Dave Gallagher played 9 years in the major leagues, including as the starting center fielder for the 1989 White Sox. He also played with the Indians, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Braves, and Phillies. He had great bat control in the minors and found the same skill in the majors, walking more than he struck out in the second half of his career.
We were lucky enough to (virtually) sit down with Gallagher and ask him some questions about his career and his stats.
Andy at High Heat Stats: First of all–growing up in central NJ: were you a fan of the Mets, Yankees, or Phillies?
Dave Gallagher: As a kid my favorite team was The Giants. My father told me stories of Willie Mays playing at the Polo Grounds. I imitated the Mays catch over and over and learned the line up for wiffle ball. McCovey, Mays, Dietz, Lanier, Hart, Brown, Fuentes, Marichal, Alou.
AndyHHS: You were drafted #3 overall in 1980 by Oakland but didn’t sign. You were again drafted in the first round several months later by the Indians and signed with them. What did you base your decisions on?
DG: Oakland was in the process of trying to sell the organization. They never tendered me a contract beyond their legal obligations. I actually wrote a handwritten letter to then commissioner Bowie Kuhn asking for some fairness since no other team could draft me once I was chosen. He did respond but said there would be no change.
AndyHHS: In the minors, you walked more than you struck out once you reached AA (including an amazing 83BB/21Ks at Buffalo in 1983) Once you got to the majors, that trend reversed until you got to the Mets in 1991,
when you really cut your strikeouts. Did it just take time to adjust to pitching in the majors or did you change your hitting approach?
DG: What many people do not realize is how important a level of comfort can be to your career. It is what scares me about the trend of front office staffs being filled with people who never had dirt from a major league field on the bottom of their spikes. When you believe you belong at any level you play relaxed and with confidence. This process takes time. More time for some than others. Its not mechanical or skill based its from your emotional state. If your mind is relaxed you can apply your natural skill set and apply the knowledge you have stored in your brain from thousands of practice hours over your lifetime. I think the difference in Jose Bautista right now is having Cito Gaston say, “You are my right fielder. I believe in your ability.” He did not miraculously obtain more skill during one off season.
AndyHHS: You were in the majors as offense exploded in 1993 & 1994. Were players aware of this explosion at the time and how did the approach of pitchers & hitters change? Did your career high of homers in 1993 reflect an attempt to hit more fly balls?
DG: My lack of power was for one simple reason. I lacked power. I was primarily a centerfielder that led off or batted second mostly.
AndyHHS: Although you struck out less as your career progressed, strikeouts league-wide got more and more common, and are at an all-time high today. Is it correct to say that the stigma of strikeouts has been gradually wearing off and they are now accepted from any productive hitter?
DG: Strikeouts are accepted if a player can offer other ways of helping the team win. If he can hit a bunch of HRs and drive in runs it will be weighed in with his other skills. Power comes from strength, bat speed, and starting your swing early enough to get to extension. When you start your swing early you risk not recognizing off speed, thus more Ks.
AndyHHS: The 1987 Indians were a fascinating team. They were Sports Illustrated’s pre-season pick for best AL team but went on to lose more than 100 games. You broke camp with Cleveland that year before getting traded to Seattle. What were your impressions of the Indians? Any idea why they performed so far below expectations?
DG: I actually did not make the team out of spring training. I was recalled when Brett Butler broke his hand. From what I remember the team probably could have used more starting pitching depth. Offensively they had Bernazard, Carter, Thornton, Charbaneou. I played very nervous first time up and batted .111. A year later I batted .303.
AndyHHS: Speaking of the 1987 Indians, Joe Carter is a topic of much debate among fans. He’s a favorite among lots of fans due to his high RBI totals and post-season heroics, but most stat-oriented fans find him vastly overrated thanks to a very low on-base percentage (a career mark 25 points lower than yours) and poor run-production despite being given a ton of at-bats in the middle of the lineup. What do you think about Joe Carter as a player? Is he a Hall of Famer?
DG: Joe Carter was very aggressive as a hitter. He would attack early in the count so it had to hurt his on base % but he was a tremendous player overall. Most important he was a solid family man and one of the top team leaders I have ever played with.
AndyHHS: There are a few great pitchers who you hit really hard, including Kevin Appier (4-for-7 with 3 doubles), Lee Smith (4-for-8 with 3 doubles), Bert Blyleven (7-for-17 with 2 doubles), and Danny Jackson (12-for-31 with 3 doubles and a homer). Was there something special about your approach against these guys?
DG: I am very proud to see those numbers off those pitchers. There was no special approach against them specifically. I was forced to use every bit of information at my disposal to prepare for my at bats at the Major League level.
AndyHHS: You are the inventor on a US Patent for the Stride Tutor (#4,757,995 filed February 5, 1987). How did the invention come to pass, and did you ever market it?
DG: The invention came out of my fear of having to get a real job. I was in my 4th year of AAA ball and decided I have to figure out a way to lay off the slider down and away. I had to control my stride and lower half. I obtained some PVC chain, skirt belting, and Velcro. My mother-in-law made a few and I used them to regulate the distance I would stride during swing repetition drills. It changed my career! The following season I made it to the big leagues and stayed for 9 seasons.
AndyHHS: What have you been up to since retiring as a player and what are you doing now?
DG: I still reside in NJ and have stayed involved in baseball on many levels. I am part owner of Gametime Performance in Hamilton, NJ which helps to develop players of all ages with their entire game. I am currently involved in a much bigger project with the grand opening of the Virginia Sports Complex which is about 25 minutes north of Richmond. Eight fields for baseball/softball for all ages and indoor facilities for soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, dance, cheer etc… The showcase tournaments will open many doors for players across the country to colleges that otherwise would not know they exist.
Follow Dave Gallagher on Twitter: @davegallagher22
Thanks very much to Dave Gallagher for joining us, and thanks to John Autin and Graham Womack for assistance in formulating the questions.