Happy (belated) Birthday Red Bird!
James Edward “Red” Bird was born on this date in 1890. He pitched for the Washington Senators back in 1921, at age 31. One game. Saturday, Sept 17, 1921. Relief. Five innings pitched, five hits, 3 runs, a walk, 2 strikeouts. One at bat. One Strike out.
The Washington Times was there to cover the action, and reports that Bird was “well received by the fans,” whatever that means. Perhaps fans then were more discerning, and sometimes booed the new guys coming up from the minors? That seems hard to believe.
The independent minor leagues of the day made baseball ownership a bit more entrepreneurial back then. Or something. Mercantile? This article, (below,) from the same Times, 13 September, reports that Griffith went out and got some new players at the behest of the fans. (Really?) In any case, for whatever reason, Griffith went out shopping in the minor leagues, and came back with a number of “prospects” for the club. Besides Red Bird, “a southpaw from Shreveport in the Texas League,” there were a couple of pretty good players in that shopping cart: fella name of Goose Goslin, from Columbia in the Sally League, fella name of Ossie Bluege from Peoria in the Three I League.
Also a guy named McIree, a northpaw from Virginia Minnesota (no league.) I wonder if McIree ever made it to the bigs?
All told, Griffith harvests 12 new players from the hinterlands. Nothing like a little new blood to motivate your players and stir a little fan interest at the end of a long season.
Anyway, Bird gets his cup of coffee in the bigs. The reporter is fairly positive about his performance, but perhaps for 31-year-old rookies trying to make it big, you cut them some slack.
He calls Bird “a well put-up southpaw from the Texas League…” I wonder what he meant by that. Was Bird highly touted? A prize catch? A sturdy lad?
Bird comes in in the 5th and does as well as anyone could ask, the reporter says, except for the 7th inning. I guess one bad inning out of five isn’t so bad. Bird gives up a single in the fifth, and hits a batter, but nobody scores. Sixth inning, nobody scores. Then in the 7th, with one out, a walk, a single, and Sewell nails a well-hit triple to left-center. Rice was apparently playing over in right center with Sewell at bat, and couldn’t flag it down. But the hit was a hummer, maybe Rice couldn’t have got it in any case, so what can you do? A sacrifice fly brings Sewell home, and three runs are on the board against Mr. Bird.
“Bird disposed of the foe in good style in the remaining two innings.”
So. Not so bad. One rocky inning. One good hit, really. If Sewell flies out to Rice, maybe nobody scores. Maybe Bird plays a few more games, settles down, has himself a major league career, instead of a cup of coffee. But that’s the way baseball go. I wonder what became of Red Bird after his cup of coffee. Did he stick with the club for the rest of the season? Was he let go the next day?
Baseball Reference.com tells us that Bird went 17-12 with Shreveport in 1921, with a 3.76 ERA. In 1922 he was back with Shreveport, but had less fun, going 9-13, with a 4.59 ERA. In 1923 he started the year with the Shreveport club, then went to Memphis in the Southern League, where he went 11-11, and then on to Mobile. In 1924 he started at Galveston, back in the Texas League, then went back to the Southern League, to Mobile and Nashville. In 1925, Texas league, Waco and then Houston. His record was 19-11 in ’25, but more detail than that is lacking. In ’26 and ’27 the peripatetic Red Bird landed in Fort Worth, and he finished out his career there in the Texas League.
I looked around a bit in old newspapers for a picture of Red, but found nothing. Baseball Reference has an old picture, looks like from a newspaper, not very good quality, but the best available.
Red passed away 23 March 1972 in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, at age 81, and he’s buried in Stephenville, Texas, where he was born. Back in the Texas League again.
Good game, Red.