Evers with the Chicago Cubs in 1910
July 21, 1881|
Troy, New York
|Died: March 28, 1947
Albany, New York
|September 1, 1902, for the Chicago Orphans|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 6, 1929, for the Boston Braves|
|Runs batted in||538|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Election Method||Veteran's Committee|
John Joseph Evers (July 21, 1881 – March 28, 1947) was an American professional baseball second baseman and manager. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1902 through 1917 for the Chicago Cubs, Boston Braves, and Philadelphia Phillies. He also appeared in one game apiece for the Chicago White Sox and Braves while coaching them in 1922 and 1929, respectively.
Evers was born in Troy, New York. After playing for the local minor league baseball team for one season, Frank Selee, manager of the Cubs, purchased Evers's contract and soon made him his starting second baseman. Evers helped lead the Cubs to four National League pennants, including two World Series championships. The Cubs traded Evers to the Braves in 1914; that season, Evers led the Braves to victory in the World Series, and was named the league's Most Valuable Player. Evers continued to play for the Braves and Phillies through 1917. He then became a coach, scout, manager, and general manager in his later career.
Known as one of the smartest ballplayers in MLB, Evers also had a surly temper that he took out on umpires. Evers was a part of a great double-play combination with Joe Tinker and Frank Chance, which was immortalized as "Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance" in the poem "Baseball's Sad Lexicon". Evers was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1946.
Evers was born on July 21, 1881, in Troy, New York. His father worked as a saloon keeper. Many of Evers' relatives, including his father, brothers, and uncles, played baseball. Evers attended St. Joseph's Elementary School and played sandlot ball in Troy.
Minor league career
Evers made his professional debut in minor league baseball for the Troy Trojans of the Class-B New York State League in 1902 as a shortstop. Evers reportedly weighed less than 100 pounds (45 kg), and opposing fans thought he was a part of a comedic act. Evers reportedly weighed no more than 130 pounds (59 kg) during his career.
Evers batted .285 and led the New York State League with 10 home runs. Frank Selee, manager of the Chicago Cubs, scouted Evers's teammate, pitcher Alex Hardy. Selee, also looking for a second baseman due to an injury to starter Bobby Lowe, purchased Hardy's and Evers's contracts for $1,500 ($41,094 in current dollar terms); the Trojans were willing to sell Evers's services due to his temper and many errors made in the field.
Evers made his MLB debut with the Cubs on September 1 at shortstop, as Selee moved Joe Tinker from shortstop to third base. Only three players in the National League (NL) were younger than Evers: Jim St. Vrain, Jimmy Sebring, and Lave Winham. Three days later, Selee returned Tinker to shortstop and assigned Evers to second base. In his month-long tryout with the Cubs, Evers batted .222 without recording an extra-base hit and played inconsistent defense. However, Lowe's injury did not properly heal by spring training in 1903, allowing Evers to win the starting job for the 1903 season. Lowe recovered during the 1903 season, but Evers' strong play made Lowe expendable; Evers finished third in the NL in fielding percentage among second basemen (.937), and finished fifth in assists (245) and putouts (306). The Cubs sold Lowe to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the season. Evers played 152 games in the 1904 season. Defensively, his 518 assists and 381 putouts led the NL, though his 54 errors led all NL second basemen.
During the 1906 season, Evers finished fifth in the NL with 49 stolen bases, and led the league with 344 putouts and led all second basemen with 44 errors. The Cubs won the NL pennant in 1906, but lost the 1906 World Series to the Chicago White Sox four games to two; Evers batted 3-for-20 (.150) in the series. During the 1907 season, Evers led the NL with 500 assists. The Cubs repeated as NL champions in 1907, and won the 1907 World Series over the Detroit Tigers, four games to none, as Evers batted 7-for-20 (.350).
During the 1908 pennant race, Evers alerted the umpires to Fred Merkle's baserunning error in a game against the New York Giants, which became known as "Merkle's Boner". Al Bridwell hit what appeared to be the game-winning single for the Giants, while Merkle, the baserunner on first base, went to the clubhouse without touching second base. Evers called for the ball, and the umpire ruled Merkle out. NL president Harry Pulliam ruled the game a tie, with a makeup to be played. The Cubs won the makeup game, thereby winning the pennant. The Cubs then won the 1908 World Series over Detroit, four games to one, as Evers again batted 7-for-20 (.350). For the 1908 season, Evers had a .300 batting average, good for fifth in the NL, and a .402 on-base percentage, second only to Honus Wagner.
Evers drew 108 walks during the 1910 season, trailing only Miller Huggins. However, Evers missed the end of the season with a broken leg. Without Evers, the Cubs won the NL pennant, but lost the 1910 World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics, four games to one. Evers agreed to manage the Navy Midshipmen, a college baseball team, in 1911, despite the opposition of Cubs' manager Frank Chance. He experienced a nervous breakdown in 1911; returning to the Cubs later in the season, he played in only 46 games that year. Evers indicated that this was a result of a business deal that cost Evers most of his savings. Evers rebounded to bat .341 in 1912, good for fourth in the NL, and he led the NL with a .431 on-base percentage. Team owner Charles W. Murphy named Evers manager in 1913, signing him to a five-year contract, succeeding Chance.
Boston Braves and Philadelphia Phillies
After the 1913 season, Evers was offered $100,000 ($2,398,316 in current dollar terms) to jump to the Federal League, but he opted to take less money to remain with the Cubs. In February 1914, after Evers signed his players to contracts, Murphy fired Evers as manager and traded him to the Boston Braves for Bill Sweeney and Hub Perdue. Murphy insisted that Evers had resigned as manager, which Evers denied. Evers insisted he was a free agent, but the league assigned him to the Braves. He signed a four-year contract at $10,000 per season ($236,645 in current dollar terms), with a $20,000 signing bonus.
During the 1914 season, the Braves fell into last place of the eight-team NL by July 4. However, the Braves came back from last place in the last ten weeks of the season to win the NL pennant. Evers' .976 fielding percentage led all NL second basemen. The Braves defeated the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series, four games to none, as Evers batted 7-for-16 (.438). Evers won the Chalmers Award, the forerunner of the modern-day Most Valuable Player award, ahead of teammate Rabbit Maranville.
Evers was limited in 1915 by injuries, and also served suspension for arguing with umpires. After a poor season in 1916, Evers began the 1917 season with a .193 batting average. Due to Evers' declining performance, the Braves placed Evers on waivers at mid-season, and he was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies. Evers rejected an offer to become manager of the Jersey City Skeeters of the International League that offseason. He signed with the Boston Red Sox as a player-coach for the 1918 season, but was released without playing a game for them. Not receiving another offer from an MLB team, Evers traveled to Paris as a member of the Knights of Columbus to promote baseball in France.
Coaching and managing career
Evers joined the New York Giants during the 1920 season, serving as a coach. He managed the Cubs again in 1921, succeeding Fred Mitchell. With the team struggling, Evers was fired in August and replaced with Bill Killefer. The Cubs finished seventh out of eight in the NL that season.
Evers served as a coach for the Chicago White Sox in 1922 and 1923. He returned to second base in 1922, filling in for an injured Eddie Collins. Evers played in one game for the White Sox as Collins recovered.
Evers was named the White Sox acting manager for the 1924 season, succeeding Chance, who was ordered home due to poor health. However, Evers suffered from appendicitis during the season, missing time during the year, and the White Sox opened up a managerial search when Chance died in September. The White Sox replaced Evers with Collins after the season.
Evers rejoined the Braves as a scout. As Braves owner Emil Fuchs sold manager Rogers Hornsby to the Cubs and assumed managerial duties himself for the 1929 season, Fuchs hired Evers as a coach. Fuchs had no experience as a field manager, and so Evers became captain of the Braves, directing the team during the game and dealing with umpires. Evers and fellow coach Hank Gowdy played in one game in the 1929 season, coming into the bottom of the ninth inning on October 6, 1929. In the process, Evers became the oldest player in the league for the year.
Evers remained a coach for the Braves under Bill McKechnie, who succeeded Fuchs as field manager in 1930, and served in the role through 1932. He continued to scout for the Braves, and then became general manager of the Albany Senators of the New York–Pennsylvania League in 1935. He resigned from Albany at the end of the season. Over his managerial career, he posted a 180–192 record.
Evers married Helen Fitzgibbons. His son, John J. Evers, Jr., served as a Lieutenant in World War II, assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations. When his son was 11 years old, Evers bought part of the Albany Senators and gave him the stock. Evers' brother, Joe Evers, and uncle, Tom Evers, also played in MLB. His great-nephew is Sports Illustrated writer Tim Layden.
Though Evers and Tinker were part of one of the most successful double-play combinations in baseball history, the two despised each other off of the field. They went several years without speaking to each other after one argument. When Chance once named Tinker the smartest ballplayer he knew, Evers took it as a personal affront.
Evers operated a sporting goods store in Albany, New York in 1923. However, Evers lost his money and filed for bankruptcy in 1936. The store was passed down to Evers' descendants. He also worked as superintendent of Bleecker Stadium in Albany and spent time teaching baseball to sandlot players.
Evers suffered a stroke in August 1942, which paralyzed the right side of his body. He remained bedridden or confined to a wheelchair for most of the next five years. Evers died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1947 at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany.
Evers retired in 1918, having batted .300 or higher twice in his career, stolen 324 bases and scored 919 runs. He frequently argued with umpires and received numerous suspensions during his career. His combative play and fights with umpires earned him the nickname "The Human Crab".
Evers served as the pivot man in the "Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance" double-play combination, which inspired the classic baseball poem "Baseball's Sad Lexicon", written by New York Evening Mail newspaper columnist Franklin Pierce Adams in July 1910. Evers, Tinker, and Chance were all inducted in the Hall of Fame in the same year.
The Merkle play remains one of the most famous in baseball history. The ball used in the Merkle play was sold at an auction in the 1990s for $27,500, making it one of the four most valuable baseballs based on purchase price. Evers' role in Merkle's boner cemented his legacy as a smart ballplayer.
- List of Major League Baseball career stolen bases leaders
- List of members of the Baseball Hall of Fame
- List of Major League Baseball player-managers
- Johnny Evers at the SABR Bio Project, by David Shiner, retrieved October 15, 2009
- Keetz, Frank. "Johnny Evers, The Find of the 1902 Season". Society of American Baseball Research. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "Evers Made Manager: Frank Chance Ordered Home Because of Health". Reading Eagle. April 20, 1924. p. 17. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Johnny Evers Loses Battle: Dies Friday After a Long Illness". Warsaw Daily Union. United Press International. March 29, 1947. p. 7. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
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- "Evers A Star In Every Way: Youngster Has Demonstrated That He Can Think As Well As Play a Great Mechanical Game". The Pittsburgh Press. October 17, 1908. p. 10. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "1904 National League Fielding Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "1906 National League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
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- "1906 World Series — Chicago White Sox over Chicago Cubs (4-2)". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
- "1907 National League Fielding Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "1907 World Series — Chicago Cubs over Detroit Tigers (4-0)". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
- "1908 World Series — Chicago Cubs over Detroit Tigers (4-1)". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
- "1908 National League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
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- "Evers–Ad Wolgast Of Baseball". The Milwaukee Journal. December 11, 1914. p. 18. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "1910 World Series — Philadelphia Athletics over Chicago Cubs (4-1)". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "Johnny Evers Ready To Defy Cub Manager: Will Coach Navy Team and Pass Up Spring Trip, Regardless of Consent". The Pittsburgh Press. November 19, 1910. p. 17. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Johnny Evers Just As Scrappy As Ever". The Pittsburgh Press. September 15, 1911. p. 26. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "1912 National League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
- Bill Sweeney at the SABR Baseball Biography Project, by Peter Morris, retrieved July 17, 2012
- "Johnny Evers: Who Wins Him? Status Remains One of the Mysteries of Baseball. Says He is Free; Charles Webfoot Murphy Says He is the Property of the Boston Nationals". Meriden Morning Record. February 12, 1914. p. 1. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers to Boston Nationals: National League Sells Deposed Manager of Chicago Cubs to "Braves"". The Telegraph-Herald. February 14, 1914. p. 3. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "1914 National League Fielding Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "Braves Capture World's Series In Four Straight — New Record in Baseball Set When Boston Beats the Athletics, 3 to 1. Victory Has No Precdent: Gate Receipts Total $226,739 -Boston Players Divide $73,140 and Mackmen Get $48,760. Evers Breaks Up Game: His Single Scores Two Runs in the Fifth, Routing Shawkey — Scored First Run in Fourth. 34,365 See The Struggle: Wild Scene at Fenway Park When Contest Ends — Stallings Greatest Manager in Baseball, Says Evers". The New York Times. October 14, 1914. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "1914 World Series — Boston Braves over Philadelphia Athletics (4-0)". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "1914 Awards Voting". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "Johnny Evers Wants Revenge For Release By The Red Sox". The Milwaukee Journal. May 19, 1918. p. 3. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Anxious To Be In Game Again: New Redsox Player and Coach Will Lose No Time in Getting Into Shape". The Pittsburgh Press. February 24, 1918. p. 2. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Meets An Old Friend In France". The Milwaukee Journal. August 30, 1918. p. 6. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Evers Joins Giants: Believed Johnny Will Be McGraw's Right Hand Man". Schenectady Gazette. Associated Press. May 10, 1920. p. 8. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Deposed as Leader of Chicago Cubs; Killefer Is His Successor". The Milwaukee Journal. August 4, 1921. p. 1. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Evers at Second Base. – Plays Full Game as Indians and White Sox Battle to Tie, 6 to 6". The New York Times. April 28, 1922. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
- "Frank Chance, Famous Manager of White Sox, Dies on Coast; Former 'Peerless Leader' of Chicago Cubs, Gives Up Fight". The Southeast Missourian. United Press. September 16, 1924. p. 1. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Eddie Collins Manager; White Sox Player to Succeed Johnny Evers". The Montreal Gazette. Associated Press. December 12, 1924. p. 18. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers With Boston; Former Second Baseman to Act as Assistant Manager for Braves". The Vancouver Sun. November 8, 1928. p. 17. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Kirksey, George (March 13, 1929). "Big League Teams Name Their Captains". The Milwaukee Journal. United Press International. p. 2. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Major Leagues End Races With Few Fireworks: Old Veterans And Rookies In Lineups For Last Tilts of Year". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida. Associated Press. October 7, 1929. p. 10. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "1929 National League Awards, All-Stars, & More Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "Now—and then: Johnny Evers—Too Much Pepper". The Milwaukee Journal. July 6, 1934. p. 3. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Awaits Action by Executive Committee on Pitts". The Miami News. United Press International. June 8, 1935. p. 9. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Will Operate Albany Club". Chicago Daily Tribune. February 4, 1935. p. 23. Retrieved July 18, 2012. (subscription required)
- "Johnny Evers Resigns". Christian Science Monitor. Associated Press. September 12, 1935. p. 10. Retrieved July 18, 2012. (subscription required)
- "Helen Evers, Widow of Baseball Great". St. Petersburg Times. January 11, 1974. p. 11–B. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Famed Johnny Evers Still Follows Game". The Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. January 16, 1944. p. 16. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Jr. Becomes Baseball Magnate at 11". The New York Times. January 28, 1921. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- Layden, Tim (December 3, 2012). "Tinker To Evers To Chance ... ... To Me: After years of boasting that he was related to Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers, the author set out to explore—for better and worse—the century-old myth of the double-play artist". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- James, Bill (1995). Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?. Simon & Schuster. pp. 207–208. ISBN 0684800888.
- "Dentists After Baseball Job — Applications Still Arriving at the Giants' Office — Shafer to Sign at Marlin". The New York Times. February 18, 1913. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "Johnny Evers Files Bankruptcy Petition". The Hartford Courant. May 13, 1936. p. 17. Retrieved July 18, 2012. (subscription required)
- "Time Deals Harshly With Two Of Diamond's Immortals". The Montreal Gazette. May 25, 1936. p. 12. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- Amedio, Steve (February 13, 1993). "On The Block: Evers family sell famous Merkle ball at Leland's sports memorabilia auction". The Daily Gazette. p. C1. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Warns Players Not to Fight With Umpires". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. United Press International. July 31, 1942. p. 2. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers To Have Charge Bleeker Stadium". Daily Boston Globe. April 16, 1936. p. 24. Retrieved July 18, 2012. (subscription required)
- "Johnny Evers Teacher Now". The Pittsburgh Press. May 3, 1937. p. 10. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers, Ball Star, Dies: Member of Immortal Diamond Combination". Ottawa Citizen. Associated Press. March 28, 1947. p. 1. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Fights For Life in Hospital". The Telegraph-Herald. United Press International. August 26, 1942. p. 9. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Johnny Evers Loses Battle: Dies Friday After a Long Illness". Warsaw Daily Union. United Press International. March 29, 1947. p. 7. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "National Prexy Hands Evers Three-Day Suspension For Baiting Umps". The Evening Independent. Associated Press. May 20, 1929. p. 9. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Ashley, Sally (1986). F.P.A.: The Life and Times of Franklin P. Adams. Beaufort. p. 65.
- "New Plaques Placed in Baseball Hall of Fame". Reading Eagle. International News Service. July 21, 1947. p. 11. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Hinckley, David (September 22, 2008). "What happened to the infamous ball from 'The Merkle Blunder'?". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- Freeman, Don (October 19, 1992). "N is for Nash and his poem that's a smash". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
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