Sunday, November 16, 2014

Birdie Tebbetts #462

George "Birdie" Tebbetts had a 14 year career as a player in the American League, signing a contract with the Detroit Tigers after being a 2 sport start in high school. His contract has the Tigers paying his college tuition before coming to the big leagues. However, after graduating from Providence College, Birdie was sent to the minors as Detroit had acquired future HOF catcher Mickey Cochrane to catch. It took until 1936 before Tebbetts made it to the major league roster. When Cochrane's career ended with a horrible on field incident in 1939, Birdie got his chance when Cochrane's replacement didn't do well behind the plate.

Birdie secured his permanent position behind home plate in 1940, beginning a career that saw four All Star appearances (1941, 1942, 1948 & 1949). During WW2, Tebbetts signed up with the Army Air Corps and served in recruiting duties during the war in Waco, TX. While there, he was the player-manager for the Waco Army Flying School baseball team, getting his first taste as a manager.

After leaving the military, Birdie returned to Detroit and played part time in 1946. However, 1947 started poorly for Birdie, hitting under .100 when he was traded to Boston. His average picked up and his finished hitting just under .300 for the season. Tebbetts spent 3 more years in Boston, earning he final two All Star appearances.

However, Birdie was a bit outspoken and had a slight temper. He had an issue with a fan in Detroit, with the fan dumping a basket of tomatoes on him. While the fan was subdued by police, Tebbetts hit the fan. Those charges were dropped. In 1950, the Red Sox finished poorly, falling out of a tight pennant race to finish third. Birdie spoke out in a public appearance, supporting the BoSox manager and calling critics names. The team sold his contract a couple months later to Cleveland. Tebbetts spent the final couple seasons being the backup to the Indians regular catcher, making his final playing appearance in September, 1952.

Birdie moved to managing in 1953 when he was named the manager of the Cleveland Indianapolis Indians farm club. The following year, he was managing the Cincinnati Reds, being hired by Rogers Hornsby. The Reds were not a powerhouse at the time, but Birdie had them in a pennant race in 1956 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, ultimately finishing a couple games out, but earning Birdie the manager of the year award. A poor 1958 season, though, had Birdie resigning from the Reds field general position.

He moved to the front office for the Milwaukee Braves in October 1958, but missed being on the bench. When Braves fired Chuck Dressen in 1961, Birdie finished out the season, and managed the following year, though the Braves never finished above 5th place. Birdie returned to the Indians to manage in 1963, suffered a heart attack at spring training in 1964, came back three months later, but never had the Indians as a playoff contender. Birdie ended his managerial career in August 1966 with a lifetime 748-708 record. He did some managing in the minors, and spent time as a scout. Regiie Jackson credits Birdie's scouting reports for helping him crush three home runs in game 6 of the 1977 World Series. Birdie passed away in March 1999 at the age of 86.

Claim to fame: Birdie was a respected player during his career. After returning from the war, an umpire was having issues with dizzy spells. The umpire confided this information to Birdie because he was afraid of losing his job. Tebbetts assisted the ump with calling ball and strikes, tipping the call to the umpire with a secret hand signal after each pitch.

Comic answer: No comic on the back of the manager cards.

Card condition: Slightly miscentered on the front, with bad corners and a lot of surface scratches. The angled centering shows on the back, and it have a small water stain. There is also a slight crease near the bottom of the card.

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