To even get to the major leagues is a tremendous accomplishment in and of itself. However, there are moments in time where an individual plays for his hometown team. In 1970, Al Gallagher became the first native-born player to play for the San Francisco Giants. This is his story.
Al Gallagher's father, Joe, was born into poverty a mere 42 days after the Great Earthquake of 1906 and learned to fend for himself at an early age. Though is mother, Victoria, was not born in California, she was no stranger to the ravages of poverty, having been placed in an orphanage when she was young. Eventually, Joe and Victoria met, fell in love, got married and on October 19, 1945 Alan Mitchell Edward George Patrick Henry (Al) Gallagher was born. It is unusual for a person to have so many middle names but his parents had been waiting eight years to have their only child and could not decide on just one name.
Gallagher learned the game of baseball while growing up in the heart of the Mission District and rooting for his hometown Seals. He was ecstatic when the Giants moved to the Bay Area as now he could watch all of game's greats playing in his backyard. Even though the Giants were from New York, Al Gallagher developed a real passion for the team, a passion which would last a lifetime.
Beginning in 1959, Gallagher attended Mission High School where he became the team's starting third baseman as a sophomore. That year he made the all-city team and would lead the city in batting average in his junior and senior seasons. During his high school career, he played well enough to be invited to the Peninsula Winter League, a rookie league for major league prospects which included Tug McGraw among others. He played well enough in the PWL to earn a scholarship to Santa Clara University.
Al Gallagher played well for the Broncos, leading the team in batting average (.395), hits (60), triples (5) and RBI (42) as a junior in 1965. During this time, Gallagher earned a nickname. He began a big hitting streak and refused to wash his uniform until the streak was snapped. By the time it ended, the streak had reached an impressive 25 games. His teammates were happy for him but were also relieved that the streak was over as his clothes were quite filthy, earning him the nickname "Dirty Al". He would carry that moniker for the rest of his life. At the end of the season, he was named an All-American and drafted by his hometown team, the San Francisco Giants.
After five years toiling in the minor leagues, Al Gallagher finally got his shot at glory with his hometown team in 1970. In his rookie season, Gallagher averaged .266 and hit four home runs. His best year with the club was in 1971 when he batted .277 and slammed five home runs. That year, the Giants won their division but lost to the Pirates in the National League Championship Series. It would be the closest that Al Gallagher would ever get to the World Series. After hitting just two home runs and averaging .223 in 1972, Gallagher split the 1973 season between the Giants and the California Angels. Even though he increased his batting average to .272, he failed to hit a home run in his final season.
After that less than stellar season, Gallagher spent his remaining playing years with lesser known teams such as the Richmond Braves (International League) and the Salt Lake City Angels (Pacific Coast League). He entered the coaching world in 1975, briefly coaching a team from Durango, Mexico. Unfortunately, he didn't get along with management and returned to California, earning a Master's degree and becoming a teacher.
However, the lure of the game called him just a couple of years later and by 1977, Al Gallagher was back in the dugout managing the Texas City Stars of the Lone Star League. The following year he was hired as the manager of the Greenwood Braves, winning the league title in his first two years with the club.
In 1980, he was hired as the manager of the newly resurrected Durham Bulls. Al Gallagher was always an excellent promoter. From arguing with umpires to asking fans about strategy suggestions from the third base box, Gallagher helped draw fans to games. The Bulls responded with an excellent season which culminated in a loss in the league championship game.
Following that memorable season, Gallagher moved on to Class AA organization in Chattanooga and Buffalo, neither stop ending with a championship. He moved back to California in 1984 where he managed the Class A San Jose Bees. Following the 1984 season, Gallagher stepped away from baseball to return to a life of normalcy, where he could reside with his family year-round and focus on being an educator within the school system.
More than a decade passed before he returned to the dugout. In 1995, Gallagher returned to the game of baseball, where he would remain for the next 17 years managing various minor league teams. His final job was in 2012 with the McAllen (Texas) Thunder. Al Gallagher passed away on December 6, 2018 in Fresno.