SABR

Greg Mulleavy

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

Shortstop Greg “Moe” Mulleavy played 78 games for the White Sox and one for the Red Sox – but enjoyed 20 years in the minor leagues. His father, Thomas, was a machinist in a Detroit automobile factory, having moved from Canada to the United States in 1903 with his wife, Bertha Freytag Mulleavy. Gregory was born in Detroit on September 25, 1905, their first-born. Greg later had a younger sister, Eleanor.

When Thomas Mulleavy registered for the draft in 1918, he was working as a delivery driver for Freytag’s Cleaners, and Greg was still quite a few years away from his first job in pro ball – as shortstop for the Petersburg Broncos in the Class B Virginia League. He hit .251 in 101 games during the 1927 season.

Greg attended St. Bernard elementary school and the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. He did not attend college, and did not get into Organized Baseball until he was 21 years old. After the season with Petersburg, Mulleavy played in the Class C Piedmont League in 1928, for the Raleigh Capitals, and hit .302, slugging .449 – and collected one (hitless) at-bat for Toledo at the very end of the season after his contract was purchased by the New York Giants in early September.i It was back to Class B in 1929; Mulleavy played shortstop for the Decatur Commodores in the Three-I League and hit .332, with brief stints in higher classifications with both Toledo and San Antonio. The White Sox had had a chance to sign him in his first year; Mulleavy had asked manager Ray Schalk for a tryout at one point when the Chicago team passed through Detroit. Schalk liked him enough that he “took him along to Chicago, but later decided Mulleavy was too inexperienced and did not sign him to a contract.”ii He had apparently been recommended by former major-league outfielder Bobby Veach, who considered him something of a protégé.iii

The 1930 season began in Toledo again under manager Casey Stengel. Mulleavy appeared in 71 games, batting .353. On June 28 the White Sox made a move, trading pitcher Bob Weiland and shortstop William Hunnefield to Toledo for Mulleavy. It was also reported that Toledo pocketed $20,000 in the deal. Mulleavy was asked to join the team on the road in New York.iv His debut game was on the Fourth of July. The White Sox had just returned home and hosted the St. Louis Browns for a doubleheader. They lost the first game, 11-3, with Mulleavy contributing a single and a double and driving in his first run. Chicago almost lost the second thanks to six errors (two of the errors were Mulleavy’s), but rallied for two runs in the seventh and won, 6-4. Mulleavy was 1-for-3, a single; he also sacrificed once and picked up two RBIs. He helped turn a double play in both games.

Manager Donie Bush played Mulleavy at shortstop almost exclusively for the rest of the season. He appeared in 77 games and hit .263 in 321 plate appearances, driving in 28 runs and scoring 27. He hadn’t really been an improvement over Hunnefield, but he’d held his own, though Bush also relied on Bill Cissell. Irving Vaughn of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Mulleavy has failed to impress Manager Bush. The lad is a long way from a finished product.” v Season stats show him with 32 errors in 388 chances, a disappointing .918 fielding percentage.

Heading into spring training in 1931, there was some thought of having Mulleavy play second base, but at cutdown time, Cissell was back at short (sharing time with Luke Appling) and John Kerr played second. Mulleavy was back with the Mud Hens, and he played second base. He hit .295 in another full year with Toledo. It’s interesting to note that in his 20 seasons of minor-league baseball his work in the five seasons he played second base saw him less error-prone than the dozen he played short (fielding figures are not available for all years). The Mud Hens finished in last place.

Mulleavy played in one big-league game in 1932, on April 22 in St. Louis. He was 0-for-3 in the 4-1 White Sox loss. And he had only one more appearance in a major-league game after that, on April 13, 1933, for the Boston Red Sox.

Mulleavy spent 1932 on the West Coast, playing for the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League and hitting .321 (with a .431 slugging percentage, and only one home run). He had been turned over to Oakland on option on April 30. His fielding presented an immediate challenge in the May 4 game, when “he went so far as to throw the game away for his brand-new mates in the first innings he was used. Two bad throws to first resulted in two scores, the margin of victory for the [Sacramento] Senators.”vi Eighteen days later, another errant throw cost a game. The .321 batting average may have compensated for his .926 fielding percentage. In any event, the Boston Red Sox were willing to take a chance on him.

Mulleavy married Doris Giroux in September 1932 and then was part of a package in a December 15 trade between the two Sox teams. Boston traded shortstop Hal Rhyne and pitcher Ed Durham to Chicago for outfielders Bob Seeds and Bob “Fatty” Fothergill, and infielders Urban Hodapp and Mulleavy. Red Sox owner Bob Quinn considered Mulleavy to be a “splendid prospect.”vii

The 1933 Red Sox were run by new ownership; the old regime had sold the franchise to Tom Yawkey. There was a new spirit afoot, and Yawkey and his general manager, Eddie Collins, were starting to acquire new players. Manager Shano Collins wasn’t sufficiently impressed in spring training, but Greg did break camp with the team and appeared as a pinch-runner for Smead Jolley in the eighth inning of the second game of the season, on April 13. It turned out to be his last major-league appearance.

The very next day Mulleavy was sold outright to the Buffalo Bisons and joined the team at Jersey City. In Buffalo he found a more permanent home. For the 1933 season and the seven seasons that followed – all the way through 1940 – Mulleavy played shortstop for the Bisons. (In 1939 he also played a number of games at second base.) He began his play in the International League (Double-A at the time) well, with a .337 average in ’33 and seven home runs, his highest total to date.

Mulleavy barely missed a game from 1933 through 1950, averaging 150 games a year through 1938, and a little over 100 the last two years. His career Double-A batting average was .298, with some ups and downs. In 1938 he had his lowest average (.267) of the stretch through ’39, but was apparently going for home runs, since he hit 14 of them, (The most he hit in any other year was eight.)

Perhaps Mulleavy’s best memories came in the 1933 season, his first for the Bisons, when he helped lead them to the pennant over Baltimore. His triple in the top of the 11th drove in the two winning runs in the deciding playoff game; it was his fourth hit of the night.viii He worked hard in the Little World Series against Columbus, helping win one of the games with a home run, but the Red Birds won the best of nine series.

The Bisons won the playoffs again in 1936. They were defeated by Milwaukee, four games to one, in the Little World Series, with Mulleavy’s double driving in the winning run in Buffalo’s sole victory.

In 1939 the Mulleavys welcomed son Gregory Thomas Mulleavy Jr. Born in Buffalo, Greg Jr. became a TV and film actor and changed the spelling of his last name slightly, to Mullavey, in order to distinguish himself from his father. His most noted role was in the TV series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; he played the role of Mary Hartman’s husband, Tom. He also appeared in episodes of shows such as The Rockford Files, All in the Family, Bonanza, The Virginian, and Hawaii Five-O — and even as Carly's grandfather on the show iCarly.

Years later, Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau praised Mulleavy – who had already begun to show some administrative skill while working in 1939 as a player-coach with Buffalo.ix

In 1940 Mulleavy suffered a sharp dropoff, with no homers and a .225 average. The next year, he was the player/manager for the Jamestown Falcons in Class D and hit .355 at the lower level, winning the PONY League pennant in the six-team circuit. In 1942, Jamestown won the pennant and the playoffs, and Mulleavy was hired to manage Buffalo. The team finished next to last (66-87) and Mulleavy resigned at the end of the year. He did not bat in any of the games, though he may have appeared briefly in one.

The Lockport team (named the Cubs in 1944 and the White Socks in 1945) hired Mulleavy to manage their PONY League team for those two years, and they won the pennant in ’44, placing third (with Mulleavy being replaced during the season in ’45), and he wrapped up work in that circuit with two years for the Olean Oilers in 1946 and 1947. Olean earned a playoff slot, coming in third, in 1947, but was eliminated in the finals. It was Greenville in the South Atlantic League in 1948, Nashua in the New England League in 1949, Elmira in the Eastern League in 1950 – all teams from 1946 through 1950 were Brooklyn Dodgers farm teams.

After three years scouting for Brooklyn, Mulleavy returned to managing in the Dodgers system with seasons in Mobile (1954, coming in midseason) and Montreal (winning the pennant in 1955, through mid-1957). He resigned as Montreal manager on June 14 and was named to Brooklyn’s big-league coaching staff the very next day. He coached first base for the Dodgers in their first years after the move to Los Angeles, too, working on a regular basis – despite a considerable amount of turnover in the organization – from 1958 through 1960 and 1962 through 1964. He was replaced by Leo Durocher in 1961, after he had to resign to recover from an operation over the winter. He performed some scouting duties during his recovery period.x Mulleavy returned to duty in 1962, coaching three more seasons. The entire Dodgers coaching staff was dismissed after the 1964 campaign and Mulleavy was given the Southern California territory as a scout from 1965 to 1979. He is credited with signing Don Hoak (with Fresco Thompson) and Karl Spooner. 

Mulleavy worked until his death after a lengthy illness on February 1, 1980, in a hospital at Arcadia, California.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Foster’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.

Thanks to Rod Nelson for information on Mulleavy’s scouting career.

 

Notes

i Christian Science Monitor, September 28, 1928.

ii Washington Post, December 8, 1930.

iii Hartford Courant, June 15, 1930.

iv Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1930. The dollar figure was cited by the Chicago Tribune’s Irving Vaughn in the Tribune’s September 3, 1930, issue.

v Chicago Tribune, September 3, 1930.

vi Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1932.

vii Boston Globe, December 23, 1932.

viii New York Times, September 13, 1933.

ix Los Angeles Times, April 14, 1958.

x The Sporting News, January 4, 1961, and February 1, 1962.

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