Lelivelt hit everywhere he played

Also won back-to-back PCL championships as a manager

(National Baseball Hall of Fame)

June 15, 2007 4:38 PM

Columbus Clippers center fielder Brandon Watson has the second-longest hitting streak in International League history at 41 games. But who was Jack Lelivelt, who holds the record of 42 games with the Rochester Hustlers in 1912?

Lelivelt was a left-handed-hitting outfielder/first baseman who was born in Chicago on Nov. 14, 1885. He grew up playing ball with his older brother, Bill.

Lelivelt first came to prominence playing for Lake Linden (Mich.) of the Northern Cooper Country League in 1906. He moved up to the Reading (Pa.) club of the Tri-State League in 1908, and the brothers made their Major League debuts the following year -- Bill as a pitcher with Detroit and Jack as an outfielder with Washington.

Jack Lelivelt was a singles hitter with good speed and held the starting job in Washington in 1909-10. He shared the position with Tilly Walker in 1911, despite hitting .320.

Prior to the 1912 season, Lelivelt was traded or sold -- accounts vary -- to the Rochester Hustlers of the International League. Rochester was trying to win its fourth straight pennant and got off to a fast start on the wings of Lelivelt's 42-game hitting streak. The Hustlers looked like they would win the flag, but with little more than a month to go in the season, Lelivelt (hitting .351 with 33 doubles, 14 triples and three homers) was sold to the New York Highlanders.

The trade cost Rochester the pennant as the Toronto Maple Leafs passed the stumbling Hustlers.

In New York, Lelivelt stayed hot, hitting .362 with six doubles, seven triples and his only two big-league homers in 36 games.

He started the 1913 season with the newly named New York Yankees and finished it with the Cleveland Naps. In Cleveland, Lelivelt played behind Shoeless Joe Jackson but batted .391 in 23 games.

The 1914 season was a unique one in Cleveland. A third major league, the Federal League, was formed. With teams in Indianapolis, Chicago, Baltimore, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, the Feds wreaked havoc on organized baseball.

To keep the Feds out of Cleveland, the Naps moved their Minor League team, the Toledo Mud Hens, to the Forest City. While the Naps were on the road, the renamed Cleveland Bearcats of the American Association played in League Park. (The transferred Toledo franchise was known as the Cleveland Spiders in 1915 before returning to Glass City in 1916).

Cleveland brass bounced a number of players between the Naps and Bearcats in 1915, trying to give Cleveland fans the best baseball possible. It did not work. The Naps finished last in the American League and the Bearcats were fifth in the A.A.

Lelivelt was one of those who played for both clubs. With the Naps, he hit .328 in 34 games; with the Bearcats, the first baseman batted .292 in 92 games.

Lelivelt was traded to the Kansas City Blues in 1915 after leading the American Association in batting (.346), hits (199) and doubles (41). He played with Kansas City from 1916-17, Louisville in 1918 and Minneapolis in 1919.

Lelivelt started his managerial career with Omaha of the Western League in 1920, when he was picked as player-skipper. He started 1921 as manager but was replaced in May. Staying on as a player, he led the league in batting at a lofty .416. He collected 70 doubles that season and his 274 hits remain a Western League record.

From 1922-24, Lelivelt was player-manager for Tulsa, winning his first pennant in '22. In 1925, he ended his playing days with St. Joseph, focusing on managing only, beginning in 1926 with Milwaukee. He guided the Brewers to a second-place finish in 1927 and third in 1928.

Fired by Milwaukee during the 1929 season, Lelivelt was picked up by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley as manager of the struggling Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He built the Angels into one of the greatest Minor League teams of all times, winning 114 games in 1933 and 137 the following year (no, that's not a typo).

Lelivelt stayed with Los Angeles through the 1936 season. He was named a scout for the Cubs in 1937 but returned to managing in 1938, turning around the Seattle Rainiers. He led them to PCL titles in 1939 and 1940 before suffering a fatal heart attack in January 1941.

All but forgotten today, Lelivelt had a .301 average in six Major League seasons and was one of the greatest hitters in Minor League history.

Joe Santry is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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