Brad's Ultimate New York Yankees Website - www.HistoryOfTheYankees.com
GEORGE “SNUFFY” STIRNWEISS
In the pantheon of major league baseball greats a number of them played for the New York Yankees: Babe Ruth, Lou Gerhig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, et al. These players were memorialized in the old Yankee Stadium and their careers are again remembered in the new stadium’s Memorial Park. These players are also in baseball’s Hall of Fame and have had books written about them and movies made of their careers.
There was another Yankee great, George, Henry, (SNUFFY) Stirnweiss whose story and career, in many ways, rivals the players mentioned above. But his story and career have been mostly forgotten both by the Yankees and major league baseball in general. Very much like one of his Yankee predecessors, Lou Gerhig, Snuffy’s life had a tragic ending when he died in 1958 at the age of 39 when a New Jersey Central Railroad commuter train on which he was riding ran through an open bridge into Newark, NJ Bay. A total of 40 people died in that wreck.
possibly by few other players in the history of major league baseball. Here is a summary of what Snuffy accomplished that season: he led the league in these offensive categories:
Batting average, on base %, slugging %, at bats, runs scored, hits, total bases, triples, extra base hits, times on base, runs created, stolen bases (12 offensive categories). There are some detractors who note that 1945 was a war year therefore the categories in which Stirnweiss led the league in 1945 should be marked with the infamous *. But it should also noted that while it is true that 1945 was a war year, it should also be noted that in 1945 there were close to 1,000 players in the American League but only Snuffy was able to accomplish what he did. And in addition to these offensive leaderships, and he and teammate Frankie Crosetti led the league in double plays. In one of his years with the Yankees, 1945, he had a season which is unmatched by any other Yankee and
One would have to go back to the 1911 season to find a comparable record when the immortal Ty Cobb batted .420 and led the league in most everything; he was the terror that pitfchers feared and shortstops and second-basemen feared when he was about to come sliding into 2nd base. But, baseball in 1911 and 1945 were entirely different games.
In 1946, George was voted the Sid Mercer Memorial award as player of the year by the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association. Some previous award recipients were: Dixie walker, Ted Williams, Joe Di Maggio, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, and Lou Gehrig.
In 1948 with only five errors tallied against him in 141 games, he set a major league fielding record with a .903 average
. In that same year, George was named major league baseball’s Father of the Year. George often said he was more proud of that award than any other he had ever received.
Again in 1948 with only five errors tallied against him in 141 games, he set a major league fielding record with a .903 average.
This is quite a record for a player who never was even placed in nomination for the Baseball Hall of Fame, much less elected.
Snuffy’s life had one major tragedy, the train wreck in which he was killed, and a few minor mishaps which destroyed his professional reputation.
The Central Railroad (CRR) of New Jersey on which Snuffy and 39 other people died in the wreck on September 15, 1958 was in serious financial difficulty. For just the first six months of that year the railroad was facing an operating deficit of close to two million dollars. For the entire year of 1957 it had only $140,000 operating profit from its passenger services and freight. Drastic measures had to be taken to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Among the cost cutting actions taken was to eliminate the very large expenses that were needed on various safety features. One of these features, the so-called ‘dead man’s switch’ which was the subject of much discussion at the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) hearing after the wreck. The switch is a device which shuts off power to the engine if the engineer becomes disabled. In its testimony at the ICC hearing the railroad claimed it didn’t need this switch since it always had a second man (a fireman) in the engineer’s cabin. But when the cabin was recovered from Newark Bay, only the body of Mr. Wilburn, the engineer, was found; The assigned fireman, Peter Anderson’s, body was found in another part of the train. The railroad could offer no reason why Anderson was not where he was assigned to be.
One of the minor mishaps in 1945 over which he also had no control was the decision by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). This organization which consists mainly of the newspaper writers in the cities where major league baseball is played. Each season they select the player to be given the “Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Along with the CyYoung award given to pitchers the MVP is a prestigious honor which players hold in great regard. In 1945 the BBWAA awarded the MVP to the Detroit pitcher Hal Newhouser. Newhouser had won 27 games that year and led his team to the American League championship and winning the World Series. There is little, if any, conflict with this choice. But the BBWAA also gave 2nd place in the award to another Detroit player, Eddie Mayo who led the league in absolutely no category even giving him 7 votes for 1st place. In contrast, Snuffy Stirnweiss was assigned to 3rd place.
And then to heap insult on to injury in another dishonor placed on Snuffy by the BBWAA was in regard to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Election to the Hall is accomplished in two steps: (1) after having been out of baseball for five years, a player may then be placed on the ballot for election. He shall remain on the ballot for five years or until he receives a minimum of 75% of the voters. Unless the player is elected during one of his five years of eligibility, his name shall be removed from subsequent ballots.
Snuffy first became eligible for election to the Hall in 1957, but then died in 1958. The election rules allow a player who was previously eligible for election but then died before he become ineligible shall be eligible for being placed on the annual ballot for his full five years
It may be interesting to look at the names of a few of the players who were nominated for election by being placed on the ballot during the years when Snuffy was also eligible for such placement; each one received at least one vote for election. BUT Snuffy could never make to the list to join such notable players as: Kiki Cuyler, Eppa Risney, Nick Altrock, and Art Nehf. Just another example of the BBWAA in action.
The BBWAA action in the 1945 MVP voting along with
their record in the Baseball Hall of Fame, could easily raise the possibility of
some bias and/or prejudice by these writers in regard to Snuffy Stirnweiss.
At least I believe it could be so..
It’s quite likely that I’ve gone on much too long with this diatribe in which I’ve likely exhibited MY bias and prejudice towards Snuffy. I hope I’ve built a case for my feelings.
It is likely that I’ve lost a number of readers by this point; yet I do have to offer one more bit. It is quite apparent that there might be two Snuffy’s: My Snuffy and the one seen by the BBWAA members.
So, let me provide this statement, which I hope, tells the story of:
WHO WAS THE REAL SNUFFY STIRNWEISS?
Who was the real Snuffy Stirnweiss? There was the Snuffy that
Had so many friends at Fordham Prep and The University of North Carolina. There was the Snuffy Stirnweiss that millions of Yankee fans worshiped as their baseball hero. The best way to learn about him is
to listen to his many friends talk about him.
There was Fr. Matty O’Rourke. He and George were virtually inseparable friends during all of their days at Fordham Prep. There wasn’t anything they didn’t do together. When Snuffy needed help with his studies, which was quite often, Matty was there to lend a helping hand when Calculus became too much of a chore during the middle of football season. Although it had been sixty years or more, others spoke just as lovingly of their memories of Rabbit, as he was known during his Prep days.
One has only to listen to UNC President Erskine Bowles in several letters he wrote about how George is remembered at the university. He is still in the university sports hero status at the level of Charlie Justice.
The statement made by George Steinbrenner: iii regarding Snuffy’s career: “Stirnweiss never received the accolades his performance demanded. iwhich George deserved, Hopefully, your book will change that, and he will rightly receive his due. Of course there is some percentage of the millions of fans who saw him play who would remember him as do I..
But it is the Snuffy who is remembered by his teammates in basketball, baseball, and football, who after all these years have gone by, can still remember him at the end of every game running as fast as he ever did on the football field to get to the opposition teammates. Regardless of whether he was on the winning or losing team, everyone he could get to was given a warm, congratulatory handshake and a slap on the back (hugs weren’t the thing in those days). And he had words for them too. Probably some thought this was just grandstanding or showing off, but those who thought this didn’t know the real Snuffy.
He couldn’t have been more sincere when he said to a player who may have been the “enemy” just a few minutes earlier, “Great game. You have a wonderful team”. George had only love and admiration for those on the other side of the field. It wasn’t in his nature to behave in any other way. And he felt exactly the same way about his fellow teammates; and he told them often. And, those who knew the real Rabbit Stirnweiss knew his every word was sincere, earnest, and heartfelt.
It is probably best summed by again by Fr.Matty O’Rourke who was devastated when he heard of his friend’s death, especially since he wasn’t able to be at his funeral. It may have been close to sixty years since Snuffy’s death, but when Matty said to me: “I still miss George. He IS my best friend.”. He couldn’t have been more in earnest. There were tears in his voice.
It has been an effort of over three years to get the story of George Stirnweiss told. My research began with visiting with members of his family in New Jersey, followed by visits to Fordham Prep in New York, and the University of North Carolina. Of course I’ve spent countless hours searching the internet for what ever I could find. I have an e-mail file with close to 200 contacts with anyone who could tell me more about Snuffy. And every bit of these tasks was a true labor of love. I do not regret one minute spent in this work, even though I’m not much closer to getting his biography published, despite having sent the document to Acquisition Editors at close to 100 publishers. I came ”close” with only two (no point in telling that story). But, now age and health are bringing me close to the end of my being able to continue without some help (I’m starting my 84th year and inflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, and several of the usual afflictions of an octogenarian: high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, hearing loss, macular degeneration in one eye (I’m a virtual Cyclops), et al. But I always tell myself, as I do others complaining about “old age”, that growing old might not be much fun, but it’s infinitely better than the alternative.
At one point, for about a year, I was working with an agent who made considerable effort to find a willing publisher. I know she was highly motivated because her getting paid was dependent on getting the book published. Although she was not successful in her efforts, when she quit, she did leave me with one piece of advice: “find a friend inside a book publisher” the chance of getting a submissions editor to read a unsolicited document for a biography about a relatively unknown baseball player are slim. But, working from the inside at the start will greatly improve your chances (**)
I most definitely am not seeking help with any of the aforementioned ailments since I’m already seeing too many physicians and taking 31 prescription medications daily. Thank GOD for the help I get from the VA and Medicare with the costs of all this medical assistance.
The help I urgently need is with making some effective contacts inside the world of book publishing. ** My hope is that there is a Snuffy friend who has a friend or a friend who has a friend inside some book publisher. Most publishers specialize in what they print: cookbooks, fiction, self- help books, etc. I am asking to publish the book as a paperback, gift-book that is a somewhat6 easier category to crack.
If you can help, please contact me via my e-mail:
Even when I use my VA hearing aids, I don’t function very well on the phone, but I can manipulate an e-mail message to enable me to read it.
George (Snuffy) Stirnweiss is one of those N.Y. Yankees whose name is lost beside the immortals: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, et al. Yet he led the Yankees into the World Series three times and had a year, 1945 which is unmatched by any other Yankee including the aforementioned immortals. That year he led the American League in: at bats, batting average, on-base %, at bats hits, total bases, triples, stolen bases, & extra-base hits, and he and teammate Phil Rizzuto led the league in double plays while George had a .970% fielding average.. Yet his name is virtually forgotten by the Yankee organization and is mostly unknown by millions of Yankee fans. George was killed in a tragic train wreck in 1958, but he has left behind a large family (6 children, 13 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren) who need to learn more about him. The biography tells Snuffy’s story from Prep School through college and his career with the New York Yankees. There is also a chapter which details the story of his tragic death on that train wreck about which there is so much conflicting information.
To help keep his name alive for all these people, a long-time fan (60+years) PATRICK MACKIN has written Snuffy’s biography. Mr. Mackin is donating all of his proceeds from the sale of this book to a scholarship at Fordham Prep in NYC where George went to school. Although the book is not yet being published, a “pre-publication” copy is available at cost + shipping from Mr. Mackin. Write to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
September 15, 2008
TO: Family and friends of George Stirnweiss
Today is the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of George Stirnweiss on that train wreck in New Jersey. The preponderance of the evidence from the official reports of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the New Jersey Public Utilities Commission indicated that the accident happened due to the failure of the New Jersey Central Railroad’s safety devices. Initially, the railroad issued a statement that the train’s engineer, Lloyd Wilburn had suffered a heart attack and lost control of the train. But the medical examiner’s autopsy indicated that Mr. Wilburn cause of death was: death due to drowning.
The official reports also indicated that the New Jersey Central Railroad at the time of the accident was “in precarious financial condition” which could have been a secondary cause of the crash because of the railroad’s insufficient maintenance and safety operations.
There is no point at this time to go into further details about the crash. Just a final item helps clear up the matter of fault. Before the crash, the railroad had not installed “dead-man switches” on its passenger trains. After the crash, the railroad was ordered by both the ICC an the NJPUC to install these switches on all its passenger trains which was done, but too late to save the life of George Stirnweiss and 40 other people.
I have written a biography of George Stirnweiss because my connection with him goes way back to the late 1930’s when he was playing for the Newark (NJ) Bears which was a minor league “farm team” for the New York Yankees where a young player’s skills were developed in preparation for being moved up to the big leagues. As a young boy I lived just a short distance from Rupert Stadium where the Bears played. I did a few chores around the house (as few as possible) for which my Mother would give me about $2 with which I could take a bus part of the way to Rupert Stadium, get a seat in the bleachers, and maybe a bag of peanuts. And if I was smart enough keep enough money aside to get a bus part of the way home. But there was no sacrifice too big to pay to get to see Snuffy play.
It’s been close to 70 years since I first went to those Bears game
and then to see my hero George
Stirnweiss play his first games with the Yankees in 1943 when I was a sophomore
in high school. Although I
To be precise, it wasn’t until April 18, 1947 when I was stationed at
Bolling Field in
Servicemen in uniform got into the game free of charge. And I suppose it might have been because I was in uniform that I got down to “field-level” where Snuffy was warming up along the sidelines with teammate Vic Raschi, a pitcher. Snuffy was just a few feet on the field from where I was standing. I wasn’t going to let this chance of a lifetime slip by. I can still very clearly member that when I called out “Snuffy” he stopped; looked at me; and stood there while I took that picture of him wearing a catcher’s glove. That photo is inside the front cover of his biography, and a framed copy sits on my kitchen counter where I see it every day.
After I took the picture, I reached out to shake his hand to which he responded with the kindness for which he had a reputation. I don’t recall if we spoke at all, but it didn’t matter because “my day was made”. Before this day, Snuffy was always a figure way off on the field, way beyond my reach.
So, it is with mixed feelings of joy and sadness on the 50th anniversary of his death when I remember that day in 1947 when George Stirnweiss became very real to me.
I have been told that a memorial service will be held at the
It is interesting to look at how and if George has been remembered by
those who knew him well. Fordham
Prep where he went to high school has elected him to its prestigious Hall of
The entire Yankee bureaucracy from George Steinbrenner III down through a long list of vice presidents in the team’s hierarchy seem to have no concern whatsoever about not honoring one of their team’s truly great players in any manner.
I recently took a guided tour of Yankee Stadium during which I ask the tour guide if he had ever heard of George Stirnweiss. As I expected, he replied that he hadn’t. Of course, I took that opportunity to tell him all I could in the few minutes I had his attention. He appeared to take some special interest in my anecdote about Snuffy and his infamous manager Joe McCarthy in the 1943-1945 seasons and their relative seats on the Yankee bench. The guide seemed to take some interest in this anecdote and said he’d mention it during his tours. I wonder if he ever has?
Fortunately George has left 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 24 great grandchildren who, hopefully, will keep his memory and story alive for generations to come. George would be proud, and deservingly so.
August 25, 2008
One of the ways that professional and other athletic teams honor their retired players is to retire the individual’s uniform number. The New York Yankees have retired seventeen (17) numbers to honor players from Babe Ruth in to Ron Guidry in 2003. They have retired more numbers than any other team in major league baseball.
There is only one other Yankee whose number was not retired in his name is : George (Snuffy) Stirnweiss. His uniform number was “1” but a that number was assigned to a player, Billy Martin who came to the Yankees seven years after Stirnweiss and played in 124 fewer games than did Stirnweiss.
It is significant to look at the record that Stirnweiss established in 1945 when he led the American League in sixteen (16) batting categories, plus leading the league in double plays with teammate Phil Rizzuto while having an individual .970 fielding average. No other Yankee before his time or since ever had such a single season record.
There are those who claim that 1945 was one of those “war years”. Although 1945 was one of those “war years”, it is important to remember that in 1945 there were 300+ players in the American League, but only Stirnweiss was able to establish such a record.
The Yankees chose to entirely ignore what Stirnweiss did and retire his number “1” and retire the number to honor Billy Martin. Martin never a single season or career record to match Stirnweiss. In addition, Stirnweiss was an individual in whom the Yankees could be proud both on the field and off. That could not be said of Billy Martin.
September 15, 2008
will mark the fiftieth (50) anniversary of Snuffy’s death in a horrible train
“George “Snuffy” Stirnweiss was one of the great athletes of his day.
He was an outstanding football and baseball player at the University
for the Yankees from 1943 to 1950 and lead the American League in
hitting in 1945. Snuffy was more than just a baseball and football
player. He was morally and spiritually sound and treated his fellow
Man with dignity, and respect. Despite his outstanding individual
skills, he was the consummate team player”
In addition to those comments, in a letter written on November 14, 2006, Mr. George M. Steinbrenner III said this about Stirnweiss:
…he had a great career as a Yankee player and unfortunately, has never received the accolades nor been remembered to the same degree his performance should have demanded”
But instead of recognizing Stirnweiss as did Bobby Brown and George Steinbrenner III and retiring his number jointly with Billy Martin as was done with Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey, the Yankees chose to ignore and insult Snuffy by not awarding him this honor as has been done for 17 other Yankees.
Stirnweiss left behind a family of six children, 14 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren none of whom can go to Yankee Stadium and find a single item to remind them that their father, grandfather or great-grandfather ever played for the Yankees.
But, it is not too late for the Yankees to correct this mistake. It would bring great honor to George, his family, and the Yankees if the Yankees were to retire his number jointly with Billy Martin in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Snuffy’s death on September 25, 2008.
If nothing else it would show that former great Yankees are more important to the team than just a once-a-year invitation to an Old Timers Game.
The New York Yankees
might want to consider that Fordham Prep in the Bronx where George went to High
School has honored Stirnweiss by electing him to its prestigious “Hall of Fame”,
I have been a Yankee fan for over 67 years back to the days when Stirnweiss played for the Newark Bears before moving up to the Yankees. To help keep his name as a great New York Yankee alive, I have written a biography: “George Stirnweiss- The Almost Forgotten New York Yankee”.
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George Henry "Snuffy" Stirnweiss (October 26, 1918 - September 15, 1958) was an American second baseman in Major League Baseball. From 1943 through 1952, Stirnweiss played for the New York Yankees (1943-50), St. Louis Browns (1950) and Cleveland Indians (1951-52). He batted and threw right-handed.
A native of New York City, Stirnweiss was an All-American halfback at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After being graduated in 1940, he was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League. Nevertheless, he cast his lot with baseball and signed with the New York Yankees organization, starting his major league career with the Yankees in 1943.
Stirnweiss was in three World Series and appeared in the All-Star Game in 1945 and 1946. He won the American League batting title in 1945 with a .309 average. A prolific base-stealer, he led the AL with 55 stolen bases in 1944 and with 33 in 1945. In the same period, he also led the league in runs (125 and 107), hits (205 and 195), triples (16 and 22), and in fielding percentage. In 1948, with only five errors tallied against him, Stirnweiss set a major league record for a second baseman with a .993 percentage.
The Yankees traded Stirnweiss to the St. Louis Browns in 1950 and the next year he was sold to the Cleveland Indians. He retired after the 1952 season. Following his retirement as a player, he managed in the minor leagues, and later entered the banking field.
Biographical Sketches of Dead and
Missing Passengers in Bayonne Wreck
George H. Stirnweiss - from baseball-almanac.com
Mr. Stirnweiss, a foreign freight agent, was expected in New York about noon to keep a luncheon appointment for his company, Caldwell & Co., of 50 Broad Street. He failed to appear and has not been hear from since, either at his office or at his home at 140 Maple Street, Red Bank.
The son of a New York policeman, Mr. Stirnweiss was one of the fastest baserunners in the American League while playing second base for the Yankees between 1943 and 1950. He was married and the father of six children, aged 17 months to 15 years.
After being graduated in 1940, he was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League. However, he cast his lot with baseball and signed with the Yankees' organization.
He began his baseball career with Norfolk in the Piedmont League that summer, then was promoted to Newark in the International League before the season's end. He stayed there until 1942.
In 1945, his third year in the majors, Mr. Stirnweiss won the American League batting championship with an average of .309. He also was a prolific base-stealer, leading the league with fifty-five in 1944 and with thirty-three in 1945.
He was in the three world series and was a member of the 1946 All-Star team. Twice he led the league in triples and in fielding averages for a second baseman. In 1948, with only five errors tallied against him, he set a major league fielding record with a .993 average.
In 1956, after managing minor league teams in Scheneetady and Binghamton, Mr. Stirnweiss entered the banking field as solicitor of new accounts for the Federation Bank and Trust Company. A heart attack in June, 1957, forced him into temporary retirement.
Recently, however, he returned to baseball by taking charge of the sandlot program for The New York Journal-American.
September 9, 2008
The Pat Mackin – George Stirnweiss connection story
The Pat Mackin & George Stirnweiss connection story goes back at least as far as 1938 when he was playing for the Newark (NJ) Bears, a “farm-team” of the New York Yankees. He remained with the Bears through part of the 1943 season. The Yankees moved him up to the parent team in mid-1943 where he remained until 1950. He set a record in 1945 which was unsurpassed by any other Yankee prior to his time or any other Yankee since.
During those years 1938-1943, I regularly saw him play games at Rupert Stadium
So I had a “connection” for at least five years with George before any of the current members of the Stirnweiss family were even born. The connection continued to the end of his major league career in 1952 when he was playing for the Cleveland Indians. He played his last major league game that year on Sunday, May 4 against the Washington Senators.
The last game I saw him play was in 1947 in
I consider that my history with George Stirnweiss goes back seventy years from 2008. But I got re-connected with him about 2-3 years ago when I began the research for writing his biography.
It is with considerable pride that I note that I have advised my literary agent to be sure to advise any prospective publishers that I want all of the proceeds I may receive from the sales of his biography, of which I am the author, be donated to a scholarship fund which I have organized at Fordham Prep where George went to high school and began his outstanding athletic career.
George left a wonderful family behind him which includes seven children, two of whom are deceased; 13 grandchildren, and 24 great grandchildren. It is primarily for this family that I have written his biography. When he died in 1958, the oldest of his children was less than 15 and the youngest less than a year old; and, of course, none of 13 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren was even born yet.
Many of the members of this family, especially the great-grandchildren know little of his history, especially about his high school and college years and his early years as a professional baseball player. I hope his biography will “bring him back to life”. It is with honor that I note that as of this date one of his grandchildren, and a son of hers (a Snuffy great-grandchild) are presently reading a "pre-publication" copy of his biography and report that they are "so happy" to be learning about their grandfather/great-grandfather.
There is also a huge “extended family” of possibly millions of Yankee fans who know little about him since the New York Yankee organization has done virtually nothing to keep his story, or even his name alive. In the vast New York Yankee stadium complex there isn’t a singe mention that a player named George Stirnweiss ever played for the New York Yankees. Major professional teams honor their former players by retiring a player’s uniform number. The Yankees have retired seventeen player’s numbers, more than any other major league baseball team. But #1 which was the uniform number of George Stirnweiss was assigned to another player and retired in the name of that player. No one in the Yankee hierarchy will even discuss the possibility of correcting this error/insult as part of a ceremony on the 50th anniversary of George’s death on September 15, 2008.
Fordham Prep has elected George to their prestigious Hall of Honor; the
But as far as the New York Yankees are concerned, George Stirnweiss is dead, gone, and forgotten and they have no interest in changing that situation.
And, for the 2009 baseball season the Yankees will move into a new stadium In which, surely, there will be a new memorial park in which the great Yankees of the past: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, et al will again be honored along with a plaque to each of the seventeen players whose uniform numbers have been retired. But it is very likely that George Stirnweiss won’t be mentioned anywhere.
It is my hope that my biography: “SNUFFY – The story of the almost forgotten New York Yankee.” Will keep some small memory of him alive.