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Hy Gunning

Hy Gunning

Position(s):
1B
Born:
August 6, 1888
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 1"
Weight:
189 lbs
Major League Debut:
8-08-1911 with BOS

Hy Gunning
by Bill Nowlin
Hyland Gunning had himself a good education, graduating from South Orange (New Jersey) High School and attending both Andover and Princeton. [Gunning’s player questionnaire at the National Baseball Hall of Fame] He’d been born in Maplewood, New Jersey, on August 6, 1888, and he was a good size for a first baseman – 6-feet-1 and 189 pounds. He batted left and threw right-handed.

He also seems to have gone straight to the major leagues without a stop along the way, debuting on August 8, 1911, for the Boston Red Sox, just two days after his 23rd birthday. Red Sox manager Patsy Donovan had to shuffle his infield around when shortstop Heinie Wagner’s arm became lame. He put Hack Engle at second base and Billy Purtell at shortstop, and slid Gunning in at first base. Gunning was “a new man to the big league, but went about his work like a veteran, playing a neat first base and sending home one run with a single.” [1]

The game was a back-and-forth affair, Cleveland playing at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds and getting off to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first. With one run in each of the first four innings, the Red Sox tied it, took a 3-2 lead, saw Cleveland tie it in the top of the fourth, then went aheas again when Larry Gardner tripled to left field and Gunning singled him in with a “tap single over second” to restore a one-run 4-3 lead. In three other plate appearances, batting sixth in the order, Gunning executed a sacrifice in the second, pushing Gardner to second base, from which he scored two batters later, then fouled out to the catcher, and struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh. The Red Sox won the game, 8-6. Gunning made nine putouts at first base.

In his brief four-game big-league career, Gunning made 25 putouts but never an assist, and never committed an error. His RBI single in his first game was his only hit in 12 plate appearances. He walked twice and had the one sacrifice. The one hit in nine at-bats gave him a .111 lifetime batting average. He never scored a run, but he drove in two.

Gunning played again the next day, adding 12 more putouts, but was 0-for-3 at the plate – but one of the outs was productive. The Red Sox were losing 6-0 when he came up in the bottom of the seventh, with Gardner on third base and Purtell on second. He drove in Boston’s first run, on a grounder to Lajoie at second base, scoring Gardner and advancing Purtell to third, whence he scored on a fly ball by Joe Riggert.   

When Gunning was due up again in the eighth, the score now 8-3 in Cleveland’s favor and the bases loaded, Donovan told Bill Carrigan to pinch-hit for the rookie. Carrigan singled to center field, driving in two more runs, but both Nunamaker and Hall “foozled” – striking out one after the other. The Naps won, 8-5.

In the second game of a doubleheader against the Athletics in Philadelphia, Gunning was 0-for-2, splitting duties at first base with Rip Williams after Williams got himself ejected from the game for disputing an umpire’s call. It was the last game Gunning played until called upon more than a month later, on September 23. Wagner was back in the saddle; he’d played second base in the first game.

Gunning’s final game came on September 23. He came in to the game to spell Hugh Bradley at first base in the eighth inning and drove the ball deep to right-center, but it was hauled in by St. Louis Browns center fielder Burt Shotton.

In February 1912 Gunning was given his outright release by the Red Sox, sold to Jesse Burkett’s Worcester Busters team of the Class B New England League. It wasn’t a springtime filled with hope for the ballclub. On Opening Day, April 18, the Boston Globe story announcing the start of the league season led with a subhead, “Worcester Will Be Weakest in Years.” Every other team appeared to have improved; Worcester’s weaknesses, however, were not seen in the infield but rather the outfield and behind the plate. Gunning seemed to have shown well in spring training; the Globe wrote, “Gunning, who came from the Red Sox, is doing well at first.”

He didn’t stay long with the Busters, getting into just 16 games, though he hit for a good .293 average. A move was made, though, to Montreal, where he played in 10 more games, batting just .194. Manager Billy Lush was far from satisfied with Gunning’s work, and a dispatch to Sporting Life said, “Gunning at first looks well, but is backward in hitting; his fielding and movements are like our last first baseman, Gandil. ...We are on the look-out for another first-sacker, as Manager Lush is not satisfied with Gunning’s work.” [2] And soon enough, Gunning’s career in pro ball had concluded.

Gunning joined the United States Army on February 21, 1916, at Brooklyn, New York, as a private in Troop C, 1st Cavalry. He served on the Mexican border, advancing through the ranks to corporal and then sergeant. After the US entered the First World War, Gunning saw duty in Europe as a second lieutenant in a machine gun unit at Flanders and in the Somme Offensive. He was injured on October 20, 1918, and was transferred to the general hospital at Fort McHenry, Maryland, until he recovered, and was discharged a year later, in October 1919.

At the end of 1919 Gunning began working in Brooklyn as the assistant treasurer for Wallace & Co., a chocolate and candy manufacturer based in the borough. Advancing in the company, he was the president at the time of his retirement in 1932. He never married. Gunning moved to Belgrade, Maine, in 1939 and lived on 225 acres of land, pursuing bird hunting, salmon fishing, and trap shooting. He was also active in the Maine Alumni Association of Princeton. [3] He died on March 28, 1975, in the Veterans Administration facility at Togus, Maine, some five miles east of the state capital at Augusta, a facility serving veterans since 1866.  He is buried in the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Augusta.

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed the online SABR Encyclopedia, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Gunning had no player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Thanks to John DeLooper of Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library.

[1] Boston Globe, August 9, 1911
[2] Sporting Life, June 22, 1912
[3] Princeton Alumni Weekly, April 29, 1975

This biography can also be found at the SABR Bio Project

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