Babe Dahlgren

Ellsworth Tenney "Babe" Dahlgren (June 15, 1912 – September 4, 1996) was a Major League Baseball infielder from 1935 to 1946 for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Boston Braves, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Browns, Brooklyn Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Dahlgren replaced Lou Gehrig in the line up on May 2, 1939, ending Gehrig's 14-year, 2,130 consecutive game streak. Dahlgren had a homer and double‚ as the Yankees routed Detroit 22-2. He went on to hit 15 home runs and drive in 89 runs for the season for the Yankees.

Late in the 1940 season, Dahlgren mishandled a throw from Frank Crosetti in a critical game against the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees lost that game, and with it any realistic chance at a fifth straight pennant. Manager Joe McCarthy believed that Dahlgren's error was what ultimately cost the Yankees the pennant. He suggested that Dahlgren was smoking marijuana, and that it dulled his reflexes enough to keep him from handling the throw cleanly. After discovering the existence of the rumor in 1943, Dahlgren became the first Major League Baseball player to take a drug test for a non-performance enhancing drug. He did so voluntarily to discredit the rumors circulating at the time. The tests were all negative, refuting the charges of marijuana use. Dahlgren continued to play at the major league level until 1946, in a playing career which spanned 18 years, including all or part of twelve seasons in the majors. Dahlgren spent decades trying to uncover the source of the rumor.

A hypothesis as to who the perpetrator of the rumor was has been recently brought forth by his grandson, Matt Dahlgren, in his self-published book, Rumor in Town.

Also notable during this period, the Browns returned Dahlgren to the Cubs for a contract dispute once it was learned that he had become eligible for the draft in May 1942. He was sold to the Dodgers soon after. In August 1942 he sought voluntary retirement. In early 1943, Dahlgren was notified by the draft board to report for his physical, which occurred in mid-May of that year. After passing his physical, Dahlgren was to be inducted into the military in July 1943. In July 1943, he played on the National League All-star team. In October 1943, Dahlgren was rejected for military service.

By Dean Hanley

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