Roy "Snipe" Hansen (TRADING CARD DB)

Snipe Hansen

This article was written by Gregory H. Wolf

Roy "Snipe" Hansen (TRADING CARD DB)In 1927, the Chicago Cubs signed local sandlot hurler Roy Hansen. Skipper Joe McCarthy thought highly enough of the 20-year-old to extend him an invitation to spring training for the first of three successive years. Hansen was surely overwhelmed by the team’s picturesque training facility on Catalina Island, club owner William Wrigley’s private sanctuary located 30 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, as well as practicing with established players like Charlie Grimm, Gabby Hartnett, and Hack Wilson. It was there that Hansen acquired his moniker, Snipe. A group of veterans sent the green recruit players to a canyon to collect “snipes.”1 While the other prospects returned to camp and the dining hall, Hansen apparently kept looking for the mythical creatures and arrived back at the hotel in the early evening. His teammates henceforth called him Snipe, as did the sportswriters, for the rest of his career. He went 22-45 in parts of five big-league seasons (1930; 1932-35).

Roy Emil Frederick Hansen was born on February 21, 1907, in Chicago. His father, George Hansen, immigrated from Germany at the age of 17 in 1880 and settled in the Windy City. There he married Margaret Lubeck in 1887.2 They had one child, Roy. The elder Hansen was a confectioner and owned a retail store that afforded the family a sturdy middle-class lifestyle in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, known for its German immigrant population, on the city’s north side. George died in 1915, after which Margaret (who never remarried) and Roy relocated to the Old Irving neighborhood on the northwest side. Roy graduated from Lake View High School at a time when less than 17 percent of the US population had a high-school diploma.3

Already 6-feet-3 by the age of 18, Hansen got his start in baseball on sandlots on the city’s northwest side. A hard-throwing left-hander and switch-hitter, Hansen played for a number of amateur and semipro teams in summer, weekend, and industrial leagues, including the Red Sox, Belle Plaines, Listinger Cardinals, and Maypole Boosters.4 He caught the attention of the Cubs, whose home ballpark, Wrigley Field, was located just a mile southeast of Roy’s high school.

Hansen bounced around the minor leagues during his first three seasons (1927-1929). “[He] has plenty of stuff, but can’t control it,” wrote the Reading Times in a typical refrain about the hurler.5 Hansen limped to a 1-8 record with a 6.99 ERA with the Reading Keystones in the International League, just one step below the majors, in his debut season. Dropped three classifications the following season to the Class B New York-Penn League, Hansen posted a 12-17 record and logged 227 innings for the Elmira Colonels, though his 4.13 ERA was among the circuit’s highest. When he was transferred to the Dayton Aviators in the Class B Central League in 1929, Hansen’s development stalled. According to Dayton sportswriter Phil Rudy, “When Roy has a good day, there aren’t many teams in this country that can beat him.” But as Rudy quipped, “The trouble is that Roy’s good days are usually separated by about a half a season.”6 Following a dismal campaign (7-11; 5.16 ERA), Hansen’s association with his hometown Cubs ended when they sold him outright to Akron in the same circuit.

Akron relocated to Richmond, Indiana, for the 1930 season, which Hansen started with a bang. In the Roses’ season opener, he sliced a ninth-inning single to win the game, 3-2.7 Praised for his “world of stuff, including smoke and a good change of pace,” Hansen proved to be one of the league’s best pitchers and caught the attention of big-league scouts.8

The perpetually cash-strapped Philadelphia Phillies dispatched scout Patsy O’Rourke to the Central League in search of cheap talent. The club had found a diamond two years earlier when they procured slugger Chuck Klein from the circuit’s Fort Wayne club. On O’Rourke’s recommendation, team President Gerry Nugent purchased Hansen, who had compiled an 11-9 record and logged 162 innings in just over a half a season.9

Hansen joined the Phillies and skipper Burt Shotton at the beginning of July. Since 1917, when club owner William Baker sold pitcher Pete Alexander in a contract dispute following his third successive season of at least 30 wins, the Phillies had been arguably the worst team in the majors. They would finish the ’30 season (52-102) in last place for the eighth time since that ill-fated transaction.

Hansen’s debut on July 5 at Baker Bowl was the Phillies’ “only bright spot” in a 17-5 blowout loss, mused Stan Baumgartner of the Philadelphia Inquirer.10 Thrown into mop-up duty, Hansen hurled five innings of relief, yielding three runs to the Boston Braves, but just one earned. The lanky left-hander “had a peculiar motion which bothered the hitters,” noted Baumgartner. “He tossed arms, legs and everything at them from a windmill wind-up.” Hansen fanned four and also had four fielding assists, “mov[ing] about with remarkable agility.”

Hansen’s debut was probably his season highlight. He blew a lead in relief in his next appearance for his first loss, followed by losses in his first four starts. He finished the season winless with eight defeats and a 6.72 ERA in 84⅓ innings. The Phillies lost 21 of the 22 games in which Hansen pitched. The jewel-box Baker Bowl, which measured just 280 feet down the right-field line and 300 feet in right-center, was unforgiving to southpaws, despite a massive barrier of wall and screen that was 60 feet high.

Optioned to the Fort Worth Panthers in the offseason, Hansen struggled as the 1931 Texas League season commenced. He was reassigned to the Dallas Steers and enjoyed the best stretch of pitching in his professional career, winning eight straight and going 11-2 with the Steers to earn another shot with the Phillies.

Hansen was back with the Phillies in 1932 and joined a staff coming off its 14th consecutive season with the NL’s worst ERA. It appeared as though his stint with the club would be abbreviated. In Hansen’s first two appearances he yielded six earned runs in just 1⅔ innings. He was back in the box on April 23 at the Baker Bowl a day after the New York Giants batted around and chased him after he recorded just one out. The 25-year-old exacted revenge by laying them “flatter than a broker’s bank roll,” wrote Baumgartner, invoking imagery of the financial crisis and ongoing Great Depression.11 Hansen’s complete game was his first big-league victory; the score was 7-2.

He proved to be a steady contributor and joined Shotton’s core group of six hurlers, each of whom started at least 20 games, relieved regularly, and posted at least 10 victories. The others were a quintet of 30-somethings, Ed Holley, Ray Benge, Flint Rhem, Jumbo Elliott, and Phil Collins. The staff still finished last in the NL in ERA (4.47), but was supported by the NL’s highest-scoring offense, led by Chuck Klein, who captured his third home-run title in four years with 38, and Don Hurst’s league-leading 143 RBIs.

The Phillies, propelled by a 16-7 stretch, found themselves in an unexpected pennant race, moving to within five games of the first-place Pirates on August 5. Though the Phillies eventually faltered, finishing in fourth place, their 78-76 record marked the team’s only winning record between 1918 and 1948. Hansen found his groove in the second half of the season, posting a 3.17 ERA from July to the end of the season (the league average that year was 3.88). “Day by day in every way Snipe Hansen is becoming a great pitcher,” declared Baumgartner after the right-hander pitched a four-hit complete-game victory on September 14.12 Hyperbole aside, Hansen ended his season by losing both games of a doubleheader (as a starter and reliever) against the Giants on September 24. In his most productive season in the majors, Hansen went 10-10 and led the club with a 3.72 ERA in 191 innings.

Popular with both fans and the press, Hansen had dark, deep-set eyes, dark hair, and a lean frame (carrying 180 to 195 pounds). He was known for his fashionable suits and was often depicted in images with his baseball cap stylishly tilted slightly to the side. In Baumgartner’s vivid description, “He is tall and spindly with legs like the shadows cast by a telegraph pole. He has a Jimmy Durante schnozzle and a neck that would make an ostrich envious.”13 Though Snipe was the player’s most common nickname, Philadelphia newspapers occasionally called him “Lefty” and sometimes mistakenly referred to him as “Swede.” Swede Hansen had been a football star at Temple University and played in the NFL at the time. Snipe’s given name of Roy, however, was much more common in the printed media.14

Gerry Nugent’s purchase of the cash-strapped club in 1933 marked a new era in Phillies history. Expectations increased for the club, coming off its best season since 1917, as well for Hansen. However, it was a traumatic offseason for the pitcher: His mother died. He also underwent an operation on his right foot to remove serious bunions (called “tumors” in the press), which had bothered him for much of the previous season.15 Derailed by a slow healing process, Hansen developed both neck and arm pain, perhaps from overcompensating for his aching foot. He made only two starts through May and didn’t notch his first victory until June 12. By that time the Phillies were in last place.

Scoring was down precipitously in the NL in 1933, to its lowest mark since 1919, the last season of the Deadball Era. As SABR member Steve Treder demonstrated, the NL used a different ball than the AL in ’33, which contributed to the biggest scoring differential between the leagues since the AL’s founding in 1901.16 The Phillies’ high-powered offense failed to materialize, save for Klein, who won the Triple Crown (.368-28-120). Plus, a weak staff once again finished last in the league in ERA (4.34). Hansen’s 22 starts (among 32 appearances) and 168⅓ innings ranked second on the club behind Ed Holley. In consecutive starts in July he tossed his best games of the season, both resulting in victories on the road. A career-long 11-inning complete-game five-hitter against the Reds was followed by a six-hitter against the Cardinals. It was otherwise a long season for Hansen (6-14) and the seventh-place Phillies (60-92). His 4.44 ERA was the NL’s highest, while no pitcher in the majors yielded more hits than his 10.6 per nine innings.

A lifelong Chicagoan, Hansen married local Marguerite Kuhn in January 1934. She was a dancer and later worked for the city’s park district. The had two children, Peggy and Janice. The Hansens eventually divorced; Roy never remarried.

Jimmie Wilson, who began his major-league career with the Phillies in 1923, was reacquired in a trade with the Cardinals and took over as player-manager, but the script was on repeat for his club in 1934. The Phillies had averaged an NL-low 2,173 spectators per game the previous year and were teetering on financial insolvency. Needing to infuse the club with cash, Nugent sold his biggest asset, Klein, to the Cubs for $65,000 and three players.

Accustomed to the Redbirds’ strong pitching corps, Wilson employed a starter-by-committee approach, with few good results. The exception was rookie Spud Davis, who went 19-17 and posted the lowest ERA (2.95) for a Phillies starter in 14 years. Seven hurlers (Collins, Davis, Hansen, Holley, as well as Euel Moore, Syl Johnson, and Cy Moore) started at least 10 games as the staff once again posted the NL’s highest ERA (4.76). Hansen saw action primarily as a reliever — his 50 appearances ranked second in the league, but he also made 16 starts. On July 14 the Phillies put on a “spectacular display of hitting,” gushed Baumgartner about the team’s 18-0 whitewashing of the Reds in the first game of a twin bill.17 “[It] did not overshadow the magnificent pitching of Roy Hansen,” he continued. The gangly southpaw tossed a four-hitter for the first of his two career shutouts. Nonetheless Hansen (6-12) finished with a 5.42 ERA, the highest in the NL for any pitcher with at least 150 innings.

With their continual roster turnover, the Phillies began the 1935 season with only three players from two years earlier: Hansen, his mound mate Collins, and batterymate Al Todd. Hansen received permission from the Phillies to report a month late to spring training in Winter Haven, Florida, because of the birth of his daughter. His tardiness, however, probably didn’t earn him any favors from the fiery Wilson. After two disastrous appearances, yielding six earned runs in 4⅓ innings, Hansen was traded to Washington for two players and cash, and subsequently transferred to Albany in the International League.

About a month later, on June 13, he was sent to the St. Louis Browns in a conditional deal. Hansen’s 8.78 ERA in 26⅓ innings resulted in his return on July 15 to the Senators, who optioned him to Chattanooga in the Class A Southern Association.

Hansen never made it back to the majors. He finished with a 22-45 record and 5.01 ERA in 625⅔ innings in 155 appearances, including 71 starts.

Hansen bounced around the minors in his last two seasons. Sold to Dallas in the Texas League for 1936, he suffered a serious ankle injury and then developed arm problems; he made only two appearances. In 1937 he split his time with Galveston and Oklahoma City in the Texas League.

At the age of 30, Hansen retired and returned to the north side of Chicago. He began working for the J.D. McDowall company as a salesman and representative for linen and cotton. In October 1943 he entered the military and was eventually sent to the Pacific Theater.18 He was injured in battle in November 1944 and received a Purple Heart. Discharged in January 1945, he resumed his job as a salesman.

Roy Hansen died on September 11, 1978, at the age of 71, in Chicago. Services were held at the Alt-Benson Funeral Home and he was buried in Rosehill Cemetery, the city’s largest.



This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Len Levin and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author accessed,, the SABR Minor Leagues Database, accessed online at,, The Sporting News archive via Paper of Record, the player’s Hall of Fame file, newspapers via, and



1 This story of Hansen’s nickname is recounted in a number of publications, including Jim Vitti, Chicago Cubs. Baseball on Catalina Island (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia, 2010), 63.

2 Margaret Lubeck’s name is also spelled Lobbeke in some reports; however, with a silent “e” it would have been pronounced the same as Lubeck.

3 Kenneth A. Simon and W. Vance Grant, Digest of Educational Statistics, Office of Education, Bulletin 1965, No. 4 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1965).

4 Irwin M. Moore, “Chisox [sic] Give Windy City Lad Spring Training Trail,” Birmingham (Alabama) News, January 19, 1927: 14.

5 “New Faces Galore as Keystones Take Field,” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, April 18, 1928: 16.

6 Phil Rudy, “Aviators Near Fourth Place as Hansen Beats Tyrites,” Dayton Daily News, August 20, 1929: 8.

7 Ken Murphy, “Roses Score Thrilling Victory in Opener,” Richmond (Indiana) Item, May 2, 1930: 12.

8 Ken Murphy, “Richmond Roses Open League Season Today,” Richmond (Indiana) Item, May 1, 1930: 12.

9 “Phillies Purchase Traveling Pitcher,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 29, 1930: 40.

10 Stan Baumgartner, “Klein Raps 21st and 22d As Phils Droop, but Berger Gets 23d,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 6, 1930: 32.

11 Stan Baumgartner, “Klein and Mallon Hit Home Runs as Snipe Wins Revenge,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 24, 1932: 32.

12 Stan Baumgartner, “Phils Beat Reds; A’s Down Browns,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 15, 1932: 18.

13 Stan Baumgartner, “’Snipe’ Hansen Writes in to Say He’ll Win Twenty Games for Phils This Year,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 13, 1933: 9.

14 Andy Hansen, who played with the Phillies in 1952 and 1953, received the same treatment and was called both Snipes and Swede.

15 “Roy Hansen Seeks 20 Victories on Mound for Phils,” Reading Times, February 13, 1933: 9.

16 Steve Treder, “A Tale of Two Leagues,” The Hardball Times Annual. 2004: 87-93.

17 Stan Baumgartner, “10,000 Watch Phils Rout Reds in First, Land ’Cap in Sixth,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 15, 1934: 34.

18 “Snipe Hansen,” Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice.

Full Name

Roy Emil Frederick Hansen


February 21, 1907 at Chicago, IL (USA)


September 11, 1978 at Chicago, IL (USA)

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