Tommy McCarthy

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Tommy McCarthy.jpg

Thomas Francis Michael McCarthy

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 7", Weight 170 lb.

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1946

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Biographical Information[edit]

1887 Old Judge baseball card for Thomas 'Tommy' McCarthy of the Philadelphia Quakers

"He is a splendid outfielder, good general player, and hard hitting batsman. As a run-getter he ranks as one of the best in the profession . . ." - Sporting Life, October 3, 1893

"The best man in the business at the trapped-ball trick was Tommy McCarthy. He had the play down pat, and on more than one occasion saved his team by resorting to it." - John McGraw.

Tommy McCarthy played thirteen seasons in the major leagues and was player-manager for part of one season, but is in the Hall of Fame more for his innovations as a baseball pioneer than for his exploits as a player. He not only did the trapped-ball trick, but also was one of the pioneers of the hit and run and other concepts.

The Hall of Fame notes that he was one of the "Heavenly Twins", along with Hugh Duffy, who called McCarthy the best outfielder he ever saw. Both of them stood 5' 7", were very fast outfielders, and the key leaders on a number of Boston Beaneaters teams that were the class of the National League in the early 1890s. McCarthy set a record with 53 outfield assists in 1893. The Hall also states that McCarthy is the only Hall of Famer who spent time in the Union Association, where he started his major league career, albeit without much success.

He was a player on the high-profile St. Louis Browns in addition to the Beaneaters teams. He never led his league in major offensive categories, apart from leading the American Association in stolen bases in 1890. He also had 93 steals in 1888. 1890, the year of three leagues, was by far his best year, as he played for the Browns in a league depleted of much of its talent. Many players had left the Browns too, including player/manager Charlie Comiskey, which forced Tommy to take over his duties. Impatient owner Chris Von der Ahe was unimpressed when the group of players scrambled together to replace the defectors proved not to be up to the task, and he was replaced as manager on May 19th. But the problem was not with the manger but with the team itself, and after Von der Ahe cycled through three more managers, he asked McCarthy to take the job once again in late August, only to change his mind a week later. The Browns were admitted to the National League when the two remaining major leagues merged in 1891, but he took the opportunity to bolt from Von der Ahe and joined his hometown Boston team instead, which proved to be an excellent career move.

As a pitcher, he had a career major league record of 0-8, seven of the losses coming in his rookie season with the Boston Reds of the Union Association in 1884. He did make a number of appearances on the mound after that season, but almost always in mop-up duty. In a short career (by Hall of Fame standards) of just 13 seasons, his first four were pretty bad, as his highest average in that time span was .215 as a rookie in the sub-par UA in 1884. He failed to break the .200 mark in any of his next three seasons and did not earn a starting job until joining the Browns in 1888. Once established, he was known as an innovator, forcing the National league to devise the infield fly rule to put an end to his trapping balls in shallow right field with runners on base in order to get cheap double plays (and a few triple plays as well). He also helped perfect the hit-and-run in tandem with Duffy in Boston, as well as the delayed steal.

He managed the Newark Bears in 1918 (64-63 - 4th place). He coached College of the Holy Cross in 1899-1900, 1904-1905 and 1916, Dartmouth College in 1906-1907 and Boston College in 1920-1921. He also scouted for the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves. He was also an umpire for two games, one in the American Association in 1889 and the other in the National League in 1896.

In 1907, he was mentioned in a newspaper article as the proprietor of a bar and a bowling alley in Boston. See here for details. He had started the business with teammate and close friend Duffy a few years earlier, then bought him out in 1895.

There is only one Hall of Famer on the list of the ten most similar players to McCarthy. One recent player on the list, Lance Johnson, is an interesting comparison. His election to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1946 has been widely criticized in retrospect, and his name often turns up on lists of least-qualified Hall of Famers. He largely owes his election to the fact he was probably the most famous player of the 1890s, even if he was far from the best. Reliable statistics for the 19th Century were not available when the Hall of Fame began, and as a result those who selected the first inductees based themselves more on reputation than true accomplishments, which played in his favor.

McCarthy and Barry Bonds were both born on July 24th; McCarthy was born in 1863 while Bonds was born 101 years later in 1964.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AA At Bats Leader (1889)
  • AA Stolen Bases Leader (1890)
  • AA Singles Leader (1891)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1893 & 1894)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 7 (1888-1894)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 4 (1888-1890 & 1892)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1946

Preceded by
Charlie Comiskey
St. Louis Browns Manager
Succeeded by
John Kerins
Preceded by
Count Campau
St. Louis Browns Manager
Succeeded by
Joe Gerhardt

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Playoffs Notes
1890 St. Louis Browns American Association 15-12 -- replaced by John Kerins on May 19 /
replaced John Kerins (9-8), James Roseman (7-8)
and Count Campau (27-14) on August 24 /
replaced by Joe Gerhardt on August 30
1918 Newark Bears International League 64-63 4th

Further Reading[edit]

  • David L. Fleitz: "Tommy McCarthy", in More Ghosts in the Gallery: Another Sixteen Little-Known Greats at Cooperstown, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2007, pp. 48-63. ISBN 978-0-7864-3133-5
  • Donald Hubbard: The Heavenly Twins of Boston Baseball: A Dual Biography of Hugh Duffy and Tommy McCarthy, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2008.

Related Sites[edit]