Baseball Hall of Famer Luke Appling, remembered for a .310 lifetime average and a home run at age 75, died today of an aneurysm at 83.
Appling was admitted to Lakeside Community Hospital, in Atlanta's northern suburbs, Wednesday night and died in surgery early this morning, according to the hospital.
Lucius Benjamin Appling Jr., known as "Old Aches and Pains," played shortstop for 21 seasons, all with the same big-league team, the Chicago White Sox. His finest season came in 1936, when he led the American League with a .388 batting average--the highest average ever for a shortstop--and drove in 128 runs.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964, and managed the Kansas City Athletics for 40 games in 1967.
In his later years, Appling became a beloved fixture at old-timers games and at the training camp of the Atlanta Braves, for whom he worked as a minor-league hitting instructor. At 75, the great singles hitter thrilled the crowd at a 1982 old-timers game in Washington, slamming a home run off Warren Spahn.
Appling played in 2,422 major-league games and collected 2,749 hits. He narrowly missed his second AL batting title in 1940, when he hit .348, four points behind Joe DiMaggio.
But he did get another batting championship in 1943, hitting .328.
In 19 of his 21 big-league seasons, he hit over .300. He holds the major-league record for most years at shortstop, with 20. He also played third base, second and first.
Appling was named the greatest player in White Sox history in a 1970 vote of the Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers of America.
"I played with him and against him, and he was the finest shortstop I ever saw," said Eddie Lopat, who pitched with the Sox before going to the New York Yankees. "In the field, he covered more ground than anyone in the league. As a hitting shortstop, there was no one in his class."
Appling earned his nickname by consistently complaining to teammates how awful he felt, often just before excelling on the field.
Born in High Point, N.C., Appling grew up in Atlanta. After becoming a star baseball and football player at Oglethorpe University, Appling signed a baseball contract with the minor-league Atlanta Crackers in 1930, and was sold to the big-league White Sox before the season was over.
After retiring as a player in 1950, Appling became a minor-league manager. His first team, Memphis in 1952, won the Southern Assn. playoffs and beat Texas League champ Shreveport in the Dixie Series. Memphis won the regular-season crown under Appling a year later.
He managed Indianapolis to an American Assn. championship in 1962, and went on to coach in the American League for Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City and Oakland, before becoming a hitting instructor with the Braves in 1976.