Mark Koenig

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Mark Anthony Koenig

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Biographical Information[edit]

Mark Koenig.jpg

"Koenig is destined to become one of the finest shortstops in the majors." - Yankees manager Miller Huggins in May 1927 about his 22-year-old shortstop

Mark Koenig was the starting shortstop for the 1927 Murderers' Row New York Yankees club. When he died in 1993, he was the last living player from the team to have played in a game. (Joseph Styborski, who rode the Yankee bench for a few weeks that summer and only pitched in exhibition games, outlived him, and Bill Werber, who was cut from the team in spring training, survived until January 2009).

Koenig played 12 seasons in the majors, only half of which were for the Yanks. He played for the Yankees from 1925 to part of 1930, and for other major league teams through 1936. He was on World Series teams with the Chicago Cubs in 1932 and the New York Giants in 1936, on the losing side both times, in addition to the three he was in with the Yankees.

Mark was born in San Francisco, CA and attended high school there. He was already playing minor league ball at the age of 16 in 1921. After playing two years for the St. Paul Saints in 1924 and 1925 (and appearing in the Little World Series in 1924), he was acquired by the Yankees and made his debut for them in September of 1925. He was two years younger than Lou Gehrig and nearly two years older than the youngest player on the team, Hank Johnson.

Koenig played on World Series teams in 1926, 1927 and 1928, hitting .500 in the 1927 World Series.

In May 1930 he was traded to the Detroit Tigers, and in 1930 and 1931 he actually pitched five games along with playing shortstop and second base. In 1930 he formed the double-play combo with Charlie Gehringer while in 1931 he filled in for Gehringer during part of the season due to Gehringer's arm injury. He batted just .230 and .253 in his two years with the Tigers, at the height of the lively ball era, and was let go. Koenig had eyesight problems during this period, and had an operation to deal with it. The Tigers had thought he needed glasses.

The Tigers sold Koenig to the Mission Reds of the Pacific Coast League in April 1932, and he spent the first half of 1932 with the minor league team, hitting .335 at age 27 (and pitching four times). Except for Ox Eckhardt, Mark was the top hitter on the team in terms of batting average. He was picked up by the Chicago Cubs in early August, after the team let manager and backup infielder Rogers Hornsby go. He eventually took over for SS Bill Jurges and continued his hot hitting, batting .353 in 33 games. In the 1932 World Series he faced his old teammates, the Yankees. In spite of his outstanding play down the stretch, the Cubs' players only voted him a half World Series share, and legend has it that it was this shabby treatment that motivated "Babe Ruth's called shot". Another legend that makes the round about that season is that Koenig replaced Jurges after he was shot by jilted showgirl Violet Popovich in early July. In fact, Jurges had recovered and returned to his starting job with no obvious ill-effects from the shooting by the time Koenig joined the Cubs, and was only replaced by him in mid-August.

He stayed with the Cubs in 1933 and then was traded in the off-season to the Philadelphia Phillies along with others for Chuck Klein. A month later he was traded again, this time to the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he became an everyday player in 1934, appearing in 151 games, the most he ever appeared in one major league season.

After the 1934 season he was traded to the New York Giants and he finished out his major league career with them. His last major league appearance was as a pinch-hitter and second baseman in the final game of the 1936 World Series, against the Yankees.

In 1937 he returned to Mission for one final minor league season, hitting .289 in 39 games.

After his playing days he owned a couple of gas stations in San Francisco and worked at a brewery. Late in life he lived north of Sacramento, CA.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Roberts Ehrgott: "Playing Dominoes With the Called Shot: Did Violet Popovich Really Set the Whole Thing Off?", in Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 50, Nr. 1 (Spring 2021), pp. 16-23.
  • Dave Newhouse: "Ex-Yankee star Mark Koenig remembers better days: Shortstop on '27 Championship team is now 77 and life has not treated him too kindly", Baseball Digest, January 1980, pp. 86-91. [1]
  • Tony Salin: Baseball's Forgotten Heroes, Masters Press, Chicago, IL, 1999, pp. 194-197.

Related Sites[edit]