09/14/2012 1:41 PM
By Chris Sourk
“Dirty” Al Gallagher could best be described as a character throughout his time in baseball. From his nickname of “Dirty,” to his stories about playing for his hometown San Francisco Giants and being the first manager of the Kansas City T-Bones, Gallagher says he has been blessed throughout his career.
Growing up in the ghettos of San Francisco as a young man, Gallagher “thought nothing of baseball.” That all changed when the Giants selected him with the 14th pick in the first round of the 1965 MLB Draft.
In 1970, Gallagher got the call up to the majors batting second in the Giants lineup. Exactly one spot ahead of his idol, Willie Mays.
In a moment that Gallagher calls, “the greatest thrill of my life,” he remembers his first game with the Giants, hitting in front of Mays.
“It’s a funny thing when people ask me about that, my first game in the big leagues,” Gallagher said this summer during a trip to CommunityAmerica Ballpark to see the T-Bones play and to be honored in the club’s 10th anniversary season.
“Mays patted me on my butt and said, ‘Go get ‘em kid.’ I don’t even remember my first two at bats. I know I got a hit in my third at bat, but I couldn’t tell you what I did the first two times. Because when Mays did that, I was in... well, I don’t know where. What a feeling!”
Gallagher played four seasons with the Giants, and in 1970 he owned the highest fielding percentage by a third baseman in the National League. He attributes his success at third base to being fearless.
“The biggest thing is you have to have no fear of the baseball,” said Gallagher, offering tips on how to play third base. “I was always, “knock ‘em down, throw ‘em out” and I wasn’t afraid of anything. I didn’t have much fear in my life.”
As Gallagher’s playing career was reaching its end, he wasn’t looking to continue is career in baseball as a manager.
“I just wanted to play,” he says.
However, Gallagher was thrust into an unfortunate situation. In 1975, while serving as player-coach for the AAA Richmond Braves, Gallagher’s manager, Clint ‘Scraps’ Courtney, died suddenly of a heart attack.
“Greatest guy I ever played for. I loved Scraps,” said Gallagher. “The next night the game was in Rochester, there was 7,000 people in the stands and my team refused to play.”
Since he was now the acting manager, Gallagher had to find a way to rally his players after their manager’s death.
Gallagher said: “I told the kids that Scraps Courtney always cared about the game and here’s what we were going to do, we’re going to hang is uniform up in the dugout and we are going to play the game for Scraps. We played that night.”
From his managerial start under tragic circumstances, Gallagher managed seven teams in nine seasons, as he worked as a single-A and double-A manager for teams in both the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians organizations.
While having spent time managing in affiliated baseball, however, Gallagher took an opportunity to manage the Duluth Dukes, which then moved to Kansas City and become the T-Bones.
“I feel very blessed to have the accomplishments that I have here,” he said. “The T-Bone Reading Program was started by me, which is a big thing for me. In my programs throughout my minor league career, we have probably had over 200,000 kids come to a ballgame for free and have had reading as its basis.”
Gallagher was an instrumental part of the organization’s transition to Kansas City, said T-Bones President Adam Ehlert.
“He was tremendously important and a great help,” Ehlert said. “He was wonderful at explaining the product of independent baseball to the fans here in Kansas City and especially the importance of the family-friendly environment of the product. The biggest testament to that his is reading program, which is still up and running and popular today.”
Gallagher is still involved in baseball. This past season he managed the McAllen (Texas) Thunder of the North American League.
“I tried to retire a few years ago, I was just going to be a bench coach and just help out. But the manager got in trouble in McAllen and I had to take over his job,” Gallagher said. “I’m training a young man named Mike Goss to take my spot and then I’m going back to being the bench coach.”
By the way, just how did Gallagher get the moniker of “Dirty”? It all started in Gallagher’s freshman year at the University of Santa Clara.
“I said if I got a hit and we won the game, I was not going to change my uniform, including my undergarments,” he said. “Well, we won 24 straight games and I hit in 25 straight games, so by that time the nickname was well earned.”
Although Gallagher transferred from Santa Clara to Arizona State, the nickname stuck.
“Everyone knew what I was doing with my superstition, so it came from that. And I kept that nickname in the big leagues because I played very hard, I wasn’t the most talented player that ever lived, but I played as hard as you could play,” said Gallagher.
It’s obvious that Gallagher still has the same passion for the game now as he did as a player. He summarizes it best: “There are a lot of things that I can’t do anymore, but I love being involved with the game.”