I feel that it's my role in this life to collect every single quote that I can find proclaiming the greatness of Fred Dunlap. Luckily, these quotes exist in abundance. As we wrap up Fred Dunlap Month, I'm going to share a few of them with you:
Second bag was guarded by Fred Dunlap, who was a wonderful fielder...Fred Dunlap was at one time, I refer to his engagement at Cleveland before he came to Detroit, the best second baseman in the country.
-Ned Hanlon, quoted in Sporting Life, September 11, 1897
What a ball player this Dunlap was…
Dunlap was a real infielder of the type so popular ten years ago, one of the solid bulky style through whom no grounder seemed able to pass, but who could nevertheless wave the hot ones goodbye with graceful ease when occasion demanded. With the gloves now in use to aid, Dunny would have been even a bigger wonder now than then. He was showy, yet effective. He averaged up quite well with the two other kings of second base in those days, Pheffer and McPhee.
-Sporting Life, December 27, 1902
Fred Dunlap. This famous second baseman...Dunlap is the king of second baseman, and a first-class all-round player.
-Sporting Life, 1887, Volume 10, Number 4
Charley Sweasey, Al Reach, Jimmy Wood, Ross Barnes, John Burdock and Fred Dunlap were the great second basemen of the past...
-Boston Daily Globe, November 1, 1891
...(Seeking) facts from the old sports who have seen the rise and fall of baseball players for nearly fifty years, it is surprising upon how few points these old experienced men agree. But his difference of opinion serves to show that these old fans have formed opinions of their own and have not blindly followed the lead of others.
Hence, when a very large majority of those ardent followers of the game, who live as fully on the bleachers today as they ever did in the days of their youth, who watch the fine points of the game as keenly and as critically as ever, and who give their judgment of the relative merits of players of this year impartially and justly-when these men agree that any individual was the one greatest player that the game has ever known, the historian of the game must give great weight to their opinions.
If this is to be one's guide in deciding what second baseman was the greatest in the history of the game, one is forced to say that the honor belongs to Fred Dunlap. And as one seeks to verify this almost universal high estimate of Dunlap's skill and searches the professional record of this idol of the old fans, there is much to justify the enthusiastic praise, even in the cold-blooded official records.
...If ever there was a scientific baseball player it was Fred Dunlap.
In fact, he knew nothing else but the game for which he had neglected everything, himself included, and his quickness of action and the sureness of his throwing were surpassed only by the alertness of his mind and the accuracy of his judgment. He caught equally well with both hands and could put the ball on a player sliding to second as well with his left as with his right hand. The great suppleness of his splendidly developed body and his prodigious and unsuspected strength enabled Dunlap to cover an area around second that, in the opinion of men who have seen them all, has never been equaled.
-Los Angeles Times, January 22, 1911
Fred Dunlap was in the '80's one of the great players of the National League, sharing with Fred Pfeffer the honor of being the star second baseman of the profession.
-Sporting Life, December 13, 1902
Al Spink called Dunlap "far and away the greatest second baseman that ever lived" and said that "of the great players of the olden times Fred Dunlap was considered by many the greatest." "(None of his contemporaries) could begin to compare with Dunlap in all around work or in covering the bag," he wrote in The National Game.
Spink is not a lone voice in the wilderness. Stanley Robinson called Dunlap the greatest second baseman of his time and "perhaps the greatest player that ever lived." James Spaulding called Dunlap "the greatest second baseman who ever lived." Al Bauer, in 1886, called Dunlap "the best baseball player on the diamond." The Sporting News, at the same time, called Dunlap "the king pin of second basemen and the greatest fielder in America."
This testimony, of course, is not hard evidence that Dunlap was the best second baseman of his era but it is not nothing. Contemporary opinion does have some impact on how we evaluate players. There is value in the fact that a lot of people watched Dunlap play and decided that he was better than Hardy Richardson or Bid McPhee or Ross Barnes. Again, that's not to say that he was better than those guys - who were all great ballplayers (and I'm sure we can put together a list of quotes like this for all of those guys) - but Al Spink and Stanley Robinson saw those guys play. We didn't. So, yes, we have a lot of tools at our disposal that we can use to evaluate a player's value but it is important to take into account contemporary opinion.