Grave Story: John Mackinson (1923-1989)

Here lies John Mackinson, who pitched for 13 seasons in the minor leagues and had two brief stays in the majors. Mackinson played for the Philadelphia Athletics (1953) and St. Louis Cardinals (1955).

John Joseph Mackinson was born to John Sr. and Gertrude Mackinson in Orange, N.J., on October 29, 1923. John Sr. was a warehouse employee for the Lackawanna Railroad, per the 1940 U.S. Census. John Jr. was the oldest child and had at least two siblings, sister Jane and brother James. John Jr. grew up in Orange and gained some fame in town when he threw back-to-back no-hitters in the playground league when he was 16 years old. He also played in the East Orange Suburban League as a youth.

Mackinson enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 and spent 31 months in the Air Force during World War II. He served overseas, though he did get a chance to pitch in the service. He wrote on a baseball questionnaire that he won the final game of a league championship series in Italy, though he did not list the year or with what unit he was serving.

John Mackinson with the Kansas City Blues. Source: Kansas City Star, April 15, 1948.

Mackinson was discharged in October of 1945 and returned to New Jersey. He signed with the New York Yankees and was assigned to the Sunbury (Pa.) Yankees of the Class-B Interstate League for 1946. Despite being 22 years old and just entering professional baseball, it didn’t take long for Mackinson to catch up to the rest of the league. He went 14-10 in his first season, with a 3.88 ERA and 14 complete games. In an early relief appearance, he fanned eight of the nine batters he faced. He had 181 strikeouts in 190 innings pitched, but he also walked 139. Control proved to be Mackinson’s biggest hurdle, as it took him several seasons before his walks per 9 innings rate dropped below 6.

During the offseason, Mackinson worked for Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. On October 29, 1946, he married the former Winifred Miller in Sunbury. He moved to the Beaumont Exporters of the Double-A Texas League in 1947 and won 10 games, and then he pitched for a couple of Triple-A teams in 1948, primarily as a reliever. It doesn’t seem as if the Yankees knew quite what to do with the talented but wild Mackinson. He had been successful as a starter, albeit with a high walk rate, but he didn’t fare as well as a reliever. He had a combined 7-8 record in 1948 in 44 games with Kansas City and Newark, and he walked more batters (74) than he struck out (68).

Mackinson started all over again in the Yankees organization in 1949, spending the entire year with Class-A Binghamton of the Eastern League. He was sent there by Newark to bolster a weak pitching staff. The step backward didn’t bother the pitcher, because he was tired of being a reliever. “I’ve had enough of that. I want to be a starter, working my regular turn. That’s what I told Newark officials this spring,” he said. “I would rather be a starter down here than a relief man for Newark.”

Jim Greengrass, left, and John Mackinson join the Binghamton Triplets in 1949. Source: Binghamton Press, April 25, 1949.

“I’m very glad to get Mackinson, too,” said Binghamton Triplets manager George Selkirk, who also received third baseman Jim Greengrass from Newark. The reinforcements played well. Greengrass hit .264, and Mackinson won 9 games for a team that also had future big-leaguers Whitey Ford and Tom Gorman on the pitching staff. Mackinson was an All-Star in 1950 for Muskegon in the Class-A Central League before returning to Beaumont. He was a 15-game winner for them in 1951 and a 16-game winner for Double-A Birmingham in 1952. He was named to the Southern Association All-Star Team that year and was purchased by the Philadelphia Athletics in October.

Mackinson was 29 years old by the time Opening Day rolled around in 1953. He boosted his credentials by pitching in Venezuela over the winter, where he threw a no-hitter. He also pitched well in spring training, getting a win by throwing 3 scoreless innings against the National League champion Brooklyn Dodgers. In what was his first legitimate chance to make a big-league roster, Mackinson found himself in an Athletics uniform on Opening Day. It didn’t take long for him to see action, either. The visiting Boston Red Sox played Philadelphia on April 16, the A’s fourth game of the season. The A’s scored 4 runs off Boston starter Mel Parnell, but their own starting pitcher, Harry Byrd, couldn’t hold the lead. After giving up four straight hits and four runs, Byrd was pulled from the game in the fifth inning, and Mackinson entered the game with runners on first and second. He walked the first two batters he faced and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch. He ended the inning by getting Jim Piersall to hit a grounder to third for a force out. Mackinson then worked a scoreless sixth inning, allowing a harmless single to George Kell. None of the Boston hitters managed to hit the ball out of the infield against Mackinson. It would be his only appearance with Philadelphia, though. He was sent to Ottawa of the International League when the rosters were reduced in mid-May.

Source: Find-A-Grave

Mackinson struggled in Ottawa, with an ERA over 5 and a losing 7-10 record. He made the rounds of the International League, staying with Ottawa in 1954, moving to Columbus in 1955 and joining Rochester later that season when Columbus released him. Rochester was a Cardinals affiliate, and after a few appearances there, the pitcher was called to St. Louis to replace pitcher Floyd Woolridge. The Cardinals were flailing away near the bottom of the National League, thanks to a pretty poor pitching staff. Mackinson was thrown into the fire early and often by manager Harry Walker. He threw 6 innings of relief against the Milwaukee Braves on August 17, giving up 5 runs including a grand slam to Del Crandall. Then the very next day, he was sent back out to throw 3 more innings against the Braves. He pitched much better, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits.

Mackinson never really had a chance to rest with the Cardinals, pitching extended relief outings with little rest. He earned his only major-league decision – a loss – on August 20 against Cincinnati. He gave up a game-tying home run to Gus Bell before allowing back-to-back RBI singles to Chuck Harmon and Rocky Bridges, resulting in a 7-4 defeat. His only major-league start lasted 1/3 of an inning on August 25, in the first game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia. He walked two of the four batters he faced, and they both scored on a Del Ennis double. Mackinson was promptly yanked, but he returned to pitch 2 innings in the nightcap.

Mackinson and son John Jr. go over pitching grips. Source: Democrat and Chronicle, June 28, 1957.

All total, Mackinson appeared in 8 games (plus one more as a pinch-hitter) and allowed 18 runs in 20-2/3 innings. He finished the season with a 7.84 ERA. The Cardinals returned him to the minors after the season, and he did not pitch in another big-league game. Mackinson was left with an 0-1 record and 7.36 ERA in 9 major-league games, with 18 runs allowed in 22 innings. He walked 12 batters and struck out 8. He allowed 25 hits and surrendered 3 home runs – to Bell, Ennis and Randy Jackson of the Cubs.

At 32 years old, Mackinson didn’t have much of a chance to return to the major leagues. Nevertheless, he returned to Rochester for 1956 and won his first 9 decisions. He faltered a little in the second half of the season but finished with a 14-7 record and a 4.01 ERA. He pitched for three different teams in 1957 and two in 1958, but a sore arm reduced his effectiveness. He pitched his final games for Tulsa of the Texas League and retired after spring training in 1959, at the age of 34. Mackinson had a record of 116-102 in the minors, with six seasons of 10+ wins.

Mackinson’s life is not easy to track after his baseball career ended. He and Winifred had at least two children, Joan and John. Mackinson, apparently divorced, moved to Reseda, Calif., by at least 1980. He may have remarried in California in 1981, as there are records of a John J. Mackinson marrying a Linda Cunningham in Los Angeles. John Mackinson died at the age of 65 on October 17, 1989, in Reseda. According to his Baseball Reference Bullpen page, he was working as a delivery driver for Frito-Lay Inc. at the time of his death. He is buried in Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, Calif.

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