Frank McCue (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)

Frank McCue

This article was written by Andy McCue

Frank McCue (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)Frank Aloysius McCue had his cup of coffee in the majors, but his baseball life was more illustrative of the hopefuls who struggled in the bushes for years without much more than a sip.

McCue’s statistical record is somewhat incomplete, but the infielder kept returning to the Class B leagues. In the nine seasons from his 1921 debut with the Moline Plowboys of the Three-I League to his failed tryout with the Canton Terriers in spring training of 1930, 98% of his at-bats would come in Class B. But he kept trying until he was 32 years old.

Frank was born October 4, 1897, in Chicago to Thomas and Catherine McCue, both Irish natives. His father died when Frank was about eight months old.1 By the 1900 census, Catherine was running a boarding house where Frank, an older sister, and three older brothers lived. Six boarders, all Irish immigrant laborers, shared the premises. Catherine was evidently a fine businesswoman. By the 1910 census, she had paid off the mortgage on the boarding house and by 1920, she had moved to a building at 1960 72nd Place on Chicago’s South Side. There she rented out half the house to a family and paid off the mortgage by 1930. The census that year put the house’s value at $10,000, indicating a solid middle-class home. One of Frank’s brothers had died, but the other two were still single, living at home and working in the nearby steel mills. Frank was listed there, too, still giving his occupation as ballplayer.

McCue presumably came to the attention of someone in the White Sox organization from the sandlots or semipro ranks of South Chicago. When he registered for the World War I draft in 1917, he had given his occupation as a scale man at Wisconsin Steel Co., which made steel for the farm equipment manufactured by its parent company, International Harvester. In the 1920 census, he gave his occupation as shipping clerk in a steel mill. His brothers were also working in steel mills. A newspaper story said he had been on Charles Comiskey’s squad in 1920, but there is no other evidence that he had been anywhere in professional ball.2 He first appeared in the pro ranks when the White Sox optioned him to Moline of the Class B Three-I League in February 1921. At 23, he was already a bit old to be starting his career although the White Sox evidently thought he was younger.3

The 5-foot-9, 175-pound switch hitter played well through spring training, impressing with his speed and hustle. “The little Irishman has won a place in the heart of every fan who has seen him play,” wrote Curley Anderson in the Moline Dispatch. “McCue acts like a real swatter.”4 He faded somewhat in later exhibitions: “It was discovered he was practically green on inside baseball.”5 Still, manager Earle Mack (Connie’s son) was interested enough to suggest Moline buy his contract. Club president Warren Giles, later National League president, could not agree on a price with Comiskey and released McCue back to the White Sox. Comiskey ordered him to report to Nashville of the Southern Association but Frank went to Chicago, argued with Comiskey and won his release. He then returned to Moline and signed with the Plowboys.6

McCue started the 1921 season well, going 3-for-4 in the home opener, playing second base and batting eighth. But cracks started to appear. In a refrain that would be heard through the rest of his career, McCue was acknowledged as a good hitter, but found wanting with the glove, a realm where he was being challenged by Carlton “Chops” Lord. Then, the bat faltered and by mid-June, the Plowboys optioned him to Madison of the Class D Dakota League.7 He reported late, saying there had been illness in his family in Chicago, and Madison sent him back without playing.8

On July 1, Mack said he would not send McCue to a lower team but would keep him as a utility player.9 By July 9, his batting average was down to .219.10 Then he began to hit. By August 4, when Athletics’ scout Harry Davis came to Moline, he found McCue close to .300. “He’s not prepared for faster company yet, but has the makings of a good ball player,” Davis said, “In a year’s time, he should net the Moline club a neat sum.”11 He wound up the year at .278 with a .425 slugging average, splitting time between second and third base.

Moline won the Three-I League championship and McCue was reserved for the 1922 season.12 A fan group gave him a “beautiful blue sweater” at the end of the season in appreciation of his hard work.13 He was also invited to play on a barnstorming team Mack put together that fall.14

McCue went to spring training in 1922 confident of a job and hoping for more. Mack was quoted in the newspaper saying, “This is the last year for McCue in Class B ball. He is sure to go up this season.”15 Presumably Mack had more than a hint because just a few weeks later, his father paid $2,500 for McCue’s contract, with a clause for him to report to the Athletics at the end of Moline’s season.16

McCue, now often called Danny in the local paper, maintained the hitting pace he had shown late in 1921. He finished at .285 with a .512 slugging average and led the league in home runs, again splitting time between second and third base. Still, there were cautionary notes. Harry Davis returned and said he did not think McCue could hit big league pitching despite his boss’s purchase.17

Nevertheless, McCue left Moline on September 14, reporting to the Athletics in Detroit. On the 15th, Mack substituted him for Jimmy Dykes in the middle innings, and he went 0-for-3 with no chances at third base. A week later, in St. Louis, he pinch-hit for second baseman Heinie Scheer, then stayed in at third, with Dykes moving to second base. Again, no hits at the bat and no chances in the field. His major league career was over in five plate appearances.

That winter, he played semipro basketball in Chicago.18

In 1923, Connie Mack optioned McCue to Columbia (SC) of the Class B South Atlantic (Sally) League before spring training.19 On the field, it was almost a repeat of the previous season. He hit .277 with a .503 slugging average, leading the league in stolen bases and finishing second in home runs.20 But off the field, financial problems kept the Columbia franchise on roller skates and it wound up in a late July shift to Gastonia, North Carolina.21

After two solid seasons in Class B, Mack was confident enough to place McCue with the Class Double A Minneapolis Millers for the 1924 season. Class AA was the top of the minors in those years and McCue’s career still seemed to be on the upswing when he reported to Beaumont, Texas, on March 23. Dykes had not established himself as more than an average player and McCue was clearly in the mix.22

McCue won the Millers’ third base job in spring training, but there were clearly undercurrents. His fielding was described as “erratic” and one writer summarized “his throws, usually uncertain, were perfect today.”23 Late in spring training manager Mike Kelly brought in two challengers who had debuted in the majors in 1923, Mike Gazella and Moe Berg. In the season’s first week, McCue had two games, six hitless at-bats and an error. Soon Gazella had the job and McCue was back to the Class B Three-I League and the Peoria Tractors.

There had to be a drop in confidence as he stayed in Peoria barely a month, from his first game May 8 to his last on June 15. He disappeared from the box scores after that date and does not reappear until the spring of 1925.24

That spring, The Sporting News reported Mack had sold McCue’s contract to the Class B Charlotte Hornets of the Sally League. McCue had used up the two years Mack could carry him on his roster without keeping him in the majors.25 He competed for a job in spring training but was released before the 1925 season began.26

Still, he didn’t give up. In 1926 he won a job with the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Virginia League. He had a strong year with the bat, with a .331 average (the league hit .313) and a .497 slugging mark. He was mentioned in the discussion of the league’s All-Star second baseman.27 He had played well enough to be invited back for 1927, but he was now 29 years old and still in a Class B league.

He started the 1927 campaign at third base, batting cleanup on opening day for the Tars.28 In late August, he was traded to the Kinston Eagles of the Virginia League, where he began to play some outfield. He finished the year with a .285 batting average but some decline in his slugging to .443. Four Eagle players were sold to higher level clubs, but not McCue.29

In fact, as the Virginia League disbanded for 1928, McCue’s contract was sold to the Winston-Salem Twins of the Piedmont League, a slot lower at Class C.30 He opened the 1928 season batting eighth and playing second base, but by the end of April, he had been traded to the Augusta Tygers in the Sally League, back up to Class B.31 He managed 123 games there, and his batting trend continued with an average of .304 and slugging down to .382.32 He was even reserved for 1929.

That year, he opened back at second base and played regularly until his last game on June 15, when he was released while hitting .296. Within a week, he had hooked on with the Williamsport Grays of the Class B New York-Penn League.33 Each new venture seemed to be shorter. In late July, when a Williamsport outfielder returned, McCue was let go. He quickly signed with the York White Roses of the same league, where he finished the year at .274 with 3 home runs.34

Still, despite the 32 years he carried into 1930’s spring training, he would not quit. He was signed by the Canton Terriers of the Class B Central League.35 He did not make it into the opening day lineup.

McCue returned to Chicago and his mother’s boarding house. Presumably with help from his older sister, a career teacher, he got a job as a physical education instructor with the Chicago school system, working at O’Keefe School less than four blocks from his mother’s house.

He married Colette O’Brien and took an apartment at 615 E. 78th St. in South Chicago. They had no children. His last burst of the limelight came on Sept. 29, 1940, when he, Johnny Mostil, Tony Piet, Fidgety Phil Collins and other former professionals played in an exhibition game for the Chicago Parks Department.36

McCue died on July 5, 1953, and is buried at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum in the Evergreen Park neighborhood of South Chicago.37

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Chris Bouton.

 

Sources

https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/M/Pmccuf101.htm

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mccuefr01.shtml

U.S. Census records 1900 through 1940 at ancestry.com

World War I draft registration cards at ancestry.com

Sporting News contract card at LA84 Foundation, https://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll3/id/152191/rec/2

 

Notes

1 “Death,” Chicago Daily Inter Ocean, June 2, 1898. Illinois and Chicago death indexes list the death as May 31.

2 “Three White Sox to Moline Club,” Moline Dispatch, February 25, 1921. His Sporting News contract card (https://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll3/id/152191/rec/2) indicates he had signed with the White after the 1920 season.

3 McCue was clearly aware his age was a problem. Baseball sources give his birth year as 1898 and his Sporting News contract card listed his birthday in 1900. Draft registration cards and calculations from census records give the 1897 date.

4 Curley Anderson, “Errorless Ball, Timely Swatting Wins for Plows,” Moline Dispatch, April 12, 1921.

5 Curley Anderson, “Deal with Sox for M’Cue Does Not Go Through,” Moline Disptach, April 21, 1921.

6 “M’Cue Rejoins Plows; Philly Hurler Reports,” Moline Disptach, May 4, 1921.

7 Curley Anderson, “Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, June 11 and June 15, 1921.

8 Curley Anderson, “Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, June 25, 1921; “Moline Sells Star Shortstop,” The Sporting News, June 30, 1921: 1.

9 Curley Anderson, “Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, July 1, 1921.

10 “Howard Jones Ranks Fourth in Hits and First in Home Runs,” Moline Dispatch, July 9, 1921.

11 Curley Anderson, “Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, August 4, 1921.

12 Curley Anderson, “Most of Plows Hail from East; 2 from Illinois,” Moline Dispatch, September 21, 1921.

13 Curley Anderson, “Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, September 6, 1921.

14 Curley Anderson, “Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, September 24, 1921.

15 Curley Anderson, “The Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, April 12, 1922.

16 “Plow Infielder is Purchased by Big League Club,” Moline Dispatch, May 9, 1922; The price wasn’t reported until Curley Anderson, “Sport Spotlight,” August 23, 1922.

17 Curley Anderson, “Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, August 23, 1922.

18 Curley Anderson, “The Sport Spotlight,” Moline Dispatch, November 25, 1922.

19 “Columbia Sees Light After Winter Gloom,” The Sporting News, April 12, 1923: 5.

20 “Complete Figures for 1923 Batting Averages of Sally League,” Charlotte Observer, October 25, 1923: 12.

21 “Orphans Capture Pitching Battle,” Greenville News, July 21 and “Kellys Nose Out ‘Orphans’ 6 to 5,” Greenville, News, July 28, 1923; Bailey Groome, “Gastonia Combers Take the Series from Kelly by Winning in the 10th,” Charlotte Observer, July 29, 1923.

22 Frank Smith, “Mack Thinks He’ll Win the Flag with Great Hurlers,” Chicago Tribune, April 2, 1924.

23 Hubert M. Dustin, “Fort Worth Shuts Out Millers 2 to 0,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, April 6, 1924.

24 The final statistics for the Three-I League that year (The Sporting News, December 18, 1924: 7) indicate he also played for Danville, but I could find no mention of him in any box score.

25 “Practice Season Arrives in Sally,” The Sporting News, March 19, 1925: 5.

26 “Secretary Farrell’s Bulletin Carries Many Assignments,” The Sporting News, April 30, 1925: 5.

27 “All-Star Virginia League Team Named by Richmond Paper,” Newport News Daily Press, August 17, 1926.

28 “Tough for Jim,” Raleigh News and Observer, April 15, 1927.

29 “Four Eagle Players Sold to Higher Loops,” Raleigh News and Observer, September 17, 1927.

30 “Bunn Gets Three Stars from Kinston’s Eagles,” Raleigh News and Observer, February 2, 1928.

31 “Anderson Returns to Twins’ Piedmont Club,” Raleigh News and Observer, May 13, 1928.

32 https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/team.cgi?id=801815ed retrieved May 3, 2020.

33 See box score, “Roses Lose in Rain at Williamsport, 3-1,” York Dispatch, June 22, 1929.

34 “Roman is Released,” York Dispatch, August 1, 1929.

35 Sporting News transaction card (https://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll3/id/152191/rec/2) .

36 “Baseball Stars of Yesteryear to Sprint Again,” Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1940.

37 “Death Notices,” Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1953.

Full Name

Frank Aloysius McCue

Born

October 4, 1898 at Chicago, IL (USA)

Died

July 5, 1953 at Evergreen Park, IL (USA)

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