April 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Greasy Neale

The College Football Hall of Fame contains numerous members who also played Major League Baseball. Such a figure was Earle “Greasy” Neale. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967, Neale had an 82-54-11 record coaching at Muskingum, West Virginia Wesleyan, Marietta, Washington and Jefferson, Virginia and West Virginia from 1919 to 1933.

Neale began his professional athletic career in 1912, by playing outfield for the London Tecumsehs of the Canadian League. With the Class C club, he hit .255, but upped his average to .335 the next season. He moved up to class AA in 1914 to play for the Cleveland Bearcats while maintaining his .300 batting average.

In 1915, Neale was still in the minors for the spring and summer, but in the fall he also became the head football coach at Muskingum. The Fighting Muskies went 2-4-1 that year, but it still landed him a job at West Virginia Wesleyan for 1916. Before taking this position in the fall, he made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds. Neale was the club’s regular right fielder and had a good rookie season despite finishing second in the league in strikeouts. In 1917, he cut down on his whiffs, hit .294 and his slugging percentage was among the league leaders. That fall he led West Virginia Wesleyan to a 6-1 mark.

In 1918, he continued playing in the Majors, but during football season was the player-coach of the professional Dayton Triangles of the Ohio League. Dayton took the league with a perfect 8-0 mark.

The 1919 season would be one to remember, as the Reds won the National League pennant by nine games with a 96-44 record. In game one of World Series, Neale went 3 for 4, scoring two runs in a 9-1 Reds win. The following day he had an RBI in a 4-2 victory. For the series, he led the Reds with 10 hits and a .357 average as Cincinnati bested the White Sox 5 games to 3.

Prior to the World Series, Neale had been named the new football coach at Marietta College. His duties with the Reds did not allow him to coach in the season opening loss to West Virginia, but when he did join the team, the Pioneers finished the rest of the schedule without allowing an opponent score.

After the 1920 season, he was dealt to the Phillies, and closed out his MLB career back in Cincinnati in 1924. In football he also moved, this time to Washington & Jefferson. At the time, tiny W&J played a major college schedule. In 1921, he had an undefeated season and he took the Presidents all the way to the Rose Bowl. There they met Hall of Fame coach Andy Smith and one of his California Wonder Teams. W&J was so unknown that one sportswriter said, “All I know about Washington and Jefferson is that they are both dead.” Cal was heavily favored and would go undefeated from 1920-1924, but Neale gave them one of their few blemishes with a 0-0 Rose Bowl tie.

Neale would move from the college coaching ranks to that of the NFL in 1941. He coached the Philadelphia Eagles for ten seasons wining back-to back NFL crowns in 1948 and 1949.

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