Major League Baseball is defined by its legends; players who are still remembered decades after their last appearance in a game and their ultimate deaths. Despite the amazing feats some of these players accomplished, when the bell finally rang to signal the end of their careers, their swan songs were lackluster by comparison.
In particular, here are twelve of the greatest hitters of the first half of the 20th century. Their final big-league at-bat were quiet departures from the game that had made them so famous and caused them to become part of its collective memory for all time.
Honus Wagner- September 11, 1917: Playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he pinch-hit for rookie second baseman Jake Pitler. Facing St. Louis Cardinals’ rookie pitcher Oscar Horstmann, he struck out. The Pirates wound up losing 5-2.
Ty Cobb- September 11, 1928: Playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, he pinch-hit in the top of the ninth for third baseman Jimmie Dykes against Hank Johnson and the New York Yankees; popping out to shortstop Mark Koenig in a 5-3 loss.
Tris Speaker- August 30, 1928: Playing for the Athletics, he pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth for Joe Boley against the Boston Red Sox. Facing reliever Ed Morris, he struck out for the second out of the inning in what ended up being a 3-2 loss.
Eddie Collins- August 5, 1930: Playing for the Athletics, he pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth for Joe Boley against the Red Sox. Facing reliever Danny MacFayden, he grounded out to second baseman Otis Miller for the final out of a 4-3 loss.
George Sisler- September 22, 1930: Playing for the Boston Braves, he pinch-hit for second baseman Freddie Maguire in the top of the fifth inning against Guy Bush and the Chicago Cubs. He hit a grounder to first baseman George “High Pockets” Kelly, who fed Bush for the out. Boston went on to lose 6-2.
Babe Ruth- May 30, 1935: Playing for the Braves, he grounded out in the top of the first against Jim Bivin and the Philadelphia Phillies. He then walked out of the ballpark through the outfield fence after the bottom of the first, never to play another game again. He was replaced in the lineup by Hal Lee, who banged out three hits later in the game. The Braves still lost 11-6.
Mickey Cochrane- May 25, 1937- Playing for the Detroit Tigers, and playing catcher, he was hit in the head by a pitch from Bump Hadley of the New York Yankees in the top of the fifth inning. He was pinch-ran for by career back-up catcher Ray Hayworth (who stole a total of two bases in 15 major league seasons). The Tigers went on to lose 4-3.
Rogers Hornsby- July 20, 1937: The manager of the St. Louis Browns played himself sparingly as he saw fit. His last at-bat came pinch-hitting for second-baseman Tom Carey against Monte Pearson and the Yankees. In the bottom of the 10th inning, he popped up to catcher Bill Dickey in a 5-4 loss.
Lou Gehrig- April 30, 1939: Playing for the Yankees, he went 0-for-4 in a 3-2 loss to the Joe Krakauskas and the Washington Senators.
Jimmie Foxx- September 23, 1945: Playing for the Phillies, he struck out in the top of the fifth inning against Tom Seats of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was later lifted for pinch hitter Tony Lupien, as Philadelphia drops the contest 4-3.
Mel Ott- July 11, 1947: Playing for the New York Giants, he pinch hit for pitcher Larry Jansen in the bottom of the eighth inning against reliever Ken Burkhart and the St. Louis Cardinals. He grounded out to first baseman Stan Musial to end the inning, and the game concluded shortly thereafter in a 4-3 St. Louis victory.
Hank Greenberg- September 18, 1947: Playing first base for the Pirates against the Dodgers, he faced reliever Clyde King with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Although he popped up to second baseman Eddie Stanky, the very next batter, Wally Westlake, hit a walk-off solo home run to give his team the 8-7 victory.
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