Fred Dunlap of the Clevelands was in [Philadelphia] Sunday, having been called home by the sickness of his mother. He says he does not like Cleveland any too well, and will not play there next season unless he gets his terms.
-New York Clipper, September 24, 1881
Dunlap's parents were both dead by the time he was ten years old. He grew up an orphan and never really had a home after his folks died. While he stayed with relatives, Dunlap himself said one time that "home" was merely a place where he went to eat and sleep. The rest of his time he was outside playing baseball. Just on its face, that's an interesting story but if you look at it deeper you see that Dunlap is revealing a bit of himself in it. He told us himself that he grew up without a home and without a place where he belonged, where he was safe, and where he was loved. It's actually a very sad story that's masquerading as a tale about a young boy's love of baseball.
And, yes, I love to psychoanalyse Fred Dunlap. It's too easy. His misanthropy, greed, miserliness, selfishness, constant challenging of authority, lack of satisfaction, and just his general unhappiness in spite all of his success all stems, I believe, from the death of his parents. In a way, he's kind of like Batman.
And that above squib is all about money and it is fascinating and telling that Dunlap used the excuse of a sick mother, who didn't exist, to bolt the Clevelands in an attempt to squeeze more money from the club. Dunlap was the best rookie in the major leagues in 1881 and was arguably the best second baseman. In 1882, he was without a doubt the best second baseman in the majors and was, from 1882 to 1884, arguably the best player in baseball. Dunlap knew how good he was, he knew what his talent was worth, and he wanted to be paid what he was worth. It's fascinating that Dunlap himself, in 1881, ties that desire to his sick and dying parents.
This was the first time he pulled this stunt but it wouldn't be the last. He would do this again and again. He was always asking for more money. He was always unhappy about his situation. He was never satisfied. In the end, the money that he was chasing didn't make him happy. I didn't bring him love. It didn't bring back his parents. It didn't stop the leg injuries that ended his career. It didn't stop a national economic downturn that destroyed his investments. He was chasing ghosts and didn't know it. He was chasing the shadows that frightened him when he was a child and you can never catch a shadow.