Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Never A Legitimate Star
"Never a legitimate star in a legitimate major league..." That's what Bill James wrote about Fred Dunlap in The Historical Baseball Abstract. I think that anyone who's been following this blog knows that I disagree with this and the photo above is more evidence that I'm correct in my thinking.
This a picture of the back of an 1888 Goodwin & Company album of their Champions set of tobacco inserts. It comes from the Zmotive Ebay gallery and I don't have much more information about it. I'm not sure if the album contained all fifty cards or just the eight baseball cards.
But lets think about this for a minute. Goodwin & Company issued a set of fifty cards and in that set included eight cards featuring baseball players. One of those players was Fred Dunlap-the illegitimate Dunlap mixed in with real stars like King Kelly, Cap Anson, and Dan Brouthers. And on top of that, they actually went and included the illegitimate Dunlap in the cover art.
What to make of this? Maybe (and just maybe) the illegitimate Dunlap was, in fact, considered a legitimate star by contemporary observers. Maybe (and just maybe) when Al Spink wrote things like Dunlap was "far and away the greatest second baseman that ever lived" and "of the great players of the olden times Fred Dunlap was considered by many the greatest," he was stating the conventional wisdom of the era. Maybe (and just maybe), we should pay more attention to people like Stanley Robinson who called Dunlap "perhaps the greatest player that ever lived."
There are more quotes about Dunlap like those by Spink and Robinson but I think I've already flogged that horse to death.