This article was written by Bill Nowlin
Frank Mulroney came from Mallard, Iowa, a right-hander. He was born 12 days before the Boston Americans opened the 1903 season, on their way to winning the first World Series ever played. On April 8, 1903, John P. Mulroney, a retail merchant of groceries, and his wife Alice (Cullen) welcomed their second child to the family, Francis Joseph Mulroney. He’d been spared the name given to his older brother Alphonius. Frank had two younger siblings, both named for their parents, Alice and John. The family lived in nearby Rush Lake in 1910, but had moved into Mallard by the time of the 1920 census when John Mulroney ran a general store. Both of Francis’s parents were first-generation Irish-Americans, from New York and (in Alice’s case) Iowa.
Frank went through the public schools in Mallard, and on to Columbia College at Dubuque and then three years at Iowa University, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in commerce and finance.
He pitched for the Boston Red Sox in 1930, for a total of three innings. That was his only time in the major leagues.
Mulroney’s career in pro ball began and ended in the Western League. His first position was with the Des Moines team in 1928, the Demons, in the eight-team Class A league. He’d been signed right out of university and given a salary of $300 a month.i Des Moines finished in last place, with a record of 63-98, 31½ games behind the Oklahoma City Indians. The team went through three managers in the course of the season, as did seventh-place Amarillo which finished just a half game ahead of them in the final standings. The last of the managers was Lee Fohl, who had managed the Boston Red Sox from 1924 through 1926. Mulroney’s record was 1-5 in 69 innings of work over 18 games. He allowed 49 runs, but we don’t know how many would be scored as earned runs today. He gave up 82 hits and walked 14. Mulroney, six feet tall and listed at 170 pounds, was released at the end of the season.
On March 3, 1929, Mulroney says he was signed to a Mobile contract by Red Sox scout Pat Monahan.ii He went to spring training with Mobile but before the season began he was transferred to Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He won 13 games (and lost eight) for the Pittsfield Hillies in the Eastern League, also a Class A team. The Hillies were managed by Shano Collins, who had played for the Red Sox from 1921 through 1925. It was a couple of years in the future, but Collins managed the Red Sox in 1931 and 1932. The 1929 Hillies finished fourth, 77-75. Mulroney’s best game was probably the August 28 game against New Haven, a 1-0 shutout won only in the bottom of the ninth.iii He beat Providence, 6-1, on a six-hitter on September 10.
He was called up to Boston (with a salary bump to $400 a month) in 1930, playing for manager Heinie Wagner. Mulroney’s debut game saw him pitch one inning of hitless relief against the Washington Senators in the Boston home opener on April 15, 1930; Red Ruffing had thrown the first eight frames (and given up six runs). The Senators’ Joe Cronin had hit a three-run homer and driven in a fourth run with a sacrifice fly. Mulroney struck out one.
Just two days later, a batting practice line drive hit him in the head and fractured his skull – though he didn’t realize it was a fracture at first and had actually gone on the road with the team, before Wagner sent him back to Boston to be looked at. He was operated on at Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham hospital on April 26.iv When he came out of the hospital, Mulroney wrote R. W. Lindsay, “I tried to get in shape too fast and hurt my arm.”v
More than two months after his first appearance, our man Mulroney pitched the final two innings of his second Red Sox game, coming into the June 24 game which Boston had already tied three times after scoring two times in the bottom of the eighth. The score was 6-6. Every one of the first six Detroit runs had come in after being granted first base on walks from starter George Smith. Mulroney didn’t walk a batter, and he held the Tigers scoreless in the ninth. In the top of the 10th, though, an error by Hal Rhyne and a sacrifice fly brought in two runs. Mulroney gave up two hits and was charged with one earned run, and the loss. Boston scored but once in the bottom of the tenth.
The Red Sox traded him and another pitcher to Indianapolis, and he was 3-4 with a 5.43 for the rest of 1930. Indianapolis sent him to Reading in 1931, when he won five and lost four while posting a 5.74 ERA, and Reading returned him to Indianapolis, where he threw another eight innings. In 1932, he went to spring training with Knoxville, was recalled to Indianapolis and then released. New Haven signed him, but the Eastern League folded in July. He signed with Erie for the last month of the season – but that league folded, too.
In 1933, he reports that he had reverted to the $80.00 per month minimum salary and was traded to Muskogee, but in his own words he “jumped the club in July to play semipro with Phillips Petroleum Refinery of Barger, Texas.”vi He worked for Phillips for 12 years and moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1944.
His record in the majors had been 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA. He never had an at-bat. He had one chance in the field and earned an assist. In the minors, he was 28-28.
In 1936, Frank married Isabelle Marxer in Texas. Over time he became Terminal Superintendent for the Union Oil Company’s bulk oil terminal in Aberdeen, Washington, and took up residence there. When Union Oil closed its facility there, he worked for 10 years for the Bay City Fuel Co. before retiring. He lived in the community for 40 years.
Asked around 1960 if he had it all to do over, would he play professional baseball again, Mulroney replied, “Some times I regret having spent five years playing baseball instead of going into business after college as I turned down a position with a large corporation to play ball [sic] however I would not take a million dollars for the people I met, places I saw and experiences I had while playing. I believe I would do it again.” vii
Mulroney died in Aberdeen on November 11, 1985. The Aberdeen World noted his passing in its November 11, 1985, edition. The paper said he had been active in the Catholic Church and with AARP, and greatly enjoyed woodworking, making much of his own furniture. He was survived by his wife, and their children Terry and Marilyn.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Mulroney’s player questionnaire and file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.
i Correspondence with R. W. Lindsay in Mulroney’s player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. See also the Chicago Tribune of March 4, 1929.
ii Mulroney player file, ibid.
iii Hartford Courant, August 29, 1929
iv Boston Globe and Washington Post, April 27, 1930
v Mulroney player file, op. cit.
vii Player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.