James Robert McAleer
Born: 7/10/1864-Youngstown, Ohio
Died: 4/29/1931-Youngstown, Ohio
Jimmy McAleer was a fast, graceful centerfielder during the 1890s. Bill James considers him the best outfielder of that period. Offensively he hit just .253 over 10 full seasons, a very low average for the high octane 90s. His .289 average in 1894 was his career high. As you can see from the above photograph, even when the ball is just hanging from a string, it looks like McAleer is getting ready to hit a groundball. He is credited with being the 1st outfielder to take his eye off the ball, run to the point where the ball was coming down and making the catch. Playing for Patsy Tebeau’s Cleveland Spiders, McAleer was a major contributor to the well earned reputation of rowdy behavior by the Spiders. His nickname was Loafer, which for some reason, amuses me greatly.
McAleer played primarily in Cleveland his whole career. Joining the Spiders in 1889, moving to the Cleveland Infants of the Players League in 1890, and rejoining the Spiders a year later after the Players League folded. It was reported that during a game against the Beaneaters, McAleer drove a ball into centerfield, that got lodged inside an empty tomato can. Hugh Duffy was unable to dislodge the ball so he threw the can and all to home. The can beat McAleer to the plate but the umpire ruled him safe, giving him an unusual inside the park home run.
McAleer retired after the 1898 season, taking a year off before taking over as the manager of the American League Cleveland Lake Shores at the urging of his friend Ban Johnson. The American League was considered a minor league that season, but would achieve Major League status in 1901 where McAleer would become the manager of the Cleveland Blues. He would be instrumental in recruiting a lot of key players for the inaugural American League season. The Blues played the White Sox on 4/24/1901, and due to a couple of rain outs it would end up being the 1st ever American League game played. The Blues would lose 8-2.
At the urging of Ban Johnson, McAleer would assume managing duties of the fledgling St. Louis Browns in 1902 directing them to a surprising 2nd place finish. He would manage St. Louis for another 7 seasons, never finishing better than 4th.
He managed the Washington Senators in 1910 and 1911. While in Washington he asked then President William Howard Taft to throw out the 1st pitch in the Senators season opener. A tradition that has survived to the present day.
In 1912 he became part owner and President of the Boston Red Sox. They would go on to win the World Series against the NY Giants. Constant bickering with manager Jake Stahl led to some animosity with long time friend Ban Johnson. After firing Stahl the rift with Johnson would widen. McAleer sold his interest in the Red Sox after the 1913 season.
In April of 1931 McAleer was listening to a baseball game on the radio with a couple of friends. Suffering from cancer and the ravages that it can bring, McAleer excused himself and went into the bathroom, where he shot himself in the face. He died 10 hours later, another in a long line of 19th century ballplayers that took their own lives.