Friday, March 28, 2014

Tony Mullane: The Apollo of the Box

I often wonder if the fans of the future will look back at today's players in the same way I look back of the players of yesteryear. I love reading stories of the characters that played the game back in the dead ball era. It seems to me that players today are so image conscious that genuine characters are few and far between. In reading The Emerald Diamond: How The Irish Transformed America's Greatest Pastime by Charley Rosen, One such character that I came across from the dead ball era was Anthony John "Tony" Mullane (January 30, 1859-April 25, 1944).

Now Mullane was a 13-year veteran of the American Association (Louisville, St. Louis, Toledo and Cincinnati) and National League (Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Cleveland) who compiled a 280-222 record with a 3.05 ERA winning 30 games in five consecutive seasons played (1882-1884/1886-1887). In 555 games started, he had 502 decisions with 468 complete games and 52 games finished out of the bullpen. He would strike out 1803 batters, walk 1408 and give up 4195 hits in 4531.1 innings pitched for a WHIP of 1.237. Pretty impressive. No? Well, it gets better.

According to Rosen:
Prominent among these Irishmen was Tony Mullane, who won 30 games in five consecutive seasons. During the 1880's, Mullane's excellence was rewarded with a average salary of $6,000 (equal to $85,000 in today's economy), which rightly placed him among the top earners of the time.
Because of his stylish clothes, his magnificent handlebar mustache, and his way with the ladies, Mullane had several nicknames, most notable "The Count" and the "Apollo of the Box." His incredible athleticism was proven both during and after he injured his right arm in throwing a baseball the prodigious distance of 416 feet, 7 3/4 inches, to demonstrate his strength. This feat was all the more remarkable since the leansome 5'10" Mullane only weight 165 pounds.
Mullane responded by pitching left-handed, with only minimal loss of effectiveness, until his right arm was fully healed.
The Apollo of the Box. Think about that. That meant that Mullane was a good looking dude to be compared to the Greek God Apollo. Check him out for yourself. What do you think. Back to the ambidextrous story.

In the article Two-Handed Approach: Ambidextrous pitching star Tony Mullane to be considered by Pre-Integration Era Committee By Bill Francis dated November 20, 2012 from the national Baseball Hall of Fame website, Mullane is quoted as recovering from his injury as follows:
“I simply put on two heavy sweaters, and although it hurt me even to raise my arm, I went to work and pitched ball after ball,” is how Mullane explained his method of recovery. “Great streams of perspiration poured off me, and it hurt me so badly that I had to grit my teeth. It was a case of grin and bear it. I was bound to work it out and I succeeded. The sweat did me good. Although the pain was intense I persevered and the soreness left me. The arm was a little weak at first, but now it’s as good as ever. Had I sat around nursing my sore arm, I am confident that I would not now be solid as a pitcher.”
Players today would have sat on the DL nursing the sore arm. Francis also states:
Among Mullane’s other notable pitching achievements was tossing a no-hitter for Louisville against Cincinnati on Sept. 11, 1882, and going all 20 innings, the record at the time for a big league contest, for Cincinnati against Chicago’s Ad Gumbert, who also went the distance, in a 7-7 tie on June 30, 1892.
I came across an article Cork’s Tony Mullane remains longshot for Hall of Fame by Dave Hannigan dated February 16, 2011 from the Irish Echo webpage that describes Mullane's chances at being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (he was not inducted). One angle the article touches on is how Mullane was a racist. While it was not right, it was not rare for the era. I'll let you read on that for yourselves if you feel so inclined to do so.

Mullane would end up retiring from the game in 1894 and served as an umpire before joining the Chicago Police Department, rising to the rank of Detective. He would pass away on April 25, 1944 at the age of 85.

As I come across some of the more colorful members of the professional baseball fraternity, I'll post about them for your reading pleasure.

Until Then Play Ball,
Sisco Kid