Posts Tagged ‘Greasy Neale’

Greasy

January 8, 2019

“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

That Other Hall of Fame

February 18, 2010

You realize how hard it is to particpate in a sport at the professional level. Now imagine being able to do it in two sports. Did you know that there are three people who played Major League Baseball that are members of the Professional Football Hall of Fame?  One even as a World Series ring.

George Halas is primarily famous as the great founding father of the National Football League. He owned and coached the Chicago Bears into the 1960s and won a slew of championships, all before the advent of the Super Bowl. But prior to setting up the NFL, Halas played professional baseball. In 1919, Halas became a switch-hitting outfielder for Miller Huggins’ New York Yankees. In 12 games, six in the outfield, he batted 22 times, had two hits (.091), both singles, struck out eight times and had no errors. He disappears from Major League rosters at that point. One source indicates he suffered a hip injury that ended his career (although a cynic might point to the .091 batting average as another possible cause). Not much of a career. He at least knew where his talents lay. In 1963 he was inducted into football’s Hall of Fame in 1963.

Jim Thorpe was famous in his era as the greatest American athlete (and will get his own post in a few days). He played college football, ran track, appeared in the 1912 Olympics, and joined he New York Giants in 1913. He also played at Cincinnati and with the Boston Braves, ending his career in 1919. Like Halas, he didn’t have a great a career. When the NFL was formed, Thorpe became its first president and played a little at Canton. He joined Halas in making the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1963. He was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.

Of the three, Greasy Neale was the most successful baseball man. He played from 1916 through 1922 and then again in 1924. He hit .259 with eight home runs, 139 stolen bases, 319 runs scored, and 200 RBIs in 768 games. He was the primary left fielder for the Cincinnati Reds through 1920, then went to Philadelphia for a while in 1921, returning to Cincinnati late in 1921 and ending his career there. He led the NL in fielding percentage in 1919 (.981) and was considered a solid outfielder. In the 1919 World Series, which Cincinnati won, Neale played in all eight games hitting .357 with 10 hits, three runs scored and four RBIs.

While playing baseball in the summer, Neale played and coached football in the offseason, taking the Washington and Jefferson college team to the 1922 Rose Bowl (they played to a 0-0 tie against the University of California). After retirement from baseball, he went on to a stellar coaching career in football, leading  the University of Virginia in the 1920s and the University of West Virginia in the 1930s. In 1941 he took over the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and led them to the NFL championship in both 1948 and 1949. He retired after the 1950 season and died in 1973. In 1969 he was selected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame. Additionally he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967, becoming, with the 1969 election, the first man to be a member of both football Halls as a coach.

There have been other people who played both baseball and another professional sport. As late as the 1959 Dick Ricketts played for the Cardinals and in the National Basketball Association and, of course, basketball star Michael Jordan made it to the Minor Leagues just a few years ago. But Halas, Thorpe, and Neale are the only ones to  achieve immortality in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

1919: A Comparison

December 5, 2009

My son recently asked me why the White Sox were overwhelming picks to win the 1919 World Series. I told him that among other things the National League had managed to win exactly one World Series in 10 years (1914) which could leave people to assume the American League was simply superior. I still think that’s true, but a look at the players reveals that man for man it also could be interpreted as favoring the Sox.

Taking a look at only the hitters (maybe I’ll do the pitchers later) I decided to concentrate on 3 numbers: batting average, slugging percentage, and RBIs. I wanted to go with the traditional triple crown stats, but in the deadball era of 1919 the home run was not a significant weapon, so substituted slugging percentage as a way to cover extra base hits. Below are direct comparisons (RBI’s first, then average, then slugging) between the position players. I’ve lumped the corner outfielders together because the Sox platooned in right field and the Reds left fielders were about evenly split in games because Sherry Magee got hurt and batted only twice in the World Series.

1st Base: Daubert (44/276/350), Gandil (60/290/393) Advantage Sox.

2nd Base: Rath (29/264/298), E. Collins (80/319/450) Collins by a wide margin.

3rd Base: Groh (63/310/431), Weaver (75/296/401). Close either way. Weaver was considered a superior fielder.

Shortstop: Kopf (56/270/326), Risberg (38/256/345). Kopf over Risberg.

Center Field: Roush (71/321/431), Felsch (86/275/428) Closer than I originally thought. Roush won the NL batting title, but Felsch has more RBIs and the slugging percentage is a wash.

Catcher: Wingo (27/276/371), Schalk (34/282/320). Schalk by a little. Schalk was also considered much the superior catcher.

Corner Outfield: Duncan (17/244/411), Bressler (17/206/309), Magee (21/215/264),  Neale (54/242/316); Jackson (96/351/506), S. Collins (16/279/363), Leibold (26/302/353). As a whole the Sox are better, but if I had to pick only 3, I’d take Jackson, Leibold, and Neale. For the Series, Neale and Duncan did all the outfield work .

So in most positions the White Sox seem to be superior. There are just enough places where the Reds are as good or better that it could have been an interesting Series, providing of course that it was on the up and up. It wasn’t.