Woody Jensen

Woody Jensen

August 11, 1907
5' 10"
160 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-20-1931 with PIT

While its widely known that the Bucs had two Hall of Fame brothers patrolling the outfield in the late 20’s and 1930’s in Paul and Lloyd Waner, but what is usually forgotten in the process is who was the third man to join the Waner’s.  In the mid 30’s it was Forrest Jensen, more commonly referred to as Woody, due to his first name plus the fact he came from the lumber rich state of Washington

Jensen broke in with the club in 1931 and was primarily a backup outfielder until the Pirates dealt left fielder Freddie Lindstrom to the Cubs after the 1934 season.  Pittsburgh inserted Jensen into his spot in ’35 next to the legendary duo and Woody did not disappoint.

He enjoyed his marquis offensive season his first year as a starter, eclipsing the .300 plateau for the one and only time in his career with an NL 9th best mark of .324 while finishing 3rd in hits with 203.

Despite the fact Jensen was not perhaps the greatest defensive outfielder of all-time he surely proved he could more than hold his own offensively as he enjoyed another solid campaign in 1936.  Manager Pie Traynor moved Jensen to the leadoff spot dropping Lloyd Waner to second and he not only responded with a .283 average and senior circuit 6th best 197 hits, but he also broke Lloyd’s major league record for at bats in a season when he came up 696 times, a mark that held for 30 seasons.

After slipping to .279 in 1937, Jensen, who also happened to be the best friend of great Pirate first baseman Gus Suhr, was finally replaced in the Pittsburgh outfield by Rookie Johnny Rizzo, who set the Pirate home run record with 23 while knocking in 111 runs his freshman campaign.

For Woody he would only last one more season in 1939 where he went 2 for 12 before exiting the majors with a .285 career average and a spot on the baseball record list.

The all time at bats record

While it was impressive that Jensen was able to break the all-time record of Lloyd Waner, it was a mark that the franchise would actually hold for 53 seasons.

Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville first broke the mark in 1922 with 672, eclipsing Jack Tobin’s one-year-old record of 671.  Lloyd Waner would break it 9 years later in 1931, beating Maranville’s mark with 681.

5 years later Jensen set his record as he crushed the mark with 696.  That record would stand until 1969 when the star pupil of Harry Walker, Matty Alou came up 698 times in 1969.

Although Alou’s record was broken only 6 years later in 1975 by a Philadelphia Phillie, marking the first time since 1922 ant one other than a Pirate held the top spot, it was eclipsed by a man who had been dealt by Pittsburgh only 2 years earlier, Dave Cash with 699.

While it was more or less a fluke that the franchise held on to the record for so long, baseball historian and co-author of this book Bill Ranier made the comment that “Perhaps it just shows that the team enjoys a leadoff hitter that doesn’t like to walk a lot”.   Very astute Mr. Ranier, very astute.

Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1931

Billy Herman
Ernie Lombardi
Dixie Walker
Billy Jurges
Red Rolfe
Bucky Walters
Paul Derringer
Van Lingle Mungo
Gee Walker

Career highlights and awards

    * Led NL in singles in 1935 with 160

Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia

Pittsburgh Pirates, The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, Woody Jensen
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