Happy Birthday, George

George Mullin was born on the 4th of July, 1880, in Toledo, Ohio.

He was a pitcher. A righty. Mostly for the Detroit Tigers (1902-1913), with a few other seasons with a few other teams scattered in after that, and ending in 1915.

He was six feet tall and his weight hovered around 200 pounds, so people called him Big George. He struggled with his weight and was often reprimanded for being out of shape.

He was 32 when he took the mound for Detroit – the second game of a double-header with the St. Louis Browns – on his birthday, July 4, 1912.

This was no marquee matchup. The Tigers were a game under .500 (36-37), while the poor, poor Browns (who today are the poor, poor Orioles) had won only 19 games, losing 49, and were well-mired in last place.

1912 Detroit Tigers. (George Mullin is in the back row, far right. Directly in front of him sits Ty Cobb.)

Things hadn’t been going well for Mullin in 1912 either. Age and weight had taken their toll and he was not in great shape.

“Less than three weeks ago waivers were asked on George J. Mullin, the Detroit club announcing that the big pitcher had outlived his usefulness here and publicly offered him for sale or exchange,” The Detroit Free Press reported.

But, he sat there on waivers for weeks and Detroit had no takers, and that’s how Mullin came to still be pitching for the Tigers that day.

1912

Baseball wasn’t the big sports news on Independence Day, 1912 – in Detroit, or anywhere. Jack Johnson and Jim Flynn were in New Mexico for boxing’s Heavyweight Championship.  “The Negro versus The Great White Hope.” That was the big story.

– Public Domain

Johnson vs Flynn

(If there was a Boxing Bloggess, she would tell you that Jack Johnson, the “Negro,” defended his heavyweight title that day. The sheriff was called in to stop the fight in the 9th round because Flynn, that year’s “Great White Hope,” continued to head-butt Johnson despite repeated warnings by the referee.)

The fight was so heavily anticipated that The Detroit Free Press had to ask its readers – on the front page of the paper – not to call the paper to find out who won.

It was predicted to be a rainy day in Detroit, but the showers held off and the Tigers easily took the morning game 9-3.

And, then, that afternoon, on his 32nd birthday, Mullin threw a no-hitter.

It wasn’t a pretty one.

He struck out five, but he also walked five, and two men reached on errors.

He was wild all day, which worked to his advantage, The Free Press reported. “The big curver was just wild enough to keep the aliens guessing and hitting at bad balls. He was in a hole with almost every batter, but had nerve enough to put something on the ball when he had to get it over.”

Mullin went 3-for-5 at the plate. We know this because, The Free Press reports, Mullin stood on the mound at the top of the 9th, three outs away from a no-hitter, and called over to the official scorer: “Hey, Batch?” he yelled, holding up three fingers to ensure that all of his three hits were properly tallied.

He walked the first runner in the 9th, but the next batter lined to Ty Cobb for the first out. The next man up fouled out, and then Cobb made an easy play on a fly ball for the third out.

And, the Tigers won 7-0.

“After yesterday’s performance, the Detroit club will probably ask for waivers on the rest of the pitching staff.” ~ L.C. Davis, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

You have to dig around a bit in the next day’s papers to find Mullin’s no-hitter, which is buried under all the stories of the fight, and the head-butting, and the police intervention.

But, you can find Hugh Fullerton’s “My Worst Blunder” syndicated column, which was a regular piece in many newspapers, where big leaguers share their worst career play. Wouldn’t you know it, the July 5 blunderer? George Mullin.

The blunder he recounts is in the Tigers’ pennant winning game in ’08. To be honest, it’s no great story. With the game tied in the 9th, Cleveland has two on, one out. Mullin recounts how he and his catcher plan a pitch-out. But, he neglects to alert his infield, his pitch-out stays in, the batter hits into a double play, and the Tigers go on to win. So, he says, the blunder wins the pennant for Detroit.

(If you think this is a pretty lousy blunder, in that it’s not as lousy a blunder as it could be, I’m with you.)

So, Mullin’s no-hitter is eclipsed by a controversial fight and his own canned story about his own “worst” blunder.

And, then, when they do get around to mentioning the no-hitter, they spell his name wrong …

Scranton, Pennsylvania

Rochester, New York

Or, they mock his age …

Mullin’s no-hitter, The St. Louis Star and Times said the next day, “shows what a good prescription for forcing a man to hustle asking waivers on him is.”

Or, they call him a “has-been” …

Franklin, Pennsylvania

Or, his no-hitter doesn’t even make the headline …

Hartford, Connecticut

The season didn’t get much better for the Tigers, who finished in 6th, 36 games out of first. The Browns, however, climbed out of last place – their 53-101 record topped the Yankees who ended the season 50-102. I share this simply to let you know that the Browns-who-become-the-Orioles finished ahead of the Yankees that year.

1912 Tigers Scorecard.

But, back to George Mullin.

Library of Congress

George Mullin is one of the greatest pitchers to ever play for the Tigers.

That no-hitter was the first ever for the Tigers. (The second would come 40 years later. Today, they have seven.)

Mullin’s 336 complete games is the most-ever by a Tiger pitcher (and nearly a hundred more than Hooks Dauss, who comes in at number two).  Mullin’s 3,394 innings pitched is the team record. His 209 wins is second-most for a Tiger, his 2.76 ERA ranks him fifth on the team.

And, he threw a no-hitter on the 4th of July. It was his birthday.

Happy Birthday, George.

15 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, George

  1. I love the bit about the “worst” blunder. It’s like in a job interview when they ask, “What is your greatest weakness?” and you say something like “I just work too hard” “I’m too nice” “Too dedicated and motivated”. Lol.

    Anyway, good for George. :) Too bad that his feat didn’t get more press.

  2. Wonderful! I got goosebumps for George and his no-hitter. … And then I got so sad for him – poor fella couldn’t catch a break even when he’d caught a break. Amazing that they couldn’t read the incredible story his numbers would tell at the time. I’m glad to be introduced to him, and see him get his due here. Happy Birthday, George – and Happy Fourth to you!

  3. Interesting story! I had never heard of George Mullin. Hal Newhouser, Tiger pitcher of the 1940s is part of the answer to my favorite baseball trivia question: Prior to Barry Bonds, only 9 players had won back to back MVP awards. The nine who did so represented every position on the field. Can you name them?

  4. LOVE this post. I knew of Wabash George from a baseball book my dad got me that honored Baseball’s Centennial. He set the Tigers’ all-time single season record for innings pitched. Another George who was in baseball has his birthday today, and at first I feared this blog was about him. Dare I say… Steinbrenner. Not to make anyone sick, but…

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