Baseball Digest Birthdays: Max Carey

Considered the Tris Speaker of the National League and perhaps most comparable in the stolen base category as Ty Cobb in the American League around the same time, Max Carey remains one of the greatest base stealers ever to play the game. Though his last game played was in 1929, Carey still ranks 9th all-time with 728 stolen bases.

There are ballplayers who make their names in playing baseball, and it’s literally true when it comes to Max Carey, who was born as Maximillian George Carnarius on January 11 in 1890. Unlike many players in baseball, Max Carey wasn’t drafted by a major league team. Baseball wasn’t even the sport he had the most talent for, he had a athletic background in track and swimming. However, he did play infield in college, and approached the manager of the South Bend team of the Central League following a game in Terra Haute, Indiana in 1909 when he learned they had sold their shortstop to another league. Not wanting to risk his amateur status, he made up a name that was recorded as “Max Carey”. By the end of 1910, Carey had been mentioned to the Pittsburgh Pirates and upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, Honus Wagner noticed the skills of Carey and suggested a move to the outfield. The name Maximillian George Carnarius and the status as an infielder were both changed forever.

In a January 1957 article of Baseball Digest, Max Carey lists his own Top 20 Players of the day, using his own system to rank players. Click here to find out who Carey ranks first!

Though his offensive numbers were less than impressive with South Bend, Carey more than held his own. In a two decade career, Carey hit .285 and used his speed to terrorize opposing pitchers. He hit just 70 home runs, but had 419 doubles and 159 triples in his career. His most impressive numbers came on the basepaths. In addition to leading the National League in stolen bases 10 times, he remained the all-time leader in stolen bases for the National League until 1974, 36 years after he last swiped a base. He also saved some of his best offensive feats for the postseason. His only World Series appearance came in 1925, and he hit .458 in the series victory over the Washington Senators.

Max Carey remained active after his playing days were over. His first position was as the Brooklyn Dodgers manager for the 1932 and 1933 seasons, compiling a 146-161 record. After being replaced by Casey Stengal, Carey held several different positions in baseball when he moved to Florida with his family. Beyond his playing days, he may be best remembered for his time as the president of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1944 til 1950, which were considered the peak years of the league.

Though the all time leader in the National League for stolen bases at the time of his retirement, Max Carey did not get the call to the National Baseball Hall of Fame until the Veteran’s Committee elected him in 1961. He passed away in 1976 at the age of 86.

Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Lloyd McClendon, born on January 11 1959, played 8 seasons at the big league level mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates and also managed the Pirates from 2001 til 2005.

Elmer Flick, a Hall of Famer born in 1876, played 13 seasons between the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Naps. His batting title in 1905 with a .308 average was the lowest for a batting champ until Carl Yastzremski’s .301 batting average in 1968 won him a title.

Schoolboy Rowe, born in 1910, spent 15 seasons in the majors mostly with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He was a member of three Tiger squads that reached the World Series(’34,’35,’40), including the World Champion 1935 team that defeated the Chicago Cubs.

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