George Case was a four-time major-league All-Star who devoted almost 50 years of his life to the game he loved. His playing career, cut short by injuries, spanned 11 years (1937-47), ten years with the Washington Senators and one with the Cleveland Indians. After his playing days ended he remained in the game in various roles: college baseball manager, major-league coach, minor-league instructor and manager, and scout. In spite of his on-field success and the considerable fame he achieved in his day, Case is best remembered as a man with a strong sense of humility who rarely spoke of his many accomplishments – a man known to have his priorities in order. He was described by those who Wholesale Minnesota Twins Jerseys knew him best as “a special person,” and was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.
A natural athlete in his youth, George Case had one remarkable talent that separated him from his peers: his blazing speed. He wasn’t just fast. George Case could run like the wind. This extraordinary ability became his ticket into professional baseball; and once he made it to the majors, he fine-tuned his skills and emerged as the premier basestealer of his generation. According to author Mark Stang: “His raw speed and ability to read pitchers and catchers made him the most feared basestealer in either league.” 1
George Washington Case Jr. was born on November 11, 1915, in Trenton, New Jersey, the third of three children of George Washington Case Sr. and his second wife, Clara McIntyre. George Sr. was 59 at the time of George Jr.’s birth and had an older son, Cliff, from a previous marriage. Cliff was 30 years old when his half-brother George was born. The couple also had two daughters, Audrey and Gladys. George Case, Sr. was a butcher and businessman who founded Case’s Pork Roll in 1874. Case’s retail store was still in existence as of 2013. George Sr. was a noted sprinter in his youth, and was a source of his younger son’s exceptional athleticism. His older son, Cliff, also played professional baseball before giving up the game for a career with Case’s Pork Roll, a business he ran for many years.
George Jr. attended Gregory Elementary School, and Junior High Three, both in Trenton. During his youth he and his future wife, the former Helen Farrell, lived within two blocks of each other and attended grade school, junior high, and high school together. They were married in 1937 and had two children: a son, George Washington Case III, and a daughter, Robin. The two siblings were separated in age by 16 years. George W. Case III was executive Director of SABR from 2000 to 2002.
George Case attended Trenton High, graduating in 1934, followed by two prep-school years at the Peddie School in Hightown, New Jersey. According to his son, during his time at the Peddie School, “He was deciding whether to accept a college scholarship to Brown University or become a professional baseball player.”2
During his high-school years he acquired the nickname Casey because of his penchant for reciting “Casey at the Bat” for his teammates and relatives, an endearing family tradition he passed on to his son.3 He was first team All-State in baseball and basketball in high school. In 1934 he played in an exhibition game against future Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx. The two became friends and remained so for many years. When Foxx played for the Philadelphia A’s he often visited the Case home in Trenton – and always replenished his supply of Case Pork Roll.4
As a pitcher and second baseman with terrific foot speed, George Case was noticed by local scouts. Before long the talented teenager came to the attention of Philadelphia Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack. Observing young George in a tryout Mack suggested a switch to the outfield, where his speed would be a valuable asset. George accepted Mack’s advice and developed into an exceptional defensive outfielder. He remained an outfielder for the rest of his career except for three games as a pitcher in the minors.
Since the A’s were stocked with outfielders at the time, Mack advised his friend Clark Griffith of the Washington Senators to take a look at the young speedster.5 In 1936 Washington scout Joe Cambria, who signed many of the Senators’ best players during the 1930s and ’40s, inked George to his first professional contract. He landed with the York White Roses, a Senators affiliate in the New York-Pennsylvania League. Later in the season he was transferred to the Trenton Senators in the same league, a team owned at the time by his half-brother Cliff Case. In Case’s two minor-league seasons he played in 175 games and hit .313. While at Trenton Case lived at home and commuted to the ballpark. He and Edgar Leip (Washington 1939, Pittsburgh 1940-42) were the only two players to be born in Trenton, play minor-league baseball in Trenton, and go on to the major leagues.
With word of his extraordinary speed spreading throughout the Washington organization, the parent club called Case up a “look-see” in September 1937. The 6-foot, 183-pound right-handed-hitting outfielder made an inauspicious big-league debut on September 8 in a game at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. He went 0-for-4 against Athletics pitcher George Caster in a 2-0 Washington loss in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game he was also hitless in four at-bats. He recovered from this temporary setback and finished the season strong, hitting .289 in 93 at-bats. 1938 Case hit .305 in 107 games. His breakout year came in 1939, when he hit.302, led the Senators in runs (103), and topped the American League in steals (51). For the next seven years Case was baseball’s most feared and most successful basestealer. After he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 1946, his new manager. Lou Boudreau jokingly remarked that he was relieved he no longer had to worry about “that pest” George Case on the bases.
In 1940 Case hit his stride and blossomed into a star. He achieved career highs in runs (109) and hits (192), and had 35 steals. More success followed in 1941 with 33 thefts and the league lead in outfield assists (21). Case hit a career-high .320 in 1942, scored 101 runs, added 44 steals, and was caught stealing only six times. In 1943 he won another stolen-base title, his fifth straight. His 61 thefts that year equaled the highest single-season mark from 1921 through 1961. He endured an injury-plagued season in 1944 as he slipped to a .250 average, an uncharacteristically low 63 runs scored, and a second-place finish to Snuffy Stirnweiss in stolen bases (49). In 1945 Case’s batting average climbed to a more respectable .294 with another second-place finish to Stirnweiss in stolen bases (30) as he placed ninth in MVP voting.
In December 1945, with a slow-healing separated shoulder and back problems taking their toll from many years of hard sliding, Case was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Jeff Heath. At age 30 he sensed that his body was starting to break down. Of his evolving approach to base stealing, he said, “I’ve reached a stage in my career when I realize that I must conserve myself if I’m going to last another ten years.”