clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How the Yankees turned a guy with one at-bat into a Hall of Famer

Tony Lazzeri was a key piece of many Yankees’ championship teams. They got him in a trade for a random player mostly forgotten about.

The Baseball Hall of Fame Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Tony Lazzeri was a key piece of the Yankees’ dynasty from 1926 to 1937, winning five World Series titles and finishing as high as third in MVP voting in 1928. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1991. While he’s far from the most famous athlete to don pinstripes in that era, he was an important player for the Yankees for a long time. All of that makes the package that they traded to get him look incredibly light.

Massachusetts-born Mack Hillis first shows up on historical stats pages as a member of the Rochester Tribe in the International League in 1922. Two years later, he was playing in Atlanta when the Yankees purchased him sometime in August.

They were in a tight battle trying to retain their American League and World Series crowns when Hillis made his debut on September 13th. With the Yankees already up big, the Yankees threw him into a game against the White Sox that they eventually won 16-1.

Hillis got one at bat, but made an out and didn’t come to the plate again. As the Yankees were in a battle for the pennant, they unsurprisingly wouldn’t use him again that season. They won four of their last five games, but ended up finishing two games back of the Washington Senators.

The next season, Hillis was still part of the Yankees’ organization, but played all of it in the minor leagues. Meanwhile, back in New York, the Yankees acquired Tony Lazzeri from the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League for $50,000 and players to be named later. The next March, Hillis was included as one of those players.

The other two were a minor leaguer who never played a major league game and Curt Fullerton, who played parts of six seasons with the Red Sox, but never made it to the Yankees. So while the money was probably the key piece of that deal, the Yankees essentially got a future Hall of Famer for one career major-league at-bat.

As for Hillis, he played just part of that 1926 season in the PCL, but soon left and headed back out east to play in the Eastern League. The next year, while playing for the New Haven Profs, he notably played every position in the field in one game.

Four years after last appearing in the majors, the Pirates picked Hillis up in the 1928 season. He played in 11 games for them, going 9-36 with a pretty impressive six extra-base hits. However, they wouldn’t bring him back, and he played out the rest of his career in various spots in the minors.

While it probably would’ve happened with or without him, it’s fun to think about how all the Yankees needed was a random one-at-bat-guy in order to swing a deal for a key part of the famous 1927 “Murderers’ Row” team.


Time Magazine, Volume 10

All historical stats and data courtesy of the Baseball Reference Play Index