George McQuinn: A Forgotten Yankee
We thank Richard Chester, who wrote and sent in this post.
The Yankees have a long string of players who are well-known to the baseball world. There are the superstars such as Ruth, Gehrig, et al., and lots of lesser stars such as Rolfe, Selkirk, Bauer, McDougald et al. But there is a small group of players who have contributed significantly to the Yankees success, however brief, but are utterly forgotten.
One such player is George McQuinn who was the Yankees first-baseman during my first two years of following baseball, 1947 and 1948. He spent several years in the Yankees farm system in the 1930s. He consistently hit well but with Gehrig on first he did not have much upward mobility in the Yankee system. In 1935 he went to the Reds in an unknown transaction. After a poor season with the Reds he went back to the Yankees in another unknown transaction. He spent 1937 with the Yankees top farm team, the Newark Bears and batted .330. His teammates
on that team included Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller and Joe Gordon. The Bears that year have been considered by many as the greatest minor league team ever. Later on he was drafted by the Browns from the Yankees via the 1937 rule 5 draft. He was to be the Browns’ regular first-baseman from 1938 to 1945.
He got off to a good start with them batting .324 and .316 in 1938 and 1939. He achieved a degree of fame with his 34 consecutive game hitting streak in 1938. At the time only Ty Cobb and George Sisler had longer such streaks in the AL. In 1939 he led the Browns in almost every offensive stat (154 G, 195 H, 101 R, 94 RBI, 37 2B, 13 3B, 318
TB). His stats dropped off in ensuing years but he did give the Browns a dependable first-baseman. He was an excellent fielder, leading the league in fielding three times and in assists twice.
He was on the AL All-Star team four times, and was a starter in 1944. He was also selected for the All-Star roster in 1945 even though no game was played. In the first game of the 1944 WS he hit a game-winning two-run homer giving the Browns a 2-1 victory. It was their first and next-to-last WS victory. He is the only member of the
Browns to hit a WS home run.
After the 1945 season he was traded to the A’s. He had an awful year in 1946, batting only .225. They released him after the season ended.
Here he was 36 years old without a team after a poor season. Prospects for a continuation of his career looked bleak. Yankee first-baseman Nick Etten also had a poor year and they were looking to replace him. In January 1947 they gave a contract to McQuinn but I have not been able to determine what motivated them to replace one guy who had a bad season with another one. The Yankees must have liked what they saw in McQuinn in spring training because they gave Etten his release at the start of the season.
McQuinn was installed as the regular first-baseman. He got off to a terrific start which caught everyone by surprise. I can only imagine the looks of astonishment on the faces of Yankee brass when they saw that, as of May 27, he was leading the AL in batting with a .392 BA. Another All-Star selection ensued and he was the starter. He cooled off for the remainder of the season finishing with a .304 BA, 13 HR and 80 RBI, good enough for 14th place. His OPS+ of 132 was 4th in the majors among first-basemen, 1st in the AL. He was just 2 points below Musial and 1 ahead of Greenberg.
He was a major factor in the Yankees march to the pennant. He was not overlooked by the BBWAA for the MVP voting, finishing 6th with three first place votes. All told he received MVP votes in four seasons during his career.
In 1948 he got off to another great start with a .351 BA as of May 31 and got another selection as the starting first-baseman in the All-Star game. He set an All-Star game record with his 14 TC and 14 PO. He cooled off again but this time it was a pronounced slump lasting to the end of the season. He finished at .248 with 11 HR and just 41 RBIs. The Yankees released him after the season ended and this time there was no coming back for George.
George McQuinn trivia question (not difficult): What feat has he achieved that no other MLer has?
Aside: In the 1947 MVP voting A’s SS Eddie Joost had a .206 BA and an 87 OPS+ and finished 11th in the balloting with two first-place votes (probably from the Philadelphia writers).
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