Monday, November 5, 2018

11/5 Through the 1920’s: Sure Shot Signed; Bagby Bagged; HBD Gunboat, Lefty, Big Jack, Tom & John

  • 1877 - 2B Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap was purchased by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from the Detroit Wolverines for $4000-5000 (the final figure is up for debate); he also got $2K personally to agree to the deal. Sure Shot remained a slick fielder, but his batting eye disappeared after he hit .266 in 1888, stroking the ball at a .235 clip the following season and hitting just .172 in 1890 after 17 games before being released (he had a big salary & was in manager Guy Hecker’s doghouse to boot) and claimed by the NY Giants. His career ended the next year with Washington after he broke his leg sliding in April. Dunlap, who had amassed a considerable nest egg as a player, was bankrupt a decade later. Some say his frittered finances were due to poor stock market decisions and others blamed horse-racing debts. Either way, the arguably top second baseman of his era passed away penniless in 1902 of consumption. 
Sure Shot 1888 Goodwin Old Judge/Gypsy Queen
  • 1888 - Umpire John Mullin was born in Pittsburgh and lived in Brookline. John umpired in the NL in 1909, the AL in 1911-12 and the Federal League in 1915, spending most of his arbitrating time in the minors with the American Association, although he also wore the blue in six other farm leagues. John was just as quick tempered as the early baseball players he joined on the field. In one of his first major league gigs, two days after he had been called up from the bushes in 1909, he threw out three players during an argument and after they refused to leave, he waited the allotted one-minute of grace time they had and forfeited the game. 
  • 1895 - OF Tom McNamara was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. His MLB stay consisted of one June pinch-hitting appearance in 1922 for the Buccos, resulting in a ground out. The 26-year-old Princeton grad was sent to Flint for the rest of the year, hitting .313 before disappearing from baseball’s radar. 
  • 1899 - RHP “Big Jack” (he was 6’3”) Wisner was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jack’s first two major league campaigns consisted of 21 outings for the Bucs from 1919-20 and he was solid, going 2-3/2.70. He got fours years off after that, tossing for Rochester, before getting the call to serve 1925-26 as a NY Giant. Big Jack was sent down during the ‘26 season, worked in the minors through 1929 and hung ‘em up to work as a minor league coach. 
  • 1908 - LHP Ralph “Lefty” Birkofer was born in Cincinnati. Lefty worked for the Bucs from 1933-36 and slashed 31-26-2/4.04, splitting time between starting & the pen, then finishing his career in 1937 as a Dodger, going to Brooklyn as part of a three-man trade for Ed Brandt. 
Lefty Birkofer (photo Harwell Collection/Detroit Public Library)
  • 1909 - RHP Harry “Gunboat” Gumbert was born in Elizabeth. Harry tossed for 15 big league seasons (and that’s with missing a year, 1945, in the service), closing out his run in his hometown in 1949-50 (1-4-3/5.83) before retiring at age 40. Gunboat joined his great-uncles Ad and Billy Gumbert (also pitchers) as Pittsburgh hurlers. During his career, he slashed 143-113/3.68 with 235 starts (94 CGs), 13 shutouts and 48 saves, working 200+ IP in a season five times before transitioning into a reliever. His nickname doesn’t have much of a backstory behind it; Harry said it came about because a sportswriter thought ”Gunboat Gumbert” sounded good together. 
  • 1922 - RHP Jim Bagby Sr. was claimed by the Pirates after being waived by the Indians. Bagby won 31 games for Cleveland in 1920 and 122 games for the Tribe over the last six years, but at age 33 was done. He finished 3-2/5.24 in 23 appearances for Pittsburgh and retired at the end of the campaign. His son, RHP Jim Bagby Jr., also played for the Pirates in 1947.

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