At 5-foot-9 and 125 pounds, Johnny Evers wasn’t built to hit home runs.
Instead, the acrobatic Evers used his impressive knowledge of the rules and his scrappy, determined style of play to lead his teams to five National League pennants and three World Series titles in the first years of the 20th Century.
Born in Troy, N.Y., on July 21, 1881, Evers made his big league debut at the age of 21 in 1902 with the Chicago Cubs. Evers established himself as the Cubs’ starting second baseman in 1903 – teaming with shortstop Joe Tinker and first baseman Frank Chance to form one of the best infield combinations of the era.
In 1906, the Cubs dominated the NL from start to finish, winning a record 116 games and posting a record .763 winning percentage.
Evers hit .255 that season, but drove in 51 runs and stole 49 bases. His spectacular infield defense – combined with that of Tinker, Chance and the other members of the Cubs – resulted in Chicago allowing just 381 runs for the entire season.
The Cubs lost the 1906 World Series to the White Sox, but won the Fall Classic in 1907 and 1908. In 1910, Evers – along with Tinker and Chance – was immortalized in the poem "Baseball’s Sad Lexicon" – written by newspaper man Franklin P. Adams, a reporter who worked for the New York Evening Mail and closely followed the Cubs’ main rival, the New York Giants.
After the 1913 season, the Cubs traded Evers to the Boston Braves – who had finished fifth in the NL in 1913. But with Evers as their everyday second baseman in 1914, the Braves caught fire in the second half of the season and stormed to the pennant, earning the nickname “Miracle Braves.”
Against the heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series, Evers hit .438 as the Braves swept the series in four games. For his efforts that season, Evers was named the National League winner of the Chalmers Award, which served as a most valuable player award for each league.
Evers played in parts of five more seasons after 1914, ending his career with a .270 batting average, 1,659 hits and 324 stolen bases. He managed the Cubs in 1913 as a player/manager, and also managed the Cubs in 1921 and the White Sox in 1924.
Evers was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. He passed away on March 28, 1947.