Joe Tinker

Joseph Bert Tinker
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1946
Primary team: Chicago Cubs
Primary position: Shortstop

"These are the saddest of possible words: Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

You didn’t have to follow baseball to know this poem, entitled “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.” Franklin P. Adams published it in 1910 in the New York Evening Mail, and even though it was one of a series of poems Adams would write, it quickly took its place with “Casey at the Bat,” “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and “Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t” as part of the pop culture that seemed to draw everyone to baseball.

The first guy in the poem – Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker – was a key figure in what was considered the best infield in the league from 1902-12. The Cubs won four pennants and two world championships with Tinker at short, Johnny Evers at second and Frank Chance at first, and the three of them went into the Hall of Fame together in 1946.

They were “linked” in the minds of baseball fans largely on the strength of the poem, which was about double plays that broke the rallies of opposing teams.

While the legend grew from the poem, in reality research has shown that the most double plays the trio ever turned in one season was 58, and not all were started by Tinker. But like all good legends, it’s more about the impact on the public than the daily box score.

Tinker started his professional career as a 19-year old in 1900 and was in the majors two years later, a regular at 21. His speed and his sure hands were the first things scouts noticed, and while he never hit much (.262 lifetime with 31 homers), he showed how slick infield play and a good head for the game could give one a long career in the big leagues.

In Joe’s fifth season the Cubs won the National League pennant, followed by World Championships in 1907 and 1908, the year of the “Merkle Boner” which gave the Cubs a second chance at the pennant. In the replay of the game, Tinker’s double to center off Christy Mathewson proved to be the pennant-winner, (although the moment was overshadowed by Chance getting assaulted by a crazed fan and suffering broken neck cartilage).

There was a backstage story to the Tinker-Evers-Chance infield, and that was that Tinker and Evers didn’t speak to each other for many years, except no doubt, for the occasional “I got it!” on pop-ups. Suffice it to say, they worked professionally side-by-side on the infield and didn’t reconcile until they shared a radio booth at the 1938 World Series, in which the Cubs played the Yankees.

Tinker was traded to the Reds in 1913 where he was player/manager, and then repeated the dual function with the short-lived Federal League team in Chicago, before returning to the Cubs in 1916 for one last go-around. He retired to Orlando, Fla. where Tinker Field, long time spring training site of the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins, bore his name.

Joe died in Orlando in 1948, the last of the threesome to pass away. The poem lives on.

"It is impossible to speak of the great deeds which made the Cubs of 1906 the most formidable team in the history of the game without due mention of their peerless shortstop, Joe Tinker. "
F.C. Lane in Baseball Magazine

Career stats

Year Inducted: 1946
Primary Team: Chicago Cubs
Position Played: Shortstop
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birth place: Muscotah, Kansas
Birth year: 1880
Died: 1948, Orlando, Florida
Played for:
Chicago Cubs (1902-1912)
Cincinnati Reds (1913)
Cincinnati Reds (1913)
Chicago Cubs (1916)
At BatsAB
Home RunsHR
Stolen BasesSB
Batting AverageBA
On Base %OBP
Slugging %SLG