James Phillip Austin (December 8, 1879 – March 6, 1965) was a professional baseball player and coach.
|Born: December 8, 1879|
|Died: March 6, 1965 (aged 85)|
Laguna Beach, California
|April 19, 1909, for the New York Highlanders|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 6, 1929, for the St. Louis Browns|
|Runs batted in||390|
|Career highlights and awards|
Austin was born in Swansea, Wales, the son of a shipbuilder. He was one of only three Major League Baseball players to be born in Wales (the others being pitcher Ted Lewis and infielder Peter Morris). His father moved to the United States in 1885 to find work, and Austin followed in 1887. He did not see a baseball game until he was 14 years old.
After leaving school in 1889, Austin became an apprentice machinist with Westinghouse. After finishing his four-year apprenticeship, Westinghouse went on strike. Austin took up an offer of $40 a month ($1,115), plus a job, to play independent ball in Warren, Ohio. He returned to Westinghouse that fall, but in the spring of 1904, he signed with the Central League's Dayton, Ohio club.
Austin remained in Dayton until 1907, when he was sold to Omaha in the Western League. He stole 97 bases for Omaha in 1908, and at the end of the season was sold to the New York Highlanders of the American League. He made his major league debut in 1909 at the relatively advanced age (for baseball) of 28. That year, Austin became immortalized in the Charles M. Conlon photo as the third baseman trying to avoid Ty Cobb's spikes on a stolen base. Of the play, Austin said, "That's Cobb sliding into third and the other guy is me."
In 1913, when the Browns' player-manager George Stovall was suspended by the American League for spitting at an umpire, Austin was made manager on a temporary basis, until he was replaced by the legendary Branch Rickey. It was Rickey's first managerial job. Austin continued as Rickey's "Sunday Manager" – Rickey had promised his mother that he would not enter a ballpark on the Christian Sabbath, and therefore Austin managed the Browns on those days.
Austin played regularly for the Browns until 1921, and served as a coach for another 20 years. Unfortunately, the Browns during this period were rarely ever in the first division, so his team won no pennants during his playing career. The Browns did however finish the 1922 season in second place, one game behind the New York Yankees. Austin did also have the great fortune of either playing for or coaching baseball greats Branch Rickey, George Sisler, and Rogers Hornsby. In 1929, at the age of 49, Austin became one of the oldest major leaguers in history when he was inserted into a blowout. He cleanly handled two chances at third base, and struck out in his only at bat.