Felber: Art the Great might-have-been

From SABR member Bill Felber at The National Pastime Museum on September 14, 2015:

On August 20, 1928, Art Shires made his Major League debut against Red Ruffing. A triple, three singles, and an RBI later, the 22-year-old Chicago White Sox first baseman pronounced himself unimpressed. “So this is the great American League we heard so much about in (the) Texas (League),” Shires told teammate Ted Lyons, adding, “I’ll probably hit .400.”

If that sounds boastful for a rookie, it was in keeping with the level of rhetoric Shires soon established for himself. Signed a month earlier, Shires’ debut had been delayed by his demand to get part of the sale price. Less than a year into his Major League tenure, Shires would declare that “there are only two [good] players in the American League . . . Babe Ruth is the other one.” His self-bestowed nickname was “Art The Great”; his wardrobe consisted of trunks of expensive suits, hats, and canes.

Today Shires is remembered as one of the game’s might-have-beens, his entire career lasting less than 300 games. He followed his debut by batting .341 the remainder of 1928. White Sox Manager Lena Blackburne named Shires a co-captain even before the start of spring training in 1929. Shires’ regency, however, lasted no longer than it took him to actually show up at the team’s Dallas hotel. He arrived in one of his best suits and in a thorough state of inebriation, wobbling through the lobby past Blackburne without even appearing to notice the waiting manager. Instead, Shires checked into his room, opened the window, and began baying loudly out of it.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/art-great-might-have-been

Originally published: September 15, 2015. Last Updated: September 15, 2015.