“Big, Good-Hearted and Foolish”

9 Jan

Almost immediately there was trouble for manager John McGraw after the New York Giants acquired Larry McLean from the St. Louis Cardinals, August 6, 1913—it was one of the few times in his career when the trouble wasn’t McLean’s fault.

With Chief Meyers hurt McGraw needed a catcher and traded the popular Doc Crandall to the Cardinals for McLean.  The day after the trade The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune reported that McGraw had “exchanged fisticuffs” with five of his players:

“Crandall was very popular among the club members, and there was much bitterness felt at his loss…The players passed hot words (at McGraw), and several blows were struck.”

McGraw was left with a bloody nose from the fight, and less than two weeks later reacquired Crandall from St. Louis.

McLean thrived in New York, a United Press story said:

“The big lad has been slamming the horsehide at a terrific gait, and has been displaying wonderful form behind the plate…Larry is said to be behaving himself better than he ever has since joining the big show.”

McLean hit .320 for the pennant-winning Giants and went 6 for 12 in their World Series loss to the Philadelphia Athletics.  He earned the praise of McGraw and despite diminishing skills, remained a model citizen for all of 1914 and part of 1915.

That all changed in June of 1915.  McLean had a clause in his contract which would have earned him an additional $1000 if he did not drink during the season.  McGraw’s right-hand man, scout Richard “Sinister Dick” Kinsella, had accused McLean of drunkenness and as a result was suspended for 10 days by McGraw.

Larry McLean, 1915

Larry McLean, 1915

In the lobby of the Buckingham Hotel in St. Louis, McLean accused Kinsella of making up the charge that he’d been drinking in order to cheat him out of the promised bonus.  Words were exchanged and then a fight broke out.  There was the McGraw-Kinsella version and the McLean version.

McGraw and Kinsella said McLean was carrying a length of gas pipe, and “came into the lobby with a number of rough companions.”

Kinsella’s version was as colorful as it was questionable:

“I picked up a chair and broke it over McLean’s head.  That frightened his gang of ruffians and they fled.  McLean continued to fight until McGraw and I chased him into the street, where he jumped into an automobile filled with women and begged for protection.”

McLean told reporters “I whipped McGraw and all of his associates with my two fists, I did not use a gas pipe, and he “exhibited his bruised right hand as evidence.”

McLean was finished with the Giants.

In March of 1916 The Associated Press reported that McLean had purchased the New Haven Murlins of the Eastern League and said “Larry will manage the club and catch.”  Either the report was erroneous or the deal fell through.  McLean never again played professional baseball and spent 1916 playing with semi-pro teams in New York.

Before the 1917 season baseball writer Ren Mulford reported that McLean might be signed by the Reds:

 Wouldn’t it be odd if Big Larry would come out of the swamp and stick to his spikes into dry ground?  Larry McLean, big, good-hearted and foolish, always his own worst enemy might come back if he willed it so.”

McLean never joined the Reds.

Also in 1917 several newspapers reported that McLean was becoming an actor, The New London (CT) Day said McLean “is now a real moving picture actor,” and included a picture of McLean with another actor “as Egyptian slaves in ‘The Siren,’ a movie soon to be released.”  (The film “The Siren” is described on IMDB as a western—what film, if any McLean actually appeared in is unknown)

Larry McLean, 1915

Larry McLean as an Egyptian slave in a 1917 film

In 1919 McLean was “in serious condition,” in a New York hospital as a result of burns received in a Turkish bath when he lost consciousness after entering a room.  He had been suffering from pneumonia and was in a weakened condition.”

That was the last that was heard of McLean until March 24, 1921.  McLean and a friend named Jack McCarthy were in a bar in Boston’s South End.  The bartender (John Connor) claimed McLean became enraged when he refused to give him cigarettes and threatened to “beat him up:”

 “McLean started to climb the bar to attack him.  McCarthy was helping McLean over the counter when Connor reached for a pistol, and fired… McLean staggered out to the sidewalk where he fell.”

Connor claimed that the previous evening McLean had chased another bartender “up and down the barroom…and forced him to leave to save himself from a beating.

McCarthy was also shot and died in the hospital six days later.  (Some recent sources, such as Bill James in “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” erroneously identify McCarthy as John Arthur “Jack” McCarthy, a former Major League player.  The McCarthy who was shot with McLean was John F. McCarthy.  Incidentally, John Arthur McCarthy is one of a very few Major League players for whom death information is unknown)

Connor was being held without bail at the time of McCarthy’s death and, according to The Boston Post, eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in prison.

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8 Responses to ““Big, Good-Hearted and Foolish””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Kauff and Perritt « Baseball History Daily - January 29, 2013

    […] Kinsella was the former baseball magnate of Springfield, Illinois who went east to serve as McGraw’s chief scout.  He was a key player in the incident that led to Giants’ catcher Larry McLean’s banishment from o…. […]

  2. “Figures of your kind are Pathetic” | Baseball History Daily - August 13, 2013

    […] The Sporting Life also said that Latham served as McGraw’s spy;  a position that would later be filled by another colorful McGraw coach, Dick Kinsella. […]

  3. “There will be Cliches” | Baseball History Daily - June 30, 2014

    […] was, along with Ren Mulford Jr. of The Cincinnati Times-Star, an outspoken critic of the Players League, and said he agreed with […]

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    […]  “Starnagle tried to put on a Three-Eye League slugging scene.  He dislocated two ribs going after (Bill) Reidy’s slow ones and finally fanned.  Polchow forced (Jack) McCarthy.” […]

  5. “The Dream of an Ardent Baseball Fan and Admirer brought to Realization” | Baseball History Daily - September 8, 2014

    […] of McGinnity’s teammates on that semi-pro team in Springfield was Dick Kinsella, who would become a minor league magnate and confidant of John […]

  6. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #13 | Baseball History Daily - December 22, 2014

    […] result was, in the case of John “Chief” Meyers, a profile that went beyond a typical baseball […]

  7. “Three of the Greatest Pitchers the Game ever has Produced” | Baseball History Daily - July 15, 2015

    […] related the story of McLean’s recent fight with Giants Manager John McGraw and coach “Sinister” Dick Kinsella in the Buckingham Hotel in […]

  8. “There’s one thing you mustn’t do when you get to New York” | Baseball History Daily - October 26, 2015

    […] was at McGraw’s side for one of the manager’s most famous brawls; a battle with Giants catcher Larry McLean in the lobby of the Buckingham Hotel in St. Louis, he also boasted an impressive list of “finds” including Carl Hubbell, Chief Meyers, […]

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