Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1910-1926; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1926-1929
Manager: Brooklyn Dodgers, 1932-1933
Managerial Record: 146-161
Even though he began his professional
career as a shortstop, Max Carey
never played a single inning in the majors
anywhere but in the outfield.
Max Carey was born Maximillian Carnarius (1890-1976) in Terre Haute, Indiana, to deeply religious German parents. He entered Concordia College in Fort Wayne, intending to become a Lutheran minister.
Before his senior year, though, his career plans changed after he saw a minor-league game and felt he could do better than most of the players in it. Signed after a tryout, he changed his name to Max Carey to protect his college eligibility.
A weak-hitting shortstop in his first season, Carey was converted to the outfield in 1910. When his hitting improved and his extraordinary speed on the bases became apparent, he was purchased by the Pirates.
Almost from the day Carey arrived in Pittsburgh, Pirates star Honus Wagner took him under his wing. Wagner counseled Carey to take extra care to keep his legs in shape, believing that speed was the tool with which Carey would make his mark. A right-handed hitter like Wagner, but without Wagner’s power or ability to handle breaking balls, Carey also saw the wisdom of learning to switch-hit.
Beginning in 1911, Max became a fixture in the Pittsburgh outfield for 16 years. A left field fill-in at first for injured player-manager Fred Clarke, Max was switched to center when Clarke returned to the lineup and given the assignment of batting leadoff.
Carey swiftly showed that his skills were tailor-made for the job. He twice topped the National League in walks, regularly led the Pirates in runs, and 10 times copped the senior loop stolen base crown. In the process, he swiped 738 cushions, a modern National League record that lasted until Lou Brock broke it in 1974.
During the late 1910s, with Clarke gone and Wagner on the wane, the Pirates were a lackluster team, but Carey gave Pittsburgh fans hope of better days to come and daily excitement in the meantime.
A scientific basestealer who mastered his craft by diligently studying pitchers and learning their pickoff moves, Carey was the rare thief who grew better as he grew older. In 1921, with basestealing nearly a forgotten part of the game, Pirates fans were treated to the sight of Carey pilfering 51 sacks in 53 attempts, a record for proficiency that has never been surpassed.
Waived to Brooklyn in 1926, Max managed that team for two seasons. Carey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1961.
Here are Max Carey's major league totals:
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