Perhaps the least known member of the high-powered scouting department that built the Yankees dynasty, Gene McCann served baseball as a minor- and major-league pitcher, manager, general manager/president of minor-league clubs, owner, and scout. He even was pressed into service as an umpire in a professional game. Gene twice won 20 games as a pitcher in the minor leagues but could not repeat that success at the major-league level. He was known as a natty dresser, especially famous for always wearing a white tie, hard collar, and “iron” hat.
Henry Eugene McCann was born on June 13, 1875, in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents were Charles William McCann, an immigrant from Ireland, and Mary McCann. He had three siblings, a brother Charles Andrew, and sisters Elizabeth and Gulema.
He briefly pitched for the Spring Hill College team before accepting wages with a semiprofessional team at Hanover, Pennsylvania, in 1895. Moving on to Organized Baseball, McCann pitched on pennant-winning teams for two of his three seasons with Hamilton of the Canadian League before moving on to Detroit of the Western League for the last part of the 1899 season. In 1900 he pitched for the Minneapolis club.
On April 19, 1901, McCann made his major-league debut, pitching for the Brooklyn Superbas against Happy Townsend and the Philadelphia Phillies in a game the Superbas won, 10-2. He had two wins and three losses with a 3.44 earned-run average for Brooklyn in six games that season. He also pitched for the Hartford club in the Eastern League that year.
In 1902 McCann pitched for Jersey City in the Eastern League, winning 21 games against 12 losses. He also pitched in three games for Brooklyn with a win and two losses. He then spent 1903-06 with Jersey City, winning 26 games in 1903. McCann suffered an arm injury that cut his playing career short, but he soon returned to professional baseball in other roles.
McCann managed Jersey City in 1908-09. He also began his scouting career in 1909, serving as a part-time scout for the Yankees along with his managerial duties. He was manager and an owner of the Bridgeport club from 1910 through 1913, tangling in the last year with the team president and resigning late in the season. He moved on to manage New London in 1914, 1916, and 1917 and returned to Bridgeport to manage from 1921 through 1923. He ended his managerial career at the helm of the Springfield club from 1924 through 1926.
In 1919 and 1920, McCann scouted full-time for the Cincinnati Reds. He also served as a coach for the Reds during spring training in 1919, helping prepare Cincinnati for its run to the world championship. Late in the season he recommended that the Reds acquire the contract of outfielder Pat Duncan from the Birmingham club of the Southern Association. The Reds had a left-field problem that season, beginning with starter Sherry Magee contracting pneumonia and his replacement, Manuel Cueto, injuring a shoulder. The Reds even put a good-hitting pitcher, Rube Bressler, in the slot until Duncan was acquired to solidify the position. Duncan went on to start in left field as the Reds won the tainted Black Sox-scandal World Series.
McCann began scouting for the New York Yankees in 1927, covering the Eastern region, while also serving as an executive for their minor-league clubs. He remained in these roles until his death in 1943. At that time he was listed as the president of Yankees farm clubs in Binghamton and Norfolk. At one point he was president of three Yankees minor-league affiliates. It appeared he was serving as a sort of farm director along with his scouting duties.
McCann died on April 26, 1943, in Jamaica Hospital in Queens, NewYork, after a long illness, and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Middle Village, New York. His wife, Irene, survived him. They had no children. McCann is credited with signing Al Gettel, Eddie Grant, Charlie Keller, George McQuinn, Bud Metheny, Jim Prendergast, Vic Raschi, Buddy Rosar, and Charlie See.
In addition to consulting Baseball-Reference.com and Ancestry, the author relied on The Sporting News, an excerpt on Google Books from Mike Roer’s Orator O’Rourke: The Life of a Baseball Radical, and the databases of the Society for American Baseball Research’s Scouts Committee.
Various newspapers provided information and background, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Dallas Morning News, Duluth News Tribune, Heraldo de Brownsville (Texas), Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Pawtucket Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, and Charlotte Sunday Observer.