Marvin Eugene Throneberry was born on September 2, 1933 in Collierville, Tennessee.
Marv’s older brother Faye Throneberry was a utility outfielder for the Boston Red Sox & Washington Senators in the fifties. In 521 career games he batted .236 with 29 HRs 48 doubles 12 triples 137 RBIs & a .307 on base %. In 1952 Faye stole 16 bases which was fifth most stolen bases in the American League. Faye finished his career in 1961 with the expansion Los Angeles Angels.
The six foot one, Left-handed Marv Throneberry, was originally signed in 1952 by the AL New York club. He played in the minor leagues at Denver where the thin air helped him lead the league in HRs & RBIs three straight seasons. He was brought up in September 1955 with the AL New York team but never quite matched his minor league numbers at the plate. He had problems fielding as well.
He spent the next two seasons back in the minors before returning to the majors for good in 1958. He hit just .227 but had 7 HRs with 19 RBIs in 150 at bats over 60 games. He got one World Series at bat in 1958, striking out against the Milwaukee Braves Lew Burdette.
On December 11, 1959 he was traded along with Hank Bauer, Don Larsen and Norm Siebern to the Kansas City Athletics for Roger Maris, Joe DeMaestri & Kent Hadley.
In Kansas City he hit .250 with 11 HRs & 41 RBIs in 236 at bats, but struck out 60 times, a ratio of every four at bats. In early June 1961 he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Gene Stephens. Overall with both teams that year, he batted .226 with 11 HRs & 35 RBIs.
In May of 1962 after just nine games played, he was sent to the expansion New York Mets for cash & a player to be named later which turned out to be Hobie Landrith.
With the Mets he finally got to be an everyday player and had his best season. Marv was certainly no All star but he became one of the early Mets first popular players & folk heroes, becoming known as Marvelous Marv.
At The Polo Grounds the first Mets fans would hang banners draped from the upper deck in his honor. One of the all time classics read “Cranberry, Strawberry, We Love Throneberry”. The fans started the “Marvelous Marv” fan club which at one point held 5000 members. They would come to the ballpark with the letters VRAM painted on the backs of their shirts, Marv spelled backwards. Throneberry himself, did anything he could to play into his image, he even pointed out his initials spell out M.E.T.
Defensively Throneberry was terrible, he committed 17 errors posting a .981 fielding %. It would be the worst fielding percentage of any first baseman until 1979. On Casey Stengel’s birthday the team threw him a party for the manager, everyone got a piece of cake except Marv. Casey told him we were afraid to give you a piece because you may have dropped that too.
On a classic June 17th game, he hit what looked like a triple but was called out for not touching second base. When Stengel came out to argue either the umpire or Mets coach Cookie Lavagetto told Stengel to forget it saying he missed first base too. Of course the Mets lost the game by one run. It was legendary stories like this that made the legend of Marvelous Marv grow & have manager Casey Stengel say “ Can’t anybody here play this game?”
In his first Mets game on May 11th, he batted sixth & played at first base. He got a hit plus a walk that day against Bob Shaw in an 8-5 loss to the Milwaukee Braves. He struggled at first not getting over the .200 mark until June 10th. From June 17th through June 23rd he drove in runs & hit safely in six of eight games. He also finished the month with four multiple RBI games.
Marv did have a few heroic moments which helped him get even more members in his fan club. In the first game of a July 7th double header at the Polo Grounds, he hit a walk off pinch hit HR off Ernie Broglio to beat the St. Louis Cardinals. In the second game of that twin bill, Marv hit another HR, this one off pitcher Ray Washburn although the Mets lost the game 3-2. Later in the summer he hit safely in 15 of 16 games, to start out the month of August raising his average to a season high .255.
On August 2nd he hit a pair of solo HRs in a 9-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Later in the month, at the Polo Grounds on August 21st he came into the game as apinch hitter, with the Mets behind 4-2. Throneberry had two runners on & was facing the Pittsburgh Pirates Roy Face one of the top relief pitchers in the NL. He was the hero of the day, as he hit the game winning walk off, three run HR to an ecstatic Polo Grounds crowd of under 5000.
The next day he drove in two runs against Jack Sanford & the San Francisco Giants to an almost sold out Polo Grounds in a 5-4 Mets win. He would also drive in a run in two games of the series with the Dodgers on that same home stand. In mid September he had back to back HR games coming against the Cincinnati Reds at the Polo Grounds. In the Mets inaugural season, Throneberry was second on the team in HRs (16) batting .244 with 11 doubles, 3 triples, a .306 on base % & 49 RBIs in 116 games played. He struck out 83 times as well.
The next season after just 14 games, he was batting .143 going 2-15, with five strikeouts. The Mets sent him down to the minors, opening a roster spot for 17 year old Ed Kranepool who would remain with the Mets through 1979. Throneberry was released after a salary dispute with upper management later that season. Even after he was gone “Bring Back Marv” banners would appear at the Polo Grounds. Marv retired from baseball at age 29.
In a seven-season career he was a .237 hitter with 281 hits 53 HRs 37 doubles 8 triples and 170 RBIs in 480 games. He struck out 295 times in 1186 at bats posting a .311 on base %.
Retirement: In the early 1980’s, Marv enjoyed a new success starring in some of the classic Lite Beer from Miller commercials. His famous lines were: “I still don’t know why they asked me to do this commercial” as he was surrounded by a bunch of better & more famous athletes.
And "If I do for Lite what I did for baseball, I'm afraid their sales will go down." Columnist Jimmy Breslin then said, "Having Marv Throneberry play for your team is like having Willie Sutton work for your bank."
Marv passed away from cancer in Fishersville, Tennessee, at age 60 in 1993. He was survived by his wife, Dixie; three daughters, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.