Bill Dahlen’s ferocious temper earned him the nickname Bad Bill and got him thrown out of dozens of games. His 34th and final ejection as a player came on July 31, 1909, in the Boston Doves’ 3-2 road loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.1
Dahlen in 1909 was in his 19th major-league season and his second season with Boston. At age 39, he was the oldest regular player in the National League. He began his big-league career at age 21 with Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts in 1891.
The game took place at Robison Field, a ballpark that hosted National League games in St. Louis from 1893 to 1920. The dimensions there varied significantly; the right-field foul pole was 290 feet from home plate, while the left-field pole was 470 feet away.2
Boston was at the beginning of an arduous 18-game road trip that lasted from July 30 through August 15 and spanned four cities. The Doves entered the game losers of four in a row, a streak that had dropped their record to 25-63. St. Louis was in the middle of a 21-game homestand and had a 36-49 record.
St. Louis had stunned Boston the day before at Robison Field by scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 3-2 comeback win.
Righthander Buster Brown started for the Doves, just 15 days after he was traded to Boston by the Philadelphia Phillies. He was in the fifth year of his nine-year major-league career and was making his third start for Boston. Brown ended up with a 51-103 lifetime record; his .331 career winning percentage is the lowest in history among pitchers with at least 150 decisions.3
Righty Bob Harmon started for the Cardinals. Harmon was a 21-year-old rookie in 1909 and just beginning his nine-year major-league career. He later became a millionaire from farming and oil-field investments.4
In the top of the first, Beals Becker singled with one out for the Doves. One batter later, Dahlen hit a single to right field, advancing Becker to third. Ginger Beaumont then hit Boston’s third consecutive single, moving Dahlen to second and scoring Becker to give the Doves a 1-0 lead.
Later in the top of the first, Dahlen tried to steal third base. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described what happened next:
“Bad Bill was tagged at third. He made such a fuss over the decision that he was sent to the club house by Umpire [Cy] Rigler and Hosea] Siner had to take his place at shortstop for the balance of the game.”5
It was the 34th and last ejection of Dahlen’s playing career. As of April 2021, that’s the fourth-highest ejection total among players in major-league history. Only Johnny Evers (58), Heinie Zimmerman (44), and Jimmy Piersall (36) were thrown out as players more times than Dahlen.6 Dahlen’s resume of ejections included one for having flowers delivered to the home plate umpire.7
Cy Rigler, the umpire who tossed Dahlen, officiated in the National League for 29 years and his 271 career ejections are the second-most in major-league history.8 Only Bill Klem has more, 346. It was one of six times Rigler ejected Dahlen.9
Once the commotion surrounding Dahlen’s ejection settled down, Dave Shean doubled to score Beaumont and give Boston a 2-0 lead.
St. Louis rallied for two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the first on two Boston mistakes. Rube Ellis reached on a missed third strike by Doves catcher Peaches Graham. Later in the inning, Ed Konetchy lined a single to left field and Graham and Konetchy scored when the ball got past left fielder Roy Thomas.
Neither side scored for the next seven innings.
It was still 2-2 in the top of the ninth when the Doves put together a rally that was so promising it brought the Boston Globe to write that “it looked all but certain that St. Louis was beaten.”10 Beaumont walked to begin the inning and Shean was hit by a pitch to put Doves on first and second with no outs. But the rally fizzled, and the score stayed tied into the bottom of the ninth.
Boston went to its bullpen and brought in right-hander Cecil Ferguson. Ferguson was in the fourth year of his six-year major-league career. He led the National League in losses in 1909 with 23, compared to just five wins.
After Ellis grounded out to begin the inning, Ed Phelps singled to left field. Konetchy was up next, and he gave the signal for a hit-and-run play.11 Phelps took off on the pitch, and Konetchy lined the ball to left-center for a single, sending Phelps to third. The winning run was just 90 feet away. The next batter, Steve Evans, slapped the first pitch to right-center for a game-ending single. Neither the right fielder nor the center fielder went after the ball as Phelps jogged home to score the winning run.12
Ferguson took the loss after allowing three hits in one-third of an inning. Harmon got the complete-game win for St. Louis. The game took 2 hours and 1 minute to play.
“(T)he Cardinals dragged the lowly Boston team in the dust again yesterday afternoon, winning the battle in the last half of the ninth inning,” James Crusinberry wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It was a delightful and intense game of ball.”
The Cardinals and Doves ended up being the worst teams in the National League in 1909. St. Louis finished 54-98, in second-to-last place, 56 games behind first-place Pittsburgh. Boston finished 45-108, in last place, 65½ games behind the Pirates.
The 1909 season was Dahlen’s last as a full-time player. He appeared in three games for Brooklyn in 1910 and one more for Brooklyn in 1911, but those were fill-in situations when he was Brooklyn’s manager.
Dahlen managed Brooklyn from 1910 to 1913 and was thrown out of 36 games in that time. As of April 2021, his 70 career ejections as a player or manager were the 16th most in major-league history.13 Bobby Cox is first with 165.
While most of Dahlen’s contemporaries attributed his propensity for ejections to his fiery disposition, some teammates said it was due to his passion for betting on horse races. Lyle Spatz’s biography Bad Bill Dahlen: The Rollicking Life and Times of an Early Baseball Star reported that “there were those, Christy Mathewson among them, who believed Dahlen would often try to get himself dismissed early so that he could take in that afternoon’s racing card.”14
After a playing and managing career full of confrontations with umpires, Dahlen applied to become a National League umpire himself in 1915. The deep-seated major-league umpire Klem told Dahlen about the open position. Dahlen umpired some semipro games to prove he could handle the job, but he wasn’t hired by NL President John Tener.15
In addition to his ejections, Dahlen accumulated 2,461 hits and 84 home runs. His 13,336 fielding chances are the most among major-league shortstops. He’s been a Baseball Hall of Fame candidate 15 times, making it onto initial screening lists or Veterans Committee ballots in 1953, 1955, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1980, 1988, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2016.16
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, and Retrosheet.org.
1 Boston’s National League entry was nicknamed Doves from 1907 to 1910.
2 Joan M. Thomas, “Robison Field (St. Louis),” Society for American Baseball Research, https://sabr.org/bioproj/park/robison-field-st-louis/.
5 James Crusinberry, “Rally in Ninth Wins Another for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1909: 25.
6 David Smith, “Ejections Through The Years and the Impact of Expanded Replay,” Retrosheet, https://retrosheet.org/Research/SmithD/EjectionsThroughTheYears.pdf.
7 “Tried to Make Farce of Game,” Pittsburgh Press, September 26, 1907: 14.
8 David Smith, “Ejections Through The Years and the Impact of Expanded Replay.”
9 Bill Dahlen, Retrosheet, https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/D/Pdahlb102.htm.
10 “Brown Pitches Good Ball,” Boston Globe, August 1, 1909: 11.
11 James Crusinberry, “Rally in Ninth Wins Another for Cardinals.”
13 David Smith, “Ejections Through The Years and the Impact of Expanded Replay.”
14 Lyle Spatz, Bad Bill Dahlen: The Rollicking Life and Times of an Early Baseball Star (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Books, 2004), Kindle edition.