Teams: Chicago White Sox, 1930-1943; 1945-1950
Luke Appling was a batsman second to none, hitting over .300 16 times in his 20-year career. He had outstanding command of the strike zone, once fouling off over a dozen pitches in a single at bat.
Lucius Benjamin Appling (1907-1991) grew up in Atlanta and was an all-city shortstop in high school. He attended Atlanta's Oglethorpe University, where, despite weighing 155 pounds, he was a football player as well as a baseball star.
Appling is the only shortstop to
have won two AL batting titles.
In 1930, after his sophomore year, he was signed by Atlanta in the Southern Association. After hitting .326, Luke was purchased by the White Sox and debuted that year. He batted .308 in six games and showed the Chicago South Side what a generation could expect from a shortstop at bat.
Defensively, though, Appling didn't adjust to major-league standards. He became the full-time shortstop in 1933 and won the first of his two batting titles in 1936 when he hit .388, his career high. He had 204 hits and 128 RBI that season. He was also named the outstanding major-league shortstop by The Sporting News, an honor he was to receive twice more in his career.
Luke hit .317 in 1937, but in 1938 a broken leg robbed him of some speed and range. He still managed to hit over .300 that year. In 1940, he lost the batting crown to Joe DiMaggio by four points. Appling won another batting title in 1943 with a .328 average, but in 1944 he was gone to war, missing the entire season and playing in just 18 games in 1945.
Appling hit over .300 each year from 1946 to 1949. He always seemed to have a knee or back problem, and he always seemed to make sure the whole team understood that, so much so that he was dubbed "Old Aches and Pains." In 1949, he hit .301 in 142 games, and when his average slipped to just .234 the following year, he retired.
When Luke retired, he left behind all-time records for major-league shortstops in games and double plays, as well as American League records for putouts, assists, and total chances. The records lasted 23 years until fellow South-Sider Luis Aparicio broke them.
Appling remained in baseball as a scout, coach, and manager for many years, and he awakened memories of his greatness in 1985 when he hit a home run in the first Crackerjack Old Timers Game, at age 78. Luke never got the chance to play in a World Series, but he sustained a remarkable level of performance for an astounding length of time and was one of the best-hitting shortstops in history.
Here are Luke Appling's major league totals:
| BA||G ||AB ||R||H||2B||3B||HR ||RBI ||SB |
|.310||2,422||8,857 ||1,319||2,749||440||102||45||1,116 ||179|
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