While the New York Highlanders were training in Birmingham, Alabama before the 1905 season, outfielder “Honest John” Anderson told a reporter from The New York Herald-Tribune that he had developed a secret weapon:
“He claims to have discovered a way to swat the ball that will fool the fielders just as effectively as (Jack) Chesbro deceives the batters with his spitball.”
Anderson, a 10-year veteran, with a .297 career batting average entering 1905, even had a name for his swing:
“The ‘Tangent’ he calls it. Anderson declares he has developed a method of putting an ‘english’ on the ball when he hits it that will cause it to deflect from its true course in a similar manner to a billiard ball…Just how he twists the bat to accomplish this Anderson refuses to divulge.”
The paper told readers that Anderson was working hard on his “new stunt,” and would “have it down to a fine art,” by the time the club broke camp:
“The advantages of the trick, if he gains control of it, are manifest. It will turn many a fly or certain out into a safe hit.”
Anderson clearly had not made “a fine art” of the “Tangent” by the beginning of the season. He hit just .232 in 32 games before being claimed on waivers by the Washington Senators. He played through 1908; his career average dropped six points after he made his discovery.