Jeff Heath is born in Fort William, Ontario, Canada.
After graduating from a Seattle, Washington, high school, Heath joined the Indians organization and played minor league ball with the Zanesville Greys of the Middle Atlantic League in 1936. He spent a dozen games with Cleveland that season as well, hitting .341 with three doubles, three triples, a home run, and eight runs batted in.
He spent the majority of the next season with the Indians’ minor league affiliate in Milwaukee, but by 1938, he was getting regular work in Cleveland’s outfield. That season was one of the best of his career, as he hit .343 with a .383 on-base percentage in 126 games. He did so with a well-balanced offensive attack, hitting 31 doubles, a Major League-leading 18 triples, 21 homers, and 112 RBI.
In 1941, he nearly replicated the same numbers, hitting .340 with a .396 OBP in 151 games while making his first career All-Star team. Like the incredible 1938 season, he hit 32 doubles, again led baseball with 20 triples, added 24 homers, and knocked in 123 runs while stealing 18 bases. All but the batting average were career highs and would still be at the end of his career, except the home run total which he exceeded in 1947.
He had inconsistent results at the plate over his career, but made a second All-Star team in ’43. After the 1945 season, he was dealt to the Washington Senators for outfielder George Case. In June of the next season, the Senators moved him along to the St. Louis Browns, and following the 1947 season he was purchased by the Boston Braves. With Boston, he helped the Braves reach the postseason against his former Indians club, but he did not get to face his friends as he broke his ankle on September 29 (after they had already clinched the NL pennant) and missed the entire postseason. He played in just 36 games in his 14th and final year in the Majors in 1949 and was released by Boston following the season.
Also on this date in Tribe history:
1939 – Future Hall of Famer and knuckleball extraordinaire Phil Niekro is born in Blaine, Ohio.