|Born: October 23, 1920|
McAlister, New Mexico
|Died: November 3, 1968 (aged 48)|
Long Beach, California
|September 13, 1941, for the St. Louis Browns|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 30, 1955, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Runs batted in||1,174|
|Career highlights and awards|
Vernon Decatur Stephens (October 23, 1920 – November 3, 1968) was an American shortstop in professional baseball who played 15 seasons in the American League for four teams. He was born in McAlister, New Mexico while his parents were en route from Oklahoma to California. Stephens batted and threw right-handed. He was also nicknamed "Little Slug", "Junior", and "Buster". Ted Williams credited him with being the most effective of those who followed him in the Red Sox batting order. During his stint with the Red Sox he outshone Bobby Doerr, a Hall-of-famer, who followed him in the Sox batting order. In 1949 he hit 39 home runs, second only to Williams that year in the American League, while batting in 159 runs tying Williams for the league lead. The next closest American Leaguers hit 24 home runs that year while Doerr hit 18. In his book "Summer of '49" author David Halberstam seems to go great lengths to belittle Stephens' 1949 performance while exalting that of Doerr which was patently unfair.
One of the strongest-hitting shortstops in major league history, Stephens compiled a .286 batting average with 247 home runs and 1174 RBI in 1720 games. Breaking with American Major League baseball, Stephens signed a five-year contract with the Mexican League in 1946. He had been in Mexico only a few days when his father, a minor league umpire, and the Browns scout Jack Fournier drove down and brought him back to the United States.
In August 2008, he was named as one of the ten former players who began their careers before 1943 to be considered by the Veterans Committee for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009. He was not selected. Doerr was a member of the selection committee.
- 8-time All-Star (1943–44, 1945 [non-official game], 1946, 1948–51)
- Six times in the Top 10 in MVP voting (1942–45, 1948–49)
- Led the American League in home runs during 1945
- Three times led the American League in RBI (1944, 1949–50)
- Collected 440 RBI within three consecutive seasons (1948–50)
- Three times in the Top 10 in batting average (1942–43, 1946)
- Twice led the American League in games played (1948–49)
- Was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006
- Only man to play for 1944 American League Champion St. Louis Browns and the Baltimore Orioles, the team the Browns franchise became after it moved to Baltimore in 1954
- Holds the MLB record for RBI in a season by a shortstop, with 159 in 1949.
- Attended Polytechnic High School, Long Beach, California (also attended by Tony Gwynn, Chase Utley, Milton Bradley, etc.)
- Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, 2009
- List of Major League Baseball career home run leaders
- List of Boston Red Sox awards
- List of Major League Baseball career runs scored leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career runs batted in leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual runs batted in leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual home run leaders