“First thing I know they had the Cushions Populous”

15 Aug

Nearly two decades after he claimed it happened, Clark Griffith told a reporter from The Sporting News a story about getting the final out, and humiliating a friend in the process:

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

“It has been my luck to see a large number of peeved and angry people in this old game of baseball, particularly gentlemen against whom I have been lucky enough to do some successful pitching.

“I still think, however, that the maddest man I ever did behold was that grand old Monolith of the Boston team—Mr. Thomas Tucker.  The Occasion on which I beheld the fury of this famous warrior is still green in my memory, and can never forsake me.

“Old Tommy Tucker was pretty nearly on his last legs so far as big league baseball was concerned, and hits to him were more precious than rubies and diamonds when we bumped together one summer afternoon.  It was a big game, a most important game, and I really had to win it.  I love Tom Tucker very much, but I loved my salary more.

Tommy Tucker

Tommy Tucker

“The battle was a hot one, running along on pretty even terms till near the close, when we managed to get a couple on the bases when good old Uncle (Cap) Anson did the rest with one of those murderous  hits that they don’t make now, the old man not being there to soak them.  That Boston bunch was never whipped till the last man was counted out, and they went after me strong in the last death rally.  First thing I know they had the cushions populous, two down and old Tom Tucker standing grimly at the plate.  I worked him into biting at two wide ones, then fed him two more which he refused to reach after.  It was coming down to cases and no mistake.

“Just at this juncture I happened to remember a trick of indoor baseball—the enormous upshot which is put on an indoor ball by swinging it underhand, with the knuckles uppermost and the ball rolling off the palm.  It causes a huge upshot ball, but it is not practicable for outdoor ball because, at the greater pitching distance, the ball would lose all its speed before it reached the platter.

“I decided to throw the ball just once, as a desperate experiment, and I threw it.  The globule sauntered along, way low, below Tom’s knee line, and he stood scoffing at it.  Then, just as the ball came parallel with him it leaped up and whirled over the plate, while the umpire yelled ‘strike three.’

“Old Tom Tucker laid down his bat and started toward me, with evidence of much excitement on his face, but I was already on my way, and was going fast.  That night he came to the hotel looking for me, and publicly announced that he intended to slay me on sight, but I was not in, and he never got his hands upon me.”

The pitch used to strike out Tucker was not the only one Griffith said originated with him.  In addition to his claim to have invented the screw ball, in 1899 The Chicago Daily News said Griffith claimed to have perfected a new type of curve which “is said to be an amplification of his celebrated slow ball, with which he has in times past puzzled so many batsman.”

The “celebrated slow ball” was taught to Griffith by Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourne—as a result The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton said Griffith held “practically a monopoly on the slow ball and (used) it with wonderful effect.”

Griffith said he developed this new curve when shooting pool:

“You simply English the ball with your hand instead of the cue that is the only difference.  In other words, before the ball leaves my hand it is set to spinning in a direction towards my body.  All the time it is going through the air towards the batter it has this rotary motion.”

The Daily News described the pitch:

“It is believed that the air in the case of a curve of this kind acts like the cushion of a billiard table and accentuates the tendency to return, which underlies the forward motion of the baseball.  Be that as it may, the result is astonishing.  A ball that starts out with great velocity from Griffith’s hand in this experiment, as it gets to the batter suddenly slows up to a speed not more than one-half as great as that at which it was launched.  The effect on the batter, who is expecting a swift ball, can readily be imagined.  He strikes at the leather globe before it reaches him, and the chance that he hits it is reduced to a minimum.”

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3 Responses to ““First thing I know they had the Cushions Populous””

  1. Joe August 15, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    …”indoor baseball—the enormous upshot which is put on an indoor ball by swinging it underhand…”
    Indoor Baseball morphed into slow-pitch softball. This sounds more like a fast-pitch softball “riser”.
    Did they throw hard in Indoor Baseball?

    • Thom Karmik August 15, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

      Joe:

      There were so many different versions of the game being played in 1890s that it appears some adopted rules similar to fast-pitch, while others (most, I believe) were slow pitch and the pitch Griffith referred to was a slow curve that mimicked a screwball–there is no information available describing just how he threw it. Incidentally, in 1897 The Association of Indoor Baseball Clubs added a rule that said:

      “Only straight-armed pitching, in which the arm and hand swing parallel with the body, will be allowed, and the ball is not to be curved, the so-called upshoot being considered illegal.”

      Thanks,

      Thom

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “’Amos, old Boy, don’t Forget the left foot Racket.’ | Baseball History Daily - December 12, 2014

    […] Every one of the Bostons stepped back from the plate—even (Hugh) Duffy, (Tommy) McCarthy and (Tommy) Tucker.  Amos just grinned, and sent that ball over the corner until the champions were blinded.   Laid […]

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