Back in the first part of the twentieth century, managerial changes were pretty much a rarity when it came to Big Apple baseball teams. The Giants had the legendary John McGraw as their skipper for thirty years. For the Yankees, it was Miller Huggins from 1918 until 1929 and it took the death of “Hug” for the Yankees to make a change. In Brooklyn, it was “Uncle Robbie.” Before he got the field skipper’s job with Brooklyn, however, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had been a very good catcher with the old Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890’s, when that franchise was part of the original National League. He was sold to the Cardinals in 1900. Just a year later, the new American League was formed and Baltimore was granted a franchise. Robinson’s old Oriole teammate, John McGraw was named manager and he convinced Wilbert to return to Baltimore and play for the new team. The catcher did so but when McGraw was later suspended by AL President Ban Johnson, he left the league and took a job as the manager of the New York Giants. Robinson then became the Orioles’ player Manager in 1902. The Orioles finished 24-57 that season prompting Wilbert to accept McGraw’s invitation to become the Giant pitching coach, a job he held for over a decade. That same season, the Orioles AL franchise was relocated to New York and became the Highlanders.
In 1914, Brooklyn hired Robinson to replace Bill Dahlen as Dodger skipper. He stayed in that job for eighteen seasons and helped bring respectability to a franchise that had pretty much become a laughing stock for its ineptness. Under Robinson, Brooklyn won the NL pennant in both 1916 and 1920 and he compiled a 1,375 – 1,341 career record. He shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee reliever who also played in pinstripes.
Robinson’s Yankee(Orioles) seasonal and MLB career playing stats:
|BLN (10 yrs)||780||3073||2838||361||836||129||27||10||456||81||187||195||.295||.341||.370||.711|
|PHA (5 yrs)||372||1527||1453||180||330||50||13||7||155||88||66||75||.227||.265||.294||.558|
|BLA (2 yrs)||159||606||574||70||170||28||10||1||83||20||22||33||.296||.327||.385||.712|
|STL (1 yr)||60||224||210||26||52||5||1||0||28||7||11||20||.248||.291||.281||.572|
Robinson’s Yankee(Orioles) seasonal and MLB career managing record:
|1||1902||38||Baltimore Orioles||2nd of 2||24||57||.296||83||8|
|Baltimore Orioles||1 year||24||57||.296||83||8.0|
|Brooklyn Robins||18 years||1375||1341||.506||2736||4.7|
I had always thought that May 15th was one of the few calendar dates on which no member of the all-time Yankee family was born. Then on May 14, 2012, I was poking around the fantastic Baseball-Reference Web site, I came across a guy by the name of Charles Brittingham Burns. In 1902, the legendary skipper John McGraw, who had not yet become legendary, was managing the Baltimore Orioles, who had not yet been relocated to New York City, where the team was renamed first the Highlanders and then the Yankees. For some reason, in some game, McGraw looked down his Orioles’ bench and pointed at Mr. Burns and told him to grab a bat because he was going to hit. The 23-year-old native of Bayview, MD, who was supposedly known as “C.B.” to his teammates went to the plate for the first time in his big league career and hit a single.
That would turn out to be the one and only time McGraw or evidently any other manager asked C.B. to take an at bat in a baseball game, which means he ended his big league career with a perfect 1.000 batting average. Since then, he has been joined by four other players who batted a perfect 1.000 during their Yankee careers. They are; Heinie Odom (1925) Mickey Witek (1949) Larry Gowell (1972) and the most recent, Chris Latham (2003). Gowell is the only pitcher to do it and Latham is the only one of the five to do it with more than one official at bat. He went 2-2 during his very brief Yankee career. Burns is one of 302 Maryland natives to play in the big leagues. My all-time top five Maryland-born Yankees would be: Babe Ruth – Baltimore; Frank “Home Run” Baker – Trappe; Mark Teixeira – Annapolis; Charlie Keller – Middletown; and Tommy Byrne – Baltimore.
This since departed Yankee infielder celebrated his 26th birthday by joining Burns as a May 15th-born member of the Yankees’ all-time roster on May 15, 2013.
The Yankee (more accurately the pre 1903 Baltimore Oriole) career of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was very brief and very insignificant but the story of how Sport McAllister’s name got on the all-time Yankee franchise roster in the first place is pretty interesting. He was born Lewis McAllister in Austin, Mississippi in 1874. He made his big league debut with the old Cleveland Spiders franchise in 1896. He therefore had the misfortune of being a starting outfielder on the 1899 Spiders’ team that is pretty universally considered to be the worst big league team in the history of the game. That season, the Spiders finished with a 20 – 134 record that left them 84 games behind first place Brooklyn. They drew fewer than 7,000 fans to their home games that year and literally played their way out of existence. When the NL decided to contract from 12 teams to 10 the following season, the Spiders were everyone’s first choice to get the heave ho.
As for McAllister, he did not distinguish himself at the plate during his four years with Cleveland, averaging only .232. He did, however, build a reputation for being able to adequately play just about any position on the field, except pitcher. It was most likely that flexibility that got him a tryout and a contract with the Detroit Tiger team in the brand new American League in 1901 and old Sport had the season of his life. Not only did he play five different positions for his new team that year, he also averaged .301 in ninety games of action and it looked like the then 26-year-old switch-hitter was on his way to stardom. That never happened.
When the 1902 season began, there was trouble brewing in Baltimore. John McGraw had been enticed back to that city to manage its AL franchise by offering him ownership stock in the ball club. The problem was that Ban Johnson, the guy who put the American League together in the first place, owned a controlling share of stock in the team and McGraw absolutely despised Johnson. So McGraw decided to jump to the NL’s New York Giants in June of the 1902 season, but not before he put the screws to Johnson. Lil Napoleon owned a saloon in Baltimore with Wilbert Robinson, one of his Oriole players and also an Orioles’ stockholder. McGraw sold his half of the saloon to Robinson in return for his stock in the ball club. He then sold all his shares to his buddy, the Orioles’ club president who then became a majority stock holder in the club, effectively eliminating Johnson from having any say in the franchise’s operations. The Baltimore team president then turned around and sold his controlling interest in the Orioles to two men. One was Andrew Freeman, who was McGraw’s new boss as the owner of the Giants and John Brush, who was the owner of the NL’s Cincinnati Reds. The two men then proceeded to rape the Orioles roster by reassigning most of the Baltimore players to their respective NL clubs, leaving the team with just seven guys. In an effort to salvage the season and the new league, Johnson convinced all the other AL owners to provide the Orioles with replacement players from their own rosters.
Sport McAllister had started the 1903 season terribly. He got into a collision with a teammate and hurt his knee and the nagging injury had had an impact on his entire game. He was averaging just .209 when Johnson’s request for replacement players reached the Tiger front office. Somebody in that office decided to give the Orioles McAllister. So that’s how and why Sport McAllister became a member of the Yankee franchise’s all-time roster for just three games during the 1902 season. His time with the team only lasted that long because somebody else in the Detroit front office evidently realized that it was a mistake to give up one of the team’s better players, injured or not and had demanded the Orioles return him, which they did. McAllister played just one more season for Detroit before accepting head coach’s position with the University of Michigan’s baseball team. He lived until 1962. I found most of the information for this post in this article about McAllister, published by the Society for American Baseball Research.
|CLV (4 yrs)||181||697||639||62||148||16||10||1||52||9||36||41||.232||.277||.293||.570|
|DET (3 yrs)||234||1029||800||95||209||22||8||4||111||23||30||35||.261||.297||.324||.621|
|BLA (1 yr)||3||12||11||0||1||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||.091||.167||.091||.258|
When Hideki Irabu was found dead in his California home in July 2011, he became the third ex-Yankee franchise player who’s death was ruled a suicide. The two other suicide victims were both born on July 15th.
Dan McGann was a very good switch-hitting big league first baseman who became best friends with the legendary John McGraw when the two were National League teammates and starting infielders on the 1898 Baltimore Orioles. A native of Shelbyville, Kentucky, McGann was considered one of the league’s better first basemen.
He and McGraw were split up in 1899 when McGraw was traded to St Louis and McGann went to Brooklyn. Two years later they were reunited in St Louis. Then in 1901, McGraw was wooed back to Baltimore to manage that city’s first American League franchise, also called the Orioles. One year later, Little Napoleon convinced McGann to join him there and become the team’s starting first baseman in 1902. He did well in that role, averaging .316 during the 68 games he played for the team that season. But when McGraw couldn’t get along with or trust AL President Ban Johnson, he decided to leave the O’s to accept the New York Giants’ field skipper’s position, McGann again packed his bags and accompanied his old friend. In New York, McGraw made McGann his starting first baseman in a move that just may have changed the course of Giants’ history. Before McGann arrived, Christy Matthewson had been playing first base for the team in between his starts on the mound. After McGann showed up, McGraw made the then 21-year-old Matthewson a full-time pitcher and he would go on to win 373 big league games.
Meanwhile, McGann’s bat, glove and speed on the base paths helped the Giants capture the 1904 and ’05 pennants and the first-ever World Series, with their victory over the A’s in ’05. But as McGann aged he lost a step and in the Dead Ball era, when a player’s speed was especially critical to his offensive value, his average plummeted by over 60 points in 1906, his last full season as a Giant starter. His failure to produce on the field also had a negative impact on his relationship with McGraw off of it. They went from best drinking buddies to barely speaking to each other and in 1908, McGraw traded McGann to the Braves.
Two years later, on December 10, 1910, McGann’s lifeless body was found in a Louisville hotel room, the victim of a gunshot to the chest. The death was ruled a suicide. Two of McGann’s sisters disputed that finding, citing a missing diamond ring as evidence their brother had been murdered during a robbery attempt. Others however pointed to the deterioration of his playing skills and tragic family history as reasons why they thought the coroner had ruled correctly. One of McGann’s brothers had killed himself the previous year, another brother had died from an accidental shooting and one of his sisters had also killed herself.
|NYG (6 yrs)||682||2835||2430||360||678||94||42||16||290||151||224||151||.279||.358||.372||.730|
|BSN (2 yrs)||178||740||646||77||169||14||12||4||85||11||50||40||.262||.338||.339||.677|
|STL (2 yrs)||224||976||867||152||247||25||18||10||114||43||48||72||.285||.356||.390||.745|
|WHS (1 yr)||77||321||284||65||96||9||8||5||58||11||14||12||.338||.405||.479||.884|
|BLN (1 yr)||145||635||535||99||161||18||8||5||106||33||53||30||.301||.404||.393||.796|
|BRO (1 yr)||63||259||214||49||52||11||4||2||32||16||21||16||.243||.362||.360||.722|
|BLA (1 yr)||68||285||250||40||79||10||8||0||42||17||19||13||.316||.378||.420||.798|
So much of the Yankees’ history is tied to the city of Baltimore. Not only was the franchise born in Maryland’s largest city, so was Babe Ruth, its biggest all-time star. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s legendary career sort of followed the same geographical route and like Ruth, McGraw’s childhood was not a happy one. His mom died when he was just 11-years old and his alcoholic father was ill-equipped to raise four children on his own. When McGraw was 12, his old man beat him so badly that the boy ran to an Inn, located across the street from his Truxton, NY home, for protection. Fortunately, he found it. The owner of the Inn ended up raising him as her own.
The young McGraw, again like Ruth, discovered an escape from his childhood miseries in baseball and became a very good player and pitcher for a local semi-pro ball club. He was good enough to earn roster spots with minor league teams, and in 1892, the 22-year-old McGraw, who was by then an infielder, made his debut with the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association, which was back then considered the major league of baseball. Over the next decade, he became a star for the Orioles, topping the .320 mark in batting average for nine straight seasons. Just five feet seven inches tall, he developed a playing style that was completely devoted to one primary goal, getting on base as often as humanly possible. He became so good at it that McGraw’s lifetime on base percentage of .466 places him third on the all-time list behind latter-day sluggers, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.
McGraw and his Oriole teammates became one of baseball’s first dynasties, when they won three-straight league pennants during the mid 1890’s. A celebrated sports hero, he had found a home in B-town, even marrying a local girl. But when the Orioles’ ticket sales took a dip in the late 1890’s, the team’s owner tried to transfer all of his star players to a new franchise he was starting in Brooklyn in 1899. McGraw refused to make the move and remained in Baltimore as the roster-raped club’s skipper. He impressed everyone by leading a team that had lost its entire starting lineup and its best pitchers to an 82-65 record. But during September of that ’99 season, McGraw’s wife died from a ruptured appendix. When the financially troubled Orioles collapsed the following year, McGraw’s reasons for wanting to stay in Baltimore were gone and he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Just one year later, the new American League was formed and McGraw accepted an offer to become the first manager and part owner of the AL’s Baltimore Orioles franchise. He then led the first team in Yankee franchise history to a 68-65 record during the 1901 season, but in the process constantly battled with Ban Johnson, who had founded and ran the new league. When McGraw was suspended by Johnson during the following season, the second-year skipper accepted a new position to manage the National League’s New York Giants team. That single move changed the course of history for two of baseball’s most fabled franchises.
This is the guy responsible for the brand new Yankee Stadium getting constructed. Why? Because without McGraw the original Yankee Stadium might never have been built in the first place. The Yankees moved into the Polo Grounds as a co-tenant with McGraw’s Giants in 1914. The Giants were the better team back then, consistently winning or challenging for the NL pennant. They also outdrew the Yankees in attendance every year. That all changed in 1920, however, when Babe Ruth put on the Pinstripes for the first time. Suddenly, a Yankee game became the hottest ticket in town and McGraw didn’t like the change. Little Napoleon evicted the Yankees and they moved across the East River to their new home, the original Yankee Stadium, in 1923.
McGraw was considered the best baseball mind of his generation. His teams won ten NL pennants and four World Series. He was an outstanding judge of talent and a fiery, no-nonsense leader. He still holds the record for most wins by a National League manager with 2,669. He died in 1934 at the age of 60.
McGraw’s stats as a player:
|BLN (9 yrs)||848||3929||3163||840||1063||94||55||10||392||369||642||123||.336||.461||.410||.871|
|NYG (5 yrs)||59||172||132||15||32||0||0||0||6||9||31||11||.242||.412||.242||.654|
|BLA (2 yrs)||93||392||295||85||99||17||11||1||31||29||78||12||.336||.496||.478||.974|
|STL (1 yr)||99||447||334||84||115||10||4||2||33||29||85||9||.344||.505||.416||.921|
McGraw’s stats as a manager:
|3||1902||29||Baltimore Orioles||AL||1st of 2||26||31||.456||58||8|
|Baltimore Orioles||1 year||86||62||.581||152||4.0|
|Baltimore Orioles||2 years||94||96||.495||193||6.5|
|New York Giants||31 years||2583||1790||.591||4424||2.5|