Lefty Tyler was the third of the Miracle Braves' "Big Three," 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, 10 of them 1-0 squeakers. Also known for his great "slowball" (change-up), Lefty employed an overhand crossfire delivery (until 1940 pitchers weren't required to make their first step within the width of the pitcher's plate). His unorthodox style allowed him to hide the ball longer, making his fastball more effective and aiding his sweeping curve.
The second of John F. and Martha Jane (McCannon) Tyler's four sons, 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 played baseball; William (better known as "Smiling Bill") was good enough to pitch in the low minors, while Fred briefly joined his brother on the Braves in the final days of the "miracle" season of 1914. George pitched for St. Anselm College and various sandlot teams in 1906. During the following season he took the mound in almost every game played by the semipro Derry Athletic Association, the roster of which included his brothers Arthur and Fred.
In 1909 George ran off a string of 34 consecutive shutout innings for the DAA, including a 17-strikeout game. Those feats attracted the attention of former major-league pitcher Alexander Ferson, who recommended Tyler to Lowell of the New England League. Lefty 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. Tyler's 19-16 record in 1910 earned him a late-season look with the cellar-dwelling Boston Nationals. He made two late-September relief appearances without a decision.
The next spring Tyler pitched well enough to break training camp with Boston. Rube Waddell was toiling in the minors, making Lefty the only big-league pitcher who used the overhand crossfire delivery. With a last-place club behind him, he went 7-10 with a 5.06 ERA 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. 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 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 Lefty's 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 2 but Fred didn't make his major-league debut until the following day. To rest catcher Hank Gowdy for the World Series, Stallings had Fred Tyler catch both games of three consecutive season-ending double-headers, 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 10th inning for a pinch-hitter with his team down, 4-3. The Braves tied the game and later won it in the 12th.
Lefty 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 also ended the Giants' record unbeaten streak at 26 when he beat them, 8-3, in the second game of a doubleheader 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. It was a steep price to pay, but Lefty made the trade worthwhile by posting the best season of his career, going 19-8 with a 2.00 ERA. On July 17 he tied the existing NL record by pitching 21 innings to beat the Phillies, 2-1. The war-shortened season likely cost Tyler his only 20-win year, but the Cubs took the pennant.
In the 1918 World Series Mitchell started only left-handed pitchers (Tyler and Hippo Vaughn each started three games) to keep Babe Ruth out of the Red Sox lineup when he wasn't pitching. Lefty won Game Two, 3-1, on a complete-game six-hitter, helping himself with a two-run single. He left Game Four for a pinch-hitter with the Cubs down, 2-0, in the eighth inning. Chicago tied the game but Boston scored in the bottom of the inning and held on for a win. With the Cubs down three games to two, Tyler lost a 2-1 heartbreaker in the deciding sixth game. Both Boston runs were unearned.
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 on Opening Day before finishing with a complete-game, four-hit win. Lefty made his next start on May 2 and beat Pittsburgh, 4-2, but pain forced him from the game. Mitchell rested him until May 16, when he tossed a four-hitter in a losing cause against the Giants. He appeared four days later in relief but couldn't complete the inning. After a month's rest, Tyler allowed six hits and three walks in a complete game 2-0 loss to Cincinnati on June 24. He pitched again on June 28 but couldn't retire a single batter. It was his last appearance of the 1919 season.
The Cubs sent the 29-year-old Tyler to the Mayo Clinic where he was declared to be in perfect health except for very bad teeth. He was never again the same pitcher despite having all but three of his teeth extracted. Returning to the Cubs in 1920, he posted an 11-12 record and was released the next season after going 3-2 in 10 games. He finished the 1921 season at 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. In 1925 and 1926 he played for Lawrence in the New England League. No statistics are available for 1925, but in 1926 he was 3-3 in eight games as a pitcher and batted .280 in 72 games as a first baseman.
After his playing days, Tyler umpired 1928-30 in the New England League and 1931-32 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. Lefty died of a heart attack on September 29, 1953--exactly 39 years from the day the Miracle Braves clinched the pennant.
Note: A slightly different version of this biography appeared in Tom Simon, ed., Deadball Stars of the National League (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, Inc., 2004).
For this biography, the author used a number of contemporary sources, especially those found in the subject's file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.