at Fenway Park
Lefty Tyler was the third of the Miracle Braves’ Big
Three, and the only one who didn’t win a 1914 World Series game (though
the Braves won his only start). During the astonishing run from last to
first, Tyler was, according to sportswriter Tom Meany, “untouchable when
he had to be, which was most of the time.” He was especially known for his
grit in low-scoring games – 30 of his 127 major-league victories were
shutouts, ten of them 1-0 squeakers. Also known for his great “slowball”
(changeup), Tyler employed an overhand crossfire delivery. His unorthodox
style allowed him to hide the ball longer, making his fastball more
effective and aiding his sweeping curve.
George Albert Tyler was born on December 14, 1889, in Derry,
New Hampshire. His father worked in the local shoe shops. All four Tyler boys
starred for the local town team, the Derry Athletic Association. Lefty Tyler
became prominent in local circles by 1906 by pitching for various sandlot teams
as well as St. Anselm College in nearby Goffstown, New Hampshire. The following
year, Lefty joined the Derry Athletic Association with Lefty pitching nearly
every game, his brother, Fred, as his batterymate, and his other brother,
Arthur, manning third base.
In 1909 Tyler ran off a string of 34 consecutive shutout
innings for the Derry Athletic Association, including a 17-strikeout game. Those
feats attracted the attention of former major-league pitcher Alexander Ferson,
who recommended him to Lowell of the New England League. Tyler made his
professional debut with Lowell on July 2, 1909, leaving in the fifth inning with
a deficit but escaping with a no-decision. He went on to post a 5-5 record,
splitting his time between starting and relieving.
A 19-16 record with fourth-place Lowell in 1910 earned Tyler a
late-season look with the cellar-dwelling Boston Nationals, who purchased his
contract on August 26th, though Tyler initially held out. It was his
understanding that Bill Cunningham of the New Bedford club had received part of
his sale price to the Washington Senators. Upon hearing of his sale to Boston,
Tyler approached Lowell club manager James Gray for a similar deal. Satisfied
that Lowell would square up with him, Tyler reported to Boston and made two
relief appearances without a decision.
After being named Boston manager for 1911, Fred Tenney learned
of Tyler’s dissatisfaction (he had received none of the sale money from Lowell).
Tenney contacted Lowell on Tyler’s behalf. Gray offered $100, while Tyler wanted
$200. (His monthly salary had been $125.) When Tyler offered to split the
difference, the Lowell club directors met and decided to rescind their offer,
claiming that Cunningham had not received any purchase money from New Bedford.
Despite his dissatisfaction over the Lowell matter, Tyler
pitched well enough to break spring-training camp with Boston. He was originally
slated to be sent to the Southern League for seasoning, but the pitching staff
was too thin for him to be farmed out. With Rube Waddell toiling in the minors,
Tyler was the only big-league pitcher using the overhand crossfire delivery.
With last-place clubs behind him, Tyler went 7-10 with a 5.06 earned-run average
in 1911 and 12-22 with a 4.18 ERA in 1912, leading the majors in losses during
the latter season.
Things started to change for Tyler in 1913. Off the field, he
married Lillian McCarthy of Lowell on January 29. He also made Lowell his
permanent residence and would reside there for the remaining 40 years of his
life. On the field, he led the National League with 28 complete games while
lowering his ERA to 2.79 and posting a 16-17 record for new Braves manager
Tyler went 16-13 with a 2.69 ERA during the great 1914 season,
putting together a string of 23 consecutive shutout innings during the
second-half stretch run. In the final week, his brother Fred was recalled from
Jersey City. Many sources erroneously include the Tylers on lists of
major-league brother batteries; Lefty’s final regular-season appearance came on
October 2nd, but Fred didn’t make his major-league debut until the following
day. To rest catchers Hank Gowdy and Bert Whaling for the World Series,
Stallings had Fred Tyler catch both games of three consecutive season-ending
doubleheaders, the full extent of his major-league career. Lefty started Game
Three of the World Series sweep. He was lifted in the bottom of the tenth inning
for a pinch-hitter with his team down 4-3. The Braves tied the game and later
won it in the 12th.
Tyler’s fine 1916 season of 17-9 with a 2.02 ERA and twice as
many strikeouts as walks was sandwiched by seasons of finishing just over .500
with near equal walk/strikeout ratios and ERAs at or above the league average.
In 1916 he ended the Giants’ record winning streak at 26 when he beat them, 8-3,
on September 30.
On January 4, 1918, former Braves coach Fred Mitchell, then
managing the Chicago Cubs, acquired Tyler in exchange for second baseman Larry
Doyle, catcher Art Wilson, and $15,000. Tyler noticed soreness in his shoulder
during spring training in 1919. He insisted on pitching through the pain and
took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against St. Louis in his first start
before finishing with a complete-game, four-hit win. Tyler was diagnosed with
neuritis and it was believed he was finished as a pitcher. Hopeful that his
career could be saved, the Cubs sent the 29-year-old to the Mayo Clinic in
Rochester, Minnesota, for a thorough examination. He was declared to be in
perfect health except for very bad teeth.
Returning to the Cubs in 1920, Tyler posted an 11-12 record
and was released the next season after going 3-2 in ten games. He finished the
1921 season pitching eight games with Rochester of the International League,
going 4-1 but with a 5.01 ERA. The Braves signed Tyler in February 1922, but he
never pitched again in the majors. He played for various semipro clubs before
becoming player-manager of Lawrence of the New England League in 1926.
After his playing days, Tyler umpired from 1928 to 1930 in the
New England League and in 1931 and ’32 in the Eastern League. He worked for the
New England Power Company for a time, then as a shoe cutter in the mills around
Tyler died suddenly at his home of a heart attack on September
29, 1953 – exactly 39 years from the day that the Miracle Braves clinched the