I had always thought today’s Beantown Baseball Birthday Celebrant got his nickname of “Jumping Joe” from his ability to leap high and snare line drives hit at his hot-corner position. Then I researched his career and found out that was not the reason after all. Joe Dugan had spent the first five seasons of his big league career playing three different infield positions for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s. Just 20 years old when he made his debut, Dugan was probably not yet mature enough to withstand the razzing big league players took back then from their own home crowds whenever they made a mistake or failed to produce in a clutch situation. Dugan’s response mechanism was to just not show up for the next game, or two, or three. That’s right, he’d just jump the team.
Eventually, Connie Mack grew tired of Dugan’s behavior and dealt him in a January, 1922 three-team trade that landed the former Torrington, Connecticut high school star in Boston, wearing a Red Sox uniform. The change of scenery did wonders for him. Boston manager Hugh Duffy used his newest infielder at both third and short and after 84 games, Dugan was averaging a very productive .287 for a very bad Boston team that was going nowhere but down to the bottom of the AL standings.
On July 23, 1922, Boston owner Harry Frazee did what he did best. He helped the Yankees get better and his Red Sox get worse by trading Dugan and outfielder Elmer Smith to New York for 50,000 Yankee dollars and a future two-time batting champion named Lefty O’Doul. Of course, O’Doul would win this batting titles after the Red Sox gave up on him as well.
Reaction to the trade from the other AL owners was swift, loud and angry. In fact, it was this trade that eventually led to baseball’s first intra-league trading deadline in 1924. Dugan went on to spend the next seven seasons with New York, win three World Series and stop his “jumping” once and for all.