Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day of Baseball Season. Here is The Story of a Great Manager and the Grandfather of a Friend

Baseball season begins today, so here is s story about a baseball manager and the grandfather of someone we know and respect.

Duncan A. Bruce in his book The Mark of The Scots, says that “Americans of Scottish descent are extremely well represented in America’s national game. He points out that Ty Cobb, Roger Hornsby, Cy Young, Walter Johnson and George Alexander “were all of partly Scottish ancestry.” and so was William Boyd McKechnie.

Bill McKechnie was born August 7, 1886 in Wilkinsburgh, Pennsylvania, and died October 29, 1965, in Bradenton, Florida. His parents, Archibald and Mary Murray, immigrated from the greater Glasgow area. In 1911, he married Berlyn Bien and four children were born to the marriage: Bill, Jr., James, Beatrice and Carol. She passed away in 1957.

His played third base and could bat both ways but threw with his right arm. His major league career began with the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 8, 1907 and ended on September 20, 1920 with the same team. His lifetime batting average was .251 with 240 runs batted in and 127 stolen bases.

Being a manager placed him in the Hall of Fame. He was the first manager to win the World Series with two different teams, 1926 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1940 Cincinnati Reds. He also won pennants with three different teams. During his managerial career he won 1,892 games. “McKechnie was an unusual kind of manager for his era. A very religious man, he didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and didn’t use profanity.”

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 and was a man of few words. Here is his induction speech: “Somebody’s got this batting order in shape. I never was a third hitter. Mr. Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, anything that I have contributed to baseball I have been repaid today seven times seven. Thank you very much.” (The reference to “third hitter” may refer to the 1940 All Star game lineup.)

He was a churchgoer and family man which earned him the nickname “Deacon.” He sang in the local Methodist church choir for 29 years. The Pirates spring training home in Bradenton is named for him. A close friend said at his funeral, he was “a humble but great man, a devoted husband, and an ardent believer in prayer.”

In a beautiful Chicago high-rise lives James McKechnie and his wife, Nike Whitcomb-McKechnie. William Boyd, the great Hall of Fame Manager, is his grandfather and I know he has much more to add to this story.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew's Society

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