SABR

Ed Gallagher

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

“Lefty” – Ed Gallagher – played very little organized baseball. He never played a day in the minor leagues, and played in only nine major-league games. He was a left-handed pitcher with a lifetime 0-3 record. Gallagher was the only pitcher ever to wear the number 1 on his jersey, but one could argue for another distinction – that he was the worst player on the worst Boston Red Sox team of all time. The team was the 1932 Red Sox. They were a team that was desperate for pitchers, desperate for almost anything that would help, though – ironically – their first baseman, Dale Alexander, won the American League batting title with a .367 average, the first batting champion the Red Sox had ever had.

The Red Sox finished the 1932 campaign winning less than 28 percent of their games: 43-111, a mere 64 games out of first place in the American League standings. They’d started the season under manager Shano Collins. He lasted 55 games, winning 11 and losing 44, or 20 percent of the games he managed. Marty McManus was a bit of an improvement: His teams won 32 percent of their games (32-67). The first two games McManus managed were in a June 19 doubleheader in Cleveland. The Red Sox lost them both.

Gallagher’s first game, a start, was on July 8 at Fenway Park against the St. Louis Browns. He lasted 1 1/3 innings. He faced eight batters and gave up five earned runs, on three hits and two walks. He hadn’t lasted long enough to get up to bat. Twelve days later, he was given another crack at pitching, this time in relief. He pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth, giving up just one hit and striking out one in a game the Red Sox were losing 8-0 at home. Gallagher’s next six appearances were all in relief. His third major-league appearance wasn’t bad, but he was charged with six earned runs in his fourth game and six more in his fifth game. This he topped on September 2 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, coming late into a game that the Athletics were winning 8-0 and leaving it with the score 15-0. All of Gallagher’s relief appearances were lost causes; the closest final score among them was 9-4. His last two games were both starts – September 17 and 24. McManus must have thought, “Hey, what do we have to lose?” Those were Gallagher’s other two losses. He never pitched in a game the Red Sox won.

So, three starts, three losses. He threw a total of 23 2/3 innings and gave up 36 runs – all but three of them earned. He allowed 30 hits and doled out bases on balls to another 28 batters. He threw three wild pitches, but he never hit a batter. He struck out six and surrendered three home runs, all to future Hall of Famers. During the September 2 debacle, Gallagher gave up two three-run homers to Al Simmons, and in his last appearance, he gave up a three-run homer to Lou Gehrig. Gallagher’s Boston Globe obituary tells of a time he threw a fastball past Babe Ruth. The Bambino swung and missed, then, according to the Globe, said, “Hey kid, do that again, will ya?,” whereupon Gallagher did, and Ruth homered. A great story, but it never happened. The only time the two faced each other was on September 24 at Fenway Park (the obituary mistakenly placed the apocryphal game in Yankee Stadium). Harvard’s Charley Devens pitched for the Yankees and won the 8-2 game.  Ruth’s homer came in the ninth inning, but Gallagher was done after five. [Boston Globe, December 23, 1981]

Ed Gallagher was a 1928 graduate of Boston College High School and a 1932 graduate of BC itself, where he starred in baseball, football, and hockey. He was known as a “fire-balling left-handed pitcher who led the Eagles to an era of unprecedented baseball success.” On the football field, he was “able, fast and fearless” as an end who played both offense and defense. [Both evaluations are drawn from the Boston College website.] Almost immediately on graduation, Gallagher joined the Red Sox (he sat on the bench for about 10 days before his first start). Despite his worse than mediocre statistics in 1932, he did get invited back for spring training in 1933 and joined the Red Sox party by train from Boston on March 1. He pitched in an exhibition game against Boston College, giving up the only two runs in a 9-2 win for the Red Sox, but soon suffered an injury that put an end to his hopes to play baseball. His career earned-run average was 12.55. His ERA nearly doubled the next-worst mark of anyone on the 1932 team with at least 20 innings pitched. That’s saying something, given Boston’s bloated and brutal 5.02 team ERA.

How’d Ed do at bat? He was a switch-hitter who had five career at-bats. He struck out his first time up and struck out his last time up, and struck out once in between. He never got a base hit. He had eight chances in the field, and committed one error.

Gallagher was an imposing figure, standing 6-feet-2 and weighing 195 pounds. And he went on to have an impressive career after baseball. Edward Michael Gallagher, Jr was the son of Edward Michael Gallagher, Sr and Alice E. (Sundberg) Gallagher, who were married on October 12, 1909.   Alice, born in Massachusetts about 1885, was the daughter of John F. Sundberg, a Swedish immigrant, and Ellen Tierney of Boston. Edward Sr., born in the Bay State about 1879, was the son of John D. Gallagher and Katherine T. Foley.  

Edward Jr. was born on November 28, 1910, in the Dorchester section of Boston. His sister, Alice, followed in 1913, and then – 13 years later – a brother, John T.

Edward Sr. was a bank clerk and later a stockbroker, working for H.C. Wainwright, Inc. on State Street in downtown Boston. He was also a longtime Boston city councilor. Alice, his wife, was very active in the Allston-Brighton community and in a large number of charitable organizations. In 1941, the city of Boston established the Alice Gallagher Memorial Park on the west rim of Chandler Pond in her honor, the dedication ceremony attended by several thousand people. The Brighton-Allston Heritage Museum says she was the “first woman in Boston’s history to be honored by having a park, street, or playground named in her memory.”  The park is close to the family residence at 21 Oak Square Avenue. Thomas J. Gallagher, uncle to the ballplayer, was very prominent in the Boston area, “a well-known figure of Catholic, literary, and fraternal societies of Charlestown” and a broker himself. He was one of the organizers of the Catholic Literary Union and a chief marshal of the Bunker Hill Day parade in 1903.

Edward Jr. – Eddie to his many friends – had a varied career. As soon as he left baseball, he took up a position as a personal secretary to James Roosevelt, the son of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was in the insurance business in Boston. Gallagher was the Massachusetts campaign chairman for FDR’s 1936 re-election campaign, and served as a secretary to the president from 1935 to 1938. His main line of work was in the insurance business and he headed his own agency from 1946 to his death, after five years of illness, on December 22, 1981. During the 1950s, he found time to serve as president of radio station WORL in Boston, and in the 1960s he succeeded his father as president of Wonderland Race Track in Revere. He was close to several of the Kennedys, and left a 31-page oral history that is available online from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. In it, he never mentions his time in baseball. He was president of the Boston College Alumni association for 1955 and 1956. He was elected to the Boston College Varsity Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976.

Upon his death, he left his wife, Priscilla (Phelan), two sons, two daughters, a sister, and seven grandchildren.

Sources

Thanks to Maurice Bouchard for providing the genealogical information and the Boston College citations, and serving as a reader.  Other than the sources indicated here, this biography was informed by:

retrosheet.org

Baseball-Reference.com

ancestry.com

newenglandancestors.org

genealogybank.com bceagles.cstv.com/genrel/gallagher_edwardm00.html

Bill Lee’s The Baseball Necrology.

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