Joseph F. Yeager
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 160 lb.
- Debut April 22, 1898
- Final Game September 29, 1908
- Born August 28, 1875 in Philadelphia, PA USA
- Died July 2, 1937 in Detroit, MI USA
"Little Joe Yeager . . . (beat) the Orioles on July 27, firing the season's first one-hitter . . ." - from the book The Arrival of the American League, about Joe Yeager the pitcher, in 1901
"Joe Yeager . . . can play a corking good infield game. . ." - from an article in Baseball Magazine, 1908, about Joe Yeager the infielder
Joe Yeager was a two-way player who had 10 years in the majors. He appeared in 295 games at third base, 94 as a pitcher, 83 at shortstop, 48 games at second base and 18 games in the outfield.
Joe was born in Philadelphia, PA, but never played in the major leagues for a Philadelphia team. Instead, he played for Brooklyn, Detroit, New York and St. Louis.
According to a feature about him in Sporting Life of March 25, 1905, he played local and semi-pro ball in Camden and Pottwdown before playing professionally with Shenandoah in 1894. Yeager was with Lancaster in 1895-97, winning at least 18 games each year as a pitcher, and hitting at least .320 each season while sometimes playing in the field.
He came to the majors primarily as a pitcher, and went 12-22 in his rookie season with the 1898 Brooklyn Bridegrooms, a team which went 54-91. His 3.65 ERA was better than the team's 4.01 ERA. Joe also played a few games in the outfield and infield, although he didn't hit well.
In 1899 he was in 10 more games as a pitcher, going 2-2 on a Brooklyn team which won 101 games. He played 11 games at shortstop and a few at other positions, but again hit under .200.
In 1900 he had only 3 games at the major league level, going 3-for-9 as a batter and posting a 1-1 record as a pitcher. He spent some of the season in the minors with the new American League, which was not yet a major league. Pitching for the minor-league Tigers, he went 19-12.
The Tigers became a major league team, and Joe stayed with them from 1901-03 in the first years of the American League as a major league. He was 12-11 in the 1901 American League with a 2.61 ERA that was third-best in the league. As a hitter he improved greatly to a .296 batting average. He played 12 games at shortstop that year.
In 1902 he was less effective as a pitcher, going 6-12, while only 19 of his 50 appearances were on the mound. He was in the outfield 13 times and at second base 12 times.
He finally became a real position player in 1903, having only one game as a pitcher. He appeared 107 times at third base for the 1903 Tigers, hitting .256 with 6 triples. The league batting average was .255.
Joe went to play in Montreal in 1904, hitting .332 with 13 triples and apparently not doing any pitching. In 1905 he came back to the majors with the 1905 Highlanders, hitting .267 as the team's regular third baseman. He was four years younger than teammate Willie Keeler. Joe's batting average was 19 points higher than the team batting average of .248.
He hit .301 with a .407 on-base percentage in 1906, but only appeared in 57 games, mostly at third base but also sometimes at shortstop. In the off-season, the Highlanders traded him to the St. Louis Browns for Branch Rickey.
With the 1907 Browns Joe hit .239, lowest among the regulars, although he also had 7 triples. He served as the team's regular third baseman. He came back in 1908 for 10 games, hitting .333 with a .474 on-base percentage.
From 1909-14 he spent six seasons in Montreal, and then in 1915 he split his time between Montreal and Jersey City.
The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary gives a number of possible origins of the squeeze play, one of which is that Joe Yeager introduced it in 1898 in Brooklyn.
TheDeadBallEra.com says that Thomas F. Burke of the Lynn team was beaned by a Joe Yeager, pitching in 1906 for Fall River, but that seems to have been a different Joe Yeager.
There have been (through 2009) two other major league players with the last name "Yeager": Steve Yeager and George Yeager, along with quite a few minor leaguers with that last name. There have also been a handful of minor league players with the last name "Yaeger", spelled with the "a" before the "e".