Lou Boudreau

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The Independent Online

Louis Boudreau, baseball player and manager: born Harvey, Illinois 17 July 1917; married (four children); died Olympia Fields, Illinois 10 August 2001.

Lou Boudreau was one of baseball's great player/managers. He was a shortstop with the Cleveland Indians from 1940 until 1950; and in 1942, aged just 24, became the youngest person to manage a full season in the major leagues. In 1948 he led his team, which included the pitching greats Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and the veteran Negro Leagues' star Satchel Paige, to a memorable World Series victory over the Boston Braves.

Boudreau was responsible, too, for the so-called Williams shift, a strategy devised in 1946 with the intention of silencing the formidable bat of Boston's Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest pure hitter in the game's history. It saw all four infielders move to the right of second base with the second baseman in short right field. Only the left fielder played to the left of centre and even he was positioned only about 20ft from the infield. Williams responded to the shift by trying to overpower it, but it would be foolish to deny its general success.

The son of a machinist and semi-pro baseball player, Lou Boudreau demonstrated outstanding sporting abilities as a youngster. A high-school third baseman, he also captained the school basketball team, playing at All-State level for three years. He continued as a third baseman at the University of Illinois, where he again captained the basketball team, playing 60 games for Cedar Rapids before joining "The Tribe" on a full-time basis in 1939.

Boudreau's career batting average of .295 was supplemented by some impressive fielding that saw him become the dominant shortstop in the American League for eight seasons. In 1944 he led the League in batting with an average of .327. In 1947, Cleveland's owner Bill Veeck – a master showman who in 1951 would famously send the midget Eddie Gaedel in to bat against the Detroit Tigers – attempted to trade Boudreau to the St Louis Browns. The move was thwarted by public outcry amongst the Indians' fans and the following year he vindicated them by being named American League MVP. During that season's playoff game for the League title he hit two home runs, two singles and gained a base on balls as his team beat the Red Sox 8-3.

From 1952 to 1954 he helmed, ironically enough, the Boston Red Sox and from 1955 to 1957 managed the Kansas City Athletics, a team that briefly featured a cocky left-handed pitcher who would become a baseball legend, Tommy Lasorda. All told, Boudreau managed his teams to 1,162 victories for a career .487 mark. In 1958 he moved to Chicago where, but for a brief interlude in 1960 as manager of the Cubs, he remained a popular figure in the broadcast booth. In 1970 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Paul Wadey