Introducing… Augie Galan

Galan owned an eagle’s eye which enabled him to lead the league a few seasons in bases on balls.  An on-base percentage stud throughout his career, Augie was a swift and versatile star of the World War II era.  A quick ballplayer, Augie played every position during his career with the exception of pitcher and catcher.  But the California native has the war to thank for prolonging his career.  When he seemed at the end of the line, the war took away many of the game’s stars and Augie had his best years while others were in the service.

The Cubs brought Galan up in 1934 and he had a so-so rookie season before exploding in 1935.  In his second season in the Majors, Augie led the National League with 133 runs scored and 22 stolen bases.  The switch-hitter banged out 203 hits and posted double-digit totals in every extra base hit department–a feat he accomplished twice in his career.  Although his numbers fell off considerably in 1936, Galan was nevertheless elected to his first All-Star team.  He finished fifth in stolen bases before leading the league in that department again in 1937.  Augie set a career high with 18 homeruns in ’37 but for the second straight season his batting average and on-base percentage dropped.

He saw his playing time diminished in 1938 before bouncing back in 1939 as the Cubs everyday left fielder.  He hit .300 again and posted his third season with 100+ runs scored.  Augie only whiffed 26 times while drawing 75 walks which pushed his on-base percentage up to .392.  But then Galan’s career hit a brickwall.  He suffered a leg injury and was limited to 68 games in 1940.  During the 1941 season the Cubs dealt their inconsistent left fielder to the Dodgers for relief pitcher Mace Brown.  Between the two stops, Augie mustered just a feeble .218 batting average.  But then Pearl Harbor was bombed.

The 1942 baseball season was still going strong as just a few stars, like Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller and Cecil Travis, were in the military.  Augie was used as a part-time player for the 104-win Dodgers that boasted one of the game’s greatest all-time outfields with Pistol Pete Reiser, Dixie Walker and Joe Medwick.  With that amazing trio in the pasture, Galan saw action at first and second base just to get him in the lineup.  But after the season Reiser joined the military and Galan became an everyday player again in 1943.  Although his leg injuries a few years prior sapped his speed, the aches and pains enabled him to remain in baseball while the able-bodied boys took up arms.

Augie reached his peak during the war years.  In 1943 he paced the National League with 103 walks in an All-Star season.  From 1943 to end of his career, in 1949, Augie’s on-base percentage would never fall below the .400 plateau.  In 1944 he set a career high with 43 doubles and led the NL with 101 walks in another All-Star campaign.  Galan’s hawk-like batting eye (he walked 101 times with just 23 strikeouts) forced his OBP up to .426 in 1944 and .423 in 1945.  That ’45 season, Augie drew 114 walks (2nd in the NL) and scored an equal 114 runs (4th in the NL).  But when the boys returned from the war, Augie was pushed back to a part-time role. 

Despite the limited playing time, Augie had perhaps his best season in 1946.  He hit a robust .310 and hiked his on-base percentage up to the Ted Williams region of .451.  But Brooklyn had a wealth of talent in the outfield and they used Augie as trade bait after the season to bring in Ed Heusser.  With the Reds in ’47, Galan was able to play everyday again and he showed he wasn’t just a wartime player when he hit .314 with an astronomical .449 on-base percentage.  But the aging outfielder’s legs were no longer strong enough to support a full season’s workload and he was relegated to reserve duty in 1948.  He ended his Major League career with Connie Mack’s Athletics in 1949.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,742/R 1,004/H 1,706/2B 336/3B 74/HR 100/RBI 830/SB 123/BB 979/SO 393/BA .287/OBP .390/SA .419

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