Cecil Travis Essentials
Positions: Shortstop Third Baseman and Rightfielder
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Height: 6′-1″ Weight: 185
Born: Friday, August 08, 1913 in Riverdale, GA USA
Died: December 16, 2006 in Riverdale, GA USA
Buried: Crest Lawn Memorial Park, Atlanta, GA
High School: Riverdale HS (Riverdale, GA)
Debut: May 16, 1933 vs. CLE 7 AB, 5 H, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB
Last Game: September 23, 1947 vs. NYY 3 AB, 0 H, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB
Full Name: Cecil Howell Travis
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A steady fielder and outstanding hitter for the Washington Senators before World War II, the modest Travis was called up to the majors in 1933 when Ossie Bluege, the regular Senators third baseman, got injured. He broke in with five hits in his first major league game May 16, 1933 and stayed in the bigs. Early in his career, the lefthanded batter slapped most of his hits to left field. Later he learned to pull the ball and cracked 19 triples in 1941. In that season, his last before entering the service, he led the American League in hits with 218, had 101 RBI, and batted .359, his eighth time over .300 in nine years. Travis was named the best all-around shortstop before World War II by The Sporting News. A hard-hitting infielder, Ted Williams later compared Cecil’s swing to John Olerud’s. In 1941.
Travis left baseball before the 1942 season for the army, he lost nearly four years lost to World War II and spent most of Battle of the Bulge crouched in a frozen foxhole. There he contracted a critical case of frostbite, and army doctors had to operate to save his feet. It may have cost Cecil Travis a chance at the Hall of Fame.
When he returned from military service in September 1945, the consequence of wear and age was clear. After his average sunk to .252 and .216 in successive seasons, he retired.
The 1941 season was an historic baseball campaign. Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games from May 15 to July 16; Ted Williams finished the year with an astounding .406 average; and the Dodgers and Yankees met in the World Series for the first time. That season, Travis had his career year, batting .359 to finish second in the loop. The season started off well for Cecil, as he went 30-for-57 (.526), with 14 runs scored, seven doubles, four triples, four homers, and 20 RBI in his first 14 games. His slugging percentage for that tear was an even 1.000. The left-handed hitter blistered the ball in June, batting .420 with 42 hits and 24 RBI in 25 games. He logged a 24-game hitting streak that ended almost the exact time DiMaggio’s 56-gamer was halted. Cecil hit .420 (42-for-100) during his streak, with 13 multi-hit games. His month-by-month batting marks for the 1941 season: .553 in April, .311 in May, .346 in June, .420 in July, .331 in August, and .333 in September. DiMaggio struck out in his final at-bat of the ’41 season, giving Travis the second-place slot in batting by a slim margin.
In the year of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, and Ted Williams’ .406 batting average, Senators’ shortstop Cecil led the American League in hits in 1941, with 218.
The Wrong Cap
One must wonder, if Cecil Travis had been fortunate enough to play for the New York Yankees, would he be remembered as one of baseball’s greatest hitting shortstops? His lifetime batting average of .314 is 41 points higher than Phil Rizzuto, and only two Hall of Fame shortstops (Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan) have a higher career mark. Travis was a popular “underrated,” and “under-appreciated” star of the late 1930s and early 1940s. For years after his retirement, Travis’s name would appear on lists like “Why Are They Not in the Hall of Fame?” or “These Players Belong in Cooperstown.” There have been 87 players that primarily played shortstop who had at least 4,900 at-bats (Travis had 4,914). Travis ranks third on that list in batting average, 13th in slugging, 9th in OBP, and 10th in OPS. And even though he played fewer games than 85 of the 87 men on that list, he still managed to collect more hits, runs, runs scored, RBI, and total bases than 40% of the them. Still living as of 2004, Travis awaits recognition that could only come from the Veterans Committee. Ted Williams reportedly supported his nomination.
Travis and Ben Chapman were teammates twice, for parts of 1936-1937, and in 1941. The two were fast-friends and Travis even used Chapman’s model bat during most of his career. In 1941, Cecil credited the bat with part of his success in hitting .359 that season. The bat, weighing a hefty 36 ounces and measuring 36 inches, was one of the largest used in the big leagues.
Travis finished in the top ten in AL MVP voting in 1938 and 1941… Detroit’s Dizzy Trout halted Travis’s 24game hitting streak in 1941.