Gid Gardner

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

Franklin Washington Gardner (1859-1914) is proof of the power of eulogy. His obit writer in Sporting Life on Aug 22, 1914 said: “…from 1878 until about 1890 [Gardner] was one of the best ball players in the country.” This of one who compiled a lifetime .233 average, was 2-12 during sporadic stints on the mound, and played for 8 clubs in a seven-year tenure in the majors – only once playing consecutive seasons for the same team. He was suspended and fired more often than he changed uniforms. Bill James counts Gid among the 8 men most worthy of the title “Drinking Men” of the 1880s, an era not known for sobriety and decorum. Gardner’s intro to the big leagues came with the Troy Trojans in 1879 after impressing many in New England’s small towns. He made it to age 32 when, upon his father’s death, Gid went home to live with mom and never held a job again. Evidence of how endearing this rogue could be: he mysteriously disappeared from his semi-pro Norwich team in 1890 for weeks mid-season, yet “was cheered by a few hundred fans at the train depot when he returned.”

  • His best year was ’83 with the Orioles, batting .273 in 42 games. In September, manager Billy Barnie fined Gid for drunkenness on a road trip to NY

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