Glancing Back, and Remembering Hank Aguirre
He is, perhaps, the one player who would have benefited most from the designated hitter rule had it been in effect in the 1960s.
As things were back then, every pitcher had to fend for himself, including Hank Aguirre, an All-Star left-handed starter-reliever who was effective on the mound but mostly clueless in the batter’s box.
Aguirre started his career in organized baseball in the Cleveland Indians organization, with three-plus minor league seasons before he was promoted to the Tribe’s roster at the end of 1955. In four appearances, he was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA and a shutout in his only start. Over the next two seasons, he appeared in only 26 games for Cleveland, going 4-6 with one shutout and a single save.
The southpaw was acquired by the Detroit Tigers (with catcher Jim Hegan) for catcher Jay Porter and pitcher Hal Woodeshick prior to the 1958 season. After four seasons of limited success as a middle-inning reliever, Aguirre was thrust into the Tigers’ starting rotation in 1962 and promptly led the American League in ERA at 2.21. He was 16-8 in 1962, and won 14 games in both 1963 and 1965.
Despite his success as both a starter and a reliever, Aguirre was better known for being perhaps the worst hitter in major league history. In 388 at-bats during his 16-year career in the major leagues, Aguirre compiled an .085 batting average while striking out in 61 percent of his at-bats.
His best season as a “hitter” was 1958, his first season with the Tigers, when three hits in 14 at-bats produced a career high .214 season average. In 1963, Aguirre’s 10 hits (.132 average) produced single-season career highs in runs (five), RBIs (six) and his only stolen base. He also struck out a career-high 48 times (in only 76 at-bats).
Following the 1967 season, Aguirre was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He pitched for the Dodgers only one year, going 1-2 with a 0.69 ERA as a reliever, appearing in 25 games. He pitched two more seasons with the Chicago Cubs, going a combined 4-0 in 58 appearances with a 3.05 ERA.
Aguirre finished with a record of 75-72 in 1,375.2 innings pitched, with 856 strikeouts and an earned run average of 3.24.