Preston Rudolph York (August 17, 1913 - February 5, 1970) was a Major League Baseball first baseman who played for the Detroit Tigers (1934, 1937-45), Boston Red Sox (1946-47), Chicago White Sox (1947) and Philadelphia Athletics (1948). York was born in Ragland, Alabama. He batted and threw right-handed.
With one-eighth Cherokee ancestry and less-than-perfect fielding abilities, York prompted one sportswriter to declare: "He is part Indian and part first baseman".
Regarded as a "wood" man rather than a "glove" man, York responded in his own terms slugging his way to major league fame, while his managers tried to figure out the position where he could do the least damage as a fielder. Nevertheless, York tried at a variety of positions. He was too awkward at third, too heavy footed for the outfield, extremely wild as a pitcher, and an immobile target as a catcher. From the beginning, though, he was a menacing figure with a bat and amazingly dangerous with the bases loaded --he hit 12 career grand slams, including two in a game.
York's family moved from Ragland, Alabama to Aragon, Georgia when Rudy was a small child. Rudy's mother moved the family to the Cartersville, Georgia area sometime in the late 1920s. They lived in the American Textile Company (ATCO) mill town on the outskirts of Cartersville, where Rudy began working in his early teens. In his mid-teens, Rudy was playing baseball with older men on the ATCO mill team and receiving local attention for his prowess at the plate. Rudy would become the team's star player from 1930 to 1933. He received a tryout and was signed by the Knoxville club of the Southern League in April 1933 but was released after appearing in just three games. Rudy returned to the Atco community and briefly resumed play with the mill team. He spent most of June of that year playing for a semi-pro team in Albany, Georgia before returning to Atco for another brief stint with the mill team. In early July, Detroit scout Eddie Goosetree signed him for the Tigers. Assigned briefly to Shreveport of the Dixie League, he finished the 1933 season with Beaumont of the Texas League. After playing most of the 1934 season with the Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League ("on loan" from Beaumont), York had a brief stay with the Tigers at the end of the 1934 season. He batted just six times and tallied one hit - a single. Although he was on the Tigers' roster for the 1934 World Series, he saw no action in the Fall Classic. At the end of the year, he was shipped back to Beaumont.
As a first baseman, York was selected MVP of the Texas League in 1935 while with Beaumont, and he won the same award in the American Association in 1936 when he played for Milwaukee. He came back to Detroit to stay in 1937. Since there was no room for a rookie first baseman on a team that already had Hank Greenberg, York started the season at third base but his defensive liabilities were too much to overlook. After a brief try in left field, where he was just as likely to be hit on the head as he was to catch any fly ball that happened his way, he was benched in favor of more experienced outfielders. After being inactive for much of the month of June, Rudy was reinstalled at third base in the hopes that his big bat would come alive and help keep Detroit in the pennant race. While Rudy's bat did start to come around in July, by the end of the month he was back on the bench when regular third baseman Marv Owen returned from a broken wrist. In early August, Tiger manager Mickey Cochrane, who had been the Tiger's regular catcher until his playing career was ended that May when he was hit in the head by a pitch from the Yankees' Bump Hadley, decided to put Rudy behind the plate in place of Birdie Tebbetts, a good defensive catcher who was barely hitting his weight. As a rookie catcher, Rudy startled the baseball world. On the last day of August 1937, York belted two home runs, giving him 18 for the month and surpassing the record of 17 set by Babe Ruth in September 1927. York also collected 49 RBI that month breaking by one the mark set by Lou Gehrig, and finished his rookie season with a .303 batting average, 35 home runs, and 103 RBI in only 375 at-bats. Later in the season, Mickey Cochrane, the Tigers catcher-manager and future Hall of Famer, insisted the rookie try to become the team regular catcher. York's 18 home runs in one month remains the American League record to this day. The only player to equal or surpass the mark was Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, who had 20 in June, 1998. York himself had 17 in August, 1943.
York started as a catcher in 1938. A year later, he shared duties with Birdie Tebbetts. Then, in 1940 the Tigers persuaded Greenberg to switch from first base to left field, moved York to first, and replaced him behind the plate with Tebbetts. The experiment was successful. In that season Greenberg hit .340 with 41 home runs and 150 RBI, and York compiled .316, 33 and 134, for an American League champion team that lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the 1940 World Series in seven games. In the series, York batted .231 (6-for-26) with one home run and two RBI. In addition, York was nominated for the AL MVP Award.' which was won by Hank Greenberg.
With Greenberg out in the military service, York was the only offensive support for the Tigers in 1941. He hit 27 home runs (including a three-homer game) with 111 RBI. In 1942 he slipped to 21 and 90, but in 1943 he enjoyed a season career when he led the league in home runs (34), RBI (118), total bases (301), extra base hits (67), slugging percentage (.527) and games played (155), and also got his second MVP consideration.
York fell below 20 homers in 1944 and 1945 (18 each), and had a poor performance in the 1945 World Series, when Detroit defeated the Cubs in seven games. He was sent to Boston in January 1946. It turned out to be a good deal for the Red Sox. York crashed two grand slams in a game against the Browns on July 27, and helped lead Boston to the American League pennant. In that season, York hit .276 with 17 home runs and 119 RBI. He added two decisive homers in the World Series against the Cardinals: a 10th-inning game-winner in the Game One, and a three-run winner in the Game Three. Finally, St. Louis took the series four games to three.
In 1947 York nearly died when a fire, believed to have been started by a cigarette, swept his hotel room. He was led to safety, but after a slow start, he was traded to the White Sox in the midseason. He was given his unconditional release in February of 1948 and picked up by the Athletics, for what would be his final season as a big leaguer.
York was a career .275 hitter with 277 home runs and 1152 RBI in 1603 games. In three World Series he hit .221 with three homers and 10 RBI. He was selected for the All-Star Game in seven times. After retiring, he coached for the Red Sox four seasons, serving as an interim manager in 1959 (one game).
Rudy York died from cancer in Rome, Georgia, at the age of 56.
- On April 23, 1947, Yankees Allie Reynolds pitched a two-hit shutout against Boston. The only hits were delivered by York.
- Ted Williams pitched two innings in a 12-1 loss to the Tigers at Fenway Park, on August 24, 1940. On three pitches, Williams struck out York, who had driven in five Detroit runs.
- After his major league baseball career ended, York continued to play when and where he could. It is believed that his playing career finally ended in 1952 when he batted .258 with two home runs for Benson-DeGraff in Minnesota's Class AA amateur Western Minny league.
- York's .503 slugging percentage as a Detroit Tiger ranks #4 in franchise history behind Hank Greenberg, Harry Heilmann, and Ty Cobb. His 239 home runs as a Tiger ranks #7 in franchise history.
- 1937 Detroit Tigers season
- Batters with two Grand Slams in the same baseball game
- Bill Summers
- List of athletes on Wheaties boxes
- Top 500 home run hitters of all time
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBI
- List of Major League Baseball RBI champions
- List of Major League Baseball home run champions
- Major League Baseball hitters with three home runs in one game
- Boston Red Sox all-time roster
- Chicago White Sox all-time roster
- Town Ball, the Glory Days of Minnesota Amateur Baseball, Armand Peterson and Tom Tomashek, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London, page 246, ISBN 0-8166-4675-9
|American League Home Run Champion
|American League RBI Champion
|Boston Red Sox manager