Mike Donlin

From BR Bullpen


Michael Joseph Donlin
(Turkey Mike)

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 170 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Turkey Mike Donlin was an excellent player, with a major league OPS+ of 144. He later became an actor.

Baseball career[edit]

Donlin played professional baseball in Santa Cruz, CA and San Jose, CA, before coming to the St. Louis Perfectos in 1899, where he had excellent batting and slugging averages. The following year with the Cardinals, he appeared in 78 games and hit 10 home runs, good for third in the National League.

He moved over to the American League in 1901, in its first year as a major league, and finished second in the batting championship. He was managed by John McGraw, who was to be his manager later in his career also.

He moved to the Cincinnati Reds for the next 2 1/2 years, posting top batting averages in 1903 and 1904 (he was third in the league in 1903 and second in 1904). He then moved to the New York Giants, managed by McGraw, and had perhaps his best year in 1905, when he hit .356 and had an Adjusted OPS+ of 167. He had a broken leg in 1906.

In January of 1907, Nixey Callahan signed Donlin and he spent the season with the semipro Logan Squares, an outlaw team according to Organized Baseball. Any member of the outlaw team wanting to continue playing professionally had to pay a fine; Donlin paid about $200 to return to the Giants in February of 1908.

After another great season in 1908, (he hit .334 and drove in 106 runs), he left baseball for a couple of years while he tried acting. He came back in 1911 and 1912, still an above-average hitter, and then retired in 1913 rather than play for the Philadelphia Phillies. He came back one more time in 1914 to play for his old manager John McGraw, but at age 36 he hit under .200.

He later scouted for the Boston Braves and the New York Giants. He also played some semi-pro ball and managed Memphis in 1917. He had umpired one National League game in 1900 when he was an active player, then in 1918 he came out of retirement to work one American League game.

Acting career and later life[edit]

In Hollywood, he became an actor while still a ballplayer. He appeared on stage, and then was in numerous movies. The Internet Movie Database lists over 60 credits for him from 1915 to 1935.

One of his two wives was a vaudeville star.

When he had heart troubles in 1927, his acting friends raised money to send him to the Mayo Clinic for an operation.

Career analysis[edit]

Donlin had an OPS+ of the sort that often gets a player into the Hall of Fame. He ranks # 52 on the all-time list, tied with Sam Crawford and Hack Wilson. However, his career lasted only 12 years, and he had less than 4,000 at-bats. He was frequently in the top five in batting categories, but was almost never the leader.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL Runs Scored Leader (1905)
  • 2-time NL Singles Leader (1905 & 1908)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1908)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons; 3 (1901, 1903 & 1905)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1905)
  • Won a World Series with the New York Giants in 1905


Sources include:

  • New York Times obituary at deadballera.com
  • baseballlibrary.com
  • SABR Baseball Biography Project

Further Reading[edit]

  • Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz: Mike Donlin: A Rough and Rowdy Life from New York Baseball Idol to Stage and Screen, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2024. ISBN 978-1-4962-3896-2

Related Sites[edit]

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