Reds slugger Frank McCormick

Written by: Matt Kelly

As the muscle in Cincinnati’s lineup, he powered the Reds to baseball’s ultimate prize. Now, fans of Frank McCormick hope his name will be called to receive the game’s ultimate honor.

McCormick, an eight-time All-Star and National League MVP, is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Pre-Integration Committee ballot at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Pre-Integration Committee will vote at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., and the results of the vote will be announced Dec. 7.

The 10 candidates on the Pre-Integration Committee ballot are: Doc Adams, Sam Breadon, Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, August (Garry) Herrmann, Marty Marion, Harry Stovey, Chris von der Ahe, Bucky Walters and McCormick. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016.

Born on July 9, 1913 in Manhattan, McCormick grew up in the Bronx and was both a celebrated basketball and baseball player in his grade-school years. After finishing school, he worked as a packer in a Bronx antiques shop as he fell short in tryouts with the Senators, Athletics and Giants.

“One morning I received a letter from the New York club telling me that I was a bucket hitter,” McCormick later said of his workouts with the Giants, “that I would never be able to master hitting to right field, and that if I had a job to stop coming to the Polo Grounds and not risk losing it.”

But George Halpin, McCormick’s manager with the New York Independents, fought for the young first baseman and sent his information to Reds executive Larry MacPhail. Upon invitation, McCormick borrowed $50 from his uncle to take a bus to Beckley, W.Va. and try out with the Reds’ Mid-Atlantic League squad.

MacPhail gave McCormick a chance with Cincinnati, handing him a 12-game trial with the parent club in Sept. 1934. McCormick then honed his craft with six different minor league teams, steadily improving until he compiled a .381 average with 15 homers and 49 doubles with Durham in 1936. He received a second call-up to the big leagues in 1937, playing stints in May and the September stretch-run.

The young “Buck,” as he was nicknamed, won the first baseman’s job in Cincinnati during the spring of 1938. He stuck on with the big league club in a big way, batting .327 and leading the NL with 640 at-bats and 209 hits en route to an All-Star Game appearance and a fifth-place finish in MVP voting.

There was no sophomore slump for McCormick in 1939, as he again earned MVP consideration with a .332 average, 18 home runs and league-leading totals in hits (209) and RBI (128). His rise coincided with his team, as the Queen City club improved by 15 wins and earned its first NL pennant in 20 years.

Cincinnati’s best slugger submitted a valid effort in the 1939 World Series, batting .400 (6-for-15), but it was not enough as the Reds were swept by the Yankees. Undeterred, McCormick returned to enjoy nearly an identical season at the plate in 1940 as he did the previous year, batting .309 and pacing the NL in at-bats (618), hits (191) and doubles (44). This time, he was recognized as the senior circuit’s Most Valuable Player, becoming the third straight Reds player to win the award following Ernie Lombardi in 1938 and Bucky Walters in 1939.

McCormick received equal acclaim for his glove work at first base as he did at the plate. Despite being right-handed, he carried a career .995 fielding percentage at first base, well before Rawlings handed out its first Gold Glove Awards in 1957. From Sept. 1945 to the following Sept. 1946, McCormick played 138 consecutive games without committing an error.

Cincinnati’s reign atop the NL continued in that 1940 campaign, and though McCormick struggled to a .214 average (6-for-28) in the World Series, the Reds prevailed over the AL champion Tigers in seven games to capture their first Fall Classic title since 1919.

As the years continued, McCormick remained a steady offensive presence in the heart of the Reds lineup, earning seven consecutive All-Star Game selections from 1938-44. His durability was as impressive as his consistency: Beginning with his full-time debut in 1938, he played in 652 consecutive games, and was the majors’ active leader for much of that streak. He was also notoriously hard to strike out, most notably in 1941, when the right-hander fanned just 13 times in a full 154-game slate – or in other words, once every 50 trips to the plate.

McCormick’s power had begun to wane when the Reds sold him to the Phillies in December 1945. He was named an All-Star for the final time with Philadelphia in 1946, maintaining a .284 average, before the Phillies released him in May 1947. He quickly signed with the Boston Braves and proved he still had life in his bat, pounding a .354 average in the remaining 81 games of the season. The following October, McCormick played in one final World Series, appearing in three games for the Braves before announcing his retirement.

McCormick went on to enjoy many more fruitful years in baseball. He managed minor league teams in Quebec and Lima, Ohio before serving as a New York metropolitan area scout for the Phillies from 1952-1955. The following year, he was appointed as a coach on Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts’ staff.

McCormick became a member of Cincinnati’s four-man telecast team in 1958, the same year he was inducted as an inaugural member of the Reds’ Hall of Fame. In the mid-1970s, he returned home to serve as director of group and season ticket sales for the Yankees.

Frank McCormick died of cancer Nov. 21, 1982 in Manhasset, N.Y. His 285 doubles and 1,439 hits rank ninth and 12th respectively on the Reds’ all-time lists.

Matt Kelly is the communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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