July 7, 1885|
|Died: April 8, 1964
|September 27, 1903, for the Chicago Cubs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 4, 1916, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Runs batted in||376|
George Joseph Moriarty (July 7, 1884 – April 8, 1964) was an American third baseman, umpire and manager in Major League Baseball from 1903 to 1940. He played for the Chicago Cubs, New York Highlanders, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox from 1903 to 1916.
Moriarty was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he grew up near the Union Stock Yards. He made his major league debut on September 7, 1903 at the age of 19 with the Cubs. He was an average hitter but an outstanding baserunner, with 20 or more stolen bases in eight consecutive seasons and 248 career stolen bases, including eleven steals of home. He played his last major league game on May 4, 1916 with the White Sox.
Afterward, he became an American League umpire from 1917 to 1940, interrupted only by a 2-year stint as manager of the Tigers in 1927-28. He was one of the AL's most highly regarded umpires in his era, working in the 1921, 1925, 1930, 1933 & 1935 World Series (as crew chief in 1930 & 1935), as well as the second All-Star Game in 1934.
On a memorable Memorial Day in 1932, Moriarty worked behind the plate for a Cleveland Indians home game against the White Sox. When several Chicago players took exception to his calls, he challenged them to settle the dispute under the stands of League Park after the game. Pitcher Milt Gaston took him on first but Moriarty knocked him flat, breaking his hand. Several White Sox, including manager Lew Fonseca and catcher and future AL umpire Charlie Berry, took him on in turn. The next day, AL president Will Harridge issued numerous fines and a 10-day suspension for Gaston.
It is reported that once while Moriarty was umpiring, none other than Babe Ruth stepped out of the batter's box and asked Moriarty to spell his last name. When he did so, Ruth reportedly replied, "Just as I thought; only one I." The baseball card shown to the left of this text, however, misspells Moriarty's name with two I's.
Moriarty also was noted for coming to the defense of Tiger slugger Hank Greenberg in the 1935 World Series (eventually won by Detroit), when he warned several Chicago Cubs to stop yelling antisemitic slurs at Greenberg. When they defied him and kept up the abuse, he took the unusual step of clearing the entire Chicago bench—a move that got him fined by longtime Commissioner/Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (known primarily to posterity for keeping blacks out of the major leagues throughout his quarter-century in office). Three years later, when Greenberg was pursuing Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, Moriarty kept the final game of the 1938 season going until darkness made it impossible to continue, Greenberg finishing with 58 homers, two shy of Ruth's record.
In his biography, Greenberg recalled:
Much later in my career George Moriarty and I became very good friends. Back in the early 1900s he played third base for Detroit, and he used to steal home. Somebody wrote a poem about him, and the title was “Never Die on Third Moriarty.” All through the rest of his life George felt he knew something about stealing home. When he was umpiring on third base, and on occasion when I'd get on third, he coached me on how to take a lead so I could steal home. I never had the guts enough to try, because I didn’t think I could make it. I'd run down the line, and he'd keep insisting that I take a bigger lead. I was always afraid that I was going to get picked off. But it was interesting to see Moriarty, who was umpiring at third base, coaching me on how to steal home for the Tigers. It became a joke among the players, but I never got up the nerve to try it.
Despite his combative field persona Moriarty was quite congenial off the field, maintaining close friendships with Jesuit priests at the College of the Holy Cross in central Massachusetts. He also fancied himself a lyricist, supplying the words for Richard A. Whiting's tune "Love Me Like the Ivy Loves the Old Oak Tree." and J. R. Shannon on "Maybe I'll Forget You Then" and "Ragtime 'Rastus Brown" in 1912.
On the other hand, during 1944 divorce proceedings his wife testified, "His attitude toward the next-door neighbors was of intense hatred for no reason whatever. One time he heard the neighbor's radio. He was so angry he carried our radio to the open window next to the neighbor and turned it on full blast for about three hours."
Moriarty joined the AL public relations staff after retiring from field work, and later became a scout for the Tigers, helping to discover such players as hard-hitting Harvey Kuenn and southpaw Billy Hoeft before retiring in December 1958.
He died in Miami at 79.
Moriarty issued this witty quote about success:
"Sometimes I think the fates must grin as we denounce them and insist, The only reason we can’t win is the fates themselves have missed. Yet, there lives on the ancient claim – we win or lose within ourselves, The shining trophies on our shelves can never win tomorrow’s game. So you and I know deeper down there is a chance to win the crown, But when we fail to give our best, we simply haven’t met the test Of giving all and saving none until the game is really won. Of showing what is meant by grit, of fighting on when others quit, Of playing through not letting up, it’s bearing down that wins the cup. Of taking it and taking more until we gain the winning score, Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead, of hoping when our dreams are dead, Of praying when our hopes have fled. Yet, losing, not afraid to fall, If bravely we have given all, for who can ask more of a man than giving all within his span, it seems to me, is not so far from – Victory. And so the fates are seldom wrong, no matter how they twist and wind, It’s you and I who make our fates, we open up or close the gates, On the Road Ahead or the Road Behind.
- List of Major League Baseball leaders in career stolen bases
- List of Major League Baseball umpires
- 1909 Detroit Tigers season