Billy Jurges

After attending Richmond Hill High School in Brooklyn, where Phil Rizzuto went a decade later, the fiery Jurges came up to the Chicago Cubs in 1931. His fine defensive skills prompted the Cubs to move Woody English from shortstop to third base, despite Jurges’s .201 batting average. Jurges and second baseman Billy Herman, a fellow rookie and former Louisville teammate, became the league’s premier double-play combination and teamed in three World Series during the 1930s. Jurges went on to patrol National League infields for 17 seasons, four times leading the league’s shortstops in fielding percentage. An adequate hitter, Jurges once rapped nine consecutive hits, one shy of the NL record.

Jurges’s solid, steady career started off with a bang. On July 6, 1932 Violet Valli (dubbed Violet Popovitch Heindel Valli by Cubs player/manager Charlie Grimm) called Jurges on the telephone, then entered his hotel room with a gun to attempt suicide. Jurges intervened and took a bullet in the hand and another through the ribs. This episode may have served as the prototype for The Natural, rather than the shooting of Eddie Waitkus by a crazed female fan in 1949. Although Jurges wound up missing only three weeks of action, the contending Cubs signed ex-Yankee shortstop Mark Koenig, who hit .353 for them. Because the Cubs voted Koenig a one half Series share, they were ridden by the Yankees that year’s World Series, highlighted by Ruth’s “called” home run.

Although Jurges was an unexceptional Red Sox manager for parts of two seasons, 1959-60, his tenure is worth noting. Under Jurges, infielder Pumpsie Green ended the Red Sox’ status as the only team in the majors without a black player.