“I learned how to win from (Tigers Manager Hughie) Jennings. Now before he came to Detroit the team was as flat as Aunt Jemima’s pancakes, but he threw about a quart of Fleishman’s yeast into us, and we rose.
“The recipe for winning is to mix ginger, yeast and horseradish with horse sense and keep stirring all the time. Thinking and hustling, figuring on every point, watching all the time for an opening and taking all sorts of chances is what wins. One man can’t win—unless he happens to be the fellow who can stir up a dozen others and keep them fighting all the time and never giving up. Without a leader, the best team will slack up the pace once in a while and maybe get discouraged.”
As for individual achievements , O’Leary said:
“All the success I have had has come from studying batters while I was in the infield and studying base runners when they got on the bases. A player almost can tell from the way the batter and the base runner act what they are trying to d, or going to try to do if he only keeps his eyes open.”
O’Leary said he never attempted to steal signs, but:
“(I) can tell by the actions and the situation what is coming off. Then (when playing short) I want a second baseman alongside of me who understands me and whom I understand, so we can work together. There are some men who prevent each other from doing their best work.
“I make a study of where batters hit, and every day I get the fullest accounts possible of all the games played and study out where the balls were hit to. Batters change rapidly. Sometimes a player hits to left field for weeks, and the next time we meet him in a series, he is hitting to right field. I find it important to know all the time, for sometimes it is five or six weeks until we play against him again, and in that time he may have changed completely. I keep talking to pitchers who have worked against certain men and reading about them to see how they are batting. Then too, lots of times, a weak batter will have a batting streak and a pitcher and infielder ought to know this before starting a series against him. The best part of my success, I think, has been in being where the ball was hit, and a whole lot of this has come from studying batters.”
O’Leary, who had a reputation as a hot head early in career, said something else contributed to his success:
“I used to think fighting umpires helped win, but I want to say that is a mistake. Playing square with the umpires and treating them decently and playing fair with opponents is the only way to win. Fair play ought to be the foundation of the game. I play as hard and fight as hard for a game as anyone, but would rather lose than hurt another player, or try to make an umpire look bad to a crowd.”
O’Leary did not make his big league debut until the age of 28 in 1904, and the Chicago native later told a reporter for The Detroit News that he nearly gave the game up for years earlier during his first professional season—with the 1900 White Sox, in the not yet a major league American League:
“The first team I ever played on, outside of (amateur teams) around Chicago, was the White Sox, and they took me to Detroit with them to play a Sunday game. I nearly quit right then and there. If I had I might now be a politician in Chicago.
“It was one of those games played out at Burns Park (Burns, just west of Detroit’s city limits, opened in 1900 to host Sunday games and circumvent Detroit’s blue laws). We won by one run and as we left the park the crowd came at us with beer bottles. It was the bottom of the bus for everybody , and as I was the most scared I got there first, I guess. Anyway, everybody else pulled on top of me, and we rode into town that way.
“I was nearly smothered. They had a hard time inducing me to believe that that was not an everyday occurrence.”