Gus Zernial, 87, a powerful slugger who was one of baseball’s leading home-run hitters of the 1950s, died Jan. 20 of congestive heart failure at a hospice in Fresno, Calif.
After hitting 29 home runs for the Chicago White Sox in 1950, Mr. Zernial was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics four games into the 1951 season. He blossomed in Philadelphia and led the American League that year with 33 home runs and 129 RBI.
In four of the next five seasons, Mr. Zernial was among the league’s top five home-run hitters. He had a career high of 42 in 1953, when he finished one behind Cleveland’s Al Rosen.
Mr. Zernial made the all-star team in 1953 and had 100 or more RBI four times in his 11-year major league career. From 1950 to 1957, he hit more home runs than any other player in the American League, including Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. He retired in 1959 with 237 home runs and a lifetime batting average of .265.
Mr. Zernial, who was born in Beaumont, Tex., served as a Navy radio operator during World War II. He settled in Fresno in 1967 and worked for decades as a sports broadcaster.