May 12 – Happy Birthday Joe Dugan
They called him “Jumping Joe” but not because of any great leaping ability. According to Joe Dugan’s New York Times obituary, the third baseman had a propensity for jumping his team when he played for the Philadelphia A’s during the earliest years of his career. Whenever the boos from hometown fans struck a nerve, Dugan would simply leave the ballclub and A’s Manager Connie Mack would have to beg him to come back.
On January 10, 1922, Dugan became one of a select few Major League players to be part of three different big league teams in one day. He woke up that morning still an A and then got traded to the Senators, but before he went to bed, Washington had traded him to the Red Sox.
His stay in Beantown didn’t last long either and his departure from Boston caused a Major League rule change. By the 1922 season, Dugan had established himself as one of the better all-around third baseman in the big leagues. He was a defensive wizard and his hitting skills were improving every year. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee was becoming famous for selling his players for the money he needed to produce his Broadway shows. Frazee also spent most of his time and his money in the Big Apple and over the years, he made so many bad trades with the Yankees that Boston fans began to wonder which team he was working for. The ’22 Yankees were locked in a fierce pennant race with the Browns. Miller Huggins needed a third baseman who could spell the aging Frank “Home Run” Baker at the hot corner during the dog days of August. Frazee swapped New York Dugan and an outfielder named Elmer Smith for two of the Yankee’s utility infielders, a spare outfielder, a seldom used pitcher and $50,000 cash.
Dugan proved to be just the spark the Yankees needed to beat out the Browns for the Pennant. His late season acquisition got the rest of the AL teams thinking about the fact that there was nothing stopping a rich team like the Yankees from buying their way to a pennant wenever they were in a close race so they voted to move up the league trading deadline to mid June.
Dugan loved being a Yankee and he became a key cog in the team’s evolution to greatness. He scored 111 runs for New York during the 1923 regular season and then helped lead the team to its first-ever World Series victory that year against the Giants. He had an even better year in 1924, averaging .302 from his second spot in the batting order and continuing to win accolades for his glove work at third. In addition to playing hard on the field, Jumping Joe played hard off it as well. He was one of Babe Ruth’s favorite partying companions with an appetite for booze, gambling and girls that was only surpassed by those of the Big Bam. In Hugh Montville’s biography of Ruth, a story is told of the time Dugan asked the Sultan of Swat for a loan outside the Yankees’ hotel one evening. The Babe reached in his pocket and handed Dugan a bill which the third baseman quickly put in his own pocket. When he went to pay for dinner later that evening, he pulled out the bill Ruth had given him and only then realized it was a $500 bill! Dugan would later become one of the Bambino’s pallbearers at Ruth’s Yankee Stadium funeral in August of 1948. It was a sweltering summer night and Dugan whispered to his old teammate, pitcher Wait Hoyt, that he would give anything for a cold beer. Hoyt responded, “So would the Babe.”
Dugan’s offensive numbers and playing time started declining in 1925 but that glove made him an integral component of the great 1927 Yankee team that many still consider to be the best ever assembled. He stayed with New York for seven seasons, batting .286 lifetime in pinstripes, appearing in five World series and winning three rings. The Yankee released him after the 1928 season and he signed on with the Braves. His last big league game was in 1931 and he passed away in 1982 at the age of 85.
|NYY (7 yrs)||785||3325||3043||426||871||147||27||22||317||12||156||183||.286||.326||.374||.700|
|PHA (5 yrs)||510||2038||1884||179||505||98||16||17||198||23||77||197||.268||.304||.364||.668|
|BSN (1 yr)||60||139||125||14||38||10||0||0||15||0||8||8||.304||.346||.384||.730|
|BOS (1 yr)||84||361||341||45||98||22||3||3||38||2||9||28||.287||.308||.396||.704|
|DET (1 yr)||8||17||17||1||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.235||.235||.235||.471|