Teams: Boston Braves, 1912-1920, 1929-1933, 1935; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1921-1924; Chicago Cubs, 1925; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1926; St. Louis Cardinals, 1927-1928
Manager: Chicago Cubs, 1925
Managerial Record: 23-30
Walter James Vincent Maranville (1891-1954) was nicknamed “Rabbit” by fans who were captivated by the way the diminutive shortstop scurried and hopped about the infield. At 5'51/2" and 155 pounds, Maranville is the smallest 20th-century player in the Hall of Fame.
Maranville survived during the
dead-ball era almost exclusively on his fielding
prowess and leadership ability.
Maranville was purchased from the minors in 1912 by the Boston Braves. During spring training in 1913, Maranville beat out Art Bues (the nephew of Braves manager George Stallings) with a combination of hustle and self-confidence that could only earn the admiration of Stallings, himself a marginal player who had gotten by more on brains than muscle.
A poor team for over a decade, the Braves showed signs of revival in 1913 and then took the National League pennant a year later after being in last place as late as July 4. Stallings was nicknamed “The Miracle Worker” for the team’s stunning triumph and second baseman Johnny Evers received the Most Valuable Player Award, but most analysts felt that the real catalyst of the Braves’ unexpected surge to the top was Maranville.
Renowned for his impulsive and zany off-the-field antics, Rabbit once dove fully clothed into a hotel fountain on a dare and reportedly surfaced with a goldfish clenched between his teeth. Traded to Pittsburgh following the 1920 season, he continued to carouse but nevertheless produced his finest year as a hitter in 1922 when he batted .295 and scored 115 runs.
Maranville began slipping in the field, though, and was sent to the Cubs in 1925. Appointed player-manager in July, he wore out his welcome in the Chicago dugout after only eight weeks and was fired and subsequently released to Brooklyn on waivers. Idled most of the 1926 season by an injury, he was banished to the minors in 1927. The pink slip so shocked Rabbit that he stopped drinking. By the end of the season he had been recalled by the Cardinals, who needed a shortstop after Tommy Thevenow was hurt.
Maranville remained a major-league regular until 1935, when he sustained a broken leg in an exhibition game. On January 5, 1954, Rabbit died after suffering a heart attack. Several weeks later, he was named to the Hall of Fame.
Here are Rabbit Maranville's major league totals:
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