George Dunlop

This article was written by Chris Rainey

George Dunlop“Good field, no hit” has been a tag line for many ballplayers over the decades. George Dunlop certainly deserved that label. Shag Shaughnessy, his manager in 1916, said he was “one of the greatest fielding shortstops in the minor leagues and if he could only hit, he would be in the big show.”1 Dunlop batted .200 in a brief major-league career but Shaughnessy reasoned he could carry a weak bat with the talent the rest of his lineup had. Ironically, Dunlop’s bat came alive and he was third on the team in batting at .285, according to the 1917 Reach Official American League Baseball Guide.

George Henry Dunlop was born in Meriden, Connecticut, on July 19, 1988, the youngest of seven children. His father, John, was of Scottish descent and worked as a machinist. His mother, Eliza (Higginson) Dunlop, was from an Irish family. George was educated through elementary school in Meriden, which was known as the Silver City because of the number of businesses working with the metal. During the early part of George’s life, many of the firms banded together to become the International Silver Company. George would eventually become a millwright for them, retiring in 1954.

Dunlop threw right-handed and batted from the right side. He is listed at 5-feet-10 and 170 pounds. This might be a slight embellishment because he listed himself as 5-feet-9 and 165 pounds on the questionnaire he filed with the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dunlop learned his baseball in the schoolyard and on the sandlot. He was playing for the town team while still in his teens. In 1910 he began his baseball journeys, forsaking his home team and signing with nearby Middletown in a four-team Class D league called the Connecticut Association. It was also referred to as the “Trolley League.”

In 1911 he joined the New Britain Perfectos in the Class B Connecticut State League. Nowadays it is commonplace for a team to have players from all over the world. That was not the case in 1911; the Perfectos were an oddity with Cubans Armando Marsans and Luis Padron plus Al Cabrera, who hailed from the Canary Islands.

Cabrera covered shortstop for the Perfectos, so Dunlop found himself at third base. New Britain led the league in errors and Dunlop led the league’s third basemen with 43. At the plate he batted .220 with 14 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases for the fifth-place squad.2 He spent the following year back in semipro ball with the New London, Connecticut, Independence.

In 1913, Dunlop traveled north of the border and joined the London, Ontario, Tecumsehs in the Class C Canadian League. London started slowly then surged into first place in July before faltering, finishing second to Ottawa. Dunlop batted .249 with two home runs.3 One of his better games came on July 22 when he went 3-for-3 with two singles and a triple. Towards the end of the season he batted fifth in the lineup behind future football great Greasy Neale.

In the field Dunlop led the league in assists and piled up a league-leading 67 errors. Later that year he complained about the scorekeepers in Canada. “Why, up there in Canada they score it an error if the ball touches an infielder anywhere…. If you try for a ball with one hand and don’t get it, do you think the batter is given a bingle up there? Not on your life. A ball could cripple you and you would draw a boot.”4

The Cleveland Naps and scout Charlie Hickman were apparently not overly concerned by his error total because they purchased his rights in late August for $1,500. The Naps were searching for a possible replacement for an aging Nap Lajoie. London management gave him a portion of the purchase price and a gold watch and bid him adieu when the season closed.

Dunlop joined Cleveland on their eastern swing and saw his first action on September 9 in Washington. The Senators were led by pitcher Walter Johnson, who was having the most impressive season of his career. Dunlop was sent in to rest Ray Chapman and made his first plate appearance against Johnson. He fanned.5 Three days later he made another late appearance and again faced the Big Train, again striking out.

A Cleveland writer noted that Dunlop did not act like a rookie in his first appearances. When pitcher Fred Blanding was struggling, Dunlop gave him encouragement. He had barely finished his pep talk when Howard Shanks “slapped a hot grounder to short field. It bounded badly and Dunlop booted it towards second.” Dunlop scrambled after the ball and “his wonderful whip enabled him to throw Shanks out by two strides.”6

On September 20 in New York he again replaced Chapman. This time he faced Ray Caldwell in the eighth inning. He singled and came around to score on a hit by “Fred Brady.” (Brady was the pseudonym that Larry Kopf used early in his career.)7 Dunlop added another single in the ninth.

Dunlop sat out the next six games until a doubleheader with St. Louis at League Park on October 4. Playing third base in front of a home crowd, he fielded flawlessly but went hitless and struck out three times. Another doubleheader the next day would close out the season. Dunlop started the first game at third base and again went hitless. In the nightcap he played shortstop and went 2-for-2 with a double, scored twice, and speared a line drive off the bat of Del Pratt for the final out of the season.

Over the winter Cleveland decided to jettison Kopf and retain Dunlop. George attended spring training camp in Athens, Georgia, with the rest of the team, but you won’t find any mention of him in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. For some reason the writers choose to call him “Dunlap” in 1914. He played shortstop for the Yannigans in the early intra-squad games at camp.

Spring weather was unusually cold in 1914 and many of the Naps came down with colds and aches and pains because of the temperatures. Worse yet, Ray Chapman broke his leg. This opened a space for Dunlop to play shortstop on the first spring trip when the team went to Greenville, South Carolina, for Joe Jackson Day.

Dunlop, Bruce Hartford, and Ivy Olson were now in competition for the shortstop position. Dunlop played himself out of the job in an exhibition in Atlanta versus the Crackers. His arm was a powerful tool but, on this occasion, he committed three throwing errors. Manager Joe Birmingham handed the shortstop job to Olson.8

In April Dunlop was sent to the Cleveland Scouts (aka Bearcats) in the American Association. He took over the shortstop job for them but when he was unable to hit over .200, he lost the position to John Knight. He had made seven starts.9 In June the Scouts released him and the Naps signed him. He appeared on June 10 in a shutout loss to the Athletics. He went hitless in the contest only because Stuffy McInnis snared a liner off his bat.10 Four days later he was sent to the Omaha Rourkes in the Class A Western League in a multi-player deal. He closed out his major-league career with a .200 batting average in eight games.

Dunlop debuted with Omaha on June 17 “and performed gracefully at his station. He gobbled up everything around shortstop and started a double play that was one of the fastest made on the local lot.”11 Omaha was in sixth place when Dunlop joined them. Pa Rourke put him into the second spot of the lineup and Dunlop responded with timely hitting while continuing his fine fielding. However, Omaha was not able to make any progress in the standings.

Dunlop injured a knee in July. He was batting .241 at the time. When he came back he struggled in the field and at the plate, going 17-for-92 (a .185 average). Omaha tried to send him to Class D ball, but he refused the assignment and was released soon after.

In 1915 it was reported that Dunlop would again head north to play third base for London. It was mentioned that his “terms for service were very high” but management felt they could come to a fair deal.12 No deal could be worked out and Dunlop chose to sign with the Brantford Red Sox and join his former manager from London, George Deneau.

The Canadian League was classified as a B league in 1915. Brantford followed the adage that “a team needed to be strong up the middle.” Dunlop and his keystone partner, Ed Fried, led the team in games played. Center fielder Ralph Burrill played 96 games and batted .344. The catcher hit .319. The Red Sox finished in the second division but placed ahead of London. Dunlop played 100 games at shortstop and hit .220 with 14 extra-base hits.

Dunlop decided to stay in the States in 1916. Unfortunately, he gave his word to two managers that he would sign with them. In March and April, he was listed as a member of the Warren (Pennsylvania) Warriors in the Class D Interstate League. He was also expected by the Troy (New York) Trojans of the Class B New York State League.

Dunlop went to training camp with the Warriors and appeared in their first exhibition game against St. Bonaventure University on May 11. Meanwhile the two clubs were trying every legal avenue to secure his services. It was finally decided that Dunlop had to report to Troy and “if he does not make good in two weeks, he will get his unconditional release.”13

Box scores with Dunlop in the lineup for Troy were not discovered by this researcher. He obviously did not meet their standards because he was back with Warren on June 1. Dunlop missed the Warriors’ first 10 games but stepped into the lineup and flashed the leather and hit well. The local paper on June 20 listed him with a .311 batting average, just two points behind team leader Shaughnessy.14

Dunlop was moved up to the fifth spot in the lineup, but then received a scare in early July. Feeling ill and having pain in the chest, he consulted a local doctor who told him he had a hole in his heart. Dunlop immediately thought of retiring because the local physician had warned him against strenuous activity. Dunlop decided to get a second opinion and traveled to Buffalo, New York, to see a specialist. The specialist concluded that there was no leakage; Dunlop simply had an enlarged heart.15

Dunlop returned to the lineup just as the league reorganized after the loss of two franchises. A second season was begun after Warren finished in second place behind the Ridgway squad in the first half.16 Warren disbanded after their August 3 game. Dunlop played 43 games for the Warriors with 10 extra-base hits and posted his career-best .285 average. He struggled in the field with an .899 fielding percentage. It would be five seasons before he tried professional ball again.

In the ensuing years, Dunlop served a brief stint in the army during the war. In baseball he played for top semipro teams in Meriden and Bristol, Connecticut. He also played in the local industrial leagues in Meriden. and began his work with International Silver. From time to time it was speculated that he would turn pro again. He was rumored to be headed to Portland, Maine, and the Eastern League one year. Another time the Boston Braves inquired about his services.

At age 32 he was lured from retirement by his former manager, Joe Birmingham, who led the Albany Senators in the Class A Eastern League. Outside of pitcher Red Cox, the Senators had very little talent. Dunlop was released after 15 games. He hit .224 and committed 10 errors. His replacement, Herbert Pennoyer, had a good glove but batted a microscopic .160 in 110 games. Albany finished last and Dunlop spent most of the summer playing for two separate semipro squads.

Dunlop made his most important decision on July 5, 1921, when he took Etta Josephine Schneider as his bride. Her father was a German immigrant who worked at International Silver with Dunlop. The couple would have two children, Chester and Arlene. They would also raise three foster children, Edward, George, and Kathy Asplund.

Dunlop stepped away from baseball in favor of family life. He joined the Odd Fellows and was a lifelong member of the Lutheran church. He worked for International Silver until his retirement in 1954. He and Etta would eventually move from Meriden and take up residence in St. Petersburg, Florida. They would return to Connecticut during the summer to visit family. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at Chester’s home in Connecticut.

He and Etta returned to Florida after their anniversary. Etta passed away suddenly on November 2, 1971. His brother William died nine days later. George moved back to Meriden to be close to family and died in the hospital after a brief illness on December 12, 1971. In accordance with his wishes he was cremated. His two children survived along with nine grandchildren.

In the spring of 1914 one of the stories coming out of training camp had been the hitting of young Roy Wood, who was using Joe Jackson’s bat. Writer Henry Edwards questioned the players about their lumber and found three men used the Heinie Zimmerman model. Five men preferred the Ray Chapman design while only two used the Nap Lajoie stick. It was reported that “George Dunlap [sic] purposes to try all the different models in the bat bag until he finds one that suits him.”17 It must be assumed that time ran out on his career before he ever found the right bat.

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by Bill Nowlin and Norman Macht and verified for accuracy by the BioProject fact-checking team.

 

Notes

1 “Shaughnessy Confident of a Strong Team,” Warren (Pennsylvania) Times Mirror, April 21, 1916: 4.

2 Fielding and batting statistics come from the 1912 Reach Baseball Guide.

3 Statistics come from the 1914 Reach Baseball Guide.

4 “Baseball Scribes Severe in Canada,” Winnipeg Tribune, October 4, 1913: 43

5 “Features by Edwards,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 10, 1913: 9.

6 “Gregg Face’s Mack’s Crew,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 15, 1913: 7.

7 Jim Sandoval, “Larry Kopf,” https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/66988c7b Accessed April 7, 2019.

8 Henry P. Edwards, “Josh Billings Saves Game,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 20, 1914: 9.

9 “Scouts at Bat,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 30, 1914: 14.

10 “Stuffy McInnis Delivers When Baker is Passed,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 11, 1914: 9.

11 “Grover Beats the Sioux,” Omaha Daily Bee, June 18, 1914: 8.

12 “London to Get Heck and Dunlop Back Again,” Ottawa Citizen, April 26, 1915: 8.

13 “Dunlop Left to Join Troy Club Today,” Warren Times Mirror (Warren, Pennsylvania), May 17, 1916: 3.

14 “Batting Averages,” Warren Times Mirror, June 20, 1916: 3.

15 “Warren Wins from Saints by Strong Hitting,” Warren Times Mirror, July 8, 1916: 3.

16 “Base Ball Results at a Glance,” Warren Times Mirror, July 13, 1916: 2.

17 Henry P. Edwards, “Wood Takes All Hits Out of Jackson’s Bat,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 15, 1914: 19.