|Born:January 7, 1897|
|Died: June 6, 1972 75) (aged|
San Antonio, Texas
|April 12, 1922, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 26, 1927, for the Washington Senators|
|Runs batted in||312|
|Career highlights and awards|
Emory Elmo "Topper" Rigney (January 7, 1897 – June 6, 1972) was a professional baseball player from 1920 to 1928. He played six seasons in Major League Baseball as a shortstop for the Detroit Tigers (1922–1925), Boston Red Sox (1926–1927), and Washington Senators (1927).
A Texas native, Rigney served in the U.S. Navy and played two years in the Texas League before making his major league debut in 1922 at age 25. During his six-year major league career, Rigney ranked among the American League leaders in sacrifice hits four times. He was also among the league leaders in bases on balls three times, leading to his impressive on-base percentages of .410 in 1924 and .395 in 1926. Rigney also had good speed on the base paths and ranked among the league leaders in triples twice and was once among the leaders in stolen bases. He had a career batting average of .288 and .388 on-base percentage.
Rigney also ranked among the American League's best defensive shortstops in the 1920s. He led the league's shortstops in fielding percentage in 1924 and 1926 and also led the league with 492 assists in 1926. His 1926 range factor per game of 5.33 was tops among shortstops in that category as well.
Rigney was born in Groveton, Texas, in 1897.His father, Robert Rigney, was a dry goods merchant in Leonard, Texas, in 1910, and a real estate agent in 1920. Rigney attended Texas A&M University, playing at the shortstop position for the Texas A&M baseball team from 1915 to 1918. He attained the rank of colonel in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and was also captain of the Ross Volunteers. Rigney then served in the U. S. Navy in 1918 and 1919 and listed his occupation as real estate agent in the 1920 United States Census.
After graduating from Texas A&M, Rigney signed with the Detroit Tigers. In 1920, he was farmed out to the Texas League and began his professional baseball career with the Dallas Submarines. Rigney compiled a .253 batting average with 16 doubles, 10 triples and 3 home runs in 122 games for Dallas.
Rigney next played for a Fort Worth Panthers team that finished the 1921 season with a 107–51 record. Rigney hit .292, drew 63 walks, scored 91 runs, and tallied 81 RBIs, 30 doubles, 12 triples and 10 home runs. Rigney also led all Texas League shortstops with a .946 fielding percentage and 547 assists.
In 1922 Rigney joined the Detroit Tigers at age 25. He was the team's starting shortstop in all 155 games during the 1922 season; he replaced Donie Bush, who had been the Tigers starting shortstop from 1909 to 1921. In his rookie season, Rigney compiled a .300 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage with 17 doubles, seven triples, two home runs, 17 stolen bases, and 63 RBIs.Rigney and his former Texas A&M teammate Rip Collins both played together for the Tigers from 1923 to 1925.
In 1923, Rigney increased his batting average to .315 with a .389 on-base percentage and 24 doubles, 11 triples, 74 RBIs, and 7 stolen bases.Rigney's strong performance in 1923 was in spite of a hip ailment that plagued him through much of the season. Doctors were unable to determine the cause of the problem, and when the problem returned early in 1924, Detroit manager Ty Cobb sent Rigney to the Mayo Brothers' Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The doctors there were similarly unable to diagnose Rigney's condition until, after a few days, they examined his teeth. The doctors discovered that Rigney had a number of infected molars that had spread poison throughout his system with the poison "making its headquarters in that bum hip." After the extraction of the infected teeth, Rigney's hip problem was cured.
With the hip problem behind him, Rigney had a solid season in 1924. He had a career high 94 RBIS and drew 102 walks (second only to Babe Ruth in the American League), giving him a .410 on-base percentage.His .410 on-base percentage in 1924 is the highest by a shortstop in Detroit Tigers history. He also led the American League's shortstops in 1924 with a .967 fielding percentage.
Rigney lost his role as the Tigers' starting shortstop in 1925, as Jackie Tavener took over and started 130 games at the position.Rigney started only 26 games at shortstop in 1925, compiling a .247 batting average (.341 on-base percentage) in 146 at bats.
In April 1926, Rigney was sold to the Boston Red Sox, reportedly after an argument with Tigers player-manager Ty Cobb.In 1926, Rigney played well for the Red Sox and received three vote points in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. That year, he compiled a .270 batting average, and his 108 bases on balls (third in the American League) boosted his on-base percentage to .395. Rigney also hit a career high 32 doubles in 1926. Defensively, he led the American League's shortstops in assists (492), fielding percentage (.969) and range factor per game (5.33).
In May 1927, Rigney was traded to the Washington Senators for Buddy Myer.The trade is widely regarded as one of the worst trades in baseball history, as Rigney played only 45 more games before his major league career ended, while Myer played another 15 years in the major leagues and became an All-Star (albeit most of those years for the Senators who traded him away). Rigney finished his major league career with the Senators at age 30. He appeared in his final major league game on August 26, 1927.
Rigney concluded his professional baseball career in 1928 playing for the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. He compiled a .250 batting average in 296 at bats with nine doubles and five triples.
Rigney led American League shortstops in fielding percentage in 1924 (.967) and in assists (492) and fielding percentage (.969) in 1926. In 1926, he set an American League record by handling 24 chances without an error in a double-header. His range factor of 5.33 in 1926 was 0.69 points above the American League average for shortstops that year, and his .969 fielding average was .025 points above the league average .944.
Playing for the hit-and-run oriented Detroit manager Ty Cobb, Rigney was among the American League leaders in sacrifice hits four times in 1922 (37), 1923 (33), 1924 (31), and 1926 (26). Six Tigers from the Cobb era (Donie Bush, Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, Bobby Veach, Sam Crawford, and Ossie Vitt) rank in the top 50 all time for sacrifice hits.
In 694 games played, Rigney compiled a .288 batting average (669-2326) with 325 runs scored, 13 home runs, 312 RBI, an on-base percentage of .388 and a slugging percentage of .387 over 6 seasons. His career fielding percentage was .953.
Rigney was married to Thelma Routh in 1920. They had a son, Robert, who was born in approximately 1932.After retiring from baseball at the end of the 1928 season, Rigney went into the insurance business in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. They lived in Harlingen, Texas. Rigney also served as the player-manager of the Harlingen baseball team in 1930. After 12 years in the Rio Grande Valley, Rigney moved to San Antonio. In 1953, he was reportedly part of an investor syndicate that acquired control of the Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company.
Rigney died in June 1972 at a San Antonio hospital at age 75.He was survived by his wife, Thelma, and their son, Robert.
Harry Edwin Heilmann, nicknamed "Slug", was an American baseball player and radio announcer. He played professional baseball for 19 years between 1913 and 1932, including 17 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds. He was a play-by-play announcer for the Tigers for 17 years from 1934 to 1950.
Samuel Earl Crawford, nicknamed "Wahoo Sam", was an American outfielder in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Charles Leonard Gehringer, nicknamed "The Mechanical Man", was an American professional baseball second baseman, coach, general manager, and team vice president, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Detroit Tigers for 19 seasons (1924–1942). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.
Henry Emmett "Heinie" Manush was an American professional baseball outfielder. He played in Major League Baseball from 1920 to 1939 for the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. After retiring as a player, Manush was a minor league manager from 1940 to 1945, a scout for the Boston Braves in the late 1940s and a coach for the Senators from 1953 to 1954. He also scouted for the expansion Senators in the early 1960s. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.
Robert Hayes "Bobby" Veach was an American baseball player from 1910 to 1930 including 14 seasons in the major leagues. He was the starting left fielder for the Detroit Tigers from 1912 to 1923 and also played for the Boston Red Sox (1924–1925), New York Yankees (1925) and Washington Senators (1925).
Martin Joseph "Marty" McManus was an American baseball player and manager.
Ervin "Pete" Fox was an American professional baseball player from 1930 to 1946. He played 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, principally as a right fielder, for the Detroit Tigers from 1933 to 1940 and the Boston Red Sox from 1941 to 1945. Though his given name was Ervin, Fox became known as "Pete" in 1932 when fans in Beaumont, Texas, dubbed him "Rabbit" in reference to his speed, with the nickname reportedly evolving into "Peter Rabbit" and then simply "Pete".
Ira James Flagstead, sometimes known as "Pete", was an American baseball player. He played 15 years of professional baseball, principally as an outfielder, including 13 years in Major League Baseball with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox (1923–1929), Washington Senators (1929), and Pittsburgh Pirates (1929–1930). In 1,218 major league games, Flagstead compiled a .290 batting average with a .370 on-base percentage.
William Chester "Baby Doll" Jacobson was an American baseball outfielder. He played 11 seasons of Major League Baseball, principally with the St. Louis Browns, between 1915 and 1927. He also played for the Detroit Tigers (1915), Boston Red Sox (1926–1927), Cleveland Indians (1927), and Philadelphia Athletics (1927).
Henry George "Heinie" Schuble was an American baseball infielder. He played professional baseball for 11 years from 1926 to 1936, including seven seasons in Major League Baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers (1929–1935). He appeared in 332 major league games and compiled a .251 batting average and .296 on-base percentage.
Charles Henry "Chick" Shorten was an American baseball player. He played professional baseball as an outfielder for 18 years from 1911 to 1928, including eight seasons in Major League Baseball with the Boston Red Sox (1915–1917), Detroit Tigers (1919–1921), St. Louis Browns (1922), and Cincinnati Reds (1924). He was a member of the 1916 Red Sox team that won the World Series, and Shorten compiled a .571 batting average in the 1916 World Series. In eight major league seasons, Shorten appeared in 527 games, including 352 as an outfielder, and compiled a .275 career batting average.
John Adam "Jackie" Tavener, nicknamed "Rabbit," was a professional baseball player from 1921 to 1934. He played all or parts of six seasons in Major League Baseball as a shortstop for the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians (1929).
Joseph Stanley Cobb, born Joseph Stanley Serafin, was an American baseball catcher. He played professional baseball for 12 years between 1917 and 1931, including one game in Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers on April 25, 1918. He was the starting catcher and batted .320 for both the 1923 and 1924 Baltimore Orioles, teams that are ranked as the 19th and fifth best minor league team in baseball history.
Herbert Spencer "Bert" Ellison was an American baseball player. He played professional baseball for 14 years from 1915 to 1928, including five seasons in Major League Baseball with the Detroit Tigers from 1916 to 1920. He also played seven seasons with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League from 1921 to 1927. Ellison was inducted into the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame in 2006.
William G. Akers, nicknamed Bump, was an American baseball infielder and soldier.
Samuel Douglas Hale was an American baseball player and manager. He played professional baseball from 1917 to 1941, including 10 years in Major League Baseball as a third baseman for the Detroit Tigers (1920–1921), Philadelphia Athletics (1923–1929), and St. Louis Browns (1930). Hale compiled a lifetime batting average of .302 with 30 home runs and 393 runs batted in and was a member of the Philadelphia Athletics team that won the 1929 World Series. He also served as a player-manager in the West Texas–New Mexico League with the Midland Cowboys (1939–1940), Pampa Oilers (1941), and Wichita Falls Spudders (1941).
The 1915 Detroit Tigers won a then club-record 100 games and narrowly lost the American League pennant to the Boston Red Sox, who won 101 games. Though four other Tigers teams have won 100 games, only the 1934 Tigers had a better winning percentage. The 1915 Detroit Tigers team is remembered for its all-star outfield of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, and Bobby Veach—who finished #1, #2, and #3 in the American League in both runs batted in and total bases. Baseball historian Bill James ranks the Tigers' 1915 outfield as the best in major league history.
The 1909 Detroit Tigers won the American League pennant with a record of 98–54, but lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1909 World Series, 4 games to 3. The season was their 9th since they were charter members of the American League in 1901. It was the third consecutive season in which they won the pennant but lost the World Series. Center fielder Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown and pitcher George Mullin led the league in wins (29) and winning percentage (.784).
The 1921 Detroit Tigers finished in sixth place in the American League, 27 games behind the Yankees, with a record of 71–82. Despite their sixth-place finish, the 1921 Tigers amassed 1,724 hits and a team batting average of .316—the highest team hit total and batting average in American League history. Detroit outfielders Harry Heilmann and Ty Cobb finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the American League batting race with batting averages of .394 and .389, and all three Detroit outfielders ranked among the league leaders in batting average and RBIs. As early proof of the baseball adage that "Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting", the downfall of the 1921 Tigers was the absence of good pitching. The team ERA was 4.40, they allowed nine or more runs 28 times, and only one pitcher had an ERA below 4.24.
The 1907 Detroit Tigers won the American League pennant with a record of 92–58, but lost to the Chicago Cubs in the 1907 World Series, four games to none. The season was their 7th since they entered the American League in 1901.