“The Game is Stricter and Better now”

8 May

Honus Wagner was an exception.  Unlike most of his contemporaries, he didn’t spend his later years complaining that the game was just not the same and that current players would not be able to compete with the stars of his era.

Financially strapped as a result of the Depression, Wagner was offered a job by the Pittsburgh Pirates to join Manager George Gibson’s staff.   While in California with the team for spring training he spoke to Russell Newland of The Associated Press.   Wagner said:

“We’ve got more good players than we ever had.  That’s because there are more strong leagues.  The game is stricter and better now.  You can’t bully the umpire any more.  The boys used to be a rough and ready lot.  Now the umpire is a real authority and it’s all for the best.”

Wagner

Pirates Coach Honus Wagner

Wagner also felt that pitchers had to work harder than they did when he played:

“Our pitchers had the advantage of a dead ball and used the spitter, the shine ball and the emery ball.  They worked the old bean ball overtime.  All that’s out now.  Nowadays a pitcher has to throw a lot more balls.  He has to work the corners because that lively ball sure sails when the boys get one in the groove.  Actually he pitches a couple of games in nine innings, compared to the chuckers of my day.”

Wagner had no complaints about the comparatively large money stars like Babe Ruth were paid either:

“That $50,000 they’re offering the Babe reads like a lot of money to me, but if he can get them to raise it, I say ‘more power to him.’”

Wagner was also optimistic about baseball’s future:

“’Baseball is O.K.,’ he said as he crossed the most famous pair of bow legs in the history of the pastimes.  ‘They’ll be playing it a long time from now.”

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