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This article is about the baseball player; for the linguist, see Jeffrey Heath.
Jeff Heath
Born: April 1, 1915(1915-04-01)
Fort William, Ontario
Died: December 9, 1975 (aged 60)
Seattle, Washington
Batted: Left Threw: Right 
MLB debut
September 13, 1936 for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
September 8, 1949 for the Boston Braves
Career statistics
Batting average     .293
Home runs     194
Runs batted in     887
Career highlights and awards

John Geoffrey Heath (April 1, 1915 - December 9, 1975) was a Canadian left fielder in Major League Baseball who played most of his career for the Cleveland Indians. He was one of the American League's most promising power hitters of the late 1930s and early 1940s, twice leading the AL in triples, and batting at least .340 with over 100 runs batted in each time. From 1945 to 1955 he held the major league record for career home runs by a player born outside the United States.

Heath, who batted left-handed and threw right-handed, was born in Fort William, Ontario, and broke in with the Indians in 1936, appearing in 32 games over his first two years. In his first full season in 1938, he batted .343 – just six points behind batting champion Jimmie Foxx – while leading the league with 18 triples. He also had 21 home runs and 112 RBI, collected 58 hits in August alone, and was among the league leaders in slugging average and total bases; he and New York Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon were the league's top two rookies. He had increasing struggles at the plate over the next two years, but came back with a 1941 campaign in which he again led the AL with 20 triples, batted .340 (fourth in the league), and was third in slugging behind Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. He also finished second in total bases and RBI (behind DiMaggio) as well as second in hits, made his first All-Star team, and finished eighth in the MVP voting.

He continued to turn out productive years with Cleveland, and was among the league leaders in home runs in 1943 and 1945, batting .305 in the latter season; he was again an All-Star in 1943 and 1945, although the 1945 game was cancelled. In 1943 he became the second player born outside the U.S. to hit 100 home runs, and he surpassed fellow Canadian George Selkirk with his 109th home run in 1945.

Heath was physically very strong and a good athlete, but he was a bit of a trouble maker. Some writers at the time alluded to a general lack of intelligence. In December 1945 he was traded from Cleveland to the Washington Senators in exchange for very fast center fielder George Case and was Washington's starting right fielder, but the Senators traded him to the St. Louis Browns in mid-1946. The reason: Washington had a weak hitting utility infielder, Sherry Robertson, who was related to Senator owner Clark Griffith. Heath loudly rode Robertson on the bench during games about being a lousy player and only there because he was the "owner's pet." Heath contemptuously hoped to cause a fight. This led to the mid season trade to the Browns. Washington could have used Heath, because in 1947 he had a career high 27 home runs for St. Louis, but the Browns, always needing cash to operate, traded him to the Boston Braves after the 1947 season. He batted .319 with 20 home runs for the 1948 Braves as they won a surprise National League pennant, but he missed the World Series after breaking his ankle in a slide toward home plate in the last week of the season. A widely published newspaper photograph of the play showed Heath sliding toward the plate, mouth open in shock, with his leg shattered mid-ankle with the lower ankle rotated ninety degrees to the upper ankle. The injury probably caused permanent damage to nerves and leg structure at the break site. He retired after 36 games into the 1949 season in which he still batted .306 with 9 homers and 23 RBI.

In a 14-season career, Heath posted a .293 batting average and an excellent .509 slugging average, with 194 home runs, 1447 hits, 887 RBI, 777 runs, 279 doubles, 102 triples and 56 stolen bases in 1383 games played. Bobby Thomson surpassed him in 1955 to become the major leagues' home run leader among foreign-born players.

Heath played briefly in the minor leagues for the Seattle Rainiers. He died of a heart attack in Seattle, Washington at age 60.

See also

External links



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