McHale oversaw construction of Tigers, Braves and Expos
By CRAIG MUDER
November 24, 2009
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – John McHale’s major league playing career lasted just 67 games, but included three at-bats in the 1945 World Series with the champion Detroit Tigers.
For some, the Fall Classic appearance would be a career highlight. But for McHale, his baseball career was just getting started.
|John McHale is one of twenty finalists for election to the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 by the Veterans Committee. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)|
McHale, who’s jobs included general manager stints for the Tigers, Braves and Expos, is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Veterans Committee executives/pioneers ballot at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Veterans Committee will vote on Dec. 6 at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, and the results of the vote will be announced Dec. 7. The results of the Veterans Committee election for managers/umpires will also be announced on Dec. 7.
The 10 candidates on the executives/pioneers ballot are: Gene Autry, Sam Breadon, John Fetzer, Bob Howsam, Ewing Kauffman, Marvin Miller, Gabe Paul, Jacob Ruppert, Bill White and McHale. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010.
Born Sept. 21, 1921, in Detroit, McHale was a fine all-around athlete who played college football at Notre Dame. After signing with the Tigers following his collegiate career, McHale made his debut with Detroit in 1943. In 1945, McHale appeared in 19 games for the Tigers en route to Detroit’s American League pennant. In that year’s World Series against the Cubs – a series which Detroit won in seven games – McHale came to the plate three times as a pinch hitter.
“He told me that he was one of the very few people who ever played to a full house at Yankee Stadium in both football and baseball,” said former commissioner of baseball Fay Vincent. “He played for Notre Dame when they played Army at Yankee Stadium, and he played for the Tigers against the Yankees when they had a full house.”
After two more partial seasons with the Tigers in 1947 and 1948, McHale worked his way into the Tigers’ front office, becoming the director of minor league operations and eventually the team’s general manager in 1957. Two years later, the Braves asked him to become general manager of a franchise that had won NL pennants (and the 1957 World Series) in two of the previous three years.
McHale followed the Braves to Atlanta in 1966, then went to work for the commissioner’s office. When commissioner William “Spike” Eckert’s contract was not renewed, McHale was one of the candidates to replace him. But the new Montreal Expos lured McHale north of the border to become their president in 1969.
McHale built the Expos from the ground up, stocking Montreal’s farm system with youngsters like Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Steve Rogers – and becoming the club’s general manager in 1978. The Expos reached the postseason for the only time in their history in 1981, losing in the deciding fifth game to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
“He built a great scouting and farm system that was the envy of baseball through the ‘70s and early ‘80s,” said former Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne.
McHale remained Montreal’s GM until 1984 and stayed on as president until 1986.
“He was a super athlete and very much a super guy,” said former Mets general manager Frank Cashen. “He was considered one of the top (general) managers in baseball by those who knew him. He put that Expos team together and did very well with it.”
McHale died on Jan. 17, 2008.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum