June 4th, 2013

June 4 – Happy Birthday Lee Magee

MageeWhen Jake Ruppert and TL Huston purchased the Yankees in 1915, they agreed they were going to spend some of their personal fortunes to bring star players to New York. Wally Pipp and Home Run Baker were two of their more successful mutual investments and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was not.

Lee Magee had played his first big league game on July 4, 1911 with the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 22. The native of Cincinnati put together three solid seasons with the Cardinals and then jumped to the Federal League in 1915 to accept an offer to become the player-manager of the Brooklyn Tip-Tops. He did better as the team’s starting second baseman than as manager, averaging a robust .323 and stealing 32 bases for a Brooklyn ball club that finished the season in seventh place with a 70-82 record. Since the Tip-Tops played their home games just a couple of bridges away from where the Yankees played their’s, Rupert and Huston were well aware of Magee’s good numbers with Brooklyn and decided to go after him hard. They offered the Brooklyn owner $20,000 and he countered with $25K. They compromised at $22,500 and Magee became a Yankee.

The New York skipper during the 1916 season was Wild Bill Donovan and he initially penciled in Magee to be his starting second baseman. But when Opening Day came around, the infielder found himself in the Yankee outfield, where he remained during his entire one-and-a-half year tenure with the team. He hit .257 that first year with the Yankees, which was 11 points higher than the American League’s cumulative batting average that season and he was the Opening Day center-fielder for Donovan in 1917. But after 51 games that year his average was just .220 and he was traded to the St. Louis Browns for another former Federal League outfielder named Armando Marsans.

It was after leaving the Yankees that Magee’s name began getting tossed around in gambling allegations. After spending the second half of the 1917 season with St. Louis, he had been traded to Cincinnati, where he became a teammate and close acquaintance of former Yankee Hal Chase. Chase had been accused of throwing games during his days with New York more than once and had been traded away because of those accusations. In January of 1920, Magee, who was by then playing for Brooklyn, confessed to the National League President that he and Chase had each bet $500 on a 1918 Reds-Braves game with a Boston gambler. The Reds ended up winning the game in extra innings despite two critical errors by Magee. It certainly wasn’t a guilty conscience or noble act of redemption that prompted Magee’s confession. Though he insisted he had bet on his own team to win the game, he had stopped payment on the $500 check he had given to the Boston gambler, who was now suing Magee for non-payment of a debt with Magee’s signed check as evidence. If he in fact had bet on his own team to win, why would he have cancelled a check which represented his wager on his team winning the game? It made no sense and that’s exactly what league officials decided when he was banned from the league.

Magee shares his June 4th birthday with this Yankee coach and this former Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1916 NYY 131 581 510 57 131 18 4 3 45 29 50 31 .257 .324 .325 .650
1917 NYY 51 200 173 17 38 4 1 0 8 3 13 18 .220 .278 .254 .532
9 Yrs 1015 4211 3741 467 1031 133 54 12 277 186 265 208 .276 .325 .350 .675
STL (4 yrs) 433 1796 1587 182 443 50 20 4 119 79 123 91 .279 .333 .343 .676
NYY (2 yrs) 182 781 683 74 169 22 5 3 53 32 63 49 .247 .313 .307 .620
BTT (1 yr) 121 494 452 87 146 19 10 4 49 34 22 19 .323 .356 .436 .792
BRO (1 yr) 45 200 181 16 43 7 2 0 7 5 5 8 .238 .262 .298 .560
CHC (1 yr) 79 299 267 36 78 12 4 1 17 14 18 16 .292 .339 .378 .717
CIN (1 yr) 119 514 459 61 133 22 13 0 28 19 28 19 .290 .331 .394 .725
SLB (1 yr) 36 127 112 11 19 1 0 0 4 3 6 6 .170 .212 .179 .390
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/3/2013.