|This article does not cite any references or sources. (January 2009)|
January 24, 1917|
San Francisco, California
|Died: July 12, 1971
|April 16, 1940 for the St. Louis Browns|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 12, 1949 for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Runs batted in||420|
Walter Franklin Judnich (January 24, 1916 – July 10, 1971) was a center fielder in Major League Baseball who played for three different teams between 1940 and 1949. Listed at 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m), 205 lb, Judnich batted and threw left-handed. In baseball books, he is known indistinctly as Wally or Walt Judnich. A native of San Francisco, California, and graduate of Mission High School, Judnich entered the majors in 1940 with the St. Louis Browns, playing for them five years (1940–42, 1946–47) before joining the Cleveland Indians (1948) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1949).
Basically a contact, line-drive hitter, Judnich was a fine outfielder with a strong throwing arm. But he was one of many major leaguers who saw his baseball career truncated after his stint in the US Army Air Force during World War II. When he came back after discharge, he was 29 years old and no longer at the top of his game.
In his rookie season with the Browns, Judnich posted career-numbers in home runs (24), RBIs (89), and runs scored (97), while hitting a .303 batting average to become one of only seven players in the American League to reach the .300 mark in the season; ranking 6th behind Ted Williams (.356), Johnny Pesky (.331), Stan Spence (.323), Joe Gordon (.322) and George Case (.320), and surpassing Joe DiMaggio (.305). After his heroics, Judnich was considered in the American League MVP vote.
In 1941, Judnich enjoyed another good season batting .284 with 14 homers, 40 doubles, 83 RBIs and 90 runs in a career-high 146 games. Then, in 1942 he hit 17 home runs (7th in AL) with 82 RBIs and a .313 average (a career-high), being nominated again to the American Leaague MVP honors. After that, he served in military for the next three years (1943–45).
Judnich was released from the USAAF in time for the start of the 1946 season with the Browns, when he hit .262 with 15 homers and 72 RBIs in 132 games. The next year he went .258, 18, 64 in 144 appearances, and was traded to Cleveland before the 1948 season.
With the Indians, Judnich was part of a very congested outfield that included Larry Doby, Dale Mitchell and Thurman Tucker, between nine others. He did, however, manage to get a World Series ring as part of the 1948 Cleveland Indians World Champions, playing 49 games in the outfield and 20 at first base, as a backup. He also made 10 appearances for Pittsburgh in 1949, his last major league season.
In a seven-season career, Judnich was a .281 hitter (782-for-2786) with 90 home runs and 420 RBIs in 790 games, including 424 runs, 150 doubles, 29 triples, 20 stolen bases, a .369 on-base percentage, and a solid 1.30 walk-to-strikeout ratio (385-to-298). In four postseason games, he hit .077 (1-for-13) with a run and one RBI.
Judnich died in Glendale, California, at the age of 55.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference