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He Was A Yankee? Hall-of-Fame Manager Bill McKechnie

by Paul Semendinger

August 5, 2021

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Introducing A New Occasional Series!

In this series, I will highlight some famous baseball legends who have ties (most often as players) to the New York Yankees.

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Bill McKechnie is a Hall of Fame Manager. He was elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame in 1962. His plaque reads:

WILLIAM BOYD MCKECHNIE

MANAGER OF

PITTSBURGH N.L. 1922-1926

ST.LOUIS N.L. 1928-1929

BOSTON N.L. 1030-1937

CINCINNATI N.L. 1938-1946

ONLY N.L. MANAGER TO WIN PENNANTS WITH THREE DIFFERENT CLUBS – PITTSBURGH 1925; ST. LOUIS, 1928; CINCINNATI, 1939, 1940. WON WORLD SERIES 1925 AND 1940. NAMED NO. 1 MAJOR LEAGUE MANAGER 1937 AND 1940. ACTIVE IN BASEBALL A MANAGER, COACH, PLAYER, 1906-1953. Embed from Getty Images

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Yes, he was a great manager.

Today. McKechnie still ranks as the 15th most winningest manager in baseball history with 1,896 wins. At the time of his retirement that win total was second in the history of the National League behind only the great John McGraw (2,763).

But, in the years before he became a famous manager, Bill McKechnie was a Yankee.

In 1913, Bill McKechnie played 45 games for the Yankees. (1913 was the first year the club was officially called the Yankees – and not the Highlanders.) An infielder, McKechnie played 28 games at second base, seven at shortstop, and two at third base.

Unfortunately, what he didn’t do much, at least for the Yankees, was hit. Bill McKechnie had but 15 hits in 112 at bats (a .134 batting average). None of his hits went for extra bases, all fifteen hits were singles. It may seem like his season wasn’t successful, but that wasn’t the case. That season McKechnie might have had the biggest break in his professional career – it was a break that would never show up in a box score.

The Yankees manager in 1913 was the great Frank Chance. Chance, a first baseman, of course, has been made famous in the poem, “(Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (Tinker to Evers to Chance).” Chance saw a lot in McKechnie, if not as a player, he saw him as a person who understood the game. McKechnie sat by Chance and learned a great deal from him – knowledge that would help him one day join Frank Chance in the Hall-of-Fame.

In 1914, McKechnie was one of the players who jumped to the Federal League. Playing for the Indianapolis Hoosiers, he batted .304 in 149 games. It was, by far, his best season. That year, he also stole 47 bases.

The next year, in 1915, playing now for the Newark Peppers, McKechnie had his first taste of managing as a player/manager. He led his team to a record of 54-45.

After the Federal League folded, McKechnie returned to Major League Baseball as a member of the New York Giants.

In his career, McKechnie played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Braves, New York Yankees, New York Giants, and the Cincinnati Reds.

As a big league ballplayer, Bill McKechnie batted .251 over his eleven seasons, but in his playing, because of his understanding of the game, he earned the respect of many, including the aforementioned Frank Chance as well as Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson.

It was as a manager that he found his greatest success.

#HeWasAYankee

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