Book’s Key Characters
When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms features some very colorful characters including Chris “Der Boss” Von der Ahe, Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle and little Charley Byrne, “the Napoleon of Base Ball.” Learn more about them!
The feisty, German-born Von der Ahe owned the St. Louis Browns, the original Rough House Gang and now the St. Louis Cardinals led by their hardnosed first sacker, Charley Comiskey. If a player made an error, Chris would yell at him, ”Vy did you drop dat ball, eh?”
The only thing bigger than Von der Ahe’s ego was the larger-than-life statue of himself that he had made and put up outside Sportsman’s Park. The statue still stands in St. Louis’s Bellefontaine Cemetery, where Chris is buried.
The suave, opera-loving Byrne was the Brooklyn president and the original George Steinbrenner, out to win Brooklyn’s first pennant with the best players that money could buy. When some didn’t pan out, he would say, “Some players resemble eggs in that they are not what they are cracked up to be.”
Byrne was considered second only to Albert Spalding as the most influential baseball owner of his day. He created or was a leading promoter of Ladies Day, nonsmoking sections, coaching boxes and rainchecks.
Gunner McGunnigle was a pioneer player and manager, who Byrne hired to lead his team of stars for the 1888 season in the American Association, then one of two major leagues along with the National League. McGunnigle was the most inventive baseball man of his day with a long string of firsts.
- Cited as first catcher to wear a mitt ( actually, revamped bricklayer’s gloves) while playing for Fall River, Mass., in 1875
- First rightfielder to win the equivalent of the initial Golden Glove Award – called the Clipper Award—while playing for Buffalo in 1878. His specialty was throwing batters out at first base.
- Part of major league baseball’s first pitching rotation as one of two alternating pitchers for Buffalo in the National League in 1880. At that time, one pitcher hurled almost every game on a team’s schedule and all pitchers threw underhand.
- First batter to have his skull fractured by a pitched ball after baseball switched to overhand pitching.
- First manager to signal players with a scorecard or bats. After McGunnigle later managed in Pittsburgh, one of his players, Connie Mack, copied the idea when Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years.
- First and only manager in baseball history to win consecutive pennants in two different major leagues. (American Association in 1889 and National League in 1890)
- Only manager in baseball history to manage in two major league triple headers (out of three ever played). One with Brooklyn in 1890 and one with Louisville in 1896.
- Still holds the best winning percentage of any manager in the 122-year history of the Dodgers franchise