Mullane was a very fine appearing fellow, and wore a heavy black mustache, as did Tim Keefe, and it was a toss-up between Tony and Tim as to which was the Adonis of the game.
- Sportswriter Sam Crane
Born in County Cork, January 30, 1859, Tony Mullane is often remembered for being one of the handful of ambidextrous pitchers in the history of Major League baseball. While pitching for Louisville in the American Association in 1882, Mullane suffered an injury to his right arm and resorted to pitching a few games left-handed, a practice he employed on a few other occasions throughout his long career. Interest in Mullane's feat of pitching effectively with both arms has, for many fans, reduced Mullane to little more than an answer to a trivia question. Lost in this limited focus on Mullane's career is one of the finest resumes ever compiled by a Major League pitcher.
Mullane played at a volatile time in the game's history. It wasn't until 1901 that the stable two-league format fans are familiar with today came into being. Prior to that, several competing leagues were formed and competed against each other for professional baseball supremacy. Professional baseball in Cincinnati reflected this struggle as the first National League edition of the Reds was forced out in 1880 because of financial instability and violations of league rules, including the club's insistence on selling beer on Sundays. The National League was the sole professional league at the time and Cincinnati's ouster left the city without a pro team for the first time since 1875. A group of local investors, unhappy with the National League's monopoly, joined forces with like-minded baseball enthusiasts from five other cities to form the American Association, a new professional league that would compete directly with the National League for players and fans.
The Reds won the inaugural Association pennant in 1882, establishing themselves as one of the league's stronger teams. Their success was fueled by their pitching staffs, led initially by the venerable Reds Hall of Famer Will White and, upon his arrival in 1886, Tony Mullane. During this time, teams typically depended on a small handful of pitchers to pitch the majority of their games. In addition, the pitching rubber was only fifty feet from home plate and overhand pitching was still developing, having been legalized in 1884.
Mullane was dominant almost from the start of his Reds career. In the only losing season suffered by the club in the eight seasons it played in the Association, Mullane was credited with 33 of the club's 65 victories and pitched in 63 of the club's 138 games, notching 56 complete games along the way. Mullane was a 30 game winner in 1887 as well and won more than 20 games in three of the next five seasons. He was annually among the Association leaders in virtually every pitching category, leading the league in categories ranging from strikeouts to shutouts at various points during the period.
The Reds returned to the National League in 1890 and Mullane established himself as one of the more established league's top pitchers, posting an ERA of 2.24 that was 60% better than the league average. He continued to pitch at a high level for the next two seasons until the league's decision to push the pitching distance back to 60'6" derailed his career. Unable to successfully adjust to the longer distance and battling the effects of age, the 34-year-old Mullane struggled over the next two seasons, trying unsuccessfully to revive his career with two different clubs after his departure from the Reds.
Abbreviated though it may have been, Mullane's Reds career was marked by sustained excellence. He recorded a club-record 264 complete games in 285 career starts. Only three pitchers in Reds history have pitched more innings than Mullane's 2599 and only 10 Reds pitchers have struck out more batters than Mullane's 993. His 250 strikeouts in 1886 stood as the club record until it was broken by Jim Maloney almost eight decades later and still ranks as the third highest single-season total in Reds history. And, perhaps most notably, his 163 career wins in a Reds uniform stood as the club's all-time record until it was broken by Eppa Rixey in 1930 and now ranks second on the club's all-time list. Blessed with dashing good looks, Mullane was nicknamed "The Apollo of the Box" and his popularity with female fans contributed to the development and popularity of Ladies Days at the ballpark.
Following his baseball career, Mullane enjoyed a lengthy career with the Chicago Police Department, rising to the rank of detective. He died in Chicago on April 25, 1944. A selection of the Reds Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, Mullane becomes the eighth member of the Reds Hall of Fame to have played all or part of his career in the 19th century.