He had an unusual nickname, two great seasons in an otherwise average career, and a tragic ending to his life. This is the story of former Yankee George Stirnweiss, better known by the nickname "Snuffy".
Born in October of 1918 in New York City, nobody knows just how Stirnweiss acquired his nickname, but they knew he was a great all around athlete.
He excelled in baseball, basketball, and football at Fordham Prep High School in the Bronx. That talent helped get him admitted to the University of North Carolina. Football was probably his best sport, as he was a fine quarterback.
In fact, he was a high draft pick of the then Chicago Cardinals in the 1940 NFL draft, but when the Yankees offered him a contract, he said goodbye to the gridiron and signed with the Yankees upon his graduation from Chapel Hill in 1940.
After three years in the minors, Stirnweiss made his Major League debut with the Yankees in 1943.
Playing mostly at shortstop, he hit a meager .219 in 83 games. He would appear in one game of that year's World Series as the Yankees would beat the Cardinals in five games, a total reversal of the previous year's Series.
When second baseman Joe Gordon went off to serve in the military, Stirnweiss slid over to his natural position of second base.
In 1944, he lead the American League in plate appearances, runs, hits, triples, and stolen bases. The following year, he lead in those categories again, as well as at bats and batting average.
Gordon returned to the Yankees in 1946 and assumed his spot at second, relegating Stirnweiss to a backup role. After the season, Gordon was traded to the Indians for Allie Reynolds, making Stirnweiss the second baseman again in 1947.
Unfortunately, the magic of his previous years had disappeared, as he hit only .256 in 148 games. The following year, he hit just .251 in 141 games.
After made a backup in 1949, the Yankees traded Stirnweiss to the St. Louis Browns in early 1950; they in turn traded him to the Indians in 1951. He retired after playing in one game in 1952.vHe gave upe managing in the minors a try in 1954 and 1955, but gave it up to pursue a career in finance. After working for Federation Bank and Trust, he joined the firm Caldwell and Company in Manhattan.
He was on board train #3314 of the Central Jersey Railroad September 15, 1958 bound for Manhattan when, for reasons still not known to this day, the train ran through signals and flew off the Newark Bay Bridge.
Two locomotives and the front two passenger cars landed in the water of Newark Bay. Sadly, Stirnweiss was in the first passenger car. He was only 39 years when he perished that day along with 47 others.
His time on Earth may not have been long, but when you write the story of tragic figures in baseball, you must include the the man they called Snuffy.