1921 Orioles: Rabbit Lawry

 

Although Jack Dunn’s Orioles won seven consecutive pennants, they did so with an ever-changing outfield lineup. Over those seven summers no less than nine played 90 or more games a year as an outfield regular: Johnny Honig, Jimmy Walsh, Dick Porter, Tillie Walker, Maurice Archdeacon, Bunny Roser, Merwin Jacobson, Bill Holden and Otis Lawry. The last three, 1921’s outfieled of Lawry in left, Jacobson in center and Holden in right, was likely the best crop of the bunch. Between the trio, the three starting outfielders hit a combined .334 with 80 doubles, 37 triples and 34 homers. All three had career years during their time with Baltimore – Jacobson set the International League record the year before with a .404 average and Holden hit 49 doubles that same year –  but 1921 was left fielder Otis Lawry’s time to shine.

Lawry starred for the University of Maine baseball team where scouts for several major league teams began courting him. He signed with Connie Mack’s Athletics in 1916 and went straight to the big leagues. Lawry’s major attraction was his speed which earned him the nickname “Rabbit.” His college coach, Monty Cross, a former major leaguer, said, “I’m not exaggerating when I say that Lawry is the fastest man who ever wore a baseball shoe.”

Although fast, the Rabbit was small in stature: 5′-6″ and 138 pounds soaking wet. He was also injury prone, sidelined with tonsillitis in the summer of his rookie year and going down with an ankle injury the following spring. In addition, unnamed physical ailments exempted him from the draft in World War I. He was the A’s starting second baseman in 1917, but his failure to hit consistently led to his release. Jack Dunn picked him up and Lawry began a seven year stay with Baltimore.

Under Jack Dunn’s tutelage, the Rabbit developed into a formidable hitter, batting .396 for 1917. The Cincinnati Reds expressed an interest and the Detroit Tigers actually drafted him at the end of the 1918 season, but the Tigers never sent a check so he remained with Baltimore. In 1919 he was inserted into left field, a move which he felt improved his hitting. Indeed, Lawry did hit .364 for the year, helping Baltimore win the first of the seven consecutive International League pennants. 

The Rabbit was the terror of International League umpires due to his constant critiquing of their balls and strike calls from his left field position. He would play in a career high 167 games in 1921, hitting .352 with 28 stolen bases. He suffered a severe beaning late in the ’21 season and his batting average declined from that point on. Dunn traded him to Jersey City in 1924, and although the Giants and Red Sox tried to acquire him, no deal was ever worked out and the Rabbit never returned to the majors. He retired after the 1928, returning to Maine with his family and opening a tobacco store.

On Tuesday we move to center field and take a look at one of the team’s best hitters, Merwin Jacobson.

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