Greasy Neale with the Cincinnati Redlegs, c, 1919.

Earlier this month I tuned into a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers. The Reds’ phenomenal rookie, Elly de la Cruz, had just reached first base with a single. He promptly stole second, just beating the throw, and on the next pitch he broke for third. The catcher didn’t even try to throw out the speedster. He returned the ball to the pitcher, who strolled to the mound, his back to home plate. Incredibly, de la Cruz raced toward the plate, catching everyone by surprise. Safe!

Yes, the exciting rookie had stolen three bases in the same inning, a rare feat that has occurred only 47 times in the history of Major League Baseball. As for the Cincinnati Reds, the last player to accomplish it did so in 1919, over a century ago. That player’s name: Greasy Neale.


So who exactly was Greasy Neale? That colorful nickname prompted me to check him out, and what I discovered was most impressive.

Alfred Earle Neale was born in 1891 in West Virginia. He acquired his nickname as a kid during a name-calling contest with a friend. A superb athlete, he played baseball primarily for the Cincinnati Redlegs from 1916 till 1924. In addition to his 1919 base-stealing feat he also played in the World Series that year, batting .357 as the Reds defeated the Chicago White Sox in what became known as the Black Sox scandal, eight players on the White Sox being paid by gamblers to throw the series.


Neale also played professional football in various leagues during his entire time in baseball, even playing on a team with the legendary Jim Thorpe. In addition he coached college football, baseball, and basketball, mostly the former, long after his playing days were over. His 1921 Washington & Jefferson team went to the Rose Bowl, where they played the Cal Golden Bears to a scoreless tie.

Greasy Neale on the sidelines.

Ultimately, Neale went on to the National Football League, where he coached the Philadelphia Eagles from 1941 to 1950. His teams finished in first place three times and in second place three times, winning the NFL Championship in 1948 and 1949.

Greasy Neale was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967. Induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame followed in 1969. Both honors were in recognition of his coaching career.

World Series champion; NFL champion; Rose Bowl participant; Hall of Fame honors. Greasy Neale left quite a legacy. Stealing three bases in one inning seems like a small part of it. But I bet he and Elly de la Cruz would have a lot to talk about, ya think?

Alfred Earle “Greasy” Neale passed away in 1973 at the age of 81. He is buried in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!