Padres: 1936-44, 46 Stylish George was one of the best defensive first basemen in the game and that included the major leagues. An original Padre, he wore the local flannels for ten seasons and was known as the “clubhouse lawyer” who was often at odds with management over issues that affected the players’ wallets. A colorful character, few things, such as throws in the dirt, poker games, parties or practical jokes, got past McDonald.
[George McDonald interview by Bill Swank, 23 January 1995, transcript notes; interview with Charlene Mesner, 15 February 1995,transcript notes.]
Bobby Doerr and I quit school in the 11th grade. We were 16 years old and playing for the Hollywood Stars in the PCL! The Missions came to Hollywood from San Francisco and our club went to San Diego. We were the first Padres.
I was sixteen and making $150 a month playing baseball in ’34. I paid $650 for a Chevy coupe. My mother, who was Norwegian and spoke broken English, said that I bought a “stingy” car. She meant it only had one seat.
[Talking about Ted Williams] He had the prettiest swing of anybody I ever saw! He wasn’t cocky at all. He just had drive. The thing I remember the most about those early years with the Padres was getting knocked down all the time. I hit behind Ted and Tommy [Rupert Thompson] and, in those days, the pitchers would always take it out on the next guy and that guy was me!
Herman “Old Folks” Pillette [born in 1895] . . . What a nice, nice guy. Easy going. I roomed with him for a year. Every morning, he’d take a shower, brush his teeth and fill a water glass half full of 100 proof whiskey. He called it mouthwash, but I never saw him drunk.
Another time, up in Portland we were out with some young ladies. I won’t tell you who was with me. They gave us a lot of sweet gin drinks and I was never so sick in my life as the next morning. I said, “You’ve gotta tell Shellenback I’ve got the flu.” My roommate said, “You’ve gotta be kidding.” It was about 2:30 in the afternoon. I tried to eat, but couldn’t. About 4:30, I got a hamburger sandwich to stay down. I told Les [Cook] that I felt bad and he gave me a couple of aspirin. I could hardly hit the ball during batting practice. That night, Al Liken, an underarm pitcher was on the mound. I got a single, a double and a triple. I thought my heart was coming out of my shirt on the double and I almost fainted on the triple. What a time!
We had camaraderie. We did everything together. We’d put a blanket on the table in our room and play poker all night. You couldn’t hear the money when it hit the blanket. Shellenback would check the halls, but we’d be inside playing cards. We’d stay up ’til morning.
Did you know that I played Wally Pipp in Pride of the Yankees with Gary Cooper? I even got to talk. You ought to see it on video or on TV.
I hit the longest home run in history. I hit a home run and it bounced on Coast Highway [Pacific Highway] and it went into a freight car headed to LA. I’m the one who did it. Now, they tell the story that Ted hit it, but it was me. Ask Steve Mesner’s wife! It was in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. [Charlene Mesner confirms that it was George McDonald and not Ted Williams.]