George Florian “Pinch” McBride
November 20, 1880-July 3, 1973
Bats R, Throws R
5’11” 170 lbs
Playing Years: 1901-1920
.218/.281/.264 7 HR 1.5 BFW 127 WS 484 FRAR 45.9 WARP3
With Washington: 1908-1920
.221/.286/.268 5 HR 6.2 BFW 120 WS 449 FRAR 45.6 WARP3
Washington Nationals 80-73
George McBride was born in Milwaukee, WI on November 20, 1880. The son of Irish immigrants, McBride headed west to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to begin his baseball career in 1901. After a short season with the Sioux Falls Canaries, McBride made his way back to his native Milwaukee, where he heard that the fledgling American League Brewers were missing a shortstop due to an injury.
As the story goes, McBride showed up to the ballpark on September 12 and was invited by manager Hugh Duffy to suit up for the afternoon game. McBride ended up playing three games in Milwaukee before the end of the season.
In 1902, the Milwaukee Brewers moved to St. Louis and became the Browns. McBride decided to stay in Milwaukee, and became one of the few players to jump a major league contract for a minor league deal, spending that year in between Milwaukee and Kansas City, two members of the American Association.
McBride jumped around the minors for a few more years, and started to develop the defensive reputation that he would carry throughout his major league career.
McBride was signed by Pittsburgh in 1904, and reported for the 1905 season where he was used as a utility player and a backup for Honus Wagner. McBride was traded mid-season to the St. Louis Cardinals where he finally settled in to the every day short stop position.
McBride was already showing some promise in the field in St. Louis, compiling 17 FRAR in each of his two major league seasons, a span of 198 games. It wasn’t enough, however, to make up for his awful hitting. After putting up a .169/.215/.208 line by July of 1906, he was sold back to Kansas City (AA), where he spent the rest of 1906 and all of 1907.
McBride’s break came after working on his hitting in Kansas City. The Washington Nationals purchased him in 1908, and he would spend the rest of his career in the nation’s capital.
McBride was generally known as one of the best, if not the best, fielding shortstops of his era. Today’s sabermetrics seem to confirm that, racking up at least 40 FRAR every season he was a regular in Washington (1908-1916), the peak of which was in 1914 (55 FRAR).
While his defense made him famous, McBride’s performance at the plate was just barely enough to tread water. His best offensive season came in 1910, where he compiled 95 OPS+. In a time where batting average meant everything for a hitter, McBride struggled, hitting only .218 in his career (a slightly better .221 with Washington).
Somehow, McBride earned the reputation of a clutch hitter, and earned the nickname “Pinch” for his percieved ability to come through at the plate in big situations. It is likely that this perception, whether true or not, was a major factor in McBride’s ability to stay in the lineup despite his poor hitting record. In fact, McBride was an “iron man” of his era, playing in at least 150 games for seven straight seasons. In 1908, 1909, and 1911, he was the only man to take the field at shortstop for the Nationals.
McBride’s playing time took a nose dive in 1917, when, at the age of 36, he lost the regular shortstop job in favor of Howard Shanks. He played 50 games that year, followed by three more seasons with 18 or fewer games. Clark Griffith kept him around, however, grooming his eventual successor as manager. Griffith turned the managing reigns over the McBride for the 1921 season.
McBride’s managing career was cut short due to an unfortunate accident. In late July of 1921, he was struck in the temple by a thrown ball during a practice. He was out for a week, but the dizziness and fainting lasted through the rest of the season and the offseason, forcing McBride to resign as manager and retire from baseball.
McBride did manage to do some coaching a few years later, most notably as Ty Cobb’s right hand man with the Tigers in 1925 and 1926. He retired from baseball again, this time for good, at the age of 48. McBride returned to his hometown of Milwaukee where he lived on investments he made during his playing days until the age of 92.
Deadball Stars of the American League. David Jones, editor.
George McBride’s baseball prospectus card