Tagged: eric mcnair

April 12 – Happy Birthday Eric McNair

mcnairBefore the A’s moved to Oakland they played in Kansas City and back in the 1950’s, their organization made so many trades with the Yankees the joke was that Kansas City was New York’s best farm team. Well, before the team moved to Kansas City, the franchise’s home base was Philadelphia and back in the 1930’s, it was the Red Sox and their new owner Tom Yawkey, who were accused of using the A’s as their top farm team as well.

Lefty Grove, Jimmy Foxx, Max Bishop, Doc Cramer and Pinky Higgins were the biggest names to board the train from “the City of Brotherly Love” to Fenway back then, Today’s Beantown Baseball Birthday Celebrant was also  a key acquisition. Eric McNair packed a whole bunch of talent in his rather tiny 5’8″ 160 pound frame. Born and raised in Meridian, Mississippi, he had talked his way into the batboy’s job with a D-League farm team that used to play in his hometown and when he was 19-years-old, that team offered him a contract. The kid was a right-hand hitting infielder with good speed and surprising power considering his size.

He made his big league debut with Connie Mack’s A’s a year later and by 1932, he was on his way to establishing himself as one of baseball’s better second basemen. That season he led the AL in doubles with 47, while belting 18 home runs and driving in 95, which were all career highs. In 1935, the Red Sox acquired McNair as part of the same deal in which they got Cramer. McNair started at short during his first season in Boston and played really well, averaging .285 and driving in 74 runs. That offseason, however, tragedy struck his personal life when his wife died from complications suffered during the birth of the couple’s first child. Her death caused McNair to battle bouts of depression for the rest of his own life.

Amazingly, McNair somehow put together his best season as a Red Sox after his devastating personal loss. Boston switched him over to second base in 1937 and he averaged .292 with 12 home runs and 76 RBIs. The following year, he decided to hold out for a better salary. His timing couldn’t have been worse. Boston had brought this young second baseman from California to their 1938 spring training camp. The kid’s name was Bobby Doerr. Though McNair ended up signing his contract, he lost his starting job to Doerr and then injured his knee. It turned out to be the worst year of his big league career and his final season as a Red Sox.

That December, Boston traded him to the White Sox, who at the time were being managed by McNair’s old double play partner with the A’s, Jimmy Dykes. Dykes started McNair at third base and he responded with a great year at the plate, averaging a career-high .324 and driving in 82 runs. That ’39 season turned out to be his last hurrah as a big leaguer. Never a great defensive player, McNair lost his starting job with Chicago the following year and became a part-time player. His last big league season was 1942. Seven years later he died from a heart attack at the age of just 39.