Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Apollo Of The Box

I've been meaning to post some pics of Tony Mullane for a while (and a hat tip to Bill Burgess and his great 19th Century Historic Photographic Archive thread over at Baseball Fever for the first photo). Mullane pitched for the Browns in 1883, going 35-15 with an ERA of 2.19, an ERA+ of 160, and a WHIP of .968. Not too shaby.

Jon David Cash, in Before They Were Cardinals, writes the following about Mullane:

Born in Cork, Ireland, Mullane emigrated to the United States as a child. In 1880 he attracted the attention of the National League's Detroit Wolverines with his pitching exploits for a top-flight semi-professional ball club from Akron. After winning only one of five pitching decisions for Detroit in 1881, he jumped to the American Association for its debut season, joining the Louisville Eclipse. In 1882 he pitched the Association's first no-hitter, struck out more batters than any other pitcher in the league, and logged a 30-24 record-the first of what would become five consecutive thirty-win seasons. Thanks to the absence of a reserve clause in the American Association at the time, he had no trouble in joining the Browns in 1883. Flaunting a handlebar mustache and occasionally wielding an unusual ambidextrous pitching style, Mullane played the game with a flair that marked him as one of the most popular nineteenth-century players.

The Browns lost Mullane in 1884 after Henry Lucas offered the Count a $2500 salary to sign with the Maroons. After the adoption of the Day Resolution, Mullane thought better of jumping to the Union Association. Cash tells the story:

When the Day Resolution passed, Mullane panicked. He feared that his major-league future would become tied to the survival of the fledgling Union Association. Unwilling to accept such a risk, Mullane decided to return to the American Association.

Chris Von der Ahe had included Mullane on the St. Louis Browns' reserve list, and the Browns still held the American Association rights to the pitcher's services. However, Von der Ahe did not want to re-sign Mullane. To do so would have meant matching the lucrative $2500 contract Mullane had signed with Lucas. Most significantly, Von der Ahe wanted to avoid a possible legal battle with Lucas over the issue of player rights. Therefore, he worked out an arrangement with the other owners of American Association and National League teams. He released Mullane from the Browns, and they allowed the pitcher to be claimed by the new American Association club in Toledo. The Toledo Blue Stockings then offered Mullane the same $2500 contract that he had signed with Lucas' St. Louis Maroons, and he jumped back into the American Association.

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