I have mentioned on many occasions the examples of ballplayers that seemed to be closer to criminals than athletes. If you read my post regarding former pitcher and second baseman Terry Larkin, you would be close to siding with me when I stated that he was a criminal that just so happened to be good at playing baseball. While not quite as troublesome as Larkin, there was a catcher turned 1B by the name of Jack Doyle, who played for ten teams over the course of the years 1889-1905. The fact that he played for so many teams was not a coincidence, but likely the result of some of the issues Doyle had with management of teams and in other cases, the fact that organizations and teammates did not get along with the man. That being true, Doyle was remembered as a true leader and in a couple of instances was named team captain.
A Fordham graduate, Doyle started a career that consisted of 70 years involved in professional baseball. After his playing career was over, he became a scout for the Chicago Cubs where he would remain until his death on New Years Eve of 1958. From the years of 1889 to 1905, he managed to play for ten teams in the major leagues, starting out with the Colombus Solons and finishing off with the New York Highlanders. He also played for the Cleveland Spiders, New York Giants (3 occasions), Baltimore Orioles (NL), Washington Senators (NL), Chicago Orphans, Washington Senators (AL), Brooklyn Superbas and Philadelphia Phillies. He also managed the Giants in 1895 and the NL Senators in 1898.
Some of Doyle's antics included punching out an umpire after being called out during a stolen base attempt in a game in 1900. He also went into the stands and socked a heckling fan, re-injuring his left hand in Brooklyn after having recovered from having it broken. He had a lengthy disdain (feelings were mutual) with soon to be legendary Giants manager John McGraw. Both played together with the Orioles from 1895-1897 and formed, with Hughie Jennings, one of the dirtiest infields the game has ever seen. HOF Pirates SS Honus Wagner had come up with the Louisville Colonels that season and had the following paraphrased statement to make about a trip around the bases against the Orioles. - Wagner rounds first base and gets tripped up by Doyle... then heads for second and gets punched out by Jennings. As he heads for third, McGraw is holding a gun stating, "Don't you dare."
McGraw was named manager of the Giants in 1902 after jumping from the AL's Baltimore Orioles. His first act of business was to release Doyle, who was the team's best player. Doyle himself had replaced an icon in his prime at 1B, taking over for Roger Connor in 1894. Manager Montgomery Ward made a bold move that ended up working out. Two years before, Doyle was used as the first pinch hitter in baseball history, being called upon by manager Patsy Tebeau and coming up with the winning base hit. He was well respected by many of his teammates and was named captain in Brooklyn, New York and Chicago. The fact that he was a manager twice also backs up the respect factor, as that was the time that a captain type player was put in charge of a team's bench.
The Baltimore Orioles won the NL Championship in 1896 and were led by Doyle, McGraw and Jennings. Doyle also led the DeMoines Champions to a Championship during the 1906 season. He served as a police commissioner and an umpire before getting into scouting for the Cubs for almost 40 years. Of course, Doyle was well accomplished for what he did in his life. An ambassador for the sport of baseball as a player, manager, umpire and scout as well as a police commissioner. The question I propose is this: Is Jack Doyle remembered more for being a good leader or for being a dirty player? He is remembered as "Dirty Jack" for a reason. He was involved in many on the field antics that would back that assessment. But he was a very good and smart player, who lead by example on the field. This was when he was not being a dirty player. He was certainly considered guilty of being both.