Future Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler passes away

Written by: Craig Muder

Hazen Shirley Cuyler died 18 years before his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the player nicknamed "Kiki" left an imprint on the National Pastime still felt more than 75 years after his final big league game.

Cuyler – which rhymes with "miler" – was born Aug. 30, 1898, in Harrisville, Mich. He passed away on Feb. 11, 1950. And for nearly half of his 51 years, Cuyler was one of Major League Baseball's greatest hitters.

His nickname was derived from the first syllable of his surname, and few had trouble remembering the strapping right-handed hitter after he posted a .354 batting average in 1924 as a Pittsburgh Pirates rookie. During his first eight big league seasons, Cuyler hit .336 with three 200-hit seasons (and another in which he finished three short). He also averaged 110 runs scored per year (despite missing half of the 1927 season in a dispute with Pirates management) and 32 steals.

Cuyler led the Pirates to a World Series victory in 1925, but was benched for the 1927 World Series – in which the Bucs were swept by the New York Yankees. That offseason, Cuyler was traded to the Chicago Cubs for infielder Sparky Adams (who hit .286 in his 13 big league seasons) and reserve outfielder Pete Scott (whose 1928 season with Pittsburgh was his last of three years in the big leagues).

Over the next seven seasons, Cuyler batted .328, helping the Cubs win National League pennants in 1929 and 1932. He spent four more seasons in the majors, finishing his 18-year career with 2,299 hits, 1,305 runs scored and a .321 batting average. His 155 runs scored in 1930 is tied for 24th on the all-time single-season list and has been surpassed only by Lou Gehrig (163 runs in 1931 and 167 in '36) in the 84 seasons since.

Cuyler received votes in 12 Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame elections, reaching a peak of 33.8 percent of the vote in 1958. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1968.

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.