Across from the Kalamazoo River in Riverside Cemetery in Albion, a headstone features two baseball bats and a baseball. It is the resting place of one of the most prominent catchers around the turn of the century – the 20th century.
Deacon McGuire was well known to Detroit baseball fans and baseball fans in general when he joined the Tigers in 1902.
McGuire, a long-time catcher, played for the Detroit Wolverines in the National League in 1885 and 1888. The Tigers were his eighth major-league team in a career that began in 1884 with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, when it was classified as a major league.
McGuire played in 26 seasons for 11 different franchise, and only Cap Anson and Nolan Ryan, each with 27, played more seasons than McGuire. When he arrived in Detroit in 1902, he was 38 years old.
McGuire joined the Tigers to share the catching duties with Fritz Buelow, the starter in 1901 who struggled at the plate. McGuire didn’t fare much better than Buelow, but he still outhit him .227-.223 and had the edge in OPS .624-.547.
The 1902 opener was played at South Side Park in Chicago against the White Sox, and McGuire was 0-for-3 in a 12-2 loss. But less than a month later, sparked the Tigers to a 19-11 victory over the Cleveland Bronchos at Burns Park in Detroit.
Burns Park was the Sunday home for the Tigers as blue laws dictated that sales of alcohol was prohibited in the city limits on Sundays. Burns Park was located just outside the city limits in Springwells Township.
Cleveland scored five runs in the top of the third inning and another in the top of the fourth, but in the top of the fourth McGuire hit a grand slam over the left-field fence to begin the Tigers’ comeback.
There weren’t many other highlights for McGuire and the Tigers in 1902, but one of them came on July 16, 1902, against the Washington Senators at American League Park in Washington, D.C. The Senators led 8-4 going into the top of the ninth inning. McGuire singled in the ninth as part of a four-run rally to tie it. In the top of the 10th inning, McGuire capped a five-run rally by the Tigers with a two-run homer off Al Orth for a 13-8 victory.
Although he did not start in the season opener, McGuire’s role in 1903 was comparable to what it had been in 1902. His average was a little better, but he failed to hit a home run, and his extra-base hits slipped from 17 to 13. McGuire was used as the personal catcher rookie pitcher Rube Kisinger, who made 16 starts and had McGuire behind the plate for the last 15.
McGuire turned 40 shortly after the end of the season, and the following February the New York Highlanders purchased his contract. He appeared in 101 games for New York in 1904, but he hit just .208. His playing time decreased the following two seasons, and during the 1907 season the Boston Americans claimed him on waivers.
Boston had used Cy Young, George Huff and Bob Unglaub as managers in 1907, and they wanted McGuire to fill that role. McGuire had been the third of four managers used by the Washington Senators in 1898, and he appeared in just six games as a player/manager for the Americans in 1907. In the second game of a doubleheader on July 25, 1907, McGuire hit the final home run of his major-league career. It came as a pinch-hitter off Tigers pitcher Ed Siever in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boaston, but the Tigers held on for a 3-2 victory
McGuire stayed on as Boston manager in 1908 but was let go after 115 games. He appeared in one game for the Americans in 1908, and one game for the Cleveland Naps, and the following season he was hired to manage the last 39 games.
McGuire had his only full season as a manager in 1910, and he led Cleveland to a 71-81 record. Seventeen games into the 1911 season, McGuire was replaced by George Stovall.
By that time, McGuire had established a business with his brother in Albion, about 100 miles west of Detroit. It was a saloon called “McGuire Brothers,” and hanging over the bar was a life-sized portrait of McGuire in a Tigers uniform. He signed with the Tigers as a scout and coach in 1912, and that set the stage for his final major-league game as a player.
Ty Cobb had been suspended by baseball for going into the stands in New York and fighting a fan who had been heckling him. The fan reportedly had no hands, but that didn’t keep Cobb from hitting and kicking the fan. The Tigers players chose to boycott a game in Philadelphia, and the Tigers had to recruit local players off the sandlots to field a team. McGuire, a coach, was chosen to start at catcher, went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored, but the Tigers lost 24-2 using several players who would never appear in another professional game.
McGuire continued as a coach for the Tigers until 1915, and he remained a scout until 1926 while living on a farm on Duck Lake near Albion. He coached the Albion College baseball team in 1926.
He endured several illnesses later in life, and he died after suffering a stroke and developing pneumonia on October 31, 1936. He was 72 years old.