Nichols: When Hizzoner hired the Rajah of Swat, Rogers Hornsby

From Jeff Nichols at Chicago Magazine on May 30, 2018:

When we think of Richard J. Daley, we don’t usually picture a man who aspired to fill young Chicagoans with dreams of playing for the White Sox or the Cubs.

But on August 2, 1955, nearly four months after he won his first mayoral election, Daley played catcher behind Rogers Hornsby—the greatest right-handed hitter in baseball history—in Back of the Yards. The fifty-nine-year-old former slugger for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs was now sporting a jersey for the Mayor Daley Youth Foundation. Fulfilling a campaign promise, Daley announced a program to bring baseball instruction to 200,000 kids, with the Hall of Famer its leader. “This is the way the city is turning gangs into teams, and fighting juvenile delinquency,” Daley explained.

Universally known as the Rajah of Swat, Hornsby still had star power, something that the ambitious foundation would need if it was to bring in donations, volunteers, and eager students. Yet the new mayor was taking a risk. Explaining Hornsby’s uncommon talent for getting fired, one sportswriter in 1953 described Rogers as “a hostile man, lonesome and beyond the reach of sentiment.”

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Originally published: May 31, 2018. Last Updated: May 31, 2018.