On July 20, 1901 Heinie Manush was born. Richard looks back at his Hall of Fame career.
If you’ve been paying attention—and you have, right?—you will notice that when I write these columns recapping the life and times of a relatively obscure Hall of Famer, it is an exercise in learning more. I usually have at least some knowledge about the player, even if it is just his one grand accomplishment, as with Mickey Welch a couple of weeks back.
When it comes to Heinie Manush, however, my mental index card is (or was, before I wrote this) pretty much empty. I did not even know he was a Hall of Famer, let alone relatively basic information like what teams he played for, what positions he played or even what era. So in the spirit of vanquishing ignorance, let’s start at the beginning for Manush and work our way forward.
Heinie is, predictably, not a given name. He was born Henry Emmett Manush in Alabama in 1901. One of seven boys of German immigrants, Manush spent a brief period after graduating high school working for one of his brothers at a plumbing company before entering the Western Canadian League in 1921.
The next year, playing for the Omaha Buffaloes, Manush hit .376 and rapped out 245 hits in the long Western League schedule. (He played in 167 games that year.) That earned him a shot with the Tigers the next year where Manush would first meet his mentor, Ty Cobb, at the time the team’s player-manager.
Not only were Cobb and Manush similar types as hitters—high-average, line-drive types who batted lefty—they also shared a similar disposition as hot-tempered Southerners. This goes so far that biographies of Manush inevitably compare his temperament to that of Cobb.
|Ty Cobb, perhaps imparting the same advice Manush received. (Icon/SMI)|
Generally, the conclusion is that while Manush possessed a furious temper of his own (he is one of only a handful of players to be ejected from a World Series game) he rates as a less angry man than Cobb.
Of course, this is rather like saying someone is shorter than Yao Ming; it tells you something, but not much.
Temper or not, Manush could hit, as he batted .334 his debut season. However, after two relatively down campaigns—he hit .294 over the next two years—Cobb began working with his left fielder.
The work paid dividends almost instantly, as Manush hit .378 in 1926, leading the American League while beating out the likes of Babe Ruth (.372) and Detroit teammates Bob Fothergill and Harry Heilmann.
Despite the presence of these high average players, the Tigers finished barely above .500 and twelve games behind the pennant-winning Yankees in sixth place.
(The American League was reasonably tight at the top that season, owing to the combined 108-199 record by the seventh- and eighth-place Browns and Red Sox, respectively.)
That marked the end of Cobb’s tenure in charge of the Tigers, and he was replaced by George Moriarty. Deprived of the everyday advice by his hitting guru, Manush slumped to .298, going from the league’s leading hitter to finishing 100 points behind teammate Heilmann for the batting title.
For his part, Moriarty and Cobb never got along, and with Manush no longer hitting, the manager saw no reason to keep the ex-manager’s favorite son around. Manush was sent to the Browns as part of a multi-player deal.
Perhaps driven by the desire to prove Moriarty wrong, Manush rebounded and posted the best season of his career in 1928. He once again hit .378, and did so leading the league in hits and doubles. Moriarty finished a narrow second in the MVP voting to Mickey Cochrane, and it seems likely that had his Browns been more competitive—they finished ten games over .500 but miles behind the Yankees and Cochrane’s Athletics—he would have won the award.
Another possibility that might have garnered Manush the trophy was winning the batting title. Facing each other’s teams on the season’s last day, Washington’s Goose Goslin came to the plate knowing that were he to make an out, he would give the batting title to Manush.
After supposedly first trying to get himself ejected (Goslin was unwilling to be pinch-hit for, apparently concerned with appearing “yellow”), Goslin recorded a hit just out of the reach of Browns’ right fielder Beauty McGowan.
Manush slipped somewhat in 1929, but again led the league in doubles, hitting 45 of the 491 he would record in his career. At the time of his retirement, he was one of only 14 players to have 490 or more doubles.
After spending two and a half years toiling for the Browns, Manush was dealt to Washington for his former batting title nemesis, Goslin. This was a strong move for both the Senators—who began a streak of four straight seasons with ninety or more wins upon his arrival—and Manush, who hit a collective .328 during his time in the nation’s capital.
In 1933, Manush earned his only trip to the World Series, one he would probably prefer to forget, given both his ejection and .111 batting average—just two singles and two walks in 20 trips to the plate—as the Senators won just one games against the Giants.
Manush bounced around the league through the late 30s, including a season spent in Brooklyn when the team inexplicably decided to play in green uniforms. Though he continued to play in the minors for the next few years (he would get an occasional at-bat as late at 1945) his major league career was finished after the 1939 season.
He ended his playing days with more than 2,500 hits and a lifetime .330 average. Manush never drew serious support from the BBWAA, peaking at less than ten percent of the vote in 1962, and receiving just one vote in both 1948 and 1949.
Ultimately, he probably does not have Hall of Fame numbers, and his inclusion says more about the Veterans Committee than about the man himself. But this should not be taken to mean that he was not a very good player.
Manush died in 1971 after spending his retirement playing a daily game of golf. One can only hope—for the sake of the other denizens of the greens—the temper that led to him being ejected from a World Series game had calmed in his old age.