Cunning Hitter

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Joe Cunningham

Joe Cunningham was a left-handed hitting outfielder-first baseman who sprayed line drives to every field and hit .280 or better each of his first eight seasons.

Joe Cunningham was a line-drive hitter who rarely homered and rarely struck out. He batted .345 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959 and led the major leagues with a .453 on-base percentage that season.

Cunningham was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1949 and made his debut at the major league level in 1954, hitting .284 in 85 games. He spent the next two seasons back in the minor leagues, then hit.318 in his first full season. In 1958, Cunningham batted .312 with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs.

Cunningham’s best season came in 1959 when he batted .345 (second in the National League to Hank Aaron’s .355). He hit seven home runs and drove in 60 runs, as well as leading the major leagues with a .453 on-base percentage. In six full seasons with the Cardinals, Cunningham batted a combined .304 with a .413 on-base percentage.

In November 1961, the Cardinals traded Cunningham to the Chicago White Sox for Minnie Minoso. Cunningham hit .295 for the White Sox in 1962 with eight home runs and 70 RBIs. He also scored a career-best 91 runs. In 1963, Cunningham was hitting .286 when a broken collarbone sidelined him for the rest of the season. He was never the same hitter afterward.

Midway through the 1964 season, the White Sox sent Cunningham to the Washington Senators in a deal that brought Bill Skowron to Chicago. He batted .231 combined in 1964, and followed in 1965 with a .229 average. Cunningham played three games for the Senators in 1966 and then retired.

In 12 years, Cunningham batted .291 for his career with 980 hits. His career on-base percentage was .403. He was named to the American League All-Star team in 1959.

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