Greasy

“Greasy” Neale with the Reds

Very few players actually earn a World Series ring. Very few people earn a National Football League championship, coach a Rose Bowl team, gain a place in the College Football Hall of Fame and earn a spot in the Professional Football Hall of Fame. In keeping with the 100th Anniversary of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, it’s time you met, as far as I can tell, the only person who did all that, Greasy Neale. And before anybody says something, Jim Thorpe did play in the World Series in 1917, but his team lost (and he never made the Rose Bowl).

Albert Neale was born in November 1891 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. As a kid, he worked as a “grease boy” in a rolling mill (he had to grease the machinery) and the nickname “Greasy” was a natural. The local high school had a football team. What it didn’t have, was a coach. Neale, the oldest player on the team, was named coach. He picked up a scholarship in football to West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1912. He played football, baseball, and basketball.

While still in college, he was signed by the Canadian League team in London, Ontario (Class C at the time), By 1915 he was at Wheeling in Class B ball and was noticed by the Cincinnati Reds. In 1916 he went to the Major Leagues.

But he retained his love of football and spent the 1915 baseball off-season coaching the Muskingum College team. For the remainder of his baseball career, he would continue to waffle between the two sports.

He became the Reds regular left fielder in 1916, remaining there through 1918. In 1919 he moved to right field and participated in the 1919 World Series against the Chicago White Sox (the “Black Sox of scandal infamy). He hit .357 with 10 hits, a double, one triple, four RBIs, and a stolen base.

After the 1920 season he was traded to Philadelphia (the Phillies, not the Athletics), spent 22 games there, and went back to Cincinnati where he stayed through 1922. After spending 1923 out of baseball, he returned to the Reds for three games in 1924, then retired from the sport. For his career his triple slash line reads .259/.319/.332/.651 with 688 hits, 319 runs, 57 doubles, eight home runs, 200 RBIs, 883 total bases, 5.9 WAR, and a World Series ring.

But he wasn’t through with sports. He spent his offseason coaching football at Marietta College, Washington and Jefferson College, and the University of Virginia (where he also coached the baseball team). His Washington and Jefferson team played California in the 1922 Rose Bowl, which ended in a scoreless tie.

Neale went back to the big leagues as a coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1929, and left before the season ended. He moved back to football and coached both West Virginia and Yale in the 1930s. In 1941 the NFL came calling. He took over the Philadelphia Eagles in 1941 and for the next ten seasons, the Eagles were one of the top NFL teams. They won the NFL Eastern Conference title in 1947 but lost the championship game to the Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals (the Cards only NFL championship), but won consecutive titles in 1948 and 1949. In 1950 the team slumped and Neale was fired.

In 1967 Greasy Neale was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and in 1969 the Professional Football Hall of Fame followed suit. He died in 1973 with quite a unique resume.

“Greasy” Neale as Eagles coach

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5 Responses to “Greasy”

  1. wkkortas Says:

    I have actually attended a football game at W & J, and I can say that their next Rose Bowl trip will be a few years coming.

  2. Precious Sanders Says:

    Fascinating. Thanks for this!

  3. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    Yay! I know two fun Virginia facts about Greasy Neale (because … UVa of course). First, his record as baseball coach at UVa (between 1923 and 1929) was 80-73-2. This was about right for the team at the time … he didn’t make them better, but he didn’t make them worse.

    But, he has one earlier brush with Virginia — that trade from the Reds to the Phils in 1920? That trade brought Virginia-born and UVa graduate Eppa Rixey to the Reds. That trade turned his game around and made him a Hall of Famer.

    That was all I knew about Neale, but now I’m glad to know even more. Thanks!

  4. glenrussellslater Says:

    Interesting post. Thanks, V.

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