Michael Joseph Donlin (May 30, 1878 – September 24, 1933) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) outfielder and actor. As a professional baseball player, his MLB career spanned from 1899 to 1914 in which played mainly in the National League for seven teams over 12 seasons. His most notable time was with the New York Giants, where he starred in the outfield for John McGraw's 1904 pennant winners and 1905 World Series champions. One of the finest hitters of the dead-ball era, his .333 career batting average ranks 28th all time and he finished in the top three in batting five times. In each of those same seasons, he also finished in the top ten in the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs.
A controversial character – Donlin, also known as "Turkey Mike" for his unique strut – his entertaining personality, flamboyant style of dress, and prodigious talent as a hitter caused him to be lionized as "the baseball idol of Manhattan." However, alcoholism led to friction with club officials and incarceration. Donlin attempted to leverage his popularity as an athlete to launch a career in Broadway theatre where he met and married Vaudeville comedienne Mabel Hite in 1906. Together, they performed in the baseball-themed play "Stealing Home" for about three years.
Between the waning popularity of the play in 1911 and Hite's death the following year, Donlin attempted short-lived comebacks with the Giants, Boston Rustlers, and Pittsburgh Pirates. His forays into acting cut short an undeniable talent that could have been a much more successful major league career: he reached 100 games in just five of his MLB seasons. After convincing McGraw to sign him for the last time in 1914, Donlin endured a disappointing 35-game cameo with the Giants, leading him to devote his efforts to launch his acting career. He migrated to Hollywood, where close friend John Barrymore helped him attain work. Although he made at least 53 appearances on film, the prospects of stardom never materialized. Donlin remained in Hollywood continuing in his acting career until his death in 1933.
By Dean Hanley
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