Saturday, August 29, 2009

What A Ball Player This Dunlap Was

So Fred Dunlap has passed into the great beyond, and the man whose salary figure marked the high-water limit of the long ago is gone! It seems like only yesterday to me that I saw Dulap chase the ball and yet it was ten years or so and most men had forgotten. I wonder how many of the great army of fans who tilled the parks last summer could have told whether Fred Dunlap was alive or dead. In base ball the fallen star is soon forgotten. Once in a great while he may have so vast and unique a personality that he will never fade from the memory of the fan, but as a rule he soon passes from our minds. Anson, perhaps, will never die in the talk of the ball cranks, but there will never be another Anson.

What a ball player this Dunlap was and what an artist in getting the fat salaries! Even the mighty boosts the salaries got last season were as nothing compared to the coin that Dunlap bagged, circumstances all considered. Lajoie alone managed to hit up the magnates for more money last season than Dunlap potted, but there was no such desperate warfare and cross-bidding in Dunlap's day as there was last season. Hence, Dunlap must command our admiration trebly, for, remember this as well, that Dunny was no such batsman as Lajoie and hence not really as valuable to a team.

Dunlap was a real infielder of the type so popular ten years ago, one of the solid bulky style through whom no grounder seemed able to pass, but who could nevertheless wave the hot ones goodbye with graceful ease when occasion demanded. With the gloves now in use to aid, Dunny would have been even a bigger wonder now than then. He was showy, yet effective. He averaged up quite well with the two other kings of second base in those days, Pheffer and McPhee. Each had his own way of going after the ball, his own style of throwing, his own methods in catching the throw and getting the runner. Dunlap never had quite the support that Pfeffer had, for it was never Dunny's luck to play in the middle of such a bunch as the stonewall infield of the Chicago champions. At least one or two spots were always weak in Dunlap's infields, but this, perhaps, made his individual glory stand out more brilliant in the contrast.
-Sporting Life, December 27, 1902

There was no such desperate warfare and cross-bidding in Dunlap's day? Really?


David Ball said...

Well, you're right about the Union War in 1884, but Dunlap was said to have done well for himself on other occasions, too.

When he was sold to Pittsburgh in 1887 he came out of it with a $5,000 salary, and the Pittsburgh manager Horace Phillips observed that when he had managed Dunlap at Hornellsville in 1878 the entire team payroll was only $4,700.

By the way, BB-Reference now has the SABR minor league data, and it shows for Dunlap that the odd "Aulairris, of New York" was in fact Auburn.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I think there are a few ways to look at Dunlap's ability to get these large contracts. First, there are numerous references to him being a smart businessman and his contract negotiations (and the resultant salary) could be a function of that. Also, I think it's arguable that his salary was in line with his skill level. Most likely the best player in the NL in 1883, Dunlap, in 1884, is making the highest salary. That seems right and fair. Once he got to that salary level, for the rest of his career he fought to maintain that salary.

Thanks for the tip about BRef. I haven't checked out all the bells and whistles since they revamped the site but that minor league data will be interesting to look at. I'll add a note at the end of the post noting the Auburn Club. I was having problems loading the PDF of that particular issue of Sporting Life and the text files are buggy and difficult to read. Not sure how they, or I, got Aulairris from Auburn.