Garms with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1940
|Outfielder / Third baseman|
June 26, 1907|
|Died: December 16, 1984
Glen Rose, Texas
|August 10, 1932, for the St. Louis Browns|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 25, 1945, for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Runs batted in||328|
|Career highlights and awards|
Debs C. Garms (June 26, 1907 – December 16, 1984) was a professional baseball player for twelve seasons as an outfielder and third baseman for the St. Louis Browns, Boston Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. Garms broke up Johnny Vander Meer's streak of hitless innings in 1938. He won the National League batting title in 1940, hitting .355 for the Pittsburgh Pirates despite having played in only 103 games and garnering 358 at bats. Garms' batting title proved very controversial because of his limited playing time. In 1941 he set a then-major league record for consecutive pinch hits with seven, which stood until Dave Philley broke it in 1958.
Born in Bangs, Texas, Garms was the eighth of ten children, and was named after Eugene Debs. Garms' older sister married Slim Harriss, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox in the 1920s. Garms attended Howard Payne University, joining the track and baseball teams. One of Garms' games was attended by minor league manager Carl Williams, and soon after, Garms was signed to a minor league contract with the St. Louis Browns. After playing in the minor leagues for multiple years, Garms batted .344 in 1932 and was called up to the major league Browns.
In 1936, Garms was drafted by the Boston Bees from the Browns in the rule 5 draft. In 1938, Bees' manager Casey Stengel platooned Garms with Joe Stripp. After three seasons with the Bees, Garms was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1940, his first year with the Pirates, Garms won the National League batting title despite serving as a platoon player, recording only 358 at-bats in 103 games. Despite the fact that many complained at the low batting averages in 1940 compared to past years, most assumed that 400 at-bats were needed to be eligible for a batting title. In September 1940, league president Ford Frick stated that "The batting title is simply unofficial and never has been subject for league legislation." Frick's spokesman stated that "he thought 100 games would be a sufficient prerequisite for the championship."
After the season, the league's decision to make Garms the champion remained controversial, particularly for Chicago Cubs fans, who believed that Stan Hack was the rightful winner. In December 1941, Garms was purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals, with whom Garms would play the last three seasons of his career after playing the 1942 season in the minor leagues.
After Garms retired, he purchased a ranch in Glen Rose, Texas. Garms lived at the ranch until the 1950s, when the severe Texas drought forced Garms to sell the ranch and move into town in 1959, where he worked as foreman for a lime quarry operation, and eventually served on the school board for Glen Rose Independent School District. Garms was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the 1980s, and died on December 16, 1984. In 2004, Garms was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Erion, Greg. "Debs Garms". sabr.org. SABR. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Loomis, Tom (May 13, 1987). "Don't Blame Casey Stengel For Inventing Platoon System". Toledo Blade. p. 26. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
- "Debs Garms Statistics and History". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved 12 June 2012.