Grave Story: George Dumont (1895-1956)

Here lies George Dumont, a hard-luck pitcher from the Deadball Era, and a really terrible batter in pretty much any era. He also played for the Minneapolis Millers under two of its most renowned managers. Dumont played for the Washington Senators (1915-1918) and Boston Red Sox (1919).

George Dumont was born in Minneapolis on November 13, 1895. His parents, John and Sarah, were both first-generation Americans whose parents came from Canada. George was the second-youngest of eight children. He made his professional debut in 1914 with the Fargo-Moorhead Graingrowers of the Northern League, and he did well enough in 27 games there to catch on with the Minneapolis Millers, then managed by Joe “Pongo” Cantillon. However, Dumont had a pretty good pedigree in Minnesota before he ever joined the Millers. He played semipro ball for the Newports and other local teams, and there are plenty of newspaper recaps of his exploits. He once struck out 25 batters in a game in 1913.

Dumont was sent back to the Graingrowers in 1915. Cantillon of the Millers was a pretty good judge of baseball talent, but he slipped up by letting Dumont go to his farm team. Dumont won 20 games there and tossed a no-hitter against Fort William. Cantillon did get something out of the deal. He held the option on Dumont’s contract and sold it to the Senators for $100. The 1915 Senators were a 4th place team in spite of an 85-68 record. Among their assets was a good pitching staff, including one of the best pitchers in baseball: The Big Train.

Source: Ancestry.com

“I went to the Washington club with all that well-known North side confidence and pep,” Dumont said after the season. “Then I saw Walter Johnson pitch a game. I packed up ready to come home. I decided I didn’t have any business in that league. But I was persuaded to stay, and I’m glad I did.”

Dumont was no Johnson, naturally, but the 19-year-old pitched very well in his month-long stay with the Senators. He tossed a 2-hit shutout against Cleveland in his major-league debut, walking 4 and striking out 2 in a 3-0 win. Two days later, he faced the St. Louis Browns in relief and gave up 6 unearned runs in 3 innings of work. It wasn’t all his fault, though. Manager Clark Griffith had him throwing batting practice earlier that day, so he came into the game tired. He got his revenge on the Browns by shutting them out on 3 hits on September 20. The list of pitchers who threw shutouts in their first two MLB starts has to be a short one.

All in all, Dumont appeared in a total of 6 games, with 4 starts, and he went 2-1 with a 2.03 ERA and 0.875 WHIP. He had 3 complete games and the 2 shutouts, striking out 18 in 40 innings. He impressed Griffith, not only with his pitching performance but his fielding abilities as well. “That boy has something and ought to be a regular next year,” Griffith said. “[H]e is sure to be with us in the spring. That kid has a future.”

Dumont’s sophomore season of 1916 looked good by the numbers: 2-3 record in 17 games, with a 3.06 ERA and 1.019 WHIP. However, his ERA+ was 92, which makes him a bit below average for the year compared to other pitchers in the league. He failed to win a spot in the starting rotation out of Spring Training and worked primarily out of the bullpen. He was shelled early and carried a 6.97 ERA into May. Things gradually improved, and he threw a couple of complete game wins over the Philadelphia Athletics. Still, he was sent back to the minor leagues at the end of July. Millers manager Cantillon contacted Senators manager Griffith for some pitching help, and Griffith sent Dumont to Minneapolis. He won 11 games for the Millers in 22 appearances.

Dumont was involved in a sporting event of an entirely different nature in the winter of 1917. There was a 500-mile dog race from Winnipeg to St. Paul, and one of the mushers was Fred Hartman, a Massachusetts chemist who endured some of the worst luck imaginable. Disney made a movie, Iron Will, based on his experience. A couple of his racing dogs died on the trip, so Hartman led the team until he nearly killed himself from fatigue. Dumont and a friend met Hartman 37 miles from St. Paul and helped the man finish the race.

“For more than fifteen miles I had to break trail in snow 20 feet deep, covered by a thick crust,” Dumont related. “It was hard work pulling your feet out of holes in the crust – harder than any baseball I’ve ever played.”

Dumont said that a moving picture cameraman filmed that portion of Hartman’s journey. I haven’t been able to search out a copy of it, but Dumont is in the film. “I’m all bundled up in a sweater, but my mother saw the picture and knew me at once. I guess that’s a way with mothers everywhere.”

Dumont’s 1917 season wasn’t as difficult as crossing 500 miles of snow and ice on a dog sled, but it was still a tough one. He appeared in 37 games, with 23 starts, 8 complete games, 2 shutouts, 2 saves, a 2.55 ERA and a 1.207 WHIP. For all that, he had a 5-14 record. His ERA+ of 104 indicates he was an above-average pitcher, and the Senators were just 5 games under .500. Two of the team’s starters (Johnson and Jim Shaw) were over .500, and so was swingman Doc Ayers. Harry Harper was 1 game under with an 11-12 mark. Dumont, as far as I can tell, just had really, really lousy luck.

Source: Star Tribune, September 15, 1915.

In 1917, opposing hitters slashed .232/.309/.266 against him. He was particularly nasty in relief, as he had a 2-1 record and 1.57 ERA in 14 relief appearances. But he wasn’t too shabby as a starter, as he had a 2.82 ERA in 23 starts. However, he went 3-13 in those games. Part of the problem was the Senators offense. This was the Dead Ball Era, so the entire team hit 4 home runs, and non-pitchers batted .247. On the days that Dumont started, though, everybody left their bats at home. The Senators scored 2 or fewer runs in 13 of his 23 starts, and he went 2-9 in those games. Dumont got 6+ runs of support just once, and he allowed 9 runs in 4 innings, so he wasted the one offensive explosion he was given.

While his record could be chalked up to a lousy offense, Dumont did himself no favors at the bat or in the field. Even back then, pitchers were typically poor hitters, but Dumont was noteworthy in his inability to hit. He hit .034 in 1917, with 2 hits in 65 plate appearances. To top it all off; his 8 errors were third-worst in the AL among pitchers. It was a perfect storm of bad play, resulting in a .263 winning percentage.

Dumont returned, briefly, to the Senators in 1918. He got married over the offseason but still found himself subjected to the draft. He pitched in a total of 4 games in April and early May, including one start, ended with a 1-1 record and 5.14 ERA. From there, he was sent to work in the Wilmington shipyards as a painter. He did pitch on Saturdays for Harlan in the Bethlehem Steel League, but he dispelled any notion that ballplayers were loafers, spending their time playing ball while everyone else worked.

“A survey by government officials proved that the baseball players in the yard were among the most efficient workmen there,” he said.

The Boston Red Sox had been interested in acquiring Dumont for a couple of years, but trade talks were scuttled by his deployment to the shipyards. However, the Red Sox got their man in January 1919, acquiring Dumont and catcher Eddie Ainsworth for infielder Hal Janvrin. Babe Ruth, converting to an outfielder, was the centerpiece of the Red Sox offense, but the team had some other good hitters as well. Dumont wouldn’t be a victim of non-support again. The Sox, though, did nothing with him; Dumont appeared in 13 games, with all but 2 coming in relief. He surrendered 45 hits in 35-1/3 innings and walked 19 batters, ending up with a 4.33 ERA. He allowed one home run all season, but it was an absolute monster of a home run. Ed “Patsy” Gharrity of the Senators homered twice off the Red Sox on June 23 for his only long balls of the season. The one he hit off Dumont cleared the left field wall (it wasn’t called the Green Monster yet) and ended up against the walls of the building on the far side of Lansdowne Street. Nobody could recall seeing a ball hit that far, even from the mighty Ruth.

The Red Sox sold Dumont’s contract to Toledo in March 1920. He refused to report and instead signed with the Samson Tractors team of the Central Industrial Baseball League, in Janesville, Wis. He’d spend the next three seasons out of professional baseball entirely.

In Dumont’s 5-year career in the major leagues, he had a 10-23 record but a 2.85 ERA and 1.222 WHIP. He struck out 128 batters and walked 130 more. Of his 77 games, 35 were starts, and he had 14 complete games, 4 shutouts and 3 saves.

Dumont sought reinstatement into professional baseball in 1921 so he could play for the Millers, but Commissioner Kenesaw Landis denied the request, due to the fact that he had refused to report to Toledo. Dumont was finally forgiven for his sins by Landis in 1923, but he was placed back with the Red Sox and couldn’t report to the Millers.

Dumont instead landed with the Atlanta Crackers and won 16 games in 1923, including a no-hitter against Birmingham on August 27. He spent the final decade of his career bouncing around the country, from the Crackers to the New York Yankees, who returned him to the Crackers, who sold him to the Millers for $7,500, and so on and so on. He spent five whole seasons with the Millers and part of two others, and he won 15 games for them in 1925 and 13 games in both 1929 and 1930. Those latter teams were managed by Mike Kelley, another important name in Millers history.

Dumon’s last season in pro ball came in 1932, when he was 36 years old. He won 140 games in the minors against 98 losses. He underwent a radical mastoid surgery in 1933 (which concerns the ear, eardrum, ear canal and part of the skull) that threatened his career. I can’t find if the surgery impacted his hearing, but he returned to pitching in semi-pro teams for at least a couple more years. Millers manager Kelley would sometimes bring him back to work with young pitchers.

Dumont’s SABR bio states that he owned a tavern in Minneapolis and also was a foreman at Durkee Atwood, a car parts manufacturer. George Dumont died of a heart attack on October 13, 1956, exactly a month shy of his 61st birthday. He is buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

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