George Robert "Birdie" Tebbetts (November 10, 1912 – March 24, 1999) was an American professional baseball player, manager, scout and front office executive. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a catcher for the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians from 1936 to 1952. Tebbets was regarded as the best catcher in the American League in the late 1940s.
Although he lacked speed and didn't hit for power, Tebbetts was an exceptional defensive catcher and intelligent player who capably directed his pitchers. These traits served him well later in his career, as he became the manager for the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Braves and the Cleveland Indians. His major league career encompassed 14 years as a catcher, 11 as a manager and 28 as a scout.
Tebbetts in 1947
|Catcher / Manager|
|Born: November 10, 1912|
|Died: March 24, 1999 (aged 86)|
Bradenton Beach, Florida
|September 16, 1936, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 14, 1952, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Runs batted in||469|
|Career highlights and awards|
Tebbetts was born in Burlington, Vermont, but his family moved to Nashua, New Hampshire a few months after he was born. Shortly thereafter, his father died, leaving his mother to raise the family. Some reports state that Tebbetts acquired his nickname as a boy after an aunt observed that his voice sounded like a bird chirping, while other reports state the nickname was acquired while attending Providence College.
Tebbetts was a star athlete at Nashua High School where he attained All-State status as a football quarterback and as a baseball catcher. He signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers after they agreed to pay his college tuition. He attended Providence College where he became an All-American in baseball before graduating with a degree in philosophy in 1934.
The Tigers purchased future Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane from the Philadelphia Athletics in December 1933, leaving no place for Tebbetts on the team. He spent the next three seasons playing in the minor leagues before making his MLB debut with the Tigers on September 16, 1936 at the age of 23. In the 1937 season, Cochrane's playing career came to an end when he was hit by a pitch and suffered a fractured skull. Rudy York replaced Cochrane as the Tigers' catcher, but his defensive skills were so poor that by the 1939 season, new Tigers manager Del Baker gave Tebbetts a chance to play. He ended the season with a .261 batting average and led American League (AL) catchers in assists and in baserunners caught stealing.
In 1940, York was converted into a first baseman, leaving Tebbetts in sole possession of the catcher's position. He responded by posting a .296 batting average, as the Tigers defeated the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees in a tight pennant race to clinch the American League title. Tebbetts was held hitless in the 1940 World Series as the Tigers lost to the Cincinnati Reds in a seven-game series. He once again led AL catchers in assists and in baserunners caught stealing. In September, Tebbetts had been charged with assault and battery during a game in Cleveland when a basket of tomatoes was dropped on him by a Cleveland fan. As police held the fan, Tebbetts rushed up and struck him. The charges were later dismissed. He developed a reputation for antagonizing opposing players, constantly hectoring them in an effort to have them make mistakes and give his team an advantage.
In 1941, Tebbetts was hitting for a .296 average by mid-season and earned a place as a reserve player for the American League in the 1941 All-Star Game. He led American League catchers in assists for a third consecutive year. Tebbetts was named the starting catcher for the American League in the 1942 All-Star Game.
Despite holding a 3-A draft classification because his mother's dependency, Tebbetts applied for an Army Air Corps commission. He joined the military services in August 1942 and was assigned to recruiting duties in Waco, Texas during the Second World War. Tebbetts honed his managerial skills as a player-manager for the Waco Army Flying School's baseball team. He lost three years of his baseball career to his military service.
After his discharge from the military, Tebbetts returned to play for the Tigers in 1946, posting a .243 batting average in 86 games. He was hitting for only a .094 average in May 1947 when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for catcher Hal Wagner. After the trade, Tebbetts hit for a .299 average for the remainder of the season. There were reports in July 1947 that the Red Sox were considering Tebbetts as a successor to their manager, Joe Cronin. He was hitting for a .286 average at mid-season in 1948 and was named as a reserve catcher for the American League in the 1948 All-Star Game. The Red Sox finished the season in a first place tie with the Cleveland Indians before losing the pennant in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park.
Tebbetts was elected to be the starting catcher for the American League in the 1949 All-Star Game. He hit for a .270 average in 1949 as the Red Sox engaged the New York Yankees in a tight battle for the pennant that wasn't decided until the final game of the season. The Red Sox had a one-game lead with two games left to play in the season but, lost the final two games of the season against their New York rivals to once again finished in second place.
In 1950, the thirty-seven-year-old Tebbetts shared catching duties with Matt Batts as he posted a career-high .310 batting average in 84 games. The Red Sox were once again involved in a tight pennant race before faltering to finish in third place in the standings. At a public speaking engagement in October, Tebbetts defended Red Sox manager Steve O'Neill from criticism he received from some of the Red Sox players. In his speech, Tebbetts called the critics,"a couple of juvenile delinquents and moronic malcontents." His comments created friction within the team and two months later, his contract was sold to the Cleveland Indians. He spent the final two seasons of his career as a back up catcher for perennial All-Star, Jim Hegan. Tebbetts played his final major league game on September 14, 1952 at the age of 38 although in a news report in December 1952, Tebbetts admitted that his actual age was 43, saying that he subtracted five years off his age after he left college.
In an fourteen-year major league career, Tebbetts played in 1,162 games, accumulating 1,000 hits in 3,704 at bats for a .270 career batting average along with 38 home runs, 469 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .341. He ended his career with a .978 fielding percentage. A four-time All-Star, Tebbetts led American League catchers four times in range factor, three times in assists, twice in baserunners caught stealing, and once in putouts. Before the arrival of Hall of Fame catcher, Carlton Fisk, Tebbetts was voted the Red Sox' all-time best catcher in a 1969 fan poll — a remarkable feat, considering that he only spent four years with the Red Sox.
In December 1952, the Indians General Manager, Hank Greenberg, named Tebbetts as the manager of the Indianapolis Indians. After guiding Indianapolis to a fourth-place finish in 1953, Gabe Paul hired Tebbetts to replace Rogers Hornsby as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. After leading the Reds to fifth-place finishes in 1954 and 1955, Tebbetts led the team to a surprising third-place finish in 1956. The Reds were in first place at mid-season and stayed in the pennant race until the last day of the season, ending up with a 91–63 record, two games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers. For his efforts, the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted Tebbetts as the 1956 Manager of the Year. The Reds rewarded him with a three-year contract in December.
In 1957, Tebbetts had the Reds in first place at mid-season, earning him a place on the cover of Time magazine in July of that year. The Reds faltered during the second half of the season and faded to finish in fourth place. Frank Robinson gave Tebbetts credit for his performance during the 1957 season saying,"He kept after me all year and that's what a young ball player needs." In 1958, the Reds fell into last place and Tebbetts announced his resignation on August 14.
In October 1958, Tebbetts was hired as an executive vice president for the Milwaukee Braves. He served in the Braves front office from 1959 through September 1961, but found that he missed the excitement of being on the playing field. When the team fired Chuck Dressen in September 1961, Tebbetts returned to managing for the last month of the season. Ironically, his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, would win the National League pennant that year. Despite having talented players like Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, Warren Spahn, and Lew Burdette, Tebbetts could only manage a fifth-place finish in 1962.
In October 1962, Tebbetts signed a three-year contract to manage the Cleveland Indians, saying that he felt he owed a long-standing debt to new Indians General Manager, Gabe Paul. After managing the Indians to a fifth-place finish in 1963, he suffered a heart attack during spring training in Tucson, Arizona on April 1, 1964. Just three months later, he returned to manage the team. After a fifth-place finish in 1965, Tebbetts led the Indians to fourteen victories in their first fifteen games of the 1966 season, but the team faltered and fell fifteen games out of first place before he resigned as manager in August.
In eleven seasons as a major league manager, Tebbetts compiled a 748–705 won-loss record. He returned to the minor leagues as a manager in 1967, managing the Marion Mets in the Appalachian League. From 1968 to 1997, Tebbetts scouted for the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and the Florida Marlins. His baseball acuity earned him a reputation as one of the most respected scouts in professional baseball. Reggie Jackson credited Tebbetts' scouting reports for helping him hit three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. He retired in 1997, having spent 60 years in baseball, including 53 years in the majors.
Tebbetts moved to Anna Maria, Florida in the early 1960s. He was appointed to the Veterans Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame in February 1979. He received the Judge Emil Fuchs Award in 1986 for his long and meritorious service in baseball.
Perhaps most revealing of Tebbetts's character is his recollection of an umpire who suffered dizzy spells following his return from the war. Afraid of losing his job, the umpire asked Tebbetts, then the Tigers catcher, to help calling balls and strikes, and Tebbetts tipped him off with hand signals following each pitch.
Birdie Tebbetts died on March 24, 1999 in Bradenton, Florida, at age of 86. On May 28, 2009, Birdie was announced as a Local Legend of Nashua, New Hampshire, and commemorated with a plaque to be placed in Holman Stadium.
The 1940 Detroit Tigers season was their 40th since they entered the American League in 1901. The team won the American League pennant with a record of 90–64, finishing just one game ahead of the Cleveland Indians and just two games ahead of the New York Yankees. It was the sixth American League pennant for the Tigers. The team went on to lose the 1940 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds 4 games to 3.1946 Detroit Tigers season
The 1946 Detroit Tigers finished the season with a record of 92–62, twelve games behind the Boston Red Sox. The season was their 46th since they entered the American League in 1901.1947 Boston Red Sox season
The 1947 Boston Red Sox season was the 47th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished third in the American League (AL) with a record of 83 wins and 71 losses.1948 Boston Red Sox season
The 1948 Boston Red Sox season was the 48th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished second in the American League (AL) with a record of 96 wins and 59 losses, including the loss of a one-game playoff to the Cleveland Indians after both teams had finished the regular schedule with identical 96–58 records. The first Red Sox season to be broadcast on television, broadcasts were then alternated between WBZ-TV and WNAC-TV but with the same broadcast team regardless of broadcasting station.1949 Boston Red Sox season
The 1949 Boston Red Sox season was the 49th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished second in the American League (AL) with a record of 96 wins and 58 losses. The Red Sox set a major league record which still stands for the most base on balls by a team in a season, with 835.1954 Cincinnati Redlegs season
The 1954 Cincinnati Redlegs season was a season in American baseball. The team finished fifth in the National League with a record of 74–80, 23 games behind the New York Giants.1955 Cincinnati Redlegs season
The 1955 Cincinnati Redlegs season was a season in American baseball. It consisted of the Redlegs finishing in fifth place in the National League, with a record of 75–79, 23½ games behind the NL and World Series Champion Brooklyn Dodgers. The Redlegs were managed by Birdie Tebbetts and played their home games at Crosley Field.1956 Cincinnati Redlegs season
The 1956 Cincinnati Redlegs season consisted of the Redlegs finishing in third place in the National League with a record of 91–63, two games behind the NL Champion Brooklyn Dodgers. The Redlegs were managed by Birdie Tebbetts and played their home games at Crosley Field, where they drew 1,125,928 fans, third-most in their league.1957 Cincinnati Redlegs season
The 1957 Cincinnati Redlegs season consisted of the Redlegs finishing in fourth place in the National League, with a record of 80–74, 15 games behind the NL and World Series Champion Milwaukee Braves. The Redlegs were managed by Birdie Tebbetts and played their home games at Crosley Field.1958 Cincinnati Redlegs season
The 1958 Cincinnati Redlegs season consisted of the Redlegs finishing in fourth place in the National League standings with a record of 76–78, 16 games behind the Milwaukee Braves. The Redlegs played their home games at Crosley Field. The season started with Birdie Tebbetts managing the club, but after the Redlegs went 52–61, Tebbetts was replaced in August by Jimmy Dykes, who went 24–17 the rest of the way.1961 Milwaukee Braves season
The 1961 Milwaukee Braves season was the ninth in Milwaukee and the 91st overall season of the franchise.
The fourth-place Braves finished the season with a 83–71 (.539) record, ten games behind the National League champion Cincinnati Reds. The home attendance at County Stadium was 1,101,411, fifth in the eight-team National League. It was the Braves' lowest attendance to date in Milwaukee, and was the last season over one million.1963 Cleveland Indians season
The 1963 Cleveland Indians season was a season in American baseball. The team finished tied for fifth in the American League with a record of 79–83, 25½ games behind the New York Yankees.1964 Cleveland Indians season
The 1964 Cleveland Indians season was a season in American baseball. The team finished in a tie for sixth place in the American League with the Minnesota Twins, while winning 79 and losing 83, 20 games behind the AL champion New York Yankees.Bob Scherbarth
Robert Elmer Scherbarth (January 18, 1926 – January 1, 2009) was a catcher in Major League Baseball who played briefly for the Boston Red Sox during the 1950 season. Listed at 6' 0", 180 lb., Scherbarth batted and threw right-handed. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Like Moonlight Graham from Field of Dreams fame, Scherbarth was one of many players since 1900 who appeared in a game but never had a plate appearance. He made his debut on April 23, 1950 as a defensive replacement in the 8th inning for Birdie Tebbetts. Scherbarth neither batted nor had a fielding chance during his debut and never appeared in another Major League game.
Scherbarth's minor league baseball career spanned seven seasons, from 1946 to 1952. He spent his entire career in the Red Sox organization, including three seasons for their top farm team, the Louisville Colonels. After his baseball career, Scherbarth went into the printing business.
Scherbarth died in Presque Isle, Wisconsin, at the age of 83.Doug Hansen
Douglas William Hansen (December 16, 1928 – September 16, 1999) was an American professional baseball player whose career extended from 1947–1951, 1953–1954 and 1956. All but three games of his 728-game professional career were in minor league baseball. He appeared in three Major League contests as a pinch runner for the 1951 Cleveland Indians and scored two runs.
Hansen was an infielder by trade. Born in Los Angeles, California, he stood 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, weighed 180 pounds (82 kg) and threw and batted right-handed. In September 1950, he made his three pinch-running appearances for Cleveland. In his first game, an extra-inning contest against the Chicago White Sox on September 4, he pinch run for Indians pitcher Early Wynn — who had reached base as a pinch hitter. Hansen failed to score as Chicago won, 3–1. In his next two appearances, on September 7 and 11, each time running for veteran catcher Birdie Tebbetts, Hansen scored his two MLB runs.Hersh Freeman
Hershell Baskin Freeman (July 1, 1928 – January 17, 2004) was an American professional baseball player, a pitcher who appeared in 204 games, all but three in relief, in the Major Leagues over six seasons (1952–53; 1955–58) for the Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Redlegs and Chicago Cubs. He later became a minor league manager.
Born in Gadsden, Alabama, Freeman threw and batted right-handed; he stood 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighed 220 pounds (100 kg). After attending the University of Alabama, Freeman signed with the Red Sox in 1948, and spent five seasons in their farm system before his recall in September 1952. Even though he had pitched exclusively in relief for the Triple-A Louisville Colonels, Freeman was given a starting assignment in his fourth MLB appearance on September 26, 1952. Facing the Washington Senators at Fenway Park, Freeman hurled a complete game, 3–1 victory, allowing only four Washington hits. It was Freeman's only complete game in the Majors.
He failed to stick with the Red Sox, however, spending most of 1953 and all of 1954 with Louisville. After only two appearances in relief for the 1955 Red Sox, he was placed on waivers at the May cutdown and claimed by the Redlegs. When Cincinnati manager Birdie Tebbetts asked Freeman why the Red Sox waived him, Freeman said Boston had not given him the pitching workload he needed to be effective. "Brother", Tebbetts replied, "you came to the right place."Tebbetts then used Freeman in relief for 54, 64 and 52 games during the seasons of 1955 through 1957, and Freeman responded by compiling a won–lost record of 28–11 with the Redlegs, with 37 saves and an earned run average of 3.33. In 1956, he was second in the National League in games pitched, and led the NL in games finished, as Cincinnati finished a strong third in the standings, only two games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Dodgers. Freeman finished 13th in the balloting for NL Most Valuable Player that season. However, his effectiveness diminished in each successive year, and in 1957 he allowed 14 home runs in 832⁄3 innings pitched and saw his ERA jump to 4.52. In early 1958, he was swapped to the Cubs for a fellow reliever, Turk Lown, and made only nine appearances with Chicago before being sent to the minor leagues in June.
All told, Freeman worked in 359 innings in the Majors, allowing 387 hits and 109 bases on balls. He struck out 158; his 37 career saves all came as a member of the Redlegs.
Freeman stayed in baseball as a Cincinnati scout in 1960 and from 1961 to 1963 he managed in the mid- to lower-level minor leagues in the Reds' farm system.Jack Curtis (baseball)
Jack Patrick Curtis (born January 11, 1937 in Rhodhiss, North Carolina) is an American former professional baseball player and left-handed pitcher who worked in 69 games in Major League Baseball for the Chicago Cubs (1961–62), Milwaukee Braves (1962), and Cleveland Indians (1963). He was listed as 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) tall and 175 pounds (79 kg) and signed with the Cubs in 1955 after graduating from Granite Falls High School.
Curtis joined the MLB Cubs after two stalwart seasons in minor league baseball. In 1959, he won 20 games (losing 10) with a sparkling 2.84 earned run average for the Class B Wenatchee Chiefs. Then, in 1960, he went 19–8 (3.57) for the Double-A San Antonio Missions and was named the Texas League's pitcher of the year.
In his rookie campaign, 1961, Curtis took a turn in the Cubs' starting rotation and won ten games, tied for second on the team. He threw six complete games. However, he finished below .500 with 13 defeats and posted a poor 4.89 ERA. In 1962 he began the year by going winless in three starts and one relief appearance during April. On April 30, he was traded even-up for veteran Braves' starting pitcher Bob Buhl, a former National League All-Star. But Curtis made only five starts for Milwaukee through the end of 1962 and put up a 4–4 record in 30 games, with one save. At the end of the season, he was traded again, this time to the Cleveland Indians, who had just hired manager Birdie Tebbetts away from the Braves. Curtis appeared in four games for Tebbetts in relief in the early weeks of 1963 and was treated harshly in three of them. He was sent to Triple-A Jacksonville at the May cutdown after allowing ten earned runs in only five innings pitched. The rest of his pro career was spent in the minors. Curtis retired in 1967.
During his MLB career, Curtis compiled a career record of 14–19 with a 4.84 earned run average. In 279 innings pitched, he permitted 328 hits and 89 bases on balls with 108 strikeouts. He was credited with six complete games and two saves.Marion Mets
The Marion Mets were a minor league baseball team based in Marion, Virginia that played in the Appalachian League from 1965 to 1976. They were affiliated with the New York Mets and played their home games at the Marion High School baseball field. Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan pitched for the team in 1965.Springfield Senators
The Springfield Senators were a minor league baseball team based in Springfield, Illinois that played on-and-off from 1889 to 1935. The team played in the Central Interstate League (1889), the Three-I League (1904-1912, 1925-1932, 1935) and the Mississippi Valley League (1933). In 1933, the club was affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1935, it was affiliated with the Detroit Tigers.
The 1889 team played as the Springfield Senators. In 1903, the team was called the Springfield Foot Trackers and in 1904, they played as the Springfield Hustlers. From 1905 to 1912 the team played as the Springfield Senators. During the 1913 and 1914 season the team played as the Springfield Watchmakers and disbanded. Starting in 1925 through 1932, the team played again as the Springfield Senators. The team name in both the 1933 and 1935 seasons was the Springfield Senators and the team again disbanded.
Many notable players spent time with the team. Baseball Hall of Famer Joe McGinnity, as well as Heinie Groh, Joe Kuhel, Larry Doyle, Ray Chapman, Dutch Leonard, Bill Wambsganss, Birdie Tebbetts and Roy Cullenbine are among them.