The Obit For George McDonald

Original Padre George McDonald dies at 93

By Blanca Gonzalez
Originally published 6:29 p.m., May 25, 2011

George McDonald
A stellar first baseman and one of the first to ever wear the Padres uniform as a member of the original Pacific Coast League team, George McDonald liked to say that he hit the longest home run in history.

According to legend, he hit a fly ball that sailed over the right field fence at Lane Field, hit nearby Pacific Highway and bounced into the boxcar of a train heading to Los Angeles, 125 miles away.

His teammates included future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, who was a classmate of his from Los Angeles. In later years, Mr. McDonald recalled that he and Doerr quit school in the 11th grade at age 16 to play for the Hollywood Stars. The team moved to San Diego in 1936.

Mr. McDonald died May 12 of heart failure in Palm Desert, where he had lived for many years. He was 93.

Friends said he was a gregarious storyteller who enjoyed talking baseball. He has appeared at several Padres games in recent years and was among the former players recognized at April’s season opener.

“George was probably one of the best fielding players of his era,” said local baseball historian Bill Swank. “Few things, like throws in the dirt, poker games or practical jokes, got past the old first baseman.”

Swank said Mr. McDonald was one of the best known members of the San Diego Padres from 1936 to 1946. Newspaper accounts in the 1930s described him as “brilliant” and “clever” at first base with a batting average of .317. A 1942 article in the San Diego Union called him the team’s most underrated player and added “He is better than a fair hand around the bag, and it’s impossible to estimate how many errors he saves his teammates in the course of a season.”

Longtime friend John Green said he was a kid when he first saw George McDonald on the baseball field. “I sat behind first base at Lane Field and George was right there … I became a fan. He was great.”

Mr. McDonald’s wife, Marilyn, said her husband’s baseball recollections included a common practice among pitchers of his era. “If a batter hit a home run, the pitcher took it out on the next batter,” she said. “He said that hitting behind Ted Williams was not a good place to be.”

In a 1995 interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Mr. McDonald said the most he earned in a Pacific Coast League season was $12,000. “We were just happy to have a job,” he said. “There was more camaraderie among the players then. After a night game, we’d meet, play poker until daylight, then go to bed.”

During his playing days, Mr. McDonald was known as “kind of a clubhouse lawyer” who often squabbled with management over issues affecting players, Swank said. There was speculation that his outspokenness cost him a trip to the majors. “Who was going to want a guy like that … someone who was going to cause problems for ownership,” Swank said.

George Thomas McDonald was born April 12, 1918, in Seattle, Wash., to James and Marie Dahl McDonald. The family moved to Los Angeles and he attended Fremont High where he was a member of the city championship baseball team.

After retiring from baseball, he was a partner in an automobile dealership in Los Angeles and Orange County. He was an avid golfer and belonged to several country clubs including Indian Wells in the desert.

Mr. McDonald is survived by his wife of 30 years, Marilyn; two sons from a previous marriage, George McDonald Jr. of San Juan Capistrano and Douglas McDonald of Yucaipa; a sister, Geraldine Durrett; stepchildren, Michael Sherman of Escondido and Pamela Deleget of Indio; and 10 grandchildren. He was predeceased by two daughters, Janet Sims and Barbara Staples.

No services will be held.