May 29 – Happy Birthday George McQuinn

Many Yankee historians will agree that today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had one of the worst cases of timing of any player in franchise history. Why?

McQuinn was signed by the Yankees in 1930, as a slick-fielding, solid-hitting first baseman. In 1930, Lou Gehrig averaged .379, hit 41 home runs and drove in 174 runs as the Yankees starting first baseman. Gehrig was also approaching the 1,000 consecutive game mark in what would become his trademark streak. The only person who could have possibly replaced the Iron Horse as the Yankees’ starting first baseman back then walked on water and raised the dead.

That’s why, after five seasons of solid play in the minors, New York traded McQuinn to the Reds. But the 26 year-old native of Arlington, VA couldn’t answer the bell in Cincinnati, averaging just .206 in his first 36-game big league trial. The Reds then sold him back to the Yankees and McQuinn would put together a monster 1937 season for New York’s top farm team in Newark. By then, however, he was 27-years-old. Gehrig was still going strong in the Bronx so the Yankees left McQuinn exposed in the Rule 5 draft and he was selected by the St. Louis Browns. One year later, Gehrig got the tragic news he was dying.

Over the next eight seasons McQuinn became one of the best defensive first basemen in the big leagues. I’m talking Teixeira-level defensive skills without the modern day glove or immaculately groomed infields the Yankee’s current first-baseman enjoys. Since he was 28-years-old during his real rookie season in 1938, McQuinn’s age at the time WWII began made him less desirable for military duty so he was able to continue playing for the Browns through the war years.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had not been successful finding a long-term replacement for Gehrig at first base and that search was still going on eight years later when new Yankee part-owner Larry MacPhail and his manager, Bucky Harris targeted the then 37-year-old McQuinn to play first for New York during the 1947 season. The Browns had traded him to the A’s in 1946 and Philadelphia had released him after just one season.

Finally getting the opportunity to play the position for which he was always destined, McQuinn did not disappoint. He of course fielded it brilliantly but also contributed a .304 batting average, thirteen home runs and 80 RBIs to a Yankee offense that won the AL Pennant. That October, New York beat Brooklyn in a seven-game World Series and McQuinn had his first and only ring. But once again, McQuinn’s timing was bad. He would turn 38-years-old during the 1948 season and the Yankees cupboard of up-and-coming first baseman was getting fully stocked. He was released by New York that October. He completed his twelve-year big league career with 1,588 hits, 135 home runs and a .276 batting average. He passed away on Christmas Eve, 1978 at the age of 68.

McQuinn shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielderthis former Yankee utility player and this one-time Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1947 NYY 144 609 517 84 157 24 3 13 80 0 78 66 .304 .395 .437 .832
1948 NYY 94 346 302 33 75 11 4 11 41 0 40 38 .248 .336 .421 .757
12 Yrs 1550 6596 5747 832 1588 315 64 135 794 32 712 634 .276 .357 .424 .781
SLB (8 yrs) 1138 4939 4310 663 1220 254 47 108 625 28 520 446 .283 .361 .439 .800
NYY (2 yrs) 238 955 819 117 232 35 7 24 121 0 118 104 .283 .374 .431 .805
PHA (1 yr) 136 556 484 47 109 23 6 3 35 4 64 62 .225 .317 .316 .633
CIN (1 yr) 38 146 134 5 27 3 4 0 13 0 10 22 .201 .262 .284 .546
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2013.

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