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The Detroit Tigers needed to find someone to replace legend Ty Cobb as the team manager. On this day in 1926, they hired former infielder George Moriarty, adding another chapter to an interesting baseball career.
During the 1910’s and the 1920’s, George Moriarty was one of the better known figures in baseball. The third baseman of the Detroit Tigers, he was the team captain for five years, gaining notoriety and respect for his ability to steal home and refusal to back down from anyone. In one infamous tale about Moriarty, he and Ty Cobb were about to come to blows, but the third baseman handed Cobb a bat, telling him that he needed it to even the odds. Cobb, who was also known for his refusal to back down from anyone, backed down from Moriarty.
After his playing days, Moriarty became an umpire in the American League. speaking a decade on the field in that role. However, after a 1926 season where the Tigers finished sixth with a 79-75, Cobb resigned as manager. In a move that would be truly bizarre these days, Detroit named Moriarty, the AL umpire and former third baseman, as their manager.
The Tigers responded in that first season. Although they finished fourth, their 82-71 record was an improvement on the previous season. As good as Moriarty was as an umpire, he appeared to have another calling as a manager. However, after a 68-86 record the following year, he went back to umpiring.
It was as an umpire that he cemented his legend. During a game in 1932, after some disagreements about his strike zone, Moriarty fought four members of the team at the same time. In what was considered a sign that the umpire was slowing down, he fought them to a draw. Then, in 1935, Moriarty threw out three Cubs players for heckling Hank Greenberg, an action that he was fired $200 for.
Even with those actions, Moriarty was considered to be an excellent arbiter on the field. In that same year, 1935, he was voted by the players as the best umpire in the American League. He may have been tough, but he was fair. In the players’ eyes, that was what mattered most.
A true renaissance man, Moriarty was more than an umpire. He also wrote a national baseball column about his observations on the game and his remembrances about those players who had passed. Later, after his umpiring days, Moriarty became a scout, discovering players such as Harvey Kuenn for Detroit.
George Moriarty held just about every job a person could in baseball. On this day in 1926, he took the unprecedented move of leaving his post as an umpire to manage his former team, the Detroit Tigers.