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Gil Coan: He Wasn’t A Yankee But… WOW!

Gil Coan: He Wasn’t A Yankee But… WOW!

By Paul Semendinger

March , 2022

NOTE – This article appeared in the IBWAA’s daily newsletter Here’s The Pitch.

***

As they do every year, Strat-o-Matic released its new player cards in February of this year. I always buy the Yankees cards. I have been getting them every year since 1981.

This year, Strat-o-Matic also recreated the 1947 major league season. I decided to indulge myself and get that whole set as well. It was a blast to look through the cards and see the great names, unique names, the big starts, the little starts, and the players I never heard of.

I had never heard of Gil Coan, but his card looked amazing so I had to dig deeper into his season and his career.

***

Let me begin the story by recounting, game-by-game, Gil Coan’s 1947 season.

You just have to see this:

September 17: vs. Cleveland – 3 for 4 (batting .750)

September 18: vs. Cleveland – 2 for 3 (batting .714)

September 20: vs. Boston (game 1 of 2) – 5 for 5 (batting .833)

September 20: vs. Boston (game 2 of 2) – 1 for 5 (batting .647)

September 21: vs Boston – 1 for 3 (batting .600)

September 23: vs NYY (game 1 of 2) – 2 for 4 (batting .583)

September 23: vs NYY (game 2 of 2) – 0 for 3 (batting .519)

September 26: vs Philadelphia (game 1 of 2) – 2 for 5 (batting .500)

September 26: vs Philadelphia (game 2 of 2) – 3 for 4 (batting .528)

September 27: vs Boston – 1 for 4 (batting .500)

September 28: vs Boston – 1 for 2 (batting .500)

And there you have it.

11 games. 42 at bats. 21 hits.

The guy hit .500!

I know it was only for 42 at bats, but how often do we ever see a batter hit .500 for even a period as short as that?

Amazing.

***

Gil Coan played in the Major Leagues from 1946 to 1956.

He played for the:

Washington Senators (1946-53)

Baltimore Orioles (1954-55)

Chicago White Sox (1955)

New York Giants (1955-56)

In 1950, in 104 games, he batted .303.

In 1951, in 135 games, he batted .303.

Those were his good years.

But…

In 1946, in 59 games, he batted .209.

In 1949, in 111 games, he batted .218.

In 1952, in 107 games, he batted .205.

In 1953, in 68 games, he batted .196.

When he was a White Sox in 1955, he hit .176 in 17 games.

As a member of the New York Giants, in 13 games (over parts of two seasons) he batted .143.

Gil Coan.

He seemed to either be hitting everything in sight or nothing at all.

***

Before reaching the big leagues, Gil Coan, a left-handed batter with speed, tore up the minor leagues. The fact that he hit so well in 1947 probably did not come as a big surprise. What may have been surprising, was that his career tailed off so spectacularly.

In the minor leagues, Coan put up the following numbers:

1944 (120 games) – .354

1945 (140 games) – .372

1947 (151 games) – .340

Of course, the careful reader will note the absence of a 1946 season. That year Coan played in the big leagues, for the Washington Senators, and batted just .209 in 59 games.

One might have attributed that to the fact that he wasn’t quite ready for baseball’s highest level. His 1947 performance in the minors and then in the Major Leagues seemed to indicate that fact, but further research indicates that Coan suffered a skin allergy that hampered his first big league season.

Once healthy, as he was for much of 1947, he hit well.

***

Things just didn’t stay well for Gil Coan. He had some good moments. Despite bating just .232 in 1948, he did steal 23 bases.

He just couldn’t sustain it.

It seems that the Washington Senators wanted Coan to hit for more power, and he refused to abandon the approach to hitting that had worked so well for him. He also suffered more than his fair share of injuries.

***

In 1954, Gil Coan was traded from the Washington Senators to the brand new Baltimore Orioles (formerly the St. Louis Browns) for Roy Sievers who had been the Rookie of the Year in 1949.

Sievers went on to have five years in a row where he earned MVP votes. Sievers was a star of the 1950s.

He led the league in home runs (42) and RBIs (114) in 1957.

Sievers hit over 20 homers in a year for nine consecutive seasons.

Coan did go on to have the first hit in Orioles history, but, despite batting .279 around some injuries in 1954, the end was in sight.

Gil Coan bounced around a bit, playing most of the 1957 season in the minor leagues before retiring.

He didn’t have the career that some had predicted he would, but he did have his moments, and in 1947, he was simply amazing.

***

To read a more detailed description of Gil Coan’s career, see his Player Biography from the SABR BioProject.

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