Alan Gallagher, while playing third base for Santa Clara University, once compiled a 25-game hit streak while wearing the same (unwashed) uniform and undergarments. While attending a football game with a date, he participated in a greased pig chase at halftime. He returned to his date with grease covering his shirt. It’s how he was dressed at the post-game dance.
As a member of the Giants, he seemed to spend half the time on his belly or his backside. His given name was Alan Mitchell Edward George Patrick Henry Gallagher. His nickname was a no-brainer: Dirty Al.
Dirty Al died last week in Fresno County at 73. If you begin and end with his moniker, you’re missing most of the fun. If Gallagher isn’t the most colorful, borderline eccentric San Francisco Giant ever, he’s in the top 5, along with, oh, I don’t know, let’s say Greg Minton, John Montefusco, Champ Summers and Hunter Pence.
Gallagher was the first native San Franciscan to play with the San Francisco Giants. He debuted with the team on opening day 1970. “I always wanted to play for the Giants, even before I sat in right field for all of their four home games of the 1962 World Series,” he said.
Gallagher hit .266 in 109 games that year. He ended 1971 as the regular third baseman for the division champions. But it wasn’t so much how he played, it was how he acted.
How colorful was he? On a bus trip to Yuma during spring training, Willie Mays was so offended by Gallagher’s garish tie that he took a collection from other players so Dirty Al could purchase something more suitable.
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully called him a flake. “I couldn’t agree more,” Gallagher said. “I do handsprings and somersaults on the field, anything to liven up the game. The fan likes to see something out of the ordinary. I do a little Irish jig or something to get their minds off a 0-0 game.”
After the 1971 Giants were defeated by the Pirates in the NLCS, KSFO radio DJ Jim Lange paid heartfelt tribute to the team. Here’s what he said about Gallagher: “A third baseman who was a little bit dingey, who had the courage at the beginning of the season when (manager) Charlie Fox told him to cut his hair, to shave it all off and then run up to first base and rip his hat off in front of (Cubs first baseman) Joe Pepitone, whose locks fell down to his shoulders and say, ‘How do you do? I’m Dirty Al Gallagher.’”
Dirty Al didn’t know it at the time, but two years into his major league career he was already on its downside. The Giants fell apart in 1972. One contributing factor was the offseason trade of Gaylord Perry for Sam McDowell. “It was a stupid thing,” Gallagher said to reporters. “Who trades a pitcher for pitcher?” He slumped to .223 and feuded with Fox. Early in the 1973 season he was traded to the Angels.
Ron Morris of the Charlotte News & Observer picked up the story after Gallagher’s major league career. For 24 seasons, Gallagher managed in the minor leagues and in independent leagues. Perhaps his most noteworthy managerial season was with the Durham Bulls in 1980. The Bulls had ceased to exist after the 1968 season. They were resurrected in 1980.
From Morris: “The Bulls, who set a goal of (attracting) 70,000 fans that first season, drew 176,000 to the old Durham Athletic Park in large part to Gallagher’s showmanship. He was an entertainer, a public relations agent for the club and promoter of the game he so loved. From the third base coaching box he openly conversed with fans in those bleachers, occasionally asking an unsuspecting partisan what strategy he or she would employ during a game.
“That was my favorite team by far, because we had characters,” Gallagher told Morris. “I love characters because I am an character.”