Raised in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, William Boyd McKechnie (1886-1965) was a member for 25 years of the Wilkinsburg Methodist Church choir. His background accounted in part for his nickname of “Deacon,” but his managerial skills were equally responsible.
Bill McKechnie won pennants as a pilot
with three different teams -- Pitssburgh,
Cincinnati, and the St. Louis Cardinals.
That McKechnie’s record is not even more remarkable than it is can be traced largely to the fact that he never had the luck to obtain the reins of a great team. Indeed, his experience was often quite the opposite. In 1935, McKechnie had the misfortune to be at the helm of the worst team in modern National League history, a Boston Braves outfit that won just 38 of 153 games. Within two years, however, the Deacon had rebuilt the club and was named Manager of the Year.
McKechnie’s first managerial test in the majors came in 1915 when he took charge of the Newark team in the Federal League while still an active player. Seven years later, he got his second chance as a major-league manager when the Pirates fired George Gibson in July and gave Bill the job. After two successive third-place finishes, in 1925 McKechnie skippered Pittsburgh to its first pennant since 1909.
A year later, though, he was ousted following an internal revolution on the club that pitted him against coach Fred Clarke. Bill was hired by Branch Rickey in 1928 to manage the Cardinals and promptly won a pennant. A devastating loss to the Yankees in the ’28 World Series and a slow start in 1929, however, cost him another job within a year after he had won a pennant.
Hired in 1930 to reverse the fortunes of the lowly Boston Braves, McKechnie remained in the Hub through 1937. Then in 1938, he took an offer of $25,000 to pilot Cincinnati.
Following a fourth-place finish in his initial season with the Reds, Bill won back-to-back pennants in Cincinnati with a team that for many years held the record for being the only club in modern major-league history to cop consecutive pennants despite not having a player judged worthy of selection to the Hall of Fame. In 1986, that distinction was lost when Ernie Lombardi was enshrined.
McKechnie’s triumph with the Reds made him the first manager ever to win pennants with three different major-league teams. Some analysts consider him later to have won a flag with yet a fourth club.
In 1948, although Lou Boudreau was officially Cleveland’s player-manager and McKechnie his chief coach, Bill made many of the field decisions that resulted in the Tribe capturing the AL flag. Deacon Bill was named to the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Here are Bill McKechnie's major league totals: