Born: January 21, 1867
Died: November 7, 1918
Michael Joseph Tiernan was born January 21, 1867 in Trenton. Tall and lanky, he was a swift runner and good fielder who drew the attention of local ball teams as a teenager. Mike began his pro career at the age of 17 with the Chambersburg team of the Keystone Association, a collection of minor-league clubs in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The following season he was playing in the Eastern League for his hometown team, the Trentonians. In 1887, Mike was the leading hitter for another Eastern League club, the Jersey City Jerseyans.
In 1887, Mike’s contract was purchased by the New York Giants. The Giants had one of the greatest lineups of the era, featuring Monte Ward, Buck Ewing, Roger Connor, Jim O’Rourke, Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch. Their glaring weakness was in the outfield, where they had marginal talent. Mike moved intothe starting lineup at the age of 20 and finished second on the club with 10 home runs. For slower players, these hits would have been doubles or triples, but Mike’s speed enabled him to circle the bases in the spacious Polo Grounds, which was located at the northern tip of Central Park at the time. Mike had his good days and his bad days as a rookie. In a May game he committed five errors. In a June game he scored six runs. Mike also pitched in a few games for the Giants that season.
In 1888, the Giants won the pennant. Mike played right field and finished second on the team in hits, triples, homers, stolen bases and batting average. In the World Series against the American Association St. Louis Browns, Mike paced the New York attack with 13 hits, 8 walks and a .342 average as the Giants won 6 games to 4. The Giants repeated as National League champs in 1889, as Mike had another outstanding season. He led the club with a .335 average and scored 147 runs, which led the NL. He also led the league with 96 bases on balls. The Giants won the World Series 6 games to 3 over the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
Mike came into his own as a slugger in the early 1890s. Now well-muscled, he was able to drive the ball past enemy outfielders and fly around the bases. He led the NL in home runs with 13 in 1890 and 16 in 1891, taking advantage of the team’s new horseshoe-shaped ballpark in upper Manhattan. In 1893, Mike reached a career high with 102 RBIs. In 1896, at the age of 29, he had his highest batting mark as a major leaguer, .369.
The Giants failed to win another pennant during Mike’s tenure in New York. Some years they were competitive, some years they were dreadful. Team owner Andrew Freedman was a difficult man to play for, but Mike tended to keep his opinions to himself, which explains how he lasted so long with one team. Not coincidentally, his nickname was Silent Mike.
In 1899, Mike missed most of the season due to injury. The Giants cut him and in 1900 he tried to revive his career in the low minors with a team in Connecticut. It turned out to be his final season in baseball. After his playing days, Mike traded on his popularity in New York City and opened a café in Manhattan. He lived until the age of 51, when he died after a protracted illness.