The Tale of the Three Tobins

This article was written by Bob McConnell

This article was published in the Summer 2009 Baseball Research Journal


Three players named John Tobin played pro baseball, each at some time during the early 1930s.

John Thomas Tobin’s playing record is well documented. He had a 13-year major-league career, mostly with the St. Louis Browns. He led the Federal League in hits in 1915 and the American League in triples in 1921. He finished his big-league career with 1,906 hits and a .309 batting average. He then wound up his playing career with Bloomington of the Three-I League in 1930. The records of the other two John Tobins are a little fuzzy. Until recently, researchers thought that there was a possibility they were one and the same player. Thanks to research by Davis Barker, we now have a clearer picture of the two players.

John Martin Tobin graduated from Fordham University in 1932. According to the university website, he is a member of the Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame. He was with Winston-Salem of the Piedmont League late in the 1932 season, per a note in The Sporting News. The league averages listed only players in ten or more games, and Tobin was not included. He pinch-hit for the New York Giants on September 22. This earned him a place in The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia (fifth edition), where his birthplace is listed as Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, a district in Boston. He went to spring training with the Giants in 1933 but was optioned to Knoxville of the Southern Association, per a note in The Sporting News (March 30). He did not play in any league games for Knoxville. His trail ends at that point. John Lawrence Tobin is the third Tobin. The middle name, Lawrence, comes from a Howe News Bureau card. Other information on the card is a little contradictory, and so we are not positive that Lawrence is the correct middle name. Tobin played in four games for Tyler of the East Texas League in 1931. A Tyler newspaper referred to him as an East Texan and listed his hometown as Texarkana. He started the 1932 season with Muskogee of the Western Association. He was beaned on May 22 and sustained a concussion. We can find no additional playing record for him that season. He spent spring training with Tyler in 1933. This clinches the fact that John M. and John L. were two different players, as John M. was with the Giants that spring. John L. did not play in any league games for Tyler in 1933, and there is no further information on him for that season.

A John Tobin played in the minors from 1934 through 1937. With one exception, all of the clubs were in Texas. It is reasonable to assume that John L. was the player. The highlight of his career was a four-home-run game on June 15, 1936, while playing for Marshall versus Jacksonville in an East Texas League Game.

Coffey Field, Fordham University, 1930s. John Martin Tobin graduated from Fordham in 1932 and was inducted into the Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980 for his collegiate baseball career. His hall-of-fame plaque indicates that he also played football. Late in the 1932 season, the year he graduated, he played for Winston-Salem of the Piedmont League and pinch-hit for the New York Giants on September 22 and was 0 for 1 in his major-league career.

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