Grimm in name only
‘Jolly Cholly’ helped lead Cubs to four pennants
By CRAIG MUDER
November 15, 2009
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – For more than 60 years, Charlie Grimm found success in baseball.
Little wonder the standout first baseman and manager was always smiling.
|Charlie Grimm is one of twenty finalists for election to the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 by the Veterans Committee. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)|
Grimm – “Jolly Cholly” to three generations of baseball fans – is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Veterans Committee managers/umpires ballot at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Veterans Committee will vote on Dec. 6 at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, and the results of the vote will be announced Dec. 7. The results of the Veterans Committee election for executives will also be announced on Dec. 7.
The 10 candidates on the managers/umpires ballot are: Doug Harvey, Whitey Herzog, Davey Johnson, Tom Kelly, Billy Martin, Gene Mauch, Danny Murtaugh, Hank O’Day, Steve O’Neill and Grimm. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010.
Born Aug. 28, 1898 in St. Louis, Grimm broke into the major leagues in 1916 as a 17-year-old substitute with Connie Mack’s post-dynasty Philadelphia A’s. He bounced to the Cardinals in 1918 and the Pirates a year later, claiming Pittsburgh’s regular first baseman’s job in 1920.
In five full seasons with the Bucs, Grimm established himself as one of baseball’s best fielding first baseman. And after hitting .227 in his first year as a regular in 1920, Grimm boosted his average all the way to .345 in 1923.
Traded to the Cubs along with future Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville after the 1924 season, Grimm continued his solid play for a Cubs team on the verge of sustained success. Grimm finished 14th in the National League MVP voting in 1929 and hit .389 in the Cubs’ loss to the A’s in that year’s World Series. Then in 1932, Grimm – still Chicago’s regular first baseman – took over for ousted manager Rogers Hornsby late in the season and led Chicago to a 37-18 record, taking the NL pennant by four games over the Pirates. Grimm hit .333 in the Yankees' sweep over the Cubs in the World Series.
“The thing about Charlie is that he always saw something good in everything, no matter what the situation may be,” said E.R. Saltwell, the Cubs former vice president of business operations. “He was never one to get down on himself or the players. He seemed to draw out the best in them.”
Grimm continued his success as a manager as his playing career wound down, leading the Cubs back to the World Series in 1935 – where they lost to the Tigers in six games. He played his last big league game in 1936, finishing with 2,299 hits, a career batting average of .290 and a .993 fielding percentage at first base over 19 seasons. He led or tied for the NL lead in fielding percentage nine times.
Grimm led the Cubs to two NL pennants, a second-place finish and three third-place finishes in his first six years as manager. But on July 20, 1938, with the Cubs at 45-36 and in third place, Grimm was replaced as manager by Gabby Hartnett. The Cubs went on to win the NL pennant again that year, but were swept again by the Yankees in the World Series.
Grimm then turned to broadcasting, but returned to managing as the boss of the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association in 1941. It was there that Grimm began playing banjo before the game to entertain the fans – something he continued throughout the rest of his career.
After winning a pennant with the Brewers in 1943, Grimm returned as the Cubs’ manager the following year. Grimm then led Chicago to the 1945 NL pennant, only to see the Cubs fall to Detroit in seven games in the World Series.
Counting his abbreviated 1938 campaign, no manager has led the Cubs to more pennants than Grimm. The 1945 pennant remains the Cubs’ most recent.
Grimm left the Cubs again in 1949, then resurfaced as manager of the Boston Braves during the 1952 season. The club moved to Milwaukee in 1953, and Grimm led the Braves to two second-place finishes and a third-place finish over the next three years before being fired during the 1956 season.
Grimm returned to the Cubs, working in their front office before returning to the field as manager for the club’s first 17 games in 1960. On May 4 of that year, Grimm and Cubs broadcaster Lou Boudreau switched jobs, with Grimm returning to the broadcast booth.
He remained with the Cubs’ front office until 1981, and died on Nov. 15, 1983.
His final managerial record of 1,287-1,067 gives him the 16th-best winning percentage (.547) of all managers with at least 1,000 wins.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.