Charley O'Leary baseball card, 1911
October 15, 1875|
|Died: January 6, 1941
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|April 14, 1904 for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1934 for the St. Louis Browns|
|Runs batted in||213|
|Career highlights and awards|
Charles Timothy O'Leary (October 15, 1875 – January 6, 1941) was a Major League Baseball shortstop who played eleven seasons with the Detroit Tigers (1904–1912), St. Louis Cardinals (1913), and St. Louis Browns (1934).
Born in Chicago, Illinois into a family of 16 children (11 boys), O'Leary worked at age 16 for a clothing company and played on the company's semi-pro baseball team. His talent as a middle infielder and scrappy hitter came to the attention of Charles Comiskey, owner of the White Sox. Though there is no independent verification, O'Leary reportedly signed briefly with the White Sox, only to have his arm broken from a pitched ball thrown by 'fireballer' and Hall of Famer, Rube Waddell.
According to official sources, O'Leary debuted in the Major Leagues on April 14, 1904 with the Tigers. He was Detroit's starting shortstop from 1904–1907 and became a backup shortstop and utility infielder from 1908-1912.
In the offseason, O'Leary and teammate Germany Schaefer, known as one of baseball's zaniest characters, worked as a comic vaudeville act. The O'Leary/Schaefer vaudeville act is said to have inspired two MGM musicals: the forgotten 1930 film They Learned About Women, featuring the noted vaudeville act Van and Schenck, and Busby Berkeley's last film, Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949), with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.
Not known for his hitting, O'Leary had a career batting average of .226.
After finishing his playing career in 1913 with the St. Louis Cardinals, O'Leary was offered a coaching job by his friend, Miller Huggins, manager of the New York Yankees. O'Leary coached for the Yankees for 10 years during which the team won six pennants and two World Series. O'Leary also coached with the Chicago Cubs (under manager Rogers Hornsby) and St. Louis Browns.
On September 30, 1934, O'Leary was called out of retirement by the St. Louis Browns a couple weeks shy of his 59th birthday. In a pinch-hitting appearance for the Browns, O'Leary singled and scored, becoming the oldest Major League Baseball player to successfully collect a hit, and the oldest to score a run. With that appearance he became the last major leaguer who had played in the 1900s to play in a game.
During O'Leary's career, he claimed to have been born in 1882. However, in 2010, a researcher for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) came across him in the 1880 census. His draft record for the First World War was subsequently located, showing that he was in fact born in 1875. This makes him the second oldest MLB player ever, after Satchel Paige.