Ninety years ago today on September 21, 1923, Nashville outfielder Hazen “Kiki” Cuyler, who had batted .340 for the Volunteers and led the Southern Association in stolen bases with 68, reports to the Pittsburgh Pirates after being purchased by the major league team.
Having had two previous call-ups to the Pirates in 1921 and 1922 accounting for two games and three at-bats, Cuyler would stay in the majors for sixteen more years. In 1925 he finished first in games played (153), plate appearances (701), runs scored (144), hit by pitch (13), and triples (26).
The Pirates won the World Series in 1925, the only one in which Cuyler played.
After spending seven years with the Pirates, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Sparky Adams and Pete Scott on November 27, 1927. Cuyler had reportedly been paid $10,000 for the 1927 season.
On July 3, 1935 Cuyler was released by Chicago and signed with the Cincinnati Reds two days later. He played with Reds through 1937 and played one last season with Brooklyn in 1938. His major league career batting average was .321.
Returning to the Southern Association in 1939 as manager of the Chattanooga Lookouts where he remained for three seasons, Cuyler was a coach for the Cubs and Red Sox until being named manager of the Atlanta Crackers in 1944 through 1949. His 1946 Atlanta team won the Southern Association championship.
Cuyler suffered a heart attack on February 11, 1950 and died at the age of 51.
Cuyler would be one of two former Nashville players named to the Hall of Fame (the other is Waite Hoyt). Elected by the Veterans Committee, Cuyler was inducted in 1968.
It was during his year with Nashville that he earned his famous nickname, and sports writer Fred Russell takes credit for giving it to him. On pop flies to the outfield when two infielders would point up to the sky calling for Cuyler to “take it”, each would shout “Cuy”. From the press box, Russell heard “Kiki”, and Cuyler was forever known by the moniker.
Russell would later write that Cuyler was the best player ever to don a Nashville Vols uniform.