Rest In Peace, Al Rosen

Al Rosen, 3B Cleveland Indians 1947-1956 192 HR, BA .285

Al Rosen, 3B
Cleveland Indians
192 HR, BA .285

When former Cleveland Indian slugger Al Rosen passed away at age 91 last Friday, the 13th of March, baseball surrendered one its hardest hitting third basemen of record to a much deserved paean-ride into the hall’s of the game’s rich history. Rosen had a very good brief career in the big leagues, but one that was shortened by injury. The Sunday, March 15, 2015 New York Times featured the kind of obituary that befits the deceased of Al Rosen’s level of fame and achievement:

As a ten year member of the Cleveland Indians (1947-1956), Al Rosen batted .285 with 192 career home runs and 717 runs batted in. He led the American twice in home runs, hitting 37 in 1950 and 43 in 1953, when he also led league with 115 runs scored and 145 runs batted in. In that stellar 1953 best year, he also batted .336, falling only .o0161 points behind Mickey Vernon of Washington for the batting championship and a “Triple Crown accomplishment that, as most of you know only goes to the rare player who registers the highest HR and RBI numbers, plus the highest batting average in the same year.

How Rosen lost the 1953 Triple Crown came down to his last time at bat in the season. Richard Goldstein’s article in the March 14, 2015  NY Times article covers it well:


Going into the final game of the 1953 season, Rosen was battling Mickey Vernon, the Washington Senators’ first baseman, for the batting title. In Rosen’s last at-bat, against the Detroit Tigers at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, he hit a slow ground ball to third base and seemed to have beaten the throw on a close play.

“Everybody on the bench thought I was safe,” Rosen told Baseball Digest in 2002. But the umpire, Hank Soar, called Rosen out, and he agreed.

“I tried to leap to first base,” Rosen recalled. “But I did a quick step and missed the bag.”

Had Rosen been safe, he would have won the battling title and the triple crown. But Vernon edged him for the batting title, finishing with a .337 average.

~ Richard Goldstein, New York Times, Saturday, March 14, 2015


Because he missed the bag at first and clearly was out, Al Rosen finished the 1953 season with a .336 BA, falling to Mickey Vernon at .337 for the battle title. If Rosen had made it to first with a bum luck, angel-guided infield single on that same last time at bat, he would have won the batting title and Triple Crown for 1953 by a fly speck margin. Here are a couple of tables that best show the almost infinitely small margin of difference between the two AL batting title contenders, as they actually finished in 1953:

As Rosen and Vernon actually finished in 1953:

Mickey Vernon 608 205 .33717105263
Al Rosen 599 201 .33555926544
Differentials-> 009 004 .00161178719

As Rosen and Vernon would have finished, had Rosen been safe on that last close play at 1st base:

Al Rosen 599 202 .33722871452
Mickey Vernon 608 205 .33717105263
Differentials-> 009 003 .00005766189

Had Rosen beat out that last infield hit, he would have won the AL batting title and Triple Crown for 1953, alright, but his margin of victory over Vernon would have been even smaller than the margin that Mickey Vernon achieved over Al Rosen in reality. All that proves, as it does so often in every day life, is that most of the time, a near miss really is as big as a mile. All the more reason to hope too that our modern investment in always improving instant replay technology may spare us from near misses in baseball that are due to subjective errors of the human mind and eye.

Thanks for leading us into this renewed awareness, Al Rosen, and rest in peace. For those of you newer Houstonians who may not know, Al Rosen also had an important local connection during his years as a baseball executive. He was President and General Manager of the Houston Astros from 1980 through September 1985, when he left for San Francisco to administratively lead the Giants out of the skids through 1992.

Al Rosen also batted .349 with 25 HR in 146 games for the 1947 Oklahoma City Indians of the Texas League. What a great minor league year Al had on his way to the majors that same season. Too bad too that injuries shortened his career. He may have found his way to Cooperstown had he played longer.


4 Responses to “Rest In Peace, Al Rosen”

  1. Sumner Hunnewell Says:

    I was just talking about him yesterday. A friend was starting to coach pre-teen baseball and I recommended Rosen’s excellent book, Baseball and Your Boy. You don’t need a kid to read it, all you need is to remember what it was like to wear a baggy uniform and a batting helmet that was too small/large and some monster 12-year old bearing down on you from the mound.

  2. Pat Callahan Says:

    BILL: -> you’re going to have to work hard for the rest of the year to better your work on Rosen – GREAT JOB

  3. Cliff Blau Says:

    The first sentence should start, “When former New York Yankees president Al Rosen passed away…” as far as I am concerned. :^)

  4. Kathryn Senderling Says:

    I was a high school graduate in San Antonio, Tx in the 1950s and a big fan of our Mission baseball team. I was at a game when Al Rosen played and was very smitten with that handsome young man. Thank you for this article, I was able to get his autograph.

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