George “Specs” Toporcer


Toporcer is widely considered as the first major league baseball position player to wear eyeglasses on the playing field.

Branch Rickey, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, transferred George’s contract from the Stars to the Cardinals. George Toporczer was to play for the Cardinals as the second baseman, bumping the former second baseman, Roger Hornsby, who had led the league in hitting that year, to left field. Later, because Hornsby was the leading hitter for the entire league, George Toporczer was moved from second base, so that Hornsby could once again be the second baseman, to become the utility infielder, a position that did not suit him as well as second base. Competing with Hornsby was difficult until Hornsby was traded for another second baseman, Frankie Frisch. Because he was not able to play his favored position, George Toporczer was moved from the Cardinals to Rochester, the Cardinals top farm team.

In an eight-season career, Toporcer was a .279 hitter with nine home runs and 151 RBI in 546 games. As a fielder, he appeared in 453 games at shortstop (249), second base(105), third base (95), first base (3) and right field (1).Following his major league career, Toporcer played for the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate Rochester on four straight pennant-winning teams (1929–32), being named the International League MVP in 1929 and 1930. He became the Red Wings’ manager in 1932, continuing to play and manage the team until 1934. He continued to play in the minors until 1941, typically serving as a player-manager. While in Rochester George Toporczer was able to play as a second baseman. For seven years he played for Rochester, winning the International League pennant four consecutive years and being named the MVP for two of those years. For the last three of the seven years George served as the manager of the Rochester team. After his third year he had a financial dispute with Branch Rickey that ended him managing for any of the farm teams of the St. Louis Cardinals. George Toporczer managed other minor league teams for the next seven years before he became the farm director for the Boston Red Sox.

Branch Rickey once told this story about Specs Toporcer: A 19-year-old boy who weighed 142 pounds and never had played a game of pro ball came off the field at Orange, New Jersey. I watched this kid and saw him take off his glasses and, with his hands outstretched, grope his way along the wall to the showers. My captain turned to me and said, For God’s sake, who sent him up? – Norman L. Macht, baseball writer and statistician