Fred Dunlap has never been a member of a successful club since he left the Albany Club. The Cleveland club had no luck after he joined them and Detroit managed to pull off the championship one season with him on the team, but immediately afterward died an unnatural death. His appearance on the Pittsburg team has been equally unsuccessful and now he has gone to New York to join the Brotherhood club in that city. Fred is a great player, but the hoo-doo that seems to shadow him will make itself felt wherever he may go. There are a number of people in this vicinity who have watched his course with more than ordinary interest, and they do not hesitate to declare him a Jonah.-Sporting Life, May 31, 1890
Just so you don't think that I'm so totally in the bag for Dunlap that I won't publish anything negative about him, I humbly submit the above. And having said that...
I think the author of the above quote is leaving out a few things. First and foremost, the Maroons, with Dunlap as their star and captain, won the UA by twenty-one games. And while he tries to dismiss it, the author can't get around the fact that Detroit did win the National League championship and a world series against the Browns with Dunlap playing second base. Facts, people. I'm just giving you the facts.
What about the Cleveland years? In 1879, the Cleveland League club finished 27-55. In 1880, after adding a certain second baseman who happened to end up as the best rookie and the best second baseman in the league, the club finished 47-37. In 1881, the club finished a poor 36-48 but the next year, with Dunlap taking over as manager, Cleveland rebounded to finish 42-40 (and Dunlap's record as manager was actually 42-36). In 1883, with Dunlap arguably the best player in the League, Cleveland finished 55-42.
That Cleveland club wasn't too bad. They had Dunlap, Jack Glasscock and Orator Shaffer (which makes me think that if the Maroons had a healthy Charlie Sweeney in 1885 and 1886, they could have been competitive in the NL). They also had a decent pitcher in Jim McCormick and in any given year between 1880 and 1883 they'd have a decent player like a young Ned Hanlon or Doc Bushong. I think it's just a bit much to expect that club to beat out Chicago, Providence or Boston for the pennant. While a decent club, they were one or two guys short of really contending.
The Detroit club that Dunlap joined in 1886 had finished 41-67 the previous year. Their improvement to 87-36 was certainly not all due to Dunlap but he didn't hurt the situation. In 1887, of course, the club finished 79-45, winning the NL and the series. In 1888, with Dunlap in Pittsburgh, Detroit fell back to 68-63 while his new club improved from 55-69 to 66-68.
So Dunlap played for two championship clubs and, in general, the clubs that he joined improved while the clubs he left declined. I hardly think that qualifies him as a Jonah. I think that it actually illustrates how good a ballplayer Fred Dunlap really was.