hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


News November 2021


A top baseball pitcher’s brief run in Rutland

Maury Thompson


Baseball experts have suggested for some time that the 19th century pitcher Tony Mullane, who ranks No. 30 for all-time wins in Major League Baseball, should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While his pitching exploits and short-fused temper are well known in baseball circles, fewer people know that Mullane, who was nicknamed “the Count” and “the Apollo of the Box,” played for the semi-professional team in Rutland, Vt., for about two weeks in June 1887 when he was temporarily banned from professional baseball.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association suspended Mullane for insubordination on May 18 of that year and fined him $100 after he refused to pitch unless the management increased his salary.

Mullane, 28, made the situation worse when he threatened the team’s president, Aaron Stern.
“A policeman was called, and Mullane left,” the Indianapolis Journal reported on May 19.
There was speculation that his career in baseball was over.

“As it is now, he is supposed to be permanently retired from the profession,” The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer of Wheeling, W.Va., reported on May 20.

But within a couple of weeks, Mullane was headed to Vermont.
“Tony Mullane, the refractory pitcher of the home baseball team, met President Stern of the home management this morning, and they failed to harmonize,” the Daily Evening Bulletin of Maysville, Ky., reported on June 4. “He at once packed his gripsack with armor and a few heated shirts, and started for Rutland, Vt., where he will pitch for a local club unknown to fame.”

Rather than firing Mullane outright, Cincinnati placed him on reserve at an annual salary of $500 – much lower than major league baseball salaries of up to $4,500 that season.

This tactic prevented any other team affiliated with a major league from hiring him.
The Rutland team, which was independently owned and did not belong to a league, hired Mullane at a salary of $200 a month – the equivalent of $5,775 in today’s dollars.
His arrival was heralded in regional newspapers and elsewhere.

“Tony Mullane, Cincinnati’s refractory pitcher, was the salvation of the Rutland team yesterday, and the finest game of the season resulted in a victory for Rutland. Score 5 to 3,” the Daily Evening Bulletin reported.

The caliber of play in the area was better than the pitcher expected.

“Tony has expressed surprise at the clubs he found here,” the Bulletin reported on June 10, 1887. “Vermont not being in any league, he expected to find a set of country men. But he finds the Rutland nine and their opponents worthy of the best efforts.”

“Someday next week the celebrated Rutlands are expected to cross bats with the Stars,” the Washington County Advertiser reported on June 8, referring to the Fort Edward Stars. “Tony Mullane will probably occupy the box.”

It’s not clear whether Mullane actually did pitch against Fort Edward, but he did play at Glens Falls on June 14.

“The great Mullane, lately of Cincinnati, pitched the last three innings, and his pitching, with fine coaching by himself and Ryan, saved the day,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported the next day.

Glens Falls led until the ninth inning, when Rutland pulled ahead to win, 8-7.
“The people who gathered at the Second Street grounds yesterday afternoon saw the best ballgame of the season,” the Morning Star reported. “They were saddened at the end, however, by seeing the fine lead that the home team had taken cut down score by score.”

Mullane’s exile from Cincinnati was intended to be permanent, but his suspension was rescinded when the Red Stockings management decided it had dire need of his pitching skills. The team had been in a slump since his suspension.

The headline in The Burlington Free Press on June 17, 1887, relayed the news: “Rutland loses the ‘Only Mullane.’”

“Tony Mullane has been reinstated by the Cincinnati management,” the Daily Evening Bulletin reported on June 18. “The club was weak in pitchers, and the step was taken in the best interests.”

“The directors were averse to making this move,” the Wheeling Register of West Virginia reported on June 21, “but Serad’s poor work and the general hard luck of the team compelled some movement. They have tried to get a pitcher in every way but failed.”

Mullane immediately turned things around on June 20 at his first game back, which Cincinnati won 8-4.

“Mullane distinguished himself on his return to the club today by defeating the St. Louis team,” the St. Paul Daily Gazette reported on June 21. “His support was simply perfect.”
Mullane ended the 1887 season with 37 major league wins, 17 losses, 97 strikeouts and a 3.24 earned run average, according to baseball-reference.com.

Mullane won 284 games in his 14 major league seasons, a statistic that is still among the all-time top tier of major league pitchers. He also is considered the first ambidextrous pitcher in the major leagues.

“It was when he joined Detroit that he began using both hands in pitching,” the Detroit Evening Times reported on April 29, 1944, in a story a few days after Mullane’s death. “A sore right arm that threatened to end his baseball caused Mullane to experiment with his left arm. He became proficient as a south paw hauler, but when his right arm was sound again, he resumed his natural delivery.”


Maury Thompson was a reporter for The Post-Star of Glens Falls for 21 years before retiring in 2017. He now is a freelance writer focusing on the history of politics, labor and media in the region.