Introducing… Jeff Heath

Heath is listed as the first player in baseball history to post a season in which he tallied 20+ doubles, triples and homeruns.  A two-time All-Star, Heath has been labeled a war era player but his best years came before the war and not during the mass exodus.  The slugger from Canada was a fixture in left field for the Indians during the late 1930s and early to mid 1940s.

Heath joined the Indians in 1936 but with their horde of outfielders on the roster, the young Canadian didn’t see much playing time until a space was opened for him in 1938.  That year he paced the American League with 18 triples and topped his left field peers in RBI, batting average and slugging average.  Jeff’s batting average (.343) and slugging average (.602) were the top marks among AL outfielders.

After scoring and driving in 100+ runs in 1938, Heath’s numbers dipped in 1939 but he nevertheless led his position peers in the doubles department.  His 1940 campaign was a disaster but he bounced back in a big way in 1941.  Named to his first All-Star team, Heath led the American League with 20 triples in his magical 20+ triples, doubles and homeruns season.  He posted a phenomenal offensive line of 32 doubles/20 triples/24 homers/123 RBI/.340 BA/.586 SA/.396 OBP.  To top it all off, he also finished third in the league in the stolen base department. 

Joe DiMaggio was the only other American League player besides Heath who posted double-digit totals in all the extra base hit departments during the 1942 season.  During that year however, many players were leaving the game for the war.  Heath’s teammate Bob Feller enlisted in the Navy in December of ’41 and the Indians took a dive in the standings in ’42 due to Rapid Robert’s departure. 

The Indians suffered from a power outage in 1943 as Jeff’s 18 dingers paced the club by a substantial margin; none of his teammates posted more than eight.  With Ted Williams in the service, Jeff’s 15 long balls in 1945 paced AL left fielders.  After the ’45 season, Heath was traded to the Senators for fleet-footed outfielder George Case and he split the ’46 season between Washington and the Browns.  With Ted Williams back in the Major Leagues, Heath’s fine 27 HR/85 RBI season paled to Ted’s numbers, as Heath was Ted’s runner-up in those categories among AL left fielders.

The Braves bought Heath’s contract from the Browns in 1948 and Jeff helped Boston reach the World Series as a member of the Spahn and Sain brigade.  He hit a robust .319 with a fine .404 on-base percentage but at the tail end of the season, Jeff broke his leg and missed out on the World Series.  Because of the injury, Heath never appeared in a World Series contest even though his heavy hitting carried the Braves to the Fall Classic.  His broken leg essentially ended his career as he appeared in just 36 games for the Braves in ’49 and played briefly in the Pacific Coast League in 1950.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,383/R 777/H 1,447/2B 279/3B 102/HR 194/RBI 887/SB 56/BB 593/SO 670/BA .293/SA .509/OBP .370

www.sabr.org

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1 comment
  1. brettkiser said:

    Heath had a couple very good years at the Major League level but couldn’t sustain it over a lengthy career. He had his best year before WWII but played through the fighting and didn’t really set the league afire like he should have with all the talent overseas. I don’t believe Heath to be HOF material.

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