DEAD PLAYER OF THE DAY (Taffy Wright Edition)

Taffy Wright OF 1938-1942, 1946-1949 (1911-1981)

Nothing deep today about Taffy Wright, who is best known for being an ace pinch-hitter (.278 PH average career, 13-for-39, or .333, his rookie year) and the guy who was half-thought to be the 1938 batting title winner because he hit .350—he had only 281 plate appearances, but the rule at the time said nothing about plate appearances, but specified a minimum of 100 games. Taffy had played in exactly 100 games, but as above, a good deal of his appearances were one-off pinch-hitting assignments, and the American League wisely said “screw it,” and recognized Jimmie Foxx, who had hit .349 in 685 plate appearances, as the league leader.

Wright does have one record, holding the AL title for RBIs in consecutive games with 13 for the 1941 White Sox. He did it from May 5 through May 20, driving in 22 runs during the streak. Ironically, the career .311 hitter batted only .269 in those 13 games, and went hitless in six of the games. Mike Sweeney tied Wright’s standard in 1999.

I should probably also mention that as a 44-year-old player-manager with the Orlando Seratomas of the Florida State League, Wright hit .353 in 215 at-bats, but really the only reason I bring him up is I wanted to pass along this story from the autobiography of longtime player, manager, and player-manager Jimmy Dykes, You Can’t Steal First Base:

Taft Wright, our tubby outfielder, batted ahead of Luke [Appling] in the lineup. Tubby had a lot of trouble with signs, especially with Luke’s hit-and-run sign. He made several false starts from first base one day before they finally got together and Luke singled him to third.

Afterwards I tried to get them to agree on a simple sign that Tubby could read easily. “It’s not my fault,” he said. “Luke mixes me up by tapping once, sometimes twice or three times with his bat on the plate. Then he’ll rub the sign off and start it again.”

“Suppose you make up a sign for Luke,” I said. “You two look like bushers, fiddling around the way you do.”

The next day Taft excitedly told me: “I’ve got a hit-and-run sign that Luke can’t miss.”

“You mean you’ll give the sign, not him?”

“Why not?”

“Okay,” said Luke. “What’ll it be?”

“When I start to run, you hit.”