Introducing… Billy Jurges

Although Billy Jurges played in the rock-’em-sock-’em 1930s, he wasn’t the heavy hitter that many of the decade’s stars were.  Billy left the big hitting to his teammates while earning his paycheck with his elite leather.  A three-time All-Star, Jurges was a fixture in the league leader boards.  Granted, he was never near the top in homeruns or RBI, Billy led the league in fielding percentage four times and had ten Top Five finishes in assists. 

The Cubs had a strong team in the 1930s with one of the game’s greatest all-time infields with Charlie Grimm/Phil Cavaretta at first base, Billy Herman at second, Stan Hack at third and Jurges manning short.  Billy joined Grimm’s Cubs in 1931 and by 1932, he was an everyday player.  But that ’32 season was one of turmoil for Jurges.  In July, Billy received a phone call from an ex-girlfriend who informed him that she was going to commit suicide.  Billy rushed to his hotel room and found her there, wrestled the handgun away from her, but was shot twice in the process.  The injuries kept him off the field for a portion of the season.  The Cubs went to the World Series that year and Billy hit a robust .364, but they were trounced by the Yankees.

Able to play everyday in 1933, Billy finished second in fielding percentage among shortstops.  The next two years he wouldn’t settle for second best as he paced his position peers in fielding percentage in 1934 and ’35.  In the latter campaign, Jurges slapped out a career high 33 doubles, while also leading shortstops in putouts and assists. 

Billy’s batting average began to climb in the mid 1930s.  Usually good for about a .250 batting average before 1936, Billy hit and even .280 that season.  When he raised his mark up to .298 in 1937, he was named to his first All-Star team.  But the new-found hitting didn’t stick.  His batting average fell back to the .240s in 1938 and the Cubs dealt him to the Giants for their fiery veteran shortstop Dick Bartell. 

In his first year with the Giants, Jurges set a career high in runs scored.  Named to his second All-Star team, Billy and Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan were the only Major League shortstops to reach double-digits in triples.  Billy paced National League shortstops in RBI.  An All-Star again in 1940, Billy missed half of the season due to a nasty beaning he sustained.  He bounced back from the injury in 1941 by hitting .293.

By this time World War II was underway and Billy, with his advanced age, was able to play through the fighting.  He played regularly for the Giants in 1942 and ’43 (he was second in homeruns among NL shortstops in 1943) but was relegated to platooning and backup duty afterwards.  When the war ended, the Giants released their old infielder and he was signed by his old Chicago chum Charlie Grimm to mentor young Cubs in 1946.  He hung up his spikes after 14 games in 1947.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,816/R 721/H 1,613/2B 245/3B 55/HR 43/RBI 656/SB 36/BB 568/SO 530/BA .258/SA .335/OBP .325

www.woodyenglish.com

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