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The Two Who Shared Left Field: BRESSLER/CHRISTENSEN

         

    Bubbles Hargrave wasn't the only .350 hitter on the 1926 Reds. In fact, two of his teammates hit higher than Hargrave's .353.

 

Raymond "Rube" Bressler and Walter "Cookoo" Christensen had good seasons, too. Bressler hit four points higher than Hargrave's league-leading .353 mark, but couldn't win the batting title because he appeared in only 86 games. League rules at that time stated a player had to play in at least 100 games to be eligible for the batting championship. Christensen batted an even .350, missing the batting title by only three points.

 

Both players are interesting characters.

 

Bressler grew up in Pennsylvania, moving from town to town with his family. His father was a lumberjack, and when the trees were stripped, they'd move elsewhere. In fact, Bressler's birthplace - Coder, Pennsylvania - no longer exists. It was only a temporary village constructed by the lumber company.

 

Bressler eventually wound up in Renova, Pennsylvania, where he was discovered as a baseball player. The Philadelphia Athletics signed him. At the age of 20, he was playing in a World Series, not as a hitter but as a pitcher. Bressler had played a great role in Philadelphia's drive to the American League title. He won 10 games, lost only three and posted a glittering 1.77 earned run average.

 

His major league career as a pitcher, however, was relatively short-lived. He lost 17 games in his second season in Philadelphia and was shuffled off to Atlanta in the minor leagues. He regained his touch there, winning 25 games, and the Reds purchased him in 1917. Rube won eight games in 1918 and pitched some in 1919, but his greatest contribution to the World Champion Reds came when he was switched to the outfield.

 

First baseman Jake Daubert had an idea and advanced it to manager Pat Moran. It was Daubert's notion that Bressler swung the bat well enough to be a regular outfielder. The Reds, needing a left fielder, decided to take a shot. The results were magnificent.

 

Bressler wound up playing 61 games in the outfield in 1919 and batted .306. Except for a few games on the mound the next year, Bressler remained an outfielder. No telling how good he might have become had he not broken his ankle in 1920. That slowed him down.

 

Not many hitters batted like Bressler. First, he was a left-handed thrower and a right-handed batter. That is highly unusual. Second, he hit from a deep crouch, uncoiling as the pitch sped plateward. Bressler was a line-drive hitter with little power. His 19-year career produced only 32 home runs, but he did finish with a .301 average.

 

Bressler's teammate for two years in Cincinnati was Cookoo Christensen. He played for Cincinnati in 1926 and 1927, the only two years he was in the major leagues.

 

The Reds purchased him from St. Paul of the American Association and it seemed that everything Christensen connected with in his first year was a hit. Bloops fell just between the infielders and outfielders. Line drives just managed to elude the outstretched arms of the shortstop and second baseman. Slowly hit balls on the infield became "leg" hits. It was certainly Christensen's year. Had there been a Rookie of the Year Award in those days, he would have won hands down.

 

Christensen was a left-handed hitter and was platooned in left field with Bressler. He delighted the crowds with his clowning. When he would make a catch that was a bit tougher than normal, Christensen would often turn a

flip as the crowd cheered. He was a bench jockey, too, always baiting the umpires and opposing players. He was a hot-dog in the purest sense.

But Christensen didn't last long.

He played' in only 57 games in 1927 and then faded into oblivion, drifting off like so many of those one-season hotshots whom baseball has seen through the ages.

         
       

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