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The Early King Of Second Basemen:

BID McPHEE

         

Most Cincinnati Reds fans will assert that Joe Morgan was the best second baseman in the team's long history. Johnny Temple was good, too, but he wasn't in Morgan's class. There were others like Alex Kampouris and Tommy Helms and Hughie Critz talented, but not sensational.

 

Before the turn of the century, in an era when baseball was a different game from what it is today, there was a second baseman with the Cincinnati Reds who was in a class by himself among professional baseball players. His name was John Alexander McPhee, affectionately known as Bid McPhee.

 

McPhee was lauded in his day as the "king bee of second basemen" by Cincinnati fans and by a majority of others scattered around the country.

    He had all the skills needed to be a standout, and the Reds were once offered the sensational sum of $10,000 by Cap Anson for McPhee's contract. He held the Cincinnati career record for most hits until a fellow named Pete Rose broke it some 70 years later. He once stole 96 bases in one season and had more than 700 in his career. He set a fielding mark that stood for 29 years.

 

 

And he did that without wearing a glove in the field. Bid McPhee was one of the last major league infielders to begin using a leather fielding aid, and he did it only in the final three years of his career - after setting a one-season fielding mark of .982.

McPhee, in an interview in The Cincinnati Enquirer on April 12, 1890, said, "No, I never use a glove on either hand in a game. I have never seen the necessity of wearing one; and besides, I cannot hold a thrown ball if there is anything on my hands. This glove business has gone a little too far. It is all wrong to suppose that your hands will

get battered out of shape if you don't use them (gloves). True, hot-hit balls do sting a little at the opening of the season, but after you get used to it, there is no trouble on that score."

 

Born in New York, McPhee was raised in a small Illinois town, played three seasons of

minor league baseball in Davenport, Iowa, and Toledo, Ohio, before joining the Reds in 1892. It took a great deal of convincing by the Cincinnati management to persuade McPhee to play baseball. He was an accountant in the off-season and made more money keeping books than the Reds were willing to pay for playing baseball. But Cincinnati upped its ante and McPhee gave up his accounting career.

 

    Bid McPhee spent all 18 of his major league seasons with the Reds. For two years, 1901 and 1902, he was the team's manager. Later, he scouted for Cincinnati. He broke all ties with baseball after the 1909 campaign.

 

In 1932 an article in The Sporting News proclaimed that McPhee had passed ro "that great infield in the sky," bur all the time he was living in obscurity in

Ocean Beach, California, a community near San Diego. "It is not often a man has the pleasure of reading his own obituary," McPhee wrote to The Sporting News, telling one and all that he was very much alive.

 

McPhee lived another 11 years in retirement away from the game he played so well, dying at the age of 83 in 1943.

 

One can only wonder what he would think today of the huge gloves that adorn the hands of baseball's infielders.

 

         
       

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