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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Former Spokane pitcher Tony Mullane honored by SABR

Jim Price Correspondent

Overlooked for decades as a former Spokane ballplayer, let alone by the Baseball Hall of Fame, Tony Mullane, one of the game’s old-time pitching stars, has been recognized by the Society for American Baseball Research.

SABR, following an on-line poll of its membership, announced Mullane as its 2015 Overlooked 19th-Century Baseball Legend at the organization’s 45th annual convention last weekend in Chicago.

Born in County Cork, Ireland, Mullane won 284 games, 29th all-time, in 13 major-league seasons through 1894. He played off-and-on for another decade, retiring after two months with Spokane’s Pacific Northwest League team in 1902.

The handsome right hander was known as The Apollo of the Box for his ability to draw large crowds on Ladies Day. And because he was a sharp dresser, he also was called Count Mullane. Nonetheless, he gained an unsavory reputation as a revolver, a player who signed contracts with teams in competing leagues and one who sometimes jumped his contract.

History minded fans remember that Mullane pitched, on occasion, with either hand, more than they recall that, when he left the big leagues, he ranked among the top seven in almost every important statistical category. From a sabermetric perspective, he was the most valuable pitcher in the American Association, which operated as a major league from 1882-91.

Mullane also starred for the National League’s Cincinnati Red Stockings. He won 30 or more games five times. A fine all-around player, he appeared in more than 200 games as an outfielder or infielder. Only three eligible pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, led by Roger Clemens, have more career wins.

Mullane first pitched with both arms when he was with Louisville on July 18, 1882. Trailing Baltimore 7-1 after three innings, he began throwing lefthanded. He alternated arms for the rest of the game before losing 9-8.

He had not played professionally in three years when the PNL hired him as an umpire in 1902. On April 29, he worked Spokane’s opening game at Natatorium Park. By mid-June, the locals, who had a poor team, had him in uniform. The 43-year-old pitched a 19-4 victory over Tacoma here on June 22.

Over the next seven weeks, he appeared in 20 games, batting .307, and pitching three times with a 2-0 record. Nonetheless, Spokane released him in a cost-cutting move.

Mullane spent the rest of his life in Chicago. He joined the police department, retired in 1924 and died there at age 85 in 1944. He is a member of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.

He appeared on the 2013 Pre-Integration Committee’s Hall of Fame ballot. According to SABR, he seems likely to return to the ballot this fall.

Jim Price, former Spokesman-Review copy editor and writer, is a longtime member of the Society for American Baseball Research. He received the 1996 MacMillan-SABR Award for his 50th-anniversary retrospective on the bus accident that killed nine Spokane players in 1946.
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