Chick Hafey: Rifle Arm of the ’24 Buffs

Chick Hafey

21-year old Chick Hafey (BR/TR) shined as a line-drive slashing, rifle-armed outfielder for the 1924 Houston Buffs, hitting .360 in his single season in our town. He was edged out for the Texas League batting championship that year, but he still was well on his way to becoming the first shining example of Cardinal GM Branch Rickey’s genius for the general farm system way of player development. – Because he saw the greater potential in his bat, Rickey had shifted Hafey from an amateur level pitcher to a professional level outfielder in 1923, his first season in the game. Hafey’s .360 full season mark with the ’24 Buffs just made the case for Rickey’s aspirations.

Other than another partial season in 1925 at Syracuse, Chick Hafey was on his way to a very successful major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals (1924-31) and the Cincinnati Reds (1932-35, 1937). Hafey was a member of two World Series Champion Cardinals teams in 1926 and 1931.

From 1928 to 1930, Hafey averaged 27 home runs and 114 RBI per season. In 1931, he won one of the tightest NL batting title races of all time, His .349 BA in 1931 edged out Bill Terry of the Giants by .0002 points and Cardinal teammate Jim Bottomley (also a former Buff) by .0007 percentage marks. – How close was it? – Hafey had to get a hit on his last time at bat of the season to win it all. And he did.

Hafey developed as the kind of line-drive hitting slugger that Rickey hoped he would become, leading the National League in slugging during the 1927 season with a .590 mark. Even then, however, he was starting to have visual problems from all the beanings he had taken in 1926 from pitchers who perhaps saw the closer-than-brushback pitch as their answer to the quiet young man who dug in against them.

Hafey started wearing glasses as a result of the changes inflicted upon his eyesight. He was only the second big leaguer to wear glasses on the field on a regular basis (Specs Toporcer was the first.) and only the first of two future Hall of Famers (Reggie Jackson would be the second.) to wear glasses as a player.

Chick had some memorable moments. In July 1929, Hafey tied a National League record by racking up ten hits in ten consecutive times at bat. In August 1930, he hit for the cycle. In 1933, after being traded to a last place Cincinnati club in 1932 as a punishment for giving Branch Rickey so much trouble in annual salary negotiations, Hafey was chosen for the first All Star Game and then went out and delivered the first All Star Game hit in history.

Hafey batted .344 in an 83-game partial season for the 1932 Reds, but vision issues and serious sinus problems were starting to seriously limit his playing time and his effectiveness. fifteen games deep into the 1935 season, Hafey retired. He laid out the 1936 season before making one weak attempt to come back in 1937. That last hurrah of 89 games resulted in a .261 final mark and a permanent goodbye as an active player.

At 34, Chick Hafey was done, retiring from the major leagues with a career BA of .317 and a career SA of .526 BA.Hafey had 164 career HR and 833 RBI to go with his 1.466 career hits.

In 1971, former Houston Buff outfielder Chick Hafey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

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