Friday, June 1, 2012

Obscure Baseball Player of the Week: Beauty McGowan

"Evenin' ladies. Beauty's the name, baseball's my game."

In this week's edition of Obscure Baseball Players that time has forgot, we travel back to the roaring 1920s and check in on the curiously named Beauty McGowan. McGowan played outfield for the Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns and Boston Beaneaters. He didn't play all that well, but by golly, he looked fantastic.

Look at that photo, there can be no doubt, he was a handsome lad. Admit it ladies, you want him, but you know you can't tame him. Beneath the azure eyes, angelic smile and cherubic cheeks lay inner demons. And those teeth, well, they were a dentist's dream.

Born in Branford, Connecticut in 1901, McGowan was a bit of a foppish gent. He went to the finest finishing schools and was the first male in his town to have his own cotillion on his 15th birthday. He insisted. It's widely acknowledged that he was probably the first metrosexual to play professional baseball. Indeed, during his rookie year with Philadelphia he was often seen getting pre-game mani-pedis, and shopping at the local apothecary for the latest skin lotions and colognes. And he was always forcing the latest Al Jolson records onto his teammates and demanding they listen to it. Anyone who didn't like his music and clothes was "full 'o applesauce" and "all wet," according to him.

McGowan somehow batted .363 in 1928 with this swing.
Beauty's career took place in three odd intervals. He played two years for Philly in '22 and '23 batting an unimpressive .242. Then, he didn't play again until '28 and '29 for St. Louis. In '28 he played out of his mind. He got called up in July and batted .363 with a .524 slugging pct. Even in a hitter's era this was a fine and unexpected season, although he only got 167 at bats. No doubt his coach, Dan Howley, wasn't believing what he was seeing from a guy who had always been a scrub.

The following season he came back to earth, batting .254. He did lead the league in fielding pct. though. For that effort, he was promptly cut by the Browns when their GM famously said, "Beauty, I'm gonna give ya the straight dope... if you could hit half as good as you look, we might have something."

Unfortunately, 1929 wasn't the best year to lose your job, and who knows what he went on to do. Most likely, he rode the rails as a hobo and boxed part time under the name "Boxcar Beauty". Or maybe he ventured down to Atlantic City and worked as a bootlegger for Nucky Thompson. All these scenarios are in play. What is known is that he won International League Player of the Year in '36 for the Buffalo Bisons. Thanks to that, in 1937 he was given another chance by Boston. In 13 at bats, he managed 1 hit for an .083 avg. And that was it. A strange end to a strange career. He died in 1982 in Connecticut and witnesses said he looked fabulous. 

Notice how Beauty keeps his eyes on the camera while making the catch.

It takes a lot of confidence to stroll around with the name "Beauty", and McGowan had it in spades. Look at that photo to the left. He makes a catch while mugging for the camera. He knew where his bread was buttered. And for for that, Dave's Deep Dish salutes him.

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