Myron Nathan Ginsberg
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 180 lb.
- High School Cooley High School
- Debut September 15, 1948
- Final Game April 15, 1962
- Born October 11, 1926 in New York, NY USA
- Died November 2, 2012 in West Bloomfield, MI USA
While he was born Myron Ginsberg, Joe Ginsberg was called "Little Joe" from a young age after his father, Joe Ginsberg, and used the nickname throughout his life. Born in New York, Joe grew up in Detroit, MI and his childhood idol was Hank Greenberg. After high school, the Detroit Tigers signed the hometown kid, fulfilling Ginsberg's wishes. He was assigned to the Jamestown Falcons and batted .271 with 4 home runs in 1944 at the age of 17. He was drafted into the US Army after the season and spent the next two years in the service. While in the military, Joe continued to play baseball, now in the Philippines alongside players such as Early Wynn and Joe Garagiola.
Returning to civilian life in 1947, the 20-year-old Ginsberg was assigned to the Williamsport Tigers and hit just .220. Returning to Williamsport in 1948, he improved to .326 and got a September call-up, going straight from A ball to the major leagues, drawing a walk off of Bob Lemon in his first trip to the plate. He hit .361 in his cup of coffee that year.
Back in the minors for some additional seasoning in 1949, Joe hit .283 for the Toledo Mud Hens. When he hit .336/~.411/.514 with Toledo in 1950, he found himself back with the Tigers, though he did not fare well that year for Detroit. With Aaron Robinson and Bob Swift both turning 36 and declining rapidly, Joe became the starting catcher in 1951 and had a solid season, posting a 100 OPS+, good for a backstop. Swift continued to play against left-handed pitches in a platoon, with Ginsberg getting most of the work by default as is usual for the left-handed-batting part of a platoon. Joe caught a no-hitter by Virgil Trucks in 1952.
In 1953 Ginsberg left Detroit; hitting .302 on June 15 he was part of a large deal that had him winding up with the Cleveland Indians. Ray Boone was among the players going from Cleveland to Detroit in return. Joe finished the year with a 97 OPS+ and a career-high .290 average. After getting over 750 at-bats in three seasons, Ginsberg would get under 1,000 in another decade in the majors. As Ron Luciano quipped about backup catchers, Ginsberg made his living not catching.
When Hal Naragon joined the Indians in 1954 as the backup to Jim Hegan, Ginsberg spent most of the season in AAA with the Indianapolis Indians, batting .234/~.367/.377 as the sub for Hank Foiles. He appeared briefly for Cleveland as they set an American League record for wins. He batted .293 with 7 homers and 66 RBI for the 1955 Seattle Rainiers after the Indians dealt him away. Seattle traded him to the Kansas City A's and he was back in the majors by 1956.
In 1956, Joe split time with Tim Thompson, then was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles in return for Hal Smith when Lou Boudreau felt he would do better in a larger stadium. With Baltimore, Joe got the opportunity to work with minor league legend Steve Dalkowski and knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm - his three passed balls in a game trying to catch Wilhelm tied an American League record. He had 21 passed balls in 1959, Wilhelm's one year as a starting pitcher - in no other season did he have more than 8. Ginsberg's offensive production declined throughout his stay in Baltimore - from a 98 OPS+ and .360 OBP in 1957 to 71 and .303 in 1958 and 35 and .211 in 1959. Although tough to strike out, Ginsberg lacked power since his early days in Detroit. He relied on walks for a large share of his offensive value but he was no longer reaching base enough to have value as a hitter and was released at age 33 in 1960.
He was picked up by the Chicago White Sox after his release, finished 1960 with them and then split 1961 between Chicago and the Boston Red Sox. He was on hand for Roger Maris's 61st homer in 1961. In 1962 the 35-year-old Ginsberg made his way to his birthplace with the New York Mets. Spending most of the season with the Denver Bears, he hit just .218 with no homers in the offense-friendly AAA city. Eight years after seeing minimal time on the most successful regular-season AL team to that point, Joe played on one of the most incompetent clubs in baseball history, the 1962 Mets. He retired after that season and worked for 16 years for Jack Daniel's Distillery.