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Albert Leonard Rosen
(Flip)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Third baseman Al Rosen was a four-time American League All-Star and won the 1953 American League MVP Award. He was the first rookie to lead the American League in home runs, doing so in 1950. He topped 100 RBI on five different occasions. He barely missed out on a Triple Crown in 1953, with controversial circumstances costing him the batting title. After his major league career ended, Rosen spent 15 years in the front office of big league teams as club president and general manager. A World War II veteran, Rosen was arguably the greatest major leaguer born on February 29th. He won a Texas League MVP on his way up to the big leagues.

[edit] Early life

Al Rosen was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Rosen's parents (Louis and Rose) divorced when he was young. Al moved with his mother to Miami, FL. He battled asthma as a child but his mother encouraged him to play outdoors to get stronger. Rosen was an All-City third baseman in high school and also won the Florida high school middleweight boxing title. [1]

Rosen went on to college at Florida Military Academy, where he played baseball, football, basketball and boxing. He got his nickname "Flip" from his delivery as a semipro softball pitcher. He tried out for the Wilkes-Barre Barons in 1941 but did not perform well enough and was instead offered a $75 per month contract with the Thomasville Tommies. He would continue his college education in the baseball off-seasons and earn his degree. At the University of Miami, he played football and boxed (winning the Florida intercollegiate boxing title). [2]

[edit] 1942-1947: Minors and the Military

Rosen debuted in the minor leagues in 1942. With Thomasville, he hit .307 with a .427 slugging percentage and a team-leading 7 home runs. He fielded .929 at third base. He then missed the 1943-1945 seasons due to military service, serving in the Navy during World War II. [3]

He returned to the minor leagues in 1946 after his discharge, and was a utility infielder with the Pittsfield Electrics, playing first base and second base as well as his usual third base. When Indians farm director Buzz Wetzel came to Pittsfield, he said "Anybody who doesn't want to play for Pittsfield can have his release." Rosen took him up on it. When scout Laddie Placek found out, he tried to track down Rosen and talk him back into playing. He found Rosen at a pinball machine and convinced him to stick with baseball. While he did not get a set position, Rosen did star in the 1946 Canadian-American League. He hit .323/.447/.600 with 94 runs, 19 triples, 15 home runs, 30 steals and 81 walks while only striking out 37 times. He led the league in RBI (86, 3 ahead of Frenchy Bordagaray), slugging, triples (7 more than anyone else) and home runs (3 more than anyone else). He made the top 10 in average, OBP, walks and steals (only 5 shy of the lead). He lost MVP honors to Bordagaray, who had led in average but had a worse OPS than Rosen. He also helped fight for higher salaries for the players. [4]

Rosen was the Texas League MVP in 1947, hitting .349/.437/.619 with 141 RBIs for the Oklahoma City Indians. He led the league in average (30 points over Jack Cassini), hits (186, 21 more than runner-up Johnny Lipon), doubles (47, 9 more than Milt Nielsen), RBI (26 more than #2 Nick Gregory and 50 more than #3 Ferrell Anderson), total bases (330), slugging (by over 100 points) and OBP. He was second in home runs, 3 behind leader Gregory. [5] He earned his first call-up to the majors that September. In his first game, he fanned against Joe Page as a pinch-hitter on September 10th. His first hit was on September 22nd: pinch-hitting for Ed Klieman, he singled off Stubby Overmire in the 9th inning and came around to score one of four runs that frame as the Indians rallied to win by one. It was his only hit in nine at-bats in the majors that year.

[edit] 1948-1949: Success in the high minors, struggles in the big leagues

With Ken Keltner ensconced at third base in Cleveland, Rosen would spend most of 1948 and 1949 in the minors. He hit .327/.422/.587 for the 1948 Kansas City Blues, with 108 runs, 29 doubles, 8 triples, 25 home runs, 110 RBI and 73 walks to 36 strikeouts. Rosen lost the 1948 American Association batting title to Glenn McQuillen by two points, led in slugging, was 7th in RBI, 10th in runs and tied Bill Howerton for 5th in home runs. He was named the American Association Rookie of the Year. [6] He was 1 for 5 for the Indians; he did get to bat for Cleveland in the 1948 World Series though. In Game 5, with the Indians down 3 games to 1 and trailing 11-5, he pinch-hit for Negro League legend Satchel Paige and was retired by Warren Spahn. The Indians lost the game and the Series.

In 1949, Rosen produced at a .319/.410/.524 rate with 14 home runs in 83 games for the San Diego Padres. He hit only .159/.275/.205 in 51 plate appearances for the Indians.

[edit] 1950-1954: Peak years

Rosen finally became a major league regular with the Indians in 1950. He kept up the strong offensive performances he had shown in the minors - .287/.405/.543, 37 HR, 100 R, 116 RBI, 100 BB for a 144 OPS+. His first big league home run came off Fred Hutchinson on April 18th, a two-run shot in the bottom of the 8th to score Lou Boudreau and tie the game. He was 5th in the 1950 AL in slugging (between Larry Doby and Vic Wertz), 5th in OPS (between Hoot Evers and Wertz), 7th in total bases (301, between Bobby Doerr and Wertz), 1st in home runs (3 ahead of runner-up Walt Dropo), 7th in RBI (between Doerr and Luke Easter), 5th in walks (between Eddie Joost and Doby), tied Easter for the most times hit by pitch (10) and was third in OPS+ (trailing only Doby and Joe DiMaggio). His 322 assists led AL third basemen. He became the second rookie to win a home run title, following Ralph Kiner. It would be 37 years until Mark McGwire matched that feat. It would be 46 years until another Cleveland Indian, Jim Thome, had 100 walks, 100 runs, 100 RBI and 30 homers in a season. Bill James ranked it as the second-best rookie season by a third baseman. [7] He somehow did not get a vote for the 1950 American League Rookie of the Year Award, as Dropo, Whitey Ford and Chico Carrasquel got all the votes.

For the 1951 Indians, Rosen hit .265/.362/.447 for a 122 OPS+; he had 82 runs, 30 doubles, 24 home runs, 102 RBI and 85 walks. While hardly a poor year, it was the worst of his first five as a major league regular. He became the 9th major leaguer to hit four grand slams in a season (the prior American Leaguers were Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rudy York and Tommy Henrich). He was among the 1951 AL leaders in games played (154, tied for first with Jerry Priddy and Eddie Yost), total bases (256, tied for 8th with Wertz), tied for 9th in doubles (with Mickey Vernon, Ferris Fain and Gus Zernial), 7th in home runs, 5th in RBI, 5th in walks (between Doby and Johnny Pesky), tied for 6th in strikeouts (71, even with Easter) and tied for 5th in extra-base hits (55, same as Wertz).

"Flip"'s 1952 season was better than his strong 1950 debut. He batted .302/.387/.524 with 32 doubles, 28 home runs, 101 runs, 105 RBI and 75 walks. He hit cleanup and played third base for the American League in the 1952 All-Star Game. His first time up, he grounded out against Curt Simmons. In the 4th, he drew a walk from Bob Rush and scored on a hit by Bobby Avila. The AL lost, 3-2, as the game was rained out after five innings. On July 15th, Rosen stole home as part of a triple steal that featured three sluggers - himself, Doby and Easter. [8] Rosen was among the 1952 AL leaders in most offensive categories: average (7th, between Billy Goodman and Avila), OBP (6th, between Eddie Joost and Dale Mitchell), slugging (3rd, 17 points after Doby and 6 behind Mickey Mantle), OPS (3rd after Doby and Mantle), runs (3rd behind teammates Doby and Avila), hits (171, tied for 5th with Mantle), total bases (297, 1st, 6 ahead of Mantle), doubles (tied for 5th with Yost), home runs (6th), RBI (1st, 1 ahead of Doby and Eddie Robinson), walks (tied for 7th with Mantle), steals (8, tied for 10th with Goodman), extra-base hits (65, 3rd after Mantle and Doby) and OPS+ (159, 3 behind leader Doby and 2 behind Mantle). He finished 10th in voting for the 1952 American League Most Valuable Player Award; the only position players ahead of him were Mantle, Yogi Berra, Fain and Nellie Fox.

His finest year was 1953, when he hit .336/.422/.613 with 43 homers, 115 runs, 85 walks and 145 RBI with only 45 strikeouts and 11 errors to be named American League MVP. He again was the AL third baseman in the 1953 All-Star Game, though he got dropped from 4th in the lineup to 5th in favor of Mantle. He was retired by Robin Roberts, Spahn, Simmons and Murry Dickson as the punchless AL lost 5-1. He lost the Triple Crown on the final day of the season when Mickey Vernon edged him for the batting title; one hit would have made the difference either way. There was controversy as Vernon got a bunt hit on which the A's third baseman made little effort and two teammates acknowledged they made outs to prevent Vernon from batting a final time that day and potentially reducing his average. For his part, Rosen was out on a close play in his final at-bat, but said that umpire Hank Soar made the right call as Rosen missed the bag. [9]

He finished among the 1953 AL leaders in average (second to Vernon, as explained above), OBP (second to Gene Woodling), slugging (1st by 54 points over Zernial), OPS (1st by 113 points ahead of Vernon), runs (1st by 12 over Yost), hits (201, 3rd behind Harvey Kuenn and Vernon), total bases (367, 1st by 52 over Vernon), homers (one ahead of runner-up Zernial while 14 ahead of #3 Doby), RBI (1st by 30 ahead of Vernon), walks (5th, between Dick Gernert and Woodling), steals (8, tied for 8th with Mantle, though he also tied for 6th with 8 times caught stealing), OPS+ (179, 30 ahead of Vernon), singles (126, tied for 8th with Jimmy Piersall), extra-base hits (75, 1st by 6 over Vernon) and times on base (290, 1st by 6 ahead of Yost). He led third basemen in the league with 338 assists. He also ranks first in almost any sabermetric measure. Bill James rated his 1953 season as the best ever by a third baseman. He had the most RBI of any third baseman in the 20th Century (one ahead of Vinny Castilla's 1998 in a much more offense-friendly era and park) and the most home runs and total bases by an AL third baseman in the 20th Century (Mike Schmidt had more homers in the NL and Castilla more total bases). [10] His MVP award came unanimously. He also became the first third baseman to win the The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year Award. Through 2010, the only others to duplicate that feat were Ken Boyer and George Brett.

Rosen was moved to third base in early 1954 to make room for Rudy Regalado there. Al Smith succeeded Regalado when Rudy was hurt, Rosen remaining at 1B. He and Avila were battling for the batting title before both were sidelined by injury, a chipped right index finger in Rosen's case, hampering him for the remainder of the year. Despite the injury, he wound up moving back to third when the Indians acquired Wertz from Detroit and stationed Wertz at 1B (Smith now moved to left). In the 1954 All-Star Game, Rosen started at first base and hit 5th for the AL, Berra now the cleanup man. At his home park Cleveland Stadium, Rosen put on a show; had the All-Star Game MVP been given out at that point in time, he would have likely been the top candidate. He started the day by fanning against Robin Roberts but would not be retired again. In the 3rd, he stepped up with Minnie Minoso and Avila on base and hit a 3-run homer off Roberts to score the game's first runs. In the 5th, he came up with the AL now down, 7-5, and promptly hit a 2-run home run off Johnny Antonelli to tie it. In the 6th, Al came up with two on and two out, with the score still even at 7; he singled to load the bases against Spahn but Ray Boone flew out to end the threat. In the bottom of the 8th, he came up with a 9-9 tie, two on and one out. He drew a walk from Gene Conley to set up the winning run. In the 9th inning, he moved from first to third, replacing Boone as Vernon took Rosen's slot at 1B. For the day, he had gone 3 for 4 with a walk, 2 home runs and 5 RBI. [11]

Rosen finished the 1954 campaign at .300/.404/.506 with 24 home runs, 102 RBI and 85 walks, excellent numbers but a clear drop-off from 1953. He was 5th in the 1954 AL in OBP (between Yost and Avila), 4th in slugging (between Mantle and Vernon), 4th in OPS (after Ted Williams, Minoso and Mantle), tied for 5th in home runs (with Roy Sievers), tied for 5th in RBI (with Mantle and Sievers), tied for 5th in walks (with Carrasquel and Doby), was 4th OPS+ (after Williams, Mantle and Minoso), tied for 9th in extra-base hits (46, even with Smith and Boone) and tied for the lead with 11 sacrifice flies (even with Jackie Jensen and Sievers). He had the best OPS on the 1954 Indians, who set an American League record for wins in a year. He was 3 for 12 with a walk in an okay performance in the 1954 World Series but Doby and Avila slumped, Bob Lemon struggled on the hill and Willie Mays made The Catch as the Indians wound up falling in a four-game sweep to the New York Giants.

[edit] 1955-1956: Decline phase

Rosen's production was now falling as he battled a long string of injuries. In addition to his injured finger from 1954, he had back problems and broke his nose 13 times during his career. [12] He was still an above-average player, if no longer a superstar, hitting .244/.362/.402 with 21 home runs, 81 RBI and 92 walks for the 1955 Indians. He was picked for the 1955 All-Star Game, this time as a backup to Jim Finigan. He did not duplicate his 1954 All-Star Game success. He entered in the bottom of the 6th as a substitute for Finigan with a 5-0 AL lead. He drew a walk from Sam Jones in the 8th. In the bottom of the inning, though, he made an error that let the National League complete their comeback and tie the score. He struck out against Joe Nuxhall in the 10th and Conley in the 12th. In the bottom of the 12th, Stan Musial capped the contest with a home run. Rosen was among the 1955 AL leaders in only sacrifice flies (8, tied for second with Zernial and Vernon) and walks (6th, between Smith and Williams). In 1956, Rosen was limited to 121 games. He batted .267/.351/.428 with 15 home runs and 58 walks for a 103 OPS+ while not finishing among the league leaders in any offensive category for the only time in his 7 seasons as a starter in the big leagues. With his production falling, injuries piling up, age gaining and a dispute with Cleveland management over salary, Rosen retired.

[edit] 1957-1992: Front Office and Off the Field

After his playing days, Rosen worked for the brokerage firm Bache and Company for almost 20 years. Rosen then returned to baseball in front office positions, serving as President of the New York Yankees from 1978 to 1979. The Yankees won the 1978 World Series. He had been a partner with George Steinbrenner in purchasing the Yankees from CBS in 1973. He was General Manager of the Houston Astros from 1980 to 1985 and held the same post with the the San Francisco Giants from 1985 to 1992. The 1987 Giants went to the 1987 NLCS, the first division-winning Giants team in 16 years. The 1989 Giants won the National League pennant and reached World Series, the first Giants team to reach the World Series in 27 years. In 1987, he rebuilt the Giants' pitching staff partway through the season, making trades to acquire Rick Reuschel, Don Robinson, Craig Lefferts and Dave Dravecky in mid-year, in addition to 3B Kevin Mitchell; all five players were keys to the Giants winning the NL West and then pushing the St. Louis Cardinals to the limit in the NLCS. It was considered very unusual at the time for a contending team to make so many large trades, but this type of aggressive approach is now quite common, partly because Rosen showed it could work. In 1987, he was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. [13]

[edit] Career Statistics

Rosen played 1,044 games in the majors, hitting .285/.384/.495 with 192 home runs, 603 runs, 717 RBI and 587 walks for a 136 OPS+. He struck out 385 times in 3,725 at-bats. He fielded .961 in 932 games at third base and .981 in 92 games at first base, while playing 1-5 games at second base, shortstop and the outfield. As of April 2012, he was among the all-time top 100 in MLB in OPS (97th, between Riggs Stephenson and Jeff Heath), OPS+ (tied for 97th with 10 others, including Hall-of-Famers Bill Terry, Doby and Arky Vaughan), at-bats per home run (19.4, tied for 99th with Tony Conigliaro) and fielding percentage at third base (tied for 53rd with Brandon Inge). Due to his short career, he does not make the all-time leaders in any counting (as opposed to rate) statistic. Through 2011, Rosen is 4th in MLB history for home runs by a Jewish player (behind Hank Greenberg, Shawn Green and Sid Gordon). [14] Through 2011, he was also 8th in Cleveland Indians history in home runs.

In 549 minor league games, Rosen had hit .328 and slugged .563, with 86 home runs and over 400 RBI. In 2005, he was part of the second class admitted to the Texas League Hall of Fame. [15]

In 2000, Bill James rated Rosen as the 14th-best third baseman in major league baseball history, between Graig Nettles and Pie Traynor. His career win shares total was lower than any of the other players in the top 25 but his win shares per 162 games were 4th in the top 25 behind only Schmidt, Home Run Baker and Eddie Mathews, indicating his excellent peak. [16]

[edit] Record as General Manager

Preceded by
Tal Smith
Houston Astros General Manager
1980-1985
Succeeded by
Dick Wagner
Preceded by
Tom Haller
San Francisco Giants General Manager
1986-1992
Succeeded by
Bob Quinn

[edit] Draft Picks

First Round Selections - Astros

Other Notable Selections - Astros

First Round Selections - Giants

Other Notable Selections - Giants

[edit] Significant Trades

Astros

Giants

[edit] Significant Signings

Astros

Giants

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 1947 MVP Texas League Oklahoma City Indians
  • 4-time AL All-Star (1952-1955)
  • AL MVP (1953)
  • AL Slugging Percentage Leader (1953)
  • AL OPS Leader (1953)
  • AL Runs Scored Leader (1953)
  • 2-time AL Total Bases Leader (1952 & 1953)
  • 2-time AL Home Runs Leader (1950 & 1953)
  • 2-time AL RBI Leader (1952 & 1953)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1950-1955)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1950 & 1953)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1953)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 5 (1950-1954)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 3 (1950, 1952 & 1953)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1953)
  • Won a World Series with the Cleveland Indians in 1948


AL MVP
1952 1953 1954
Bobby Shantz Al Rosen Yogi Berra

[edit] Sources

  1. The Big Book of Jewish Baseball by Peter Horvitz and Joachim Horvitz, pg. 145. Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater, pg. 201.
  2. Great Jews in Sports, pg. 201
  3. The Big Book of Jewish Baseball, pg. 146
  4. 1947 Baseball Guide, pg. 360-364. Baseball's Canadian-American League by David Pietrusza, pg. 73.
  5. Texas League Hall of Fame
  6. The American Association by Bill O'Neal, pg. 262
  7. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James, pg. 579. Great Baseball Feats, Facts & Firsts by David Nemec, pg. 347
  8. [http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1665&dat=19520716&id=O0caAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3CMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6682,672971 1952 Times-News coverage of the triple steal
  9. Baseball's 25 Greatest Teams by Lowell Reidenbaugh, pg. 89-90. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, pg. 441
  10. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, pg. 554. Great Baseball Feats, Facts & Firsts, pg. 341-342
  11. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, pg. 509. Baseball's 25 Greatest Teams, pg. 91
  12. Great Jews in Sports, pg. 203
  13. 1989 Baseball Guide, pg. 267. Great Jews in Sports, pg. 203
  14. Jewish Major Leaguers
  15. Texas League Hall of Fame
  16. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, pg. 554 and 588

[edit] Further Reading

  • Al Rosen (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, July 1984, pp. 47-49. [1]

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