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July 25, 2013

Getting to know a man called 'Ee-yah'

(Continued)

Then there was the pitcher, Al Travers. The rest of his life he would be known as Father Al, a Catholic priest, semi-famous in Pennsylvania for giving up 24 runs to the champs. You can imagine the conversation he had with God on the mound that day.

Jennings and his coaches also played that day. Jennings would keep playing occasionally until 1918.

The Paper Tigers were such an embarrassment that Cobb was soon reinstated, and the incident was mostly forgotten except for coining the term paper tigers. Even the Philadelphia reporter who helped Jennings find the scabs left that fact out of his story.

Jennings would continue on as Tigers manager until 1920, but his best seasons were behind him. The Tigers made the World Series three years in a row, ‘07-’09, but never won it. He would become known more for his “antics” than his wins. He once taunted a pitched he deemed “simple” with a toy to distract him. Fans of the show “The Simpsons” will even recognize a classic Ee-yah move that was imitated by Mr. Burns in the episode “Homer at the Bat.”

Jennings left the Tigers with 1,131 wins; it was 1992 that Sparky Anderson finally passed him as the team’s manager with the most wins. For a few years after that, Jennings coached for the New York Giants, helping out his Baltimore Oriole pal John McGraw. When McGraw got sick, Jennings returned as manager for part of the 1925 season, but it apparently left him run down and sick. He left baseball that year and died in 1928 at 58.

The veteran’s committee selected Jennings to the HOF based on his playing career. He hit .311 with 1,527 hits and 359 stolen bases and was part of a superb infield (at shortstop) that led Baltimore to three league titles in the 1890s. He also played for the Brooklyn Superbas when they won pennants in 1899 and 1900.

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