Early Life

Rogers Hornsby was born in the small town of Winters, Texas on April 27, 1896. His unusual first name originated from his mother’s maiden name. Very little is known about Rogers’ childhood, but an isolated life in a small town like Winters undoubtedly played a role in his stern demeanor. Like most children his age he grew up playing baseball, but his talents were not apparent as early in life as many big league stars.

He debuted professionally as an under-sized, erratic-fielding, light-hitting shortstop in the Texas-Oklahoma league at age 18. His contract was owned by the St. Louis Cardinals, who tried to sell it to Little Rock of the Southern League for $500. Little Rock saw little potential in Hornsby, who batted .232 at the time, and turned down the offer. So the St. Louis team faced a choice: either release the young man or try to re-build his swing.

Luckily, the Cardinals chose the latter. Coaches like Cardinals manager Miller Huggins helped straighten the young man’s stance and refine his swing. He was called up to the big club at the end of the 1915 season, and in limited playing time, Rogers hit a meager .246. In the winter following his first taste of the big leagues, young Rogers decided he needed to bulk up if he was going to have any hope of a professional career. He spent the entire winter enduring extremely difficult labor on his uncle’s farm.

The hard work on the farm paid huge dividends. In 1916 he entered spring training with 25 extra pounds of muscle, a much heavier bat and a spot in the Cardinals’ lineup. Even though he bounced around at all four infield positions, he hit a very respectable .313, making his first full season a sizeable success.

The following year, Hornsby’s talents soared as he led the league in triples, slugging percentage and total bases, and finished in the top-10 in six other major offensive categories (including second in the batting title to Edd Roush). His career seemed to be on a fast-track to stardom.

1918 was a frustrating sophomore full-season for Hornsby. Once again he was the starting shortstop for the Cardinals, and he improved his fielding so much that he led the league in double-plays. However, his average dipped to a career-low .281. That would be the last time Rogers would let his average slip below .300 as a regular.

He rebounded nicely in 1919, finishing second in the league in batting average, hits and RBI. It was very apparent that if he continued to produce at the same pace of his first few seasons, he would be one of the best players out there.

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