Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hank Aguirre

As a rookie hurler for the Cleveland Indians in 1956, Henry John Aguirre struck out Boston Red Sox legendary slugger 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 once 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."

Nicknamed “Mex” because he was of Mexican descent, Aguirre was born on January 31, 1931 in Azuza, California. He pitched in the big leagues for 16 years for four different teams. His best season was with the Detroit Tigers in 1962 when he posted a league best 2.21 earned run average, won a career high 16 games, and was named to the American League All-Star team.

The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Aguirre prior to the 1968 season for minor league infielder Fred Moulder and cash. The tall, lanky southpaw pitched just one season in Los Angeles, allowing just three runs in 39-and-one-third innings for a sparkling 0.69 ERA. He spent the final two seasons of his big league career pitching for Leo Durocher’s Chicago Cubs.

Aguirre was recognized as one of the worst hitters in the history of the game. During his career, he managed to collect just 33 hits in 383 at bats for a microscopic .085 batting average. Legendary Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray called Aguirre, “the no hit leader of the big leagues.” Murray explained, “Hank doesn’t throw them, he swings them. Some guys have no-hit games, Hank has no-hit seasons. He thinks the batting practice pitcher should win the Cy Young Award...”

After his playing days were over, Aguirre spent a couple of seasons as a member of the Cubs coaching staff. In 1979, he founded Mexican Industries—one of the nation's most successful minority-owned companies. He died on September 5, 1994 at the age of 62 from prostate cancer.


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