Jim Bottomley’s professional baseball career almost didn’t happen. He was playing for a semi-pro team earning $5 per game when a local police officer who saw him play recommended Bottomley to Cardinals GM and eventual Hall of Famer Branch Rickey.
Rickey’s signing of Bottomley paid immediate and long-term dividends. He hit .350 in his first 2,000 plate appearances and played 11 seasons for the Cards.
In those 11 seasons the first baseman led the league in doubles, RBI and total bases twice, and hits, triples, homers once.
Bottomley left the Cardinals after the 1932 season via a trade with Cincinnati. Though his production had declined, he still remained an everyday player into his mid-30’s.
After three years with the Reds, Bottomley wound up his career back in St. Louis with the Browns. Nicknamed “Sunny Jim” because of his cheerful disposition, Bottomley was a popular teammate in all of his stops.
Upon retirement, Bottomley appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot 15 times and topped out at 33.1%. Many believed his Cooperstown resume warranted another look.
During his 16-year career Bottomley received MVP consideration six times, winning the award in 1928. He was a World Series champion with the Cardinals in both 1926 and 1931.
Bottomley was elected posthumously by the Veterans Committee in 1974. His induction class included Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and three Veterans Committee selections, Sam Thompson, Jocko Conlan, and Cool Papa Bell.
When the Cardinals opened their team Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014 Bottomley was among the 22 former players and personnel in the inaugural class.
Pictured here is Jim Bottomley’s signature along with a July 23, 1951 USPS postmark from Nokomis, Illinois. As a teen Bottomley attended Nokomis High School. At the time of the postmark Bottomley still called the town his home
He also managed the Browns after they let Rogers Hornsby go as manager.