Anyway, Hall had totally rural roots which helps explain one aspect of his baseball career. A lefthanded batter, he never got established hitting lefty pitchers. The explanation was that he grew up seeing few lefties in rural North Carolina. Conventional wisdom has it that lefty batters have a hard time facing lefties anyway. That's why "platooning" is a practice often seen. Gene Mauch overdid that, in my opinion. Mauch managed the Twins as they languished over their last few years at Metropolitan Stadium, a facility that Minnesotans had strangely tired of.
I remember Lyman Bostock complaining once when Mauch benched him against a lefty pitcher. Mauch might have benched Kirby Puckett after the first time Kirby had an 0-for-4 day against a righty. Mauch must have known a few things or he wouldn't have had such a long managerial career. Mauch was manager for the most famous "choke" of all time: the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies.
Jimmie Hall was a hero to the first young generation of Twins fans. He was sleek and youthful in how he carried himself. He hit for power.
A lesson in life's vicissitudes
I would also suggest that Hall was "exhibit A" in how baseball players can have meteoric careers, and how sad this can be. Us young fans were given a lesson in the frailties these mortal men can succumb to. It reminds me of a segment in the famous baseball video, "When It Was A Game." The narrator talks about the progression of a baseball player in a boy's mind, from the fuzzy-cheeked rookie to the established regular to the inevitable departure from the game. We join in the ups and downs. We learn about the risks inherent in sports - the body's limitations. We feel the heartbreak.
Jimmie Hall made an impression as a minor leaguer late in the 1962 season. He was with Vancouver. Then in June of 1963, Hall got a break due to an injury suffered by Lenny Green. Hall got the nod for major league play. He strode out to the vast expanse of center field at the Met. He had a whiplash type of swing. Boys were enamored of this dynamic young man.
Hall hit 33 home runs in 1963. That total eclipsed the rookie record held by Ted Williams.
It is hard to know how much a beaning incident affected the course of Hall's career. Hall got smacked during a twilight game in early-season of 1964. Bo Belinsky was the pitcher. Belinsky had a reputation as a partying Hollywood type, remember? Hall got hit in the right cheek. It has been suggested Hall could never hit confidently against lefthanded pitchers again. However, he never seemed to hit particularly well against lefties. He had a career home run total of 121, of which only four were against lefthanders. Hall himself said his rural background with its limitations explained this.
Hall was a marquee player in his time in Minnesota. That beaning certainly did not seem to cause an immediate drop-off. He hit for a higher average in 1964 than in '63, and in '65 he hit for a higher average still. However, there was a slow drop-off in his homer production.
In '65 he was an all-star. That game was played at our still shiny-new Met Stadium. That was also the summer when we won the American League pennant, with Calvin Griffith as owner. Hall made the all-star team but he got little playing time in the World Series. Minnesota played the Dodgers in the World Series. The Dodgers had a pair of outstanding lefthanded pitchers: Sandy Koufax and Claude Osteen. Our manager, Sam Mele, decided that Hall wouldn't do particularly well against them. Mele instead gave the nod to a quite obscure Twin, Joe Nossek. I don't doubt Mele's judgment. But it's sad we couldn't see Hall's name prominently in all those World Series boxscores.
By '65, Hall was a firmly established star player and idol to many. Many boys weren't prepared to understand the baseball sophistication with platooning. We were probably naive about the consequences of getting beaned by a big league pitcher. Kirby Puckett may have died because of this. We are slowly learning now how we may have all been fools through the years following NFL football with its horrible health consequences for players. Us fans fall into a sort of dream world where we don't realize the vulnerability of those athletes. It's almost as if we're playing pinball and just watching that metal ball.
Twins were power merchants
On May 2 of 1964, Hall was part of a history-making episode as he was one of four Twins hitting home runs consecutively. Oliva, Bob Allison, Hall and Harmon Killebrew wielded the homer bats. That succession occurred in the top of the eleventh inning against the Kansas City Athletics. No, the "Royals" didn't exist yet.
It was on May 27 of 1964 that Hall got hit on the cheek by Belinsky's phantom delivery. He did return to the lineup a week later. Would he pass concussion testing today? Who knows. Hall would henceforth wear a special protective flap. He did play well over the rest of the '64 season.
Hall had a career-best .285 average in '65. He was still most definitely in his prime. He drove in 86 runs, hit 25 doubles and stole 14 bases in that pennant season. His homer total dropped to 20. Hall beat out 20 infield singles that season. He was among six Twins on the all-star team, joining Killebrew, Earl Battey, "Mudcat" Grant, Zoilo Versalles and Oliva.
The '65 summer was the apex of the Griffith years. If the Griffiths hadn't been such church mice with their resources, and if Cal hadn't been so curmudgeonly with his personality, maybe a fire could have been lit under our team that could have produced a true dynasty. Of course, in hindsight we can say it's foolish for the players to have been so dependent on Cal's money. You see, years later any former baseball star could go on the sports memorabilia circuit and make lots of money just being themselves. All they had to do was be famous. If only the '67 Twins could have eked out the pennant. A '67 World Series appearance would have done much building the fame of players like Dean Chance. We were edged out at the end by Boston. By then, Jimmie Hall was playing elsewhere. He ended up as a true journeyman major leaguer. He kept getting new chances possibly because teams felt he might re-discover his old form. That proverbial "change of scenery." But it didn't work out.
"Jimmie Randolph Hall" ended up playing for the California Angels, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.
He has been known in his post-baseball life for not wanting to associate with the game anymore. Sid Hartman wrote that Hall was "bitter about baseball." I won't second-guess that. I wish Hall would come back for a reunion just to thrill all those young fans from bygone times. Put the bitter stuff aside and just do it for us.
Really a quite fine career
In eight big league seasons, Hall batted .254 with 121 home runs, 391 RBIs, 387 runs, 100 doubles, 24 triples and 38 stolen bases in 963 games. A lot of baseball players would give their right arm for a career like that. Hall did get a hit in the World Series.
I just wish that beaning had never happened. It's debatable to what extent it affected his career. Sometimes the consequences of head injuries don't show up right away. I hope there were no long-term effects with our beloved "Jimmie." He's ingrained in the memories of boomer-age fans in Minnesota.
"Jimmie Randolph Hall from Mount Holly, North Carolina." Just consider it Mayberry. Stop in at the filling station and see "Goober."