Finishing in third place in the inaugural Southern League season in 1885, Nashville manager Walt Goldsby carried over players Norm Baker, Ollie Beard, Tony Hellman, James Hillery, Lefty Marr, Len Sowders, and Billy Taylor into the second season. He picked up former major leaguers Ed Dundon, Billy O’Brien, and George McVey to form the nucleus of the “Americans” to begin the 1886 season.
Nashville Builds a Team
O’Brien’s career began with the St. Paul White Caps and Kansas City Cowboys in the unsuccessful Union Association in 1884 before spending part of the 1885 season with Memphis. McVey played for Chillicothe in 1884 and Brooklyn and Atlanta in 1885.
O’Brien, a first baseman, played the entire season with Nashville, and in between various stops over the next six years, he returned to play another season with the Nashville Tigers in 1893. His baseball career ended in 1896. McVey, a catcher, was released by Goldsby in May, and he signed with Chattanooga. He retired after the 1895 season, his twelfth in organized baseball.
Born on July 19, 1859, in Columbus, Ohio, to Irish immigrants John and Mary Dundon, Edward Joseph Dundon’s family had left Ireland around 1855 after their first child was born in 1954. Through 1872, the couple had ten more children. Edward was the fourth, and two sisters, Mary, and Ellen, had hearing problems, although their parents did not.
Thomas, the first-born, was a thriving lumber dealer in Ohio and became a politician in the Democrat Party. During the school year, Edward, Mary, and Ellen were students at the Ohio Institute for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb in Columbus. The multi-storied school had a playroom on the first floor and a study room on the second floor. Each student learned a trade, and Dundon studied bookbinding. He graduated in 1878 as class valedictorian.
Edward first attended at the age of nine in 1868, the same year as Mary, while Ellen, who was younger, began attending in 1875. Even after graduating, he returned each fall until he was in his twenties to continue his trade, as many students did to teach or utilize their trade.
The school began a baseball program, the first residential secondary school in the United States, and when Dundon played baseball as a pro, he returned to school during the winter.
Dundon’s story is different in more ways than one. He was a pitcher for the school’s baseball team, where he learned to play. At 24, the right-hander, who stood 6’0″ tall and weighed 170 pounds, joined the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association and was 3-16 for the 1883 season. He returned to the Buckeyes in 1884 with a 6-4 record. In 1885, he was 21-12 with a 1.44 ERA and 205 strikeouts for Atlanta in the new Southern League, helping to lead the Atlantans to the pennant.
Not to be Fooled
On March 22, a cool day in Nashville, the Americans won, 13-6, in an exhibition win over Pittsburgh of the American Association. Dundon scattered seven hits and struck out fifteen. During the game, a controversial play allowed Alleghany centerfielder Fred Mann to take first base, and as the Nashville infielders gathered near home plate to make their plea to the umpire, Mann took off for second as Dundon’s back was to the field of play.
If Mann thought Dundon’s affliction was something to take advantage of, he was sorely wrong, as the Nashville pitcher was holding the ball while keeping a keen eye on him, unbeknownst to the gutsy runner. Before Mann had gone a third of the way to second, Dundon turned and threw him out.
Dundon likely had seen the deception before and was aware of an opposing player attempting to exploit his inability to hear his teammates or even the crowd. The spectators, nearly 1,000 in number, gave him a rousing cheer from the grandstand.
Gift From the Ladies
It would not be a successful year for either Dundon or the Nashville club that season, but one of his highlights happened in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1. In front of 5,000 fans, the opposition accumulated only seven hits and three runs, but his teammates only garnered six hits and scored two runs in Nashville’s loss. However, the handsome Dundon was presented with a gift from a group of Charleston ladies, a large floral pyramid.
He finished the season with a record of 13-15, and Nashville finished in third place for the second year in a row.
Career in Decline
The following year, he hurt his arm playing with Syracuse, playing sparingly, and was 13-5 for the 1887 season. He had begun to battle alcohol addiction and was often suspended.
In 1889 he joined Evansville in the Central Interstate League. With a record of 14-8, things went downhill for him as he was fined and suspended for intoxication and insubordination and retired from baseball.
Dundon died before turning thirty-five due to a combination of alcohol addiction and tuberculosis, although there were several false impressions about his cause of death. One report claimed his deafness resulted from typhoid fever he had when he was three years old. Another assertion was that he regained hearing on his deathbed and could speak with his wife and others.
His battles with alcohol were at the opposite end of the spectrum from his ability to overcome his deafness with the savvy he showed on the ball field. On August 18, 1893, he died from consumption and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Columbus.
Note: The writer used background information from the excellent biography of Ed Dundon by Brian McKenna, published for the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) Bio-Project, published at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/Ed-Dundon/ (retrieved June 1, 2023).
 “Slugging With a Vengeance,” The Daily American, March 23, 1886, 5.
 “Another Off Day,” The Daily American, May 2, 1886, 4.
© 2023 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.