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Billy Jurges
Shortstop
Born: May 9, 1908(1908-05-09)
The Bronx, New York
Died: March 3, 1997 (aged 88)
Clearwater, Florida
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
May 4, 1931 for the Chicago Cubs
Last MLB appearance
September 9, 1947 for the Chicago Cubs
Career statistics
Batting average     .258
Hits     1,613
Runs batted in     656
Teams
Career highlights and awards

William Frederick Jurges (May 9, 1908 — March 3, 1997) was a shortstop, manager, coach and scout in American Major League Baseball. During the 1930s, he was central to three (1932, 1935 and 1938) National League championship Chicago Cubs teams. In July 1932, Jurges recovered from gunshot wounds — suffered when a distraught former girlfriend tried to kill him — to help lead the Cubs to the NL flag.

Jurges was born in Bronx, New York. A right-handed batter and thrower, he was a light hitter — he batted only .258 in 1,816 games over 17 seasons — but a good defensive shortstop. During his eight seasons (1931-38) in Chicago, he anchored an infield of Stan Hack (third base), Billy Herman (second base), and Charlie Grimm or Phil Cavarretta (first base). He then played seven more seasons (1939-45) with the New York Giants before returning to the Cubs as a player-coach (1946-47) and non-playing coach (1948) under manager Grimm. In 1940, he was hit in the head by a pitched ball and missed over 90 games, but he recovered to play regularly for the Giants from 1941-43.

After leaving the Cubs in 1948, Jurges managed briefly in the farm systems of the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Braves, before returning to the coaching ranks with the original Washington Senators franchise in 1956. In July 1959, still a Washington coach, he was named the surprise manager of the Boston Red Sox, who had fired Pinky Higgins. Jurges was able to rally Boston in '59: the Bosox won 44 of 80 games under him, improving from eighth to fifth place, and finally broke the color line with the promotion of Pumpsie Green from AAA.

But the Red Sox, facing the end of Ted Williams' great career in 1960, were a team in disarray. Composed of aging veterans and mostly unpromising youngsters — and stunned by the sudden retirement of right fielder and 1958 Most Valuable Player Jackie Jensen — the 1960 Red Sox fell into the American League basement after losing 27 of their first 42 games. Jurges, an intense competitor, suffered in an alien organization composed largely of cronies of owner Tom Yawkey. The Red Sox front office was about to undergo a massive shakeup, with Jurges' patron, general manager Bucky Harris, on his way out the door. On June 8, Jurges left the team, citing illness. (Some Boston baseball writers believed that he suffered from nervous exhaustion.[1]) He was fired two days later, and, after coach Del Baker handled the team for a week, Higgins returned to the manager's post he had lost 11 months before.

Jurges never managed again in baseball (his final record was 59 wins, 63 losses — .484) but he scouted for the Houston Colt .45s/Astros, the expansion Washington Senators and its successor, the Texas Rangers, and the Cubs. He died at age 88 in Clearwater, Florida.

Shooting

On July 6, 1932, Violet Valli, a showgirl with whom Jurges was romantically linked, tried to kill Jurges at the Hotel Carlos, where both lived. Jurges had previously tried to end their relationship. Valli (born Violet Popovich) also left a suicide note in which she blamed Cubs outfielder Kiki Cuyler for convincing Jurges to break up with her. Although initial reports stated that Jurges was shot while trying to wrestle the gun from Valli, later reports, based on Valli's suicide note, stated that she was trying to kill Jurges as well as commit suicide.[2]

This incident would form the basis for portions of Bernard Malamud's novel The Natural.

A week after the shooting, charges were dismissed against Valli when Jurges appeared in court and announced that he would not testify and wished to drop the charges.[3] Valli was later involved in a lawsuit when she sued a real estate developer who was blackmailing her by threatening to release letters in which Valli threatened Jurges.[4]

References

  1. ^ Hirshberg, Al, What's the Matter With the Red Sox. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1973
  2. ^ "Letter Solves the Shooting of Bill Jurges". Chicago Tribune. 1932-07-07.  
  3. ^ "Girl Who Shot Cubs' Player Goes Free". Chicago Tribune. 1932-07-16.  
  4. ^ "Girl Regains Jurges Notes; Continue Case". Chicago Tribune. 1932-08-19.  

External links

Preceded by
Rudy York
Boston Red Sox manager
1959–1960
Succeeded by
Del Baker
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