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The best clutch hitter I ever saw.
Frankie Frisch

The Experiment

James Le Roy Bottomley was born April 23, 1900 in Oglesby, Illinois. Although not much is known about his childhood, at the age of 19 he entered into what was then a new and untested system - that of the major league farm system, implemented in 1918 by pioneering baseball executive Branch Rickey of the St. Louis Cardinals. Bottomley played 3 years, honing his skills in the minor leagues, before being called up in 1922.

The Player

Bottomley was a superb hitter - he finished his career with a lifetime .310 average. Bottomley was also noted for his graceful play on the field at first base, setting the record for most unassisted double plays in a season with 8 in 1936. Bottomley was given the nickname "Sunny Jim" early on in his career, because he never seemed to stop smiling, on or off the field.

The Feat

Bottomley's most astonishing achievement in baseball, however, happened in a single day. On September 16, 1924, while playing against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Bottomley went 6-for-6, with 2 home runs, a double, and 3 singles. All in all, Bottomley had 12 RBIs in the game, a record which still stands today (although it has since been tied by Mark Whiten.)

The Legacy

In 1928, Bottomley edged out Earl Lindstrom for National League Most Valuable Player honors. Bottomley was also one of only 6 players to get 20 home runs, 20 doubles, and 20 triples in one season (he is joined by Willie Mays and George Brett, among others.) He twice won the World Series while with the Cardinals, in 1928 and in 1931 (making the game-winning catch while falling into the seats near first.)

The End

By 1933, Bottomley was beginning to show signs of his age, and was replaced in St. Louis by another product of their successful farm system, Rip Collins. Traded to Cincinnati, Bottomley struggled to help the consistently last-place Reds. Traded to the St. Louis Browns in 1936, Bottomley replaced manager Rogers Hornsby after he was fired mid-season, and coached the team until mid-1937, when he retired from baseball altogether.

The Life

After retirement, Bottomley bought and operated a cattle ranch near St. Louis for 15 years. In 1954, he returned to baseball as a scout for the Chicago Cubs, and had plans to manage a team in the Appalachian League, but suffered a heart attack and returned to his ranch instead.

"Sunny Jim" Bottomley died December 11, 1959 in St. Louis, Missouri, his first and last major league home. He was posthumously elected by the Special Veterans Committee into the Hall Of Fame in 1974.

Lifetime Statistics

 YEAR   TEAM   G   AB    R    H   D   T  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB   K    BA
 1922 STL NL  37  151   29   49   8   5   5   35   3  1   6  13  .325
 1923 STL NL 134  523   79  194  34  14   8   94   4  6  45  44  .371
 1924 STL NL 137  528   87  167  31  12  14  111   5  4  35  35  .316
 1925 STL NL 153  619   92  227  44  12  21  128   3  4  47  36  .367
 1926 STL NL 154  603   98  180  40  14  19  120   4  0  58  52  .299
 1927 STL NL 152  574   95  174  31  15  19  124   8  0  74  49  .303
 1928 STL NL 149  576  123  187  42  20  31  136  10  0  71  54  .325
 1929 STL NL 146  560  108  176  31  12  29  137   3  0  70  54  .314
 1930 STL NL 131  487   92  148  33   7  15   97   5  0  44  36  .304
 1931 STL NL 108  382   73  133  34   5   9   75   3  0  34  24  .348
 1932 STL NL  91  311   45   92  16   3  11   48   2  0  25  32  .296
 1933 CIN NL 145  549   57  137  23   9  13   83   3  0  42  28  .250
 1934 CIN NL 142  556   72  158  31  11  11   78   1  0  33  40  .284
 1935 CIN NL 107  399   44  103  21   1   1   49   3  0  18  24  .258
 1936 SLB AL 140  544   72  162  39  11  12   95   0  0  44  55  .298
 1937 SLB AL  65  109   11   26    7  0   1   12   1  0  18  15  .239
 CAREER     1991 7471 1177 2313 465 151 219 1422  58 15 664 591  .310
* Bold denotes led league.

Sources:

  • BaseballHistorian.com - http://www.baseballhistorian.com
  • Baseball-Reference.com - http://www.baseball-reference.com

Hall Of Fame Index
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