For three years in a row, Jud McLaughlin tried to win a game for the Boston Red Sox. He never did. He pitched in 16 games from June 23, 1931, to May 18, 1933, all in relief, finishing 11 games but never starting a game. Looking on the brighter side, he never lost a game, either.
McLaughlin was born in the Brighton section of Boston on March 24, 1912. He graduated from Brighton High and attended Boston College, growing to become a 5-foot-11, 155-pound left-hander. Justin Theodore McLaughlin’s parents were Francis A. McLaughlin and Helen A. (Griffin) McLaughlin. Francis had been a foreman in public works before Justin was born, but later became a salesman, selling jewelry at the time of the 1920 Census and oils by 1930.
Francis and Helen had six children: Alice G. (c. 1908), Helen P. (c. 1910), Justin, Francis (c. 1915), Paul L. (c. 1918), and – 10 years later - Robert T. (c. 1928). By 1930 Alice G. was a stenographer at a coal company, Helen was a librarian, and the next year Jud went straight from Boston College to major-league ball with the Red Sox.
June 23, 1931, was his big day. He’d only recently turned 19, and the New York Times suggests he’d come straight to the Red Sox from Brighton High School – that he hadn’t yet gone to Boston College. [New York Times, August 31, 1931] The June 24 Boston Herald, however, made it clear that he’d graduated from high school the year before. His debut was far from a high-pressure situation, first of all because it was in Cleveland, far from friends and family in Boston. It certainly wasn’t televised, since the medium hadn’t gone public yet. And the score was 9-0 in favor of the Indians. Jud was asked to retire the side in the bottom of the eighth inning and give the Red Sox one more chance to score. He was wearing number 30; it was the first year the Red Sox wore uniform numbers, and he was the first Red Sox player to wear number 30. The best thing that could be said about McLaughlin’s first work on a major-league mound is that he didn’t walk anyone, and he did retire the side. Unfortunately, it took him eight batters to do so and four of them scored, thanks to five base hits.
To be fair, the Tribe was hitting that day. The scores of the two games were 13-0 and 10-0. Starter (and losing pitcher) Jack Russell, Ed Durham, and Hod Lisenbee had combined to give up the first 14 hits and nine runs. The Boston Globe summarized Justin’s contribution: “McLaughlin was sent to the mound … and the Indians made merry at his expense.” It was a lost cause of a game (Cleveland’s Clint Brown had himself a five-hit shutout), but McLaughlin didn’t do his own cause much good.
That said, he didn’t do it a whole lot of harm, either. Beggars can’t be choosers, and the Red Sox were perennial last-place losers, as they had been for every year but one since 1922. The front-page story of the next day’s Globe was Yale beating Harvard, 4-3, in 10 innings. None of the Boston papers paid much attention to McLaughlin as a local.
McLaughlin was given eight more assignments by manager John “Shano” Collins before the year was out, though his next one didn’t come for a month after his debut. On July 29 at Fenway Park, Jud came into a game the Red Sox were losing 8-1 to the Detroit Tigers, asked to pitch the eighth inning. He pitched a scoreless eighth, saw his teammates score two runs, and then pitched a scoreless ninth, and saw the Sox score three more. He came close to picking up a win here, but Vic Sorrell of the Tigers relieved Chief Hogsett and secured the final out, and Boston fell short, 8-6. McLaughlin had given up only one hit, but this time he’d walked three. He still emerged otherwise unscathed. Boston starter Bob Kline took the loss.
McLaughlin got the last two outs in the top of the eighth on August 3, and then saw the Red Sox score four times in the bottom of the inning to draw within a run of the New York Yankees, but he’d been pinch-hit for by Tom Winsett, who singled and scored one of those runs. New York won, 9-8. In each of his next four appearances he surrendered two earned runs, then broke the spell by giving up just one on September 5, but in his last appearance of 1931 he gave up three, finishing the season with an ERA of 12.00. He’d thrown 12 innings but allowed 16 hits and eight walks. At least he hadn’t hit any batters. He never did. He’d given up one homer, to New York’s Ben Chapman, a solo homer in the top of the ninth in one of the Sunday games the Red Sox played at Braves Field before they were permitted to start playing on Sundays at Fenway Park.
In 1932 Jud was one of only three (manager Collins and fellow pitching prospect Bob Barr) who took the train from Boston to the team’s Savannah, Georgia, spring-training site. Other players joined the train en route, or made other arrangements to arrive. He was assigned to, and spent most of the year pitching for, the Scranton Miners, Boston’s Class B farm club in the New York-Penn League. In his first minor-league play, he was 7-5 (3.45 ERA) in 94 innings of work over 19 games. He pitched one game in the majors that season – against the Yankees on May 30 in the second game of the Memorial Day doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox were losing 8-3 when he came into the game in the bottom of the sixth. When the game was over, it was Yankees 13, Red Sox 3. McLaughlin had thrown the final three innings and allowed five runs on four walks and five hits. It was his only game in 1932, and contained the only at-bat of his major-league career. He was 0-for-1; Hank Johnson struck him out.
Jud opened the 1933 season with the Boston team (he was one of seven, including new manager Marty McManus, to take the train from Boston to Sarasota, Florida, the team’s new spring-training site) and some thought he might fare well. Ford Sawyer, writing of his exhibition season work in the April 6 issue of The Sporting News, said he “has shown plenty of stuff in the games he has worked and has handled his assignment like a veteran.”
McLaughlin appeared in six games from April 21 to his last, on May 18. In the first four of those games, he didn’t give up a run, earned or unearned. But in the first game of an April 30 doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, he came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh. The Yankees had a 4-1 lead. He gave up three runs in the seventh and four more runs in the eighth (one unearned) before being pulled so that Mike Meola could get the final out.
The last time McLaughlin worked in a major-league game was at Fenway Park, throwing a scoreless top of the ninth in relief. The Tigers already held an 8-2 lead. Bob Weiland was the loser. McLaughlin finished with a record of 0-0 but with an earned run average of 10.27 after facing 128 major-league batters. He was .000 in his one at-bat. He committed one error in the eight chances he’d had.
The Red Sox had switched affiliates in the New York-Penn League in 1933, giving their name to their new farm club, the Reading Red Sox, which new owner Red Sox Tom Yawkey had purchased in February. Pitching for manager Nemo Leibold, McLaughlin was 9-10 with a 4.22 ERA. He threw 158 innings in 20 games.
He started the season with Reading again in 1934, but was 0-4 when the team cut ties. By June, Jud was pitching for the Manchester Indians in the Northeastern League (Class B, unaffiliated with any major-league team). On August 6 he made some headlines as “Iron Man” McLaughlin, pitching both halves of the August 5 doubleheader in Hartford against the Hartford Senators, 8-1 (a five-hitter) and 4-3 (in 10 innings, giving up nine hits). He struck out five in the first game and four in the second; not surprisingly, he “lost some of his speed towards the end” but he still completed 19 innings of pitching and had two wins to his credit. He was 1-for-4 in the first game with two runs batted in and 2-for-3 with a double in the second game and another RBI. [Hartford Courant, August 6, 1934]
Jud had an excellent season, winning 12 and losing five, his winning percentage the best in the league. Maybe it was time to go out on top.
McLaughlin took a position with the Gillette Razor Company in Boston and he eventually became inventory manager, living in Belmont with his wife, Marion G. McLaughlin, nee Mack.
He died of melanoma on September 27, 1964, at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, after a stay of a month and 10 days in the hospital. He was cremated and buried in Belmont on October 1, survived by his wife and all of his siblings save Paul.
Thanks for Maurice Bouchard for considerable assistance locating McLaughin’s genealogy. In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed the online SABR Encyclopedia, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.