July 23rd, 2013

July 23 – Happy Birthday Sport McAllister

McAllisterSportThe Yankee (more accurately the pre 1903 Baltimore Oriole) career of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was very brief and very insignificant but the story of how Sport McAllister’s name got on the all-time Yankee franchise roster in the first place is pretty interesting. He was born Lewis McAllister in Austin, Mississippi in 1874. He made his big league debut with the old Cleveland Spiders franchise in 1896. He therefore had the misfortune of being a starting outfielder on the 1899 Spiders’ team that is pretty universally considered to be the worst big league team in the history of the game. That season, the Spiders finished with a 20 – 134 record that left them 84 games behind first place Brooklyn. They drew fewer than 7,000 fans to their home games that year and literally played their way out of existence. When the NL decided to contract from 12 teams to 10 the following season, the Spiders were everyone’s first choice to get the heave ho.

As for McAllister, he did not distinguish himself at the plate during his four years with Cleveland, averaging only .232. He did, however, build a reputation for being able to adequately play just about any position on the field, except pitcher. It was most likely that flexibility that got him a tryout and a contract with the Detroit Tiger team in the brand new American League in 1901 and old Sport had the season of his life. Not only did he play five different positions for his new team that year, he also averaged .301 in ninety games of action and it looked like the then 26-year-old switch-hitter was on his way to stardom. That never happened.

When the 1902 season began, there was trouble brewing in Baltimore. John McGraw had been enticed back to that city to manage its AL franchise by offering him ownership stock in the ball club. The problem was that Ban Johnson, the guy who put the American League together in the first place, owned a controlling share of stock in the team and McGraw absolutely despised Johnson. So McGraw decided to jump to the NL’s New York Giants in June of the 1902 season, but not before he put the screws to Johnson. Lil Napoleon owned a saloon in Baltimore with Wilbert Robinson, one of his Oriole players and also an Orioles’ stockholder. McGraw sold his half of the saloon to Robinson in return for his stock in the ball club. He then sold all his shares to his buddy, the Orioles’ club president who then became a majority stock holder in the club, effectively eliminating Johnson from having any say in the franchise’s operations. The Baltimore team president then turned around and sold his controlling interest in the Orioles to two men. One was Andrew Freeman, who was McGraw’s new boss as the owner of the Giants and John Brush, who was the owner of the NL’s Cincinnati Reds. The two men then proceeded to rape the Orioles roster by reassigning most of the Baltimore players to their respective NL clubs, leaving the team with just seven guys. In an effort to salvage the season and the new league, Johnson convinced all the other AL owners to provide the Orioles with replacement players from their own rosters.

Sport McAllister had started the 1903 season terribly. He got into a collision with a teammate and hurt his knee and the nagging injury had had an impact on his entire game. He was averaging just .209 when Johnson’s request for replacement players reached the Tiger front office. Somebody in that office decided to give the Orioles McAllister. So that’s how and why Sport McAllister became a member of the Yankee franchise’s all-time roster for just three games during the 1902 season. His time with the team only lasted that long because somebody else in the Detroit front office evidently realized that it was a mistake to give up one of the team’s better players, injured or not and had demanded the Orioles return him, which they did. McAllister played just one more season for Detroit before accepting head coach’s position with the University of Michigan’s baseball team. He lived until 1962. I found most of the information for this post in this article about McAllister, published by the Society for American Baseball Research.

Sport shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1902 BLA 3 12 11 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 .091 .167 .091 .258
7 Yrs 418 1738 1450 157 358 38 18 5 164 32 67 76 .247 .287 .308 .595
CLV (4 yrs) 181 697 639 62 148 16 10 1 52 9 36 41 .232 .277 .293 .570
DET (3 yrs) 234 1029 800 95 209 22 8 4 111 23 30 35 .261 .297 .324 .621
BLA (1 yr) 3 12 11 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 .091 .167 .091 .258
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/23/2013.