Position: First Base
Born: April 23, 1900; Oglesby, Illinois
Died: December 11, 1959; Sullivan, Missouri
Played For: St. Louis Cardinals (1922-1932), Cincinnati Reds (1933-1935)
Managed: St. Louis Browns (1936-1937)
James Leroy (Sunny Jim) Bottomley was born on April 23, 1900, in Oglesby, Ill. He moved with his family to Nokomis as a child, where he attended school and made his home for years.
His pro career began with Sioux City, Iowa, in 1920. He also played with the Mitchell, S.D. team that year; Houston in 1921; Syracuse in 1922; and joined the St. Louis Cardinals that same year as a first baseman. Bottomley played first base with the Cardinals from 1922-1932. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on Dec. 17, 1932 and played with the Reds from 1933-35. He was dealt to the St. Louis Browns on March 21, 1936, and managed the Browns from July 22, 1937, until the end of the season.
In his 11-year tenure with the Cardinals organization, he made an indelible mark on the team, city and their fans – with one of his most memorable moments coming in 1928, when he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. In 1928, Bottomley batted .325 and posted league-leading numbers in home runs (31), RBIs (136) and triples (20). His efforts propelled the Cardinals to the World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees.
From 1926-31, “Sunny Jim,” as he was often referred to for his light-hearted disposition, led the Cardinals to the World Series four times (1926, 1928, 1930-31) with his stellar regular season stats. From 1924-29, he posted 100 or more regular season RBIs and batted .300 or better from 1927-31. Of the four World Series appearances, the Cardinals won it all twice: in 1926 against the Yankees and in 1931 against the Philadelphia Athletics, creating a mini-dynasty. “Jim Bottomley was a morale man, a winner, the guy who held early St. Louis championship clubs together,” Hall of Famer Bill Terry said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Another notable moment in Bottomley’s career came on Sept. 16, 1924, when he established a major league record for driving in 12 runs in a nine-inning game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The record would stand alone for 69 years before being matched by fellow Cardinal – Mark Whiten in 1993. The previous mark of 11 RBIs in one game was established in 1892 by opposing Dodger manager, Wilbert Robinson.
And his talent didn’t end at the plate. “I noticed one thing that day, and that was that Bottomley could field,” former St. Louis manager and Hall of Famer Branch Rickey said. “By the sinews of Joshua how he could field!” He also had six hits in a game on Aug. 5, 1931 and is one of two big-leaguers since 1900 to have a pair of six-hit games in the majors (Doc Cramer is the other player).
Bottomley was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1974. He married Betty Browner on Feb. 4,1933 and died Dec. 11, 1959. He is buried in Sullivan, MO.