|Born: October 23, 1920|
McAlister, New Mexico
|Died: November 3, 1968 (aged 48)|
Long Beach, California
|September 13, 1941, for the St. Louis Browns|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 30, 1955, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Runs batted in||1,174|
|Career highlights and awards|
Vernon Decatur Stephens (October 23, 1920 – November 3, 1968) was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball as a shortstop from 1941 through 1955. An eight-time All-Star, Stephens was notable for being the 1945 American League home run champion and was a three-time American League RBI champion. He was the cleanup hitter for the only St. Louis Browns team to win an American League pennant in 1944, and was a top power hitter for the Boston Red Sox. Nicknamed "Little Slug", "Junior", and "Buster", Stephens batted and threw right-handed. He was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006.
Stephens was born in McAlister, New Mexico while his parents were en route from Oklahoma to California. He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California.
One of the strongest-hitting shortstops in major league history, Stephens compiled a .286 batting average with 247 home runs and 1,174 RBI in 1,720 games. Breaking with American Major League baseball, Stephens signed a five-year contract with the Mexican League in 1946. He had been in Mexico only a few days when his father, a minor league umpire, and the Browns scout Jack Fournier drove down and brought him back to the United States.
In 1944, Stephens led the American League with 109 runs batted in as he led the Browns to their first and only World Series appearance in St. Louis. He also led the league with 24 home runs in 1945. After the 1947 season, he was traded along with Jack Kramer to the Boston Red Sox, but later, after a brief stint with the Chicago White Sox, returned to the Browns in 1953, their last season in St. Louis. Stephens was the only member of the pennant-winning 1944 St. Louis Browns who played with the Baltimore Orioles when the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954.
Stephens played five years with the Boston Red Sox from 1948 to 1952. Ted Williams said that he was the most effective of those who followed him in the batting order. In 1949 he batted in 159 runs (tied with Williams for the league lead) and hit 39 home runs, second only to Williams's 43. No other player in the American League had more than 24. Second baseman Bobby Doerr, who was lionized in David Halberstam's book Summer of '49, hit 18 home runs. In August 2008, he was named as one of the ten former players who began their careers before 1943 to be considered by the Veterans Committee for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009. He was not selected.
Vern Stephens died of a heart attack in Long Beach, California at 48 years of age.