Two Months of Glory

Bob Hazle

The Braves didn’t have a particularly distinguished history in the first half of the 20th Century. They won the World Series in 1914, lost it in 1948 and did nothing in between. In the early 1950’s they left Boston for Milwaukee, picked up Eddie Mathews and Henry Aaron to go with stalwart lefty Warren Spahn, and finally became a pennant threat in the National League. They had a pretty good team by 1957, then center fielder and leadoff man Billy Bruton went down with a knee injury. In crisis mode, the Braves called up an undistinguished minor leaguer named Bob Hazle. It worked.

Hazle was from South Carolina, born in 1930. He had a cup of coffee with the Cincinnati Reds in 1955, then went back to the minors where he languished until Bruton banged up his knee. One hundred games into the 1957 season Hazle made his debut for Milwaukee. Over the months of August and September he exploded offensively in such a way as to make fans forget, at least temporarily, both Aaron and Mathews. For the two months he played in 1957 Hazle hit .403 with 27 RBIs and seven home runs over 41 games. It got him the nickname “Hurricane” (a play on his name and the devastating hurricane Hazel which hit South Carolina in 1954) and it got the Braves the pennant. The Braves became the first non-New York team to win the National League pennant since the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies “Whiz Kids”.

The Braves won the World Series, beating New York in seven games. Hazle played in four of the games, batting .154. He had two singles, both in game seven. There were no RBIs, but he did score two runs and picked up a ring.

The World Series was a sign of things to come. He started 1958 horribly (a buck seventy-nine average and no extra base hits), was traded to Detroit, did a little better (.241 and two home runs), then went back to the minors. He retired after the 1959 season and died in 1992.

So he wasn’t much of a player after all. But what a great two months he had. It’s hard to say this about a team that includes Aaron, Mathews, and Spahn, but without Hazle the Braves don’t win.

Quick aside: Today marks the 195th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Advice–bet on Wellington.

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5 Responses to “Two Months of Glory”

  1. William Miller Says:

    Quite the square-jawed son-of-a-bitch, isn’t he? Intrigued by your post, I did a little more research on Hazle and learned that he was a poor defensive outfielder and a one-dimensional player. But, as you pointed out, when he was in the zone, he was unstoppable.
    He reminds me of former Red Sox player (later with the Orioles) Sam Horn. In 1987, 23-year old Horn was called up to play in the last 46 games of the season. He slugged 14 homers, posted a .945 OPS and an OPS+ of 142. And that was about it for his career. He hung around for parts of 8 seasons, hit 62 career homers, finished with a life-time batting average of .240, and was out of baseball by age 31.
    These kinds of players, like your posts, always intrigue me. Great job, Bill

  2. verdun2 Says:

    Baseball history is littered with guys like Hazle and Horn. Remember back in the 1990s when he Yankees brought up a left fielder named Shane Spencer? He had a great second half of a season, then went on to be a marginal player for a number of years. I started to call this post “One Year Wonder” then realized Hazle didn’t even get one year. There are a lot of those too.
    Thanks for the comment and the read.
    v

  3. medgtcc Says:

    I’m creating a website on the 57 Series. The Braves being the only NON-NY team to win a World Series in the 50’s is what gave me the idea.. Although the Dodgers won in 59, after relocating from Brooklyn, the team still had pretty much the same players from the Brooklyn years. The Braves were the only team outside NY to win a series from 51 to 58. Liked your blog, I know I’m a few years behind in commenting, but somebody else intrigued by those 57 Braves may come upon you in another 4 years.

  4. steve Says:

    that was a big name around our house growing up in Milwaukee. Hurricane Hazle my dad would say his name every September or anytime I got all sparky anderson gushy about a player, reminding me of the flash in the pan, the hurricane hazle.

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