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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,332

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This is the grave of Pinky Whitney.

Born in 1905 in San Antonio, Whitney grew up to be a third basemen. His father was a railroad conductor. Interestingly, while his grave says his nickname was “Pinkey,” that is evidently misspelled, as every baseball site as it as “Pinky.” You’d be amazed how many mistakes there are on graves, assuming that it is the baseball sites that are right here, which maybe they aren’t. Or maybe all the baseball sites are wrong, it does seem like his family would know.

Anyway, Whitney was the kind of solid major league player who no one really remembers but who was absolutely a value added player. He hit the majors in 1928 with the Phillies, which were a god awful team. They lost 109 games, but it was a good place for a young third baseman to break in without too much pressure around, you know, winning. In fact, the Phillies were so bad for so long that I always forget how long that franchise has existed since for the vast majority of their franchise, they have been irrelevant, although that has obviously changed a lot in the last 25 years or so. Again, when people are nostalgic for baseball of that era, they are nostalgic for New York City.

In any case, Whitney had a real strong rookie season, hitting .301/342/426 with 10 homers and 103 RBIs. Didn’t have any speed, but you could live with this. He actually finished 18th in MVP voting that year. He followed it up with another real strong year, hitting .327/390/482 with 8 homers, 115 RBIs, 200 hits, and 14 triples. He was 20th in MVP voting that year. This was solid and he was only 24, but this was also as good as he was going to get. He was consistent at this level for several years where he managed very similar numbers. Using Baseball Reference’s WAR stat, that 1929 year was his best, with a 3.8 WAR. Most years he was in the 1.5-2 range. In other words, a solid enough guy for a team that wasn’t very good.

In 1933, Whitney was traded to the Braves, another horrible team. He wasn’t quite the player he was at the beginning of his career, he was still basically an average third baseman. That was a midseason trade and he was there until another midseason trade in 1936 sent him back to the Phillies. He had a bit of a revival year in 1937, when he hit .341/395/446, though by this time, his previous doubles power was now just singles. He only had 19 doubles in 487 at bats and a total of 31 extra base hits. By comparison, he hit over 30 doubles in each of his first five seasons and 43 in 1929. So he was a little slap hitter by this time. Nonetheless, that high batting average meant he finished 13th in MVP voting that year. He had two more years, an OK one in 1938 before falling off a cliff in 1939. That was the end. The Phillies released him. He floated around the minors in 1940, but he was not to see the majors again.

After his playing days, Whitney moved back to Texas, owned a bowling alley for a bit, and was a salesman for Lone Star Beer. He coached youth baseball too and managed to coach a couple of future major leaguers over the years, most notably Joe Horlen, who was 2nd in Cy Young voting in 1967.

Whitney died in 1987 in Center, Texas. He was 82 years old.

Pinky Whitney is buried in Mission Burial Park South, San Antonio, Texas.

If you would like this series to visit other third baseman, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Whitney ranks as the 146th best third baseman of all time, according to Baseball Reference’s JAWS stat. That might not sound like much, but third baseman of my lifetime around that ranking include Kelly Gruber, Chris Sabo, Brook Jacoby, Scott Brosius, and David Bell. So good players, just not great players. Harry Lord, who played in the 1910s for the Red Sox and White Sox and who ranks 145th, is in Kezar Falls, Maine. Aurelio Rodriguez, who ranks 150th and who was real solid for the Tigers in the 70s, is in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, which is actually a pretty nice area, though perhaps not the safest place today. If we are keeping this domestic, Odell Hale, who ranks 155th and who played for the Indians in the 30s, is in El Dorado, Arkansas. Previous posts in this series are archived here and here.

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