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Feb 14

Dunlap and Espinosa, Partners in Pain

The reports that Danny Espinosa will play ball in 2013 with a torn rotator cuff along with the reports out of Miami dampened some of the enthusiasm in our household for the upcoming season. Our cat remains unconcerned, displaying her feline indifference to everything but a plate of food and a clean liter box. Our angst, however, increased when reports were circulated that the Nationals medical staff had cleared him to play. The opinions of the Nationals medical staff have as much validity, to us anyway, as those of Punxsutawney Phil.

The injury is to his non-throwing shoulder and Espinosa could either have undergone surgery and possibly missed first two months of the season or in his words, “As long as I just keep up with my maintenance on my other muscles around the shoulder, I should be fine.”

So now we have to wait and see what transpires. It should be noted that Braves shortstop Paul Janish, who had a similar injury to his non-throwing shoulder elected to have surgery.

This leads to a story about another second baseman who played for the District and had to deal with an existing medical condition.

It is 1891 and Washington is back in the major leagues and once again has to scramble to find talent. To fill the hole at second base the team signs thirty-two year old Fred Dunlap. Called by many, “The King of Second Basemen.” In his time he was without equal at second base. But Dunlap was one of those involved in the great player revolt of 1890, a factor which might have led some teams to stay clear of him. In mentioning his signing one paper writes, :Many have given it out that Dunlap is a back number, but in this opinion this paper does not agree, for it believes Dunlap is yet the peer of any man in that position.” Not mentioned by the paper, Dunlap had previously fractured his left leg, causing a decline in his performance.

On 20 April 1891, the visiting Orioles handily defeat the Washington by a score of 8 to 4. On the same day that veteran Paul Hines loses his father, Fred Dunlap’s services are lost to the struggling Nationals.

Dunlap broke his leg in an attempt to slide back to third after he had started home on a hit. Seeing that he could not reach the plate in safety he turned back and was forced to go at the bag on the ground. He was seen to twist for a moment and then turn suddenly and roll off the base into the outfield territory. As he did so he held up his hand to call for time and help, and it was rather brutal to see Pete Gilbert touch him with the ball and Umpire Jones call him out when the man was writhing in agony. It was found that one of the small bones in his left leg was broken at about the same place as a former fracture. He was removed from the grounds and taken over to Garfield Hospital, where he is now resting comfortably and under the best of care. The first night was a bad one for him and he was very feverish, but the next day and since then he has mended and the leg is firmly set in splints. It is not expected that he will be able to play again this season, for he .cannot possibly get out so as to go upon his leg without support for much short of three months, and even then he will be weak and out of trim. It is too bad, for Dunlap has made a great many friends in the business as well as some enemies and it is a sad thing to see the old wheel horses drop out one by one. This accident may possibly end his playing days altogether

After his injury the papers remark on his brief time in Washington. “Dunlap, it must be said in passing, was a sore disappointment when his accident occurred. He had not played anything like the ball he used to put up, and his work showed a certain amount of timidity that was in strange contrast with the fearless, snappy game for which he once was famous. He stood away from the plate in batting, and he went after grounders that had easy marked on their surfaces and in many ways he showed that he had been hurt enough in the game to make him cautious.”

Did Espinosa and the Nationals made the right call, we will know soon enough.