- 2B, 3B, SS
- May 19, 1928
- 175 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-20-1951 with NYA
- Allstar Selections:
- 1951 ROOK, 1958 LG
A gangly teenage basketball star, Gil McDougald did not make his high school baseball team until his senior year, and even then he only appeared in five games as a starter. Nevertheless, a Yankee scout saw something in him and signed him to a rock-bottom contract. Three years later, McDougald was the American League Rookie of the Year, and appeared to have as bright a future as his rookie teammate: Mickey Mantle. Playing any of three infield positions in his ten years with the Yankees, McDougald belted seven home runs in the World Series, earning six rings. In 1957, he hit the infamous line drive that helped curtail the promising career of Cleveland hurler Herb Score.
McDougald had a funny batting stance. He stood with his legs far apart and wide open facing the pitcher, holding the bat below his soulders near his waist at a perpendicular angle. He stood at the far back corner of the batters' box and used his long arms (he was 6'1") to cover the plate. Lucky for him, he was successful immediately in the minor leagues, and no one could find any reason to try to fix his strange approach. He batted .340 for Twin Falls in his first professional season, hit .344 and led the league in doubles the next season wuth Class-B Victoria, and batted .326 and was named MVP at Beaumont the following season, playing under Rogers Hornsby.
"that open stance of mine looks daffy," he said in 1952, "but it's done much for me. I devised it in order to be able to hit the curveball, and now the kids are imitating me."
Best Season: 1951
We would have to do a study on this, and someday we will, but there were probably more first-season career-years in the 1940s and 1950s than any other period. It might be that the pitchers of that era, for whatever reason, took a while to figure out young hitters and refused to pitch them differently until they had one year under their belt. That's an unproven hypothesis. McDougald had his best offensive season as a rookie, hitting .306 with a career-high .488 slugging percentage and a .396 OBP. It's likely he saw a lot of fastballs that season, and was fed a diet of breaking pitches after that.
He hit a grand slam off the Giants' Larry Jansen in the Yankees 13-1 rout in Game Five of the 1951 Series... In the '52 Series, McDougald hit a homer off Joe Black of the Dodgers in Game One. The following fall, he belted another homer off Black in the Fall Classic, in Game Five, and hit a homer off Billy Loes in Game Four... He homered off Carl Erskine in the first inning of Game Four of the 1955 Series, and clubbed two more homers against the Braves in the 1958 World Series. In Game Five, he victimized Lew Burdette, and his two-run homer off Warren Spahn in the top of the tenth proved to be the game-winner in Game Six. He could very easily have been named MVP of the 1958 Series. In all, McDougald had 24 RBI and scored 23 runs in 52 World Series games, in eight different series.
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