Roy Joseph Cullenbine
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 190 lb.
- Debut April 19, 1938
- Final Game September 28, 1947
- Born October 18, 1913 in Nashville, TN USA
- Died May 28, 1991 in Mount Clemens, MI USA
"Cullenbine wouldn't swing the bat." - Bill DeWitt (quoted in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract), apparently not understanding that Roy's ability to draw walks was highly valuable
Roy Cullenbine was an excellent hitter who played 10 seasons in the majors. His lifetime OPS+ was 132, ranked #131 on the all-time list as of the start of 2010 (and tied with Jackie Robinson and Tony Gwynn). Bill James ranks him as the #68 right fielder of all time.
Cullenbine was born in Nashville, TN and played from 1934-1936 mostly for minor league teams in the South. I 1937 and 1938 he was with the Toledo Mud Hens, hitting over .300 with some power, and he was also up with the Detroit Tigers in 1938 for 25 games, hitting .284 and posting an OBP of .392.
He came up for good with the Tigers in 1939, and while his batting average was only .240, his OBP was .362.
The Brooklyn Dodgers picked him up in early 1940 after a number of Tigers players were declared free agents by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Starting slowly with the Dodgers (his batting average was .180 albeit his OBP was .405), he was traded to the St. Louis Browns later that season, for whom he hit .230 with a .359 OBP.
Cullenbine came into his own with the Browns in 1941 (and was named to the All-Star team), and thereafter all his major league seasons were good offensively. In 1941, he hit .317 with a .452 OBP. He started slowly with the Browns in 1942 but after being traded in mid-season to the Washington Senators he played much better and then, when the New York Yankees selected him off waivers, he hit .364 with a .484 OBP in 21 games for them.
Cullenbine spent 1943 and 1944 with the Cleveland Indians, with an OPS+ of around 140 each year. He was named to the All-Star team again in 1944. In early 1945, the Indians traded him to his original major league team, the Tigers, and he put up a .398 OBP for them, leading the 1945 American League in walks. In the 1945 World Series, which the Tigers won against the Chicago Cubs, he batted fifth in the lineup, behind Hank Greenberg and ahead of Rudy York.
Roy had his best season with the bat in 1946, hitting .335 with an OBP of .477 for the Tigers.
In his last major league season, with the Tigers in 1947, he put up interesting numbers: although he hit only .224, he had a career high of 24 home runs (in 464 at-bats) as well as a career high of 137 walks, giving him an OBP of .401. His OBP was third in the American League and his home runs were fourth in the league. From July 2-22nd, he drew a walk in 22 consecutive games, running up the longest streak since at least 1918.
In April 1948 the Philadelphia Phillies released him, ending his major league career.
He moved around so much during his career, in spite of his productivity, because, in addition to his main skill being under-appreciated, he had the reputation of a playboy and a problem child.
As of the start of 2010, his career major league OBP of .408 puts him #39 on the all-time list, while his OPS (on-base plus slugging) is #200.
The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract lists him #3 on the list of players born in the 20th Century for baserunner kills (outfield assists) per 1,000 innings, ahead of such famous fielders as Roberto Clemente and Dom DiMaggio.
This site has a number of photos of Cullenbine in various major league uniforms.
- 2-time AL All-Star (1941 & 1944)
- AL Bases on Balls Leader (1945)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1947)
- Won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1945