|Born: June 15, 1860|
Springfield, Ontario, Canada
|Died: December 31, 1915 (aged 55)|
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|May 5, 1883, for the New York Gothams|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 30, 1892, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Runs batted in||757|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the Canadian|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
James Edward "Tip" O'Neill (June 15, 1860 - December 31, 1915) was a Canadian professional baseball player from approximately 1875 to 1892. He began playing organized baseball in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, and later played ten seasons in Major League Baseball, principally as a left fielder, but also as a pitcher, for four major league clubs.
While playing with the St. Louis Browns (later renamed the Cardinals) from 1884 to 1889, O'Neill helped the club compile a 516-247 record while also winning four pennants and the 1886 World Series. O'Neill won two American Association batting championships during those years and became the second person in major league history to hit for a triple crown, leading the league in 1887 with a .435 batting average, 14 home runs and 123 runs batted in (RBIs). He also rewrote the major league record book, establishing new records in at least eight categories, including the highest batting average (originally .492, adjusted to .435), on-base percentage (.490) and slugging percentage (.691), and the most hits (225), runs scored (167), doubles (52), extra base hits (84), and total bases (357) in a single season. His adjusted .435 batting average in 1887 remains the second highest in major league history.
O'Neill has been dubbed "Canada's Babe Ruth" and was posthumously inducted into both the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Each year since 1984, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame has presented the Tip O'Neill Award to the best Canadian baseball player.
O'Neill was born in 1860 at Springfield, Ontario, Canada, a village in Southwestern Ontario that was later incorporated into the city of Malahide. While O'Neill was a boy, his family moved approximately 30 miles northeast to Woodstock, Ontario, where his parents operated a hotel.
In 1875, O'Neill began playing organized baseball in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, and became known as "The Woodstock Wonder." He also traveled with barnstorming teams. In 1881, he reportedly played in Detroit, and in 1882, he played for the New York Metropolitans in the League Alliance.
O'Neill made his major league debut on May 5, 1883, as a pitcher for New York Gothams (later renamed the Giants) of the National League. Shortly after his major league debut, The Sporting Life wrote: "O'Neill, the New York change pitcher, seems to have but one element of effectiveness in his delivery, viz.: fast and slow. This is a very weak reliance nowadays, as batsmen have only to note the speed of the ball and wait for a good one. O'Neill's delivery is wild and erratic -- hard work for the catcher and busy work for the field." O'Neill appeared in 19 games as a starting pitcher for the Gothams and compiled a win-loss record of 5-12 and a 4.07 earned run average (ERA).
In 1884, O'Neill joined Charlie Comiskey's St. Louis Browns (later renamed the Cardinals) of the American Association. He was signed by Comiskey to replace pitcher Tony Mullane, who left the Browns after the 1883 season. O'Neill compiled an 11-4 win-loss record with a 2.68 ERA and led the league with a .733 winning percentage as pitcher. However, his arm reportedly "went back on him" during the 1884 season, requiring him to switch from pitching to playing in the outfield. He ended up playing 64 games as an outfielder in 1884 and was exclusively an outfielder thereafter.
In 1885, O'Neill missed much of the season, suffering an injury on June 10 and not returning to the lineup until September 3. Despite the injury, O'Neill established himself as the Browns' best batter, hitting .350 in 52 games, nearly 80 points higher than any other player on the team. The 1885 Browns won the American Association pennant with a 79-33 record and tied the Chicago White Stockings in the 1885 World Series. O'Neill scored four runs but hit .208 in his first World Series.
O'Neill played his first full season as a position player in 1886 and became one of the most valuable players in baseball. He appeared in 138 games, all as an outfielder, and led the league with 107 runs batted in (RBIs). He was also among the league leaders with a .328 batting average (5th), .385 on-base percentage (5th), .440 slugging percentage (6th), 190 hits (2nd), 255 total bases (2nd), 45 extra base hits (5th), and a 4.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) rating (2nd among position players).
O'Neill's hitting helped lead the Browns to the American Association pennant with a 93-46 record. The team also went on to defeat the Chicago White Stockings of the National League in the 1886 World Series. O'Neill hit .400 with a .500 on-base percentage, five runs scored, five RBIs, two home runs and two stolen bases in the World Series.
In 1887, O'Neill rewrote the major league batting record book in just 124 games. That year, he won the American Association triple crown with a .435 batting average, 14 home runs and 123 RBIs. His batting average was originally recorded at .492, bases on balls having been counted as hits during that season. At the time of his death in 1915, his unadjusted .492 average was recorded as the highest in major league history. Subsequently, batting averages for the 1887 season were adjusted by removing bases on balls from the calculations. Even after that adjustment, O'Neill's 1887 batting average of .435 was a major league record until 1894 when Hugh Duffy established the current major league record by hitting .440. O'Neill's adjusted average for 1887 remains the second highest single season batting average in major league history.
O'Neill's batting performance in 1887 also established new single season, major league records in at least seven other categories, including the highest on-base percentage (.490),slugging percentage (.691), most hits (225),runs scored (167),doubles (52), and extra base hits (84), and total bases (357). He also led all position players across Major League Baseball in 1887 with a 6.9 WAR rating.
O'Neill's hitting in 1887 helped lead the Browns to their third consecutive American Association pennant with a 95-40 record. The Browns lost the 1887 World Series to the Detroit Wolverines, as O'Neill hit .200 in 65 at bats against Detroit's pitching in the World Series.
In 1888, O'Neill won his second consecutive American Association batting title by hitting .335. He also ranked among the league leaders in multiple hitting categories for the third consecutive year with a .390 on-base percentage (2nd), .446 slugging percentage (3rd), 177 hits (1st), 236 total bases (3rd), 98 RBIs (4th), and 225 times on base (3rd).
With O'Neill again leading the club in hitting, the Browns won their fourth consecutive pennant in 1888 with a 92-43 record. The Browns lost the 1888 World Series to the New York Giants, though O'Neill compiled a .349 on-base percentage with eight runs, 11 RBIs and two home runs in his final World Series.
O'Neill had his fifth consecutive strong season as a batter in 1889. He appeared in 134 games in the outfield and compiled a .335 batting average, the second highest in the American Association. He again ranked among the league leaders in multiple batting categories with a .419 on-base percentage (4th), .478 slugging percentage (4th), 179 hits (4th), 255 total bases (3rd), 33 doubles (4th), nine home runs (5th), 110 RBIs (3rd), and 50 extra base hits (3rd). The Browns compiled a 90-45 record in 1889 but finished in second place, two games behind the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
In O'Neill's first six seasons with the Browns from 1884 to 1889, he appeared in 656 games, scored 585 runs, compiled a WAR rating of 22.5, and hit .347 with a .407 on-base percentage, .498 slugging percentage, 925 hits, and 538 RBIs. During those six seasons, he was the Browns' dominant hitter and helped the club win four pennants and compile a record of 516 wins and 247 losses.
O'Neill followed Charlie Comiskey to the Players' League in 1890, appearing in 137 games as an outfielder for Comiskey's Chicago Pirates. He hit .302 in the Players' League with a .377 on-base percentage. He led the league in games played and ranked second with 647 plate appearances and seventh with 174 hits and 244 times on base.
O'Neill followed Comiskey back to the Browns in 1891. He appeared in 127 games in the outfield and was among the league leaders with a .323 batting average (3rd), .404 on-base percentage (6th), .451 slugging percentage (8th), 166 hits (6th), 232 total bases (6th), 28 doubles (3rd), 10 home runs (4th), 95 RBIs (6th) and 42 extra base hits (8th).
In 1892, Charlie Comiskey jumped to the Cincinnati Reds of the National League, and O'Neill again followed Comiskey. In nine of ten years of O'Neill's career, he played on teams managed by Comiskey. O'Neill appeared in 109 games as an outfielder for the Reds in 1892. At the start of spring training, Ban Johnson, then the Cincinnati correspondent to The Sporting News, expressed hope that O'Neill would help the Reds to a pennant: "Tip O'Neill is big, hearty and strong, and gives promise of doing great things for the club in the near-approaching campaign for pennant honors." However, his batting average in 1892 dropped 72 points from the prior season to .251, his lowest season since his rookie year as a pitcher in 1883. O'Neill began the season slow, but in mid-May, Comiskey expressed confidence that O'Neill would "come back to his old form after a while." The following month, the New York Sun reported that O'Neill was one of the most frequent recipients of Comiskey's mid-game "lecture, without any curtain." By mid-July, The Sporting Life reported: "Tip O'Neill has lately been playing so poorly that the Cincinnati cranks have soured on him." He appeared in his last major league game on August 30, 1892, at age 34.
In December 1892, Comiskey told The Sporting News that O'Neill had left the club without permission and had not been heard from since. However, Comiskey added: "If he can play ball for me as well as he did at St. Louis I should like to have him. Last year Tip was in poor health, and that is the reason I assigned for his weak stick work."
Over 10 major league seasons, O'Neill appeared in 1,052 games (1,022 as an outfielder) and made 4,712 plate appearances and compiled a .326 batting average, .392 on-base percentage, and .458 slugging percentage. He totaled 879 runs scored, 1,385 hits, 222 doubles, 92 triples, 52 home runs, 757 RBIs, 161 stolen bases, 420 bases on balls, and 1,947 total bases.
O'Neill is one of only 15 players in baseball history to have won the Major League Baseball Triple Crown. Of the 14 triple crown winners who are eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame (Miguel Cabrera is not yet eligible), O'Neill and Paul Hines are the only two who have not been inducted. At the end of the 2013 season, O'Neill's .326 career batting average was the 36th highest in major league history. Of the 35 players with higher career batting averages than O'Neill, only five eligible players (Dave Orr [.342], Pete Browning [.341], Jake Stenzel [.337], Riggs Stephenson [.336] and Mike Donlin [.332]) have not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Shortly after O'Neill retired from baseball, The Sporting Life reported in July 1893 that he was "making book" at Sheepshead Bay, a horse racing track in New York City. He also worked as a "big league umpire" and as a scout for various baseball clubs, including the Chicago White Sox. He moved to Montreal, Quebec where he lived with his brother and assisted in acquiring a minor league baseball club for the city.
On New Year's Eve 1915, O'Neill died suddenly at age 57 while riding on a streetcar in Montreal. The cause of death was an "attack of heart disease." He was buried at St. Mary Cemetery in Woodstock, Ontario.
In 1983, O'Neill was posthumously honoured as one of the first inductees of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. The Canadian Hall each year presents the Tip O'Neill Award to "the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball's highest ideals." He has also been inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. A municipal baseball field in Woodstock, Ontario is named Tip O'Neill Field in his honour.
During the late 19th century and early 20th century, there were several other athletes who went by the name "Tip" O'Neill. In 1898, O'Neill wrote to The Sporting Life to correct a report that he was managing a baseball team in Montgomery, Alabama. He noted: "It seems strange that every ball player whose name happens to be O'Neill should call himself Tip. One Tip died in London, Can., a few years ago, and when I would meet friends that I had not met for some time they would take me for a ghost. The Chicago "Record" last spring had me dying of consumption."
The confusion of "Tip" O'Neills continues as some sources erroneously state that O'Neill served as the president of the Western League, a minor league based in the Midwestern United States. To the contrary, the individual who served as president of the Western League was Norris "Tip" O'Neill.
Years later, the future American politician and Speaker of the House, Thomas "Tip" O'Neill (1912-94), was given the nickname "Tip" as a boy, due to his shared surname with the 19th century baseball player.
| Single season doubles record holder
| American Association Home Run Champion
| Hitting for the cycle
April 30, 1887
May 7, 1887