Tuesday, March 13, 2012

110. Fred McMullin: The Forgotten Black Sox

To continue with my series on the 8 disgraced Chicago White Sox, I bring to you the mysterious Fred McMullin. Often overlooked and only given the briefest of mentions in books and articles dealing with the 1919 scandal, McMullin is unique in that unlike his teammates, his post-Black Sox baseball career was very brief. Material to piece together his later life was scant to say the least but I was able to gather enough to write-up a modest summation of what happened to this mediocre utility player...

Rarely used utility infielder McMullin is said to be a part of the fix because he accidentally overheard the plan. This is not true. Fred had a sound baseball knowledge and as such he was the Chicago’s advance scout and he may have gave the rest of his teammates a deliberately flawed report on the Cincinnati pitchers they were about to face. McMullin received $5,000 for his part in the fix, which was only 2 at-bats and no time in the field.

After being kicked out of organized baseball McMullin returned to Los Angeles where he had been a star ballplayer before his time in the majors. He was a well-liked fixture in the local baseball scene and many could not believe he had anything to do with any illegal doings back east. Through his brother-in-law he secured a job at Universal Film Studios and played on the company’s baseball team. The Los Angeles area was a hotbed of winter semi-pro leagues and many major and minor leaguers as well as Negro league stars came out west to play in the warm weather. McMullin was a popular player until the major leagues found out about his participation in games against “honest” ballplayers. After the Philadelphia Phillies fined their star outfielder Irish Meusel $100 for playing against McMullin, the disgraced ballplayer resigned from Universal’s team.

McMullin for his part didn’t seem to grasp the magnitude of what he and his buddies had done in 1919 and continued to try to visit former friends and teammates when they played in the Pacific Coast League. After being ignored and rebuffed time and time again, McMullin got the picture and while calling his treatment by organized baseball a “persecution,” he none-the-less steered clear of his former acquaintances. Unlike the other 7 Black Sox, McMullin did not attempt to play under an assumed name or hire himself out to semi-pro town teams as a ringer. The former White Sox simply and quietly resigned himself to a life outside of baseball and drifted through various careers - carpenter, salesman, office manager and then of all things - a Deputy Marshal of Los Angeles County.

For the rest of his life Fred McMullin never proclaimed his innocence nor applied for reinstatement and for that matter never made any statement what-so-ever about his role in the 1919 fix. He died in Southern California at the age of 61 in 1952.

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