An accomplished semipro baseball player in the Boston area, Dan Cronin appeared in two major-league games in 1884 during the lone season of the Union Association. His two appearances came as a temporary fill-in for visiting teams in Boston to play the Boston Unions.
Daniel T. Cronin was born on April 1, 1857, in Boston.1 He was the second oldest of the four children of Patrick and Sarah Cronin, both natives of Ireland.2 His father worked as a tailor, near the family’s home at 3 Washington Square close to the central business district of Boston.3 After both parents died by the time he was a teenager, Cronin likely left school by 1872 to go to work since he needed to support himself.4
In 1876 and 1877, Cronin played second base for the Our Boys, a semipro baseball team based in Boston. For the 1878 season, he became a full-time professional ballplayer as the second baseman and field captain for a new professional team based in Westboro, Massachusetts, 25 miles west of Boston.5 Westboro was the smallest locale to compete for the New England Association championship in 1878. Westboro manager George Fayerweather later said, “Cronin was a good player, a terrific batter and a hustling captain.”6 In August 1878, the Westboro team disbanded. Most of the Westboro players joined the team in nearby Clinton, Massachusetts, an independent team that was not part of the New England Association.7
For the 1879 season, Cronin continued to play for Clinton, since there were greatly diminished opportunities to play professional baseball in the Boston area. The Massachusetts teams in Lowell and Lynn, which had competed in the International Association in 1878, had disbanded and the remnants of the New England Association and the International Association congealed into one league for the 1879 season, called the National Association (dropping the “inter” since there was no longer a Canadian team). Because there was no room in the National Association for a small-town team, the Clinton team competed in the Eastern Massachusetts Association.8 However, this league was really a semipro circuit mostly comprising cooperative teams that paid their players by a percentage of gate receipts rather than a weekly salary.
In early June 1879, the Clinton team disbanded, forcing Cronin to search for another job as a pro ballplayer.9 Many of the Clinton ballplayers weren’t unemployed for long, though. Barney Gilligan, the catcher, caught on with the Cleveland team in the National League; Gid Gardner, the pitcher, joined the Worcester team in the National Association; Tim Keefe, the change pitcher, joined the Utica team in the National Association. Cronin, however, was not as fortunate to strike a deal with a team at a higher level of competition. He had to settle for playing with the Campello team in the same semipro league where Clinton had competed.10
For 1880 there were very few opportunities left to play professional baseball in Massachusetts. Beyond the Boston and Worcester teams in the National League, there were no Massachusetts-based teams in an organized professional baseball league in 1880. The regional National Association barely survived, with only three teams starting the season (Albany, Washington, and Baltimore). Cronin was able to secure a position with the semipro team in Natick.11 Even though he was barely earning a living with semipro teams, Cronin considered baseball to be his occupation, as the Boston City Directory listed him as a “base-ball player,” as did the 1880 federal census.12
During April of 1881, after two seasons of semipro baseball, Cronin received his first big break at playing major-league baseball, when he had a tryout with the Boston team in the National League. Boston recruited Cronin to play second place after Jack Burdock, the team’s regular second baseman, was severely injured in a trolley accident.13 Cronin played in several preseason exhibition games for Boston; the Boston Globe noted that “Cronin, a well-known amateur, played in Burdock’s place” and “Cronin acquitted himself very creditably in that position.”14 However, when Burdock returned to the team two weeks after his accident, Cronin was expendable. He umpired several of Boston’s exhibition games and played for the opposition in at least one game, before Boston released him on May 1, just before the start of the regular season.15 Cronin was “highly recommended” to the Washington team in the Eastern Championship Association (the successor to the 1880 National Association), but lasted only a few games before he was released.16
It is unclear where Cronin played baseball during the rest of 1881 and throughout 1882, as there continued to be meager opportunities to play professional baseball in the Boston area. With the first two official minor leagues established for the 1883 season, both based outside the New England region, many Massachusetts ballplayers left the state to play with Michigan-based teams in the Northwestern League. Cronin played briefly with the Trenton, New Jersey, team in the other minor league, the Interstate League, during 1883.17 More opportunities opened up in 1884, as Boston had a second major-league team in the newly formed Union Association and a semipro league in the Massachusetts State Association, with teams from many of the state’s larger cities. Cronin served as an umpire in Massachusetts State Association and continued to ply his trade as a ballplayer by practicing with the Boston Unions.18
During the July 1884 homestand of the Boston Unions, Cronin got his chance to play major-league baseball, as a temporary fill-in for the visiting teams. Boston manager Tim Murnane likely vouched for Cronin’s past experience as a ballplayer to encourage the opposition team to employ him. On July 9 Cronin came out of the stands to play second base for the Chicago Unions; he went 1-for-4 at bat but fielded his position miserably by committing four errors in five chances offered. “He was very badly handicapped,” the Boston Globe reported, “as his shoes had no spikes and the ground was very slippery.”19 Cronin didn’t perform much better in the game on July 14 when he played left field for the St. Louis Unions, going 0-for-5 at bat and committing two errors in the field. “Dan Cronin played left field for the St. Louis team yesterday, and seemed to have lost his old-time skill,” the Globe reported with a tinge of sadness.20 This July 14, 1884, game was the last known appearance by Cronin in a professional baseball game.
Cronin, a bachelor, suffered from consumption (now called tuberculosis) during the last months of his short life. He died on November 30, 1885, at his residence in Boston, and is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston.21
This biography was reviewed by Len Levin and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author utilized data and information from Baseball-Reference.com as well as the early history of professional baseball in the Boston area from the author’s book Tim Keefe: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Pitcher and Player-Rights Advocate (McFarland, 2015).
1 Birth record #268 in the 1857 birth records of Boston, Massachusetts.
2 Federal census records for 1870 for Ward 7 of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.
3 Boston City Directory, 1855; federal census records for 1860 for Ward 7 of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Enumerators spelled the family surname as Cronan during this time.
4 Age 14 was then the maximum age under state law for compulsory school attendance; the 1870 federal census listed the occupation of 13-year-old Cronin as being a student.
5 Boston Daily Advertiser, March 4, 1878.
6 Frank Pope, “The Clintons of ’78: Manager Fayerweather Gives Reminiscences,” Boston Globe, March 24, 1889.
7 Clinton (Massachusetts) Conant, August 17, 1878.
8 New York Clipper, April 19, 1879.
9 Clinton (Massachusetts) Conant, June 14, 1879.
10 New York Clipper, July 19, 1879.
11 Boston Globe, May 2, 1880.
12 Boston City Directory, 1880; federal census records for 1880 for 276 East Eighth Street, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Cronin was living with his older brother, John, and his wife in 1880.
13 Boston Globe, April 9, 1881.
14 Boston Globe, April 10, 11, and 15, 1881.
15 Boston Post, May 2, 1881.
16 New York Clipper, May 21 and 28, 1881.
17 New York Clipper, April 21, 1883.
18 Boston Globe, July 10, 1884.
19 Boston Globe, July 10, 1884.
20 Boston Globe, July 15, 1884.
21 Boston Post, December 1, 1885; New York Clipper, December 5, 1885; death records in the Massachusetts State Archives for 1885 (Volume 366, Page 330).