Rumor in Town is a very persuasive book. Subtitled “A Grandson’s Promise to Right A Wrong,” Matt Dahlgren’s 2007 book tells the story of the life of first-baseman Babe Dahlgren and how his life in baseball (1934-48) was tarnished by rumors of drug use.1
Murray Chass of the New York Times wrote of grandson Matt’s book, “The story of Bonds or any other player doesn’t approach the tale of Babe Dahlgren…whose career and life were ruined by an unsubstantiated rumor that he smoked marijuana….The first player tested for drug use, in 1943, Dahlgren volunteered to be tested, and he underwent a series of examinations by a doctor in Philadelphia to prove he was not a user of marijuana.”2
The rumor was apparently started by Yankees manager Joe McCarthy. Longtime scout Ted McGrew said that Branch Rickey also spread the rumor.3
One can never know the damage done to Dahlgren’s career, much less the full damage done to him as a human being, by a rumor of this magnitude at that time. Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent told Chass in a telephone call, “People railroaded him for illegitimate reasons. It’s a sad story. He was accused of being on drugs when I doubt very much that he was. It’s not one of baseball’s prettiest stories, and I regret that it didn’t get fixed before he died.”4
Perhaps Dahlgren’s most notable game was on May 2, 1939. Lou Gehrig informed manager Joe McCarthy that he should leave Gehrig out of the lineup that day. The “Iron Horse” had appeared in 2,130 consecutive games; this one, he took off – though he did bring out the lineup card and got a healthy ovation from the Briggs Stadium crowd. Slotted in Gehrig’s place at first base was Babe Dahlgren, batting eighth in the order. Dahlgren was 2-for-5 at the plate with a home run and two RBIs. It wasn’t his first game with the Yankees, but one that added a footnote to history. During Gehrig’s famous July 4 “I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth” farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, Dahlgren said that Joe McCarthy had told him, “If Lou starts to fall, catch him.”5
As a youngster, Dahlgren had drawn pictures of Gehrig and Ruth on the inside of his schoolbook binders. “I especially admired Gehrig because he was a first baseman like me. I never dreamed one day I’d be in New York to take the man’s place.”6
Babe Dahlgren’s big-league career started with the Boston Red Sox.
Ellsworth Tenney Dahlgren was born in San Francisco on June 15, 1912. His father, Peter John Dahlgren, worked as a steamfitter at the Western Sugar Refinery, but when young Ellsworth was just 3 years old, a pipe burst and scalded his father to death on July 9, 1915. At the time of the 1910 census, Minnesota native Peter Dahlgren had worked as a bolt maker for the railroad and lived in San Francisco with his wife Addie (Adeline) and their son, Harold, who was a couple of years older than Ellsworth. The couple had a third child, Raymond, but he, too, was killed by scalding within six months after Peter had died.7
Three years later, Addie married Nelson Bertelsen, a steamfitter on the waterfront and Peter’s best friend. It was Nels who took Ellsworth to his first ballgame, and also bestowed the nickname “Babe” on him. By age 12, Babe was playing ball any time he could and by 14 he was on the San Francisco Boys’ Club all-star team.8 The team won the semipro Class-B title; Babe was named captain of the team.
He also earned a little money selling newspapers on the streetcars. He went to Bryant and Agassiz schools, and Horace Mann Junior High, and graduated from Mission High School.9 He took up work as a bookkeeper for a plumbing supply company.
Nels Bertelsen encouraged Babe from the start. “He used to make baseballs for me out of old socks and rags and there was never a night that we didn’t go into the back yard and play. He would hit me grounder after grounder, fly after fly, and the one thing that he told me most often is that I must never be afraid of being hurt by a baseball.” He credited that practice with forming his foundation as a fielder. His stepfather made him the mascot of the sugar refinery team.10
He played semipro ball for teams such as Frank Dito’s Olympic Florists. At the time, he also served (in 1930 and into 1931) with the California National Guard 250th Coast Artillery, Headquarters Battery.
On an early Sunday in 1931, he caught the eye of Bobby Coltrin, a scout for the Pacific Coast League’s Mission Reds. Coltrin was pulling together a team he himself would manage as the Tucson Missions, in the Class-D Arizona-Texas League. He signed Dahlgren, who gave up his bookkeeping job, and was brought to Tucson, where Coltrin led the team to a second-place finish in the six-team league.
Dahlgren played 98 games for Tucson and was hitting .347 with nine home runs, when he got the call to play in San Francisco. In the Coast League, he appeared in 58 games, batting .244 at the higher (Double A) level of play. Ed. R. Hughes wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that “Dahlgren is a beautiful performer in the field” and that San Francisco Seals executive Charlie Graham “says he never fails to watch the Missions practice just to see Dahlgren in action.”11
Dahlgren played from 1932 through 1934 for the Reds, playing in a lot of games, given the longer PCL schedule. On September 30, 1932, Dahlgren married Josephine Greco. Over the winter he worked loading avocados in Escondido, California, with Missions teammate Joe Coscarart and Joe’s younger brother Pete. He appeared in 188 games in 1932 (batting .287 with 11 homers and 101 RBIs) and 189 games in 1933 (.315 with 116 RBIs but with just six homers, his best day being August 23, when he was 6-for-6 against Sacramento with a homer and five singles.)
On September 10, 1934, Boston Red Sox GM Eddie Collins purchased Dahlgren, who was having a banner year, finishing with 20 homers and a .302 batting average with 136 RBIs. It was a cash deal, or – as the Los Angeles Times put it in a headline – “Long Green Gets Dahlgren.”12
Incoming Red Sox manager Joe Cronin told the Boston Herald in December that Dahlgren “has enough ability to be considered seriously as the regular first baseman.”13 In an interesting twist, Cronin – also a San Francisco native – had actually been Dahlgren’s camp counselor on the city playgrounds a few years earlier. And, perhaps paralleling Lou Gehrig, Dahlgren hadn’t missed a game in the PCL from 1931 through 1934.14 On February 10, 1935, at a charity event featuring two teams of major leaguers to raise money for sandlotters facing medical bills, Cronin had Dahlgren play first base. Babe was 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Dahlgren made the team and started the season on Opening Day in New York, on April 16, 1935. He had earned raves for his fielding during the springtime; the hope was that his work at bat would be adequate. He was 0-for-3 at the plate, but his fielding was apparently spectacular – and, in particular, helped out Cronin. John Fenton of the Boston Herald wrote that “Dahlgren saved his manager at least three errors as he leaped, stretched and dug like a steam shovel to take everything else that came his way. In the eighth inning, for example, Cronin uncorked two wide throws after one was out and Dahlgren handled them so nonchalantly….”15
He got his first base hit in his third game and batted in his first run in his fifth game. His first (and second) homers came on May 10; he hit nine by the end of the year, to go with his 63 RBIs (third on the team) and .263 batting average, one which built gradually over the course of the season, in which he played in 149 games. The Red Sox finished in fourth place.
His fielding percentage was .988 in his rookie year, and of course that only reflects errors and not plays where he may have prevented errors by others. Dahlgren’s career fielding percentage was an exceptional .990, making 102 errors in handling 10,308 chances.
Dahlgren was right-handed, an even six feet tall, and was listed at 190 pounds.
He played most of the next two years in the minor leagues. He was a fine first baseman, but Tom Yawkey had bought Jimmie Foxx’s contract and there was no way anyone was going to play first base in place of the future Hall of Famer. As early as November (even before the trade, but in anticipation of it), Gerry Moore from the Boston Globe wrote as much, saying that Dahlgren would be “farmed out on option for further seasoning.”16 The Foxx deal was done on December 10.
Dahlgren was optioned to Syracuse in January, though there were other factors that may have contributed. Bill King of the Associated Press wrote that he may have talked his way out of town, saying that he understood why the Sox would prefer Foxx but that he himself was “too valuable” to be sent back to the minors and that if Boston didn’t want him, they should trade him to another big-league club. He also purportedly said that he would have had a better fielding percentage if he hadn’t had to handle so many erratic throws from Cronin and the other Sox infielders.17
Dahlgren played a full season – 155 games – with the Syracuse Chiefs and hit .318 with 16 homers with 121 RBIs. He also led the International League with 21 triples. He was called back up to Boston in September, got into 16 games and hit .281 with 7 RBIs. Foxx had driven in 143 runs, third in the league. And, impressively, when Dahlgren was called up, Foxx agreed to move to left field for the Red Sox so Dahlgren could work at first base. Dahlgren praised him as a “big star” who “doesn’t have to take his hat off to anybody….Foxx is a prince. When he arrived he came up to me, wished me good luck and even gave me his best glove to field my position. After a few innings he gave me a tip that will help with my fielding.”18
Early in 1937, Eddie Collins said that the Sox might not even bring Dahlgren to spring training. They just didn’t think his hitting was adequate. 19 The Yankees, on the other hand, were confronted with a holdout by Lou Gehrig. They decided to buy Dahlgren’s contract as insurance.20
Gehrig signed. McCarthy asked Dahlgren to learn third base and optioned him to Newark. He’d had one plate appearance in one game for the Yankees, on May 2, and made an out. He played in 125 games for the Newark Bears, batting .340 and homering 18 times. The Bears that year were described by some as “the greatest minor league baseball team ever assembled.”21 They won 109 games and won the International League pennant by 25 games. For Dahlgren, it was a decade before he returned to the minors.
He stayed with the Yankees for all of 1938, something of an understudy for Gehrig, though playing some games at third base, and a number of pinch appearances. He got into 27 games, but had only 44 plate appearances. He hit a pretty disappointing .186 and drove in just one run.
But come 1939, he was there and ready when ALS deprived Gehrig of the ability to continue. Though it was tragic for Gehrig, who hadn’t missed a game since June 1, 1925, he posed for photos shaking Dahlgren’s hand. As the New York Times noted, “Dahlgren had been awaiting the summons for three years.”22 And he’d been Foxx’s understudy before that, Dawson might have added. Dahlgren recalled Gehrig’s reaction after his 2-for-5 day he’d had taking over for the Iron Horse: “He grabbed me when I got back to the bench and shouted at me, ‘Hey, why didn’t you tell me you felt that way about it. I woulda got out of there long ago.”23
After he’d been on the job for his first 45 games, New York writer Dan Daniel said, “Babe has been the most adroit and spectacular first sacker glimpsed in these parts since Prince Hal [Chase] was traded to the White Sox in 1913….his fielding skill is so unerring, and keen in the clutches, that he compensates for the loss of the heavy hitting which the Bombers used to get at the position from Gehrig.”24 Gehrig had been no slouch at first base, as measured by his career fielding percentage of .991, almost identical to Dahlgren’s. There was the matter of getting to balls others did not, and helping out fellow infielders by sparing them from errors. Several newspapers over the years referred to Dahlgren as “perhaps the best fielding first baseman in the game,” as did an unidentified 1944 clipping in Dahlgren’s Hall of Fame player file. The New York Sun‘s Pat McDonough described one play: “It was a play requiring the finesse of an artist, which Babe surely is.”25 John Lardner wrote an appreciation under a New York World-Telegram headline, “Babe Dahlgren Tops All First Basemen in Fielding His Position.”26
Dahlgren got into 144 games in 1939, batting just .235 but very productively driving in 89 runs, fifth on the club. One big day was the June 28 doubleheader against the Athletics; he hit three homers and drove in five as New York outscored Philadelphia by a combined33-2. The Yanks hit 13 homers on the day.
The Yankees won the pennant and swept the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. Dahlgren played in all four games, the only time he saw postseason play. He drove in the first of two Yankees runs in the 2-1 win in Game One, and hit a solo home run for the fourth run in the 4-0 win in Game Two. He was 3-for-14 (.214) in the Series. Of the homer, Dahlgren later said, “Running around those bases and listening to that crowd cheer I couldn’t even feel my hat on my head. It felt like my hair was standing straight up. It was electric.”27
There was talk immediately after the World Series that Dahlgren would not be brought back, but Joe McCarthy indicated nothing but satisfaction: “I don’t know why they keep picking on Babe Dahlgren all the time,” he said to a reporter. “I never have to worry about him losing a game through fielding. And he won plenty of them through his hitting for us last season.”28
After the season, he worked cutting out jigsaw puzzles out of wood with a lathe in his basement.29
In 1940, he played every single game for the Yankees, and hit .264 with 73 RBIs. His best day was a 5-for-5 day with a homer and four singles on May 22. The Yankees finished in third place, but just two games behind the Tigers and one behind the Indians. There was one game, McCarthy felt, that cost them the pennant and he ascribed the loss to Dahlgren. New York Times writer John Drebinger said that McCarthy had told him that the Yankees would have “won the pennant in 1940 had it not been for an error Dahlgren made against the Indians late in the season” – and added, “Dahlgren doesn’t screw up that play if he wasn’t a marijuana smoker.”30
It wasn’t the sentiment of his teammates. Joe DiMaggio, for instance, said right after the World Series, “Babe’s job is safe…He saved more games for the Yankees with his fielding than some of our pitchers won. He makes impossible plays at first. He’s so good our infielders have become lazy.”31
Charlie Gehringer once stated that if he were the playing manager of a ball club, the first person he’d buy would be Babe Dahlgren. When asked why he said, “Because he robs me of thirty hits every year with his fancy fielding around first base.”32
After the season, Dahlgren said his wife deserted him on November 1, 1940, and he was granted a divorce in Superior Court on December 19, 1941.
He was a holdout in early 1941, and on February 25 the Yankees sold him to the Boston Braves in a straight cash deal. Writers were stupefied; none could understand why the Yankees would have disposed of Dahlgren. Shirley Povich wrote, “There are elements of mystery in the release of Dahlgren by the Yankees…the Yanks seem to have gone off the deep end in releasing Dahlgren.” (Washington Post 2/28/41)
Joe McCarthy had defended himself, in part, by saying that Dahlgren’s arms were “too short” to be a successful infielder, which prompted any number of comments, sarcastic and otherwise, from the New York writers who had seen with their own eyes how Dahlgren had flashed the leather.33 (In March 1941, a Boston photographer had Dahlgren pose with all the members of the Braves and only Max West had longer arms. The photograph ran in newspapers across the country.34) Sports columnist Joe Williams later suggested the obvious – that McCarthy had treated Dahlgren as a scapegoat.35
Dahlgren was leading the Braves in both home runs and runs batted in when his contract was sold to the Chicago Cubs on his birthday (and the trading deadline), June 15. Why? Matt Dahlgren makes a good case that it was because his salary was too high and Braves manager Casey Stengel, who owned a share in the team, saw his Braves were 17 ½ games out of first place, not in the race, and figured he might as well cut salary and cash in a bit for a team that wasn’t going anywhere.
With the Cubs, Dahlgren hit .281 and drove in 59 runs in 99 games, for a total of 89 RBIs on the year. He hit 16 homers. For the year, he had 23 homers, more than any other right-handed batter in the National League that year. When the Yankees secured the 1941 pennant, Dahlgren sent a congratulatory telegram to McCarthy. Cubs’ GM Jim Gallagher gave him a slight pay raise for 1942.
Dahlgren married Mabel Virginia Decker on January 1, 1942.
He began the 1942 season with the Cubs, but before the year was out, he’d worn three different major-league uniforms. He was hitting .214 for the Cubs after 17 appearances and manager Jimmy Wilson had soured on him. The St. Louis Browns acquired his contract on May 13, but returned him to the Cubs six days later. He had pinch-hit twice and made an out each time. Why the Browns had bought him in the first place remained unclear, since they already had George McQuinn.
That same day, May 19, the Cubs sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers, who were looking for “protection at first base,” given a serious slump Dolph Camilli was experiencing. Dodgers executive Larry MacPhail felt Dahlgren was a “handy fellow to have around,” which – given his offensive contributions in 1941 — seemed quite an understatement.36
The Browns had returned him “because of a disagreement over his possible entry into the armed services.”37 It’s also possible that the Browns hadn’t realized how large his salary was. Bizarre as it may seem, the Post‘s Mitchell wrote, “Clubs often acquire a player in a hurry without first inquiring as to what kind of pay he’s entitled and find a contract they have not bargained for on their hands.”38
He seemed like he’d become something of a hot potato in 1942, though, and in mid-August (to be fair, he was only batting .169 on the season) was sent to the Dodgers’ minor-league affiliate in Montreal, along with pitcher Schoolboy Rowe. They both refused to report. Apparently Dahlgren “just didn’t click with [Dodgers manager] Leo Durocher” and GM Branch Rickey was actively trying to deal him, reportedly even selling his contract to Indianapolis for $5,000 — a transaction voided by Commissioner K. M. Landis.39 Landis ruled that Dahlgren had been sent to a minor-league club for less than the waiver price.40 Dahlgren stuck to his principles, however, and did not report.
Not wanting to lose Dahlgren to another major-league club for $5,000, Rickey met with Babe to discuss a contract for 1943. It was during that meeting that Branch Rickey asked Babe if he smoked marijuana. Dahlgren denied the claim and voiced his outrage over the question.
Rickey later said that he’d wanted to keep Dahlgren but had an obligation to Donie Bush of the Indianapolis club. When Landis ruled, he said he had “no intention of peddling Dahlgren.”41 It was thought for a while he might be an asset who could be dealt to the Giants given the possible induction into military service of first baseman Johnny Mize.
Over the offseason, Dahlgren worked in an Alhambra defense plant. He and his new wife welcomed their first child, Ray.
Though Rickey said he had no intention of selling Dahlgren, he did so within a month, trading him to the Phillies on March 9 for Lloyd Waner and Al Glossop. It didn’t look like the Phils had to worry about losing him to the war. Though he had a low number for the military draft, he had suffered from migraines for many years, since being struck in the face by a ball at age 12. He had never revealed this before, but it now came out.42 The drama wasn’t over yet, though, and there were several reports early in the year that he was due for induction. He was said to have passed his physical.
Babe Dahlgren was an All-Star in 1943. He played in 136 games and had a very good year, hitting .287 with 56 RBIs, but had to leave on September 16 to report for induction. On October 21, however, he failed another physical because of a sinus condition.43
On December 30, 1943, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for another Babe – Babe Phelps – and cash. The Pirates needed a replacement for Elbie Fletcher, who had entered the service.
Dahlgren played in every game of the 1944 season, batting .289 and driving in 101 runs, sixth in the league.
Somehow he had played superbly, despite being beaten down by the recurrent rumors about marijuana use. He’d gone to the commissioner to ask to be tested, and Landis seemed to be sincerely interested in tracking down the source of the rumors, but Landis had died on November 25, 1944.
Babe played in 1945 as well, hitting an even .250 and driving in 75. He hadn’t lost a thing on defense, though; his 115 double plays led the league as did his .996 fielding percentage.
He moved on to his last team – actually, it was a return to the Browns – in an April 23, 1946, trade. Fletcher was back on first base for the Pirates, and Dick Siebert had refused to report to St. Louis after a trade from the Athletics, so the Browns turned to Dahlgren. He stuck with the team all year, but only appeared in 28 scattered games, in large part due to a seriously injured shoulder.44 He hit .175 and drove in nine runs. On September 28, he was released. He decided to retire.
Dahlgren decided to become an owner; in January 1947, he purchased the Ontario club in the Sunset Baseball League.45
His retirement didn’t last long, though. He was asked to play first base for the Sacramento Solons in the Pacific Coast League. He played in 115 games and was hitting .298 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs when he was sidelined for the rest of the season by an emergency appendectomy on August 10. He was voted Solons MVP by the fans, but this time he retired for good.
He turned up the following year in The Sporting News with a little note about him as a songwriter. He had two new songs at the time, “Part of My Heart” and “There’s a Rumor in Town.”46 One of his songs was used by the March of Dimes in conjunction with their national fundraising, and another was the official song for the Little Rose Bowl football game.47 He had done some other writing, too, and a brief newspaper piece in 1973 reported that he had won a lawsuit against Time Inc. for reusing an excerpt of his about Lou Gehrig that had appeared in Sports Illustrated. 48 Dahlgren also had a nightly sports radio program for a while.49
He had two sons at this point (Ray and Don) and, while selling insurance, launched Little League baseball in Arcadia, California. In 1956 he became a scout for the Kansas City Athletics, switching to the Orioles in 1958. He also coached his sons in American Legion ball. He became inspired by the idea of using film to teach hitting and for three years filmed numerous batters talking about their work, producing a 2 ½ hour film on the subject he titled Half A Second. In 1964, as a coach for the Athletics, he was asked to film all of the team’s hitters and use it in a way to help them. A lengthy feature in The Sporting News told the story.50 In 1965, he was asked to film for the Cardinals, but that, too, only lasted for a year. In 1970, the A’s, now in Oakland, brought him back for another season.
Raymond Dahlgren was a right-handed pitcher who was initially signed by the Houston Astros in 1966 and played Class-A ball in the Braves and Red Sox systems in 1967 and 1968, with a combined 11-7 (4.14) record. Donald Dahlgren, a couple of years younger, was also signed by the Astros in 1966; he was a left-handed pitcher in 1966 (0-0 in four games) but also played first base in nine games for the Greenville Red Sox (.185) with one homer and four RBIs, in 1968.
“For the last twenty-five years of his life,” wrote grandson Matt Dahlgren, Babe continued working with young prospects and eager-eyed players. He had compiled hundreds of rolls of film dating back to the early ‘40s when he used his first 8mm movie camera to capture the likes of Joe DiMaggio and other stars from the past. Little could he have imagined back then that his idea of using film to help struggling ball players would…become a mainstay in modern baseball and coaching. Tragically these historical and priceless films were lost to the fire that engulfed his home in 1980.”51
Late in life, Dahlgren developed advanced dementia and he ultimately died of natural causes in Arcadia on September 4, 1996.
*A detailed and chronological account of the rumor can be found in Matt Dahlgren’s book, Rumor In Town, available at www.mattdahlgren.com.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Dahlgren’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and the SABR Minor Leagues Database, accessed online at Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Matt Dahlgren for reading this and offering additional information.
1 Matt Dahlgren. Rumor in Town: A Grandson’s Promise to Right A Wrong (California: Woodlyn Lane, 2007).
2 Murray Chass, “Rumors of Drug Use Have Damaged for Decades,” New York Times, November 18, 2007.
3 Letter from Al Lopez to Babe Dahlgren, postmarked April 19, 1985. Reproductions of Dahlgren’s letter to Lopez asking for the information, and Lopez’s handwritten reply are offered on pages 218 and 219 of Rumor in Town. The book presents Babe Dahlgren’s story of when Rickey asked him to his face if he smoked marijuana; see page 171.
5 Joe Gergen, “Lou’s Successor Had Back-Up Role at Farewell,” The Sporting News, July 17, 1989: 8.
7 Matt Dahlgren, 10.
8 Much of the information contained in this biography comes from Matt Dahlgren’s book; unless otherwise indicated, readers can assume that Rumor in Town is the source of material that might otherwise be noted. Joe DiMaggio later played on the same 85-pound Boys’ Club team in San Francisco.
9 Babe Dahlgren player questionnaire, National Baseball Hall of Fame.
10 Arthur E. Patterson, “Babe Dahlgren, Stepchild Among Major First Basemen, Learned Fielding Skill as Toddler From His Stepfather,” The Sporting News, October 19, 1938.
11 Ed. R. Hughes, San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1933: 12.
12 “Long Green Gets Dahlgren,” Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1934: A11. It was later reported to have been a $15,000 purchase.
13 Burt Whitman, “Exemption from Disabling Injuries, Return to Form of Grove and Pipgras Would Make Red Sox Flag Factor – Cronin,” Boston Herald, December 8, 1934: 9.
14 “Boston Hose Are Building for the Future,” Hartford Courant, April 2, 1935: 14.
15 John Fenton, “Wes Ferrell Gives Yanks Two Hits As Werber Scores Lone Boston Run,” Boston Herald, April 17, 1935: 29.
16 Gerry Moore, “3 ‘A’ Stars Coming Here,” Boston Globe, November 20, 1935: 1.
17 Bill King, “Red Sox Player Talks His Way Back to Minors,” Atlanta Constitution, January 14, 1936: 8.
18 Leroy Atkinson, “Belting Babe Dahlgren Pays Tribute to Foxx,” undated, unattributed newspaper, September 1936 from clipping found in Dahlgren’s player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Dahlgren still had Gehrig’s glove in 1979, until he swapped it to collector Barry Halper for a 15-minute film Halper had of Dahlgren talking about Gehrig. See Bill Madden, “Collector Makes a Catch: Lou Gehrig’s Glove,” The Sporting News, January 5, 1980: 38.
19 Edwin Rumill, “Trade Involving Dahlgren May Develop with Cronin’s Arrival,” Christian Science Monitor, January 5, 1937: 16. There was some thought that the Red Sox may have felt Dahlgren didn’t have enough fight in him – that he “lacked spirit, perhaps lacked courage.” That notion was expressed by Boston writer Arthur Siegel, in a May 3, 1939, article entitled, “Punch on Nose Made Babe Yank.” (The newspaper is unidentified; the clipping is in Dahlgren’s Hall of Fame player file.) The punch mentioned was one thrown by Dahlgren’s teammate Billy Werber, when he felt Dahlgren hadn’t fielded a ball as well as he should have. Dahlgren said he couldn’t have fought back. He had a bit of a boxing background, was much bigger than Werber (“I’m bigger and stronger and I could have torn him apart”), and how would it be, given Werber being a star while Dahlgren was a busher, if he’d hurt a key member of the team? In fact, he had hit back before stopping. Matt Dahlgren offers evidence from other writers and good perspective on the whole incident in context. See Rumor in Town, 47-51.
20 Associated Press, “Yanks Buy Dahlgren For First if Gehrig Holds Out,” Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1937: A9. Scout Joe Devine is credited with this signing; Devine had managed Dahlgren with the Mission Reds in parts of 1931 and 1932.
21 Jack Troy, “Newark Bears Called ‘Greatest Minor Team’,” Atlanta Constitution, October 14, 1937: 19.
22 James P. Dawson, “Gehrig Voluntarily Ends Streak at 2, 130 Straight Games,” New York Times, May 3, 1939: 28.
24 Daniel, “Dahlgren Seen Best at First Since Chase,” New York World Telegram, uncertain date 1939. Clipping in Dahlgren’s Hall of Fame player file.
25 Pat McDonough, “Dahlgren’s Fielding Brilliant As Ever,” New York Sun, August 3, 1940.
26 John Lardner, New York World-Telegram, June 13, 1940. Lardner’s entire column was on Dahlgren’s “consummate fielding.”
27 Rumor in Town, 93.
28 Associated Press, “Manager of Yanks Lists His ‘Worries’,” New York Times, January 25, 1940: 29.
29 Sam Otis, “It’s New to Most of You,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 23, 1939: 15. See also Patterson.
30 Rumor in Town, 115.
31 Brooklyn Eagle, October 27, 1940.
32 Shirley Povich, “This Morning,” Washington Post, August 4, 1940.
33 The “too short for the position” comment was reported by, among others, Daniel, in the February 26, 1941 New York World Telegram.
34 Emmett Watson, “Dr. Watson’s Needle,” Seattle Daily Times, March 17, 1948: 21.
35 Joe Williams, “A Pop Fly Homer and ‘Short Arms’,” unattributed August 11, 1954 clipping in Dahlgren’s Hall of Fame player file.
36 “Dodgers Purchase Dahlgren of Cubs,” New York Times, May 21, 1942.
37 Jerry Mitchell, “Dahlgren Finally Unpacks Bags And Settles Down With Champs,” New York Post, May 30, 1942.
39 Charles Segar, “Mize 1-A, Castoff Dahlgren Becomes Big Dodger Asset,” New York Mirror, March 3, 1943.
40 “Dahlgren Is Returned To Dodgers by Landis,” New York Herald-Tribune, February 1943 (date unclear). Clipping in Dahlgren’s Hall of Fame player file. After the 1942 season, Larry MacPhail enlisted in the Army and Branch Rickey became the new president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In one of his first moves, he offered Dahlgren to Donie Bush’s Indianapolis club for $5,000. Judge Landis blocked the deal saying the Dodgers would have to offer Dahlgren to every major-league club for $5,000 before any deal with Indianapolis could be discussed.
41 “One Backfire For, One Against Rickey,” unknown publication, February 11, 1943. Clipping in Dahlgren’s Hall of Fame player file.
42 “Babe Dahlgren Slate for 4-F – Plagued by Migraine Headaches,” New York Post, April 20, 1943.
43 United Press, “Babe Dahlgren Fails To Pass Army Exam,” New York World-Telegram, October 21, 1943.
44 Rumor in Town, 233-234.
45 United Press, “Babe Dahlgren Buys Coast Franchise,” New York World Telegram, January 28, 1947.
46 Hap Everett, “Fielding Star Dahlgren Now Starring in Sing Hit Parade,” The Sporting News, September 19, 1949.
47 Joe Williams, “A Pop Fly Homer and ‘Short Arms’.”
48 Unattributed newspaper clipping dated February 10, 1973, and found in Dahlgren’s Hall of Fame player file.
49 Joe Williams, “A Pop Fly Homer and ‘Short Arms’.”
50 There were separate articles by Joe McGuff and Lyall Smith in The Sporting News, March 28, 1964.
51 Rumor in Town, 257.