The body was found in March, 1951, not far from where he worked for several years. He was hit by a car near Gooch Mill, about 400 yards from Sherman Field, judging by the trail of blood. He made it to the outer reaches of the field before he collapsed, and that was where his frozen body was found. The only identification was his collar, upon which was inscribed, “To Slumpy, from the Lincoln A’s of 1949.”
If the dog is man’s best friend, and if baseball is the national pastime, then there is nothing more lovable than a baseball dog. We’ve been treated to the sight of baseball bat-fetching dogs in the minor leagues, and there was the case of Hank the dog, who was adopted by the Milwaukee Brewers. You could even go way back in time to the dog that helped Jimmy “Chicken” Wolf hit an inside-the-park homer in the 19th Century. But the dog we’re going to talk about wandered off the streets of Lincoln, Neb. in the 1940s, and into the hearts of a bunch of minor leaguers.
Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Norris Anderson told the origin story of Slumpy as best as he could. The small, brown dog of undetermined breed entered Sherman Field in 1948 while the Lincoln A’s were going through a bad slump. Manager Jimmie Deshong and the players were seated with their heads down in the locker room before a game when they heard a bark. There was the dog, standing in the doorway and hoping for some attention. A few of the players patted him on the head, but he didn’t receive much notice otherwise. Anderson takes up the story:
“Something happened that night. The A’s suddenly came alive, pounded out 14 hits and all but chased home the proud Omaha Cardinals. Ballplayers being superstitious as they are, Slumpy was looked on as an omen. They named him Slumpy and he became an adopted son.”
Slumpy loved everybody, but he seemed particularly drawn to players who were struggling. When Slumpy looked at you with his big, brown eyes, Anderson wrote, you feel like you had a true friend commiserating with you.
“Joe Aliperto, in such a slump and being ridden by the fans, became a special case for Slumpy,” Anderson wrote. “He’d spot the dejected Joe, his jaw as long as a funeral pyre, his face buried in his hands. Over would trot Slumpy, his face as long as Joe’s. After licking Joe’s hands, he would sit at his feet for a long spell. You knew he was sharing Joe’s misery.”
Slumpy was an equal opportunity comfort dog who spent as much time with struggling pitchers as he did hitters. Future major-leaguer Lynn Lovenguth could sometimes be found sitting all by himself in the dressing room on nights before he was to pitch, talking to Slumpy like he would a teammate.
Whenever the A’s had a home game, Slumpy would show up, ready for work, at 6PM and would leave after a post-game visit to the locker room. Nobody ever knew what he did with himself the rest of the time, or how he handled the road trips. Visiting teams never got so much as a tail wag from the loyal pooch.
“Knowing Slumpy, we’d wager he’d even make friends with the very motorist who had snuffed out his life,” Anderson wrote. “There was such a big heart in this tiny guy.
“It is ironic that Slumpy, who had comforted so many of the A’s, died on the grounds he loved best without a single one of his pals around.
“We’re sure going to miss you, little fella.”