“You’re in, Fred”

Fred McMullin

Without question the most obscure member of the Black Sox was Fred McMullin. I’ve always kind of wondered why he was involved at all. He was a sub and one not likely to play much in the World Series. The movie version of “Eight Men Out” has him overhearing the plot while in a bathroom and getting in at that point. Others say it was the locker room. Why not. In the movie, when McMullen (Perry Lang) tells Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker) and Swede Risberg (Don Harvey) he wants a cut, the response from Risberg is a simple “You’re in, Fred.” If Hollywood is right (and it usually isn’t),with that matter-of-fact line Fred McMullin slipped into infamy.

McMullin was born in 1891 in Kansas and moved to California at age 14. He graduated from High School, unlike most of his colleagues, played a little sandlot and semipro ball, and apprenticed as a blacksmith (the only one of those I found). He spent the early teens roaming from team to team in the Northwest League, a West Coast minor league that was a rung lower than the Pacific Coast League. It had a lot of ex-Major Leaguers in it so he picked up a lot of inside training from them. It earned him a one game tryout with the Detroit Tigers (he struck out in his only at bat and made an error in the field). That sent him back to the minors for 1915.

Chicago came calling for the 1916 season. McMullin got into 63 games at third base (and a handful elsewhere), hit .257 with three doubles, nine stolen bases, and 10 RBIs. He got into another 52 games as the backup third baseman in 1917. With the Sox in the World Series, he played all six games at third (Buck Weaver went back to shortstop because Swede Risberg, the regular shortstop, was in a terrible slump.). He hit a buck 25 with a double, two RBIs, a walk, and six strikeouts (and led the team in at bats with 24). Chicago won the Series and McMullin pocketed a nice piece of change.

With war raging in 1918, McMullin went back to being the regular ChiSox third baseman (Weaver went to short and Risberg to the Naval Shipyards), hit .277 with no power and few RBIs. By 1919 he was back on the bench spelling Weaver at third in 46 games. He got into two games in the World Series managing a single in two plate appearances. The hit was in game one, a game the Sox lost. The out occurred in the next game, another Chicago loss.

McMullin was back riding the pine in 1920 when the scandal broke. Interestingly enough, he was not placed on trial with the other seven Black Sox. I’ve been unable to find out exactly why. So he was neither charged nor acquitted in the scandal, but was banned by Judge Landis. Out of baseball he worked as a carpenter and eventually settled in as a deputy marshal in Los Angeles (I have to admit the irony here is stunning). He died of a stroke in 1952.

In many ways McMullin is the hardest of the Black Sox to figure out. He’s a substitute, a bench player, someone not likely to have much of an effect on the World Series, but he’s a major player in the plot to fix the Series. Some sources claim that once he was in, he became one of the ringleaders. I guess that makes his accidental entry into the plot sound more likely. But it also makes him seem more than just an innocent fluke. He comes off as an opportunist who had no problem with throwing a game.

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