-a-month player with the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association.
At the close of the Mud Hen’s season, Cleveland finally called. On September 11th, 1933, Hal Trosky started at first in place of Harley Boss. In 44 at-bats that month, spread over 11 games, Hal hit .295, with a double and two triples, and drove in eight runs.
1934, his first full year in the major leagues, was nothing short of spectacular. Hal played every inning of all 154 games, hit .330 with 35 home runs (at the time the fifth highest total every by a first-year player), drove in 142 runners, and posted a slugging average of .598. He finished seventh in balloting for American League Most Valuable Player (even Triple-Crown winner Lou Gehrig could muster no better than fifth place in the vote).
Hal Trosky returned to baseball in 1935, renewed after a winter in Iowa and bolstered by a $1,000 raise. The sophomore season closed with Trosky again driving in over 100 runs and finishing fifth in the home run race with 26. The winter following the 1935 season brought some even better news: despite his slight decline in batting production the previous season, Hal was given a salary raise to $7,000 per year.
In 1936, the ‘1934 model’ Hal Trosky returned. A mid-June spell in Lakeside Hospital caused him to miss his only three games of the year. He was hospitalized as a result of a clot in his leg that developed following a batting practice accident in which he drove a pitch directly off his shin. Quietly, in mid-season, Trosky put together a nice little hitting streak, which grew to 22 straight games by July 27th and began to draw attention in the papers outside of Cleveland. On August 3rd, though, the streak finally ended at 28 straight games.
In August, Hal broke his own team record for home runs in a single season when he hit number 36 against the Senators, but by September 6th the Tribe had fallen to fourth and, soon thereafter, 1936 became a memory as the Yankees swept a League Park doubleheader to clinch the A.L. pennant. It was a memorable year, as he led the league in RBIs (162) and total bases (405). His RBI total over his first three seasons was better than the start enjoyed by Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg, or Ruth (after he gave up pitching).
In 1939, Hal became the team captain. Trosky agreed not only for the extra $500.00 stipend, but because he felt that he could serve as a buffer between some of the less confident players and their vitriolic manager, Oscar Vitt.
At the end of July, Hal did the unthinkable: he lifted himself from the lineup and let understudy Oscar Grimes play a few games at first. Trosky never admitted it to the team, but there were times when his head would throb. It was as if a fire hose had been turned on inside his skull, but the water had nowhere to go. All that pressure simply congealed between his temples.
Vitt may have assumed Hal was just trying to motivate his teammates. Regardless, the manager did not roast Trosky in the press and did not poke fun of him behind his back. Grimes played well enough not to lose but, with Trosky out of the lineup, opposing pitchers didn’t have to be quite as careful working to the number two and three hitters anymore.
1939 ended with Trosky recording only 448 at-bats for the year. It was the first season since his 1933 overture that he appeared in less than 150 games. He still hit .335 and drove in 104 runs, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to bring the necessary intensity to the park each day. He was only 26 years old when the season ended, but the pain from the headaches aged him beyond his years.
Over the winter, the headaches faded. Hal consulted several doctors, both in Cleveland and in Cedar Rapids, but none were able to pinpoint the source of his discomfort. As the frequency of attacks decreased, Hal began to believe the doctors, and threw himself into his farming, cattle-raising, and family life with vigor. By the end of the off-season, he was alive with anticipation over returning to baseball.
In the spring of 1940, events in spring training provided unmistakable indications of how the Indians would perform on the field, but not even the closest observers could have predicted the off-field show that was gradually unfolding. The players felt their manager was antagonistic and spiteful, but the press portrayed him as suffering and misunderstood.
The first week in June, though, marked the beginning of the end for Cleveland.
The Tribe split a doubleheader with the Senators, and narrowly avoided being swept with a single late-inning run. On June 10th, the Indians were rained out in Boston and the players spent the day in the hotel lobby dissecting their misfortune. The blame, naturally, fell on Vitt. Some of the players advanced the idea of mutiny, of trying to dump the manager, but team captain Trosky counseled patience. The slugger was a proud man, and wanted no part of pointing public fingers at anyone, even though Vitt’s acerbic words had repeatedly stung him. Hal had asked Vitt if he could skip batting practice a few days earlier. It was raining that day, and the big man was recovering from a nasty cold. “Why don’t you?” Vitt chided, “You’re not doing us any good.
The next evening, after a Red Sox blow out of the Indians, Trosky spoke with Frank Gibbons of the “Cleveland Press”. He told the scribe that the Indians could win the pennant with their current players, but had no chance as long as Vitt was the manager. Gibbons cautioned Hal to wait and see how things turned out before doing anything rash. Ironically, it was the same advice Trosky had given his teammates earlier.
In the hotel lobby the next morning, the players checked out early. At breakfast, they began surreptitiously plotting about how to solve the ‘Vitt problem’.
On the train ride from Boston to Cleveland, Ben Chapman and Rollie Hemsley reportedly called Boudreau and Ray Mack into their berth and told the young infielders that some of the players were circulating a petition calling for Vitt’s ouster. Boudreau and Mack, along with Al Smith, Beau Bell, Mike Naymick and Soup Campbell, were excused from participating.
Mel Harder and Johnny Allen, in a meeting with the rest of the players, told the team that they would go to owner Alva Bradley alone. The team disagreed, but they did appoint Harder as their ‘voice’.
On June 13th, tragedy found Trosky. Just as the train pulled into the Cleveland station, Hal received word that his mother had suddenly died in Iowa. Trosky went straight from the train station to the airport, while Harder called Alva Bradley’s office seeking an appointment with the owner.
Instead of sending Harder by himself, ten of the dissidents went to Bradley’s office en masse to show the executive the sincerity of their grievance. The players were all seasoned veterans who knew how baseball was played, both as a game and as a business. They were also men who played in times before the advent of the ‘rich’ superstars, men who all worked in the off season not by choice but by necessity, and they were men who understood the consequences of their actions. Clearly, this was no idle grumbling about a stern taskmaster. Vitt had wounded each of them deeply enough to spur them to those extraordinary measures.
The players told Bradley that Vitt had to go if the team was to compete successfully. They outlined four specific grievances, each of which Bradley later confirmed as true, and demanded the owner take action. Trosky even telephoned Bradley from the airport to ensure his absence wouldn’t be misconstrued. Despite his personal misgivings about the action, the team captain would not even consider standing idly by while his teammates pressed the issue.
Bradley told the players that he would look into the matter, and warned them that if word of the meeting were released, the players would be ridiculed forever.
Gordon Cobbledick found out almost immediately. While the Indians won the game that afternoon, the insurrection was front-page news the following morning. The headline for the story was physically larger on the printed page than that afforded to Hitler’s invasion of Paris. Bradley went on the record saying that he would take no immediate action regarding his manager or his players until he had a chance to talk with the team captain.
As far as Trosky’s involvement in the “Crybaby” incident, rumored so heavily by the writers, it probably was not nearly as great as some inferred. Three days after the story broke, on the back page of the “Cleveland Plain Dealer”, an apology of sorts was printed that stated that neither Oscar Vitt nor Hal Trosky had ever claimed that Trosky was bent on usurping Vitt’s authority.
Later in his life, though not formally discussing the incident, Hal shared his memories with Iowa journalist Maury White. After one particularly frustrating episode in 1939, a game during which Vitt infuriated the team by giving the ‘choke’ sign to one of his own players, Hal said, “We had a meeting and some wanted to confront Vitt then. I talked them out of it.” The Indians called Trosky in Iowa and asked him to return to the team immediately. It was the day of his mother’s funeral. Much of the blame for the divisiveness has to fall to the inaction of the owner.
This memo, from Alva Bradley, was discovered (and published) by the “Cleveland News” in 1951: “We should have won the pennant…our real trouble started when a group of 10 players came to my office and made four distinct charges against (Vitt) and asked for his dismissal. The four charges made against Vitt, on investigations I have made, were 100% correct.”
On August 11th, in St. Louis, Hal swung his way into the record books by becoming the 17th player in Major League history to clout 200 home runs, but several days later Hal pulled a muscle in his right leg. The days off were well timed; the headaches were attacking with such ferocity that Trosky began having trouble even seeing the baseball.
In the August 31st edition of the “Plain-Dealer”, Cobbledick acknowledged Hal’s vision problems. He noted that “(eye trouble) has compelled him to wear glasses off the field.” Trosky’s eyes were fine. It was his head that was the source of his pain.
Trosky finished the season batting only .295, and his 93 Runs Batted In marked the first full major league season he had ever played in which he failed to drive in at least 100 runs. The headaches had hit hard in August and September, but Hal loathed missing any game in the tight pennant race. He still ripped 39 doubles and led the team with 25 home runs, but the leg injury and family tragedies left the team short at the end.
The 1941 season began with none of the flourish that surrounded Feller’s no-hitter the year before. One constant, though, was Trosky’s headaches. They were striking with no notice and leaving a wide wake of debilitating agony. One day early on, a teammate stumbled in on the big man using an ice pack to relieve the pain immediately before a game. When asked if the headaches were affecting his play, Hal finally admitted the truth. Yes, he said, but it wasn’t the pain that was so troublesome…it was the vision loss.
For a hitter who made a living off fastballs, he was powerless against a blurry white apparition that he said sometimes looked “like a bunch of white feathers”. Hal played less and less. The migraines were now past unbearable and well into the boundary of torturous. On August 11th, Cleveland began a seven game road trip without their slugger. Trosky was left home, with Oscar Grimes assuming first-base duties, primarily because the headaches frequently left him non-functional on the diamond.
Hal did join the team for it’s last stop, in Chicago. In the sixth inning of the opener of a doubleheader at Comiskey Park, Trosky’s Indian career came to an abrupt end when he fractured his thumb in a collision with pitcher Ted Lyons. The slugger missed the final 39 games of the season and, as it turned out, would never wear Cleveland colors again.
The Indians finished in a tie for fourth place with the Tigers, and Hal drove in only 51 runs in 310 at-bats. In February 1942, Hal told Gayle Hayes of the “Des Moines Register” that he wouldn’t be playing baseball that year.
It was, he said, “…for the best interest of the Cleveland club and for myself that I stay out of baseball…I have visited various doctors in the larger cities in the United States and they have not helped me. If, after resting this year, I find that I am better, perhaps I’ll try to be reinstated. If I don’t get better, then my major league career is over.”
Trosky passed 1942 on his farm in Iowa. He devoured news of the war, produced food from his farm, and waited for a call from the draft board. Hal was evidently a decent farmer, averaging production of over 90 bushels of corn per acre in a time before the advent of modern farming technology, but he wanted to contribute on the front lines.
Hal worked out for the White Sox, and in November the Indians sold his contract to Chicago for $45,000.
In March 1944, the Army officially declared Hal Trosky “4F”, unsuitable for military service, due to his history of headaches. Despite a treatment protocol of vitamin shots, the Army wasn’t in the business of taking that type of chance. After three days of evaluation, they stood by their judgment. The White Sox took advantage of the Army’s concession. Hal played baseball in 1944 like a man with great talent who had been out of the game for two seasons. In April he logged several multi-RBI games, but he showed no consistency. His play was marked by a succession of solid games followed by mediocre performances. At the end of the first month of the season, he was hitting only .250 with one home run.
Headaches notwithstanding, Trosky still managed ten home runs in 1944, which was enough to lead his team in that category. Including his 1944 season, Hal led his respective teams seven times in the home run category. According to the SABR Home Run Encyclopedia, Trosky homered in nine different parks and off 112 different pitchers, and his most frequent victims were Tommy Bridges and ‘Bump’ Hadley. Of his 228 home runs, 106 were hit on the road, and 122 at home, and no one (with the exception of Averill) hit more at League Park.
At the end of 1944, with the White Sox in seventh place after winning only 71 times, Hal called it quits again. He headed home for some hunting and farming, and to await another possible call-up to support the war effort.
1945 found Trosky working again at the Amana Refrigeration plant. The headaches had been partially controlled by the B-1 vitamin shots and a significant reduction in his daily intake of dairy products. It was ironic that an Iowa dairy farmer was allergic to the very stuff his animals produced, and that he consumed so frequently in order to maintain his athletic frame. The treatments, along with some emotional distance from his time with the Indians, helped lessen the migraines considerably, and the end of the war presented Trosky with one more opportunity to recapture the thunder.
The White Sox offered Hal a contract for $21,000 to play in 1946. Hal hit only .254 for the season, with 2 home runs and 31 RBIs. Despite Chicago’s offer of $25,000 to suit up again in 1947, the 34-year old Trosky knew it was time to hang up the spikes for good. Following his official release in February 1947, the White Sox hired Trosky as a scout. Between 1947 and 1950, he traveled between the tiny towns of eastern Iowa looking for “the next Trosky”. He left the Sox in 1950 and, after farming for a few years, took up agricultural real estate sales around Cedar Rapids.
Hal had a heart attack in early 1978, and by 1979 was only moving around with the support of a cane. On June 18th, 1979, Hal Trosky collapsed. The doctors said the heart attack was so massive that Trosky was dead by the time he reached the floor. He was officially pronounced Dead On Arrival at Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids, and is buried in St Michael’s cemetery on a hillside overlooking his hometown of Norway, Iowa.
- Led the league in total bases in 1936 (405), beating out 2nd place Lou Gehrig (403)
- Led the league in RBIs in 1936 (162), beating out 2nd place Gehrig (152)
- Led the league in extra base hits in 1936 (96), beating out 2nd place Gehrig (93)
- Top 10 in the league in slugging percentage and home runs six times each in his career
* Article from From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
** - Photo by DeMoines Register