They're the kind of stories that should be told about you if you are one of baseball's all time contact hitters. One time fouling off seventeen consecutive pitches, another time twenty-four and on another occasion fourteen in order to get even with an owner who refused to give him two extra passes to a game. But Luke Appling's batting eye is justified most by his batting record which includes fifteen seasons of batting .300 or better, two batting titles, and a twentieth century mark for shortstops of .388 in 1936.
Appling joined the Chicago White Sox in 1930 and became a regular two seasons later. He responded to the advice and guidance of White Sox Manager Jimmy Dykes and despite his shortcomings in the field, (he had a strong but inaccurate throwing arm and struggled at times with routine plays), went on to become a steady shortstop. He adjusted to the size of spacious Comiskey Park and became a top flight leadoff hitter with a good eye, and hit .300 for the first time in 1933, batting .322. In 1936 he became the first White Sox player to win a batting title (.388), scored one-hundred eleven runs, had one-hundred twenty-eight runs batted in on just six homeruns, had a twenty-seven game hitting streak, and finished second in American League Most Valuable Player voting. After topping the .300 mark for nine consecutive seasons (1933-41) he slumped to .262 in 1942. But he bounced back in 1943 and won another batting title with a .328 average and was once again runner-up for American League Most Valuable Player honors.
He earned his nickname of "old aches and pains" by continually complaining about his various ailments. "When Appling was around, the real blunder was to ask him, how do you feel? It would sometimes take half an hour before he stopped telling you," said Sportswriter Maury Allen. Hypochondriac Appling once told his manager he couldn't play because he was "dying". But despite what many felt were exaggerations there were at times some truth to his discomforts, for Appling played most of his career with a chronic ankle injury, and won his batting title in 1943 overcoming ailments that included an eye infection, the flu and several pulled muscles. In was in a 1940 game that he sealed his reputation as one of baseball's great contact hitters. Facing the Yankee's Red Ruffing he fouled off twenty-four pitches in an at bat before walking. "I started fouling off pitches. I took a pitch every now and then. Pretty soon after twenty-four fouls, old Red could hardly lift his arm and I walked. That's when they took him out of the game and he cussed me all the way to the dugout", described Appling.
Luke Appling finished playing in 1950 spending all of his 20 years with the White Sox. He concluded with a lifetime batting average of .310, 2,749 hits (2,162 singles) and was an All Star seven times. In the field, Appling set Major League shortstop records for games played, and double plays, and American League records for putouts and assists that were all later broken by Luis Aparicio. He was twice voted the greatest player in White Sox history and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964. Appling spent time as a minor league manager and major league coach, and briefly managed the Kansas City A's in 1967. In 1982, at the age of 75, he electrified the crowd at a Cracker Jack Old Timer's game, in Washington, D.C., by homering of Warren Spahn. He passed away in 1991.