Obituary: Al Gallagher (1945-2018)

RIP to “Dirty Al” Gallagher, a third baseman who went on to a long career as a manager in the minor leagues and independent leagues. He died on December 6 in Fresno, Calif. at the age of 73. Gallagher played for the San Francisco Giants (1970-73) and California Angels (1973)

Gallagher, whose full name was (deep breath) Alan Mitchell Edward George Patrick Henry Gallagher, was born in San Francisco, Calif. on October 19, 1945. According to his obituary, he was the first native San Franciscan to play for the Giants. Before that, though, he attended Santa Clara University and was a 1st Round pick in the 1965 MLB June Amateur Draft (14th overall pick). He struggled that season, splitting time in AAA and AA. Gallagher did much better in 1966 for the A-ball Fresno Giants. He hit .316 and slugged at a .473 rate, with 12 triples and 9 home runs. He struggled again in 1967 but perked up in the next two seasons, and he landed with the Giants in 1970.

In his rookie season, Gallagher hit .266 in 109 games, 91 of which were at third base. He was splitting time at third with Jim Ray Hart, but by 1971, he had largely taken over the position. He appeared in a career-high 136 games and responded with his best season, with a .277/.340/.378 slash line and an OPS+ of 104. He was particularly on fire in the month of August, when he hit .427 with 18 RBIs, 5 of which were game-winners. The Giants finished first in the NL West with a 90-72 record but lost to the Pirates in the League Championship Series. Gallagher had 1 hit in 10 at-bats in the NLCS.

The Giants dropped to 5th place in 1972, and Gallagher struggled with a .223 average. He lost playing time to 23-year-old Dave Kingman, who didn’t hit for a much higher average (.229) but who slammed 29 homers. The 1973 season had barely begun when Gallagher was traded to the Angels on April 14 for infielder Bruce Miller. He rebounded with the Angels, hitting.273, but he had just 7 extra-base hits (6 doubles and a triple) for a .299 slugging percentage. That was his last season in the majors.

In 442 MLB games, Gallagher slashed .263/.335/.337 with 333 hits, 11 home runs and 130 RBIs. He had a career .961 fielding percentage at third base as well, which was well above league average. His minor-league career lasted until 1975, when he switched to managing. He did play a few games in 1977 and 1980 and even pitched in 12 games in 1977, with a fine ERA of 2.85 for the Texas City Stars.

As a manager, Gallagher had his best years in the Atlanta Braves organization from 1978-1981. Spending two years each with the Greenville Braves and the Durham Bulls, his teams never had a losing record, and his 1980 Bulls went 84-56 for a .600 winning percentage. Future MLB regulars Brett Butler, Milt Thompson and Albert Hall were on that team, and current Braves manager Brian Snitker had 2 hits in 10 at-bats.

Gallagher managed in the Cleveland Indians organization for two years. His obit notes that he eventually ran himself out of the MLB for arguing with his employers. He believed that minor league teams should put as much focus on winning as it does development.

Gallagher kept managing in independent baseball, including such teams as the Kansas City T-Bones, Bend Bandits, Madison Black Wolf and Coastal Bend Thunder. His last job came in 2012, when the 66-year-old guided the McAllen Thunder of the North American League. In his 25 seasons of managing, in all levels, Gallagher won 1167 games and lost 1369.

Oh, and the “Dirty Al” nickname? In the majors, he had a generally unkempt appearance, but that started way back in Santa Clara. When he was in college, he put together a hitting streak that lasted three months. During that time, he refused to wash any party of the uniform. Any part.

There was also an incident with a greased pig, but I would encourage you to read the article linked below for that story and other anecdotes from Gallagher’s colorful life.



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