Former Dodger Tommy Holmes Dead at 91

Tommy "Kelly" Holmes, who played for the 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers National Champions, died in Boca Raton, Florida April 14. Over an 11 year major league career he hit .302, including .352 in 1945 for the Boston Braves. During that season he hit in 37 consecutive games, a National League record at the time, before being stopped by the Chicago Cubs.

Holmes was a two-time All-Star and a two-time World Series participant, although his '48 Braves lost to the Indians and his '52 Dodgers lost to the Yankees. He also managed the Braves for parts of the 1951 and '52 seasons and recorded five .300+ seasons in the National League.

?"He was a good hitter, a contact hitter, a line-drive hitter," said former Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca, who pitched against him as a member of the Dodgers and then became his teammate. "He didn't have a whole lot of power. I don't think he tried to hit for power. That wasn't his style."

Although he hit only 88 career home runs, he led the National League in home runs in 1945 with 28.

Over 1320 games and nearly 5,000 times at bat, Holmes struck out a remarkable 122 times. He holds the record for most at-bats per strikeout at 49.0 to 1. During 1945, he became the only player to lead the league in home runs and least strikeouts, fanning nine times during the season in 154 games and 636 times at bat.

?Holmes worked 30 years for the Mets as their director of amateur baseball relations. "Tommy Holmes was one of our sport's truest gentlemen," said Jeff Wilpon, the chief operating officer of the Mets, Holmes' employer from 1973-2003. "His passion for the game and up-and-coming players, along with his 30-year association with our franchise, was unsurpassed."

He had a huge season in 1945, finishing second in the Most Valuable Player race to Phil Cavarretta of the N.L. Champion Cubs who out-hit him .355-.353, However, Holmes led the league in home runs (28), doubles (47), hits (224), total bases (367), slugging average (.577), on-base plus slugging (.997) and created 156 runs. Although he didn't lead the league, he knocked in 117 runs.

His 37-game hitting streak that year stood for 33 years until broken by Pete Rose in 1978. He led the league in least strikeouts per at-bats in 1042, 1944, 1945 and 1946.

Holmes, who batted and threw left-handed, had the misfortune of signing with the New York Yankees at age 20 in 1937. But the Yankees were loaded and he could not break into an outfield of all-stars, including Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich and Charlie Keller.

He hit .320, .368, .339, .317 and .302 in the Yankee farm system, during the "reserve clause" era when players were "reserved" to a team forever unless traded or they retired.

He was finally traded to the Boston Braves in 1942 and in 1948 he hit .325 in 139 games to help lead Boston to the NL pennant.

Holmes was named player-manager of the Boston Class A team in Hartford in 1951 but when the Braves slipped into the second division, manager Billy Southworth was fired and Holmes recalled to manage the team.

His club went 48-47 but finished 76-78 in fourth place. When they started slowly in 1952, he was released. The team dr

The Dodgers picked him up in June and he finished the season with them, primarily as a pinch hitter, and saw action in the World Series against the Yankees. His final regular season major league game was on September 29, 1952. He managed in the Brooklyn farm systems from 1953-55, winning 154 games before leaving baseball.

?His daughter, Patricia Stone, told The Associated Press that he enjoyed watching games until the end. "When he played baseball," Stone said, "there would be days he'd leave early and he'd pass children playing and he'd stop to play with them."?

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