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Kiki Cuyler

Position: Outfielder
Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1921-1927; Chicago Cubs, 1928-1935; Cincinnati Reds, 1935-1937; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1938

There are several stories of how Hazen Shirley Cuyler (1899-1950) came by his nickname. One is that he stuttered so badly as a toddler whenever he tried to pronounce his surname that it came out “Cuy Cuy.” In any case, Cuyler’s nickname is one of the more memorable of the era in which he played.

n 1930, Cuyler and his fellow Cubs outfielder Hack Wilson combined to set an NL-teammates RBI record with 324.
In 1930, Cuyler and his fellow Cubs
outfielder Hack Wilson
combined to set an NL-teammates
RBI record with 324.

Born of German parents in Harrisville, Michigan, Kiki was a pitcher-outfielder as a youth. He attended West Point for a couple of months after he finished high school. Within a year, Cuyler was playing for the Bay City team in the Michigan-Ontario League. A serious spike wound prompted a move from the mound to the outfield.

In his four minor-league seasons, interrupted by three short major-league trials with Pittsburgh, Cuyler seemed a solid prospect but nothing remarkable. Therefore the Pirates were pleasantly surprised when he debuted in 1924 with one of the finest rookie seasons in history.

Cuyler batted .354, the fourth highest average in the National League, cracked 16 triples, and swiped 32 bases. When Kiki did even better as a sophomore, hiking his average to .357 and leading the loop in both triples and runs, he was hailed as the game’s newest star.

Unfortunately, even though he had a fine career, Cuyler never again ascended to the heights he reached during his first two seasons. His critics felt he had the talent to be as good as any player in the game at the time but lacked the drive to excel that had pushed others, such as Ty Cobb (who, in truth, probably had less ability than Cuyler). Whatever the case, the Pirates grew disenchanted with Kiki midway through the 1927 season.

When he clashed with manager Donie Bush, who wanted him to bat second in the order while Cuyler preferred the third slot, Bush began looking for an excuse to bench him. Bush found it when Cuyler failed to slide into second base in a game on August 6 against the Giants; Bush removed Cuyler from the lineup. In the World Series that fall against the Yankees, Kiki rode the bench the entire way as the Pirates were being swept. Two months later he was traded to the Cubs.

Cuyler enjoyed several banner seasons with the Cubs, helped by batting ahead of such players as Rogers Hornsby. In 1935, Kiki was released by the Bruins and picked up by the Reds. He rallied to have one final good season in 1936, batting .326. Cuyler was named to the Hall of Fame in 1968.

Here are Kiki Cuyler's major league totals:

.3211,8797,161 1,305
2,299 3941571271,065328

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