Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Most Aggravating And Wretched Player On The Team

It was the universal opinion among St. Louis base ball enthusiasts yesterday that Mr. Lucas never took a better step in the right direction for the good of his club than in releasing Dunlap, whose sale to the Detroit Club was announced exclusively in the Globe-Democrat yesterday morning. By many of the Maroons' devoted admirers the news was hailed with genuine delight, and the prediction that the club would now be almost certain to do better could be heard everywhere. While Dunlap's ability as a great second baseman was never for a moment questioned, and while he is justly entitled to be called the "king of them all," there is but little doubt that his departure from the St. Louis Club is a good thing for the club and its owners. Dunlap's ways are too well known to the base ball public of St. Louis to necessitate any comment. He played well when he wanted to, and when he didn't he was the most aggravating and wretched player on the team. He wanted everything his own way, and when crossed made it disagreeable for everybody around him. As the captain of the club the players looked to him for advice and instruction, and what he said usually went with them, and it was always noticed that when it was an "off" day for Dunlap the rest of the club usually followed in his wake, and played as poorly as they knew how. Dunlap's off-days usually came when the manager and owner of the club insisted upon having a world to say as to how the nine should be run.

Speaking of the matter, Mr. Lucas said to a Globe-Democrat reporter yesterday: "I am heartily-in fact, really happy-that Dunlap has gone, and I think that the club will get along much better without him. I was in favor of letting him go at the end of last season but Manager Schmelz insisted on keeping him, and it was only through the latter that I consented to have him remain on the team. Mr. Schmelz had an idea that he could get along with Dunlap, but I never thought so. No manager can get along with him unless he allows him to do just as he likes. He has always been the disturbing element in the club, and every trouble that has arisen among the players can be traced directly or indirectly to him. My opinion of him, however, as a ball player has never been changed since he has been associated with the club. I think he has no equal in his position, and but for his ways I would ask for a no better man. Neither did I like his bulldozing tactics on the field. I like to see kicking, and I think it pays; but Dunlap didn't kick as other captains did. He would raise a big row over the most trivial occurrences. I do not approve of this policy. I like to see a man stand up for his rights, but I believe in doing it in a gentlemanly way. Another thing that made matters worse was Dunlap's eager desire to leave the club. He was dissatisfied all the time. I had a good offer to send him to Detroit, and get some money back that I have spent on him, and so I decided to let him go. I am entirely satisfied with the deal, and I know he is, so there will be no regrets on either side."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 8, 1886

I think we all know that Dunlap was a difficult character to deal with but I don't think I've ever read a harsher description of him. I'm sure the whole thing is an attempt to justify his sale to the fans but it also has a ring of truth to it. The fact of the matter is that the King of Second Basemen was a bit of a jerk.


David Ball said...

Agree on both counts: there's a lot of sour grapes here, but Dunlap had a similar reputation everywhere he went. He always had bad relations with club management but was difficult for the players to get along with as well. And on the other hand, I have a quote Schmelz gave a little later, in which, as Lucas suggests, he does defend Dunlap -- says, in essence, that Dunlap had played fine ball but was unhappy playing for a loser, and there was nothing wrong with a ball player feeling that way.

Dunlap had been orphaned in early childhood and seems to have led a very tough childhood, an experience that likely left him suspicious of the world. He had already been at loggerheads with Lucas in 1885, and at the very end of the season he demanded to be traded, at which point Lucas announced that Dunlap would play for the Maroons in 1886, and would do so for $1,000, the minimum salary allowed a reserved player. Thus, the former leader of the Union Association, friend of the players and critic of the reserve rule was threatening to use the reserve as a purely punitive measure. During the subsequent offseason there was a lot of talk about negotiations to sell Dunlap to the Phillies and elsewhere, though.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

The deterioration of the relationship between Dunlap and Lucas is kind of fascinating. Lucas, at the end, was almost acting like a spurned lover. I wonder to what extent he, in his mind, combined the breakdown of his relationship with Dunlap with the collapse of the Maroons. It's total speculation but I can see Lucas, in his bitterness, blaming Dunlap for all his failures. I can see him, in his later years when he was working for the street department, muttering and cursing Dunlap's name.

David Ball said...

Here's the quote from Schmelz, from a column by Sporting Life's St. Louis correspondent Joe Pritchard, in SL's issue of September 8, 1886. Schmelz was asked whether Dunlap was a "Jonah," bad luck, since the Maroons had played better after he left. Schmelz replied, “Jonah be d—d! Fred Dunlap played as fine a second base this season for me as any man wants to be played. Fred is like nine out of every ten men you meet in the profession. They are ambitious and want to be on a winning team.” He added that Dunlap's hitting had been off but he had fielded very well, and St. Louis began winning after he left, “just as soon as our young pitchers – Healy and Kirby – commenced pitching winning ball.”

Another item in the same SL issue notes, “Every St. Louis paper but one gives Fred Dunlap a parting kick.” And I have a SL quote from back in May: “Some of the St. Louis papers are already beginning last season’s habit of nagging and picking at Fred Dunlap. No matter how well he plays he can’t please certain Mound City newspaper scribblers.”