With two major leaguers, a third brother, Charles, who coached the Villanova University baseball team for more than two decades, and a fourth, Hugh, who coached the Hazleton High School basketball team to three state titles, the McGeehan family of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, built a towering sports legacy in the first third of the 20th century.1 The most apt one-word description of Dan McGeehan’s career, however, might be “short.” The second baseman played in only three games for the 1911 St. Louis Cardinals, and his 5’6”, 135-pound frame caused contemporary reporters to refer to him frequently by nicknames like “Little Danny” or “Midget McGeehan”.
Daniel DeSales McGeehan was born on June 7, 1885, in Jeddo, Pennsylvania, a town of 350 residents located six miles northeast of Hazleton. His Irish parents, Patrick McGeehan and the former Margaret Early, settled there in 1880 with their Scottish-born son Charles, who turned two that year. Patrick, “one of the pioneer residents of the Lehigh coal field,”2 worked in the mines and “was a noted infielder”3 on the baseball diamond. Margaret bore him at least a dozen children, nine of who were still alive in 1900 according to the United States Census.4
. Charles captained both the baseball and football squads at the Augustinian College of Villanova (now Villanova University). His brother Connie played for the 1903 Philadelphia Athletics. Dan’s professional baseball career began with local semipro outfits. After an outstanding season pitching for the Hazleton Pioneers in 1904, he made local headlines by agreeing to join the Drifton Fearnots the following season.5 Soon, he became almost exclusively a second baseman.
McGeehan began the 1907 season with a strong independent team in Nesquehoning, about 15 miles southeast of Hazleton. The manager was his cousin, James McGeehan.6 Nesquehoning played against –and beat—several teams from the professional Atlantic League.7 When that circuit’s Pottsville Republicans found themselves shorthanded due to player desertions, Dan and a teammate filled in on a temporary basis. “The Pottsville management would like to retain them, but they do not care to play away from home,” noted the Philadelphia Inquirer.8
Two months later, however, Dan was playing for pay in the Atlantic League after all. When the Chester, Pennsylvania club, dropped out of the circuit at the end of July, league officials picked Nesquehoning to replace them. The team’s name changed to Tamaqua and the roster combined Nesquehoning’s and Chester’s best players.9 Dan remained the second baseman.
His unusual entry into the professional ranks occurred four weeks after a tragic Fourth of July for the McGeehan family. Within two hours, both Dan’s long-suffering brother Connie, 24, and 19-year-old sister, Maggie, had died from tuberculosis.
After a tumultuous Atlantic League off-season featuring contraction and franchise shifts, James McGeehan’s team moved to Allentown (Pennsylvania) in 1908. Decked out in blue caps and socks with brand new, cream-colored uniforms featuring a left-shoulder patch with an “A” on a diamond,10 Allentown started slowly, but augmented their roster with Notre Dame players like catcher Ed McDonough, outfielder Bert Daniels, and southpaw Frank Scanlan once school let out. “They all played under Dutch names, Allentown being populated by mostly Pennsylvania Dutch, and the team won the pennant. Mack (McDonough) played under the name of Difer, and Scanlan was Strauss, while Daniels was known as Ayres.”11 Dan was a fixture at second base, but also hurled a few innings when the team ran short of pitchers.12
The club played on an undesirable diamond with makeshift bleachers until mid-June, when they were finally permitted to purchase the lease for the Fair Grounds, the city’s prime baseball venue.13 James McGeehan had already lost so much money, however, that the team nearly moved to Wildwood, New Jersey, in early August.14 Instead, after securing the necessary help from the league, the club remained in Allentown and went 28-3 down the stretch to overtake Shamokin for the second-half championship.15
When first-half winners Pottsville refused to show up for a playoff series, believing the gate receipts wouldn’t justify the trip, Allentown unfurled the 1908 pennant at the Fair Grounds with the Atlantic League president on hand to declare them the rightful champions.16
Allentown seemed poised to repeat in 1909 with many of the best players, including McGeehan, back. But the league didn’t last. “Allentown got such a big lead on the other teams that the league went to pieces during mid-season,” explained one article.17
Dan McGeehan finished the season with the Wilson (North Carolina) Tobacconists in the Class D Eastern Carolina League. Though he batted only .212 in 21 contests, his three-run homer off Rocky Mount Railroaders right=hander Jim Thorpe in the season’s final game keyed a 6-4 victory that clinched first place for his new team by a half-game in the league’s official standings.18
When McGeehan returned to North Carolina ahead of the 1910 season, Wilson’s Daily Times noted, “A celebrated personage arrived in town last night.”19 He served as the acting manager until the club’s full-time skipper arrived in mid-June — his big brother Charles, who also manned first base. 20 Charles was sold to the New York State League in early August, however, and the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals purchased Dan less than two weeks later. “With the Chas. and Danny McGeehan sales, the club is coming around all right financially,” observed the local paper.21 ”Danny, who was a local favorite, will have the best wishes of all the fans who remember him as an earnest hard working player.”22
While Charles went straight to the Class B Scranton Miners, Danny remained with Wilson until their season was completed. Their cousin James McGeehan — managing a new team back in Allentown—informed his Pottsville counterpart that three McGeehans would be in his infield on September 11. Charles and Danny were joined by younger brother Patrick at shortstop for “[Dan’s] last game in the anthracite region this season as he reports to the St Louis Nationals on Monday,” read one report.23 A Pottsville paper described how the appearance of Dan McGeehan crouching in the batters box livened up the spectators that day. “He planted himself in position and went through a series of gymnastic stunts that caught the crowd.”24
Cardinals’ manager Roger Bresnahan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “From what I have heard, second baseman McGeehan, whom we obtained from the Wilson club, is a likely looking youngster.”25 But the 25-year-old didn’t appear in any of the Redbirds’ remaining games.
In spring training before the 1911 season, a reporter observed, “Even though McGeehan of the Colts [young Cardinals in an intra-squad game] used a slender bat that looks a bit too long for good service, he clouted the ball hard every time he was up.”26 After fellow rookie Lee Magee broke his ankle27 running the bases in an exhibition contest, McGeehan and Wally Smith made the Opening Day roster as the Redbirds’ backup infielders.
The Cardinals’ second baseman, Miller Huggins, would finish sixth in MVP voting in 1911, so playing time was scarce for McGeehan. After Huggins collided with two teammates and bruised his leg28 chasing a pop up against the Reds on April 18, however, he remained at his Cincinnati home to recuperate29 while McGeehan and Smith started at second.
McGeehan debuted at Robison Field on Saturday April 22, collecting an RBI-single in four at bats against the Cubs’ Lew Richie in a 7-4 loss. When Chicago attempted a stolen base in the top of the first, McGeehan received the throw from his manager-catcher Bresnahan and tagged out Jimmy Sheckard.30 Two innings later, McGeehan fielded Joe Tinker’s shot off the hand of Cardinals pitcher Bob Harmon and alertly threw out Heinie Zimmerman attempting to score from second.31 Frank Schulte, the 1911 NL MVP, also failed to advance two bases on an infield hit because “Little McGeehan made a nice play in the fifth and cut off a run for the Cubs.”32 McGeehan was charged with his first error after muffing Bresnahan’s throw on Tinker’s third-inning steal.33
The Cubs completed a four-game sweep the next day despite the St. Louis Star and Times observation that “Little McGeehan plays cleverly for Roger in Huggins’ place.” Not only did “the midget who is subbing for Huggins” hit safely against right-hander Orlie Weaver, he played a “faultless game at second.”34 He would’ve cut down Zimmerman at the plate again, but Bresnahan dropped the ball.35
McGeehan started his third straight game when the Pirates came to town. After a Texas leaguer off the bat of Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner eluded left fielder Rube Ellis in the second inning, McGeehan’s wide relay throw allowed “The Flying Dutchman” to take second base. Wagner eventually scored on a two-out hit.36 Catcher Jack Bliss pinch hit for McGeehan in the late innings, and Bresnahan finished St. Louis’s 11-inning victory at second base. McGeehan, batting .222, never appeared in another major league game.
He was called home to the bedside of his ailing brother when the Cardinals began a month-long road trip in Pittsburgh37 and didn’t rejoin his teammates until they returned to St. Louis in the last week of May.38 As the Redbirds advanced to their only winning season in a 12-year stretch, Smith started the only three games Huggins missed in June. The only mention of McGeehan in the St. Louis papers occurred when he attended a Knights of Columbus meeting with some visiting Phillies players in June.39 Shortly after Magee recovered and made his season debut on the Fourth of July, the expendable McGeehan joined the Scranton Miners of the Class B New York State League.
Scranton released McGeehan in May 1912 and he returned to Allentown, where the city now had a Tri-State League franchise nicknamed the Teutons. He finished the year with a solid .289 average in 92 games.
That off-season, he lived in Nesquehoning and worked as a bar clerk at the Bechtel’s Hotel.40 He spent the next two seasons with Allentown, batting a career-high .302 with a league-leading 41 extra-base hits in 1914.
“Danny McGeehan Signs New Contract” was the witty headline in the January 30, 1915, edition of the Allentown Democrat describing his marriage to the former Anastasia McGorry. The wedding took place at St. Gabriel’s Church in Hazleton, and the couple honeymooned in Washington, DC and points south.41 Stasia, a dressmaker and coal miner’s daughter from Nesquehoning, and Danny never had children.
When the Tri-State League collapsed in late March, McGeehan wound up with the Manchester (New Hampshire) Textiles of the Class-B New England League, where he hit .230 in 98 games.
In 1916 Allentown had a team in the reformed Atlantic League and hired James McGeehan to manage it. Bringing Danny McGeehan back seemed like a natural fit, “but he has at present such a fine position with the American Bridge Company at Trenton that he is not inclined to return to the diamond for the present.”42
McGeehan captained the Trenton Shop A.A. team in the Pennsylvania Motive Railroad Power League for the next few years, batting a league-leading .429 in 1918.
He identified himself as a boilermaker living in Trenton on his World War I draft registration card, and an inspector for a car shop residing in Hamilton, New Jersey, on the 1920 census. By 1930, he and Stasia had settled in Hazleton, and he worked as a boilermaker for the Philadelphia-based Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Ins. Co.
Dan was honored at the Lehigh Valley Old Time Players banquet in Allentown on April 20, 1954.43 Not quite 15 months later — on July 11, 1955 — he died at his home in Hazleton of a coronary occlusion. He was 70. McGeehan was survived by his wife Stasia and two of his siblings: Patrick, his former Tri-State League teammate and a member of Hazleton’s city school board, and Loretta. A member of St. Gabriel’s Church and that parish’s Holy Name Society, Daniel DeSales McGeehan was buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Drums, Pennsylvania.44
This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Norman Macht and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted www.ancestry.com, www.baseball-reference.com, www.retrosheet.org and the United States Census from 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940.
1 Ray Saul, “Speaking of Sports,” Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania), April 5, 1991: 11.
2 “Death’s Third Visit,” Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) Times-Leader, January 8, 1908: 16.
3 “McGeehan Offered Steelton Berth,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 18, 1918: 12.
4 She had 13 children according to the 1900 Census but reported 12 in 1910.
5 “Drifton Gets McGeehan,” Plain Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania), April 3,1905: 1.
6 “Jimmy McGeehan Hurt,” Allentown (Pennsylvania) Democrat, February 25, 1915: 5.
7 “Tamaqua Pleased,” Allentown Leader, August 1, 1907: 1.
8 “Hazleton,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 9, 1907: 51.
9 “Tamaqua Pleased,” above.
10 “Eleven Innings and Still the Score Was Tie,” Allentown Democrat, May 2, 1908: 1.
11 “M’Donough is Best League Catcher,” Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), July 23, 1910: 9.
12 “Allentown,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 1908: 10.
13 “Atlantic League Will Play at Fair Grounds,” Allentown Democrat, June 16, 1908: 1.
14 “Allentown,” above.
15 “M’Geehan To Lead Allentown Team,” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, March 18, 1916: 12.
16 “Base Ball,” Allentown Leader, September 14, 1908: 4.
17 “M’Geehan To Lead Allentown Team,” Reading Times, March 18, 1916: 12.
18 “Wilson Leads Eastern League,” Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer, August 29, 1909: 2.
19 “Baseball Notes,” (Wilson, North Carolina) Times, May 17, 1910: 2.
20 “Baseball Notes,” (Wilson) Times, May 20, 1910: 8.
21 “Baseball Notes,” (Wilson) Times, August 12, 1910: 5.
22 “McGeehan With Cardinals,” Allentown Democrat, February 6, 1911: 1.
23 “Norman Evans to Play with Locals,” Republican and Herald (Pottsville, Pennsylvania), September 9, 1910: 4.
24 “Evans’ Home Run Swat Wins Game,” Republican and Herald, September 12, 1910: 2.
25 “Roger to Give All Recruits Hard Workout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 27, 1910: 6.
26 “Cardinals Will Play at Kansas City, Saturday,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 1911: 9.
27 “Cardinals Start on Long Journey,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 2, 1911: 17.
28 “Huggins’ Injury Keeps Him Out of Game, Today,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 20, 1911: 18.
29 “Roger and His Boys Ready for Chicago,” St. Louis Star and Times, April 20, 1911: 10.
30 “Roger’s Team, Badly Crippled, Beaten by Cubs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 23, 1911: 30.
31 “Cubs Take Another One from Cardinals, 7-4,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 23, 1911: 49.
32 “Roger’s Team, Badly Crippled, Beaten by Cubs,” above.
33 “Cubs Take Another One from Cardinals, 7-4,” above.
34 Ray Webster, “Cards Drop Final One,” St. Louis Star and Times, April 24, 1911: 8.
35 “Chance’s Cubs Make Clean Sweep of Series with Bresnahan’s Dwarfs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 1911:12.
36 “Bliss Bumps Hunter, Letting Roger in With Winning Run in Eleventh,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1911: 15.
37 “Dan McGeehan Called Home,” Pittsburgh Press, May 11, 1911: 26.
38 “Red Fans Would Welcome Huggins; Next Time You Want Games Started,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 1911: 15.
39 “Quaker Players Entertained,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 12, 1911: 10.
40 “Danny McGeehan Here as Pallbearer,” Allentown Democrat, January 15, 1913: 1.
41 “Danny McGeehan Signs New Contract,” Allentown Democrat, January 30, 1915: 5.
42 “M’Geehan signs Dick Wright,” Allentown Leader, March 21, 1916: 10.
43 Sid Benjamin, “From the Sidelines,” (Hazleton) Plain Speaker, May 17, 1954: 16.
44 “Dan McGeehan Dies Suddenly,” (Hazleton) Plain Speaker, July 12, 1955: 28.