Turbow: The bizarre death of Len Koenecke

From SABR member Jason Turbow at The National Pastime Museum on July 24, 2016:

In 1931, Giants Manager John McGraw was so smitten by reports over a budding second baseman with the Louisville Colonels of the American Association that he left his team in Cincinnati and traveled 100 miles to scout him in person. It turned out to be a wash; McGraw declared the kid to be of insufficient build to withstand the rigors of National League baseball. “However,” he proclaimed upon his return, “my trip was not in vain. I saw a great outfielder with the Indianapolis club. His name is Len Koenecke. I bought him for a lot of money.”

McGraw was wrong on two fronts. The player he spurned, Billy Herman, was signed by the Cubs and went on to a Hall of Fame career. The great outfielder McGraw snatched up instead would have a far briefer story—but one supporting far greater drama.

The “lot of money” McGraw relinquished for Leonard George Koenecke involved $75,000 worth of player contracts, and on Opening Day 1932, he installed the strapping lad out of Adams, Wisconsin, as New York’s starting left fielder. Koenecke hit capably over the season’s first two months, but was rocked on June 3 by the unexpected news that McGraw, hampered by health problems, was resigning after 31 years on the job. The skipper’s replacement, Bill Terry, was less inclined to tolerate the poor fielding and untrained batting eye of his predecessor’s protégé, and 14 games after McGraw’s departure—during which an increasingly skittish Koenecke batted only .179—Terry optioned the 28-year-old to Double-A Jersey City. After the season, he sold Koenecke to Buffalo of the International League.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/bizarre-death-len-koenecke

Originally published: July 24, 2016. Last Updated: July 24, 2016.