One of the biggest, strongest players of his era, and quite likely the slowest of all time, which makes his lifetime .306 average even more remarkable.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lombardi was one of the biggest, strongest players of his era, and quite likely the slowest of all time, which makes his lifetime .306 average even more remarkable.
Lombardi never beat out an infield hit, and shortstops played him very deep because of his lack of speed. He was often thrown out on hard-hit balls that would have been singles for anyone else. A catcher, Lombardi also had an exceptionally strong throwing arm and often caught runners trying to steal second without even coming out of his crouch. He began his major league career with the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1931 season, but was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1932. He led the National League in hitting with a .342 average in 1938, when he had 19 homeruns and 95 RBIs to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
Although he slipped to .287 in 1939, he hit 20 homeruns, his career high, to help lead the Reds to the pennant. However, Cincinnati was swept by the New York Yankees in the World Series, with Lombardi hitting only .214. He had a .319 average in 1940, when the Reds won the pennant again. This time, he batted .333 in the World Series, as Cincinnati beat the Detroit Tigers in seven games. Lombardi was traded to the Boston Braves in 1942, when he hit .330, and he had a .305 average with the New York Giants in 1943. After hitting .307 in 1945, Lombardi became a back-up catcher and frequent pinch hitter. He retired after the 1947 season. In 1,853 games, Lombardi had a .306 average with 1,792 hits, including 277 doubles, 27 triples, and 190 home runs. He drove in 990 runs and scored 601.
Lombardi died on September 26, 1977 in Santa Cruz, California and was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1979. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.