High expectations came with George W. “Big Mike” Mahoney to his hometown Boston Beaneaters in 1897.
A baseball, track and football star at Georgetown University—he played football until the University disbanded the team after his backfield mate George “Shorty” Bahen—a foot shorter than Mahoney– died from injuries sustained during the team’s Thanksgiving Day game against Columbia in 1894.
In 1895, he gained notice for his pitching after striking out 13 batters in a game with Yale.
The following year, The Philadelphia Times said:
“He has won enviable renown as a pitcher, where his remarkable strength, speed and ability to curve have made him a very formidable player. He has also played football, where his remarkable physique, weight and strength have stood him in good stead. One would imagine that his weight—236 pounds—would prevent his running with any remarkable speed, but it is so distributed—he being probably the largest athlete in the college world, measuring six feet five—that it is little of an encumbrance to him.”
In the spring of 1897, it was rumored that Mahoney would not return to Georgetown and instead sign with Boston. The Philadelphia Inquirer said:
“(I)t is understood that he will play professionally with the Boston league team. Mahoney is considered a wonderful pitcher, as well as being a fine catcher and first baseman.”
Shortly after signing with the Beaneaters, The Washington Evening Times said Mahoney had been offered the opportunity to take up yet another sport:
“(Mahoney) has a chance to shine pugilistically. En route to Pittsburgh Sunday the Bostons had Bob Fitzsimmons for a traveling companion. Fitz was smitten with Mahoney’s size, and offered to take him in charge and coach him into a high-class heavyweight.”
Mahoney turned down the offer.
On May 18 Boston was in Chicago; trailing the Colts 9 to 5 in the eighth inning, Mahoney made his big league debut on the mound for the Beaneaters.
The Colts and The Chicago Daily News were not kind to the rookie:
“Mr. Mahoney, the largest man seen in the League for many moons, made his debut in professional ball at the west Side Grounds yesterday. He now wishes he had tarried at his Georgetown school. The reception given Mr. Mahoney was one of the warmest ever seen around these districts since the year 1, and the people who saw the sport are still laughing.
“Mr. Mahoney is 6 feet 5 or more, and one of the finest looking men imaginable. Small girls, who admire big men, could be heard squeaking, ‘Isn’t he cute?’ all of the stand. He has been loafing around the park during the present series, doing nothing but taking life easy, and the multitude were really getting inquisitive as to who he was and what right he had to live.
“He went into the fray at a rather inauspicious time. The Colts had just demolished (Ted) Lewis and had biffed fat (Jack) Stivetts in the solar plexus. When Mr. Mahoney’s giant frame loomed up there was a shout of laughter, then a pause of dread lest the monster should prove strong and speedy in proportion to his fearful size.
“He threw a ball: (Bill) Dahlen hit it. He threw another: (Bill) Lange hit it. He threw one more: (Walter) Thornton hit it. And the picnic might have gone on had not the long man climbed eleven feet higher and pulled down a bounding ball (Mahoney had jumped high to rob Colts catcher Tim Donahue of a hit up the middle)”
Mahoney faced seven batters, allowed two runs, three hits, walked one and struck out one.
The Daily News ended the ridicule by allowing that Mahoney might, someday, be a good pitcher:
“The fate of Mr. Mahoney is no new experience for a young pitcher. Many a man who has afterward been a star has been a horrible fizzle on his first appearance, while many a man who has panned out no good on earth has made a glorious debut. Thornton was a conspicuous success on his initial day, and has been nothing in the way of box work since. (Clark) Griffith did not do very well the first tie he pitched for (Cap) Anson, and he is the best of all nowadays. Mr. Mahoney, if given a fair show, may yet become a (Amos) Rusie.”
Mahoney never received “a fair show.” He never pitched in another major league game. He caught one game for Boston, and went 1 for 2 with an RBI, but was released in July of 1897. Mahoney appeared in two games for the St. Louis Browns the following season—he was 1 for 7 and committed one error. For his four-game big league career he hit .111 and posted an 18.00 ERA.
After one more season playing for several East Coast minor league teams, Mahoney returned to Boston where he became a police officer; he died there in 1940.