Van Lingle Mungo
June 8, 1911|
Pageland, South Carolina
|Died: February 12, 1985
Pageland, South Carolina
|September 7, 1931 for the Brooklyn Robins|
Last MLB appearance
|September 2, 1945 for the New York Giants|
|Earned run average||3.47|
Career highlights and awards
Van Lingle Mungo (June 8, 1911 – February 12, 1985) was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher known for his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mungo played for the Dodgers from 1931 to 1941 and finished his baseball career with the New York Giants.
Van Mungo broke into the league with the Charlotte Hornets when he was 18 years old. Mungo's managers over the years (including Casey Stengel) attributed much potential to the hard throwing Mungo and he was thought to be a surefire star pitcher for years to come. "Mungo and I got along just fine," reported Casey Stengel, his manager on the Dodgers. In part, the expectation that Van Mungo would be a star in the major leagues can be attributed to a phenomenal debut performance, one in which he shutout the Boston Braves over 9 innings striking out 12. He was never able to live up to those lofty expectations however. He finished his career with two 18 win seasons however in one of those seasons he lost 19 starts. Mungo's teammates contended that he could easily have won more games had he not tried to strike out every batter, to which Mungo would reply that he wouldn't try to strike out every batter if he thought his team could field a ground ball or catch a fly. Mungo averaged 16 wins per season from 1932 through 1936 and led the National League in strikeouts with 238 in 1936. He was named to the All-Star team in 1934, 1936, and 1937. Though his strikeout counts were impressive, he also led the league several times in walks. However, following an arm injury in 1937, he won only 13 major league games over the next six seasons. After a spring training injury sustained in 1943 he was released by the dodgers and purchased by the Giants where he played the final season of his career He completed his major league career with a 120-115 won-lost record over 2113 innings pitched, with a 3.47 earned run average.
Stories and anecdotes about Mungo tend to emphasize his reputation for combativeness, including episodes of drinking and fighting."Mungo and I got along just fine," reported Casey Stengel, his manager on the Dodgers. "I won't stand for no nonesense, and then I duck." The most widely told story concerns a visit to Cuba where, supposedly, Mungo was caught in a compromising position with a married woman by her husband. Mungo punched the husband in the eye, leading him to attack Mungo with a butcher knife or machete, requiring Dodgers executive Babe Hamberger to smuggle Mungo in a laundry cart to a seaplane waiting off a wharf in order to escape the country.
Van Mungo wasn't just a pistol off the field, on the field he was bent towards conflict with his teammates and managers.There are several stories of run-ins and conflict with his teammates and managers. Once while he was protecting a small margin of victory, outfielder Tom Winsett botched a routine fly-ball that cost Mungo a victory. Mungo retreated to the dugout and clubhouse to destroy what he could destroy and throw into the field of play what he could not destroy. Mungo sent his wife a telegram stating the following ¨Pack up your bags and come to Brooklyn, honey. If Winsett can play in the big leagues, it's a cinch you can, too. It is also true that Van Lingle Mungo probably paid more in fines than any player of his era, amassing a grand total (in his own estimation) of over 15,000 dollars.
Mungo returned to the public eye in 1969 because of the use of his prosodic name as the title of a novelty song by Dave Frishberg. The song lyrics consist entirely of the names of baseball players of the 1940s, strung together to a bossa nova beat. Mungo is one of only five players mentioned more than once and his name functions as a kind of refrain. According to Frishberg, The Dick Cavett Show arranged to have him sing the song to Mungo in person, and Mungo asked him backstage if there would ever be any financial remuneration for the use of his name in the song. Frishberg told him no, but maybe Mungo could make some money if he wrote a song called "Dave Frishberg". Ironically, today Mungo is remembered primarily because of the song.
Van Lingle Mungo is remembered as one of the unfortunate baseball pitchers in history who never played on a team with equal talent to his and thus never was able to attain a win loss record equal to his talent level. More famous for his managerial career, Tommy Lasorda was given the nickname "Mungo" because of his "lighting fastball" and his ability to strike batters out.
Mungo was born in Pageland, South Carolina, where he also died. During his retirement in Pageland, he owned and operated the Ball Theatre until it burned down in the 1950s. Mungo provided separate balcony seating for the African American patrons. This seating arrangement was an innovation; the other small movie theater in town was segregated.
- List of Major League Baseball strikeout champions
- List of Major League Baseball shutout champions
- List of Major League Baseball leaders in career ERA
- "Van Mungo Statistics and History". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- "Van Lingle Mungo". baseballlibrary.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- "Van Lingle Mungo by David Frishberg". baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- BaseballLibrary - biography and career highlights
- Historic Baseball - biographical note
- Lyrics to Dave Frishberg's song "Van Lingle Mungo"
- The Deadball Era
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