In 1946 Washington Senators 1B Mickey Vernon led American League with a 0.353 batting average. He finished with a comfortable lead over Ted Williams (0.342) and Johnny Pesky (0.335) and would have had the best average in all of baseball had it not been for 25-year old NL outfielder Stan Musial who hit 0.365 for the Cardinals that season.
Musial and Williams parlayed their 1946 seasons into MVP awards in the NL and AL respectively. While Vernon can’t claim such a lofty honor, he did something else special that year. He led all of baseball with 51 doubles and in doing so narrowly edged out Musial, and teammate Stan Spence, who tied for second with an even 50.
Using OPS+ as the criteria, 1946 wound up being Vernon’s best season in his 20 year career. However he also led the AL in 2B (43) and BA (0.337) again in 1953 and OPS of 0.921 that year was slightly better than his 0.910 OPS in 1946. All told he hit 0.289/.359/.428 in 2,409 career games and spent the bulk of those (14 seasons) playing for the Senators. In the twilight of his career he bounced around with the Red Sox, Indians, Pirates and Braves (still in Milwaukee at that time) but he has been and always will be remembered as a member of the Washington Senators.
Vernon finished with an above average OPS+ of 116, made 7 All-Star Teams, received MVP votes five times and finished in the Top-5 twice in his already mentioned standout seasons of 1946 and 1953. It’s an impressive resume for a player that easily gets lost in the annals of baseball history.
What is remarkable about Mickey Vernon‘s doubles mark from 1946 is that it still stands to this day, 67 years later, as the franchise record for the Minnesota Twins organization. It still stands despite the explosion of offensive numbers in recent decades and let’s not forget that back then teams played 154 games in a season and not the 162 game standard of today. Since Spence hit 50 that same season, Justin Morneau‘s 47 doubles in 2007 is the closest anyone else has come to breaking the mark.
1946 was a long time ago, but Vernon’s campaign is more relevant in 2013 than it has been in a long time thanks to Joe Mauer.
As of today, Mauerhas 24 doubles as the Minnesota Twins have played to a surprising 34-38 record.
That’s 72 games played and with some simple math we can figure out his doubles pace. Given that he’s currently hitting a double every three games, he will finish 2013 with 54 and set a new team record. Even if we adjust Mauer’s pace to a 154 game season – Mickey deserves at least that much – Joe is still set to tie or break Vernon’s record though it remains to be seen which way the 0.33 on his 51.33 rate will fall in the end.
For those of you who might be curious, and since I was I looked it up, Mickey Vernon hit his 20th double on June 25th, 1946. It was game number 61 for Washington that season.
Going forward I will routinely provide updates to Mauer’s pursuit of Vernon on the Puckett’s Pond Facebook page. I hope you will follow along with us, and to stay fully engaged I humbly suggest that you like our page.