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Roy Cullenbine

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Roy Joseph Cullenbine

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[edit] Biographical Information

"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 1934-36 mostly for minor league teams in the South. From 1937-38 he was with Toledo, hitting over .300 with some power, and he was also up with the 1938 Tigers for 25 games, hitting .284 and posting an OBP of .392.

He came up for good with the 1939 Tigers, 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 the Commissioner. Starting slow with the 1940 Dodgers (his batting average was .180 albeit his OBP was .405), he was traded to the 1940 St. Louis Browns for whom he hit .230 with a .359 OBP.

Cullenbine came into his own with the 1941 Browns (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 1942 Browns but after being traded in mid-season to the 1942 Senators he played much better and then, when the 1942 Yankees selected him off waivers, he hit .364 with a .484 OBP in 21 games for them.

The pennant-winning 1942 Yankees thought enough of him to put him third in the lineup in all five games of the 1942 World Series, batting him ahead of Joe DiMaggio.

Cullenbine spent 1943-44 with the Cleveland Indians, with an OPS+ of around 140 each year. He was named to the All Star team 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, 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 1947 Tigers.

In his last major league season, with the 1947 Tigers, 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 1947 American League and his home runs were fourth in the league. From July 2-22 of that season, 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.

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 (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.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 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

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