John Albert “Bert” Niehoff
Born: May 13, 1884 - Louisville, CO
Died: December 8, 1974 - Inglewood, CA
Career BA: .240
Cincinnati Reds NL (May 13, 1884 - September 8, 1974)
Philadelphia Phillies NL (1915–1917)
St. Louis Cardinals NL (1918)
New York Giants NL (1918)
Bert Niehoff had the classic good glove no bat. The contributions that he made to the game actually came after his playing days were over. Niehoff toiled in the minors for six seasons before finally making it to the Bigs at age 29. As a player he anchored second base for the Reds, Phillies, Cards and Giants. His most productive season was 1916, when he batted .243 and led the league in doubles. Niehoff was also the starting second baseman for the 1915 pennant-winning Phillies. A broken leg in 1918 forced his premature retirement after which he managed 24 seasons in the minors compiling a 1,824–1,713 record between 1922 and 1954. Fifteen of those seasons were spent in the Southern Association where he won two league championships.
As manager of the Chattanooga Lookouts, Niehoff made a decision on April 1, 1931, that set off a firestorm in the press. An exhibition game was scheduled against the Yankees’ juggernaut including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The Lookouts had signed a 17-year-old pitching phenom who happened to be a girl. Her name was Jackie Mitchell. Legend has it that Niehoff brought Mitchell into the game around the third or fourth inning and she proceeded to strike out both “The Bambino” as well as “Larrupin’ Lou.” Jackie threw a steady diet of curveballs to the two sluggers that they just were not able to hit. Word spread like wildfire and it was all the result of Bert Niehoff’s decision to make the game interesting.
During the war, Niehoff managed the South Bend Blue Sox in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943 and 1944 before returning to manage in the minors for six more seasons. He later coached for the Giants and was a Major League scout until 1969. Bert Niehoff passed away in 1974 at the age of 90.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html