Barney Gilligan

  • Card series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: Washington, D.C.
  • Team: Nationals
  • League: National League

Bernard Gilligan (1856-1934) may serve as the textbook example of “good field, no hit.” As a hitter, he ranks among the all-time worst, 1 of 6 catchers to occupy the “top” ten list. But “Little Barney” was superb behind the plate & drew accolades from his first outings until his last games in semi-pro ball around Boston past the turn of the century. And no matter how weak his offense, no catcher ever had the year Barney did in 1884. He was Old Hoss Radbourn’s personal catcher & caught every game of the greatest season by a major league hurler. Depending on who is counting, Radbourn won 59 or 60 games and the pennant that magical season. With “hands half beaten to a pulp by catching 81 regular-season games,” the diminutive backstop humbly accepted a personalized Springfield watch (worth over $4000 today) commemorating his role in Radbourn’s year for the ages. The presentation came during the post-season tourney which Radbourn and his Providence Grays swept in three. When the Grays were being dissolved, Boston passed on Gillligan, distrusting his arm strength. The Senators were delighted to add him to their expansion-club roster in ’86.

  • It took a rookie Connie Mack to dislodge Barney from his starting role
  • As if spurred by his pitcher’s greatness, Gilligan had his best year at the plate in ’84
  • Gilligan’s uniform color on this card was changed in May, 2017 from black to blue to reflect recent reliable research by Craig Brown & friends at Threads of Our Game. Six cards had been previously released featuring a black uniform.

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