Monday, October 12, 2009
Picture Of The Day--Jackie Jensen
Most sports fans today would look at this picture and recognize Mickey Mantle right away. The Hall Of Fame Slugger who completed 18 seasons for The New York Yankees. What most folks would not realize is that on April 16th 1953--when this photo was taken at Griffith Stadium on Opening Day in The Nation's Capital--The Washington Senators' Jackie Jensen was just as well known, if not more so, than "The Mick".
Yeah, that's correct. Jensen was a two sport All-American from The University of California at Berkeley. In 1947, he led The Bears to THE first College World Series Baseball Championship ever, defeating Yale in the finals. The very Ivy League Team whose 1st Baseman was George Herbert Walker Bush--the eventual 41st President of The United States.
In 1948--Jackie rushed for over 1000 Yards for Cal's 10-0 Pacific Coast Conference Championship Football Team. A season that ended in defeat on New Years Day, 1949, when Northwestern upset California in The Rose Bowl. Jensen's last season of amateur sport where he finished 4th in the Heisman Trophy Award balloting--losing to soon to be National Football League Hall of Famer--Doak Walker.
Jackie Jensen was a great athlete. And The Washington Senators received a gift when The New York Yankees traded him to Clark Griffith's Team early in the 1952 Season. The Yanks didn't have a spot for him. The Nats did, then The Senators let Jensen get away from them--far too soon.
One year after this photo was taken in 1953, Jensen would reel off six consecutive quality seasons. A half dozen of the finest campaigns comparable to just about any other American League batter playing during the 1950's. Unfortunately for Washington's Fans, those great seasons came with Jackie Jensen donning a Boston Red Sox Jersey.
Using poor judgment to save money and not pay high salaries again--Washington Senators Owner Clark Griffith traded off Jensen in December, 1953--for virtually nothing in return. Another awful swap by Griff's Team that continually contributed to Washington's bottom of the standings finishes in the 1950's.
From 1953 until 1959, Jackie Jensen would drive in 751 runs, 62 more than Mickey Mantle over the exact same time frame. "The Mick" would drive out more home runs (249 to 167) and hit for a higher average (.315 to .282), but each would be named MVP (Mantle twice, Jensen once). And Jackie would even lead The American League in stolen bases in 1954. For five out of six seasons--Jensen drove in at least 112 runs.
Three times Jackie won the American League RBI Title with a high of 122 when he was named The American League Most Valuable Player in 1958. Mantle only drove in 100 runs one time during the same stretch. Mickey driving home 130 during his MVP Season of 1956.
Jackie Jensen's and Mickey Mantle's early exploits were so intertwined. Both came up in The New York Yankees Farm System. Each were teammates on The Yanks' 1951 Kansas City Blues American Association Team. And they were teammates again in 1951 when The Bronx Bombers won The World Series. Mantle won one Gold Glove during his lifetime, so did Jensen.
They were buddies and this photo vividly depicts that friendship.
But whereas despite all his injuries and off the field activities--Mantle would still enjoy a long and prosperous Major League career, Jensen's life's work in Big League Baseball would come to a near screeching halt after 1959--due to the advent of Plane Travel. The Dodgers and Giants had already moved to California. The American League was one year out from expanding to Los Angeles and moving The Senators to Minnesota. The Houston Colt '45's and New York Mets were on the horizon.
Jet travel was replacing train travel and Jackie Jensen was afraid to fly. He retired before the 1960 season officially wanting to be with his family. Everyone knew better and not even pleas from The Boston Red Sox Owner, Tom Yawkey, (who set up therapy treatments) helped.
Jensen was gone.
Not for good as Jackie would attempt to return for one last season in 1961. But, he was never the same. At 34 years of age, Jackie Jensen officially retired. Then unexpectedly, this great athlete died of a heart attack in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 14, 1982 when was just 55 years old.
Jackie Jensen was a great athlete. The All-American Boy. And for seven seasons in The American League, Old Number 4 in the scorecard was just about as good as they come as a Major League Baseball Player--just not for The Washington Senators.
The Picture Of The Day--Jackie Jensen.
Photo Copyrighted Time Inc.--Life Magazine--All Rights Reserved (Mark Kauffman--photographer)