Over the winter, I’m taking a historical look at some of the Illini baseball alums.
Today let’s look at the top hitters all-time in the majors by former Illini. Unfortunately, you won’t find any .300 hitters here but one comes close.
*min 1200 ab
I talked a bit about Lou Boudreau in my past article when I ranked homeruns. Quite honestly, hitting for average was more Lou’s forte. He led the AL with a .327 clip in 1944 and in 1948, managed an amazing .355 mark.
Wally Roettger is an interesting entry here. Yes, he was an Illini player and yes, he did very fairly well in his eight years in the majors but he also came back to his roots and coached for the Illinois baseball program. In the ‘30s, the University of Illinois brought back Roettger to head up the team. Roettger had success too as he brought home a championship for the Illini in 1937.
The first thing that came to my head when I saw Harry McCurdy was “the Illini’s reputation of having good catchers goes back a long way”. McCurdy never made it big in majors, never playing a full season. But from all reports, in his years with St Louis, Chicago and Philadelphia, he was a solid defensive catcher and managed to hit the ball just like everyone else in that era.
Hoot Evers hit over .300 three years in row from 1948-1950 for Detroit. The year after that, he could only manage a .224 clip which most likely precipitated a trade to Boston.
Dan Lenhardt put in five years in the American League in the early fifties as an outfielder and corner infielder. He had a breakout rookie year for the St Louis Browns hitting .273 with 22 homeruns and 81 rbis, He had a solid follow-up year hitting 15 dingers and two years later, hit .313. If only it weren’t for the years, that he hit .239 and .232.
All stats are courtesy of Baseball Reference.