He was the greatest right-handed hitter in major-league baseball history. Rogers Hornsby was intense, cantankerous, blunt and did not suffer fools easily. He was not well loved, and frankly, he didn’t care what others thought.
But Hornsby was a magician with a bat, as his .358 career average shows. And an image taken by noted photographer Charles Conlon captured “Rajah” at his best. It is one of the items up for bid in RMY Auctions’ Holiday Premier Auction.
The photograph was taken “about 1920,” according to the handwritten note on the back of the photo. In 1920, Hornsby was embarking on the greatest batting stretch in National League history. He would win his first NL batting title with a .370 mark in 1920 and followed it up with league-leading averages of .397, .401, .384, .424 and .403. His overall average during those six years when he topped the NL in hitting was a staggering .397.
Hornsby won the Triple Crown twice during that stretch — in 1922, with a .401/42/152 line; and in 1925, with a .403/39/143 showing.
The photograph by Conlon was one of many classics snapped by the sports photojournalist, whose stark black-and-white photography is beautiful for its simplicity.
RMY Auctions noted on its website that the Hornsby photograph is one of 400 Conlon images being offered in the sale, which began Nov. 30. The photo measures 6½ inches-by-8½ inches and rates a 4.5/5 condition overall, RMY Auctions said, giving it an overall grade of 9.5/10.
Hornsby was only a part-time player during the latter stages of his career, which prevented him from collecting 3,000 hits (he wound up with 2,970), but that was because his final five years were spent managing the St. Louis Browns. His winning percentage as manager of the Browns matched his 1922 batting average — .401— which is a great batting average, but lousy for a manager.
Bidding continues through December 16.