Milwaukeean George McBride
Immortalized in Bronze at the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame as one of two athletes in its second class of inductees in 1952, George McBride enjoyed a storied major league career as a shortstop and later as a manager in the golden age of baseball. The Bronze Plaque is on display at the 4th Street and Kilbourn Ave on the east wall of the US Cellular Arena.
I knew his son, who became a distinguished lawyer. He sat as a Commissioner of the United States District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin, before whom I appeared once as a young lawyer to oppose the granting of order for an OSHA inspection of a West Allis manufacturer that led me ultimately to the 7th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. I remember it well. I also have the pleasure of knowing his grandson, Milwaukee entrepreneur Mark McBride. Mark was once a shortstop for the UW – Madison Badger baseball squad, when the institution had it as part of their mission to field a team of the most common sport in the state, and its very first varsity sport. He is an outstanding athlete too. Mark once confided in me that he had in his possession is a signed Honus Wagner jersey passed down to him from his Grandfather. I recall telling him it was worthless. This is because it is the kind of memorabilia one just can’t ever sell. One can only pass it on in the family.
George “Pinch” McBride was born in 1880. His entry in The Ballplayers is sparce, but meaningful:
“McBride was the American League’s premier defensive shortstop of his day. With Washington, he led the league in fielding four straight years (1912 - 15), in double plays six times between 1908 and 1915, and in putouts three times.
Though he didn’t hit for a high average, he was known as “Pinch” for coming through in the clutch. While managing the Senators in 1921, he was hit in the face by a ball in batting practice, paralyzing one side of his face. He suffered a nervous breakdown and retired at the end of the season, but he later coached for Ty Cobb in Detroit.”
George Florian McBride was born in Milwaukee in 1880 of Irish immigrant parents. His father, Peter, served in various capacities in Milwaukee as a policeman, shoemaker, saloon keeper, and Milwaukee County Supervisor. Young George took a liking to baseball at an early age. At age 19 in 1901 he headed West to play third base for the Sioux Falls Canaries, an independent team. Upon completing the season there in early September, he returned to Milwaukee. The local entry in the fledgling American League owned and managed by Connie Mack, was mired in last place. McBride was asked to substitute for their shortstop, who sprained his ankle. According to McBride, he was alerted to the opportunity by local newspapermen. Accordingly, he just appeared at the Lloyd Street Grounds prior to the game on September 12. He was thereupon invited by the manager, the legendary Hugh Duffy, to suit up. He played three games brilliantly handling twelve chances in the field and getting two hits in twelve at-bats.
In August, 1904 the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased McBride for $1,000. In 1905 he subbed for regular Pirate Honus Wagner for 27 games until being traded to St. Louis where he started 80 games at shortstop in the remainder of the year, and another 90 the following year. Nonetheless, however good his play was defensively, his hitting was abysmal at only .169, low for even the “deadball era” in baseball. But by 1907 McBride had improved to .269, his final year with the club. In 1908 he became the starting shortstop for the Washington Senators. He never hit for high average, his best being in 1911 when he hit .235 with 11 doubles and three triples. However, he was very talented with the glove, leading American League shortstops in fielding four consecutive seasons from 1912 to 1916.
Owner Clark Griffith began to have him manage the team in his absence. Ultimately George McBride was named manager prior to the 1921 season. His appointment was popular all throughout baseball. However, 99 games into the season in an unfortunate accident in pregame warm-up training he was struck in the face by a thrown ball causing a facial paralysis. In December he resigned his post as manager because of it.
McBride stayed out of baseball until 1925 when he was invited by Ty Cobb to serve as a coach for the Tigers. He retired to Milwaukee for good following the 1929 season at age 48 to manage his investments.
Let us all hope Milwaukee Brewer Shortstop Jean “Sugar” Segura can lead all National League shortstops in fielding for the next four consecutive seasons! He just might! I am not concerned about Sugar’s hitting nor his defense. He is the best in our division, and as good as the best in baseball as a whole.
J. D. Thorne
Composed by J. D. Thorne exclusively for www.OnWisconsinSports.com
Author and Speaker, The 10 Commandments of Baseball
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