Phil Cavarretta

Cavarretta played 20 consecutive seasons with the Cubs. A lefthanded schoolboy pitcher for Lane Tech in Chicago, he signed a contract with Peoria (Central League) before he finished high school. He hit for the cycle as a right fielder in his first pro game in 1934. Brought up by the Cubs that September, he struck out as a pinch hitter in his debut, but homered in his first start for the only run of the game. He became the everyday first baseman for the 1935 NL champions as an 18-year-old.

In a May 1939 game against the Giants, Cavarretta broke an ankle sliding; 13 months later he repeated the same injury, also against New York. Exempt from military service because of an ear problem, he peaked during WWII. His 197 hits in 1944 tied with Stan Musial for the NL lead. In that year’s All-Star Game, he reached base a record five times. He was the 1945 NL batting champion (.355), helping the Cubs to the pennant and winning MVP honors. He led all hitters in the 1945 WS with a .423 average (11 for 26).

Cavarretta was the Cubs’ player-manager in 1951-53, and led the NL with 12 pinch hits in ’51. Fired in spring training of 1954 because owner Phil Wrigley bridled at Cavarretta’s prediction of a second-division finish, he finished his playing career with the White Sox. He managed extensively in the minors, coached and scouted for the Tigers, and became an excellent batting instructor for the Mets’ organization.