Baseball couldn't cut it without its lists and records. Augie Galan holds the pioneer spot on two of the more eclectic baseball lists. He is the first in the National League to switch-hit home runs in the same game, and the first major-leaguer to go an entire season without hitting into a double play. Although -- but more about that later.
More to the point, Galan was a key player on two Cub pennant-winners, and performed well despite an injury-prone nature.
August John Galan was born in Berkeley, California, May 25, 1912, and was raised in the Bay area. His propensity for hurting himself at play manifested itself early indeed; at age eleven he broke his right elbow playing sandlot ball. Displaying a trait well noted in ballplayers of all ages, he concealed the injury from his parents, fearful of being barred from further play. The arm was never set, healed improperly, and was never fully healthy throughout Galan's professional career.
Following the usual left coast path to stardom, Galan started in the Texas League and graduated to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1932. In 1933 he was PCL Most Valuable Player, and in 1934 was purchased by the Cubs. He started as utility infielder, and in his first full season, 1935, switched to center field.
In the pennant-winning year of 1935, Galan hit .314, collecting 203 hits and leading the league in runs and stolen bases. He played the full 154-game schedule, 646 at-bats, without hitting into a double play, the first season of its kind. But, and Galan cheerfully acknowledged it whenever the subject arose, he did line into a triple play April 21 against the Reds at Wrigley Field. In the eleventh inning, no less.
Galan was an All-Star in 1936, and hit the first All-Star home run by a Cub, a disputed drive that struck the foul pole at Braves Field just at fence top. On June 25, 1937, he performed a feat much anticipated but never seen in the National League. In an 11-2 win over the Dodgers at Wrigley, Galan homered from the left side against Freddie Fitzsimmons in the fourth inning; and from the right side off Ralph Birkofer in the eighth inning.
Galan held his distinctions uniquely for some time. Only two other players (Dick McAuliffe, Detroit AL, 1968; and Craig Biggio, Houston NL, 1997) have played 150 or more games in a season without hitting into a double play. Neither did so in as many at-bats as Galan. He was the only NL player to switch-hit homers in a game until 1948. Recent research unearthed a switch-homer game by Wally Schang of the Philadelphia Athletics (AL), in 1912, so Galan's long-held title as the first switch-homer man of all time must now be amended.
In 1940 a broken knee sustained in a crash into the outfield wall at Shibe Park convinced the Cubs that Galan was through. He was allowed to make his own deal, and in 1941 signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He put together two .300 seasons during wartime ball. Cumulative wear and tear on his damaged arm forced him to give up batting from the right side after 1943.
Galan was traded to the Reds in 1947, posting his final .300 average. His last major-league season was 1949. In sixteen seasons, he batted .287 with 1,706 hits and 100 home runs.
Galan died in Fairfield, California, December 28, 1993.