October 24 - It’s a history that predates the modern World Series, back to when baseball’s champion was briefly awarded something called the Temple Cup, and then for one year, the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup.
Steve Brodie was a colorful member of a 19th century Baltimore Orioles outfield that included Hall of Famers “Wee Willie” Keeler and Joe Kelley. George McQuinn was a sweet-swinging seven-time All-Star first baseman who helped the St. Louis Browns to a “Streetcar Series” against the Cardinals and the New York Yankees to a championship late in his career. Dave Leonhard was teaching 11th grade history when he was offered a chance at professional baseball, and six years later helped pitch the Orioles to the first of three straight World Series appearances.
All are part of Northern Virginia’s roots in the Fall Classic, which began last night pitting the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.
The closest ties Northern Virginia has to this year’s World Series is Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor, who while in high school at Virginia Beach’s Frank W. Cox, led his team past Battlefield in the Group AAA state quarterfinals in 2009, then played for one summer for the Herndon Braves of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League while starring at the University of Virginia. Boston center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. is from nearby Richmond, where he was a standout at Prince George High School before leading South Carolina to a College World Series title in 2011.
The area may not have any direct representation in this year’s World Series, but certainly has a long history in baseball’s championship series.
Herndon grad Brandon Guyer is the most-recent local native to appear in the Series, doing so with the Cleveland Indians during a seven-game defeat to the Chicago Cubs in 2016. Robinson grad Javier Lopez earned a ring as a reliever with the Red Sox in 2007 - when they knocked off Gar-Field grad Jeff Baker and the Colorado Rockies - then helped the San Francisco Giants win three championships from 2010-14.
Al Bumbry, who was born in Fredericksburg and attended high school just south of the city in King George, helped Baltimore reach the World Series in 1979 before falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games. He would win a title in 1983 with an Orioles team that included Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr.
A decade earlier, Leonhard was part of an Orioles juggernaut that made three straight Series appearances from 1969-71, winning a title in 1970 behind the likes of Palmer and Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. Born in Arlington before his family moved to Maryland, he was teaching at Sparrows Point High School outside Baltimore when he went into a local sporting goods store to exchange a pair of baseball spikes given to him by his mother for Christmas in 1962. It was there where he ran into Orioles scout Walter Youse, who had seen him pitch the previous summer in a local church league.
Youse offered Leonhard a contact, and persisted after the teacher initially rebuffed him. Leonhard eventually accepted, and later joked that the $9 he received as part of the 30 percent discount professional athletes received at the store served as his signing bonus. “I had a contract to teach through June and I didn’t want to leave,” he said in a story by a Johns Hopkins University alumni magazine. And though he had “no intentions of being a professional ballplayer”, Leonhard reported for rookie ball the following summer. He debuted with Baltimore in 1967 and earned a spot in the starting rotation in 1968 before being shifted to the bullpen the following year after the emergence of Palmer.
Three decades earlier, McQuinn, a Washington-Lee grad and perhaps the most-decorated Major Leaguer from Northern Virginia, hit .438 as his St. Louis Browns lost in six games in the 1944 Series to the team they shared Sportsman Park with, the St. Louis Cardinals. The “Streetcar Series” was unique in several ways, none more so than the living situation of the two teams’ managers, the Browns’ Luke Sewell and the Cardinals’ Billy Southworth, who shared an apartment in the city during the season due to a housing shortage while the country was in the midst of World War II.
Three years later, in the twilight of his career, McQuinn signed with the New York Yankees, who had initially signed him in 1930 as a potential heir to first base incumbent Lou Gehrig. The Yankees, however, would later sell him to the Browns (who would became the modern day Baltimore Orioles) in 1938 because it seemed the “Iron Horse” may never relinquish his position while in the midst of his then-record streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. (It was the following year, in 1939, when Gehrig’s streak was snapped and he was forced to retire due to the neurological disease that is now named after him.)
Thrilled at the opportunity to return to the Yankees organization - “How many times do you get to live a dream?” he asked in a Washington Post story in 1976. “I prepared for that season like I’d never prepared for anything else.” - he earned the starting nod at first base for the American League All-Star Team, hitting .304 with 13 home runs and 80 RBI and helping New York win in seven games against the Brooklyn Dodgers. That year’s World Series featured seven Hall of Famers - the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson - who earlier that season had broken baseball’s color barrier - as well as Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Arky Vaughan, and the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto.
McQuinn retired a year later, finishing with a .276 batting average, 1,588 hits, 135 homers and 794 RBI during his 12-year career. After managing in the minor leagues for 10 years, McQuinn scouted for the Washington Senators and Montreal Expos and later returned to Arlington, where he later ran a sporting goods store prior to passing away in 1978.
The year prior to McQuinn winning his championship, Fredericksburg (now James Monroe) grad Randy Heflin pitched in five games during the regular season as the Red Sox won the American League pennant before falling to the Cardinals in seven games. He did not make an appearance in the Series. Boston’s 104 victories that season marked the last time it had reached the 100-win plateau prior to setting a club record with 108 wins this year. Heflin, who recorded 95 strikeouts and a 0.27 ERA in 52 innings while leading Fredericksburg to the state title in 1937, served in World War II prior to making his debut with the Red Sox in 1945.
A “World’s Championship Series” or “World Series” was held from 1884-90, but after the demise of the American Association, only a National League champion was crowned until the the modern World Series was first held in 1903, two years after the American League was formed. After no Series was held in 1904, it became an annual championship series in 1905.
Brodie’s remarkable Major League career began in 1890, the final year the original World Series was held, and concluded in 1902, the year prior to the first modern World Series. A native of Warrenton, the center fielder helped the Boston Beaneaters win a NL title in 1891 and would later help Baltimore to an NL championship in 1896, finishing his career with a .303 batting average and 1,728 hits in his 12 seasons. In his first full season with the Orioles in 1894, he hit .366 with 113 RBI, the best totals of any Major Leaguer from Northern Virginia.
As impressive as his numbers were, it was Brodie’s odd - though entertaining - personality that he’s perhaps best known for.
With a given name of Walter Scott Brodie - after the famed Scottish novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott - it might be fitting that he’d often recite Shakespeare while in the outfield. He was known to talk to baseballs, catch them behind his back in the outfield, was once ejected for telling an umpire, “I could tie both hands behind me and beat you umpiring,” according to an account by the Baltimore Sun, and protested being called out on strikes on another occasion by shoving a handkerchief in his mouth for the following inning.
Once, while being heckled by a fan during a home game against the Boston Beaneaters, Brodie decided to put an end to it. In the fifth inning, he carried a ladder to the outfield wall, and called to Keeler, "You cover right and center this inning, and I'll go up and get that guy."
Photo of George McQuinn by Sporting News and Rogers Photo Archive via Getty Images