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Arky Vaughan, Hall of Fame Pirates shortstop

Joseph Floyd Vaughan was born March 9, 1912 in Clifty, Arkansas. Upon finishing high school, Vaughan joined up with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He was called up to play for the Pirates in time for the 1932 season.

In both that year and 1933 "Arky" (so nicknamed for his home state) topped .300, leading the league with 19 triples in the latter. In 1934 he was named to play in Major League Baseball's first All-Star Game, a feat he would repeat for 9 more years. He also showed his prodigiousness for walking, leading the league three times in the category. A smart speed threat (though he rarely stole), he was on base so many times that he scored over 100 runs 5 times in his career.

In 1935, he had perhaps his finest season at the plate, batting .385, which broke the Pirates' single season team record, formerly held by Honus Wagner, Arky's coach and roommate. He was never the best fielding shortstop of his day, leading the league in errors on more than occasion, but he showed great range at the position and by the end of the decade he was considered the best shortstop in the National League.

Unfortunately, Arky peaked somewhat early in his career. He was only 23 when he had his spectacular '35 season, and although he continued to bat .300 or better all the way to the end of his career, he never lived up to the promise that that season had given. It hardly mattered: by 1940, he was considered a stellar shortstop and coveted property, due to his deferment from the war. So coveted in fact that the Brooklyn Dodgers gave up four players for Vaughan to play for them.

Vaughan was still an excellent shortstop, but Ebbetts Field proved to be a bane to him. He still batted .300, but his numerous extra bases (an advantage brought about by the spacious Forbes Field in Pittsburgh) disappeared. The fans and front office were disappointed, but they didn't hold a candle to Dodgers manager Leo Durocher (despite the fact that he was a lifetime .247 hitter himself.) The usually reserved and cool Vaughan saw his temper constantly flaring under The Lip's hard-fisted rule and no-excuses approach to baseball.

By 1943, Durocher had alienated a number of the Dodgers players, and after a clubhouse fight with Bobo Newsom, Vaughan turned in his uniform. Only an intervention by Branch Rickey kept Vaughan from leaving the game, but at the end of the year Arky quit baseball. He spent three years farming in California to help the war effort - and to get away from Durocher. Finally, in 1947, the 35-year-old Vaughan returned to the Dodgers - but only because Leo had been suspended for a year. In his part-time outfielder capacity, Arky showed he still had it, batting .325. After a brief stint with the Dodgers in 1948 and a year player-coaching the San Francisco Seals in 1949, Arky hung up his boots for good.

An avid outdoorsman, Arky loved to fish and hunt. On August 30, 1952, while fishing in the ocean just off the coast of Eagleville, California, a storm brewed up rather suddenly. Arky and a friend were caught up in the turbulence, the boat sank, and the two men drowned. He was just 40 years old.

In 1985 Arky was selected by the Veterans Committee to enter the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Career Statistics

YEAR   TEAM    G   AB    R    H  2B  3B HR RBI  SB  BB  SO   BA
1932 PIT NL  129  497   71  158  15  10  4  61  10  39  26 .318
1933 PIT NL  152  573   85  180  29  19  9  97   3  64  23 .314
1934 PIT NL  149  558  115  186  41  11 12  94  10  94  38 .333
1935 PIT NL  137  499  108  192  34  10 19  99   4  97  18 .385
1936 PIT NL  156  568  122  190  30  11  9  78   6 118  21 .335
1937 PIT NL  126  469   71  151  17  17  5  72   7  54  22 .322
1938 PIT NL  148  541   88  174  35   5  7  68  14 104  21 .322
1939 PIT NL  152  595   94  182  30  11  6  62  12  70  20 .306
1940 PIT NL  156  594  113  178  40  15  7  95  12  88  25 .300
1941 PIT NL  106  374   69  118  20   7  6  38   8  50  13 .316
1942 BRO NL  128  495   82  137  18   4  2  49   8  51  17 .277
1943 BRO NL  149  610  112  186  39   6  5  66  20  60  13 .305
1947 BRO NL   64  126   24   41   5   2  2  25   4  27  11 .325
1948 BRO NL   65  123   19   30   3   0  3  22   0  21   8 .244
     CAREER 1817 6622 1173 2103 356 128 96 926 118 937 276 .318
* Bold denotes led league.

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