If there is anyone in the family that could be classified as "famous" or "well-known", it is George "Mule" Haas. He was a professional baseball player, and a pretty good one too. He is mentioned in many books dealing with the period he played. His major league career covered the years 1925 and 1928 - 1938. He was in three World Series: 1929, 1930 & 1931. After his playing career, he was a coach for the Chicago White Sox and a manager in the minor leagues and at Fort Monmouth.
Mule Haas came from a baseball family. His father, George A. Haas had played semi-pro baseball around the Montclair area for years and once had a tryout with the New York Giants, but did not make the team and became a plumber. George A. pitched for the Pinebrook A.C. and the National Turners of Newark, New Jersey. Mule originally wanted to be a pitcher, but his father, who had been a pitcher for Montclair High School himself, convinced him to become an outfielder so that he could play more often. Mule's nickname then was "Eggs". He got the nickname "Mule" from sportswriter Zipp Newman of the Birmingham Age Herald in 1925, while playing for the Birmingham Barons. Mule won a game with a home run and the headline in the paper read "Home Run Kick By Mule Haas Wins Game For Barons". Physically, Mule was a big guy for his time: 6 feet 2 inches, 170 pounds, batted left handed, threw right handed.
He played on a few semi-pro teams in the Montclair area before playing for Williamsport in 1923, when he signed a contract with Jimmy Johnstone of the Pirate's organization. A half hour after he signed with Johnstone, Mike Drennen arrived with an offer from the Athletics, which was for $1,500 more. He played for the Oklahoma City Indians, a farm club of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1924. Staying in the Pittsburgh organization, he played at Pittsfield and Birmingham, and was called up to the majors with Pittsburgh for 4 games in 1925. But he was sent down, this time to Atlanta for two more years before joining the Athletics in 1928. He had a lifetime minor league batting average of .313 before joining the Athletics.
While he was with Atlanta, he began to get noticed by the rest of the major leagues and was mentioned more and more in the local newspapers. One reporter wrote: "To pick any one outfielder out of the 24 regularly engaged in the business of snagging flies and say: 'Here is the best', is likely to bring down a lot of criticism from the fans here and elsewhere. But we'll risk that to hand the honors to Mule Haas. Mr. Haas, who cavorts in the outfield for the Atlanta Crackers, is the best doggoned fly chaser in the Southern Association. He can go and get that potato, can chuck it as far and more accurately than any other, and is one of the first 12 hitters. Yesterday, Mule made a catch of a tremendous drive off the bat of Eddie Morgan. He went up the hill and within a foot or two of the fence to do it. And a lot of fans went home calling Mother Haas' son a robber and other names. For that catch beat the Pelicans. Some of the boys might have said Haas was lucky. That's where we put in our oars. Mule made a half dozen similar catches in the four games the Pelicans played in Atlanta last week. He made 'em running back, running in, and to both sides, one handed and backhanded and circus. Haas did it so often, that we know he wasn't lucky. A man can't be that lucky. He's just a great fielder, one of the greatest in baseball, major or minor, and we nominate him as our choice for the "best outfielder in Dixie". Take him or leave him at that".
In 1928, he was bought by Connie Mack of the Athletics (although the Baltimore Orioles also wanted him), for $10,000 where he joined fellow Montclair resident, pitcher George Earnshaw. To play, Mule was going to have to break into an established outfield of Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Al Simmons - three Hall of Famers. While Cobb and Speaker were at the end of their careers, they were still respected and could still play. But he did it. He credited Tris Speaker with helping him improve his fielding, then took Speaker's place in the outfield. He played in 91 games his rookie year and batted .280. One of the highlights of that first year had to be when about 600 Montclair residents held "George Haas and George Earnshaw" Day in, of all places, Yankee Stadium on September 11. They were honored before the game, but Babe Ruth hit a homer with Lou Gehrig on base in the eighth to win the game for the Yankees.
In 1929, the A's won the American League pennant and faced the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. In the fourth game, at Philadelphia, with the A's leading the series 2 games to 1, the A's were down 8-0 in the seventh inning when they decided to set a World Series record - the most runs scored in one inning in a World Series game. The Athletics sent seventeen men to the plate, banged out ten hits and scored ten runs to win the game 10-8. The highlight of the inning was Mule Haas' inside the park home run with two men on. The towering fly was lost in the sun by Cub center fielder Hack Wilson and rolled to the fence. By the time it was recovered, Mule rounded the bases to bring the Cub lead down to 8-7.
Mule played the hero again in the next (and final) game. This time, the A's were down 2-0 in the ninth inning when Mule hit another home run with a man on to tie the score. Soon after, the A's scored again to become the World Series Champions. According to a newspaper article: "It was Mule Haas who made history in that ninth — Mule, who will be 26 years old tomorrow and who decided to celebrate a day in advance. Mule hit a homer folks, a home run that, like the shot at Concord Bridge echoes 'round the world..."
The A's won the pennant again in 1930 and 1931, winning the 1930 Series but losing in 1931, both to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1933, Mule, Al Simmons and Jimmy Dykes were sold to the Chicago White Sox because Connie Mack needed the money due to the depression. Mule played with the White Sox until 1937, then returned for one more season with the A's in 1938, but played in only forty games. He spent two years in the minor leagues, playing and managing, then was hired as third base coach for the Chicago White Sox by his old friend, Jimmy Dykes, and stayed there until 1946. He spent a few years scouting for the White Sox, then became third base coach for the Hollywood Stars in the Pacific Coast League in 1948. Later, he was the manager of the Fort Monmouth Army Baseball team, where he had a decent young pitcher named Whitey Ford for a couple of years.
Mule Haas was also an expert bench jockey. According to his son, George: "He was quite an umpire baiter, too. He could do some crazy things. But none of them are printable. He got thrown out of quite a few games". When Mule was coaching with the White Sox, Ted Williams made the mistake of saying he would "just as soon been a fireman as a baseball player". The next time they played in Chicago, Mule and his group were in their dugout wearing fire helmets and armed with fire bells, sirens, and whistles. He was always throwing firecrackers at opposing coaches between innings on lazy summer days. I once read an article in his scrapbook where he noticed that the opposing pitcher always picked up any piece of litter or paper on the mound before he pitched each inning, as if they bothered him. Mule's team was losing midway through the game, so Mule came into the dugout at the end of the inning, got a piece of paper, ripped it into a million pieces, like confetti, and put it in his back pocket. He played shallow that inning and got a head start into the dugout after three outs, beat the pitcher to the mound and while crossing it, put his hand in his back pocket and flicked out a mess of the small papers and continued into the dugout. When the pitcher reached the mound, he looked into the dugout right at Mule. Back then, they wouldn't stop the game for that, and he couldn't pick up all those tiny pieces of paper, so he just began pitching. Sure enough, he couldn't find the plate and was so wild, he was taken out after a few walks. Of course, Mule's team scored and won the game.
But Mule was more than a bench jockey. He was a very good ballplayer. I met him twice, when I was a young boy. My parents took me to his home in Montclair when I was about 10 years old and I was mesmerized by this man who had played professional baseball against Babe Ruth. I remember him as a big man, probably a combination of my small size and giant admiration for a man who actually played professional baseball. At that time, in my mind, if there was any justification for hero worship, that was it. I remember getting his autograph on index cards and I still prize them. He was a big, but gentle man who indulged me and the silly questions of a ten year old. A few years later, when he was the coach of the Fort Monmouth baseball team, my father took me to the Fort to watch one of the practices. Again, he was just as attentive and nice, and I remember leaving with a bag of about twenty used baseballs he had given me from that practice. I wish now that I had enough maturity to ask really good questions and really get to know this gentle giant of a man who must have had so many stories to tell of a time long gone in baseball history.
I remember looking through his scrapbooks once, two huge, bulging collections of newspaper clippings his wife, Marie, had compiled through his playing career. I believe his son, George, must have them now, and I would love to look through them again. I remember one story from a clipping in his scrapbook where the White Sox were playing the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. If you saw Yankee Stadium in the 1930's, the right field fence was a tar paper barrier about 3 - 4 feet high up to the bullpen, then a tar paper wall that extended toward center field, gradually rising from the 3 - 4 feet height to about 10 feet, with a small chain link fence on top of the wall. Mule was playing center field, with a man on second and one out. Babe Ruth came up to the plate. The Babe hit a rocket to right center. Mule raced for the fence, and when he hit the warning track, leaped onto the tar paper wall, dug his spikes into the wall, reached up and grabbed the chain link fence, lifting himself up and reaching over the fence into the bleachers. He timed the jump perfectly as the ball landed in his glove, his body hit the fence, and he fell back onto the field, knocking him dizzy. In the meantime, the runner on second base, thinking it a home run, had already rounded third and had to race back to second, where he tagged up and again began his run to the plate. By the time Mule regained his senses and stood up, all he saw was the second baseman running toward him waving his arms. Mule threw the ball to the second baseman, and he then spun around, throwing it to the shortstop who threw it to the catcher, who tagged the runner from second at the plate for a double play. The clipping said Ruth was standing on second base when Mule trotted in toward the dugout and the Babe just starred at him. This was not a story told years later that could have been well exaggerated, it was a newspaper story written the next day by an eyewitness sportswriter at the game.
He once went 7 for 9, including a home run, in a doubleheader. He was known for his excellent fielding too. He had a lifetime fielding average of .983. To put that in perspective, that fielding average was better that the following greats: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Al Simmons, and Ted Williams. While he played in less games that all of those, that is what averages are for. Only Speaker and DiMaggio averaged more putouts per game than Mule, and only Simmons averaged less errors per game than Mule - who averaged only one error for every 22.46 games, while Cobb averaged one error for every 11.07 games.
Mule Haas was elected to the New Jersey All-Sports Hall of Fame in 1967, along with Johnny Vander Meer, George Earnshaw, Ducky Medwick, and boxer James J. Braddock. He was also named the Philadelphia Athletics All Time Centerfielder. While his photo and autograph are in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, he was not good enough to get elected into the Hall. Still, he is in the company of many excellent ballplayers...