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Hank Aguirre

Hank Aguirre

Position(s):
P
Born:
January 31, 1931
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Left
Height:
6' 4"
Weight:
205 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-10-1955 with CLE

Equally adept at delivering screwballs and one-liners, Aguirre was switched from the bullpen to the starting rotation by the Tigers in 1962 and responded by leading the AL in ERA (2.21) while posting a 16-8 mark. A notoriously poor hitter, he hit below .040 in seven seasons and had a career BA of .085.

Youth in Azusa, California

Nicknamed "Mex" because he was of Mexican descent, Aguirre was born on January 31, 1931, in Azusa, California to Jenny Alva and Joseph Aguirre. Joseph was born in Jalisco, Mexico in 1902 and emigrated with his family during the time of the Mexican Revolution. Joseph and Jenny had seven children. Henry or Hank Aguirre worked in his youth, making, packaging and delivering tortillas for his father's business, the "Aguirre Tortillas Factory" in San Gabriel, California. At 4 a.m., the young Aguirre would make deliveries—mostly running -— before school. Hank attended and graduated from Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra in 1949 but his "goofy feet" (his words) prevented him from being selected to be part of the baseball team. Hank graduated from East Los Angeles Junior College in 1951.

Pitching career

As a rookie for the Cleveland Indians in 1956, Aguirre struck out Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams the first time he faced him. After the game, Aguirre asked Williams to autograph the ball. Reluctantly, Williams complied. A couple of weeks later Aguirre faced Williams again. This time the "Splendid Splinter" smashed Aguirre's first offering for a home run. While circling the bases, Williams yelled to Aguirre, "Get that ball, and I'll sign it, too."

He pitched in the big leagues for 16 years for four different teams. Before the 1958 season began, Aguirre was traded to the Detroit Tigers, where he remained for 10 years from 1958-1967. Aguirre was principally a relief pitcher until 1962. During a 1962 game at Yankee Stadium, Tigers manager Bob Scheffing used him as a starter when Don Mossi had arm trouble. Scheffing wanted a left-hander to pitch against the Yankees, and he chose Aguirre. Aguirre joined the Tigers starting rotation and finished the 1962 season with a 2.21 earned run average in 42 games (22 as a starter), the best in Detroit since Hal Newhouser in 1946. Having pitched over 100 innings (216 in total) for the first time in his career, Aguirre led the major leagues in ERA (0.33 points lower than Sandy Koufax who was second best), won 16 games, and was selected to the American League All-Star team. He also led the American League in WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) with a 1.051 average. Aguirre also finished 17th in the 1962 American League Most Valuable Player voting.

Aguirre lost his spot in the Tigers starting rotation in 1966, and returned to the bullpen. Before the start of the 1968 season, Aguirre was traded by the Tigers to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later. In one season with the Dodgers, Aguirre allowed only three runs in 39-1/3 innings for a 0.69 ERA. Despite the good season, Aguirre was released by the Dodgers and spent the final two seasons of his big league career pitching for Leo Durocher’s Chicago Cubs where he was 4-0 in two seasons from 1969-1970.

In 16 Major League seasons, Aguirre finished with a record of 75-72 in 1,375-2/3 innings pitched, with 856 strikeouts and an earned run average of 3.24.

Aguirre was considered one of the worst hitters of his day. Loving fans would cheer, and in some cases give him a standing ovation, if he was able to make contact fouling off a ball.

Aguirre was born on the same date as Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks. In addition to being Cubs teammates in 1969 and 1970, both were also Cubs coaches in 1972 and 1973

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