SABR

Red Shannon

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

Red Shannon is one of the 53 players who played for both the Boston Braves and the Boston Red Sox. His career embraced five consecutive years in the American League, bookended by two disconnected years in the National, first for the Braves and later with the Cubs.

Shannon’s debut was with the Braves, in the very last game of the 1915 season, October 7. The Boston Globe called it a “burlesque game” – the New York Giants scoring 15 runs on 24 hits with the Braves scoring eight runs on 17 hits, in a game the New York Times said was notable for its “indifferent pitching and lax fielding.” There were only about 300 fans who chose to come out to Braves Field to see the game, which itself meant nothing, as both teams had their final place in the standings set. The Braves were solidly in second place and the Giants inescapably in last place. The loss officially ended the reign of the world champion “Miracle Braves” of 1914.

Braves Field itself was soon to host the Boston Red Sox, using the larger field as their home park in the 1915 World Series

Even with all the hitting, the game only lasted one hour and two minutes. Red Shannon got none of those 41 hits; he was 0-for-3 after coming in to take over from Rabbit Maranville in mid-game. He did commit an error in one of his seven chances.

Playing in the game, Red joined his twin brother Joe for the first time in a major-league game. It was also the last time the two played together in a big-league game, as it was the final game in Joe’s short career. (He’d debuted with the Braves on June 30, but only appeared in five games, getting two hits in ten at-bats.)

Red’s given name was Maurice Joseph Shannon, and Joe was Joseph Aloysius Shannon. The two were born on February 11, 1897, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Their father Michael Shannon was a steamboat captain. He was a native of Pennsylvania, a first-generation American born to two Irish parents, married to the twins’ mother, Irish native Mary (Hickey) Shannon.

The couple had six children, whom the 1920 census showed working at a number of trades: Agnes, 34, was an elementary school teacher; Thomas, 32, was a clerk for a steam railroad; Steven, 28, was a pattern maker at a machine shop; Maurice, 22, was - like Thomas - a clerk at a steam railroad; Joseph, 22, was an insurance agent, and Francis, 19, was a bank clerk. Michael Shannon had departed life before the census, so Mary Shannon was the head of family.

Maury had a Catholic education, at St. Paul’s for eight years and then at St. Peter’s Prep and Seton Hall University.

The first time the twins show up in organized baseball was in the Atlantic League in 1914, where they played as Maurice and Joe O’Brien, Maurice at shortstop and Joe at first base. They played in 39 and 40 games respectively, with Maurice hitting .250 and Joe hitting .240. Joe was typically an outfielder. Maurice was a switch-hitter; Joe batted right-handed. “Both have remarkable throwing arms,” wrote Sporting Life.i

They both had starred for Seton Hall, and both were reportedly drafted by the other major-league club in Boston, the Red Sox, in September 1914.ii The announcement was formally made by Red Sox owner Joseph Lannin on September 25.iii

Both were still in college and both played on the Seton Hall team in the spring of 1915. The May 28 Springfield Daily News expected them both to arrive to play for the Springfield team in Western Massachusetts, but neither did. Both joined the Boston Braves – not the Red Sox – on June 22 for manager George Stallings to look them over and then farm them out. How it was that they were signed with the Red Sox but ended up on the Braves has not been revealed, though there were close relationships between the two clubs (witness the Braves playing the 1914 World Series – and dozens of games – at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox playing the 1915 and 1916 World Series at Braves Field.)

An article in the Jersey Journal said the boys “were not only twins; they were chums. You can scarcely tell them apart. Two happier young men it would be hard to find.”iv Both were just 18 years old. The way Seton Hall captain Jack Fish had been able to tell the two boys apart is by asking Maurice to wear black stockings while the rest of the team wore blue and white striped ones.v

Stallings had intended to farm them out, but they looked so good to him that he decided to keep them around. When the team went out on the road after the June 24 game, he left them behind in Boston but Stallings wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance at the Polo Grounds, so he called on the twins to rejoin the team when it got to Philadelphia. That is how Joe Shannon first got into a game. When outfielder Joe Connolly was knocked unconscious by a hard-hit line drive that took an unexpected bounce in the June 30 game in Philadelphia, Joe came in to take his place. Maurice had to wait until October for his debut.

In early August, Maurice Shannon was sold on option to Rochester and appeared in ten International League games, hitting .188, before being called back to the Braves just a couple of weeks later.vi Joe Shannon never returned to the major leagues, but he played in a known 1,029 minor-league games through 1929.

Maurice Shannon, known as “Red,” played 309 major-league games through 1926 after his one-game debut in 1915.

The Shannons trained together in the spring of 1916 with the Braves in Miami,vii and both were assigned to New Haven.viii Maurice played in 67 games, batting .251. Joe was in 102 games, and hit .278. At some point around the end of July or the beginning of August, both Shannons “left the New Haven club without permission.”ix The reason they left, according to the Hartford Courant, was that they were “peeved at some of the remarks from their mates about their recent slump.”x Stallings of the Braves requested and received permission from New Haven to use them in exhibition games. They both showed up playing in some semipro games in September and October, for the Sisco Club of Staten Island, and then playing basketball together for the Greenville Catholic Club in Jersey City in November.

They seemed to go their separate ways from that point forward. Maurice trained in Wilmington, North Carolina with the Baltimore Orioles in the spring of 1917, and ended up playing in 95 games and hitting an even .250. A deal was struck and he joined the Philadelphia Athletics, getting into his first game – his second in the big leagues – on September 21. He was 2-for-4 at the plate, both singles, but committed two errors in the field. He appeared in 11 games for the 1917 Athletics, batting .286 (with a .390 on-base percentage), driving in seven runs and scoring eight. He wasn’t free from errors, making five more (seven in all, in 11 games) for an .875 fielding percentage.

In 1918, Red Shannon played in 72 games as a middle infield utilityman, 45 games at shortstop and 26 at second base, and one other game in a pinch capacity. He hit .240 (.367 on-base), with 16 RBIs and 23 runs scored. Joe played for Baltimore, though he bolted from the team in midseason and went back to playing semipro ball on Staten Island.

Maurice had been playing well in June, driving in two runs in the top of the tenth to beat the Browns, 5-3, on June 4. His two-run double in the eighth inning the day before had beaten the Browns, 2-1. A week later, Connie Mack said he was “trying to buy Joe…from the Orioles.”xi It didn’t come to pass.

A little over a month later, Maurice, for his part, left the Athletics and informed manager Connie Mack on July 19 that he had enlisted in the Navy.xii Joining the Navy wasn’t unusual at the time, particularly given Secretary of War Newton Baker’s stance which resulted in ending the major-league season on September 1. But Shannon was developing a bit of a reputation, witness the note in the Denver Post: “Living only across the river in Jersey, Maurice Shannon leaves the Mackmen whenever the mood hits him. He is always found at home, taking bugs off the potato vines or something. Connie sure has his troubles.”xiii In the Navy he may have been, but on September 3, Maurice was found playing for the Paterson Silk Sox in a game against a Navy Reserve team. It could be that he was still awaiting assignment. A little later in the year, Maurice was said to have joined on a minesweeper basketball team that Rube Marquard had organized along with Burleigh Grimes.xiv

With the war over, Connie Mack invited Maurice to rejoin the Athletics. “Mack has wired to Joe Dugan and Maurice Shannon, asking them to come along if they have nothing else of importance to do.”xv Shannon rejoined the Athletics on April 1. He was 3-for-6 on Opening Day.

Shannon was hitting .271 after appearing in 39 games for Philadelphia. On June 26, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox, along with outfielder Bobby Roth, in exchange for Jack Barry and Amos Strunk, both of whom were returning to the Philadelphia fold. He played in 80 games and hit .259 for the Red Sox in 1919, driving in 17 runs and scoring 36. Roth was the key to the deal for the Red Sox, but by the end of the season they were ready to trade both Shannon and Roth.

On December 29, the Red Sox traded Shannon and Roth to the Washington Senators for three players: pitcher Harry Harper, third baseman Eddie Foster, and outfielder Mike Menoskey.xvi Shannon was still just 22, but he had indeed developed a bit of a reputation. The Boston Globe wrote, “Shannon is regarded as a temperamental player, which is likely to prove an obstacle to his development. It is feared that he never will be able to overcome some of his peculiarities. He has the advantage of youth, however, and may yet show unusual ability.”xvii

The Washington Post noted that Shannon struck out more often than any player in the American League; he struck out 70 times, which led the league in 1919, but saw him as “an infielder of promise.”xviii He trained with the Senators in Tampa and made the team. He played almost every game through July 2, and even had a ten-game hitting streak at the end of May, but then – along with Harry Courtney – “took a vacation.” xix He was away from July 2-13. His failure to run out a grounder on July 17 spelled the end. “President Griffith announced last night that the youngster would never play another game with the Washington club, even if he is hitting close to the .300 mark.”xx He was hitting .288.

Shannon was placed on waivers, and picked up by his old club, Connie Mack’s Athletics. In 25 games for the Athletics, he hit. 170 – but left the team after August 31. “Maurice Shannon is an enigma,” wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer nearly six months later. “Shannon deserted the team last fall, after showing a decided propensity for not fielding ground balls. Since that time nothing has been heard from the infielder.”xxi

He played in just one game for the Athletics in 1921, on April 17, the fourth game of the season. He pinch-hit and made an out. He played most of the year for the Newark Bears, who’d paid $3,000 for his contract, appearing in 121 games. As of the June 19 newspaper, he was riding a 24-game hitting streak and batting .439 in International League ball. The streak ran to 27 games. He cooled off, but was still batting .320 by the end of the season.

In November he became engaged to a fellow resident of Jersey City, Miss Anne Marie Sheehan. The Sheehan/Shannon marriage on February 3, 1923, produced one child, a son named Maurice.

He was a holdout in the spring of 1922. By the time he showed up, it seemed like manager Bill Clymer wasn’t inclined to put up with him. He was traded a few days after he turned up, sent to Columbus, where he was reunited with brother Joe.

On August 3, Columbus traded him to Brooklyn for infielder Hal Janvrin, but Janvrin said he was a ten-year man and he refused to go to the minors. Shannon thus finished the season with Columbus, appearing in 147 games and hitting. 274.

For the next three seasons, 1923 through 1925, Shannon played for the Louisville Colonels and manager Joe McCarthy. He hit well - .295, .340, and .294, with on-base percentages over .400 all three years. At some point, he picked up the nickname “the honest Irishman.” In 1927, he played in every game, “the only Colonel who wasn’t forced from the lineup by illness or injuries last season, but he was hurt a dozen or more times and was enabled to stay in the battles only by his grit.” xxii

Shannon never hit a homer in the majors, but he hit 34 in the minor leagues, five of them in 1925 and six in 1931. The Colonels won the American Association pennant in 1925. Shannon beat Baltimore in Game Five of the Junior World Series with a grand slam in the first inning of the October 7, 1925, game.

Joe McCarthy was named manager of the Chicago Cubs, and he wanted to bring Shannon with him, saying he was the best second baseman in the AA.xxiii On December 11, the Cubs acquired Shannon. He was to fill the shortstop slot previously manned by Rabbit Maranville.

He made the team and got the starting nod, and played in 19 games for the Cubs – while hitting .333 – but was traded to Indianapolis on June 7, sent along with outfielder Joe Munson for Riggs Stephenson and Henry Schreiber, but in the words of the Chicago Tribune “was unable to perform up to major-league standard.” xxiv He played 33 games for Indianapolis, hitting .286, but then returned to Louisville for 1927, and the two years after that.

Shannon played for Jersey City in 1930, but for just 55 games (.291), and then for Richmond in 1931. He hit .305 in 135 games for Richmond.

He signed with the Norfolk Tars in 1932 and started the season with them, finishing it with Wilkes-Barre, hitting .301 in 67 games for the Barons. It was his last season in the game.

Red Shannon retired from work with the Jersey City Department of Recreation, where he was an instructor of basketball and baseball from 1935-1962. He died on April 12, 1970, in Jersey City, survived by his wife Anne, their son Maurice Jr., his sister Maria, and four brothers.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Shannon’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Bill Lee’s The Baseball Necrology, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Lyle Spatz.

 

Notes

i Sporting Life, January 9, 1915.

ii Jersey Journal (Jersey City, NJ), September 11, 1914.

iii Kansas City Star, September 25, 1914 and Washington Post, September 26, 1914.

iv Jersey Journal (Jersey City, NJ), September 23, 1915.

v Saginaw News, March 11, 1916.

vi The Springfield Daily News of August 6 reported the option agreement and the Springfield Republican of August 19 reported his recall.

vii For instance, see the Miami Herald, March 16, 1916. There is a photo of the “Seminoles,” Stallings’ second-string team, in the March 19, 1916 Boston Globe which depicts both Shannons.

viii Springfield Republican, May 4, 1916.

ix Springfield Union, August 22, 1916. “They Just packed up and went wrong,” wrote Sporting Life (August 12, 1916.)

x Hartford Courant, July 31, 1916.

xi Washington Post, June 11, 1918.

xii See for instance the Baltimore Sun of July 20, 1918.

xiii Denver Post, July 31, 1918.

xiv Jackson Citizen Patriot, November 13, 1918.

xv Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26, 1919.

xvi Philadelphia Inquirer, December 30, 1919.

xvii Boston Globe, December 30, 1919.

xviii Washington Post, January 7, 1920.

xix Washington Post, July 14, 1920.

xx Washington Post, July 18, 1920.

xxi Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 1921.

xxii Undated March 1928 Louisville newspaper found in Shannon’s Hall of Fame player file.

xxiii Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 6, 1925.

xxiv Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1926.

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