Birdie Tebbetts Explained

Birdie Tebbetts
Position:Catcher / Manager / Scout
Born:10 November 1912
Debutdate:September 16
Debutteam:Detroit Tigers
Finaldate:September 14
Finalteam:Cleveland Indians
Stat1label:Batting average
Stat3label:Home runs
Teams:As Player

As Manager

  • 4x AL All Star (1941, 1942, 1948, 1949)
  • Manager of the Year (1956)

George Robert "Birdie" Tebbetts (November 10, 1912March 24, 1999) was an American catcher, manager, scout and front office executive in Major League Baseball.

Born in Burlington, Vermont, and raised in Nashua, New Hampshire. Tebbetts acquired his nickname as a boy when an aunt said of his high-pitched voice, "He chirps like a bird".

In 1934 he graduated from Providence College with a degree in philosophy, an unusual beginning for one of the most abrasive managers in baseball history, whose major league career encompassed 53 years as a catcher (14), manager (11) and scout (28).

Tebbetts played with the Detroit Tigers between 1936 and 1947 — with the exception of three years that he served in World War II (1943-45) — and also played for the Boston Red Sox (1947-50) and Cleveland Indians (1951-52). He batted and threw right-handed, was a career .270 hitter with 38 home runs and 469 RBI in 1162 games, and made four All-Star teams. Before the arrival of Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, Tebbetts was voted the Red Sox' all-time best catcher in a fan poll — a remarkable feat considering he only spent four years with the Bosox.

After his playing career, Tebbetts was a moderately successful manager who compiled a 748-705 record with the Cincinnati Redlegs (1954-58), Milwaukee Braves (1961-62) and Cleveland Indians (1963-66). In April 1964 he suffered a heart attack. Three months later, he returned to limited duties and resigned in August . Tebbetts enjoyed his best season for the Cincinnati Redlegs with a 91-63 mark and a third place, being rewarded by Time Magazine as the Manager of the Year.

He also served as executive vice president of the Braves from 1959 through September 1961, when he took over as the team's field manager from Chuck Dressen. From 1968 to 1994, he scouted for the Mets, Yankees, Orioles and Marlins.

When he played for the Tigers, he was in the bullpen when a fan, wanting to hide tomatoes, eggs, etc., from stadium police who were combing the stands for unruly fans throwing things, filled a basket with the garbage and threw it over a railing. It landed on Tebbetts' head and knocked him cold. When the police identified the cuplrit to Tebbetts he said he would handle the matter himself--and busted the fan in the nose. (Source: The Baseball Hall of Shame, Nash & Zullo.)

Tebbetts also earned a reputation for speaking his mind and for his frank assessments. About his career, he regarded himself as an ordinary player and manager who worked hard. Between other things, he said:

In 1950 Tebbetts referred to some of his Red Sox teammates as "moronic malcontents" and "juvenile delinquents". In consequence, he was traded to Cleveland at the end of the season. He also dismissed former Detroit teammate Hal Newhouser as a World War II phenomenon who "got into the Hall of Fame by begging to get in."

About the theory that catching was difficult, he expressed:

When Tebbetts scouted for Cincinnati, in 1953, he filed such no-nonsense reports as this on a promising young pitcher:

But perhaps most revealing of Tebbetts's character is his recollection of an umpire who suffered dizzy spells following his return from the war. Afraid of losing his job, the umpire asked Tebbetts, then the Tigers catcher, to help calling balls and strikes, and Tebbetts tipped him off with hand signals following each pitch. Finally, Tebbetts also offered his version of what makes a baseball manager successful:

Birdie Tebbetts died in Bradenton, Florida, at age of 86.


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