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 George Stallings.
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 Lowell.
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 pennant.