- 3B, SS, C, 1B, 2B
- Old Shufflefoot, Handsome Lou
- July 17, 1917
- 5' 11"
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-09-1938 with CLE
- Allstar Selections:
- 1948 ML, 1948 MVP
- Hall of Fame:
The finest all-around shortstop in the major leagues for much of the 1940s, Lou Boudreau excelled both at the bat and in the field for the Cleveland Indians throughout the decade. A solid and consistent hitter, Boudreau batted over .300 on four separate occasions, winning one batting title and finishing second another time. He also knocked in more than 100 runs twice and led the American League in doubles three times. An extremely adept fielder as well, Boudreau led all league shortstops in assists twice and in putouts four times, topping all players at his position in fielding percentage each season from 1940 to 1949. Boudreau's consistently outstanding play enabled him to finish in the top ten in the A.L. MVP voting eight times during the decade, winning the award in 1948 when, as Cleveland's player-manager, he led the team to its first world championship in 28 years.
Born to a French father and a Jewish mother in Harvey, Illinois on July 17, 1917, Lou Boudreau graduated from Thornton Township High School in his hometown, before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, Boudreau excelled in both baseball and basketball in college, displaying the leadership skills he became well known for in later years by serving as captain of his team in both sports. After signing an agreement with the Cleveland Indians to join them once he graduated from college, Boudreau was ruled ineligibile to compete at the amateur level for the remainder of his college career by Big Ten officials. With his amateur status rescinded, Boudreau turned pro, playing basketball with the Hammond All-Americans of the National Basketball League during his junior and senior years at Illinois, while also making his major-league debut late in 1938 in a one-game appearance as a pinch-hitter for Cleveland.
Originally a third baseman, Boudreau moved to shortstop when he joined the Buffalo Bisons of the International League at the start of the 1939 campaign. Although he lacked foot speed and had limited range, Boudreau didn't mind the switch at all since he knew that Ken Keltner held down the starting third base job in Cleveland. Called up by the Indians during the season's second half, Boudreau appeared in 53 games at shortstop for the team, batting just .258, but scoring 42 runs.
Inserted as Cleveland's starting shortstop the following year, Boudreau appeared in all of the team's 155 games, batting .295, compiling a .370 on-base percentage, knocking in 101 runs, scoring 97 others, finishing second in the league with 46 doubles, and leading all A.L. shortstops in fielding percentage for the first of 10 consecutive times. Boudreau's solid performance earned him the first of his eight All-Star nominations and a fifth-place finish in the league MVP voting.
Both Cleveland and Boudreau suffered through a lackluster 1941 campaign, with the shortstop batting only .257. Nevertheless, he scored 95 runs and led the league with 45 doubles. Team owner Alva Bradley decided to promote manager Roger Peckinpaugh to general manager at season's end, subsequently appointing Boudreau as the team's player-manager. At only 24 years of age, Boudreau became the youngest man ever to manage a major-league team from the outset of the season.
Boudreau's dual role had little effect on his play. He posted batting averages of .283 and .286 the next two seasons, before leading the American League with a mark of .327 in 1944. Boudreau was available to the Indians during World War II since the arthritis he developed in his ankles from playing basketball had previously caused him to be declared as ineligible for military service. He followed up his league-leading performance in 1944 by batting .307 and .293 the next two years.
While Boudreau continued to display tremendous consistency at the plate, he also exhibited outstanding proficiency in the field. The shortstop compensated for his limited range and lack of foot speed by positioning himself wisely, and his sure hands made him one of the game's most reliable infielders. Boudreau also possessed an extremely innovative managerial mind. The creator of the "Williams Shift," he came up with the idea to defend against Ted Williams by placing six men on the right side of the diamond. Boudreau also oversaw the transformation of Bob Lemon from an infielder to a Hall of Fame pitcher.
In spite of the creativity Boudreau demonstrated during his first few years as Cleveland manager, Bill Veeck wanted to replace The Boy Wonder at the helm when he purchased the team in 1946. However, when Veeck's plans leaked out, a public outcry arose, causing Boudreau to be retained as manager.
After batting .307 and leading the American League in doubles (45) for the third time in 1947, Boudreau had his greatest season the following year. The Indians player-manager established career highs with 18 home runs, 106 runs batted in, 116 runs scored, 199 hits, 98 walks, a .355 batting average, a .453 on-base percentage, and a .534 slugging percentage, en route to leading Cleveland to the A.L. pennant and capturing league MVP honors. Boudreau's .355 average placed him second in the batting race, and he struck out only nine times in 676 plate appearances. The shortstop solidified his MVP credentials by going four-for-four with two home runs in Cleveland's pennant-clinching victory over Boston in a one-game playoff. He then drove in three runs and batted .273 during Cleveland's six-game World Series victory over the Boston Braves.
Boudreau never again reached such heights. He batted .284 the following year, his last as a full-time player. After seeing his role reduced with the Indians in 1950, Boudreau was traded to Boston prior to the start of the 1951 campaign. He filled in at shortstop and third base for the Red Sox that year, before appearing in only four games for the team in 1952. Boudreau announced his retirement at the end of the year, finishing his career with a .295 batting average, a .380 on-base percentage, 789 runs batted in, 861 runs scored, 1,779 hits, and only 309 strikeouts in just over 7,000 total plate appearances.
Following his playing career, Boudreau served as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs in 1958 and 1959 before switching roles with manager Charlie Grimm in 1960. After one season as Cubs manager, he returned to the radio booth, where he remained until 1987. He also served as the Chicago Bulls' radio play-by-play announcer from 1966 to 1968.
Boudreau was elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers in 1970. He passed away on August 10, 2001, a little less than one month after he turned 84, after suffering from cardiac arrest following a long bout with circulatory problems.
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