Arky Vaughan was the premier shortstop of his era and one of the best at the plate in baseball history. He hit .300 or better in each of his first 10 major league seasons – all with the Pittsburgh Pirates – and led the National League in runs and triples three years apiece.
Vaughan was born March 9, 1912, in Clifty, Ark. And although his family moved to Fullerton, Calif., when he was an infant, he was nicknamed "Arky" when he was a child because he spoke with an Arkansas accent, picked up from his family.
He was a noted high school athlete who received interest from colleges for his football talent, but he signed a baseball contract with the minor league Wichita Aviators in 1931. He hit .338 in his only season in the minors, then joined the Pirates in 1932 at the age of 20.
Vaughan rose to stardom quickly and was selected to the first of nine straight All-Star Games in 1934. He hit .364 in his career in Midsummer Classics, highlighted by a two-homer, four-RBI game in 1941.
Vaughan's best season was 1935 when he led the NL in walks, batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. His .385 average that year is the highest ever in the modern era (post 1900) for a National League shortstop.
Vaughan was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers following the 1941 season. He led the NL in runs and stolen bases in 1943, but he clashed with manager Leo Durocher and sat out the 1944, 1945 and 1946 seasons.
After Durocher's suspension from baseball for the 1947 season, Vaughan returned to the Dodgers and hit .325 in 64 games at the age of 35, helping Brooklyn win the NL pennant. He retired following the 1948 season with a .318 batting average, 2,103 hits, 1,173 RBI and a .406 on-base percentage in 14 seasons. At shortstop, he led the NL in putouts and assists three times apiece.
Vaughan died tragically on Aug. 30, 1952, at the age of 40, when a sudden storm capsized his fishing boat on a lake near his California home. Vaughan tried to save his companion, who could not swim, and they both drowned.
Vaughan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.